What is functional training?

What is functional fitness?

Functional fitness is natural, safe, essential to live and function, core to extremity, and multi-joint movements.  The most important aspect of functional movements is the ability to move large loads over long distances quickly.

900x380Natural movements that are essential to everyday living and function  are squatting, dead lifting, shoulder pressing, and carrying large loads from point A to point B.  If you are in a “functional fitness class” that isn’t using these movements, then that class probably isn’t very functional.

Have you ever head a doctor tell you or someone you know to discontinue squatting or dead lifting?  People come into their clinic injured from these movements so logically these must be bad for people.  Right?

A question for the doctors that prescribes no squatting or dead lifting is how do you get on and off a chair?  If you drop something on the ground, how do you pick it up? By squatting or dead lifting.

If individuals have been injured from squatting or dead lifting, it’s because they haven’t been taught how to do the movements correctly, lifted more than they should, or did not maintain mid-line stability, which generally transfers into hurting the back.

Core is everything!  All functional movements begin from the core (mid-line stability).  The core acts like the bridge connecting different body parts to each other.  If you don’t have a tight core, you will probably hurt your back.  I don’t mean doing a hundred crunches to make your core tight.  I mean learning to consciously activate your core during multi-joint movements (ex. Squat to overhead press, dead lifting, carrying large loads)

What things should you watch for that AREN’T functional fitness?

  • A class that again doesn’t teach squats, dead lifting, shoulder pressing, cleans, multi-joint exercises, and fails to demonstrate how to perform these movements without the knowledge of mid-line stability.
  • Be careful which equipment trainers use.  Just because a class uses bosu balls doesn’t mean its functional training?  Do you balance on wobbly surfaces in real life?  If you do, probably not during the majority of your day.
  •  Be cautious how trainers combine exercises.  Combining dynamic movements isn’t functional exercise?  Leg step ups plus a bicep curl isn’t functional.  Just because a trainer combines different body weight movements does not mean the exercise is a functional exercise.  Remember the definition is the ability to move large loads over a long distance quickly.  A four inch step up plus a five pound bicep curl isn’t moving a large load very quickly.    Dead lifting 135lbs 20x is moving a large load quickly.

In conclusion, beware that functional fitness is a common buzz word used in the fitness community.  Trainers and gyms use the word loosely trying to sell fitness.   Make sure a class includes squatting, dead lifting, shoulder pressing, squat to overhead presses, and teaches mid-line stability during functional movements.

5 Reason’s People Fail To Lose Weight For Their New Year’s Resolution

Overtraining1Statistically the top New Year’s resolution goal is to lose weight.  In a gym setting you can expect a rush of people for about 3 weeks, and then it’s back to normal.  Why are people failing at their fitness goals?

  1.  Write down realistic goals.  Be realistic how fast you are trying to lose weight.  If you are trying to lose 10 pounds, you need to shave off 500 calories with diet and exercise.  One pound of fat consists of 3500 calories.  Therefore consistent diet and exercise can average 1 pound of weight-loss per week.  Slow and steady weight-loss keeps the weight off.
  2. Enjoy the process – Obtaining a habit of exercise for a lifetime isn’t a sprint, it’s a journey.  Do whatever it takes to make the process fun.  Join a group fitness class, workout with a friend, or hire a coach.
  3. Make a game plan – How many people set a goal without a road map to success?  Lots of people!  Do you know how to make a game plan?  Find someone that does.  Do it right the first time!

People with no game plan generally head to the cardio equipment; I call this long and boring.  Yes, you can lose weight with diet and cardio, but you can ALSO burn your muscle away.  Did you know losing muscle decreases the metabolism?  Research is proving that individuals will eventually start gaining weight after years of only a cardio and diet regiment.

Make sure you do strength training for a balanced exercise routine.

    4.  You know what the goal is, but do you know your why?  Let’s say you keep asking yourself why, and you find out you really don’t care if you lose weight.  By not knowing you didn’t care, wouldn’t it literally be impossible to change bad habits?   So know your why.  (Examples:  Afraid of getting sick.  Heart disease runs in the family.  Want your clothes to fit better again.  Need more energy, and to sleep better.)  Develop a strong why so you can overcome not caring.

5.  Fear of success.   Success can be scary when you realize the goal can take hard work, but remember that’s why you need to figure out how to make it fun.  Change doesn’t come easy; if it did everyone would be doing it.  Best of luck during 2014 at achieving your fitness goals!

What drinking alcohol does to exericse.

Most coaches/trainers explain how important it is not to drink while athletes are training hard, losing weight, or trying to build muscle.  Why would that be the case?  Why not drink while in an intense training program?  Is it because the carbs in the alcoholic beverage aren’t good?  It’s true the excess carbs in alcohol won’t help you lean out, but in this article, I will discuss how alcohol has other negative effects on the reaching of peak fitness.

Alcohol vs. athletic goals

Consuming 2-3 drinks will hinder athletic movement, recovery, and exercise intensity up to 24-48 hours post alcohol consumption.   By knowing this, you now know if you have an intense workout after consuming a few drinks, these drinks will hinder exercise recovery.  This means that when you break down muscle during a workout while your body still has alcohol in it; your liver will be breaking down the alcohol instead of breaking down consumed protein to help rebuild your muscles after a workout.  So, in some ways, the workout could be considered wasted because the muscle wasn’t able to recover properly after the workout.

If you’re trying to achieve peak fitness, don’t spin your tires by sabotaging your workouts by drinking alcohol unless you’re satisfied with your current lifestyle and fitness.

How bad do you want it? 

Peak fitness doesn’t come without sacrifice.  If you truly want to be at your peak fitness level, superb discipline is needed to help achieve your goal.

That’s why I ask how badly do you want it?  Your “why” must be strong enough to help you make the sacrifices needed for your success.  Many times we learn the implications of a poor diet, but yet we don’t make the change.  That’s ok as long as you can take personal responsibility of knowing it’s YOU and not blaming anything but yourself.

Need help staying accountable?  If you have a coach, be open with him/her about your struggles so your trainer can help you in areas where you’re weak.  If you don’t have a coach, then get one!

Now let’s look at the other effects of alcohol on the body.

If an individual is performing within 48 hours of alcohol consumption, as little as two or three standard drinks can directly:

–          Decrease strength

–          Impair reaction time

–          Impair balance and eye/hand coordination

–          Increase fatigue

Most athletic movement is fueled by glycogen.  If glycogen is not properly metabolized, the body becomes fatigued because the muscle is unable to acquire the glycogen essential for peak performance.  Reaction time, balance, coordination are also impacted by this process as well as the direct aforementioned neurochemical effects alcohol has on the brain

–          Interfere with body temperature regulation

–          Cause dehydration

The kidneys have an important job of removing toxins from the body, regulating blood volume and pressure, maintaining electrolytes levels in blood and blood pH.

Alcohol interferes with the kidneys’ ability to maintain certain electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, sodium and phosphorus that are lost in the urine as a result of alcohol.

–          Impact muscle recovery

Protein metabolism is negatively impacted with alcohol consumption.  This means that, after a workout, your body will have a harder time repairing the damaged muscle.

–          Hinders cardiovascular system

Alcohol consumption increases blood pressure, forcing your heart to work harder at pumping blood throughout the body.

–          Disrupt sleep

A lot of people like the fact that alcohol helps them fall asleep, but unfortunately deep sleep is interrupted (rapid eye movement).

–          Vitamins and minerals deplete

–          Cognitive impairment

If you’re an individual pursuing peak athletic performance, the counter effectiveness of alcohol on the body must be noted, so that you may know the effects of the choices you make on your fitness goals.






Overtraining: Issues and Solutions

Overtraining: Issues and Solutions

Have you ever wondered if you were training so much that it was making you sick?  Exercise, like all other things, is best in moderation, and overtraining should be avoided.  In essence, overtraining simply means that you overdid it!  But overtraining isn’t the result of one hard training session.  Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity.  According to recent studies, an excessive exercise regime may lead to a number of short and long term health defects.  However, a complete lack of exercise may lead to a wide range of lifestyle diseases including immobility.  Balance is the key to healthy living, and once that balance is achieved, you should feel great and move better!

Breaking down muscle:
During any work out, you are breaking down muscle and causing micro-tears in muscle fibers.  That’s why rest days— scheduled within your workout regime— are so important.  The damaged muscle fibers need time to heal.  Recovery time is determined by the intensity of your workout.  For example, heavy weightlifting requires longer periods of healing— as many as seven days— while body weight exercises may require a recovery time between 24-48 hours.  In addition, your diet becomes an important factor in the resilience of your muscles.  For instance, muscle is built through protein.    Are you getting enough protein to rebuild your muscle fibers?  How much protein should you eat?
Use this formula:  Convert body weight to kg by dividing body weight by 2.2
*Body Wt/2.2 x 1= how many grams protein you should consume on a daily basis.*

Amino acids are another dietary concern.  Are you replenishing all the amino acids used during a workout? This can be achieved by ingesting a balanced protein supplement or by eating foods like the following:
•    Nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts)
•    Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
•    Beans (lima, chickpeas, pinto, navy)
•    Whole soy foods (tempeh, edamame)
•    Whole grains (barley, rye, wheat, rice)
•    Vegetables (corn, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, broccoli)

Are you replenishing your calories? If you are calorie deficient, the rate at which muscle breaks down begins to increase and causes your body to be in a constant state of fatigue.  Sleep is another factor that becomes important in combating excessive muscle breakdown because the greatest amount of recovery occurs during sleep.  Are you sleeping enough? Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep during intense exercise programs.

Each of these factors— rest days, healthy diets, and adequate sleep patterns— contribute to the overall recovery of your body.  If you do not provide enough resources for recovery, overtraining may lead to negative consequences.  The best training programs are structured to provide quick recoveries before additional exercise sessions, which lead to better overall efficiency in the gym.

Stress is another factor that may determine the volume or intensity of exercise in which you should partake.  If you are coping with a large amount of stress, your body may lapse into a fatigued state, which isn’t a condition to withstand physical stress.  Fun moderate exercise is the perfect remedy to such a state.  Try a leisurely walk on the treadmill.  Hiking and bike riding may also serve as adequate solutions.

Long-Term Endurance Training:
It is easy to assume that athletes—who have participated in long-term, strenuous exercise— have the healthiest hearts.  However, that assumption has been challenged by a recent study. (Feb 2011 article) This study indicated that half of the veteran athletes had muscle-scarring on their hearts, which is a sign of heart damage.  This study further pushes the point that more exercise is not always better.

What is “just right” exactly?
I recommend 2-3 days of lifting or intensity training and two days of moderate exercise for people who are training for lifestyle.  It’s important to develop an awareness of your body— the signs of overtraining.  Just listen to your body’s signals.  If your work capacity suddenly diminishes, you’ve likely reached an overtraining threshold.  Here are some specific symptoms to keep in mind while you’re training:
•    Chronic muscle pain ( pay attention to new and persistent joint pain as well)
•    Fatigue
•    Increased substantial heart rate
•    Depressed immune system
•    Insomnia
•    Decrease of muscular strength
•    Depression
These are only a few symptoms that indicate overtraining, but they are usually evident when overtraining occurs.  It’s good to remember these symptoms while you train.  Remember more is not always better. Optimal results are encouraged through hard work and proper recovery periods.  Balance is key.  Also, remember that the body is generally functioning in survival mode.  If you’re overtraining, it will shut down in order to make you stop training and recognize its need to recover.  Always, listen to your body.

The truth about bosu balls, balance disks, and wobble boards.

Does your group training class, personal trainer, or personal training studio use bosu balls for “balance work?”

These instruments are among the oldest aids used in balance work.  The first time you stand on a bosu ball, you’ll find it hard to stabilize your stance when your leg begins to shake.  However—

After completing exercises on bosu balls, balance disks, etc… You’ll notice that your leg begins to stabilize after time.

This must mean you’re gaining amazing balance, right? No!

In reality, your body has simply learned to stabilize on an uneven surface.  While it appears you’ve gained amazing balance because of your bosu ball exercises, you’ve actually achieved better balance suited for a surface that you hardly use in daily life.

Have you ever tested to see whether or not you have gained balance on hard surfaces?

Self Test: You might think that your balance has improved after mastering the bosu ball, so try this exercise to test the truth of your belief.

Stand on one foot.  Still balancing easily?  Now, try standing on one foot while looking to the left.  Hold that position.  Move to a neutral position (look straight forward).  Then look right and return to the neutral stance.  Look down and hold that position.  Return to neutral.  Then look up— hold— and return to neutral stance.  While switching positions, try to turn your head as fast as you reasonably can.

Could you achieve all these positions while maintaining balance?  If so, try the same drill with your eyes closed.  🙂

balance disk

In another method designed to test the efficacy of balance balls, disks, and wobble boards, a muscle test is employed.  For this method, test the strength in a joint before and after standing on a bosu ball for ten seconds.  You should see a significant difference in strength.

Why doesn’t overall balance improve when you practice on uneven surfaces?

The S.A.I.D (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) training principle is the most important standard for people in training to consider.  The S.A.I.D training principal explains that a certain exercise or type of training produces adaptations specific to the activity performed and only in the muscles (and energy systems) that are stressed by the activity.

When you train on a bosu ball, you achieve better balance on surfaces like a bosu ball.  But what type of surface do you stand on primarily?  Yes— hard ground and flat surfaces.  If most activities take place on hard, even surfaces, then those surface types should be used in your training.

Some sports like skiing or surfing take place on uneven ground.  Athletes in these kinds of sports may benefit from some use of bosu balls and balance disks, yet it’s important to realize that most activities aren’t performed on a wobbly surface.

In the future, I’ll talk about the vestibular system in order to explain how the nervous system impacts our balance abilities.

Rapid Fat Loss: Part 4

Secret 4: Eat Less

While you’re swapping out your fat-filled foods for low-fat alternatives and trading out your desserts for fresh fruit, you should also attempt to eat less food overall. The lowest amount of calories you can eat healthily is 1,050 a day, though 1,200 is a recognized norm that dietitians consider safe for the average Joe or Jo to try at home.

In order to reduce the amount of calories and fat you consume each day, you’ll need to take three steps. First, drink more water. How much? How about half a gallon more than you’re drinking right now. An easy way to make the increase is by drinking a tall glass of water before sitting down for your meals. This helps you feel fuller and makes it easier to cut back on the calories you consume at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Second, increase the number of times you eat from three to five or six. Just like drinking more water, eating more often (as long as the meals are smaller than your typical breakfasts, lunches, and dinners) causes your body to feel full throughout the day. Ultimately, this prevents you from accidentally getting so hungry that you throw all your hard work away on two cheeseburgers and a pile of greasy fries that are calling out your name.

And for a last tip, only eat when you’re sitting down at a proper dining room table. Don’t spend much time sitting down for meals? Then you’ll either be really hungry or learn to make time for sit-down meals. This tip isn’t to force you to slow down and enjoy your meals, though that is a nice perk. Rather, it’s to keep you from eating more than you realize. It’s much more difficult to keep track of your calorie and fat intake when you’re on the move. By sitting down, you can write down what you’re eating and can make sure you’re not eating more than you ought.

Rapid Fat Loss Part 1

Secrets to Rapid Fat Loss

Shedding pounds overnight may seem like something out of a children’s book. But fast and furious weight loss doesn’t come to you courtesy of magic, fairy godmothers, handy little elves, or dreams. They come via knowledge, dedication, and lots of sweat.
So if you play your cards right, you’ll can lose all the weight you want without ever consulting a genie or a fancy-hatted wizard. Take the steps seriously and you’ll even be able to drop unwanted pounds without compromising your good health in the short- and long-term.
Ready to learn a few tried-and-true ways to get your weight down and your confidence up in a matter of a few weeks? Here we go!

Secret 1: Work Out More

It is recommended that to remain healthy, you should get 30 minutes of exercise three to five days a week. Unfortunately, if that’s all the time you’re spending in the gym, that’s not going to cut it if your goal is rapid fat loss.
Instead, you’re going to have to increase the amount of time you spend in the gym pumping iron, swimming laps, running on the treadmill, working on the stair stepper, and riding the stationary bicycle.
If you usually spend 30 minutes in intense exercise a few days a week, double it to 60 minutes, and do it every day of the week. It may seem difficult the first couple days, but your body will adjust. Just be careful—if you’re already pushing yourself pretty hard for an hour or so, you can’t double your time in the gym unless you plan on eating right before or during your workout. Otherwise, your body will crash pretty quickly, leaving you with fatigue that will make it hard to return to the gym tomorrow and ultimately cause you to reduce your fat-burning abilities.

A pain in the butt??

Implementing fitness into your lifestyle promotes healthy adaptations, but remember proper body mechanics need to be  implemented during each workout for injury prevention.  Learn how bad form, not balancing your muscle groups with exercise, and inadequate stretching can allow some injuries to occur.   As an example of why it’s important to follow good lifting principals is the potential cause of piriformis syndrome – a pain in the buttocks, hamstrings, and lower back pain.

Often times as a trainer I find clients or friends who struggle with deep hip pain, a tingling sensation down the leg (hamstring), and lower back pain.  These symptoms can be diagnosed as sciatica.  The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back and travels down the leg.  It is the longest and widest single nerve in the body.  Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is generally compressed.  One of the muscles associated with compressing the sciatic nerve is the piriformis.


The Piriformis muscles originates from the sacral spine and attaches to the greater trochanter of the femur, functioning as both an external rotator and abductor of the thigh.

What is pirformis syndrome?

Piriformis syndrome causes spasming and tightening of the piriformis muscle, causing symptoms associated with sciatica, considering the sciatic nerve runs close or through the pirformis muscle.

1) Deep pain or numbness in the buttocks
2) Can also cause a tingling in the lower back and a pain into the hamstring

Also look for these associated bio-mechanical deficits:
1) Tight piriformis muscle
2) Tight hip external rotators and adductors
3) Hip abductor weakness
4) Decreased lower lumbar spine mobility
5) Sacroiliac joint inflammation

Causes of piriformis syndrome can be associated by working out on hard surfaces, uneven terrain, standing with to much weight on one leg, worn out shoes, walking or running with toes pointed out, excessive hill running, poor stair climbing techniques.

Stretching and massage

Stretch:A similar stretch can be done sitting in a a chair while leaning over you hip.

1) Sit properly
2) Correct posture – weight evenly distributed
3) Good shoes
4) Proper warm-up before any physical activity
5) Strengthen the hip, glutes, low back, upper thighs

1.  Jeffrey S. Harrison. Piriformis syndrome – A real pain in the butt. In ACSM Certified News; April – June 2010, Volume 20; issue 2

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Have you ever asked if  you should or shouldn’t eat something before a workout?  Do you know what you should eat, or why?

I’m often asked about pre and post workout meals, so I thought I would share a few concepts that will energize your workouts.

First of all, it’s okay to eat between 2.5 – 4 hours before a workout, but the closer to a workout food is eaten, the smaller the meal or snack should be. Otherwise a large serving size right before a workout might come back up. It’s important to eat before a workout; focus on a small meal instead of a huge meal.

What if you workout in the morning?

Most people wake up and head right to the gym, leaving no time for food.  Yeah, you might have debated with yourself whether or not to eat something before a workout, but did you wonder  how low blood sugars will affect your workout?  

In theory, working out on an empty stomach can cause the body to burn muscle because muscle contains sugar that can be broken down, compensating for low blood sugars during a workout.  That’s why I recommend having a pre-workout meal 30-45 min  before all workouts.   This will do a couple of things:  give you  a burst of energy, as well as keep your body from burning muscle.  Also, the meal acts as a primer for your muscles to be worked and allows for faster muscle recovery post-workout.

Preparing a pre-workout meal……

Not consuming fat during a pre-workout meal is essential because fat slows the absorption of food into your body.  Eat foods that are easily digestible!  This allows the protein  and glucose to be shuttled into the muscles as quick as possible for optimal results.  Finding the right combination can promote a noticeable energy burst.  Pre-workout meals contain a  2:1 – 3:1 ratio of carbs to proteins, containing between 50-100 calories as shown below.


Along with a pre-workout meal, make sure you’re hydrated.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 17 to 20 ounces of fluid 2 to 3 hours before a workout and an additional 7 to 10 ounces approximately 10 to 20 minutes before a workout to ensure the body is properly hydrated going into a strength training workout.

So there you have it, a few concepts that will give you an extra boost during training!  If you have any more questions regarding this topic, feel free to contact me anytime.