Don’t Call it a Comeback….

This Military Athlete was in a wheelchair 8 months ago… now he deadlifts 645 lbs!
Derek was in a wheelchair for 2 weeks before the pain decreased enough to be able to walk and drive again. Two months of Physical Therapy traction, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and basic stretching reduced his pain enough to begin exercising.
The main goal of physical therapy in persons with acute back pain is not to increase strength but to achieve adequate pain control so they can begin to move again without sharp pain. Many people expect that Physical Therapy will return them to the physical condition they were in before the injury, but this is not the reality of how the system works.
Once Derek was released from therapy, I assessed his mobility and strength between the right and left sides and found significant differences (greater than 20% in this case) in strength between the legs. There was also a difference in the size of the two legs, the injured leg lost over 1 inch in diameter when compared to the non-injured leg due to inactivity and lack of weight training.
The exercise program I designed consisted of mobility drills and bodyweight stability training working each leg independently and working his core (lower back, obliques, and abs) focusing on balancing the strength between the two sides.
Progress allowed us to transition to strength exercises while still working on each side of the body to bring the injured side up to the level of the non-injured side. Once we were close to a 5% difference between the sides then two leg exercises (deadlifts, squats, etc.) were once again part of the workout program.
All of the hard work to balance out the body allowed Derek to quickly stack weight to his lifts and surpass his PR from before the injury. Everyone looks at the numbers he is putting up for his big lifts, but the truth is he still performs most of the single leg exercises and core work that I originally implemented to maintain his strength and prevent the risk of future injury.
The number 1 predictor of an injury is a prior injury. Why? You did not return the injured area to full use by balancing out the body side to side, removing the compensations you developed, returning to full mobility, strengthening the stabilizing muscles around the injury, and working on your balance.
His recovery highlights the correct process to recover from a back injury and how we were able to transition him back to full fitness.
Injuries happen to us all. The US Bureau of Labor Statistic states, “About 80% of adults are estimated to experience a back injury in their lifetime.” It does not matter if you are involved in sport or not. Life is a contact sport. This statement seems to surprise people about the fact that injuries are more the norm than the exception. However, fully recovering from an injury is rare. We often see the aftermath (compensations and alterations in motor patterns) for years after the injury due to failing to return the body back to normal.
The typical causes for lower back pain are…

Sitting too much…
Standing idle too much…
Not moving enough…
A tight upper back or thoracic spine…
Tight hips…
Tight hamstrings…
Weak Glutes
Weak Core…
Muscle imbalances…
The 4 correct steps to return from a back injury:
1. Control of pain and the inflammatory process – Pain treatment should be initiated early and efficiently to gain control. Ice, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), medications, and relative rest may help with controlling the pain and the inflammatory process.
Excessive bedrest, however, may lead to deterioration in lumbar segment motion, loss of muscle strength, and general deconditioning with blunting of motivation. In the last 10 years we have seen changes in post-surgery protocols that have patients up and moving (quite often the same day) after major surgery to greatly reduce the deconditioning that can occur with bedrest. The body is built to move and movement has been shown to increase blood flow to the injured areas and actually speed up the healing process.
2. Change Habits – As we get older, we tend to move less and when you move less, you tend to sit more. The problem with sitting is that you compress and de-activate your backside (glute and hamstrings) and shorten the front of your hips. Both bad things for function and healthy movement.
Taking frequent rest periods from sitting changes the demands on your spine to let the muscles responsible for holding you in good posture take a break.

Keeping a bad posture. You know the deal, slouched forward with a rounded low back while watching TV, working at the computer, or reading. Using bad body mechanics and letting your low back move during lifting instead of using your hips. We consistently see bad habits of poor posture contribute to increased risk of back injury later in life.

3. Mobility and Stability – After an injury your body will naturally tighten up and limit Range of Motion to prevent you from further injury. You need to gradually return mobility to the injured area with mobility drills and stretching, foam rolling, myofascial release, and activation techniques.
The ability to achieve range of motion with stability is one of the most important aspects to quality of life.

Exercising to engage and strengthen your core muscles without moving your low back. Perform stabilization exercises that allow you to maintain a good back posture while lifting, getting on and off the floor, in or out of a chair.

Mobility and stability imbalances side to side need to be returned so that there is less than 5% difference between the left and right sides. You will never be exactly the same on both sides, you will always have a dominate arm/leg. But, more than 5% difference will increase your risk of another injury, and also indicates you are probably still compensating (shifting weight, favoring one side, over use of 1 arm or leg, etc.).
The stabilization musculature around the injured area needs to be challenged slowly to increase strength, providing support to the injury and allowing you to work larger muscle groups while reducing the risk of re-injury.
4. Strength – Strengthening your core is far more than performing the latest variation of a sit-up. When we talk core strengthening, we mean that your back contributes 40% to your core, your abs are another 40%, and your oblique’s (love handles to some) are 10% each. Endlessly working your abs while neglecting your lower back and oblique’s is the quickest way to re-injure your lower back.
The stronger and more mobile you are, the less risk of injury. Sometimes the injury cannot be avoided, but with strength and mobility you will recover quicker and return to your normal life and the activities you enjoy.
Doing things that truly make you able to move better and more often are the things that will make you better. Unfortunately this isn’t found by sitting on machines or in a chair. Dr. Stuart McGill, spine biomechanist at the University of Waterloo states, “The use of machines that buttress joints and restrict range of motion at specific joints not only retard the various levels of motor learning required for optimal functional performance, but can encode patterns that are detrimental to both performance and the avoidance of injury.”
Lower back injuries make up over 40% of the injuries we typically encounter in clients and according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistic, “More than $50 billion is spent each year trying to treat back pain.”

One of our philosophies is whatever your goal, it starts with first being able to move well and move often. To be able to play with your children or grandchildren, pain free. To be able to keep up with your hobbies, whatever they may be. Never having to give up anything because you’re limited by back pain.

Be like Derek, seek out information and professionals to make sure you fully recover from back pain. Once you have a back injury, you will always have a back problem. It’s a matter of how well you take care of your back that will determine if you live a healthier and happier life or one in pain.

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Your Best You!

Your health is a moving target. Creating or maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very challenging with all the latest trends, new information and constantly changing research. New articles advise what we should eat, what new diet to follow, how we should move, and what is the right amount of sleep your body needs. What doesn’t help is the term “healthy” is very subjective depending on who you follow, read, or listen to.

Here are 3 tips to help navigate your way to a healthy lifestyle:

Do your research. The are so many get fit schemes, hoards of unregulated supplements, and unsubstantiated information on the internet. Look at who is writing the information, does it come from reliable and valid source (ex: Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, John Hopkins University). Who has funded the research? If a company could benefit from a certain outcome, dig a little deeper (ex: smoking is harmless, funded by a Tobacco company). Large-scale, longitudinal studies (following people over months and years instead of their changes in only a few weeks) funded by a third party (someone with no ties to the product or outcomes) provide more accurate and objective results.

See a professional. Be wary of all the health and wellness advice espoused digitally. Do the professionals have a degree in the area of health. Do they have advanced degrees, or do they just post their opinion without facts. Just because someone looks healthy or fit doesn’t mean they have the qualifications to help you with your challenges. Be wary of anyone who suggests taking supplements, eliminating food groups, or doing an extreme exercise plan. Medical doctors are the only professionals that can diagnose an ailment or injury. Often, people are more than willing to state what they think is wrong, but this can mean they are failing to stay within their scope of practice (at the extreme, this can be considered practicing medicine without a license). A true professional will refer you up to the next level of care instead of giving advise about a topic they are not fully educated to discuss. Before you make an extreme lifestyle change please see your doctor about your plans and goals.

Make a plan. Be selective and regimented with your lifestyle changes. You can only focus on so much at one time. Once you are working towards one goal, say eating healthier and the needed support with a weight watchers group, then work on setting your next health goal, and set a realistic timetable to get there. Maybe writing down your goals in a journal, and give yourself dates to accomplish each one. SMART goals are a tool used to help with planning. S stands for specific, make your goal very specific such as losing 5lbs in 5 weeks (not I want to lose some weight). M is for measurable. You are going to lose 1lbs per week and will weight in once a week. A is for attainable. To lose 5lbs you are going to work out twice a week, walk the dog 30 minutes everyday and stop having snacks after dinner (are these changes you are willing to make). R is for realistic. Is it realistic to lose 5lbs in 5 weeks according to healthy standards (yes)? Is working out twice a week too much (no). Could you have a reasonable dinner therefore not craving snacks afterwards (yes)? Finally T stands for timely. Are you tracking your progress everyday? Maybe journaling your food, tracking your workouts, and writing down your weight at the end of the week. Having a plan that is reasonable, measuring your goals, and monitoring your progress every week will set you up for success.

Making a change for a healthier lifestyle isn’t always easy, but if you do your research, seek out professional help and together make a plan, you will surely be on the road to success! Many times in life we want to make changes and have the best intentions, but fail to execute our ideas. A written plan, sharing that plan with people that will be supportive of your efforts, and even thinking about a reward for achieving the goal will help you accomplish your healthy lifestyle. Your health is a moving target, but with planning and a little bit of hard work, they can be goals that are moving in the right direction.

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The Building Blocks of a Great Body!

The body is composed of muscle, fat, bone and water. It is muscle and fat that are the primary players in having a great body. To have a great, healthy body you need to increase your lean muscle mass and reduce your body fat. We will start with some of the myths, then go into some of the facts in building a great body.

The Myths of Muscle and Fat

Myth 1) Muscle weighs more than fat. Five pounds of muscle is equal to 5 lbs of fat, they weigh the same. However, the difference is the density of the two and how much space each will fill. Five pounds of muscle is denser and more compact. It would take 4lbs of muscle to fill the space of 1lb of fat. A person can have more weight of dense muscle and still look smaller than an individual that weighs less, but has more fat.

Myth 2) Eating fat will make you fat. If you are eating healthy fats such as olive oil, raw nuts or avocados these will keep you lean. The problem is the portion sizes. It is very easy to overeat nuts for example, consuming too many calories. Eating more calories than you burn will lead to fat storage. Consuming moderate amounts of healthy fats every day will help fill you up, so you are less likely to overeat.

Myth 3) Muscle can turn into fat and vice versa. The two tissues are entirely different and one cannot morph into the other. If you stop working out, your muscle fibers shrink and your fat cells can get bigger. The building (and breakdown) of muscle is based on how much and how often you use and challenge the muscle combined with nutrition to feed the muscle growth (protein). Fat cells increase in size due to an overabundance of calories in our diets.

Myth 4) You can spot reduce fat. Unfortunately, when you lose fat it comes from all over the body. You cannot pick one specific area to tone up (example – I want to lose fat from just the back of my legs), your body does not work that way. The areas that we have the largest amount of fat will take longer to see a significant difference due to the amount of fat we are trying to change.

Best ways to lose body fat and increase lean muscle

Fact 1) Watch your food intake. You need to eat more vegetables, fruit and lean protein, while minimizing if not eliminating processed, sugary, junk food. You need to follow a healthy nutrition plan that meets your goals and needs, and you need to consistently follow it 80% of the time.

Fact 2) You need to add strength training to your exercise program. The best way to add lean muscle mass is to lift weights. At least 2 to 3 times per week, using at least 8-10 exercises that work major muscle groups collectively. Use compound movements such as squat thrusters or barbell dead lifts. You also need to push yourself hard enough that challenges your body to perform a little bit more than it is used to working by the end of your exercise routine, where you physically can’t do it any more. Then all your muscle fibers will get the signal that they need to grow. You need to train consistently to add lean muscle mass that will change your body.

Fact 3) Make you cardio workouts intervals. Research has found interval training works best to burn more fat. Instead of doing long, low intensity elliptical type work, doing more metabolic, high intensity exercising reduces body fat and helps increase lean muscle mass. For example, jump rope for 60 seconds, rest for 20. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes. Groups of bodyweight exercises. For example, 10 burpees, to 10 air squats, to 10 mountain climbers, finishing with 10 squat jumps. Aim for 5-10 rounds.

Fact 4) Sleep more, aim for 7 to 8 hours per night. Your body recovers from all the stressors of the day while you are sleeping. If you don’t get enough sleep, it can increase the stress on your body and slow down your progress in reducing fat and increasing lean muscle.

Fact 5) Add a recovery day. If you are training hard every day without a day off, your body won’t be able to recover, you increase your chances injuries, and your muscles won’t have an opportunity to get stronger. A recovery day could be a long walk, a massage or a restorative yoga class.

Losing fat seems to get a lot of attention, but building muscle has a huge impact on your health and wellness. Not only will you get a great body, but adding muscle increases your metabolic rate so you can burn more calories at rest. Exercising will improve your cardiovascular capacity, so you can work out harder and longer. Building muscle will help you live longer which is a better predictor of longevity than BMI (height and weight) charts. The benefits of building a great body go further than just the outside visual aspects, you’ll be stronger, live longer, and feel better!

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The 80/20 Rule of Nutrition

I have helped hundreds of clients over the last 20 years stay on track with healthy nutrition. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what is the best nutritional principles to follow with so many different diets on the market. The biggest challenge is the changes you make need to be lifestyle modifications and not a diet that does not fit with your lifestyle or one that is too difficult to maintain. With the 80/20 guideline, it should be a rule you can follow for life.

Simply stated the 80/20 rule of nutrition is to follow healthy practices 80% of the time, and allow “cheats” or splurges, 20% of the time. If we are following healthy practices this would include eating 3 small meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and 2 small snacks. Ideally, your meals should contain 2 servings of vegetables, 1 serving of lean protein, and 1/2 serving of whole grains. Your snacks should be small, with either a serving of fruit (apple) or vegetable (carrots), and a small serving of protein (hummus, almond butter, etc.). There can be healthy fats (raw nuts, olive oil) sprinkled throughout your day based on your calories allowed. Your primary beverage should be water throughout the day (at least 8 cups).

Eating 5 meals per day (3 meals, plus 2 snacks) and then multiply that by 7 days in a week equals 35 meals per week. If you allow 20% cheats, that would equal 7 meals (and snacks) you are able to use as splurges or cheats during any given week. You could, for example, use the cheats for Friday & Saturday night dinner, maybe a Sunday breakfast out, or a not so healthy snack at the mall. The point is to follow healthy, clean nutrition 80% of the time. Knowing you do get some exceptions throughout the week, creates a better mindset, and allows for success with your nutrition. Following a strict diet 100% of the time is next to impossible for most people, and the long term success is close to zero. Most people have the will power for a few weeks or maybe a month. But sooner or later you’ll want to go out to dinner with your friends, attend a party, or go to sporting event and eat chips! This usually leads to overeating on most diets because of the deprivation of calories and the too strict rules. With the 80/20 rule, you get to eat foods you enjoy throughout the week, but still stay on track with healthy nutrition, weight loss and having great energy at the gym.

Follow the rules of good nutrition 80% of the time.

· Eat breakfast within 20 minutes of getting up.
· Eliminate all processed carbohydrates and junk food.
· Use healthy fats freely.
· Eat a high quality source of protein at every meal and snack.
· Don’t drink your calories (sodas, fruit juice, high calorie coffee drinks), use water.
· Limit alcohol.
· Eat vegetables or a piece of fruit at every meal and snack.
· Eliminate sugar from your diet.
· Know your portion sizes.

In essence, try to eat food that is whole, clean, non-processed as much as possible. These are nutrition rules for life!

The 80/20 rule allows you to have your splurges or treats as a normal part of your dietary plan. The key is to splurge wisely and fully enjoy it. Do not feel bad about it and do not beat yourself up when you decide to enjoy something. But do be honest with yourself and know what is a splurge versus what is truly healthy. If you are compliant 80% of the time it will keep you on track for living longer and feeling better!

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A Mental Refuge in Physical Exercise

Today was a great day in the gym, I lifted more weight than I had been able to push for many years. Why the sudden change? Because of CANCER! Not mine, but my fathers. He was diagnosed with colon cancer 2 months ago and they went in and removed a mass. It seemed like he was on the road to recovery, except, it has spread. They have found more in other locations and his prognosis is not good. He is not in stage 4, or even stage 3, but he believes that he will not live to see this summer. And he is probably right. The same thing happened to his father. A diagnosis of cancer and he suddenly lost hope in living. He died 2 weeks later.
I teach the Military that being physically healthy is one pillar of resiliency (being able to withstand the challenges life puts against you). Physical strength helps you battle adversity in life. Exercise helps your body stay healthy, even when you may not feel like you are at 100%. When people exercise consistently they usually are more social, they are around people in the gym and not so isolated (even if you are wearing your headphones and not talking), and they also tend to also eat healthier.
I read an article years ago that posed the idea that during physical exercise more blood flow is pushed to the working muscles, therefore, during exercise you cannot dwell on mental problems and your brain gets a break from stress. I am not sure if this is correct, all I know is that when I exercise, my mental outlook is better. I feel that I can overcome the challenges that lay ahead and face them with optimism.
So today I lifted angry! I used the physical exercise to challenge the emotions and dread of what happens next. I continued to add weight to my lifts beyond what was on my workout program. The weights that were listed were easy and not providing the normal level of physical exertion or distraction that I was expecting. I added anywhere from 10 pounds to 40 pounds more too every exercise. This forced me to push harder than normal and when I was finished I did not feel most of the anger I had been experiencing about the situation. It felt like the clouds had parted slightly and the sun might actually appear.
What did I learn from this? My greatest physical limitation is how much I believe that I can lift. Obviously, I am physically stronger that I have let myself believe. Your mental belief is what determines your physical condition. In my case, years of prior injuries have made me conservative in my progression of training and I am limiting my own strength. In my father’s case, his belief that he will die soon means that he will probably not make it until this summer.
Several years ago my friend’s father was diagnosed with multiple forms of cancer and given 5 months to live if he was treated with chemotherapy. He chose not to undergo chemo for what he believed was a short benefit and went on to live for 18 months. Most of this was due to his optimistic beliefs that he was too much of an a**hole to die this early!
Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.” Your actions follow your thoughts, so believe in yourself. And exercise, it can help those feelings of powerlessness in a situation. I know that after lifting heavy weights that I believe that I am more powerful and have hope for the future.
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5 Exercises Women over 50 should be doing Every Week!

As we progress along the age line, and some of us transition hormonally, it is imperative to exercise and eat healthy to minimize the spread of our waistline, our decreasing metabolism, and thinning of our bones. By now we know we must strength train, but with the plethora of information bombarding us daily, it’s hard to discern what is valid and reliable information, versus what is spamming and discreditable.

Training women for over 30 years, and having firsthand experience with what is appropriate and safe for strength training, I’m going to give you my top 5 exercises every women should do on a weekly basis.
1. Deadlifts– These are a great compound movement that requires many postural muscles to activate. Women we tend to round forward as we age and this is due to a lack strength on our backside (hips, lats, rear delts and hamstrings). We also suffer lower back problems from many years of bending down and/or bad posture. To combat this we need to strengthen our back side, and deadlifts is the best way to address this area.
Goal: Deadlift your own bodyweight!
2. Pull-ups– Most women want to do a pull-up but traditionally lack the upper body, back and grip strength. Pull-ups addresses this issue perfectly while strengthening your lats, rear delts, rhomboids and a tremendous amount of core! Start with a Lat Pulldown machine if you are just beginning or perform assisted pull-ups using a machine. The preferred exercise is using a band to assist you and gradually work your way off the bands.
Goal: 10 pull-ups unassisted!
3. Planks on the Physio ball– These are traditional planks, but add another element to the equation by performing on the stability ball. Dr. Stuart McGill, World expert on lower backs, states that this is the single best core, lower back strengthening, and rotator cuff exercise to be done. Place your forearms on a Physio Ball and have your feet together while holding the plank position.
Goal: Make small circles with your shoulders (both directions) while planking, and do this for a total of 5 minutes!
4. Single Leg Reverse Lunge on the Val slide– Single leg work is of the utmost importance for women. If you have any differences between your limbs in strength or an asymmetry, this is a risk factor for an injury. Working single leg or arm will address any imbalances you may have and reduce your chances of getting hurt later. This exercise requires tremendous core strength, balance and agility, as well as hip and glut strength. This exercise gives you so much bang for your buck. Val slides will provide instability that forces additional supporting musculature to engage as you are performing the exercise.
Goal: Hold a 25lb dumbbell on the arm of the working leg!
5. Side Band Walking –A great exercise for working the hip abductors, and gluts. For women this area tends to very weak, which can lead to knee and back injuries. By walking with the band above your knees, you also work a lot of core (QL- for lower spine stabilizing). This exercise seems to be the weak link for most women, and when performed weekly can make a tremendous difference in hip and knee stability, which means less knee problems or lower back complaints. Start with walking side to side with the band located above the knee. There are different strength bands, so use what is appropriate for your level of strength.
Goal: Walk 4 steps to the side, 4 steps front, 4 steps to the other side, and 4 steps backwards forming a box for 4 minutes.
Our bodies change as we age and the need to maintain strength and stability will help ensure a more active and enjoyable later years. Many women want to travel and see the all of the beauty that this world has to offer, but so many are limited by their physical abilities later in life. While the exercises listed are not the easiest, they are the best exercises women should be performing. If you cannot perform these exercises now, it is a goal to work up to them. If you can perform some or all of them, then try to reach the goals listed. They will challenge you, but that is the only way that our bodies improve.
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Debunking the myths of women lifting weights!

When I started weight training in the late 1970’s there were all these stories I heard about women lifting weights. The sad thing is a lot of women still believe these myths today. I wonder who started these myths. Were they created to keep women from getting strong? Keep us out of the gym, and in the home? Well we may never know the origins of the myths but let me put them to rest for once and all.
Myth Number 1: Women will get big and bulky if they lift weights.
If you are strength training, you might gain muscle, but you need to eat healthy to look firm, toned, and have more muscle definition. Women do not have enough testosterone to naturally increase their muscle size to that seen in some magazines. Even most men who have 10-30 times more testosterone than women have a hard time increasing their muscle mass. With a proper strength training program women will get stronger, leaner and fitter, but not bigger or bulkier. The women you have seen in bodybuilding competitions, live in the gym training up to twice a day, and also most have supplemented with testosterone to increase their size. A woman will not look like a man as a result of lifting weights, period!
Myth Number 2: Women should be careful lifting too heavy.
How many times have I heard someone suggest to get the box for me because it’s too heavy for a women! Or are we too fragile and will get hurt if we lift something heavy? If you are new to lifting then you start off easy and slowly work yourself up to lifting heavier and heavier. If you slowly progress as with any other sport, you can build up strength and not get hurt. It’s absolutely absurd that women can’t lift heavy, we just need progression. Just recently a women (Stefanie Cohen) deadlifted 507lbs for 3 reps and she was only 125lbs. Now that is strong!
Myth Number 3: Women will get all the benefits they need from just doing aerobics classes or cardio machines.
Seriously! This was always the message for years. Unfortunately, many women still believe this ludicrous statement. Your body only adapts to the forces imposed upon it, in others words you will build up your heart muscle, but do nothing for your lean muscle mass. Nothing for increasing your metabolism in the long run. Nothing for adapting to different movement patterns. Nothing for your strength to lift kids, groceries or suitcases. Cardio use to be king, but now strength training is king, and cardio is queen. Now with properly developed strength training programs you can get the metabolic effects, the muscular strength and endurance, and if it’s designed correctly improve your mobility. Research has shown that total body resistance training enhances your total fitness profile by increasing strength in upper and lower body muscles and improving muscle performance, thereby increasing cardiovascular capacity way more than aerobics classes alone can do.
Myth Number 4: Women should do the exact same program as men.
Women have different builds than men, and men have a different distribution of lean body mass than women. Men have stronger upper bodies and leaner lower bodies, women have less musculature in their upper bodies and carry more body fat in our hips and stomach. Therefore, women do need different programs, and we have different goals than men. We don’t need to isolate our biceps or do bench press forever. But that doesn’t mean we need to lift lighter, easier weights. Women need a program designed specifically for them, taking into account their goals and needs, past injuries and limitations, and body composition (nutritional) challenges.
I have spent the last almost 40 years fighting against these myths, constantly educating women, and quietly demonstrating the benefits of lifting weights and lifting heavy! I have educated my students in college classes about these myths, hopefully empowering younger women to pursue strength training and any sport she desires. I have lectured to my older clients about the benefits of balance and strength training. I even lament to my mother in law about being strong and functional for all her upcoming trips. My motto has always been and will always be: be strong physically and you will be strong mentally. This is what has helped me throughout my life, #liftheavyweights #strongisthenewbeautiful

Anne
If you need help making changes to your health or have any questions or comments, please contact us.
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A woman’s history of weight training

I started weight training when I was 15 years old. My parents got me to join their gym in the late 70’s, which at the time had men days and women days. Women weren’t allowed to train with men. We had special weights for us, that were usually painted pink. Most of the women would do super high reps so we wouldn’t become masculine. At the time of joining the gym my father got me a trainer who luckily showed me how to lift with heavier weights such as doing squats and pull-ups. I even competed in a bodybuilding contest, that was more of a figure contest. I even won Ms Southwestern, received $300.00 in cash.

I enjoyed the weights for no other reason than it helped with my swimming. I had joined the swim team in the 10th grade, and the coach had the guys lifting weights. So I figured if this would help them get better at swimming, wouldn’t it help me get better and faster. Absolutely! I started winning all my events.

My collegiate undergrad years, women and men were allowed to train together (but women still lifted light weights), for fear of getting too muscular, looking like a guy, or lord forbid, losing your femininity. Women weren’t doing too much in the weight room in the eighties. You were seeing more women athletes, but not many. More women were doing aerobics, low and high impact. Women loved doing abs, but couldn’t do a push-up or were willing to try.

However I was used to lifting heavy, doing squats, pull-ups and bench press! My first boyfriend at UCSB even dumped me when I signed up for a weight training class. But it didn’t deter me from my passion of weights. I hired on at the local gym, taught weight training on the arsenal of machines, aerobics and began to take classes in kinesiology. I loved weights, and I loved the strength that it gave me, mentally and physically.

Upon graduation I applied at a tennis, swim and exercise club. In the early nineties women still didn’t lift weights, only super light for thousands of reps, still fearful of the same old myths. I don’t want to get big and bulky, I don’t want to lose my femininity or the weights would slow me down for my sports.

I started competing in Natural Bodybuilding contests. I thought this would be good to enhance my credibility as a personal trainer. But women were starting to take steroids. It was so obvious which women were taking them, they were highly muscular and very large. They would highlight these women in all the magazines at the time, perpetuating the myths that all women will look like these women on steroids, if you lifted weights. Believe me you cannot get that big or bulky unless you take steroids, period. Unfortunately it took many years before women began to realize this. And to this day a lot of older women still believe this myth! I did win Ms California and Ms Junior USA, which had more to do with my symmetry from swimming. I began personal training when only celebrities like Madonna had trainers. It was so frustrating to train women who wanted to look good, but so fearful of weights. Thank god for Linda Hamilton, in the movie Terminator, was shown doing pull-ups and looking lean. Women were slowly becoming more interested, even though I was constantly educating them of the benefits of weight training!

Since that time I realized that I couldn’t receive much creditably as a personal trainer with just my bodybuilding accolades, so I enrolled in Graduate school and received my Masters in Exercise Physiology. Even then I was asked to teach aerobics, where the men got asked to teach weight training, track or swimming. I became certified as Strength and Conditioning Specialist along with many other certifications to improve my knowledge of exercise. I went on to get a PhD in Nutrition because of the relentless questioning about how to lose weight, how to get leaner or how to reduce my belly fat!

If you fast forward, I am still training clients, educating women about the physical and mental benefits of being strong, doing 10 pull-ups and dead lifting greater than my own weight.

Weight training my whole life has kept me resilient to all the criticism about getting too big, too slow, too masculine or only dumb people lift weights. Weight training has allowed me to stay focused in the fitness industry where only men use to always tread. Weight training has allowed me to follow a lifelong passion of exercise, nutrition and wellness! Being able to walk into a weight room and lift more weight than the guy next to me, has always put a smile on my face!

Let me just say this to all women, it is imperative you get strong! Get strong for more functionality, get strong for better balance, get strong to travel all over world and feel great, get strong because being physically strong makes you mentally strong! Get strong because it keeps your metabolism high, get strong so you can be more resilient to change and get strong because it keeps your mood elevated! Get strong because you sleep better and get strong because then you are no longer invisible! Get strong because you need a voice and you need to be heard!

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at http://www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.


Your strength is your greatest weakness

Most of the people that search out our services come to us with injuries. We consistently track injury rates and injury areas to look at the trends in our clients. 40 percent of the injuries we deal with are lower back, followed by knee, ankle, leg, and then shoulder. This is not a complete list, but is does show the top 90 percent of the injuries that our clients need to address. We do not diagnose injuries, our job is to help our clients return to health and fitness by strengthening and mobilizing the injured area, balancing out the body to prevent future injuries, and trying to find out if problems in their exercise technique or their previous exercise program contributed to the injury.

Incorrect form combined with too much weight are usually significant factors in injuries. However, one of the most common problems that we see is the fact that most individuals do not perform a balanced exercise program. Working the chest without performing equal or more back exercises to balance the muscles pull on the body. Performing quad dominant exercises while ignoring the hamstrings and gluts. These imbalances can contribute to lower back, knee, and shoulder problems due to anterior muscles placing more force on the skeleton without the posterior muscles to balance out the loads.

The term “Functional Fitness” means exercise that challenges the muscles in the same way that the body would work outside of the gym. When you use a prime mover muscle (example: chest) then the opposite muscle (back) must also work to counter balance movements and smooth out the action. Supporting muscles (shoulders) will also be used to assist with the movement. The problems is when the muscles you have focused on consistently (chest) are significantly stronger than your stabilizing and supporting muscles (back and shoulders), you have now greatly increased your risk of injury. The strength of your chest muscles have now lead to your greatest weakness and the area you will most likely injure (lower back or shoulders). An exercise program must work all muscle groups to keep your body moving well, without pain, and moving through the full range of motion. Overworking specific muscle groups and causing imbalances only reduces the “Functionality” of your body.

Research in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science has shown consistently that exercises for the core (think more lower back and oblique’s, not just abs), gluts, and hamstrings significantly reduces lower back and knee pain. Below are 3 tests (and fixes) to see if imbalances are part of your pain problem.

Knees hurt? Check your hips.

The pain you feel in your knees could be tightness or lack of mobility in your hips or ankles. Check the mobility of your hips by lying on your back in a doorway so that the middle of your kneecap is on the threshold. Place your arms at your sides, palms up. Keep your feet together, toes pointed at the ceiling. Pull your toes towards your shins to create a 90-degree angle at the ankle. With one leg straight and staying in contact with the floor, slowly raise the other leg until either your knee bends on your raising leg, or your bottom foot bends or turns out to the side.

If the knobby part of your ankle can make it past the door frame, your hips are mobile—check the ankle test below to see if that’s causing knee issues. If either ankle can’t make it, foam roll your hips and gluts, and then work on this stretch using a belt or strap for more improvement.

Fix it: Lying in the same position as during the test, wrap a strap or belt around one foot and raise it until you just start to feel a stretch, only mild discomfort. Do not stretch to the point of pain. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat twice per leg. You should see small improvements in your range of motion weekly.

Hips moving OK? Check your ankles.

If your hips are mobile, or even if they’re not, ankle mobility can also lead to knee pain. To check your ankle mobility, assume a one-knee position facing a wall. Your knees should both form 90-degree angles, and the toe of your planted foot should be about four inches from the wall. In this position, try to glide your knee over your little toe to touch the wall without lifting your heel. If you can reach the wall, your ankle is mobile. If your heel comes up before your knee touches the wall, your calves are too tight and this could cause a problem.

Fix it: Foam roll your calves and work on mobilizing the ankle by working it through the range of motion mentioned above. Trying to slowly push the knee closer to the wall while keeping the heel planted on the ground. Performing this as a drill, you can see as much as half an inch of improvement. If you feel pain during the drill, stop and consult a physician.

Lower-back tightness? Check your hips.

Back discomfort doesn’t always indicate a back problem. If one side of your pelvis is higher than the other, it can result in back pain, hip pain, groin pain, or even knee pain. Unevenness of your hips can pull on your lower back, causing that tightness while sitting all day.

Fix it: If you notice your hips are uneven, try this hip abduction exercise. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart (the classic sit-up position). Wrap a small resistance band around your knees so that it’s already a little tight while your knees are together. Now press out against the strap to separate your knees until they form a V-shape, holding this position for 5 seconds. This move helps to fix the hip imbalance because “in the lying position, the muscles that are causing the pelvis to be out of alignment are shut off. Repeat for 2 sets of 20 reps, 3 times per week.

An exercise program should make you stronger, help you perform everyday and sport specific activities better, improve your overall health, and do these things without increasing your risk of serious injury. Look at the exercises you perform to ensure that your program is balanced. If you sit most of the day, performing exercise that work your back, gluts, and hamstrings are vital. Foam roll and stretch daily to improve and maintain mobility.

For more daily information like and follow us on Facebook and check out our custom designed exercise programs on our website at http://www.achievingfitnessafter50.com.

 


The truth about fitness after 50

We’ve all seen the people on the cover of fitness magazines, with ripped abs, well defined arms, and perfect smiles. This person really looks like they have it all together and their life must be amazing….
The truth is they need to measure every bite of food they ingest, abstain from any indulgence, workout daily or even twice daily, and give up time spent with family and friends. They need to deal with feelings of hunger. They need tons of sleep to be able to handle their next workout. They can’t maintain this for very long, so no…they don’t always look like they did when that cover photo was taken.

Keep this in mind if you ever feel discouraged by those photos, and don’t forget about the power of digital editing!

The cool thing is it’s really not that hard to get into moderately good shape…. 2-3 good workouts a week and sneak in some veggies and fruit into your existing diet, reduce the excess complex carbs (I am not advocating removing them from your diet completely, just eat in moderation), and the same goes for alcohol.

It’s a little more work to get into pretty good shape, but can be done if that’s your goal…work out a little more each week, pay more attention to your portion sizes, and limit your indulgences.

Keep all this in mind and realize the magazine cover look is probably a pretty undesirable goal due to the sacrifices needed to get there. Instead of going all in for something that isn’t worth it, start with a minimalist mindset and realize that small steps sustained over time will get you to your goal.

Get more active any way you can. Take a 10 minute walk each day. Do 20 body weight squats and a plank before you shower each morning. It helps build in a healthy habit and builds momentum towards something even better, true health.

Look at your biggest nutrition challenge. Set a goal of one less beer or wine per day. Set a goal of 5 salads per week. Try keeping cooked lean protein in your fridge so you’re ready to whip up a healthier meal in 5 minutes or less. Same idea here, focus on one attainable goal for at least three weeks before moving onto bigger things.

I hope this helps you get through the grocery checkout line and past the magazine rack feeling a little better about where you are and where you can go with your fitness. It’s natural to fear failure and opt for staying where you’re at, but trust me, taking small steps forward towards a more realistic goal will quickly build your confidence and lead to a happier life.

Let me know if you need any help.