Category Archives for "Training"

The Twin Terrors of Aging

I think the effects of aging really hit me as I watched my grandparents bodies decline toward the end of their lives. They looked, and were, fragile. My recollection is that the first time I heard of Osteoporosis was in the context of my grandmother having it. It also occurs to me that these two were some of the hardest working people I ever knew; they had far from a sedentary job. They owned a small business, a bait and tackle shop in New Milford, CT. In the summers they would open at 5:00am and close at or often 7:00pm, and they were open every single day. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood were spending a week or two in the summer with them, as my grandfather had a route delivering bait and tackle, checking his chub traps, the shiner tanks sloshing around in his red International truck. There was a lot of manual labor involved. But even that wasn't enough to keep them from "The Twin Terrors of Aging" - Sarcopenia and Osteopenia.

twin terrors

Simply defined, Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass, and Osteopenia is the loss of bone density. These twin terrors have a cause and effect relationship on the aging process.

Losing muscle tissue (Sarcopenia) has been shown to cause a decline in your bodies ability to use glucose and a corresponding decline in insulin signaling and sensitivity. This becomes a vicious cycle, as a decrease in insulin sensitivity makes it more difficult for the body to grow and repair itself, which can lead to further muscle atrophy, which can lead to further decreased insulin signaling, and around and around we go. And don't miss the important distinction here. Muscle Atrophy is losing mass because the cell is getting smaller - this is largely reversible. But a muscle cell that dies is difficult if not impossible to replace. 

Bone mass has been shown to peak at about age 35 and decline with age. Our bones are living active tissue, and just like muscle if you don't give them much to do they will start to decline and you lose bone density more rapidly, which leads to Osteopenia, and can progress to Osteoporosis. 

And this leads to the frailty I saw in my grandparents - because of muscle and bone loss they became easier to break - they became fragile.

But let's back up a little. Why and how did this muscle and bone loss get started? While it might seem like it, nobody wakes up one morning after the "fragile fairy" visited, weaker and fatter. More than likely they have been experiencing a very gradual decline, which like a snowball racing downhill, becomes bigger and bigger as momentum gathers.

Have you ever been diagnosed with one or more of the following?

Hypertension - elevated blood pressure.

Dyslipidemia - abnormal amounts of blood lipids (triglyceride/cholesterol). In North America, this is usually hyperlipidemia - elevated cholesterol and/or triglyceride.

Systemic Inflammation - these can be measured with a Hemoglobin A1C and C Reactive Protein blood test, among others.

Insulin Resistance and/or Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) - these were briefly discussed above.

Visceral Obesity - accumulation of fat around the internal organs. The InBody scanner at Cr8 Fitness is one way to get a measure of this.

Usually these disorders build on each other, and often lead to Metabolic Syndromewhich affects 1 out of 3 Americans.

Including, at one time, me. 

Yes. Yours truly had hyperglycemia, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high visceral obesity, and if I remember correctly my A1C tilted toward the high side too.

Key word: HAD

So what can we do about it? 

That is the million dollar question, right?

Now I don't want you to get me wrong here. I am not a doctor, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the hard work it takes to become one. There are realities of the system and constraints that medical professionals have to navigate and work within. But the cold hard truth is that much of western medicine is very broken.

If you look up the word "Medicine" in the Cambridge Dictionary, you will find the following definitions in the following order: 

  1. the science dealing with the preserving of health and with preventing and treating disease or injury:
  2.  a substance taken into the body in treating an illness:

I LOVE the words "preserving (health)" and "preventing (disease).

Yet I bet you if you asked, 9 out of 10 people would equate the word "medicine" with "drugs". And while there are certainly appropriate drugs to be taken in acute circumstances -  where would we be without penicillin? - I am talking about other kinds of drugs that function far differently.

In "The Barbell Prescription" Dr. Sullivan introduces a word, Polypharmacy, which he simply defines as "lots of drugs". 

It got me thinking. How many people do I know that take prescription medications regularly take only one?

Rarely do we see clients that are only on one med, usually there are three or four or more. Often we will see a diabetes drug (or two) paired with blood pressure medicine, maybe thyroid or statin thrown in, with a side of something to help indigestion, or just as likely constipation, caused by the other drugs. Prescription anti-inflammatory and SSRI's are also very common. 

Again, don't get me wrong. I am NOT "anti-drug", and recognize the necessity for these in certain situations. And I am not making a value judgement here, because I have no room to talk given my history.

But in my mind there is a crucial question and subsequent conversation we should be having. "What is this plethora of prescriptions doing to solve the underlying cause, rather than just covering the symptoms?"

Drugs are not like vitamins. You can have a Vitamin D deficiency. You do not have a Lisinopril, or Celebrax, or Zantac, or Cardizem deficiency. There is an underlying cause that is rarely being addressed simultaneously to the prescription being filled. 

And even worse is that some of these drugs can actually increase the rate of muscle and bone loss we discussed before.

Is that really healing? Preserving health and preventing disease? I think not.

Years ago I remember talking to a co-worker who had just been to the doctor. He said the doctor told him he was clinically obese, and if he got on a regular exercise program and good eating plan he could lose the weight, without drugs. But then he said (according to my co-worker), "Since I know you aren't going to do it, I am going to put you on X, Y, Z." I couldn't settle on if that was a bigger indictment of my (still unhealthy) co-worker or the doc. You decide.

Dr. Sullivan also pointed out an interesting thing about modern medicine. We don't generally don't die of syphilis and smallpox anymore. Instead we die of heart failure, stroke, myocardial infarction (told you he was a doctor) and dementia. And not when we are in our eighties and nineties. It's very common for any and all of those things to happen in our 50's and 60's.

I am not afraid of dying. But I have no desire to live longer if in reality it is just extending the length of time I hurt, don't want to move, and have no energy. And I am guessing neither do you.

So we've discussed one option to the "Twin Terrors" - drugs. Is there an alternative?

As an Athlete of Aging, I'll be you already know at least part of the answer.

We'll explore next time. Until then, take stock. If you take prescription drugs; Do you know what they are for? Do you know how they interact with each other? Have you discussed with your doctor a path to get off of any or all of them? If not, consider investigating these your homework.

Until next time,

Coach Dean

This post is second in a series called "Athletes of Aging".

Resistance Is Not Futile

This post is first in a series called "Athletes of Aging".

Nancy and I used to be huge fans of the TV series "Star Trek:The Next Generation". In the second season we were introduced to the Borg, a seemingly unstoppable collective of cybernetic organisms (how's THAT for displaying some ultra-geekdom?) whose phrase "Resistance Is Futile" has become a catchphrase in pop culture for any force which is deemed to be unstoppable.

But I am here to tell you that for those of us who want our best health and fitness, resistance in not only not futile, it is the best and most impactful of all.

The resistance I am referring to, is of course resistance training - training for power and strength. 

I have often shared with our expecting clients that being pregnant and delivering a baby is the hardest event many women will ever train for. It ain't for sissies, which is why they don't let men do it. 🙂

I have come to believe that while pregnancy is indeed one of the toughest events, there is one that is even tougher, for women and men.

Aging Well.

You see we are all going to get older, until we don't. But there is a big difference between being alive and living. Between having more days and making the most of the days you have. Between taking breath in and breathing life to those around you, for as long as you can.

I am going to do something that is not very popular these days. I am going to contend that there is a best way for the aging adult to train, and its foundation is by becoming stronger.

dumbbell

This isn't just my opinion. In the past few years there has been a virtual explosion of evidence, published biomedical evidence, that resistance training - training to get stronger, is key to slowing and even reversing many of the effects of aging. We don't have to get weaker, lose mobility and balance, and get fatter. We can actually gain muscle in our 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond, and reap the benefits that come with it.

Dr. Jonathan Sullivan, in his book "The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40", co-authored with Andy Baker, likens "every bout of strength training as a prudent deposit into a 'Physiological 401 K': saving strong muscle, hard bone, and full mobility for your retirement."

As we all know when it comes to our retirement savings, the earlier you start and the more consistent you are, the greater the benefits. It is absolutely no different in the "strength training bank of life". 

I am the first to recognize that strength training, more colloquially known as "lifting weights" is not the only form of exercise. And again I will contend it is to be the foundational modality of exercise, the "mother modality" if you will. We start with strength training, and we remain focused on strength training, now and forever. All other forms of exercise rely on this simple fact - you must be strong enough to actually do them. Yes, even walk. We strength train so we can do the other activities we enjoy doing, because when we are stronger, we can do them better. 

It's also why I like the term "resistance training", because we can create resistance in many different ways and with many different tools. Bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, leveraged bodyweight resistance with a tool such as a TRX suspension trainer, and many others. But there is another word we need to add to the equation - Progressive.

As in "Progressive Resistance Training". In other words we must consistently be seeking to increase the resistance - the load we are working against - as our body adapts to the load we are currently putting it under. Put simply, to get stronger, you gotta keep lifting heavier. At some point some modalities that may initially increase strength when you start doing them; yoga, pilates, biking, swimming - all wonderful things mind you, will no longer be able to add to the strength and muscle you already have, and certainly as not as efficiently as progressive strength training.

You will also note that I use the word "Training" very purposely. There is a huge difference between "Working Out" and "Training".  "Working Out" refers to what you do for exercise, but that is not training. Training encompasses so much more than that. 

Training is exercise that manipulates training variables (load, speed of movement, time under tension, rest periods, to name a few) as part of a long term program designed (purposeful word) to improve one of more of the general fitness qualities - Strength, Speed, Power, Endurance, Flexibility.

Training also includes what happens outside of the gym - recovery, sleep, stress mitigation, nutrition. We call this "The Other 165" - the hours you aren't in the gym exercising. You must treat those hours as seriously as the hours you are resistance training if you want to remain healthy, injury-free, and continue to progress.

What do you think of when you think extreme sports? The X-Games? BASE jumping? Cave diving? 

Extreme all, for sure.

But it's those brave souls who take on the ultimate challenge against an unbeatable foe (for who among us will ultimately cheat death?), who daily take up the mantle of training for their best life by continuously seeking to learn and improve, and to strengthen body, mind and soul, who are the most extreme athletes of all.

These are the Athletes of Aging.

Make no mistake, when you train, you are an athlete. You may not feel like one, or think you act or look like one, but you are. 

Embrace it.

Posted right in front of me is a note card that is titled "My Why":

To be as useful as I can 
To as many people as I can
For as long as I can

I'm not going to accomplish that sitting on my tail feathers all the time, and neither are you. 

It's time to join the resistance.

Get after it!

Coach Dean

You Are Not A Unicorn. Recovery Matters

Recovery Week is April 21 to April 27. Enjoy!

Ever since we opened the doors of our training gyms, recovery weeks have been built into the training schedule. This is not an accident. Neither is it just "vacation time" for Dean and Nancy, although those are the only weeks we can schedule time off.

To me recovery is instinctual. Training hard is taxing on the body and the mind. There is a point where your CNS (Central Nervous System" says NO MORE, and training starts to make you worse, not better. Our goal is that you never reach anywhere close to that point. We were doing "recovery" before recovery was cool, and we ain't a gonna stop now! 🙂

You might be cute, but you are NOT a Unicorn!

In fact proper recovery between workouts is factored in as we design your training program as well. It's one of the reasons we do not have regular training on Wednesdays. Two days on, one day off, two days on, two days off is by design. More is not better, better is better.

As I have gotten older, I have become even more sensitive to recovery. I recently read a book by science writer Christie Aschwanden called "Good to Go". The subtitle is "What the athlete in all of us can learn from the strange science of recovery".

"Strange Science"?

The science of recovery is pretty new, and there are some pretty weird, wild and yet-to-be-proven things that people do to recover. From recovery pajamas to float tanks, the book examines it all.

When it comes down to it, what we are trying to do is recover from the systemic stress that is placed on our body and mind on a daily basis. This is hardly just training stress. Work, kids, traffic, politics, illness - you name it, there are a lot of stressors in life. We want to manage the overall stress load in order that we can achieve physical and athletic improvement. 

The biggest take home I got from the book is no secret - the #1 thing you can do to de-stress, and enhance recovery is sleep. Not always easy, I know. You are talking to a guy whose alarm goes off before 4:00am. I get it. But I do what I can to get as much as I can whenever I can.

I have used a lot of different tools to measure my recovery over the years. Right now I am testing a piece of software called RestWise, which monitors overall training load based on objective measures such as Resting Heart Rate (RHR), HRV, SpO2, and Weight fluctuations, as well as subjective measures such as energy and mood. It's pretty interesting, and they boast clients from pro sports teams and olympic athletes. 

If you don't want to get that fancy, one of the simplest ways to monitor your recovery is to measure and log your Resting Heart Rate every morning when you get up. I use one of these $15 devices to take my pulse and SpO2 every morning - takes about 30 seconds. If your RHR is trending up, it's a good sign your recovery is compromised.

The bottom line. Enjoy your recovery week. It is a purposeful part of your training plan, and just like your don't want to miss workout days, you don't want to miss recovery days. You WILL NOT de-train in 7-10 days, so chill out - you are NOT a unicorn.

If you want more on the science of recovery, keep reading. 

Train Hard. Recover Harder.

Coach Dean

---

Our recovery weeks are what I would call Macro-Recovery. In other words we take a planned week off every training phase in order to let the body rest up from hard training and get ready for the next phase.

The Recovery Curve

I saw the recovery curve for the first time during my time with Australian physical preparation coach Ian King. His principles laid the foundation for the way we program, train and especially recover here at Get Fit NH. The principles that work with professional athletes apply to us too!

The following illustrates a “good” recovery curve:

The green line represents what we are all looking for – continual, never ending progress over time. We are getting stronger, faster, thinner, better looking (ok at least that’s what I wish for).

Reality Check – ain’t gonna happen. The process of changing your body is not linear, in fact what we are looking at in an optimal training environment is more of a “One step back brings me Two steps forward”.

A closer look at the chart will help explain what I mean.

The red line represents Equilibrium. This is where your body wants to stay, no matter if your goal is losing fat, gaining lean, or both. As you have no doubt found out, forcing your body to change is hard work – really hard work. When you walk into Get Fit NH, our training is designed to elicit that change. But it’s not as simple as “working out” day after day after day. In fact as I am about to illustrate, training without proper recovery is actually hurting you, not making you better.

The blue line represents the “recovery curve”. Starting at the left hand of the chart all the lines intersect. For this illustration that point is where your first training occurred – you “worked out”.

But what’s going on?

Instead of performance going up, that line is actually heading down – this is what is called Depletion. If you think about it makes sense – you have worked hard, you are fatigued, your body is depleted of nutrients – you are spent!

Don’t worry, your body will get over it, if you treat it right! This is what we call Adaptation. Your body wants to be able to handle the increased demand that was placed on it, and starts the process of getting better.

You are in charge of if and how fast that happens. A few of the factors that influence this adaptation include recovery nutrition, stress levels, sleep habits, supportive nutrition, age, and training history.

The recovery curve continues with Supercompensation. Here is how Coach King describes this process:

“It is only when recovery is allowed that we see the super-compensation effect, the unique phenomenon where the bodies physical capacity is elevated in response to training, in anticipation of another exposure to the same stimulus.” – King, I, 1999/2000, Foundations of Physical Preparation

In other words your body has gotten better in response to your training, a new Equilibrium is established and this state is when we will ideally train again. Our programming at Get Fit NH is carefully designed to give this the best chance of occurring, but as I hope you are discovering, you have a lot to do with this with how you treat your recovery!

As you can see, when things are clicking, this process when repeated over and over means you are getting better and better, the blue line is headed up – pretty cool!

The flip side to all this is what happens when the recovery process isn’t working so well.

This chart represents recovery gone “bad”:

When we continue to train in a state of “Depletion”, regardless of the reason, the adaptation to super-compensation effect doesn’t occur, and instead of getting better, we find ourselves in a downward cycle. This can happen when we train the same muscle groups too soon, when we haven’t taken the steps described above to recover optimally (sleep and nutrition for instance) regardless of time between training, when we train too hard coming off an illness, etc. The last thing we want to happen is new equilibrium to be established in a downward pattern – not good.

The long and short of it is your body absolutely needs to recover from hard training. Consistently training in a fatigued state results in injury and illness. Your body is an amazing machine designed to put up with a lot, but it was also designed to need rest. Recovery weeks provide that rest.

If you want to know more about the recovery tools I use and why you should consider them, hit me up and let's talk.

- DC

5 Power Pointers For Fending Off Father Time

In my last article I shared my "Why" for training and taking care of myself the best way I know how. (Finding Your Fitness Focus In February)

To be as useful as I can.
To as many people as I can.
For as long as I can.

That "why" has changed for me as I have gotten older. When I was in the service I went to the gym to lift weights because I wanted to get bigger and stronger. And while those things remains on my radar, they serve a purpose greater than only wanting to look good. Being strong, flexible and fit means I can put in a good days work without being trashed, and still have something left for my family. 

Aging happens. There's nothing you can do about getting older, except dying. That's the bad news. The good news is that you are not the first person (or 100,000,000th person) to get older, so we can see some patterns to how the aging process works. AND we can do something about fending it off. 

Here's are just 5 of the ways you can "Fend Off Father Time" and live your best life now and for many years to come.

1. Brush Your Teeth and Floss

Gum and teeth health are not only an appearance and quality of life issue, but an overall health issue as well. Gum disease is associated with an increased risk of heart disease; in fact according to the Harvard Health, people with gum disease are twice as likely to have heart disease. AND poor dental health leading to bacterial infection can actually damage your heart valves. Yeah, brushing and flossing is that big of a deal.

2. Learn To Fall and Get Up

Coach Dan John shares that after age 55, statistically, the most dangerous thing we do (outside of commuting to work) is shower. At that age and above, slipping in the shower, falling on ice, and being in a traffic collision are worse for our longevity than anything else. Being able to get on the ground and get back up is THE skill to master and retain as you get older. There is a reason we do balance work, work down on the floor, and do "Get Back Ups" around here.

3. Use Sunscreen

Your skin isn't just a cover for your muscles and bones. It is a living, active organ, and one of the most important ones of the body. As you age, your skin gets thinner, dry, and less elastic. Using sunscreen and moisturizer helps keep it from prematurely aging and protects you from the environment. And PLEASE! Do not ignore moles or spots that change over time. Doing so can turn the small inconvenience of getting them checked by a doctor into a big problem, like skin cancer. Be nice to your skin, and it will reward you with better health.

4. Exercise Your Mind

Never, ever, ever stop doing the things that keeps your brain active. Reading, learning a new language, take up a new hobby, journaling - these are all things that keep the mind strong and healthy. And keep your "fat head". The brain is made up of about 60% fat, so don't avoid getting essential fatty acids (EFA) into your diet. And yes, this is a plug for you taking a high quality EFA supplement such as SFH Omega 3 - it does your body AND brain good.

5. Move Your Body

It's not a secret that our bodies deteriorate as we age. Muscles lose size and strength. Bones get smaller and less dense. Your tendons and ligaments follow suit, and mobility is lost. Coordination and balance start to go.

BUT...

There is something you can do about all that. And that something is exercise. But not just any old exercise is ideal. Yes, walking is good for you. And cardiovascular exercise has its benefits. But NOTHING is as effective to slow down the systemic decline of aging like resistance training, strength training, weight training; whatever you want to call this kind of training. Loading the muscles through a full range of motion, regularly and appropriately is key to maintaining an optimally healthy body as you age. And you don't have to lift a kajillion pounds. You just have to work on progressively loading and making the body respond by getting stronger over time. Get in here already! 🙂

There is no fountain of youth - sorry. No magic pill, lotion or potion that has been or will ever be found that will make this body live forever. But don't let keep you from taking action and doing the things you can do to live "useful" for as long as you can.

Brush Your Teeth. Learn To Fall and Get Back Up. Use Sunscreen. Exercise - Mind and Body. And for crying out loud, don't smoke).

Be PROactive. Do It Now.

Make It Happen!

Dean

Injury is a Teacher

I am reminded often that getting older is not for sissies. For those of us who live in New England, I think that is why it is so fascinating to see an athlete like Tom Brady maintain a high level of performance in a very demanding game for so long. He said this morning on WEEI he wants to keep playing for a few more years, although he only negotiated with Gisele for another year. I bet that's getting as difficult as winning another Super Bowl!

I have been training off and on with weights since I was a teenager. (Unfortunately for a number of years I was a lot more "off" than "on"). I have never had a severe training accident in the gym which caused me to miss a bunch of time. But there are times I have done something unwise which put me out of commission for a few days.

If there is one thing injuries have taught me over the years is this:

Avoid Them At All Costs!

Now you may be thinking "no duh", but don't dismiss the obvious. Getting injured is not only about accidental slips and falls. Sometimes the "come out of nowhere" aches and pains are the cumulative effect of ignoring the seemingly minor. 

Here are three things you shouldn't ignore:

1) Attention To Properly Warming Up.

I didn't write just "warming up" for a reason. Being present and going through the motions is not the same as giving attention to it. Focus on each and every movement, work to complete the full range of motion, and spend the time getting focused for your session.

2) Pain.

There IS a difference between pain, tightness, and soreness. I designed this poster with the input of Dr. Brett Coapland at Performance Health a number of years ago. The take home on this? Your coach needs to know! 

2) The Stress of Daily Life.

I want you to train has hard as you should, every day you are supposed to be here. And yes, I said "should" not "can" purposely. None of us our at our best 100% of the time. The teacher of experience has taught me when to go full bore and when to back off a little. Technologies like HRV monitoring keep me honest about it. Learning this has also kept me from making the mistake so many of us do - not training when we don't "feel" like it. I don't feel like it more often than you may think, which is why I have training partners and why training with a coach and group that will keep you accountable is vital to long term success.

Injury is not something I want any of you to experience. The good news is - being proactive and paying attention to the "Big 3" outlined above can go a long way to preventing it. 

Remember. You can't train if you have a serious enough injury. If you are tight, sore, or in pain, let us know. That way we can help you or refer to someone who can. Eat like an adult. Sleep like a baby. Train like your best life depends on it.

Because it does.

Coach Dean

P.S. Please share this post by clicking the buttons below or to the left. Facebook is our friend! 🙂

Stability Breeds Strength

Are you stable?

If you ask most people that question about me, the answer is a resounding no, but I digress.

The American Council on Exercise defines fitness related stability as: the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position. Stability is achieved by the coordinating actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system.

Before you start yawning, let me tell you why this is all about you. The more appropriate stability you can demonstrate and achieve, the more of a rock star you will be in the gym. Seriously, I am not even kidding a little! 🙂

In fact, you will never reach your full potential until you have developed your personal optimal stability (and mobility, but that's for another day).

The practical ramifications of stability include being able to control your joints on uneven or unstable surfaces and staying off your butt. Icy driveway in a NH winter anybody? 

Postural stability is critical in the controlled environment of the gym as well. Heavy lifts (relative to your current strength, skill and ability) is crucial for proper performance and injury prevention. 

In my own training, as well as my programming, working on stability has become a "big rock". In other words it's a consistent focal point. Now that doesn't mean I don't still lift heavy things off the floor, but I am lot more careful to address left to right imbalances and instability on a consistent basis. I know that is what is going to help you and me train hard for the rest of our lives. I learned the hard way that ignoring unilateral instability not only stunted my gains, but it put me in a world of hurt. 

For this kind of work I like to program training tools that create a requirement to stabilize through the core and fire the myriads of little muscle we don't even think about.

Let's take the Turkish Getup for example; I can perform them with a 12kg Kettlebell very easily, but a 25 pound sandbag, with it's shifting contents, requires significantly more effort to perform. If you have been training here lately, you know what I am talking about.

We are also starting to implement tools such as Leverbells into our training programs, which are a whole new way to promote and enhance stability. Far from being the latest "fad" tool, these bad boys have been around in some form for a gazillion years (at least). They were introduced to me by Josh Henkin of DVRT fame, and after getting some instruction and training with them, we decided to share the joy with you.  You're welcome. 🙂

Here's an easy way to test your stability (and strength), and also to identify left to right imbalances.

In Case You're Wondering, This Is Cheating.

Stand on one foot, bring your thigh parallel to the floor and your lower leg perpendicular to the floor. How long can you stand there? Now try the other leg.  A baseline time to achieve is 60 seconds per leg. If you can stand for significantly more time on one rather than the other, you have a left to right imbalance, for some reason. Could be mobility, stability, or strength. 

Remember strength is relative, no matter if you ever want to lift heavy weights or not. You must have ENOUGH strength to stabilize, so don't ignore strength training. This stuff helps with cardio too. Your joints must be healthy and have the stability required to take the repetitive forces cardio produces. It applies to everyone, so if you are an "everyone", it applies to you!

Let's get stable!

Coach Dean

Get Your Zen On and Track Your Training

In December 2018 we moved switched our client software to ZenPlanner from MindBody online. Now before you give me a "So What?", hang with me as I share what that means for you!

Besides being a lot easier for us to use and manage, ZenPlanner has some really cool features for you, specifically the ability to track benchmark workouts and things like personal best on your lifts. 

The first thing you need to do is head on over to the Apple app store or Google Play and download the Member App. The links are included below.

Apple iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/zen-planner-member-app/id1065000091?mt=8

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zenplanner.memberapp&hl=en_US

After you have the app all loaded up on your device, login with your email address (the one provided us when you signed up as a training client) and your password. Those passwords were sent to you either in December when we did the transition, or when you become a client. If you need to reset your password, click this link and then the "forget your password" link on that page.

Once you are logged into your app, you are good to go! Below are a couple videos I shot showing how easy it is to use the app. 

Note: We will not be programming all our workouts into the app. We will from time to time have specific metrics that we will want you to track, and we'll let you know on those days. But as you can see below, you can record a ton of different lifts and personal best on any day you want. Give it a try, you might just find out how motivating tracking your progress really is!

Make It Happen!

Coach Dean




Recover, Rest and Regenerate. Here’s What To Do (and not to do) Next Week

Three Steps for Successful Recovery

Here's what happens during a successful training phase. 
And Here's what happens when we are not getting enough recovery:

You don't have to understand all the science behind these charts to understand that we want the "Performance" line going up, not down. Healthy eating habits, enough restful sleep, and stress management play a role in the successful day-to-day, workout-to-workout recovery cycle.

Recovery weeks take the concept one step further by taking an extended time of recovery physically, physiologically, and psychologically. Here's what we are accomplishing:

1.) Physical Rest and Regeneration

  • Our bodies must rest and recover to prevent over-training (or under-recovering) issues so that we can come back 100% healthy and energized for the next phase of the program. Recovery is a planned part of your training program, and the CHRISTMAS recovery week is especially important, as we are just coming off a long training phase. My body is feeling it, so I know it's time to take a break.
  • Focus on maintaining and/or increasing flexibility and tissue health by stretching and foam rolling daily. 10-15 minutes two or three times this week will keep you in the flow.
  • Daily restorative walks are beneficial during this week. 30 minutes briskly walking (not jogging/running) will keep your body refreshed and active, without negating the purpose of this week. Relax and unwind.

2.) Physiological and Psychological Rest and Regeneration

  • Recovery weeks allow us to normalize key anabolic hormones, refill muscle glycogen, increase caloric intake, and prevent any diet induced catabolism (losses of lean body mass) so that we can enjoy greater fat loss for the next phase of the program
  • For this week, take a break from stressing about food (I do it too). Don't make it a free for all, and staying away from your “trigger foods” (junk foods and sweets) might still be wise. On the other hand don't get worked up about office parties and family gatherings. Be aware, and do your best.
  • Plan (key word) and enjoy 2 or 3 controlled free meals over the next couple of weeks, but don't overdo it. No Santa Bellies! 🙂
  • Stay tuned, as the end of this week we have some exciting news!

3.) Celebrate the Fruits of Your Labor

Take some time to reflect on how far you have come since you joined Cr8 Fitness. You have worked hard to improve your overall health, body composition, and performance. Some of y'all have been here a short time, some a long time. The cool thing is that we can still keep getting better every day.

Enjoy your holidays. They CAN be stressful, but how we respond to that stress goes a long way toward a better quality of life, and better health.

As this training phase and training year comes to a close, on behalf of Nancy and myself I want to say thank-you. It has been a year of change, like most are. Since we sold Concord in July much has happened. I am grateful for our continued relationship with Get Fit NH. I am grateful for those who have embraced the change in Epsom and Cr8 Fitness. I look forward to the new year with a confident expectation that the best is yet to come, and I am grateful you are here with us!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Coach Dean

Are You Ready TO Fall? (Bonus Video)

Sitting here writing this at 11:30 in the morning, after having shoveled the driveway and parking lot TWICE already today, with the snow still coming down, it's really hard to believe it's not officially winter yet.

Who made THAT rule?

Anyway, as I was pondering the fact it is still fall, I was reminded of a startling statistic shared by Coach Dan John.

28,000 Americans die from falls and fall-related injuries - every year.

That is pretty crazy. But check out what else he has to say...

"As I’m talking today, the Ebola virus is in the news. The chances of any of you picking up Ebola are pretty rare, but the chances of one of you having a fall and getting hurt are pretty high. Here’s an interesting thing: At my age, if I was told today by my doctor that I have cancer and my friend, who is also 57, was to fall today and hurt himself, statistically in two years, my chances of survival in the United States are greater."

Is that sinking in? Have you ever heard of this? Is anybody really talking about it and taking it seriously? Why is there no "Society for the prevention of falls and fall related injury"? And I am only half-joking.

We all tend to laugh at the "I've fallen and I can't get back up" commercials. But I wouldn't want to be in that position.

You may have noticed that as you get older, you don't bounce, or bounce back, quite like you used to - I know I have. The good news is there is something you can do about, Get strong, Stay Strong. Build in some "margin" in your joints, tendons and ligaments with mobility and flexibility work. Practice balancing on one foot - now add weight. Drop to the ground and get back up. At Cr8 Fitness, we do all of that for a reason. So WHEN you fall, you CAN get back up.

And that's no joke.

To your best health, for a long time.

Coach Dean

P.S. Took the family to the trampoline park in Concord the other day. I fell, a lot, but I had a blast. Most parents were standing on the sidelines, watching the kids have all the fun. BOO! Train to stay in the game!


PROactive Aging Strategy 3

Strategy 3: Enjoy Life

Is it just me, or is this just an unhappy world? Seriously, life is too short for that. And while there is no doubt there is a lot of things that can cause our perspective to be soured, it’s really important for our health that we proactively encourage some happy in our lives.

Here are two things that affect our “happy-healthy” state of mind, and that we do exercise control over.


Stress Management

When you hear the word “stress”, what comes to mind? I’ll admit when I think of stress, the first thing that pops into my mind is “bad – go away”.

In reality, stress is a normal physiological response to events that we feel threatened by or knock us off balance in some way. You have heard the term “fight or flight”. When something threatens us physically, mentally or emotionally we go on high alert.

That is the stress response; it is natural and is designed to protect us. Not all stress is bad, in fact stress does some very good things. It can keep us alert in dangerous situations, increase concentration when we need it most, and keep us sharp during high pressure situations.

It is also true that beyond a certain point stress no longer is your friend, and becomes an enemy to your health, mood, productivity and relationships. When we are on stress overload, it just plain “saps our happy”.

And “overload” is exactly the right word. Allostatic Load is the cumulative wear and tear on your body – physical, mental, and emotional – that results from stress, especially chronic stress. We really can only take so much, like the proverbially “straw that broke the camel’s back”. That’s why when we are reaching our threshold little things can set us off. It wasn’t the fact that your 15-year old told you last minute (again) that he needed his permission slip signed as you were trying to get out the door, it was all the other stuff that has been piling up that caused you to blow your top. (That might have been a true autobiographical story).

Fun Fact: Allostatic Load can be measured via your Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This is a simple 2- or 3-minute process using a heart rate monitor and your smartphone. I have monitored my HRV every morning for about six years now, and some of our clients do as well. The point? If my HRV indicates I am reaching threshold, I know I have to focus on my recovery efforts.

Good and Bad Stress

Good stress is also called eustress. This stress moves us move out of our comfort zone, learn, grow and get stronger.

Coach Nancy loves rollercoasters. To her they are fun, exciting, and exhilarating. It’s short term and leaves her energized and wanting more. That’s an example of good stress.

Exercise is another good example. Appropriate exercise is hard work, but also leaves you feeling good, even energized like the rollercoaster (after your heart rate comes down and you can breathe again, of course).

Conversely, I am not a fan of rollercoasters. Going up to the edge of a cliff, hanging there, and then plunging into the unknown in a seemingly uncontrolled fashion does not make me feel energized, not one bit.

This is bad stress, what we call distress.

So how do you tell the difference between good stress and bad stress?

There is no “one-size-fits-all” when dealing with stress. We all react to different stressors, well, differently. What distinguishes good stress from bad stress is in your life is not actually the specific stressor itself, but your personal ability to recover from it.

Here are some factors that contribute to our stress response and recovery ability:

  • Our attitude and outlook on life. Optimists generally live longer than pessimists.
  • Our personal life experiences. How stress was modeled to us can be a huge factor how we respond.
  • Our perception of how much we control the situation. Feeling trapped can paralyze us and leave us hopeless.
  • Our friends and family. Knowing we are loved and cared for is a difference maker. Hanging out with people we like to be around just makes sense.
  • Our physical environment. Wide open spaces, nature, and places we like to be automatically reduces our tension level. I don’t like crowds; some people thrive in them. Again, it’s highly personal.
  • Our allostatic load. The more we are dealing with at once, the harder it is to keep our head cool and our body healthy. Cumulative stress is highly damaging to even the most positive and cheery of us.

I know I keep emphasizing allostatic load, and it’s for a couple reasons. The first thing to remember is that everything contributes to it: physical, mental and emotional. Your crazy high electric bill, your crazy boss, your fuel light flickering on empty, and yes, even that great workout you just had goes on the pile. The other reason it keeps coming up is because you can measure it, scientifically, so you are reminded to actually do something about it.

So what do we do about it?

Understanding how to manage stress is key to living in the sweet spot, where stress is inspiring and energizing rather than demoralizing and demotivating.

The opposite of “fight or flight” is “rest and digest”. Your central nervous system needs some love to, and recovery activities help build that resilience that is so important to develop.

Here are some proven ways to help you find that sweet spot, reduce your allostatic load, and be your most productive and happiest self:

  • Get some sunshine (especially here in the north. Get your Vitamin D level checked too
  • Go outside and do activity you enjoy; walk, bike, hike
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Get a massage
  • Sauna or hot tub
  • Practice breathing exercises (deep breathing)
  • Laugh more
  • Deep breathing
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Physical play
  • Exercise

A word on electronics; while movies and television can be entertaining, they are also stimulating to the central nervous system, and adding to your allostatic load. As challenging as it may be, true stress reduction and recovery means ditching the screens. Leave the phone in the car. The world won’t explode.

You don’t have to shoot for “stress-free”

It’s not possible, and as we learned, we need some stress to be at our most inspired, productive and happy. But stress won’t manage itself, and you won’t be great at it right away if you are just adopting these strategies. Don’t stress about it (ha) – just adopt some simple strategies you can do right now to reduce your stress load.

“Stress ages you faster” is not just a pithy saying. It’s reality. Stress management is a must for successful aging and staying at your best, longer.

Stress Management

You are hitting the gym regularly, and you’re eating habits are trending in the right direction (see above). Yet someone you still don’t feel great, and you just don’t look or feel like you want to. It’s time to ask yourself if you are a “stinky sleeper”.

Good sleep doesn’t happen by accident. Just like anything worth doing, it’s going to require effort and practice.

Here are some tips for shaking that stinky sleep habit and setting yourself up for success:

Get Up Right Away

Hitting the "snooze" bar just once never seems to happen. The longer you stay in the bed, the harder to get up. Sit Up. Feet On The Floor. Stand Up. Better sleep at night starts first thing in the morning.

Find The Sun

Immediate natural light exposure regulates your melatonin. This helps us be awake fully in the day, ready to sleep at night.

Exercise Appropriately

Regulate your inner clock, reduce your stress, optimize your hormones. Plus, you look and feel better!

Eat A Moderate Dinner

Too much food makes it harder to sleep. Enough said.

Download Your Day

Clear your mind; writing things down gets them out of your head. Planning the next day at night helps you not think about them when you’re trying to get some shut eye.

Creating and practicing a nightly routine is key. Here are some actions steps:

Turn off the electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. TV, Computer, Cell Phone, all of it. Artificial light interferes with melatonin production, which is required for deep and maximum restorative sleep.

Take a warm bath or shower. Magnesium based bath salts are known to help with sleep.

Your bedroom should be reserved for two things only; sleep and sex. A television in the bedroom is a sleep strangler. Keep your bedroom as your Fortress of Solitude; quiet, relaxed and peaceful (at least until Lex Luthor crashes the party).

Experiment with room temperature. For most people 67 degrees or so seems to work best. Start there and adjust what works for you.

The room should be dark, as in pitch black. Any and all light interferes with the sleep cycle. If you don’t want to trip on the way to the bathroom, use a motion-detecting night light.

A little tough love here.

Your health is worth missing an episode of your favorite TV show. I love watching football as much as anyone, but I discovered that teams don’t need me to watch to win. (I know, I was bummed when I found out). Of course, there are exceptions; I am going to watch the Super Bowl, and if the Red Sox are in the World Series, I am there. But my habit is to go to bed an get at least seven hours of sleep a night. I get up at 4:00am on training morning, so you do the math. Jimmy Fallon and I never cross paths.

While it’s true that our sleep requirements go down as we age (From 9-11 hours when we are school age to 7-8 hours at 65+) we still need enough sleep. While there are outliers that our fine with less than that, the overwhelming odds are you are not one of those special flowers. Seven hours a night will keep you functioning at peak performance, regardless of the date on your birth certificate.

Conclusion

Dylan Thomas wrote; "Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

I am not on some Quixotic quest for immortality. But I am not averse to a little "raging" either.

You don’t have to settle. I loved my grandfather very much. And I distinctly remember that when he was 70 he almost never got out of his chair, because he couldn’t. I remember as a kid thinking how old 70 must be. That is not a criticism of my granddad. He was a hard-working man who was a product of his generation, a proud generation. We know more about the aging process now than he did then. We know smoking and excess alcohol ravages the mind and body and ages you faster. We have better medicine and more opportunity. But knowing and doing are two very different things.

It’s up to us to take advantage of the boundless resources we have in front of us and make the best choices we can to live an active and healthy life.

Let’s Do This!

Need Help Getting Started?

About Cr8 Fitness

Cr8 Fitness mission is to help turn our clients “Happy and Healthy” on by Coaching them to Eat Well, Exercise Smart, and Enjoy Their Best Life.

We are a small facility tucked into the heart of the Suncook Valley, family-owned and operated for over 10 years. Each of our clients is family to us, and we are their fitness home.

Our heart is to create a safe, fun, and happy environment where you get the personal attention to reach your health and fitness goals.

Getting started is simple. Just click here to register for your complimentary fitness screen and 2-Week Free Tryout.

We look forward to seeing you!

- DC

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