Congratulations Julie Johnson!

Just want to share this with everyone paying attention to my postings:

My one time client and friend, recently competed in her 1st strength competition to raise money for the MDA (muscular dystrophy association) and placed 1st in two out of three events! She is the beach press and dips champion!

Congrats Julie! You’ve gotta be the fittest Medical student I’ve ever trained!



My training philosophy

People always ask me what training style I follow. My answer usually perplexes them…
“I’m not a yeller”, I might say, (my spinning adherents might disagree, but that’s a different environment).
“Whatever seems to suit your needs, if it’s within me”, is another common answer I give.
Or, “observational and fact based training”.
None of these answers is satisfying for most prospective clients. That want to know what kind of “system” I adhere to.
One certifying body; NASM (national academy of sports medicine) has actually created a rigid model they expect all trainers to conform to, and all trainees to accept. They are ridiculous, and their concept is ludicrous. That’s fodder for another posting.

Nick Tumonello, a fitness educator, has posted on his blog 7 tips from Bruce Lee that will make you a better trainer. These words of wisdom from the late martial arts master cut to the chase of my philosophical beliefs when it comes to training, and most other aspects of daily life. Click this to read more.

Exercise Science? part 2

Science is a rigorous, no-nonsense, discipline.  A few months ago, a research team of physicists at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland reported that they had measured and recorded subatomic particles that traveled faster than the speed of light.  This is the most revolutionary discovery in the history of modern physics.  It completely destroys Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and undermines the whole scientific consensus of how the universe works.  The reaction of the scientific community was immediate and visceral: “hmm, that’s interesting.  Lets double-check that.”  “I wonder where they made their mistake?  Lets check it out”.  Even the CERN scientist who recorded this potentially revolutionary finding wondered: “I wondered what we did wrong?”  Every real scientist would love to be the one that upend Einstein, just like Einstein overturned Newton.  But no real scientist is going to base their reputation on 1 study that has not been independently verified multiple times.  Not even if its their own study.  That’s science.  That’s integrity.  That’s truth.

The world of exercise science is nothing but bogus hucksterism: verb [ with obj. ]promote or sell (something, typically a product of questionable value).  Popular experts are dangerous people, selling opinions and personal preferences as facts, when their not trying to sell you a product they don’t even believe in.  That’s the nature of the “fitness world”.

One of this blogs followers; Mia; asked me about another blog she read.  I will not link to it, because it is terrible.  The author, Kassem Hanson is a personal trainer, a disciple of Charles Poliquin (an expert I formerly admired until I read this garbage).  The article talks about getting “skinny fat” and how certain exercise activities, like Spinning, can cause you to develop “cottage cheese thighs”.

I’m so tired of this.  This Kassem Hanson, if his bio is to be believed, ought to be an expert that I could quote, not waste time refuting.  He claims to have a BS in Exercise Science, BA Biochemistry and Molecular Biology – Cornell
BA Biology – Cornell.  A google search seems to indicate he went to Cornell College, in Iowa, not the Ivy League University in NY.  The fact that he intentionally leaves this vague indicates he wants you to assume the Ivy League connection.  Not that there is anything wrong with the similarly named college.  I don’t even have a degree in an exercise related field, which is why I would expect more from him.  And I am disappointed.

Let me be clear.  Not a single, reputable, scientifically based research study has shown spot reduction to be anything but a myth.  The American Council of Exercise (ACE), The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), The International Sports Science Association (ISSA), the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), and every other accredited personal training certifying body, as well as the National Institute of Health (NIH), all link to thousands of articles, research papers, and position papers giving the evidence against spot reduction of fat.  The inverse is equally true.  No activity can cause fat to specifically form in one area of the body over another,  The simple fact is that body fat accumulation is mostly genetically determined.  Again, the scientific evidence is overwhelming!  Hanson, and apparently Poliquin, are basing their opinion on a lone Danish study from 2007 that was never peer-reviewed or duplicated independently.  That such a study was done at all, and got published somewhere, doesn’t surprise me and was discussed in part one.  That Hanson and Poliquin would tout this and base their entire training philosophy around a single dubious study goes more to show their personal exercise preferences and bias than their commitment to exercise truth.

They misinterpret what Spinning is, and even say that “indoor cycling” is a better choice because it incorporates anaerobic high intensity intervals.  Uhhh, excuse me…Spinning is the original “indoor cycling program” and includes as part of its standard protocol anaerobic high intensity intervals, though there’s no guarantee in any program that the instructor truly understands or incorporates these principles, or that every participant follows those instructions.

He goes on to make other comments on the subject of things that will make you “skinny fat” mixing myths and facts indiscriminately, showing a tremendous lack of judgement.  For instance, he says that eating a vegan diet will make you “skinny fat”.  I know of at least 4 professional body builders who are Vegan, and I have friends who are vegan.  The body builders look like body builders.  And my friends run the gamut of fit, fat, “skinny fat” and powerful.  No I don’t personally advocate the Vegan diet because it is it is way more complex to insure that the individual consumes adequate complete proteins, but properly done, it can be just as healthy as a meat inclusive diet, for most people.  Please remember, that no diet is universally good for everyone.

Hanson claims scented candles will cause a man’s androgen levels to significantly drop.  Where he gets this tidbit from I don’t know, but if it were true, then their must also be scents that would raise androgen levels.  Where are those?  Trust me when I say the FDA would have this as a controlled substance if it were true.

So watch the next tour d france, the track athletes running the mile, three-mile, or marathons in the next olympics, or the top 100 finishers of the next Iron Man Triathlon.  Find the cottage cheese thighs.  Find the “skinny fat” competitor.  But also remember, you are not them.  You don’t train as hard, you don’t eat as well, you don’t sleep as well, and you don’t dedicate your life to your training.  That means you can’t compare you’re results, either.

What people like Hanson are doing is attacking a mode of training many people favor in the hope of getting these people to switch to a mode favored by Hanson (and other personal trainers).  Since the activity is different, you may in fact start to see some positive change, but that has to do with the SAID principle, not to any inherent superiority of their training method.  Once you start training with them, inertia is likely to keep you as long as you can afford it.  Of course, with a trainer watching you, it’s much more likely that you will train more intensely.  And that could lead to some improvement. And now they are getting your money, too.

Don’t expect unrealistic results that are greater than your commitment.  and always ask for the research.  Then ask for the independent, corroborating research. Stop being a sucker.

Exercise Science?

Hello.  I’m back.  And i have a few things to say.

Over the last 2 weeks I’ve read multiple articles in the New York Times Health section, and a much longer piece in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, that would make any seasoned exerciser bewildered about what we do, and don’t know, about how the human body works.

In one article, “Why Ice may be bad for sore muscles“, there are so many ridiculous suppositions that it boggles my mind.  The article starts off:

“For the study, researchers at the University of Ulster and University of Limerick in Ireland reviewed almost three dozen earlier studies of the effects of using ice to combat sore muscles, a practice that many who exercise often employ. Ice is, after all, the “I” in the acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), which remains the standard first-aid protocol for dealing with a sports-related injury. Icing is also widely used to deal with muscles that twinge but aren’t formally injured. Watch almost any football, basketball or soccer game, at any level, and you’ll likely see many of the players icing body parts during halftime, preparing to return to play.”  (The bold text is highlighted by me)

In 29 years of being in the fitness industry, I’ve never; not once; heard the recommendation to ice muscles made sore from regular exercise or physical activity.  Not once.  Ever.  The RICE protocol is used in first aid when dealing with INJURIES.  Post exercise muscle soreness is not considered an injury and would be considered counter productive as icing the muscle would reduce blood flow, which is the opposite of what a weight trainer is trying to accomplish.  The paragraph then goes on to say that icing is also used for muscles that may not be sore, but “twinge”.  Again, never heard this in 29 years from a professional.  And the final nonsense: “…players icing body parts during halftime, preparing to return to play”.  Body parts, yes.  But not specifically muscles.  The athletes routinely ice shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles.  They do not typically ice biceps, pectorals, latissimus dorsi, Quadriceps, etc.  Do you know what the difference is?  Athletes ice joints, not muscles, during competition.  And they only ice themselves if they’ve suffered an injury, like a contusion, or severe muscle pull, or sudden attack of tendonitis; situations where inflammation around the affected joint will have a serious impact on the athlete’s ability to continue competing.  Yes, muscles cross joints, as do tendons and ligaments.  But it is the area of the joint that matters.  The article continues to discuss how the research being detailed shows that icing reduces the overall performance of the athlete in the affected area.  Really, was it the icing, or the injury that preceded the icing?  And how much more degraded would the athlete have performed if they didn’t ice at all and tried to compete anyway?  As someone who used to be a tournament racquetball player, I have some experience with elbow tendonitis.  Icing was sometimes the difference between winning a trophy and prize money, or losing because i could no longer grip my racquet.  As to why an athlete would risk more serious injury by continuing, the answer is: They are competitive athletes with prize money and trophies at stake.  This is who they are and it is often their job.  And Aaron Rodgers or Eli Manning at 75% effectiveness is many factors of 100% better than their respective backups.

Lets continue:

The article goes on to discuss how:  there  has been surprisingly little science to support the practice. A 2004 review of icing-related studies published to that point concluded that while cold packs did seem to reduce pain in injured tissues, icing’s overall effects on sore muscles had “not been fully elucidated” and far more study was needed.”  Why an ice pack before exercise should depress performance isn’t fully understood…”.   Not understood!  Oh my god!  Icing reduces blood flow and slows down cellular activity, which is why we ice severed limbs, not put them on heaters.  And ice will slow down muscle cellular activity and tighten up the muscles it is used on.  There aren’t any studies because it would be like a PHD in physics deciding to test Newtons theory of gravity by dropping an apple and a 50 kilo weight from the same hight to see if they fell at the same rate (they do).

I need to point out that a MLB Pitcher, or an NFL Quarterback is paid millions of dollars to play, while you and I are not.  They are not icing to rehabilitate an injury, they are icing to continue the competition.  And how did we go from discussing whether or not icing injuries was an effective treatment, to icing muscles before exercise to see how that affects performance?  How does that have any relevance to icing an injured body part?  No one ices before exercising.  Anyone in the exercise industry knows you warm up muscles and joints prior to exercise, not cool down!  For the rest of us, any injury that would require the RICE protocol would also be followed by the recommendation to rest the injury for a period of days or even weeks, depending on the severity.

Why was this ridiculous study done in the first place?  I imagine some graduate student in Ireland needed to conduct research and present their findings in order to receive their graduate degree.

As to why the New York Times decided to publish an article about this I surmise it was a slow news week in the world of exercise, and the writer of the article doesn’t know anything about fitness, or doesn’t care.  Write or die.  I see the same thing in all the major fitness magazines.  You can’t leave blank space.  You must publish something every month or go out of business (or lose your job).  This writer should lose his or her job just for publishing this nonsense and confusing the public more than they already are.  Hey New York Times…maybe you should hire me.

I will follow this up with two more blog posts; each on two other NYT articles; with valid information, much better researched, much more well-informed, and seemingly contradictory, on the issue of fat and weight loss.  Stay tuned.

Holiday hiatus

Hi everyone. There was a problem with my last entry during the upload, and the entire posting was lost. Due to the stresses of the holiday season I’ve been deeply distracted and unable to find the time to post, but I should be back to it at my usual pace starting January. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me via email, twitter, or thru the blog, and I will answer usually within 24 hours.

Hope your holiday season has been peaceful.