Archive for Did You Know?

Better Posture Can Help Your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!

by Meaghan posted February 28, 2010

If you’re reading this post, chances are you spend a fair amount of time behind a computer. Heck, who doesn’t these days? Two problems often seen in desk jockeys are poor posture and carpal tunnel syndrome. But did you know they could be related?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive trauma disorder caused by compression of the median nerve, producing numbness, tingling, weakness or pain in your first three fingers. Symptoms typically occur with fine motor movements (like blogging!), but that doesn’t mean this is the sole cause of the problem. Remember: The pain site isn’t always the pain source.

Although the median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, its root is actually located at the base of the cervical spine. So if your shoulders round forward and your head juts out, you could experience the same symptoms. And when you’re constantly typing while sitting with poor posture, it’s tough to determine the real culprit.  

Using thick-grip training bars, increasing forearm strength and flexibility, and maintaining a neutral wrist position can certainly help; but postural training and maintaining a neutral cervical spine may be even more beneficial. Stretching the pecs, upper traps and levator scapulae, and strengthening the posterior shoulder girdle and upper back are essential elements for an exercise program geared toward treating carpal tunnel syndrome.

Above all else, when you go to type your comment, remember that good posture is the most important key. And rather than turning to costly medical visits when your carpal tunnel syndrome flares up, try just sitting up straight instead! How’s THAT for health care reform?!

Is Hockey Really Canada’s Game?

by Gabe posted February 27, 2010

Selkäsauna Baby!

In case you’re wondering, Selkasuana is Finnish for “blowout”. And that’s what the U.S. men’s hockey team, which was supposed to be too inexperienced  and young did to the finns the other day. And with their victory over the Finns that puts the US and Canada into the final game for Olympic gold tomorrow.

So are you ready for the most awaited hockey game in an American generation? Maybe the better question is whether Canada can handle the devastation if it loses to Team USA  for the second time in a week on Canadian ice (just saying…).

Regardless, this has got to be better than Freedom Fight 2005!

Surefire Signs You Should Run From Your Trainer!

by admin posted February 25, 2010

When I started working for Focus, I had the opportunity to see our competition at other gyms. I was very surprised to see what some trainers do with their clients… in both personal training and personal interaction.

Now, my background consists mostly of working with athletes, so I was pretty new to the one-on-one field at the time. Still, some of the trainers’ interactions with their clients looked totally inappropriate. I talked to a few friends and found out that they have no idea what is and isn’t appropriate for a trainer to do. It seems like some trainers still get away with doing some really inappropriate things, so I felt inspired to make you aware of some red flags. If your trainer fits any of these descriptions, RUN! 


The Touchy Trainer

I’ll sometimes see a trainer do something outrageous like spotting a client doing pull-ups by pushing on her butt! In no way, shape or form should your trainer ever be touching your butt (unless, of course, you want him/her to). If your trainer doesn’t know how to make appropriate adjustments for you to do a pull-up or other exercise, locate your nearest exit and run!


The Phone Trainer

Trainers are paid for their expertise; they should be watching your reps to make sure you are doing things correctly, and they should cue you if your technique is wrong. If your trainer is busy on his/her crackberry, send him a text saying you want a full refund! Then he’ll focus on you for sure.


The Machine Trainer

If your trainer is only doing machine work with you, do you really think that he/she is an expert? Honestly, you can just read the directions on the machine yourself and go from there. When your trainer takes you down the machine express line, keep walking until you hit the exit. Same goes for the training session that consists of 45 minutes of treadmill running, five minutes of abs, and 10 minutes of stretching. Get your jogging butt off the treadmill and SPRINT out of that gym! You’ll burn more calories, and that’s usually the name of the game anyway.


The “Functional” Trainer

This is the guy who only utilizes the stability ball and discs because they are “functional.” These tools are supposed to increase activation and improve balance, right? Well, your misinformed trainer is just wasting your time. Instead of burning calories or building strength, you’re actually losing strength and decreasing your rate of force development, which equals LESS power. 

For some populations (namely, the elderly and those rehabilitating an injury), using unstable surfaces may be beneficial; but basic exercises work just fine if you’re healthy. Soooo, if your “functional” trainer won’t give up the stability ball, kick it at his face! That’s functional for soccer, no? Just make sure to pop the ball afterward so he can’t use it again. This video has some good ideas:


The “No Weights” Trainer

My biggest pet peeve is trainers who tell their clients not to lift weights because they make you bulky. There are so many benefits to lifting weights it’s staggering, and any “expert” who tells you not to lift should get a backhand to the face . Aside from increasing strength for daily activities like walking up stairs and picking up groceries, lifting weights also increases lean muscle mass and, in turn, daily calories burned.

Before people get images of ginormous bodybuildersin their heads, think about how many people go to the gym to get bigger… A lot, right? Okay, so with all those meatheads around, you would think that every gym would be filled with Schwarzeneggers. But they aren’t. Why? Because it’s NOT that easy to put on muscle mass, and it takes A LOT of dedication to do so. If it didn’t, the people with ELS (Empty Lat Syndrome) would actually have a real reason to walk that way!

With all that said, squatting with 135 lbs. is not going to make you “bulky.” I realize this is a blanket statement, but my point is that lifting challenging weights has many benefits, even if you do just two sets of five.

So next time you go to the gym, ditch those pink dumbbells and challenge yourself!

Make The Most of Your “Cardio”

by Gabe posted February 24, 2010

Most people don’t exercise at the appropriate intensity. And when it comes to cardio, almost everyone takes the wrong approach. Exhibit A:

What’s needed is a change in mindset about cardiovascular training…and attire! So from here on out, don’t think “cardio;” think conditioning.

With a focus on conditioning, it doesn’t make much sense to run long distances for extended periods of time (i.e., 60 minutes or more), let alone in the buff! Research shows you get the best bang for your buck with intervals. Interval training not only burns more calories during the session itself, but may also allow you to continue to burn calories for up to 24 hours post-exercise. In addition to this metabolic increase, you sharpen your central nervous system with intervals, enabling you to work harder and burn even more calories.

When done correctly, interval training should take no longer than 15-20 minutes. It’s called working smart and working efficiently. If you’re able to read or talk on the phone while on the treadmill or other cardio machine, you’re wasting your time.

You don’t have to be Kim Yu-Na or Lindsey Vonn to start an interval program, either. If you aren’t in good shape, you can begin by simply walking slow and then fast, or walking and then running. Start with just five minutes and work your way up from there.

So, today’s lesson is: “Think Conditioning, NOT Cardio.”

And don’t forget your shorts.

Forgotten Training Variables: The CNS

by Meaghan posted February 23, 2010

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, I want you to take a test. The good news is that you’re already at your keyboard, so you’re halfway done!

Here’s the test: Tap your space bar as many times as you can in 10 seconds. Record that number. That’s it – you’re done! At least for now…

I want you to do this every day. It’s called the “tap test,” and I first read about it in Dan John’s book, Never Let Go. If your number of taps suddenly drops one day, it’s probably indicative of a fatigued central nervous system (CNS – i.e., brain and spinal cord), and you’d be wise to take a few days off to rest. (Note: Active recovery is also a great option. More on this from Chris next week!) Too many exercisers overlook this aspect of training. Even lifters who take good care of their body’s tissues often forget or don’t realize that the brain needs recovery too!

Since you’re probably already confused enough by Obama’s health care plan, I’ll refrain from getting too scientific here. Basically, before your muscles can contract, your brain must send multiple signals that tell them to do so. In essence, the brain is the driving force behind all human movement. And when those movements are fast, explosive or heavy, your CNS works even harder than your muscles.

On the flip side, there’s reason to believe resistance training helps improve brain function. (See, the gym can make you smarter!) Until now, the research on exercise and cognitive function has focused mostly on cardiovascular training; but I just read a new study in which the authors compared the effects of once-weekly and twice-weekly resistance training with that of twice-weekly “balance and toning exercise.” Both resistance-training groups showed improvements in selective attention and conflict resolution by the end of the 12-month study period. Task performance also improved by 10-12% in the resistance-trained groups, while it actually DETERIORATED in the balance and toning group.

Oooohhhh… So THAT is what happened to Tracy Anderson…

I should note that this particular study looked only at senior-aged women, and that a single study alone hardly proves anything. But it is widely accepted that initial improvements in strength are largely due to enhanced neurological efficiency, so it certainly makes sense that strength training could improve other cognitive functions as well, and to a greater extent than training methods that don’t rely so heavily on having a well-functioning brain…

…Er, I mean, on the rapid firing of action potentials down the axon to the motor neurons… Yeah… That’s what I meant to say… or write… Riiiight…

Unwritten Rules of The Gym: Don’t Be THAT Guy

by admin posted February 22, 2010

Let me first explain why I have the credentials to state a few rules of the weight room. I’ve been a gym rat for 13+ years now. Back in high school, I would even wake up at 5am on game day to go work out. That probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but I can count on one hand the number of workouts I missed (broken bones be damned!).

Professionally, I’ve worked in a few collegiate athletic and recreational weight rooms, been in chain gyms (YMCA, Golds, Bally’s, Worlds, New York Sports Clubs, etc.), and have even worked in an NFL weight room. So to say the least, I’ve seen and done enough stupid things at the gym to know the “unwritten rules.”

Below are a few characters you may encounter in the weight room. Watch out for them and don’t EVER let yourself be one of them! Or just just leave a comment… Whatever you please.


The Hoarder

This is the guy who reserves multiple pieces of equipment even though he doesn’t need them all at once.

The other day, I went to the platform and found three bars: One on the squat rack, one on the J hooks inside the cage and one on the J hooks outside the cage. What would possess this person to take three bars?! And if that wasn’t bad enough, he left all the weight on! Everyone knows you should clean up after yourself; the gym isn’t pre-school where you need your teacher to remind you to pick up your toys! It is still a mystery to me what this moron was doing.

Use only what you need and be considerate of your fellow trainees. If you’re using the squat rack to do an overhead press with 65 lbs. and another person is waiting to squat, how about you allow the person that needs the cage to use it?! You can easily just pick up the bar and press it instead of hoarding the rack.


The Mirror Guy



I’m all for mirrors, but the gym is a narcissist’s heaven: Mirrors EVERYWHERE. Don’t be that guy standing in front of someone just to watch yourself curling pink dumbbells…er, I mean 50-pounders. If you’re using 100’s, well, then you can pretty much do whatever you want. I didn’t make these rules, after all…

The other day, I was practicing the Olympic lifts (the mirror was behind me) when I looked up to see some jerk doing upright rows right in front of the platform. SERIOUSLY?! ‘Nough said.

Look at the mirror when needed, but not for curls, upright rows or whatever other useless exercise you’re planning to do. Better yet, try actually working out! This might come as a big surprise, but you’re there to train, not to admire yourself in the mirror.


The Stalker

You know that person who follows you around the gym, watching everything you do? You may even see this person attempt to do the same exercises you do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get ideas from others, but staring is just plain weird – so STOP IT!

Okay, that’s all for now. But don’t worry: There’s plenty more to come on the characters of the gym. Feel free to share your rants about the myriad you’ve encountered, and keep an eye out for Part 2 of the “Unwritten Rules of the Gym.”

Egg Yolks Are Good For You!

by Meaghan posted February 21, 2010

While egg whites are high in protein, the yolks are a great source of choline, a precursor for the chemical transmitter (acetylcholine) your brain uses to communicate with your muscles. Hence, low choline levels mean less than optimal workouts. 

Choline also plays a role in fat metabolism – we all want to break down fat, right? Problem is, your body doesn’t produce choline; you must obtain it from food. So make sure your “healthy” breakfast includes whole eggs, not just the whites.


by Meaghan posted

Our Exercise box seems to be malfunctioning. Until we fix the problem, you can find our favorite exercises here!

You might not know it, but your obliques are meant first to resist rotation – not create it – in order to protect your spine. The anti-rotation press (a.k.a. “Pallof press”) is a great way to teach your core to stabilize against a rotary force while also producing some forward force in the sagittal plane. I especially like the split stance variations for runners, as they yield this benefit in the sport’s primary pattern.

The tall kneeling version is a bit more advanced because it takes your legs out of the equation, but don’t take my word for it. Try them all out; they aren’t as easy as they look! Be sure to keep a tall spine and not allow any rotation.

I Want My Tiger Back!

by admin posted February 19, 2010

This past Halloween, I dressed up like Tiger Woods (pre-scandal, of course) and walked the streets of Manhattan’s Upper East Side seeking candy with my two kids.

That’s not really me… But a dozen or so people either did double takes or shouted, “Hey… it’s Tiger Woods! And occasionally, I would stop and perform an amateur golf trick to further the impression of being possibly the greatest golfer in history. Life was good then.

But we all know what happened on Thanksgiving… (This year, I may need to dig out my Jango Fett Star Wars costume for Halloween instead!) I’m saddened by everything that has unfolded for Tiger these past few months, and I hope he gets his life together and starts playing in golf tournaments again soon.

I am already anticipating a day – three or four years in the future, when my kids are a little older – where ESPN will show some amazing shot by Tiger Woods… and then, the “other thing” will come up. One of my kids will say, “Hey Dad, I heard that Tiger Woods did some bad things…”

I may reply with something like, “Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world, but he had some character flaws and made some really bad decisions.” I hope I also get to say, “But now he’s back on track with his personal life and his golf game is still considered the best ever.”

I want to be able to show my boys Tiger’s daily practice routine (see below) and the incredible commitment he displays – without also having to tell them that he probably sent salacious text messages to women across the country during his lunch hour… I want the old Tiger back! 

I think his statement later today will be a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, let’s flash back to Tiger’s amazing practice schedule. I just hope my kids don’t ask what he did after 5:30 PM putting!

6 a.m. – Lift weights
7:30 a.m. – Breakfast
9 a.m. – Range to hit balls
11 a.m. – Putting Green
11:30 a.m. – Play 9 holes
12:30 p.m. – Lunch
1 p.m. – Back to range to hit balls
3 p.m. – Work on short game
4 p.m. – Play 9 more holes
5 p.m. – Back to range to hit balls
5:30 p.m. – Putting Green for more practice

 “I know what I want to accomplish and I know how to get there. The ultimate goal is to be the best. Whether that’s the best ever, who knows? I hope so.”  – Tiger Woods

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Weight Room

by Meaghan posted February 18, 2010

Before I say what it was, I should preface by noting that I had my body fat percentage taken via skinfold measurements in my physiology class the other day. Gave a whole new meaning to Fat Tuesday!

For those who aren’t familiar with the technique, it involves first drawing cross-shaped marks on specific anatomical locations of the body…with marker that is VERY hard to get off your skin!

Apparently, I still have some remnants of a black cross on my tricep, because I was walking down the stairs to the weight room earlier today when some guy behind me said, “That’s an odd place to get your ashes.” Now I see why we gym-goers get stereotyped…

Until then, I had totally forgotten that it was Ash Wednesday. That’s right: Lent starts today, and many Christians will be giving up something important to them. Unlike with New Year’s resolutions, most will actually be successful. Why?

Because it’s only for 40 days! Tack on another 325 and there’s a lot more time to lose motivation – which is precisely why myself and the moron behind me on the stairs were practically the only ones in the gym today. It’s only February, but how many of you have already let your New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside?

Instead of giving things up, I have been encouraging my clients to set fitness GOALS during this time, rather than on January 1st when they’re pretty much doomed to fail by year’s end. If you’re one of many who have fallen off the workout wagon, start getting back on track by setting a goal for the next 40 days. Once you’ve reached it, you’ll have the confidence to know that you can set and reach other short-term goals. Before you know it, a whole year of success has gone by.