Archive for education events, exercise research, sports, What We Love This Week

Polar Heart Rate Training

by Meaghan posted October 17, 2016

Last Friday, the FocusNYC staff had the honor of hosting Dave DiFabio, National Account Manager for PolarUSA, for an informative and hands-on workshop.


A long-time strength coach and educator (and esteemed member of our FPTI Advisory Board), Dave first provided some great background information about the benefits of tracking heart rate in athletes – not only to assess performance, but also to get a better idea of their recovery status.

A major takeaway was that ALL stress is reflected in the body’s heart rate response, and that stress can be caused by a number of different things – including:

  • Fitness level
  • Training
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep status
  • Environment
  • Breathing patterns
  • Work/life events

And while this makes heart rate subject to variability, as we know, it also makes it a good indicator of how well an athlete is likely to handle and recover from the stress of exercise. Polar has now taken this concept a few steps further and created a formula to track total stress via heart rate with what they call “Training Load.”

By assigning a point value to each of three heart rate zones (High, Medium and Low) and then tracking the amount of time spent in each zone during practices, games, training sessions, etc., we can quantify total training stress a lot better than traditional means – like time, sets, reps, weight, etc. – that don’t really reflect true physiology. And when tracked and measured against a baseline, over time, we can then determine the approximate number of training load points we can sustain before problems like injuries and performance decreases start to arise. Pretty useful, I think! Especially when the stakes are high.

Dave also brought sensors that tracked acceleration and deceleration during various movements, which added another major benefit: We could actually see how efficient we were and how hard we were truly working rather than just how hard we felt like we were working during different strength and power-based exercises. Can’t get away with being lazy anymore!


We also used the workout opportunity to test out a potential new format for our PT6 class – and it worked pretty well (hint, hint)!

We had a little time left over to discuss the always controversial topic of heart rate variability as well. Long story short, variability in heart rate (time between R intervals) is actually a good thing; it shows that our hearts are able to respond efficiently to various demands. We actually see LESS variability in people with heart disease. And when used in conjunction with other measures (like overall training load), it may be a good way to assess recovery status. Less variability and a high training load together makes it pretty likely that we’re pushing the boarders of overtraining and could use more recovery.

Even I think Polar has found a very beneficial use for technological advances; this system can greatly help coaches and athletes alike optimize both performance and recovery. Many collegiate and professional sports teams are using it, and even some group fitness classes have jumped on the bandwagon.

But this is one up-and-coming trend that’s more than just trendy; there’s a lot of value to the metrics when used the right way, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the data collected using Polar’s technology gets implemented in the future!

Team Focus Wins the Starting Strength Challenge National Title!

by Meaghan posted April 28, 2016

The Focus team was ECSTATIC last Sunday when Starting Strength Challenge organizer, Dana Varrone, announced that we had won the Long Island City meet title for the SECOND year in a row.

Focus Team wins!

Coach Brent Carter did an amazing job coaching us along the way and judging the event; and, little did he know, he’d soon have even more reason to be proud.

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The Importance of Culture and Community in Training

by Meaghan posted November 6, 2015

Today we have another great post from Brent Carter, Starting Strength Coach extraordinaire!  

As I write this, my hip flexor is killing me, my back feels like it was beaten with a baseball bat, and my legs feel like jello. BUT, I have never felt better! This is because I just had the wonderful opportunity to lead a team of lifters at the 2015 Starting Strength Fall Classic to a victorious team win!

Team FPTI  wins!

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Team FPTI Wins the Starting Strength Fall Classic in Long Island City!

by Meaghan posted October 29, 2015

BIG CONGRATS to Team FPTI for winning this past weekend’s Starting Strength Fall Classic in Long Island City, and to FPTI alum and FocusNYC trainer Luis Tejada for taking the Men’s Open title!



This just in: FPTI also came in SECOND in the nation, and Luis took 3rd place NATIONWIDE!

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Is “Agility” Training as Productive as We Think?

by Meaghan posted May 13, 2015

To cut straight to the chase, my answer is NO – at least not the way we typically perform it.

Before you get all excited, hear me out. Let’s start by looking at some of the most common “agility” drills that we do with our athletes and clients.

First, we have side shuffles, purported to improve agility in athletes like basketball players:

But what is agility really? Agility is defined as the ability to start, stop, slow down, speed up or change direction. And I would add that in order to actually improve agility, we’d have to do these things in response to an unpredictable cue, as this is how things work in sport and in life.

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More Powerlifting PRs for the FPTI Team!

by Meaghan posted April 30, 2015

This past weekend, FPTI took another team out to South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club to compete in the Powerlifting Spring Classic… and returned with 2 gold medals and several PRs!

Moreover, FPTI alum and Focus trainer Louie Tejada lifted a combined total of over 1,300 lbs. and qualified to compete at the national level! Oh, and he also beat a former WORLD champion…

Louie wins gold!

That’s him (John) in the background. He had to settle for silver.

Louie and John were neck-and-neck until the last lift: The deadlift. John was up for his 3rd and final attempt just before Lou and we had all the math figured out: Even if John made his lift and Louie didn’t, Louie would still win the weight class. But at the last second, John changed his attempt so that if he made it, he’d still have a shot at gold.

John stepped up to the platform and approached the bar. He set up (sumo style!) and the crowd went silent. He attempted the pull…but the bar wouldn’t budge. Great effort though!

Louie stepped up next and pulled 529 lbs. off the floor like it was nothing!

He went upstairs for a drug test and walked away with a gold medal for the most total pounds lifted in his 185-lb. weight class, with the former World Champion just behind him in second place.

Louie’s final numbers were:

Squat: 357.5 lbs.
Bench: 314 lbs.
Deadlift: 529 lbs.


FPTI alum, instructor and Focus trainer Jen McCombs also won her weight class with a heck of a grind in both the squat AND deadlift!

She racked that 155 lbs. a little early but she got it!

Jen’s final qualifying numbers were:

Squat: 146 lbs.
Bench: 77.5 lbs.
Deadlift: 198 lbs.

That’s also after dieting crazy hard the last 6 weeks to make the weight class… Not easy!!


FPTI alum and Focus trainer Nick Law-Yue also did exceptionally well for his first meet.

Judges seemed to think he was just shy of depth on that 310-lb. squat… His 290 was unquestionably deep, though, and came up with ease!

Nick’s final qualifying numbers were:

Squat: 290 lbs.
Bench: 250 lbs.
Deadlift: 375 lbs.

Not too shabby at a body weight of 155!


Great job all around, team! Can’t wait for the next meet!!

In the meantime, we’ll catch you on Fridays at the FPTI Barbell Club and training on the Focus floor!

Lou and Jen


by Meaghan posted April 22, 2014

As you know, yesterday marked the 118th Annual Boston Marathon. But to the runners, spectators and anyone who has ever called Boston home, it marked a much greater victory. Not only did the community pull together to rise above last year’s tragic bombings that stopped the race short, it came back bigger and stronger than ever.

More athletes competed – some 36,000 even.


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God Bless Boston

by Meaghan posted April 16, 2013

On behalf of FPTI and FocusNYC, just wanted to send thoughts and prayers up to all those affected by yesterday’s explosion at the Boston Marathon.


It’s a shame to see such a huge accomplishment soured by tragedy, and a joyous tradition for my home state now forever tainted.

After Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of the NYC Marathon this past fall, many fellow New Yorkers fled up north for yesterday’s race – so Manhattan is pretty devastated as well.

I am thankful that all of my family and friends in Massachusetts are safe, and my heart goes out to those who were not so lucky.

NYC is Still Running

by Meaghan posted October 31, 2012

Well, here we are in the calm after the storm. It’s still pretty dark and wet downtown…but New York survived Hurricane Sandy – barely.

And that’s the subway UPTOWN…yikes.

Traffic on the street is a bit rough today, but subways north of 42nd Street will apparently be up and running tomorrow and power restored within four days. Fortunately, I didn’t lose power and neither did Focus. And unlike in Hurricane Irene, at least I didn’t lock myself out of my apartment this time…

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Less is More: 3 Tips For 5K Training

by Meaghan posted September 12, 2012

Entering a race or event is a great way to stay motivated to train. In fact, a bunch of us here at FPTI and FocusNYC had been training together for a while for this past weekend’s Spartan Race in New Jersey:



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