Archive for exercise research, tips for trainers, What We Love This Week, workout tips

Sleeping In: Extra ZZZs in the AM Benefit Motor Learning

by Meaghan posted October 3, 2017

As an educator, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading lately on learning – including morning learning – and I recently came across some interesting findings from the latest sleep research.

We’ve known for quite some time that sleep is important for physical recovery, cognitive function and motor unit firing – but it turns out there’s much more to it than that. In addition to sleeping in 90-minute cycles (read more HERE), it seems that motor learning, especially, is solidified in the hours just prior to waking. Retention of facts, etc. happens in the hours just after falling sleep, but it’s those last couple just prior to waking where sleep is lighter that seem to make or break improvement in motor skills.



What does that mean for us? Well, most trainers are up quite early for work and may be missing out on the most precious sleep for maximizing certain types of training (e.g., Olympic lifting, gymnastics and other technical skills) if they don’t adjust by going to bed earlier. The same holds true for our clients, especially our newer trainees who are still trying to master basic movement patterns.

Bottom line: Make sure you and your clients don’t skimp on sleeping in! If you need to get up early, make sure you go to bed early as well so you don’t miss the most important phase of sleep for motor learning.

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!

It’s Mobility Week at Focus

by Meaghan posted September 30, 2015

It’s Mobility week in FPTI‘s Advanced Concepts class! This week, our AC students are learning various mobility assessments and drills to improve range of motion and overall function in their clients and prevent injury, as well as how to incorporate mobility into both first sessions (as assessments) and overall programs to enhance progress toward other goals. They’ll even learn how to communicate the importance of mobility to prospective clients to get buy-in.

Among other great resources, one that we like to share with them is MobilityWOD.


Mobility Workout of the Day, that is. MobilityWOD is a website put out by Kelly Starrett, DPT in attempt to provide athletes with drills to increase mobility and improve their training and performance. His goal was originally to get a video-based mobility blog post up every day for a whole year. What happened, though, was that he became a go-to source for the industry’s mobility needs.

We like him for another reason as well: Even though Kelly is a physical therapist, he really “gets” the strength world and takes an intelligent approach to training. What’s great about MobilityWOD is that he doesn’t just put up a video of himself doing an exercise. Rather, he includes explanations (in both text and video) of how and why the mobility problems usually occur, along with how his drills work to improve them, as well as other strategies to prevent recurring problems. He also includes ways to test and retest mobility to evaluate and monitor progress, as well as questions and even assignments designed to get you thinking about how and why things work the way they do.

So whether you train just yourself or other people, I guarantee you’ll learn a thing or two from MobilityWOD that will enhance your results – so check it out!

FreeWavz Wireless Fitness Earphones

by Meaghan posted December 30, 2014

We’re approaching 2015 and, as usual, New Year’s resolutions are running rampant in the fitness world. But what’s likely to make someone actually stick with a routine?

An abundance of evidence suggests that enjoyment and accountability may be the most important factors in determining successful behavior change – and FreeWavz Wireless Fitness Earphones give you both.



Not only do these little guys use a bluetooth to connect to your phone and play music instead of annoying wires that get in the way during workouts, they also come equipped with a built-in heart rate monitor and fitness tracking device that gives audio feedback on self-selected metrics such as calories, distance or work, depending on the given workout and your goals.

End result? Better outcomes.

You know the mantra: What gets measured gets improved!

Check ’em out up close and personal:


by Meaghan posted December 1, 2014

Greetings Focus family!

We wanted to reach out and inform you of the upcoming BODIESYNERGY 10K at Prospect Park on Saturday, December 13th. Benefits go to the Family Reach Foundation to provide support for families of cancer victims.

The goal of the run is to provide financial assistance for mortgage payments, rent, utility bills, transportation costs and even food so that parents of children with cancer can focus on getting their loved ones back to good health – so all fitness levels are welcome! 

Here’s a bit more about the organization and event:



It’s a great cause, so come on out and show your support!

Saturday, December 13, 2014 (9am start)

Prospect Park (96 Parkside Ave)

Brooklyn, NY

Donations can be made HERE.

For more information, visit


Hope to see you there!



The Pavlok Shock!

by Meaghan posted July 27, 2014

Newly invented but available for pre-order HERE, the Pavlok shocking wrist strap is the new way to increase accountability among gym-goers…or, rather, gym skippers.

The  bracelet links to an app that lets users choose what they want to accomplish in their fitness program and this information is then shared with their friends. And here’s the kicker: Those “friends” can control what the forfeits will be if you don’t achieve your goals. You may be forced to pay a fine, lose access to your phone or even suffer an electric shock from the band.

For some reason, this scene from South Park came to mind when I first heard about the new Pavlok band:



The Pavlok wristband also rewards you when you achieve your goals, however, via prizes and money when you complete your daily workout, for example (or any other task, for that  matter. The Pavlok can be used for more than fitness.) Users choose their goal and level of commitment via the app:



I just have one question: Where was this thing when Cartman went beefcake on us??!

13 Homemade Drinks For Better Health

by Meaghan posted May 5, 2014



In case you were wondering, that isn’t really a margarita there in the picture. It’s actually a “Lemon-Lime Lay-Low Energy Drink,” a perfect alternative to Gatorade for fueling an outdoor workout on a beautiful day like today.

And that thumbnail on the homepage next to this post? Not a daquiri at all. It’s really a “Coconut Watermelon Workout Drink” that helps relieve muscle soreness.

Thanks to FPTI Master Course student and FocusNYC intern, Adina Eizikovitz, for sending along these GREAT RECIPES for HOMEMADE SPORTS DRINKS and INFUSED WATERS. The summer is approaching and our fitness-minded readers will surely enjoy them during what’s expected to be a VERY hot next few months.

In the meantime, here is a drink recipe that you can enjoy tonight:



 Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Paofit Sensor and App

by Meaghan posted April 6, 2014

After what seemed like a never-ending winter, all you runners out there must be itching to get on some open terrain – maybe for a much-needed change in scenery, maybe for a more social atmosphere, or maybe both. Now, suppose you could have all this year-round…

Enter the new Paofit app and the world’s first independent treadmill sensor (PaofitTrack):

The Paofit app allows you to run on a treadmill alongside avatars of other real people also currently using the app, and in one of many possible self-selected routes around the world. Some of the additional features and benefits of the Paofit include:

1. Real-time data of your running activity to your mobile device.  Unlike other third party tracking solutions that can be used indoors, Paofit is immediate and accurate. It does not have to guess your stride or take time to figure out when you’ve changed speeds.

2. Works with almost any treadmill. Just slide the sensor under the back so that the wheel makes light contact with the moving belt. The wheel is on a sprung arm so it can adapt to changing heights of the treadmill. It can also extend for use with larger treadmills.

3. Uses Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth 4). This means of sending data is super reliable and easy to use. Everything is done within the app, which means no messing around with different settings. I actually just tried it and, as someone with less than average technical ability…I actually found it extremely user friendly.

4. Easy to transport. It will fit right in your gym bag and lasts for many hours on a single charge. It also has “automatic hibernation” when not in use and can be easily charged from a laptop.

Here’s a brief video clip to give you a better idea of what the experience is actually like:


One additional benefit is accountability. Say you have a non-local friend or family member (or, a personal training client – perhaps one who travels) who you want to keep on track with their running; now you can.

But try it out for yourself; another benefit is that you can download the app for FREE here!

Nutrition Label Changes

by Meaghan posted February 27, 2014

For the first time in nearly two decades, the nutrition labels on our food products are facing a complete overhaul. Today, on the fourth anniversary of her Let’s Move! campaign against childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama proposed that several changes be made to food labels, including the amount of added sugar, calorie counts that reflect more accurate serving sizes, and the addition of “per package” information. The goal is to make food labels easier to read so that people make healthier choices:

The question is, will it work?

Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

Exercise Tickets to Ride!

by Meaghan posted November 14, 2013

Check this out: In attempt to promote physical activity and the 2014 Winter Olympics, Moscow subway stations now accept exercise as payment:

Goes to show exercise really is your ticket to where you want to go!