Let me first say a big Thank You to all of you that wrote in wanting more information on target heart rate.  I very much appreciate the opportunity to answer your questions so that you can get the results you deserve.

No one goes through their workout for the fun of it.  If you put the time, energy, and sweat into it you expect results, right?

What's that old saying -- Time is the currency of the 21st century.  So none of us has any time to waste doing things that don't get results.

Here's the answers to the questions I received this past week.

  • What's the big deal about the amount of time spent doing steady state cardio for weight loss?

Did you know that there is a 50-90% injury rate in the first 6 weeks for those just starting a serious exercise program?


Because most people just starting out are not prepared physically for what most programs suggest as the best way to lose body fat.  And yes, you guessed it, most programs suggest hours and hours of steady state cardio.  All those hours and miles do serious damage to the lower back, hip joints, and knees.  That's what makes interval training so effective -- it challenges you more as you get better.

  • In my previous blog I mentioned the inaccuracy of the standard 220 - age to determine your heart rate zones.  The variance of 10-12 beats for 70% of the population versus 20-24 beats for 30% of the population is important because it means the difference between not training intensely enough to get results versus risking too much intensity. 

Plain and simple it's dangerous to not wear your own heart rate monitor and not know the range that works for you. Rather than spend hours beating your lower body into oblivion, use cardio intervals to decrease your overall hours doing cardio, and increase your results.  One of the few cases where less will equal more.  Sounds like a good deal to me.

  • Why are weight lifting circuits more effective in burning fat and maintaining lean muscle?

Just doing steady state cardio does not tell your body to preserve your valuable muscle tissue.  In fact, in some cases steady state cardio will have you lose lean muscle tissue. The more lean muscle tissue you have the higher your resting metabolism (remember when you burn fat as the primary fuel source), so you want to keep as much as possible.  Weight lifting circuits tell your body to maintain the lean tissue because it needs it to lift weights, but get rid of the body fat because it decreases your efficiency.  Remember, your body's goal is go get efficient at whatever you tell it to do. So you want to maintain lean tissue and get rid of unhealthy body fat.

So there you have it.  Even more reasons to stop the useless hours of doing steady state cardio and start doing cardio intervals and/or weight lifting circuits.  You'll lose body fat quicker, look better, have more energy, and decrease your risk of injury compared to hours of steady state cardio.

Get On Track and Stay On Track!
I know I'm going to ruffle some more feathers out there by posting this, but hey, I'm here to help you get real information that will help you make choices and take actions that will get results! 

I'm not here to just tell you what you want to hear.  No, I want you to hear the truth, with evidence, and be able to make an informed choice from there.

I realize that will not necessarily make me the most exciting or popular person out there.  But for those brave enough and serious enough about making changes in their bodies, by getting out of pain or transforming their body -- those people will appreciate this post.

I recently received this question that made me realize how many people out there are still using the heart rate info on machines as guides on how to transform their bodies.  So let me give the truth.

In reference to the heart rate ranges posted on exercise equipment.  They identify what your targeted heart rate should be if you want to burn fat, etc. based on your age.  In my case, my heart rate while exercising is ALWAYS higher than that "fat burn" range. I would have to significantly slow down my pace in order to fall within that range.  If my heart rate is not within that range, am I not burning calories efficiently?  Is there a lot of merit to those targeted heart rate ranges?  If I am not sweating, I don't feel like I am working hard. -- Nikkie

Target Heart is highly flawed.  I have personal experience with contacting the user of some of these formulas and they had no real idea why they used them accept to say, "They were the popular tools used at the time".  Guess it really doesn't answer why once they see the flaw they continue to use antiquated information.

To the point.

  • Target heart rate is inaccurate for 70% of the population by 10-12 beats per minute.  Not such a big deal right.  But get this, for 30% of the population it's off by 20-24 beats per minute.  That is a big deal.  Knowing which group you fall into can only be found by using your own heart rate monitor.

  • The Fat burning zone is supposed be the heart rate range where you will supposedly burn the most fat calories.  Truth is, it cannot predict this.  At best it can only partially suggest a percentage of use of fat, carbohydrates and protein.

  • You burn the most fat at rest.  The more intense an exercise is, the more carbohydrates will be used as the primary fuel source.

Low Intensity - 60-65% MHR High Intensity - 80-85% MHR
Total Calories expended per min. 4.86 6.86
Fat Calories expended per min. 2.43 2.7
Total Calories expended in 30 min. 146 206
Total Fat calories expended in 30 min. 73 82
Percentage of fat calories burned 50% 39.85%

From The 24/5 Complete Personal Training Manual, 24 Hour Fitness, 2000

I think this chart simply and accurately explains why using intervals (alternating periods of fast and slow) instead of the steady state "fat burning zone" cardio, is the most effective way to shed body fat quickly and effectively.

Slow, steady state cardio just doesn't cut it when it comes to losing body fat quickly and effectively.  Not to mention the wear and tear on the knees, hips, and lower back.

And this is the part that everyone seems to forget so readily -- what happens after that intense exercise circuit you just finished, or that extremely challenging cardio interval session.  There's something called EPOC.  Which basically discusses the amount of calories being burned after an intense session of training that can last up to 3 days later.

You will be burning more calories after intense training session because your resting metabolic rate is higher (you won't get that from "fat burning zone" cardio).  And if you'll remember, when do you use fat as the main source of fuel -- AT REST!

And if that wasn't enough information to convince you, check out this article The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin.

Get On Track and Stay on Track!
I know I tend to go on and on about the big marketing machine.  How they are not working towards our healthful improvement, but are in fact leading us astray on many occasions. 

Remember how I frequently comment that they are in business to sell products not improve your overall health.  Check out this article.  It's well worth the read and has some serious surprises regarding what foods claim to be healthy and are not.

Foods With Health Benefits, or So They Say

I don't know about you, but that article was quite a wake-up call about the concerns we all should have about marketing and what they claim.

Switching gears a bit, have you heard about the rising amount of people with Gluten allergies?  You may be affected and don't even know it.  Check out this article to get more info on how you can help yourself.

Belly Fat Caused by Glutens and Gluten Allergies

And lastly, let me share some quick and ready to use tips on how to decrease high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

7 Ways to Reduce High Blood Pressure, Bad Cholesterol and Blood Sugar Levels

3 more ways to help you and/or someone you know -- Get On Track and Stay On Track!
It seems like every time I turn around there is yet another pseudo-science article out that just doesn't seem to hold water no matter how you try to look at it.  I mean really now, if taking a magic pill or wearing special shoes actually worked by themselves why do we still have a climbing obesity rate? 

Marketing is to sell products, not results. 

And yes, I do realize these infomercials show supposed results from real users of the product.  But let me assure you, just using the product was not the only modification they made to get those results.  Need an opinion other mine?  Check this out:

Fat Burning Myths Exposed

Over the years, I've read my share of articles when it comes to losing weight.  We all know the calories in versus calories out theory.  But I think this next link has hit on something very important and deeper than just the same old run of the mill approach.

The Real Reason You Can't Lose Weight

And finally, as you'll recall last week when I shared with you how belly fat actually can be more dangerous to your health than fat being stored elsewhere on your body. This article takes it one step further and gives you 12 ready to use steps to cut your cancer risk now!

12 Easy Ways to Slash Your Cancer Risk (and Your Waistline)

So there you have it.  More Tips, Tricks and Truths to help you get healthier and achieve that summer body before the warmer weather gets here.

Get On Track and Stay On Track!
Well over the past year I've shared a wealth of information on how you can take yourself from OK to excellent. 

You've got a do-it-yourself exercise kit, plenty of core exercises to get that midsection in shape, and a boatload of lower back stretches to make sure you stay pain free. 

But looking over all of this I realized there is one important component still missing -- circuits.  I mean it's all well and good to have lots of movements to keep yourself out of pain, but how do you put it all together to take yourself to the next level -- right?

Well this month I will share with you some circuits you can do on your own, typically with minimal equipment, to make sure you'll have your body transformed before the warm weather officially arrives.  Keeping in line with how you should train, I will start off this week by providing you a couple of basic circuits to get you started.  Then each week move up the ladder of difficulty.

Don't make the mistake I see so many people at the gym make, trying to do the most difficult exercises they can find, just because they saw someone with a great physique doing them.  Start off easy and then progress to more difficult movements/exercises.  And most importantly to remember when it comes to doing circuits -- it's not the movements, but the sequencing of movements that's really the secret.  What order you place your movements/exercises is really the key to getting a good workout.

Here are your first two circuits to get you started:

Circuit 1
  • Squats (with flavor -- on my you tube channel)
  • Rear Deltoids
  • Lunges (back) (you tube channel)
  • Bicep Curls (dumbbell)
  • Deadlifts (you tube channel)
  • Triceps
  • Y, T, M (see link to website below)
  • Lunges (back)
  • 1-Arm Row

Circuit 2
  • Squat (with flavor -- on my you tube channel)
  • Chest Press (dumbbell)
  • Rear Deltoids
  • Lunge (back) to Bicep Curls
  • Deadlifts
  • Triceps
  • Pull-Ups
  • Lunge (back) to Shoulder Press
  • Breast Stroke (see you tube channel)
  • Jump Rope (60-100 times around)


Each of these movements should be done for 10-15 repetitions.  And as is consistent with a circuit, move from one exercise to the next, until the entire circuit is completed.  Take a 2-3 minute break and start the cycle over again.  Do this for 2-3 times through the entire circuit.  Depending on your fitness level, figure 2-3 times per week should give you quite a workout.

Don't forget to check out my You Tube Channel, or the Rehab Section of my website, if you need a video reminder of some of the movements.

Let me know how these work for you.
Some days it feels as though I live on two different planets. 

One based in the reality of research and what I've seen work, day in and day out with my clientele, as well as what I witness other fitness coaches doing with their clientele and getting results.

Then there's the other world.  The world of marketing and infomercials where product 'X" is said to achieve certain results based on science I never heard of, nor can find in the vast array of information on the internet.  So I'll call my guru and ask him and he can't make heads or tails of it either.  Which by the way usually means it's a load of poo. 

But that doesn't seem to stop the marketing machine from turning and producing more fantastic and mythical products that will allow you to exert minimal effort and yet get maximum results.  Sometimes it's so painful to watch I have to just switch off the TV -- yelling at the TV doesn't seem to be very effective -- though it feels darn good.  Let's deal in reality.

Do you think it matters where you hold body fat?  I mean besides the fact that you don't want it at all, do you think there is actually a place on your body where, having body fat in this area is actually more dangerous to your health?

Believe it or not, there actually is a difference. Where your body stores body fat actually can determine the length and quality of your life.  Don't believe me?  Check this out and get motivated:

Belly Fat Study and Heart Disease

Want to lose that body fat, but not sure what was the best way -- interval training by far is the best way to lose body fat quickly and effectively.  As long as you do not have a history of heart disease or other coronary issues in your family, and with your doctor's permission, I would encourage anyone who is serious about transforming their body, to explore the outstanding benefits of interval training.

Here's a recent study with even better reasons to explore the option:

Interval Training Study

OK, so now you're convinced and motivated to get more activity into your life.  But as we all know, just losing weight isn't the real key. 

No, not by a long shot.

The true key component to losing weight, is losing the right weight -- meaning body fat!  

Just stepping on the scale and seeing the number go down may make you feel better, but it doesn't mean you're getting any healthier. However, decreasing your overall body fat does mean you're adding years and quality to your life. 

Take my word for it. 

I've measured clients that weigh the exact same and have shown different body fat numbers. 

And guess what?

They look a great deal different. You could be 120lbs and 15% body fat or you could be 120lbs and 30% body fat.  The person with the lower body fat will look leaner, have more energy, a higher quality of life and typically (bad personal habits excluded) a longer life span.

Need a home scale to help you stay on track that will give you reliable info and won't break the bank?

Best Bathroom Scales (be sure to click on the link that says "best bathroom scales")

There's your Truth, Tips, and some serious reality -- Now Get on Track and Stay on Track!
Whether you're trying to transform your body, get out of pain, or just want to get a bit more healthy, at times it can be difficult to know what to believe is the right way to do things, to get the results you want and deserve. 

The marketing machine is well oiled, will jump on any information, and will bend that information to create a certain opinion.

What the heck am I talking about, you ask? 

How many of you have heard that egg yolks are bad for you?  It appears marketing has done an excellent job in convincing many of us that the yolk of the egg is "bad" and you shouldn't eat it.  Well here's a little broader perspective on just what's in that yolk you throw away.

Truth About Eggs

Then there's the hidden things we can't blame on marketing but in fact keep from ourselves.  The truth about why we do the things we do.  Or better yet, why we eat the things we eat.  The secret ways we sabotage ourselves sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. 

Food Can't Hug You Back

And when all is said and done it really boils down to your mindset.  Commercials and most infomercials serve a specific purpose -- and usually it's not to help you actually achieve your specific goal(s).  No, the marketing machine is interested in the success of their business.  And if we're going to be honest, no matter what the marketing machine throws at you, we all at some level realize their goal is to sell more of product 'X'.  They have little to no real vested interest in you achieving your goals. 

Monday is Never Coming

So there you go.  A few extra bits of reliable info, that you can wrap your brain around, and get a perspective that will help you achieve the results you want and deserve.  All without selling you anything.

Get On Track and Stay On Track!
I've posted a great deal of what I consider excellent info over the past year.  But I have to tell you this is probably one of the most important posts to date.

Building on last weeks article "Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back", here are 6 more no-no's for training at the gym.

You can train to look and function better without putting yourself in danger.

Walking into the gym and expecting a great workout is like walking into the supermarket and expecting a gourmet meal. The basic ingredients are there, but like they say in the infomercials, results may vary. With working out, as with cooking, a little bit of smarts, dedication, creativity and knowledge will make all the difference between perfect pasta and a gelatinous ball of mush.

For this list of no-no exercises, we consulted Stuart McGill, PhD, professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario; Nicholas DiNubile, MD, author of FrameWork: Your 7-Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones, and Joints; and trainer Vern Gambetta, author of Athletic Development: The Art & Science of Functional Sports Conditioning.



1. Seated Leg Extension
What it's supposed to do: Train the quadriceps. What it actually does: It strengthens a motion your legs aren't actually designed to do, and can put undue strain on the ligaments and tendons surrounding the kneecaps.

A better exercise: One-legged body-weight squats. Lift one leg up and bend the opposite knee, dipping as far as you can, with control, while flexing at the hip, knee, and ankle. Use a rail for support until you develop requisite leg strength and balance. Aim for five to 10 reps on each leg. (If you are susceptible to knee pain, do the Bulgarian split squat instead, resting the top of one foot on a bench positioned two to three feet behind you. Descend until your thigh is parallel to the ground and then stand back up. Do five to 10 reps per leg.)


2. Seated Lat Pull-Down (Behind the Neck)
What it's supposed to do: Train lats, upper back, and biceps. What it actually does: Unless you have very flexible shoulders, it's difficult to do correctly, so it can cause pinching in the shoulder joint and damage the rotator cuff.

A better exercise: Incline pull-ups. Place a bar in the squat rack at waist height, grab the bar with both hands, and hang from the bar with your feet stretched out in front of you. Keep your torso stiff, and pull your chest to the bar 10 to 15 times. To make it harder, lower the bar; to make it easier, raise the bar.



3. Seated Hip Abductor Machine
What it's supposed to do: Train outer thighs. What it actually does: Because you are seated, it trains a movement that has no functional use. If done with excessive weight and jerky technique, it can put undue pressure on the spine.

A better exercise: Place a heavy, short, looped resistance band around your legs (at your ankles); sidestep out 20 paces and back with control. This is much harder than it sounds.




4. Seated Leg Press
What it's supposed to do: Train quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings. What it actually does: It often forces the spine to flex without engaging any of the necessary stabilization muscles of the hips, glutes, shoulders, and lower back.

A better exercise: Body-weight squats. Focus on descending with control as far as you can without rounding your lower back. Aim for 15 to 20 for a set and increase sets as you develop strength.


5. Squats Using Smith Machine
What it's supposed to do: Train chest, biceps, and legs. What it actually does: The alignment of the machine—the bar is attached to a vertical sliding track—makes for linear, not natural, arched movements. This puts stress on the knees, shoulders, and lower back.

A better exercise: Body-weight or weighted squats. See "Seated Leg Press" above.



6. Roman Chair Back Extension
What it's supposed to do: Train spinal erectors. What it actually does: Repeatedly flexing the back while it's supporting weight places pressure on the spine and increases the risk of damaging your disks.

A better exercise: The bird-dog. Crouch on all fours, extend your right arm forward, and extend left leg backward. Do 10 seven-second reps, and then switch to the opposite side.


So the next time you decide to do a certain exercise or machine just because someone else does it and happens to have a nice body -- think again.  Chances are their genetics have more to do with how they look and not the dangerous exercise they've chosen.  If you have a question, send me an email.  I'd be happy to help.
How many times have we all been told growing up as children, that breakfast was the most important meal of the day?  And yet as adults, how many people do you know that continually skip breakfast for all sorts of reasons?  No matter what type of research you give them they seem to refuse to take that extra 5-10 minutes to start their day off right and kick their metabolism on to burn fat.

It seems no matter how often you tell someone the importance of something, their habits will win out, even in the face of evidence.

Fortunately I tend to be a bit stubborn.  I honestly believe that if you can show someone the benefits of doing something a certain way they will make a change.  In most cases, the people that continually skip breakfast still haven't been told information that is important enough to them to make them change their behavior.

Funny thing is the same excuses these people give for not making time for breakfast, are usually the same type of excuses they make for not making exercise part of their weekly routine.  Well, let's see if this motivates you towards a slight change in your habits.

7 Lies We All Tell Ourselves

And then of course I still get the regular emails and face to face questions regarding how hard it is to take 5-10 extra minutes in the morning for breakfast.  As well as the usual, "I'm not a breakfast person because I don't like breakfast foods".  Well here's a little reminder on the importance of breakfast, as well as some very helpful recipes to make sure you get your metabolism awake and burning fat before you even hit the office.

Breakfast and Weight Loss

I apologize, I couldn't resist.  I was cleaning out my office, which seems to be a never ending task, and I came across this article on abdominal training and back injuries.  Couldn't resist the opportunity to share it with you -- especially considering the many times I've advocated for more core training done the "right way".

Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back?

So now you have even more choices and reasons to get the most important meal of day -- breakfast.  Not to mention some great insight as to why I've been making such a fuss about training your abs properly -- to avoid potential injury. 

Heck, if the leading spine bio-mechanics expert in the country suggests the same movements I've been asking you to do, and demonstrating on my You Tube Channel, then maybe it's time you stop beating up your spine and instead trained your abs-- properly.

I think it's time to --

Get On Track and Stay On Track
No matter how you slice it, you can't transform your body if you don't transform your eating first. (Yes, pun intended)

There are no two ways about it.

All the excuses in the world won't create the results you want if you don't at least start making a daily effort to change what you eat. Now that doesn't mean you have to change overnight.  You can do it in a gradual process.  I generally suggest to my clients to pick one meal they will commit to eating in the right proportions, at the right time, consistently (daily).  That way they don't have to feel overwhelmed with making a complete change overnight.  After 2 weeks of getting that one meal in each day, I ask them to then pick a second meal, and so on, until the entire day is covered -- one meal at a time.

They are all sorts of tips and tricks you can use to get yourself motivated and to make the process easier.  Need a few suggestions?

Here are 5 Simple Solutions that will definitely help.

But let's be honest.  Sometimes losing weight has to do with a little deeper issue.  Sometimes we place the responsibility outside of ourselves as the reason why we haven't gotten rid of those extra pounds.  Sound like you or someone you know?

Check out this link to put things back in perspective -- The Blame Game

If the above two don't really seem to apply to you, perhaps your challenge is to have a better plan in place to make the process of getting that one meal or more on track -- with as little thinking as possible. 

No problem.  I've got that covered as well.  Here's a 12 Meal Plan to help you get on track by providing you with 12 days of meal options.  Now maybe all the meals don't quite fit your palate.  Don't let that stop you.  Find the ones that do and use the one's I've provided to help fill in the blanks.

Well, it looks like you're running out of excuses to not be ready for the warmer weather ahead.

Don't Let Life Get in the Way of Your Progress!