Wrong Way? No, Just Different

13 03 2013

Not Always Wrong, Just Different

If you’ve had an experience where you thought you were doing something, like eating a certain food or dressing a certain way, but then saw people doing it another way and thought you were actually doing it wrong, don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, sometimes a different way might not be the wrong way, but exactly the former; just a different way. Who says that a turkey burger can’t be a breakfast item or that everyone should drive a BMW? Societal norms influence us to think that we all have the same needs. On the contrary, we all need to pay attention to our individual needs to maintain good health.

In 2007, Wesley Shultz et al conducted a field experiment testing whether normative messaging (telling people to practice a certain behavior based on what others are doing) would have mixed success rates in behavior change. They saw that when told to use more energy saving products because a specific number of others were doing it, the number of people converting to energy conservatives increased. Yes, energy conservation is ideal and we would all want to promote this type of habit, but the mere fact that it only took one little message stating that more people were practicing one certain behavior to have the minority feel like they were wrong and change their lifestyle is fascinating. A key point to this case is that in order to see a shift in the masses, the group must be  a minority, hence, the difficulty of getting our overweight country to get back down to a healthy weight (69.2% of adults in US overweight/obese). Yet again, why should we be like everyone else?

When dealing with exercise, we must look at performing a task with blinders on. Not one person is alike and thus not one specific regimen will work for everyone.  The National Academy of  Sports Medicine has a training model that is different than that of the American Council on Exercise. Is one of them wrong and the other right? Absolutely not, because both will reach the same result in the end, although both use different pathways. The same goes when I am asked which one is better for getting toned arms, free weights or machines? Both are two different modalities that lead to the right direction to get lean arms.

The right answer to improving your health is not to follow the yellow brick road that everyone else has followed, but to lay each stone in front of you and test the ground supporting it to determine if it will work for you. So the next time you’re scratching your head wondering if the person next to you is doing it right and you should follow suit, ask yourself if you are still improving your health with what you’re currently doing. If so, then embrace the difference and continue to tread through the unbeaten path to success.


American Council on Exercise: IFT Model
CDC Faststats: Overweight and obesity http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm
National Academy of Sports Medicine: OPT Model
Shultz, P. W. et al. The Constructive, Destructive, and Reconstructive Power of Social Norms. Psychological Science, 18(5) 429-434. 2007 

Think Healthy, Think Money

13 02 2013

We all want to be rich. Then there are some of us who would prefer to be wealthy. If you don’t know the difference, I suggest reading “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. But regardless if you want to be rich or wealthy, you must do one of two things; either learn how to earn it if you aren’t there, or learn how to keep it if you are there. Ask both sides and they will tell you that it’s difficult to uphold both ends of the statement if you are not willing to motivate yourself and work hard.

Even though it is hard to save money, many of us are so driven that we do everything we can to grow our bank accounts. We stop purchasing expensive products, we go to fewer movies, we find cheaper alternatives, and we slowly put money into our savings account until we are happy with how much we have in it. We don’t end up with $20,000 in a week, but over a period of time with little investments (depending on how much you invest into the account), we notice the large sum of money that has accumulated and we are thrilled with success.

I use this example because the same can be said with our health and the steps needed to accomplish our wellness goals. However, the majority of us don’t treat our bodies like a savings account. We expect our bodies to work miracles and in the end of the week have a body like the models and stars we see in magazines and in the media. Side note: Most actors and actresses will work with a trainer between three to six months, six to seven days a week, to get their bodies in the shape needed to perform their roles; not to mention hiring a personal chef, and dietitian. The way we stay or become healthy should follow the same plan as how we grow our bank accounts. Place importance on our wealth (health); find out ways to save our wealth (health); and slowly invest our money (time) to see our wealth (health) grow.

Wealth for HealthFollowing these simple steps will improve your overall health (and wealth) if you take the time to commit to it. Saving your health can be as easy as saving your money, but know that to do so, you must find the importance of why you’re doing it and become motivated in its returns to be successful.

Grounded and Not a Gym In Sight

6 08 2012

For the past few weeks, my wife and I took a little vacation up north to the Adirondacks in NY. We try to get up there ever year to return to the place where we met. The special place with a 32 mile lake, 800 acres of hiking trials, and a rolling golf course. I was pumped for this trip. Being that I grew up in the North, all my exercise was done using Mother Nature’s gym. Mountains became my stair climber, lakes became my pool, and hauling around a 30 pound backpack became my free weights. I was ready to get out of the flat lands of Florida and become immersed with my natural habitat. Then the worst happened.

We arrived in Tampa for a 2:15 PM departure flight two hours early. This was how excited I was about making it out of Florida. The security check went smoothly without a hitch and I was looking at the plane outside that we would board. As my wife and I chose our seats, I looked at my watch to make sure we would arrive Albany at the stated time of 5:35 PM. “Enough time to make the drive and get in my day’s workout,” I thought to myself. We sat in our seats as we waited for our plane to be taxied out of our terminal but nothing happened. My wife noticed that it had began to rain (bright blue skies followed us to Tampa). I didn’t think much about it, I just wanted the plane to move so we could get above those sad clouds and off towards my destination. That’s when the overhead announce from one of the flight attendants came on and stated, “Sorry folks, but it seems that Traffic Control has noticed a severe thunderstorm has hit areas of Baltimore and the Northeast. We’re going to hold tight on the ground for a little bit while Traffic Control can determine if there’s another route.” Then two minutes later, “Looks like Traffic Control has grounded all flights heading north toward Baltimore and this flight has a new departure time of 6:50 PM or might be cancelled,” informs the attendant. “We’re going to cross our fingers for the delay. However we can’t keep you on board, so we’re going to ask everyone to return to the terminal and wait for further information about your flight.”

So, now I’m in the terminal again and grounded for another five hours. I’m a personal trainer because I love to be active and educate others on the importance of staying active. Knowing that I will be missing my workout up north has made me upset (and the fact that I’m starting off my vacation with this long delay also ticks me off). The other reason why I am in my profession has something to do with the fact that I hate sitting in one place for a long period of time, and this delay has us stuck in this terminal for another 5 hour! With this experience and extra spare time, I designed a workout for anyone else who might need a quick stress reducer due to a flight delayed.

The Traveler’s Workout

Items needed: chair, carry-on luggage/bag, music (optional)
Perform each exercise to fatigue. Then rest for 60 seconds and do a second set before going to the next exercise.

Targets: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps
Start in a standing position with feet slightly wider than shoulder width.  Hold carry-on by the handle with two hands. Extend your arms straight down so they are dangling between your legs. Perform a squat, placing the weight into your heels. As you squat back up, push with your heels.

Military Pushup on Chair
Targets: Chest, Triceps
Place your hands on the edge of a chair with your hands aligned with your shoulders. Keep your toes on the ground, back and abs tight. Lower yourself to the chair without bending at the hips, so your whole body descends as one. Let your chest come to the chair and push yourself back up to starting position.

Bent Over Row
Targets: Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps
Place one hand on the chair as your bend forward at the hips. Keep your knees bent and your back straight. Grasp the carry-on with your other hand. Pull the carry-on to the side of your chest as you keep your arm close to your side. Lower the carry-on back down smoothly back to starting position.

Targets: Abdominals, Lower Back
Place your forearms and toes on the ground. Keep your back straight and even with the rest of your body. Elbows should be under your shoulders. Lift your hips off the ground and bring them aligned with your shoulders and ankles. Hold the position till fatigue.

Standing Side Crunch
Targets: Obliques
Stand with your feet narrower than shoulder width. Hold the carry-on with one hand by your side and hold your other hand by the side of your head. Crunch your body down to the side, opposite of the carry-on. Slowly return back up to start.

The 3-0 Challenge

2 05 2012

As the final hours of the second decade of my life quickly fade into history, I pause for a moment to review what I have accomplished in the last twenty-nine years. Then I scope out what I still need to work on to continue staying healthy as my body begins to fight against me. Literature states that your body’s performance peeks in your twenties and begins to level off once you hit the big 3-0. This translates into, “work harder or work longer to achieve your goals.” I also know that my body will need more time to recover after workouts (those all-nighters before a hard workout are pretty much over). As long as I can keep stimulating my muscles with cardio and resistance training my metabolism will still be high enough to burn my meals. Yet when it comes to meals I will have to change accordingly just like I did when I went from my teens into my twenties. This is a common mistake that many people make because they’re so accustomed to their old diets.

This is the age where you know that you’re either cut out for the pros or not. For 99% of us who are not cut out to be an elite athlete, we must focus our workouts on what matters the most: longevity. Ladies, if you want to tighten up your tush, tummy, and thighs, you have to change it up after you hit 30 years. So do the men. Your body’s changing, so why aren’t your workouts?  For all who are about to take the big leap into the next installment of their lives, here is a workout for you to make that seamless transition. And if you’re a veteran of this age, you can still do it to challenge your core stabilizers and continue to improve your health. If you are still rocking the teens and twenties, try this workout too. Before starting any new workout plan, remember to always consult your physician if you have any medical conditions or haven’t been exercising within the past three months.

The 30 Year Old Challenge
This workout uses functional movements to target commonly missed areas to give you a body that will transcend well past your thirties. You will run through the exercises in a circuit. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, moving from one exercise to the next. Rest for 2 minutes before starting back at the top and doing another round. Complete 3 rounds total.

1. Squat to Rotational Press
Starting in a squat with a weight in your hands, lower your weight to one side just outside your knees. Then press with your heels and stand up, while rotating your body to the other side and press the weight overhead. Switch to the other side for the next 30 seconds.

2. Normal/Narrow Pushups
Start in a pushup position (you can modify it by using your knees) with your  hands placed a little wider than  shoulder width. Perform a pushup and then move your hands to shoulder width and perform a push up with your elbows close to your side.

3. Lunge with Twist
Start in a long staggered stance. Place a weight in your hands and keep your elbows bent at a 90° angle. Drop your back knee down into a lunge and stop before your back knee touches the ground, forming a right angle with your front knee. Rotate the ball and your torso to the side of  your front knee. Make the movement come from your abs and obliques. Rotate back and push with your front quads to stand back up. Stay on the same side for 30 seconds then switch sides.

4. 1 Arm High Row with Knee Lift
Place a handle to a pulley machine and adjust the pulley to the top setting. In a staggered stance with your right hand on the handle and your left foot back, pull the handle to the side of your chest while lifting the back knee forward and up to hip level. Return your hand and leg back in a controlled movement. Stay on the same side for 30 seconds then switch sides.

5. Plank with Hip Drop 
Place your forearms on the mat with your elbows under your shoulders. Keep your body in a straight line and raise your hips and knees off the mat. (Place your legs apart wider to make it easier.) Then drop your hip to one side and touch the mat. Bring your hips back up and drop down to the other side.

6.  Pushup to 1 Leg Stand
Start in a 1 legged standing position. Bend forward and drop your hands to the ground while staying on 1 leg. Lower yourself down into a pushup and explode back up to a 1 leg stand. Switch leg after 30 seconds.

7. Incline Bench Superman’s
Lie on your stomach on an incline bench. Place your arms by your side with your fingers pointed up. Without lifting your chest, extend your arms straight up slowly and return back slowly.

8. Crossover Lunges
Start in a standing position. Cross one leg behind the other and drop down into a lunge while extending the back leg to the side. Tap your back foot on the floor then push yourself back up with your front leg to a standing position. Perform one side for 30 seconds then switch sides.

9. Quadrupeds
Position yourself on all fours on the mat. Keeping your abs, glutes, and back tight, extend one arm straight out while extending the opposite leg behind you. Return to start and switch sides.

10. Side Planks
Lie on your side and stack your legs on top of each other. Place your bottom elbow under your shoulder and forearm on the floor. Lift your hips and knees off the floor. To modify, bend your bottom leg behind you at the knee. Hold for 30 seconds then switch sides.

Misconceptions about Personal Trainers

25 04 2012

While I was in Orlando working toward my quest to improve the health of individuals , I felt that I have stumbled on several road blocks. People I talk to either tell me that I’m not big enough to get them to where they want to be, or that they don’t want to get “huge/big.” These thoughts probably cross every average Joe/Jane’s mind when they see a personal trainer. Those who don’t want to bulk up think that personal trainers do only that, while those who are looking to bulk up think that personal trainers should be ex-bodybuilders. What happened to those people in the middle who just want to be healthy or improve their performance? That’s right, they think they can do it by themselves. Road block number 3.

By Doug ShamMisconceptions about a Personal Trainer:
I’m here to clarify some common misconceptions about personal trainers so that people can be educated and have a better understanding of what we, as professionals, are available to do.

– Many personal trainers must be certified through a national accredited certification program before they can work at a fitness facility. These certifications educate trainers on exercise physiology, exercise prescription, nutrition, working with special populations (i.e. older adults, youth, chronic illness, and pregnancy), and anatomy. Some certification programs, such as American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), require you to have a B.S. in Exercise Physiology, Exercise Science, or related field before being certified. To find a certification that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) please visit http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/NCCAAccreditation/AccreditedCertificationPrograms/tabid/120/Default.aspx
– Whereas physicians are licenced to prescribe exercise to patients, they are not trained on prescribing specific exercise programming to individuals. Therefore, personal trainers should be searched out to have individualized exercise programs designed to meet the client’s specific needs. Personal trainers should communicate with physicians and build a partnership to improve the overall health of individuals.
– Personal trainers do not specialize in only bodybuilding. In fact, all certified trainers are never taught how to train in bodybuilding within the certification program. Rather, programs and education classes teach a personal trainer the exercise physiology and biomechanics in exercise to improve strength gains and muscle size.
– Personal trainers are trained to teach individuals how to exercise properly to optimize their health, while improving on their physiological and physical characteristics (i.e. weight management, endurance, agility, speed, muscle mass, and power).
– Personal trainers come from a wide background. Some may only have a high school diploma, while others have a Masters or Doctorate in an exercise related field. Some were/are bodybuilders, athletes, fitness experts, nutritionists, or an exercise enthusiast who want to help others stay health.  There is no problem in asking for a trainer’s credentials before making your selection to hire him or her. Remember, this is your body that they’re altering.
– You are paying for a professional’s help to improve your health, not just to look good for a cruise. Trainers ask for high prices because they are providing a service that will ultimately alter your health. Like doctors, dentists, neurosurgeons, and even massage therapists, we are all in a health care profession and go through continual education to keep up with the latest research and practices to keep you as healthy as possible. Personal training is a health care service and should not be thought of as a luxury service. Unfortunately, personal training sessions are preventative care services which are not widely covered by health insurance, and thus are thought of as a supplementary service.  However, if you think about the amount of money you pay on health insurance premiums, paying for a personal trainer to improve your health, and therefore lower those premiums, might be a cheaper way to go.

As I continue to work in this field that I love, I know that I will have to deal with the stereotypes of personal trainers. It will be my duty as a professional to explain how times have changed since the world of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Atlas, and the like, and have moved to a way of health care and wellbeing.

Repair Your Keen Muscles With Quinoa

22 04 2012

So you’ve just finished your hard workout and you’re trying to figure out what to consume to bring those muscles back from the dead. You know that protein is the key essential nutrient that your body needs for muscle repair. But before you pick up that powder mix that you normally swig down with your shake, try this alternative that packs more punch and comes from a natural source.

Quinoa (KEEN-WAH) has been around for over 5,000 of years. Native to the Andes Mountains, this grain-like seed is known to be a complete protein. Complete proteins contain all 8 essential amino acids that your body does not produce by itself. All proteins that are found in meats and fish are not complete. The only additional way to get all 8 amnio acids would be to buy protein supplements that contain all amino acids. But why put a processed substance into your body when you can get the same benefits from this power food? Prepare this recipe the next time your muscles are starving to repair themselves.

Peppers Stuffed With Quinoa and Spinach (From Better Homes and Gardens New CookBook 15th ed.)
Serving size: 4
Prep time: 25 min
Cooking time: 63 mins


  • 1 – 14oz can vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking barley
  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 med)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
  • 1 – 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 of a 10oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained 
  • 1.5 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (6oz)
  • 4 large red sweet peppers

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium saucepan bring broth to boiling. Add barley and quinoa. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, covered, about 12 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving cooking liquid; set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. add onion and garlic. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Add mushrooms. Cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes more or until mushrooms and onion are tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper, undrained tomatoes, and spinach. Stir in quinoa mixture and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Remove from heat.

3. Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds and membranes from the peppers. Sprinkle insides of peppers lightly with additional salt and pepper. Fill pepper halves with quinoa mixture. Place peppers, filled sides up, in a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Pour reserved cooking liquid into dish around peppers.

4. Bake, covered 35 minutes. Uncover; top each with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered, about 10 more minutes or until peppers are crisp-tender and cheese is brown.

Nutritional Information:
415 calories, 22g total fat (10g sat. fat, 0g trans fat), 45mg cholesterol, 1,206mg sodium, 39g carbohydrates, 9g fiber, 19g protein

E.A. Oelke, D.H. Putnam, T.M. Teynor, and E.S. Oplinger. (2012) from http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/afcm/quinoa.html


When The Road Never Seems To End

11 04 2012

If you’ve tried to lose weight, gain muscle, or even train for a competition, you’ve probably been here. “Here” is the point in time when you look at what you’ve accomplished so far and the set backs that you’ve encountered along the way. “Here” has surfaced many times along your journey and you wonder what good all your hard work is doing for you. You look back at where you started and you feel like you just left the gates. Then you look down that endless road where you know your goal awaits and you wonder if you’ll ever get there. This is where many people drop the ball and lose focus on what counts. This is also where enablers prove to you that what you are doing is a waste of time and you might as well be content with your present circumstance. Enablers try diminishing your hopes of succeeding. “Don’t torture yourself, have a fry,” states an enabler. “Why do you want to get up so early just to know that you’re not going to finish first in your race?” questions another enabler.

I’ve been there so many times as a youth. Growing up as a minority in a town full of prejudice and hate, it was hard for me to stay motivated to pursue my goals. Lacking a role model and having people tell me that I couldn’t succeed made my road difficult. I fought every second to overcome those oppositions and prove to myself that I was going to reach my goals. Many times in my life, “here’s” became rest stops and I questioned whether I should just give up and face the fact that I wasn’t cut out for this journey.

I will never forget the day when I was in the doctor’s office as a young child. Hearing the doctor tell my mother and me that I was overweight while showing us where I placed on the graph seemed to knock me back a few miles. I wondered why this was happening to me.  I was always active throughout my childhood; how could I have gained so much weight to put me twenty pounds overweight? I then remembered all the fast food joints my mom had visited, and the day long binges on chips and freshly made desserts. Two of my close friends were not the leanest of kids either. When I met the brother of one, I wondered how anyone could be that big. They told me that we were kids and we’d grow out of that stage. No one ever told me that I was perfect the way I was back then. Instead I experienced the reverse effect. People picked on me, causing me to come to a complete stop. My motivation to move forward had ceased and I had only begun my journey. I figured I would just stay how I was and live with it.  It wasn’t until one person’s comment that really changed my life for the better.

It was nearing Christmas one cold December morning and I had managed to be pretty pudgy for my height. I was looking at myself in my bathroom mirror just to check how round I had become. Then my brother came in to use the bathroom. He asked what I was doing and I didn’t say anything. Then he unleashed a life changing comment that I would always look back and for him thank. He laughed and I asked what was so funny. He pointed at my shirtless body and said, “this year, you can be Santa and his little elf.” Then walked out laughing, never to let that one down. That was how an enabler became a motivator. The next day I put on a pair of sweatpants, two long sleeve tees and a hooded sweatshirt and stepped into the thirty degree air. I was tired of being the short, fat kid and took my first step into a new direction. I ran up my street to the top of the hill as fast as I could in hopes that I would be able to run around the block. I got to the top and gasped for air. The freezing moisture knocked the wind out of my lungs and I walked back down from which I came and back into my house to warm up. However, I was determined to run everyday from that day on. Eventually, after a month of running a little farther each day, I was up to 5 miles a day and I started doing push ups and sit ups. I also made sure I wasn’t stuffing down french fries and cupcakes every week. In the end, I was back down to a healthy weight, with a six-pack and definition in my body to turn the tables around. I remember a hot summer day a year later when I was walking around the house with my shirt off and my brother walked by. “Wish you could have these,” I said as I pointed to my abs and flexed my chest. We laughed, but I knew that I wouldn’t have been as healthy had it not been for my brother’s inadvertent help.

To this day, I look back at that period of my life when the motivation had diminished. My enabler didn’t keep me from accomplishing my goal. My brother turned out to be a motivator.  However, there are many more enablers out there trying to stop you. If you want to succeed, you must find that willpower to continue. Turn enablers into motivators by showing them that you will not stop. Make that decision to keep going and don’t ever lose hope. Even when the road never seems to end, know that no one ever finished anything by going backwards.