Massacusetts residents have spent a lot of time indoors the past 3-4 weeks.  This is an understatement.  Record amounts of snowfalls have cancelled work, closed downs stores and fitness centers leaving people to their own means fo multiple days in a row.  Excuses for not getting out to the gym are easy to come up with if the thermometer reads in the negative numbers and parking bans are in effect.  Nobody says you have to go to a gym to get your workout in.  Staying active and preventing a slump is vital to your health.  Here are four ways health is compromised when not workng out.

1.  Blood pressure rises – this is instant effect.  Blood pressure is lower on days you exercise ( afterwards) than days you don’t.  Within a month of not exercising hardenening arteries and veins will raise blood pressure back to your pre exercise state.  To the point where it will seem like you never started exercising to begin with.  Don’t let this happen!

2.  Blood sugar increases – After just five days of not exercising post meal blood glucose levels remain elevated.  When active, muscle tissue and energy systems will utilize blood glucose for muslce and energy system repair.  If there are no muscles or systems to repair the blood glucose will remain in the bloodstream.  This can lead to badthings such as diabetes.

3.  Muscles atrophy – nothing being written here is earth shattering news, but these are easy things to forget.  Strength will stay longer than endurance, but after 2 weeks of complete rest muscles will start to atrophy leading to lower strength and higher body fat percentage.

4.  Brain suffers – one very important organ that doesn’t look good in a bathing suit is the brain.  Yet it is still very important to keep it in shape through exercise.  Two weeks of inactivity have shown to leave regualar exercisers tired and grumpy.  Rat studies presented at a recent Society for Neuroscience Conference suggests animals that stop moving for a week grow fewer new brain cells and do worse on maze tests than those that adhere to a steady wheel running routine.(1)



1.  Men’s Health:  6 Ways Your Health Suffers When You Stop Working Out.

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The last post discussed the importance of getting as much good, quality sleep as possible in general and specifically for active adults.  Better sleeping patterns are a result of an effective fitness and wellness program.  One big reason is muscle and energy system recovery occur during the nocturnal hours, when the exerciser is asleep. Lack of sleep will result in a lack of recovery, therefore leading to counterproductive workouts week in and week out.  Which modality of training yields a better impact on sleep quality, endurance or strength training?  Beginner exercisers will increase their exercise adherence by focusing on strength training and using aerobic training as an addendum, no matter what their goals are.

As discussed in the last post excessive endurance exercise can wreak havoc on the human body.  One major negative response is sleep pattern disruptions.  In an article published in July 2007 by the American Family Physician Organization titled ” Common Problems In Endurance Athletes,” they stated that running more than 20 miles per week is a regimen that can lead to sleep disturbances.(1).  That doesn’t sound like excessive, it all depends on the individual performing the running.  An elite level runner who has efficient biomechanics can perform high volume of exercise with far less stress on the body than the average runner.  It can be derived that doing less than 20 miles per week would be an adequate volume to elicit a healthy sleep response from running.  Once again fitness level and biomechanics will play a major role in just what kind of a response is elicited.  Exercise is very much a test and evaluate endeavor.

Generally speaking, leading a more physical lifestyle will lead to better sleeping patterns.  Falling alseep faster, longer duration in a deeper sleep and more.  Where many novice exercisers get tripped up is how much exercise is too much.  For the beginner exerciser strength training by design is less about duration and more about increasing intensity, or weights.  Strength training in itself is less likely to lead an exerciser into overexercising due to it’s nature.  The goal is to increase strength by increasing weights.  Not by doing longer strength training sessions.  In contrast for novice exercisers the goal is to increase duration of aerobic exercise.  The tendancy for aerobic exercise to be misused by a beginner exerciser is greater than that of strength training by their design.

The saying ” less is more” hasn’t quite beeen adapted by anybody in the fitness industry as of yet.  The lightning fast rise of CrossFit facilities and the Spartan Races won’t help any either.  CrossFit is based on alot of different concepts, but the one major concept is pushing yourself harder than you did the day or the week before.  To an extreme in alot of cases, but certainly to a degree where overtraining syndrome can be obtained.  One major sign of overtraining is interrupted and low quality sleep.  In an article from the New York Times from September of 2007 titled ” Sleep After Hard Workouts?  You Must Be Dreaming?” the author cites the two major factors to sleep disturbances from exercise are increasing duration and instensity.  Dr. Chedniak is the president of The American Academy Of Sleep Medicine and he points out that increasing duration and intensity can lead to the release two cytokines(proteins) that make people drowsy and increase time they are asleep.(2).  CrossFit is a philosophy based on ” more is better.”  Exercise to failiure and exhaustion is expected and success isn’t recognized unless that point is reached.  Many of their facilities offer 3,4 even 5 time per week workout package options for their members.  The average person looking to lose weight with above average hopes for success and without an extensive exercise background is at a big risk to end up in an overtraining state.  The Center For Disease Control recognizes the sleep benefits from strength training on their website  stating in an article titled, ” “Growing Stronger, Strength Training For Older Adults”.  “As with depression, the sleep benefits obtained from strength training are comparable to treatment with medication without the side effects or expense.”(3)   The article refers to older adults suffering from depression and ways to mitigate that and the aging process in general.

To conclude, the potential is there to overexercise with strength training.  There is a greater risk with aerobic exercise due the ease of increasing duration and the accessibility to aerobic exercise modalities.  Walkers, runners and cyclists are able to step out of the house and perform a long duration workout without the inconveneince of driving to a facility to use equipment.  The ” more is better” mantra with exercise is a major component to most of the current exercise trends, leading to overtraining and very poor nocturnal habits for those who participate.

1.  American Family Physician.  2007 July 15;76(2)237-244.

2.  New York Times article.  ” Sleep After a Hard Workout?  You Must Be Dreaming.” Gina Kolata, September 13, 2007.

3.  Center For Disease Control.    ” Growing Stronger Strength Training For Adults.” February 24, 2011.


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One of the great benesfits of the CORE Boot Camp program in Newton, Ma. is that it is built (unintentionally at first) to prepare anyone for an obstacle course race.  The energy system and muscular demands of both the race and the CORE Boot Camp program are similar.  This makes this program one of the best in the Boston area for preparing for Spartan Fenway, and any Spartan or obstacle course race now offered on the circuit.

Participants preparing for an obstacle course race, specifically a Spartan Race who are using running as their primary training modality are in for a big surprise.  What makes the explosion in popularity of obstacle course races is the variety each race offers.  Traditional road races can be boring for many and boredom can lead to a higher drop out rate in participation for certain personalities and populations of exercisers.  A variety in the actual race and from a fitness standpoint the variety in energy systems and muscles worked are what some need to stay interested enough to continuously participate.  Running a 5k will use the same muscular and joint movement pattern over and over.  An obstacle course race will train the body in many more different planes of motion than a traditional 5k.  The CORE Boot Camp program was designed to train muscles in all of the major movement planes.

*  Sagittal plane – straight ahead movements ( i.e running a road race).

* Frontal plane – lateral movements.

* Transverse plane – rotational movements.

Total body strength and grip strength are two components that are essential for successful completion of an obstacle course race.  Add anaerobic energy system challenges and it is clear why traditional running isn’t enough to prepare for a Spartan Race.

1.  Outdoors – CORE Boot Camp in Newton, Ma. is an outdoor program.  The program will run outdoors until daylight allows it to.  In the fall the entire workout is held outdoors rain or shine until the end of September.  Once October rolls around the start of the workout moves indoors, but the workout will transition outdoors once the sun rises.  Spartan Fenway is in the month of November, so being acclimated to exercising outdoors is important when preparing to participate in an outdoor event like this.

2.  Heavy carrying exercises – CORE Boot Camp utilizes a lot of heavy carrying exercises such as the farmer’s carry and variations there of.   Heavy dumb bells, sand bags, barbells, buckets filled with bricks all have been used to train both grip strength and anaerobic energy system.  Most obstacle course races, including Spartan, involve a minimum of one heavy carry for distance.  The Spartan Race can have a log, sand bag, bucket of rocks or even a 5 gallon water jug carry in it’s course design.  The more specific the training the better prepared for successful completion.  Many racers focus on running and burpees when training; which are important but there is so much more to an obstacle course race than cardiovascular endurance.

3.  Dynamic core stability is trained – the plank is arguably a ” good ” exercise to train torso stability.  But, in the realm of preparing for an event such as the Spartan Race series it is critical that dynamic torso (or core) stability is trained.  What is dynamic torso stability?  A plank is a stabilizing exercise where there is no movement of the body at all.  This is great in very few applications in the real world or for performance.  At no time during a Spartan Race or any race will you ever be completely still in a plank like position.  Beginners are started in the traditional plank exercise position but once the ability to demonstrate good stability through the torso they are quickly progressed up to plank exercises while the body is moving.  For example, the TRX front roll out.  The bear crawl exercise which is very Spartan race specific.  This exercise requires keeping steady through the midsection while traveling forward on all fours, hands and knees.  One of the staple Spartan obstacles is a low crawl of some kind whether it be under barbed wire or another barrier.

In conclusion, if you are registered for the Spartan Fenway race and are primarily running on the street to prepare, please sign up for a one workout trial on our homepage to get the race specific training your body needs to conquer the great challenge that is a Spartan Race.

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The answer is an emphatic no!  Yoga, whether it be Kripalu, Yoga flow or Vinyasa or any of the disciplines is referred to as a ” mind body” workout.  What exactly does that mean?  What is so ” mind body” about yoga?  Every exercise discipline or modality has a mind body component.

When an individual aspiring to lose weight finally musters up the courage, and for some it takes courage, to decide to take action that is as strong of a mind body connection as there can be.  Obesity is both a physical and mental disease.  The mental challenges of overcoming extreme weight by far ” outweigh” the actual process of the physical work needed to accomplish it.  It can take years for some of these people to overcome the mental challenges, but when it clicks it is indeed a mind body connection.  When the two work together positively towards a fitness goal there is no negative outcome.

The rapidly becoming popular Spartan Race series ( is another great example of a mind body connection.  For a lot of the participants taking part for the first time they are experiencing new physical challenges they never knew existed.  The creators of the race have done a nice job creating different levels of races for the different levels of fitness.  The Spartan Sprint series is a great race for beginner and intermediate level exercisers to challenge themselves mentally and physically through obstacles and exercises they never thought they would ever attempt.  It can be very intimidating for an individual not well versed with exercise to come across a 5,6 or even 9 foot wall they are asked to climb over.  The experience of a new and intimidating challenge calls for the individual to think, to make a decision based on their experience of ever coming across such a challenge and if they have not the outcome is unknown and can be scary.  Are they going to attempt the obstacle with all their effort?  Are they going to forego the obstacle due to fear of failure and opt for the penalty exercise of 30 burpees.  There is no better mental reward then trying something you’ve never tried, something you are afraid to try and succeeding.  A great mind body connection!

In conclusion, exercise in general is based on the mind body connection.  The mental challenges that hold the body back from attempting physical challenges often pull the rug of opportunity out from the feet of success.  Once the mind can overcame their fears, it allows the body to do amazing things within the scope of the individual’s capability.   Creating an unbreakable, mind body connection!

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Today’s exerciser has more options than ever before to select from in order to obtain the physical fitness level they desire. It seems a new exercise trend or franchise develops every month. But there is one that developed back in the early 80′s that in my opinion gives a health conscious consumer the most bang for their buck. The fitness boot camp.

The first reason and maybe most important is the science behind the exercise modes that are utilized. Anybody on the street can start a boot camp program and use whatever modalities they want. Most programs that use strength based exercises and interval training style conditioning are the best option. If anything other these two cornerstone principles are being used then it isn’t the best option for body transformation or fitness goals. More recently programs have developed that have strayed away from these tried and true principals to create a niche in an over saturated market. The best bet as far as cost effectiveness in yielding results is to participate in a program that uses the above principals.

The group dynamic can be a great way to exercise. Depending on the instructor and the other participants in the group, a group program can be very motivating. The team atmosphere and camaraderie can also help those with less confidence to start gain more with continued participation. A one on one setting is ideal for some to experience these results, but the cost can be very challenging for a lot of people.

Which brings us to the last reason why group boot camps are the most effective way to gain fitness. Cost. As previously mentioned one on one training can cost approximately $700 per month with a two session a week schedule. Some studious and facilities are less, some might even be more. The approximate cost of a boot camp program is around $135 per month. This is on a 2-3 times per week schedule. Some are a little less expensive, and some are a lot more expensive. The group program is by far he most cost effective method for trying to see results fast.

In conclusion, there is no one best method for every body. This is why we have a growing fitness industry with so many different types of facilities and disciplines. An individual’s personality will also dictate what works best for them. In the end, it might be their wallet that has the final say.

If you live in or around the Newton, Ma area the CORE Boot Camp program is where we get our ” bang for our bucks.” We offer a free trial workout.

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     Many exercisers turn to personal trainers, yoga instructors, boot camps and group programs alike for guidance and to take the ” thinking” part of exercise out of their daily responsibilities.  Time and time again I’ve had clients tell me to ” just work me hard,” or ” I don’t want to think about what I have to do, just take me through a workout.”  The responsibility of thinking about exercise shouldn’t be completely surrendered to your hired professional.  The mental aspect of exercising is equally important as the physical aspect.

What should I do for a workout today?

What should I do for a workout today?

 Simply performing an exercise without thinking about the purpose can diminish the results.  If you are unaware of what muscles should be activated, it’s likely they won’t get worked to the extent they should.  If you are taking the time and paying the money to be there, you might as well get maximum benefit. If you need to zone out or get lost in exercise then I suggest performing steady state aerobics. 

      Think about each rep, set and exercise during your workout.  Focus on recovery time and getting the most out of the 30 or 60 seconds you have between sets and exercises.  All these components comprise the training effect you are training to achieve.

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I worked with a client for a couple of sessions a couple weeks back.  He is pretty fit, fairly strong and knows his way around the weight room.  But there was one thing that he couldn’t figure out on his own and was frustrated by.  Every tie he would bench press he would feel a pain in the front of his shoulder.  My immediate response was ” Why do you need to keep using the barbell bench press?  Why are you so concerned about being able to lift so much on this exercise at this point in your life?” This gentleman is in his late 40′s.  He’s been doing the bench press snce his teen age years.  It’s what he learned, what he was taught, it’s all he knows.  Any way, I had him perform two sets of an external rotation exercise with a rubber band with a supinated hand holding the band.  My sense was he hadn’t paid any attention to small supporting muscles like the rotator cuff group for so long, and that was the route of the problem.  After doing the two sets of external rotations he went over to the bench press and started performing his sets.  he immediately yelled in happiness, ” Oooohh there is no pain!!! ”  This guy couldn’t have been more excited if I told him he had just won the lottery. 

Moral of this blog.  Don’t ignore small supporting muscles, in this case, of the shoulder when performing bigger muscle movements like the bench press.  

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Here is another great, common question I get from mostly beginner level clients, but also intermediate level exercisers as well.  This seems naive, but it really isn’t.  My answer to this woman who is in her late 50′s, early 60′s was the following:

” Start with a weight and perform 8 repetitions with it for the first week.  The second week perform 2 sets of 8 reps.  Third week do a set of 10 and then a set of 8 reps.  4th week 2 sets of 10 reps.  When you performed 2 sets of 10 reps with relative ease of a weight, increase and start back at 2 sets of 8 reps. ”

This may seem slow and conservative.  But, for this woman’s ability, strength and most importantly comfort level with the exercises.  I think this is exactly the prescription will suit her.  Because she is so new to strength training and exercise in general, and her age her body needs to adapt slowly to resistance training.  excessive muscle soreness will certainly be a deterrent to her continuing on with strength training.  In turn, putting her at risk for strength deficit related conditions.  Osteoporosis, arthritis and others.

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I’ve had lateral epicondylitis since the end of August now.  I got it from playing racquetball, not very well.  Anyway, it has left my upper useless as far as exercise.  I can’t do ANYTHING with my upper body.  It has been getting better very slowly.  This has left my workouts being very cardiovascular based.  basically all I can do is aerobic intervals, steady state aerobics and core exercises.

The results have been very noticeable.  I have been averaging 3-4 aerobic workouts per week between 20 and 60 minutes.  Some interval style some steady state.  I haven’t measured, but there is a noticeable difference in the appearance of my upper body.  Much less lean that it has been in awhile.  Obviously.  But, some less obvious differences that are having a big impact on my waist line are my dietary choices.  I have much more of a tendency to reach for things that I never used to.  Processed foods, crackers, cheeses, other processed snacks that I wasn’t really consuming when I was strength training regularly.  This has lead to weight gain and a larger waist measurement.  Another less obvious effect is I feel a little more sluggish between workouts.  I get some initial energy from the workout and then the next day also.  But after that I start to dread the next aerobic workout and feel sluggish. 

There is both a physiological and psychological effect of a complete fitness program.  Including strength training and cardiovascular exercise.  Strength training leads to increased muscle mass, which burns more body fat and calories.  This will lead to increased self esteem and confidence.  A leaner stronger body looks and feels better about themselves.  There is a greater tendency to want to eat healthy when you feel better about how you look.

Programs consisting of long duration workouts on the elliptical or other cardio machines are counterproductive.  Many exercisers, especially females think the key to losing weight is logging minute after minute on machines.  Metabolism slows down when you do not strength train.  Training your body to store glycogen with long duration workouts will effect body weight also.

Uneducated exercisers will hire a Boston area personal trainer to help them understand the benefits of strength training, and how to implement it into their routine.

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A new client of mine has only picked up exercising in the last 10 years or so.  He is pretty fit for his age.  He is 82 years old.  It is never too late to start improving your life through the power of exercise.

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