Friday, November 13, 2009

The Times

Here are links to two very insightful New York Times articles. They both focus on how the human body can endure long distance exercise and still remain injury free. Long distance exercise can become complicated when the body starts to fatigue. When muscles tire out, proper form is compromised which can lead to injury. Some people may feel that the human body isn't meant for long duration exercise because of all the harmful risks.

These risks of injury can be prevented if you listen to your body. Distinguishing between the difference of joint pain and muscle pain is the first step. If your joints consistently ache, you should probably go to a doctor and get them checked out. If your muscles fatigue while training, you should learn to work through it. Allowing the body to fight past the exertion of pain will help reduce muscle fatigue and increase muscle tissue regeneration if done correctly. The article Pushing Past the Pain of Exertion touches upon how to respond to muscle fatigue and understanding lactate thresholds. When our muscles feel "the burn", it's typically because of the "lactic acid" build up in our muscles. That pain is OK to feel. Lactic Acid is formed when our muscles don't receive enough oxygen. It aches, but it isn't going to create an injury. Increasing our Lactate threshold will help the body endure more of this pain which will allow us to train longer and harder. Accepting the pain rather than fighting it will be monumental for any aspiring goals.

The second article The Human Body Is Built for Distance talks about how our bodies are more equipped for long distance activity than other mammals in the world. The bipedal movement of humans doesn't make us the fastest sprinters, but it does allow us to run for longer periods of time. It's remarkable. If you think your body isn't meant to run a marathon or half marathon, please read this article.

Pushing Past the Pain of Exertion

The Human Body Is Built for Training

Hope you enjoy the articles. If you happen to come across any other cool fitness related write-ups, please share them!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bodies- Check'em out!!... No, seriously

There are two different ways you can work out these days. One way is to do your exercises and finish them as quickly as possible, which is basically just "going through the motions". The other way is to take some time, focus on each muscle moving, and understand how your body works together. This is better than just "going through the motions" because you can engage your muscles more efficiently for a better work out.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to go to the Bodies exhibit this past weekend with a good friend of mine (also a fantastic client and triathlete). The bodies exhibit is a collection of cadavers that are arranged in all types of positions. Each cadaver showcases different groups of bones, muscles, and areas of the circulatory system and nervous system.

To actually see the origins and insertions of each muscle is amazing! Understanding where muscles connect to the body can help us understand each muscle's role in movement. So, if you see the Latissimus Dorsi muscle at the exhibit, you'll now know what muscle to visualize and focus on when you are doing a Lat Pull Down. Understanding how muscles connect to the body also help us critique and correct our form. If we want to do a bicep curl (once seeing where the biceps attach) and your body is moving a lot more than just the bicep, it is now safe to say that the form of the exercise may be compromised.

The bodies exhibit is an interesting trip. It can really define a new perspective about how the parts of the body have to work together in order for us to move and live. There are several Bodies exhibits scattered around the US. Here's a link to their main page for a location nearest to you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Core Muscles-- they don't just stem from abdominal crunches

Plank, Side Plank, Bridges, Trunk Twists ... These are all Core Muscle exercises that engage a lot more than just your rectus abdominis . There are many muscles that require activation if you want to train your "true core". Your "true core" is comprised of various muscles such as the transverse abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques, rectus abdominis, multifidus, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, which are surrounded by supporting muscles (psoas major, psoas minor, glutes and more).

The benefits of core training exceed much more than a flat stomach or defined 6 pack. Core strength helps with postural alignment, back pain, core stability, balance, and almost every single sport. Core strength helps prevent core muscles from fatiguing. When those muscles do happen to fatigue, your body is much more prone to injury. Unfortunately, injuries in the core area affect your whole body. (If you have lower back pain, it can feel like your whole body's natural movement is compromised.)

Core Training should be the first priority of full body strength training, which should then be followed by training of the extremities (arms, legs, etc). Whether you are running a marathon, deadlifting 400 lbs, or cycling in the Alps, you need your core muscles to maintain stability. Think of what will happen to your body if you run with a weak core. Your spine will not be supported, which can result in common aggravations/injuries to the lower back.

Core strength can be best measured by how well you can stabilize your core muscles (torso area) while moving your extremities. For example, lift your leg while in plank position and see how well you can keep your hips stationary and squared to the ground. If you can't keep your back flat and your hips stable, it may be because your core muscles aren't strong enough to support your hips. Once you do strengthen your core, your body will be able to efficiently support itself in full body movements. This can help you run/swim longer (due to the absence of lower back pain), movements such as squats, lunges, and jumping jacks will be easier, you'll have better posture when strength training, and you can transfer energy better in full body movements. Think of what your core does while swinging a baseball bat or golf club... it's so much torso/trunk rotation!

Here are some foundational exercises that you can do a couple of times a week to strengthen your core.


plank with leg lift

v sit

Russian twists


Try all of these for 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets each every 2 or 3 days.

enjoy your core!!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Prevent a New Year Resolution!

--Much apologies for the posting delay of this blog. Priority Fitness' move was a lot more demanding than expected. Thanks for waiting. Ok, enjoy!--

We have all turned a corner. Summer is now over. Yeah, I said it. Some of us still may be in denial... but it's the truth. The transition from long sunny days to longer, colder nights is now in effect. It's ok. We've all been through this before. But there's a catch... We are about to hit a change in our lifestyles. As the weather gets colder, and the days become shorter, we naturally stay indoors more. Even the types of food that we eat differ. We naturally gravitate towards heavier and more weight bearing foods (meat, potatoes, etc.). It's even apparent in our festive holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Some of you may be saying, "Ben, you're crazy. We are so far away from any of those holidays". Well, the "crazy" part I'm used to, but the whole holiday thing I disagree with. I've seen it. Our exercise activity (and motivation) naturally decreases at a steady rate until we hit January’s spark of New Year resolutions. But why do we allow ourselves to reach a point where we must "resolve" our fitness goals at the beginning every New Year? It's a lot easier (and way healthier) to maintain a fit lifestyle rather than play catch-up in January. Now is the time when we can create a healthy foundation of exercise and nutrition to guide us through the colder weather and incredibly unhealthy holidays.

So here we are... Footsteps away from a new challenge of staying fit. How do we fight the cold weather and holiday pounds?

I suggest starting off with getting a calendar and flipping the pages all the way to January 2010. Pick a goal - it can be anything - lose 10 lbs, run a 6 minute mile, or even workout 5 days a week consistently. Think about where you want to be in January and the activity it requires. For example, if you want to run 6 minute miles, you should be running anywhere from 3-5 times a week (each week consistently getting faster as the months go forward). Now you can take your aspiring activity level/regiment and start working backwards through the calendar. Let’s go to the last week of December on the calendar. What do you see yourself doing? What do you want to be doing? If it's running 4 days a week or alternating cardio and resistance training 5 days a week, pencil it in!! Make it as detailed and realistic as you want. Continue doing this every week until you reach the present day. As the weeks you fill out become closer to today, the workouts that you are filling in per day should be progressively conforming to what you are doing now. You should end up with a workout routine that maintains a consistent progression towards your goal as time moves forward.

The whole point of this is to see things in the big picture. There are going to be some days when challenges will face us. Whether it be rain, snow, or just the plain cold; if we have something to take us out of our current situation and remind us to keep our eyes on the future, we'll be able to stay on the right track.

This way, when we hit January 1st, our resolution will already be resolved…

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Muscles Behind the Tour de France

I rarely watch TV these days. I have nothing against it, I just haven't made the time to watch it. That is, until the Tour de France started this year... What an amazing example of pure (for some not always pure) athletic talent. Despite the controversy of steroids and blood doping, the use of certain muscle fiber types is represented so well.


We have two main types of muscle fibers Type I (slow twitch) fibers, and Type II (fast twitch fibers). Type I fibers are used for repetitive, long endurance activity. They don't fatigue very easily and make the body seem leaner. Type II fibers are used for short bursts of energy. They are extremely powerful and also fatigue very quickly. They make the body look much thicker and muscular than Type I fibers.


                                         Type I Fiber      


                                                                                                                                              Type II Fiber


The cyclists in the Tour de France have to engage both types of fibers during their competition. Their hours and hours of competing every day requires constant Type I fiber use, yet they must also sprint! This requires Type II  fiber use. This style of sport is extremely intense and requires many years of training be done well.

Since we now know what our muscle fibers are specifically used for,  let's use this information for our workouts. How do we train? Power lifters engage in short bursts of energy. They primarily engage Type II fibers. Marathon runners require repetitive motion for long periods of time. They are going to mostly use Type I fibers. Cyclists require both! What do you want to focus on? If your goal is overall fitness... Do everything. You can lift weights one day, run longer distances that next day and then take it from there. This style of Cross-training is also the best way to strengthen our hearts and muscles.

In case you are wondering... Each of us is born with a specific genetic ratio of Type I:Type II fibers. Some of us are natural sprinters (more Type II fibers) and conversely, others are natural long distance runners (more Type I fibers). Even though we can never change our fiber type ratio, that doesn't mean we cant train the way we love. Through consistent exercise, all of us can still strengthen the specific fibers we choose to train. 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Switching Up The Routine

When it comes to training, the redundancy implied from a "routine" doesn't always need to be applied. If you run the same 3 mile loop every day, your body will eventually become accustomed to it. The initial results you received from your runs will eventually taper out and plateau. Fortunately, there are ways to fix this. If you want to direct your workouts to receive constant results, varying your activity is vital.

This puts us in a predicament. What do to do now? Well, one option is to continue doing the same thing we were doing and not receive the physical benefits that we were once striving for. The other option is to try something new. When we change our workouts and "shock" the body, we respond to that activity more drastically. That "shock" response is expressed by what ever that activity demands; increase in strength, more endurance, higher VO2 max, etc. The best way to think about this physical phenomena is to view this reaction as a defense mechanism. I know, it sounds a little crazy, but it makes sense. Since our genetic code has not changed in thousands and thousands of years,let's think about what happened when we were trying to survive in the wild. If a human wasn't fast or agile enough to catch a dear for food, or maybe even pick up something up that was really heavy (perhaps rocks or branches for shelter) then that would result in compromising chances for survival. As a defense mechanism, the body naturally increases speed, agility or strength just in order to stay alive (whether it be catching that dear or picking up that rock). This theory still applies today.

Since we don't catch our own food anymore or build shelter, we can see our bodies physically react to our workouts. If we sprint as fast as we can or pick up a weight that gets really heavy,we are naturally going to get faster or put on more muscle in order to be prepared for the next time we are in that situation (same thing like trying to catch an animal or pick up heavy rocks for shelter).

However, if we don't lift weights that are heavy for us or don't run to the point of physical fatigue, we aren't going to reach those results....just a flat plateau. Since it is now officially summer (and the weather is now permitting), we have so many more options to vary our workouts. If you are just a runner, try some of outdoor pools for swimming. If you have just been lifting weights, go for a run in the park. Try running the stairs if you have just been doing even paced miles. You can even hop on a bike and put some miles on your belt. If you really enjoy variation, try multi-sport events such as a triathlon. Priority Fitness' trainer Chris will be doing his first NYC Triathlon this July 26th, Go Chris!! Varying your activity can also keep our minds from "plateauing". It's extremely important to keep our heads fresh and feel excited for all the different types of things out there.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sharing the Spotlight

One of the most important lessons I have learned as a Personal Trainer (and business owner) is to not re-invent the wheel. There are so many theories and existing data that has been proven about science and fitness. What's better than taking existing research and putting it into play? Unfortunately, there is also a lot of junk promoted in the health and wellness field today too. It can be really hard to decipher what's true or false. So, I've made the decision for you! Here are some links to legitimate articles and posts this week that I (based on my education and experience in the field) agree with.

For an awesome overview of exercise

Some great advice about analyzing and preventing injuries

Great tips on dieting at work (except the fasting part in the end!)


Some new and different nutrition tips- From a really cool blog that I just happen to stumble upon while surfing (the internet of course)

5 excuses that will keep you fat- From a blog that I have been keeping my eye on for a while

OK, so I figured I'd switch it up this week and share the spotlight with some other sources. It's important to understand other people's opinions on certain matters. It helps me figure out my stance on topics which in return defines my point of view (especially in the fitness world) even more. I chose these articles because I agree with their theory and information. How about you?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Interval Training and You

In order to design a safe and efficient workout routine, it's crucial to have some experience under your belt. Picking a bunch of random exercises out of a hat can not only prevent your from reaching your fitness goals, it can also lead to over-used muscles and injury. Interval Training is one of my favorite styles of training. It provides the opportunity to strengthen your anaerobic muscles while still keeping your heart in a decent zone to burn fat. The workout session is very fast paced and direct, however the balance of "cool down" to High Intensity exercises maintains sanity. Interval Training sessions burn a lot more calories than old fashion strength training even though they require the same amount of time (45- 60 min).

OK, so the first order of business is figuring out which exercises you want to do... That's totally up to you! The beauty of designing your own workout is that you can pick any muscles you want to train. After picking your target muscles, you have to pick exercises that correspond to the muscles you want to train (ie: chest, triceps and shoulders- pick push ups, legs- pick squats). It's important to distinguish between your high intensity exercises (exercises that demand a big increase in your heart rate- squat thrusts, sprints, mountain climbers, etc) and your low intensity/cool down exercises (exercises that allow your heart rate to recover- crunches, slow step ups, alternating bicep curls, etc).

The sequence of the exercises is next. Assuming that all of your exercises are timed (not up to a certain amount of repetitions), we can start off with a total of 7 exercises (4 high intensity and 3 low intensity) with 60 seconds per exercise. If the goal is 5 circuits with a 45-90 second rest in between each one, this is what it should look like.

Low Intensity= LI
High Intensity= HI

circuit 1- LI, HI, LI, HI, LI- 45 sec rest
circuit 2- HI, LI, HI, LI, HI- 60 sec rest
circuit 3- HI, LI, HI, HI, LI- 60 sec rest
circuit 4- HI, HI, LI, HI, HI- 90 sec rest
Circuit 5- LI, HI, LI, HI, LI- You're Done!

You should be doing each exercise more than once (even up to 3-5 times), however don't do any of the same exercises within each circuit- ie: don't do 3 sets of squat jumps in Circuit 2, alternate with mountain climbers and sprints. You can leave the other sets of squat jumps for the third and fourth circuit.

Here is a list of some High Intensity exercises:
Squat Thrusts
Mountain Climbers
Squat Jumps
Side Shuffling
Plyo Box Jumps
Hill Runs
Jumping Jacks - Try them for speed!

Here is a list of some Low Intensity exercises:
Resistance Band Rows
Stomach Crunches
Bicep Curls/ Tricep Extensions
Step ups
Calve Raises

Refer to these previous blogs for some other exercises too

Now all you need is a stop watch and some effort.

If you have any questions about Interval Training or have a routine that's been effective, it would great to hear about it.

Thanks and Good Luck!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eat for Performance, Not Just Prevention

     It's easy to ask yourself where you don't want to be in life. The same question applies when we work out. It seems that too much of our energy today is devoted to preventing where we don't want to be, rather than just striving for where we should be. 
You don't have to be an elite athlete or simply in amazing shape to eat towards your fitness goals. When walking through the grocery store, there are so many food products that "prevent weight gain"or "prevent heart disease". Why do we have our heads geared toward such negative consequences? Have we as a society set the bar so low that we have to eat things just to prevent heart disease? Is heart disease now considered inevitable unless we fight against it? Our bodies don't naturally assume heart disease or even type II diabetes for that matter. We do all of the hard work ourselves to get there. 
     We will be much better off putting our energy into incorporating a healthy diet for a healthy lifestyle. Eating as a person in a "weight loss zone" trying to avoid obesity by drinking slim fast shakes and eating meal replacement bars is not the real solution. "Workout foods" are basically the bars and products which are manufactured by "south beach diet" or other large corporations that advertise through mediums such as food.  Why doesn't a banana have a label on it saying it's great for part of a post-work out snack? Or a piece of chicken that has a label about it's wonders in building lean body mass. It almost makes too much sense.
     Ok, so what's your first step when eating during your healthy life style? You have to work with your metabolism (the rate at which we burn food for energy). Your metabolism is sky high in the morning! As the day goes on the rate of our metabolism slows down... This means we burn calories from the food we eat at a slower rate. That being said, when is the best time to eat a bigger meal of the day? Oh, "In the morning" you say?!?! You guessed right (if you are wrong, just go along with it!), eating a bigger meal in the morning versus at night 
will allow our bodies to burn more calories efficiently. This results in a smaller chance of excess "un-burned" calories from our meal. This is wonderful because all of those un-burned calories turn into storage (a very nice way of saying fat). 
    The next thing to think about is eating small meals (that contain both protein and carbohydrates) around every 3 hours. Think of your metabolism as a bond fire. In order to keep the fire going you can't just throw a gigantic log in it, you have to consistently feed it small pieces of wood. The same thing goes for our meals, eating a really big meal, aka a gigantic log, slows the metabolism down. In order to keep our metabolisms burning at a faster rate we need to eat small meals so we can burn up those calories more efficiently. Consistent small meals also tell the body that it doesn't have to go into starvation mode and hold onto fat for survival. If you are one that waits every 6 or 7 hours to eat something, you are asking your body to store fat and prepare for starvation (it's like a self defense mechanism). 
    Now, as your body adapts to this and you begin to detail your goals and activity, your body is going to require a more specific nutrition routine. That's where all the fun starts! Good Luck!

wait!!.... and one more tip. Try the three hour rule. Every time you are about to eat a meal, ask yourself "What is my body doing in the next 3 hours?". If the answer is running a marathon, you may want to kick the calories up a little bit! However, if the answer is taking a nap followed by TV, dropping some of those calories may be best. Learning to eat in relation to our calorie expenditure can be very beneficial.

OK, Now Good Luck for real!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Who Knew Maps Can Help You Work Out?!?

Logging your workouts is a great way to measure your progress and plan for your future goals. I'm a big fan of writing down exercise routines in order to improve workout sessions. This works great in a gym environment because you can bring a pen and pad and go crazy logging in between sets. But what about when you exercise outside? I love running, and despite my injury at the moment, I always wanted to know how far each run was. Unlike a gym, I'm not going to bring a little notebook and log the details of my run while I'm in the middle of it. If I know where my mile markers are during my route I can see if I'm on pace or in need of readjustment.

Both myself and the Priority Fitness running group uses Map My Run to design a running route. This site is brilliant! To start, all you have to do is log in your coordinates (or just type your address). Once you are pinpointed on your map, click and drag the marker where ever you plan on running. The marker will document where you are running and also add up your mileage! Now you can actually know if that run in the park you've been doing for 10 years is the actual amount of miles you thought it was.

This site is extremely convenient if you want to stay on a certain pace. You can now identify the landmark of your "mile-markers". If you want to run an 8 minute mile, you'll know where you need to be every 8 minutes... Wonderful!

This site is also very useful if you are training for an event. Being that membership is free, you can create a personalized profile that saves all of your runs. Looking at your progress over the course of a whole training program is extremely beneficial. You can compare past training routines to new ones. This allows you to analyze your strong points and weak points. It can also help you understand how your body responds to different runs. The creativity is up to you!

... And for all of you cyclists and triathletes out there, these sites are just for you.. Map My Ride, Map My Tri

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Time Has Finally Come-- Your Park Workout!

Hey everybody, sorry about the "no-post" last week. Priority Fitness has had a very busy past couple of days. One of the reasons for being so busy is because we have started training outside in the wonderful weather of Prospect Park! The outdoors has been treating our running class great. We have been breezing through our training program and are psyched for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. The other outdoors workouts have been personal training sessions in the park . 

        It's been so uplifting to see the Prospect Park full of people again. Besides the trees and flowers getting ready to be in full bloom, we are too! In other words, more people are working out now and taking advantage of the outdoors. Picnics and BBQs are also an addition to nice weather, but how about a nice workout in the park before them?!?!

         I have designed a quick circuit training routine meant to be outside on some form of grass. The exercises require only  you and some effort.  Here are some links from one of my favorite websites Hyper Strike for the exercises.  The circuit is at the bottom of the page. 

Squat Thrusts

Jumping Jacks

Box Shuffles

Push Ups or Pike Press

Jumping Lunge (and with rotation)

Bear Crawl


Spider Crawl

Try each one of these exercises for either 45-90 seconds for 3-5 sets. The intensity is all based upon your effort and physical condition. Remember, every workout should be accompanied by a nice warmup, efficient cool down, and stretching.

Good Luck!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rob's Success- not a fluke

It has been an honor and a privilege to stand by Rob's side during his weight loss. To be honest, before his transformation, I was a little concerned for his health. Rob is an amazing person and there are many reasons why he is such a success, none of them being luck, fate, genetics, or a mistake.
Rob's first step toward his goal was understanding that he had to lose weight. He knew that it wasn't going to happen over night or even within a month. As soon as he decided to commit his energy to the long haul, he was ready to rock. Rob's decision to use Weight Watchers as a tool for guidance was very wise.
The "points" system of calorie counting is brilliant and still remains simple. However, rather than abusing the points system and just eating a big slice of chocolate cake for his entire daily caloric intake, Rob ate healthy! Every morning, he ate an egg white sandwich on whole wheat bread with buffalo!
His restaurant of choice is The Pump, a local health food restaurant chain that remains calorically conscious. Rob also did a wonderful job of eating frequent small meals which always contained protein and complex carbohydrates. This correct ratio of healthy nutrients allowed him to build healthy lean body mass. More lean body mass results in a faster metabolism. When he went out to dinner for a bigger meal, he ate a little less during the day. When it was a holiday, he would cut the points down gradually during the preceding days. He also just didn't eat a lot of unhealthy food when presented in front of him (trust me, there were some dinners we had where I walked out more proud of his eating than him!).
Now that he had a nutritionally strong foundation for weight loss, he was ready to build his routine for working out. Rob works a lot, he has a wonderful girlfriend, great friends (if I don't say so myself!), and a close family... Even with his busy life, he still made the time to go to the gym (even it requires waking up at 4:45 am to go to the gym before work!!). His consistent workout sessions frequenting around 3-4 times per week were plenty.
Rob says "In terms of my workouts, they consist of a great balance of aerobic and anaerobic activity. Some days I lift, others are focused around
plyometrics, but the thing that stays consistent is the level of activity. During my workouts I dont rest very much. My heart rate stays consistent at a fat burning rate throughout my workouts (aside from when I run to the gym and when I am jumping rope) and I think that has been a real key in my workouts.
I mentioned the jumprope earlier, and that has been my crutch for working out since last March. I look forward to jumping everytime I work out, and
at this point, according to my trainer, I am the best in the gym. It is fun, a great workout, and you can say the sky is the limit in terms of how good I
can be."
Rob's "Jump Rope" can be your "Jumping Jack" or "Push Up". Working out can be really enjoyable when you find an exercise to look forward to. There's
nothing wrong with a little competition to maintain motivation. I even loved mountain climbers for a while!
The last link to Rob's puzzle was, and still is, the most important. It represents Rob as a person and as a role model. Rob has surrounded himself with people who love and support him. It's a true test of character to look at the people who play key factors in your life. It's vital to incorporate the people that care about you into your life and what ever goals or challenges that may consist of it. Rob has an extremely supportive girlfriend- What's up Alissa!, a magnificent mother, excelent father, and really cool sisters! He even had a couple of good buddies that he reported his progress to (the updates rocked!)....Not every week was perfect though. There were some weeks where Rob even gained weight... But he never gave up.
If you are in the same situation as Rob was, or feel like you're in a rut, now may be a good time to not only analyze your workouts, but how you have been incorporating fitness into your life. Are you eating right? working out correctly? Do you have the right support? Are you willing to accept other people's support? Enough of this "I'm on the road solo" stuff. Find a system that works for you, and then allow the people who support you to stand by your side.
Rob back then Rob now!

Monday, April 13, 2009

It Starts With You

Guest blog by Rob Longert

--(Rob Longert is a great friend of mine and a fantastic supporter of Priority Fitness. We are truly proud to introduce him as the first person to write a guest blog. He has achieved so many amazing goals in his life. One of the achievements that stands out in my head is about his health. Here is his story about what he has done and what has helped him get there. Stay tuned for a follow up blog of other reasons why he was so successful!)

What happens when we take shortcuts in life? Chances are that whatever we skipped and got around will come back to haunt us at some point.

There are weight loss pills, drinks, diets and even some types of food that claim to make us skinny in a hurry to look like the people on the cover of a magazine… Are we that foolish as a society to believe them?

Living a healthy lifestyle comes down to two basic principals in my mind. Brace yourselves… diet and exercise. Complicated, right? WRONG!

A year and a half ago, I decided I had to change my lifestyle. To put it plainly, I gained a few pounds when I went to college. And by a few, I mean between 40 and 50. I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, my energy level was nowhere near what I knew I was capable of, and I reached a point in my life where being healthy was important to me.

On January 14, 2008, I went into the Weight Watchers by my office and joined as the first step to the new me. 15 months later, I am proud to say that I am 62 pounds lighter and in the best shape of my life.

Is the Weight Watchers program great? Yes. I recommend it to everyone who wants to reach “their healthy weight,” but it is really just an amazing starting point to living a healthy lifestyle. It helped me to become aware of what I was putting into my body, and from there, I started moving more.

It started with walks and jogs, and evolved into a training regimen of working out in some capacity, 3-4 times per week. It varied from working with a trainer, going to a variety of classes, running, and now that the weather is turning nice, working-out outside.

There is the ability in all of us to reach the goals we want to accomplish. When we reach those goals, it gives us the positive reinforcement we need to go ahead and reach other goals, but we need help. Help from the people around us and help from ourselves.

We work hard at our jobs and make sacrifices for our close friends and family, but we cannot forget our minds and bodies. We need the will do something for ourselves too.

It was that realization that helped me achieve a healthy lifestyle and feel in shape. Not any pills or drinks or crazy diets. I worked hard at diet and exercise and didn’t take any shortcuts. Now I am in a position, psychologically and physically, to reach the next level… constant maintenance.

Want to know the best part after all this time? Achieving a healthy lifestyle can be a metaphor for the way we live our lives. Work hard and good things will come to you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Limiting Factor

Why is it that sometimes we settle for less? Why do we view others as “lucky” or just “born that way”? When it comes to our bodies, our lifestyles, motivation, or just fitness in general, why do we allow ourselves to settle for the bottom of the barrel? Well, it doesn't have to be that way.
If you Google 20 minute workouts, you will see a never ending list of routines that swear you will lose all the fat and gain all the muscle you want if done four times a week (despite the infamous “**results may vary**” small text). Do the same Google search for 10 minute workouts… then for 5 minute workouts. Same thing!! What does this message send to us? Is it really OK to rely on just 20 minutes (let alone 10 or 5 minutes) of activity a few times a week for our total health and well being?
It isn’t a coincidence that the Fitness Industry brings in billions of dollars every year, yet America is still obese!! We shouldn’t be allowing industries that profit on people being overweight to set our standards. Is 20 minutes of physical activity, a few times a week acceptable, especially if you have significant goals to reach? NO! It is not. Fad-diets count toe-tapping as activity! Working out for 20 minutes isn’t nearly enough time for our bodies to warm up, train, cool down, and stretch - which are all vital complements to a complete training routine. A complete resistance training session should last as long as your glycogen storage, which is typically 45- 60 minutes. Cardio sessions don't even put you into a fat burning zone until after the first 10 -15 minutes.
Our bodies were meant to move. Studies have shown that we live longer, sleep better, reduce stress, and even release endorphins! There is a reason why our bodies only respond positively to exercise… We were meant to do it, and the more frequent, the better. It should be a number one priority in our lives. Not because we are selfish- More importantly, how can we help or better others around us, if we can’t even take care of ourselves?
This doesn’t mean that we should all look like supermodels and workout like super athletes. I believe it’s very important to stay clear of outside pressures (magazines, celebrities, etc.) to get in shape and feel good. I also feel it’s imperative to be secure with your body and yourself. However, I don’t think it’s ok to be secure with being clinically overweight or obese. It’s unhealthy and sets a scary standard of living for children (Type 2 Diabetes is no longer called Adult-onset Diabetes!)
I’ve been fortunate to be the co-owner of a wonderful personal training studio. Not because of myself or my partner. It’s because of our clients, friends and community supporting it. They are amazing, inspiring, and humbling. The first thing we tell a new client is that “this isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to be tough, and sometimes even grueling. But you’ll do it. And when you’ve reached your goal, you will have the privilege of looking back at all of your accomplishments and know that you earned each and everyone of them”. A good friend of mine (Rob Longert, who just lost 60 lbs and will be guest blogging shortly!!) loves to use this quote from our high school lacrosse coach. “Bricks are a dime a dozen, but pillars stand few and far between… Which one are you?”
So stay away from the media, fad-diets, and corny workout schemes… Be that pillar you deserve to be and stand tall.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Simple Carbs-they just aren't that simple any more...

During this past week, I have had a couple of opportunities to explain the importance and crucial benefits of a post-workout meal. I know this stuff can sound boring and “post work-out meal” sounds like a body builder bragging about how many pounds of chicken he can eat.  But that really isn’t the case. Whether you just benched 450 lbs, jumped rope for an hour, or put yourself through a hardcore Pilates class, your post-work out meal is still vital for your body to recover. It can also make your following workout feel more energized too!

Most people will touch upon protein after a workout and how important it is for you. That’s totally true. Your body should build more muscle than it breaks down. But what about replenishing your body’s main energy stores? If your body uses glycogen (stored form of carbohydrates found in the liver and muscle) for energy, what happens when there isn’t any to gather for exercise? 

            That’s a great question! Well, in terms of workouts that are primarily one hour long, intense (more anaerobic), and not long distance cardio, our body will start breaking down protein if there isn’t any glycogen available. This is BAD. The more muscle we have, the more calories we burn sleeping (let alone actually working out!). It’s not worth it to “donate” muscle (lean body mass) that we have worked so hard to develop. The best way to replenish and gradually increase our energy stores for carbohydrates is by eating them after a workout.  If this is done right, your body will have carbohydrates to utilize for your next workout. You’ll now have more energy and can also prevent your body from using protein for energy.

        The best way to do this right is to eat simple carbohydrates (along with protein and complex carbs) after a workout. The quick acting sugars in simple carbohydrates don’t take a long time to digest. This means that your body can send those sugars straight into glycogen storage and prepare you for your next training session. There’s actually a 30 minute “window of opportunity” to eat these sugars and maximize your energy stores.

Some good simple carbohydrates to ingest are fruit juices, sports drinks, bananas, honey, carrots, watermelon, raisins, and other things that are sweet and don’t contain a whole lot of fiber.

This isn’t just for hardcore people who workout. If you workout for an hour and are pretty tired, this is for you! The whole point of the post-workout meal is to allow your body to utilize the right nutrients for working out. This will help you recover more and build more lean body mass. The more lean body mass we have, the faster our metabolism is… and we all know that’s a good thing.


So… What are you eating? Any good post-workout meal ideas? What’s been working well for you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Are You Morphing Into?? Actually...What Type of Morph Are You?

Have you ever heard of somebody who “eats a carrot and gains 10lbs”, or lifts a weight and is now competing for Mr Universe? Well, those statements aren’t exactly true, but there is a lot of significance behind them.
Identifying your body type can help you understand how your body responds to different types of exercise. There are three main categories of body types; Ectomorph, Endomorph, and Mesomorph. (I know… they all sound straight from a comic book or something)

The ectomorph is the typical “hard gainer”. Generally, they are very slender and tall. Their muscles are light and their shoulders are rather small. It takes loads of work for a person like this to gain a lot of muscle mass.

The endomorph is the second body type. These people have a “soft” body. A lot of work is required to lose weight, their hips are broad, and their overall physique is more round.

The third type is the mesomorph. Mesomorphs are naturally more muscular than all the others. Men have broader shoulders, and women have an “hourglass” figure. It is the easiest for these people to gain muscle mass and still stay leaner than the endomorph. The majority of professional body builders are mesomorphs.

        The Ectomorphs                                           


         The Endomorphs      


      The Mesomorphs


We also don’t have to fall into just one category. There are many combinations of these three categories such as ecto mesomorphs, or endo mesomorphs.

Ok….So what does this all mean?

Well.. for one thing, we now know that if a mesomorph and an ectomorph (who are the same weight, height, body fat percentage, etc), follow an identical workout routine, which one will gain more muscle. Conversely, we will also know which one will get skinnier if they follow an identical weight loss routine.

How does this affect you?

It comes down to you knowing your body.
What are you?
Meso, Ecto, or Endo? Or which combination of the three?
Once you figure that out, we can weigh the variables. If you are an endomorph that wants to lose body fat, it may be harder than the ectomorph running on the treadmill next to you. Don’t be discouraged.. just understand how your body naturally responds to exercise.
If you are an ectomorph that strictly wants to add some lean body mass, you are going to have to work harder than the mesomorph benchpressing right next to you. You may even want to cut down on the cardio. None of your goals should be compromised based on your body type.. the only thing that needs to change is the type (and intensity) of the training.

What all of this really means is that you have to be in touch with your body. You know best how your body responds to different forms of exercise. Sometimes if you have specific goals, your work outs may require a little bit of homework.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's getting nice out, let's workout! and stretch??

So the main buzz of this past week has been warmer weather and that we’re all ready for more of it! One of the beauties of nice weather is everyone’s attitude toward outdoor exercise. It’s so refreshing to see the loads of people running, biking, and walking outside.
Since most of us are increasing our activity, it's safe to ask are we also increasing our stretching?
Stretching (especially to the infamous weekend warrior) is crucial for injury prevention and post-workout muscle soreness. It’s the key to longevity in our lives of activity. It reduces muscle tension, increases joint mobility, and improves circulation. Neglecting a good stretch routine can lead to injury and can also compromise your tendons and ligaments. Lack of flexibility can also hinder your performance while working out.
Here is a list of some stretches geared toward the mid/lower body. Make sure to stretch your muscles when they are warm. Try a 5-10 min warm-up first. After you exercise, take your time and perform each stretch for 20-30 seconds at least two times.

Quad & Hip Flexor

Stand on one foot, and hold the other foot with the opposite hand. Raise the heel of the lifted foot to the buttocks (or as close as you can without pain), stretching your quadriceps and hip flexor. Keep your body upright throughout. Switch legs and repeat.


Lie down with one leg straight up in the air, the other bent on the ground. Loop a towel over the arch of the lifted foot, and gently pull on the towel toward you. Direct your knee toward your shoulder and try to keep the leg straight without locking it out. Switch legs and repeat.


Seated, put the soles of your feet together. With your elbows on the inside of your knees, gradually lean forward (try to keep your back straight) and press your knees toward the ground.


Lie flat on your back and, with your feet on the ground, lift your hips up until your body forms a flat plane. Repeat this to stretch your quads and lower back.

Hamstring and Lower Back

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Bring your shins to your chest to stretch your hamstrings and lower back.

Hip & Lower Back

Sit on the ground and cross your legs. Lift your right leg and cross it over the left (keep the right leg bent). Hug your right leg to the chest and twist the trunk of your body. Try to look over your right shoulder (if you can, cross your left arm over your right leg). Switch legs and arms and repeat.

Ok, so everybody should be good to go! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let us know. Stay tuned for more tips!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

This Week in Health

I have stumbled across a couple of interesting articles while surfing the internet this week. Why not share them?!?
Please feel free to check them out. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them. The only article I personally have issues with is the one on the bottom that I titled "I have issues with this article!!". If anybody has also found some cool articles, it would be great if you could share them. Thanks!

Permanent Weight Loss Tips

Absolutely Awesome

Portion Control

Excellent Q & A on blood sugar and exercise

I have issues with this article!!
- This study does not incorporate any exercise or body fat percentage measuring. Dieting just based on calorie content can result negatively. One example is the loss of lean body mass. The less we have, the lower our basal metabolic rate is!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Keeping the Workouts Going

Consistency may be the most vital part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are so many excuses we can give ourselves each day to not work out. I hate to say it, but most of those excuses are the result of us being lazy and not prioritizing the time in our day. However, for the days when "something comes up"  and the time budgeted for the gym is lost, that doesn't mean you have to give up on physical activity all together. Here is a quick routine that can be done at home, no weights, no machines, just you... and maybe some good music.

The circuit should take any where from 5 - 8 minutes. If you would like a more advanced challenge, try each exercise for the longer duration provided. These exercises require the body to work in full. There is an emphasis on core, and the idea is to get your heart rate up by executing each exercise quick with only 15-30 seconds rest in between.

It is recommended to do each circuit 3 times, but feel free to do more!!! It all depends on your schedule.

Remember.. the goal is to keep your body moving. Not every workout is going to be a killer, and conversely, they aren't always going to be easy. It's more important that your body is physically challenged throughout your week and life. Any workout is better than no workout!!

At Home Routine

plank 30-60 sec
bridges- 30-60 sec
mountain climbers- 45-90 sec
jumping jacks- 90 - 120 sec
bicycle kicks- 45- 60 sec
superman- 30 - 45 sec
pushups - 45- 60 sec



Mountain Climbers

Bicycle Kicks

Jumping Jacks


If you have any questions about the routine or want some more at-home exercises feel free top post a comment or email us at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Year Reso-huh?

It's been over 6 weeks since most of us have decided to change our old habits, adapt new ones, and transition the year of 2009 into a new beginning. The gyms were packed, the effort was through the roof, the plan was in action. Our ambition was inspiring, unfortunately it was also unrealistic. That brings us to today. The local Y has slowed down, the cardio machines in gyms aren’t as packed, and the winter hibernation is in effect until warmer weather.

Why did we stop?!? Maybe it’s because living a healthy lifestyle is not a sprint… It’s a long distance race that requires gradual increases in intensity and duration. Every step forward should be manageable and realistic. Most New Year resolutions consist of such harsh lifestyle changes, that they turn into “resolution sprints”. Typically, the end result is burning ourselves out as we drop everything dissatisfied.

It’s not too late to hop back in the saddle! Give yourself a quick flashback of how you felt Jan 1. What were your goals? Was it working out 5 days a week? Eating 5-6 small meals a day? Most importantly, think about the result of your goal. Maybe intensifying your workout sessions will help you get that 6-pack you always wanted. Perhaps increasing your meal frequency will help you lose the 10 lbs that has been haunting you for the past 3 years. Think about the big picture and make that your new “resolution”. Want to gain some muscle? If you’re working out only 2 times a week, set a date to add a 3rd time. Once that is manageable, set a new date for a 4th time. Maybe you’ll make it to your original New Year resolution of training 5 days a week. Even if you don’t, you’ll still be taking steps forward (rather than an original leap that was unreachable!). Instead of waiting for the summer or spring to exercise or eat right, you will be more active and can continue the consistent lifestyle changes that are already in progress.

So try this new technique out. Make a backwards calendar. Start with your desired goal and write down (on paper!) a realistic date of when you want to accomplish it. Now you can start working backwards by setting more dates of smaller goals that will help reach your initial one. Does it make sense? Is it realistic? Be honest with yourself and double check to see if the progression is at the right rate for you. It doesn’t matter if your final goal takes weeks or months. As long as you are doing something and are taking strives toward where you want to be…. it’s worth it. There’s an old quote that somebody once told me. “It means nothing unless we act upon it”. Think about it. Make this year’s goal worth something….

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Welcome to the first Priority Fitness Blog- Benjamin Kessel, Co-Founder

Welcome to my first blog! On behalf of myself and Priority Fitness, the objective of these posts is not to reinvent the wheel of fitness. Today, fitness is such a strong element in our lives, and is represented (or misrepresented) in the media through supplements, fad diets, "health" magazines, and so much more. Some of that stuff is great, however, there are plenty of things that I, as a trainer, find myself questioning... Why not write blogs about it?!? I hope that everybody who reads this blog (and the many more to come!) can look at fitness in a different light... maybe even learn some cool new things too. I encourage as much feedback as possible. This blog is for everybody, so feel free to follow up!