Thursday, December 16, 2010

Run Through The Cold

During the holiday season, Americans tend to gain substantial amounts of weight. " Holiday" weight gain can be the result of many things. One factor is poor nutrition. It seems that everyone has 4 holiday parties to go to a night, despite their own family festivities, which are full of sweets, rich food, and alcohol.

Another factor for this seasonal weight gain is due to a decrease in activity. When the weather is brutally cold (or just not comfortable), people tend to stay inside more. This means that the seasonal outdoor athlete isn't engaging in any activity. The runner who trains when it's nice outside is now hibernating! When pairing an unhealthy diet with a lack in physical activity, the result is unhealthy weight gain and a decrease in metabolism.

One way to prevent weight gain and (most importantly) stay fit, is to keep the fitness consistent. Running outside actually isn't that bad once you are moving. If you are the type of person to wake up and go for a run before work, don't let the weather hold you back. Here are some great articles to help you keep the momentum going.

warming up and cooling down

Good Luck!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Government Wants You To Get Fat!

Hello All!

Often I find myself wondering about the roll the government plays in the food that we eat. This article from the NY Times helps me understand it just a little bit more. I try not to incorporate politics into the Priority Fitness blog, but when it effects our health and well being, something has to be said.

It's a shame when the government puts more energy into protecting itself and its entities than actually helping the public. In this article from the Times, you will read about how "Dairy Management" (a creation of the United States Department of Agriculture) is supporting Domino's Pizza by paying $12 million in a new marketing campaign. Unfortunately that campaign is about the 40% increase of full-fat cheese on their pizza. This is the same slice of pizza that already covers two thirds of your daily recommended allowance of saturated fat (which when overeaten is linked to heart disease). Isn't it ironic that the same government organization that claims to "fight" heart disease is also supporting some of the leading causes?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How To Weigh Calories

There is a lot more to weight loss than just counting calories. The standard concept of maintaining a daily deficit of calories ingested vs calories expended is currently being challenged. An article from the BBC ( focuses on other factors to keep in mind while trying to lose weight.

Certain components of food such as fiber and protein require the body to expend more energy during digestion. This process results in a higher net calorie expenditure (when compared to food of equal calories with less protein and fiber). A higher net calorie expenditure, in this case, means that your body burns more calories digesting food with protein and fiber when compared to food of equal calories that lack both protein and fiber. If you burn more calories digesting certain foods, you may end up with a larger calorie deficit. The greater the calorie deficit, the more weight you lose. If you eat at a daily caloric deficit of 500 calories for a week, the total loss will be 3500 calories, which is worth 1 pound of fat. Is it now possible to choose your food based on how many calories of energy it takes to digest?

Besides picking certain foods, another factor is chewing! The more you chew, the more energy you expend. Give your body a workout to digest food! Even though the calories required to chew are minimal, it still is a factor.

So, the debate of traditional calorie counting vs choosing high quality foods ends like this- “You can gain weight over eating healthy food. You can also hinder your metabolism and really hurt yourself if you only chose to eat foods based on the amount of calories they contain”. I just quoted myself....

If you eat with a “calorie conscious” attitude and pay attention to sensible portion sizes, you’re going to be A-OK.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How To Push Past The Pain

The article (linked below) in the NY Times focuses on elite athletes. It goes into depth about the physical (muscle) pain that must be endured during training and competition in order to succeed in competitive sports. The most significant point in the article is that these elite athletes are not exempt from the excruciating pain of hard physical training: they simply learn to accept this feeling. They understand that training under grueling conditions is just a step forward in the path to success. Pain is no longer an indication to rest, rather it is a feeling that actually triggers athletes to work harder.

The act of working harder when feeling pain draws the line between most people who see results and most who don’t. This “pain” also refers to emotional discomfort as well as the muscular toll of either a strict training or dieting regimen. It’s extremely difficult to be challenged yet still maintain enough discipline to overcome what’s in the way.

If you want to reach a goal or be in shape it helps to accept that it is going to be really hard! Allowing yourself to endure pain (whether it be mental or physical) will prevent that first instinct to give up when something becomes difficult. If you really think about goals, isn’t the whole point of it to challenge yourself? When someone loses 100lbs or runs their first marathon, are they going to say it was easy? I doubt it! And that’s ok. It separates the strong from the weak. It explains why the percentage of marathon runners and successful dieters in the world are the minority. But that doesn’t mean that who ever is in the “majority” is stuck there.

So, the next time you decide to embark on a new challenge, ask yourself- “Are you ready for this? Are you ready to do something that is going to be hard, yet still keep on pushing?”

Perhaps understanding what a challenge consist of is will help prepare you.

Fantastic quote from the article

“Can you train yourself to run, cycle, swim or do another sport at the edge of your body’s limits, or is that something that a few are born with, part of what makes them elites?

Sports doctors who have looked into the question say that, at the very least, most people could do a lot better if they knew what it took to do their best.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lose Weight To Actually Keep It Off.... Crazy!!

"Slow and steady wins the race" in the battle of the Tortoise and Hare. The tortoise wins because, clinically speaking, the hare burns too much muscle mass during his poorly fueled sprint. He burns himself out while the tortoise methodically takes steps forward by racing at a speed that is realistic for him. This children’s story, through the eyes of a creative (or twisted) personal trainer, can offer dieters wisdom in how they approach their own weight loss program.

An Article for "Runners" To Lose Weight Slowly

I posted a link to the article above because it stands out amongst others due to the comparison made between a "dieter's" strategy to lose weight and a "runner's" strategy to lose weight. The "dieter's" weight loss goal is to drop pounds fast and focus on short-term goals. This method is much like the hare’s: impatient and hasty. However, like the tortoise, the "runner's" idea of losing weight is to drop pounds slowly and then focus on a "postloss plan". Postloss plans are simple. The main requirement is to be aware of what you are doing to your body. Too frequently do I see people reach their goal and then unfortunately let their guard down to the point where they take steps backwards.
Very seldomly do I read a weight loss article that focuses on long-term goals and how to maintain a goal once it is reached. It is important to demystify fad/speed diets because research shows that the majority of dieters are yo-yo dieters who reach their short-term goals by engaging in some sort of drastic behavior and then gain it right back! Anyone can lose weight, but few can keep it off. Although most people on a weight loss plan hope to see huge and rapid changes on the scale, losing weight slower and healthier will absolutely help keep weight off. The more realistic someone's lifestyle is while they lose weight, the easier it is to maintain weight loss.

The moral of the story is: if you are on a weight loss plan, you should consider if your priority is to lose a lot of weight very quickly, or to be patient like the tortoise and win the race in the end.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's Great To Be Back!

Hello all!

The Priority Fitness blog is back! Thanks for making it through the rest of the Summer without us!

I wanted to make sure that our first blog of the season is posted before October is over for a few important reasons. The first reason is that the NYC Marathon is creeping up and there are very important tips that we plan on sharing in the near future. The second reason, which we shall dive into right now, is the significance of October and your long term training routines.

October is the silence before the big storm. You may be asking "what storm?", NY just had a horrendous storm two days ago! Well, that's a valid question... The storm I'm referring to is the "Holiday Storm"- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, etc. These are the holidays where so many of us (well, hopefully not us) eat and drink whatever we want, yet constantly rationalize our actions by saying "this is all going to stop at New Years!" and then gain 7-10 pounds... What a toll that puts on our bodies! To top it off, a lot of us follow this cycle but then do not even lose all of the weight later in the year. If you are trying to pack on pounds progressively through out the years, you have found the secret.

But why not avoid the unnecessary weight gain? Wouldn't it feel great to actually start the Spring season already in shape? It's very possible. For most of us, it just means to keep on doing what we are doing. If we are already working out, keep it up. The key to not getting sidetracked is to write out weekly plans for your workouts through out the holiday season. This will put so much in perspective. It will be the difference between skipping a workout to eat leftovers and going our for a long run. The key is to keep your workouts a priority and to not let the holiday meals and parties consume you (even though we are probably the ones who would be doing most of the consuming). If you want to, or are already working out 4-5 times a week, write down the days you want to do it during the holidays. Just because Thanksgiving weekend lasts 4 days, it doesn't mean that you need to skip 4 days of exercising. You can even plan to run a Turkey Trot the morning of Thanksgiving, which is a great way to fire up your metabolism for the rest of the day.

Practicing your Fall/Winter workout routine now will be a great experience for you to perfect it when the Holiday Storm hits.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gonna Make You Sweat!

Many thanks to OVERFLOW Magazine, a fantastic local South Brooklyn magazine, for collaborating on a new Fitness article. Feel free to check out the magazine around town and click the link to read the article. Enjoy!

Gonna Make You Sweat in Park Slope – A Priority


Friday, July 9, 2010

Endurance To The Max

If I were asked to pick a few sports that challenge muscle endurance the most, it is very likely for soccer and distance cycling to be in the top 5. As I’m sure you know, the World Cup has been going on for the past couple of weeks and is now entering the final round of competition. What some of you may not know, is that the Tour De France is also currently in progress.

Both sports are incredibly inspiring to watch. One of the things that I first noticed is that none of these athletes ever stop moving! This is a true test of endurance. Preventing your body from standing still is a lot harder than it sounds. Unlike Sprinters (who run as fast as they can, stop, and then run again), endurance athletes engage specific muscle fibers that specialize in lasting longer, fatiguing slower, and constant movement. These fibers are slow twitch (type 1) muscle fibers which are a lot leaner and longer in comparison to the average fiber types of a body builder or wrestler (who mostly have fast twitch, type 2 muscle fibers).

Endurance athletes also have to eat the right ratio of nutrients (which keep them lean) to maximize performance. The typical endurance athlete follows a diet roughly comprised of 65% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 20% fat. This is much different than a body builder’s diet which can be 55% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 20% Fat. Endurance training requires more carbohydrates and less protein than many other sports. The extra carbohydrates supply endurance athletes with a good deal of energy to assist in their long distance/duration races. The smaller doses of protein allow the athletes to move more efficiently. The more excess muscle an endurance athlete has, the more they have to work to move around. Think of the difference between a car (endurance athlete) and a truck (sprinter). Which one uses more gas? The truck uses a whole lot more! Same concept applies for endurance sports. Who wants to travel across the country in an 18-wheeler when you have a hybrid car in your garage?!?

So, if you are interested in seeing some world class endurance athletes, check out the World Cup final game this Sunday and watch the Tour De France for the next 3 weeks! Notice how those athletes are built and move differently than those who play other typically American sports such as football. And keep in mind, although it takes training and resilience, perhaps endurance training is the new sport for you!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rob Is Back!!

And now he has his own blog. For those of you who don't remember Rob, his weight loss is a true success. Besides being a great friend, he is truly an inspiration. Rob lost 60 lbs by eating right, working out, and never giving up. He took his time (2 years) and lost weight the right way, the healthy way. He did what all fitness professionals want their clients to do. Here is a link to his story and new blog. I also pasted a recent blog that he posted. Enjoy!!

An Inspirational Sunday Run In The Park

As my seventh of nine qualifying runs for the 2011 New York City Marathon, I chose to run theAchilles International Hope & Possibility 5 Mile Run/Walk.

The run yesterday was like any other Sunday run except for one thing…

The people running the race were a lot more harcore than usual.

“Every day, in parks, gyms, and tracks all over the world, Achilles provides athletes with disabilities with a community of support.”

Except today, the community of support were the runners and onlookers in Central Park. The run inspired me and many of my fellow runners and I cant think of a better reason to get up early on a Sunday and exercise.

Check out some other awesome pics, below.

More than 6,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair racers participated in Sunday’s race.

I remember passing by this woman early in the race and saw her face light up when a few of us cheered her on, and she repaid the favor when she crossed the finish line and all of us were glowing.

Now he was working hard up the hills. Saw him in action and at the finish, as well.

Now that’s doin’ work.

¡Viva Ecuador!

This is my favorite image of the bunch. Look at the happiness and accomplishment on her face.

“The Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans program brings running programs and marathon opportunities to disabled veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.” I only had one thing to say them and that was “thank you.”

More than anything else, the children that participated in the race were the stars of the show. Talk about New York’s Finest… these children give ther term a new definition.

When we think about the enormous emotional benefits from working out, they are multiplied ten fold when we can do good for others too.

Being there, cheering on and running with the members of the Achilles made the eight miles I ran on Sunday seem like a miniscule accomplishment, and that is just fine with me.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Summer Drinks Aren't Here To Help!

As we approach Summer the weather begins to warm up and we all tend to stay outside more to enjoy the long sunny days. One of the first changes in how I react to the Summer is that I notice how much I yearn for fluid to keep myself hydrated.

When the body sweats more, it requires more fluids to maintain hydration. Even if you don't work out, there's no stopping sweat. From a "calorically conscious" perspective (I think I just made up a new term!) it is easy to over-ingest in calories with high sugar drinks. Summer drinks such as lemonade, iced tea, pina coladas, and even juice are examples of unnecessary drinks that are not crucial for hydration. Although it may feel refreshing to drink a large glass of lemonade, there is a potential of adding 250 calories of refined sugar carbohydrates to your diet. Drink that a couple times a week and see how many extra calories add up in a month!

A healthy alternative to high sugar drinks is water! Water is the source of life and will hydrate the body when needed. Now, if your body has depleted itself of carbohydrates (usually when you haven't eaten or drank anything in over 3 hours) then grab a piece of fruit. Fruit is superior to any type of summer drink. Fruit has natural sugars, micro-nutrients, and contains healthy fiber. Most have no natural sugars, very little micro-nutrients, and they are stripped of all their fiber.

A great rule of thumb to live by. I heard this quote in person. "Whatever is man made, isn't meant for man!" -
Jack Lalane

In this case, "man made" refers to refined "over-sugared" drinks.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Is It Okay To Be Fat?

--Debut post from Priority Fitness Co-Founder, Chris Maiurro--

Recently, ABC hosted a controversial program called Face Off; a news "debate" (and I use this word lightly) about the issue of weight in America. This, in addition to fervor created by famous directors (Kevin Smith) buying dual seats on flights, Jaimie Oliver's Food Revolution, The Biggest Loser, our constant obsession with fad dieting, and the now obvious health effects that over weight Americans are experiencing makes this an idea worth considering: is it okay to be fat?

The show, which I encourage you to see for yourself
(ABC News), is not exactly the best forum in which to discuss such a serious matter. The panel consists of four oppositional participants with a moderator, and in typical TV fashion the discussion deteriorates rather quickly into "clucking". A strong debate would have had more point/counter-point opportunities, and panelists with better credentials than "plus-sized super model", but they all had personal experiences with weight related issues and in all seriousness that does count for a lot. There is an actual doctor in the audience that they call on occasionally to clear up some facts. He is Dr. Richard Besser (former acting director of the Center for Disease Control - so I figure he knows a thing or two) and it's sort of fun to watch him correct the ignorance of those on stage. That being said, this post is not necessarily a critique for ABC's producers, so on to the real matters. The show does manage to touch on some of the highlights of the controversy: health, insurance costs, and personal and societal value of the fit person vs. the overweight person.

I can say, from a less strict "fitness" perspective (we are trainers, but humans also after all) that it is not a question of "okay". When a client comes to us with a goal we help them understand what is necessary to reach that objective and point out to them that their notion of a goal may be limited by their current circumstance. We take all that information and formulate a plan always with the understanding that they are the one's steering the ship..."okay" is not a factor. Our clients are almost always adults. They can do what they please. If they feel fine, physically, carrying extra body weight in the form of fat, if they aren't troubled by the potential increase in risk factors related to weight, if their personal ambitions don't extend to fitting into a certain size jeans, who are any of us to say otherwise?

However, as trainers our ultimate goal for our clients physiologically speaking, ignoring all the other pieces to the puzzle (the client's own self worth, their relationship to food, their partner's opinion, and the worst...their mother's opinion) is to make them as lean and muscular as possible. A lean, Muscular body is one that performs well, isn't limited in what it can do, and is resistant to disease and deterioration compared, on average, to a fat body (every case is different, but the statistics bear this out).

So the question then is, what isn't okay? This is one that can't be addressed without heaps of personal opinion, but as this is a blog and not a UN doctrine, I suppose I will hazard a response: If you are hurting those around you because of your weight by, for example, dying early and depriving them of that time with you, by creating an environment where they are encouraged to also over eat and not exercise (parent/child, romantic partnership, etc.), or by taking advantage of an already out of control and stressed health care system because of your weight- I would say that these circumstances are not okay. If you are starving yourself to fit into a size 2 or comfort eating because you never will, neither of those things are okay. If you are participating in over consumption on any level (food, land, personal wealth, fossil fuels, or resources of any kind) that is not okay.

We all have different sized and shaped bodies. They all have the potential to be fit and strong and beautiful....and guaranteed they will all look different. Isn't that a good thing?

Thanks for reading the rant.

Oh, and one other thing that isn't okay....if you are a multinational food conglomerate hell bent on profit at any cost, even the lives of the American Public, to the point that you will over process and corn syrup infuse anything and everything, then that also is not okay.

And one more thing: even though I shouted him out in the beginning, I adore Kevin Smith and think he is one of the best film makers/ comic writers ever (especially to come out of Jersey...hey I'm from there too)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Cross-training Rationale, For You....

Yes, we all agree that even the term "Cross-training" sounds cool. Well, maybe that's just me, but that shouldn't discredit its vitality towards a balanced work out routine. Cross-training is defined as training in different ways to improve overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of each training method, while at the same time attempting to neglect the shortcomings of that method by combining it with other methods that address its weaknesses.

For the individual who seeks an increased rate of metabolism, reduction in body fat, increased strength and endurance, cross-training may very well be the training style for you. In order to cross-train, you have to workout in a variety of activities that require the body to be conditioned both aerobically and anaerobically. In other words, if you are just doing cardio or if you are just training anaerobically, you aren't cross-training. If you were compelled to run one day, lift weights another day, sprint the day after that, and then swim or bike later in the week, you would absolutely be cross-training!

Before I go in depth about the body's response to cross-training, let's first understand how the body responds to consistent exercise that doesn't vary in activity. For example, a jogger who's only exercise is jogging has a goal of losing body fat and increasing muscle. If this person goes out for a 45 min run 4 times a week, eats perfect, and even gradually gets faster, do you think he/she will reach their goal? I'll answer it for you... the answer is NO. The problem with just relying on running is the inevitable loss of Lean Body Mass. Yes, even though Body Fat will decrease, so will LBM. Unfortunately for this instance, the more LBM the body has, the faster the rate of metabolism (or BMR). So, not only will this person lose muscle, they obviously won't gain muscle as well. This can be dangerous if there is a break or decrease in physical activity because the "acquired" lack of muscle will result in a daily caloric requirement that is fairly low. So, if this person doesn't track their diet like a hawk, fat will probably be gained due to over eating.
This scenario also works vice-versa for a person who doesn't do any cardio, only lifts weights, wants to gain muscle, and also has a goal to drop a whole lot of body fat. Since anaerobic training primarily breaks down carbohydrates (not fat) for energy, this person is already in a disadvantage to burn fat. The second disadvantage is that in order to gain muscle, your body has to take in more calories than it burns per day (also called a positive calorie diet). In order to lose fat, your body has to take in less calories than it burns per day (negative calorie diet). Well, if you can't burn fat for energy because you aren't engaging in aerobic activity (aka fat burning exercise), you're going to have a problem! Now, some may ask what if you take in less calories than you burn per day and only engage in anaerobic activity (resistance training)? Great question! This can put you into a state of catabolism where you will be breaking down LBM for energy in order to build LBM, a vicious cycle.....

So, what are the benefits of cross-training, you ask? Another great question! Thank you. Cross-training allows your body to burn fat some days, gain muscle other days, and then go crazy and do both if you engage in interval training. The benefits of cross-training also prevent your body from the notorious plateau. Maintaining consistency in different exercises, movements, frequencies, and intensities will always give the body reasons to strengthen different muscles, adapt to different movements, and keep working in progress. Not working with OUT progress. Cross training allows you to strengthen your heart in two ways. Aerobically, you will be able to increase the size of the heart. Anaerobically, you will be able to strengthen the muscle walls of the heart. This will result in a lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, higher VO2 max and more!!

If you aren't training for a marathon, power lifting competition, or any other specific sport, try cross-training. Mix it up! Do cardio one day, go for some plyo's another day, and hit the bike for hills and sprints later in the week!

An example of a cross-training week:

Monday- Run 60 min
Tuesday- Weight Training 55 min
Wednesday- Rest
Thursday- Swim 45 min
Friday- Plyometrics and sprints 45 min
Saturday- Pick a sport
Sunday- Rest

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Understand Your Fat!

Fat is a very interesting nutrient. It's amazing how we have been taught to avoid it at all costs. Even when you turn on the TV, you are bombarded by commercials that equate fat to the plague.

Fat, like all other nutrients, has a very important role in a balanced diet. Unfortunately, a diet that is high in fat can lead to severe health complications which result in death. This is scary, and should not be touched upon lightly. The over consumption of fat in America is an epidemic, except that consuming fat is voluntary and easily moderated with the proper knowledge.

Fat is vital for a number of reasons, such as: our cell walls require fat , our organs use fat as a cushion from impact, fat is used to insulate ourselves from the cold, and much more. In reference to physical activity, fat is used for long term energy. A great comparison for the use of fat is like that between two runners. One runner is a sprinter and the other runs marathons. A sprinter engages in anaerobic activity, which does not require oxygen intake. Conversely, a marathon runner engages in aerobic activity, which requires oxygen intake. Since the utilization of fat requires oxygen, and the utilization of carbohydrates does not require oxygen, the marathon runner uses fat for energy. On the other hand, a sprinter uses a stored form of carbohydrates called glycogen, which does not require oxygen. If you think about it, a sprinter can literally sprint a 20-yard dash and hold his/her breath. Although I would not recommend it, it's true. A marathoner on the other hand can absolutely not run a marathon and hold his/her breath. Since carbohydrate stores only last about 45-50 min during physical activity, fat becomes the main source of energy.

Fat also slows down the metabolic absorption of nutrients. In other words, if you eat a lot of fat, your body will take a longer time to absorb nutrients when compared to not eating a lot of fat. This issue can complicate pre and especially post workout meals. A high fat meal before a typical gym workout is not recommended because your body will not have enough time to metabolize it all. Your body will benefit from a pre-workout meal that is high in complex carbohydrates and moderate in protein around 2 hours before exercise.

High fat meals as a form of post-workout nutrition are not beneficial because your body is starving for quick acting simple sugars to replenish glycogen stores and for protein to rebuild muscle that has just been broken down. Eating a lot of fat after a workout will compromise the absorption of vital carbohydrates and protein.

Fat (and I mean healthy unsaturated fat) is best to eat in the middle of the day or at least a meal before or after a pre/post workout meal. Use fat to your advantage! It's very filling and keeps us satiated. Having fat (such as peanut butter) during a mid-meal snack is awesome because you don't have to eat a lot of it and it will keep you full until your next meal. Just be aware that it is difficult to regulate fat intake and it is over twice as hard to burn than carbohydrates or protein!