Getting a runner’s high without running

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Each week I look forward to a runner’s high at an intensity level I rarely achieved by running. I don’t run anymore. After a couple of foot surgeries my running days are over. It takes me about 22 to 25 minutes to get to this relaxed euphoric state, and it stays with me the rest of the day. 

While this state is subjective there is an objective proxy to gauge the intensity of this high. One of the attributes of a runner’s high is lower blood pressure. With the runner’s high my blood pressure remains 10 to 25 points lower for up to 24 hours before returning to my normal reading.

Runners have long known that if you run long enough and hard enough you will experience a runner’s high. It wasn’t until 1975(1) that scientists pinpointed what prompted the runner’s high. It is a group of hormones called endorphins.  Endorphins activate specialized receptors throughout the nervous system that block pain messages, they reduce the release of chemicals that cause inflammation and swelling, and they lower pressure.

To get your body to release these endorphins by running, the run has to demanding enough to produce an anaerobic response that results in the build-up of lactic acid. According to one study(2):

Intensive running with an anaerobic response causes an increase in the concentrations of β-endorphin…whereas slight aerobic exercise did not elicit any response.” 

Less demanding steady-state endurance running will release endorphins too, but it takes more running.  According to this study(3):

“In endurance exercise performed at a steady-state between lactate production and elimination, blood beta-endorphin levels do not increase until exercise duration exceeds approximately 1 hour.”

If running is not an option you can still release those endorphins.  Another study(4) found that:

“The results of this study indicate that acidosis [The buildup of lactic acid] rather than any other physiological change associated with high-intensity exertion is the primary stimulus for beta-endorphin release.”[Runner’s high]

The key here is that high-intensity exertion results in the buildup of lactic acid. Strength training can do that, particularly if there is less rest between exercises.  One study(5) found that strength training with one minute rest between exercises produced a greater endorphin response than a workout with three minutes rest between exercises. Less rest results in a larger lactic acid buildup.

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The high intensity training (HIT) we do at our Austin Personal Training facility is a series of strength training exercises working all the major muscle groups with little rest between exercises.  In the photo above most of this 25 minute HIT workout is in the hardcore zone where there will be a buildup of lactic acid and a subsequent endorphin release.

Your trainer will have you build up to HIT slowly and see that you are constantly breathing and maintaining form. People of any age can do this. Over time you’ll be at a higher exertion level, produce more lactic acid, and have a significant endorphin response. Endorphin levels can remain elevated for hours and even into the next day. Your aches and pains will subside, you’ll be less stressed, your mood will improve, and you’ll sleep better. It is your body’s natural high. 

  1. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dh75en.html

  2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0024320588901580

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1553453

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7836218

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8444727

Reversing the Loss of Heart Function Caused by Type 2 Diabetes

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A recent study found that “three months of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) improved heart function in adults with type 2 diabetes, without any change in medications or diet”.  This is an important finding considering that the leading cause of death of type 2 diabetes patients is cardiovascular disease.

The researcher stated: "Our research has found that exercise at sufficiently high intensity may provide an inexpensive, practical way to reverse, or reduce the loss in heart function caused by type 2 diabetes."

HIIT produces “exercise at sufficiently high intensity” and can be achieved with a series of short intervals of strenuous effort like sprints on a bike, rowing machine, hills, track, or stairs followed by moderate activity in between the sprints. A similar cardiovascular stimulus can be achieved with High Intensity Training (HIT), a series of strength training exercises with short rest between those exercises.

HIT produces a long list of cardio-respiratory fitness benefits. The added benefit is that HIT is effective in improving glycemic control. One our diabetic clients went from five shots a day down to one

At our Austin personal training facility we offer HIIT and HIT for strength. Some clients do both.  These workouts don’t take long, and you don’t have to do them with great frequency to have surprising results.  Is it worth an hour a week to increase your lifespan and more importantly your quality of life for years to come? We think it is.

Increasing Nitric Oxide Availability, Vital for Cardiovascular Health

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Vasodilators are medications that open (dilate) blood vessels. They prevent the muscles in the walls of arteries and veins from tightening and narrowing. As a result, blood flows more easily through the vessels.1  These medications often have side-effects. 

Your body naturally produces its own vasodilators in the form of nitric oxide gas molecules. Endothelial cells line the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. It is there that nitric oxide is synthesized from the interaction of an amino acid and an enzyme and then released throughout the body.  Nitric oxide gas diffuses through the cell walls to transmit signals to the cardiovascular, nervous, and immune systems.  Nitric oxide signals the body to2:

·       Reduce blood pressure.

·       Expand and relax blood vessels so that more blood, nutrients, oxygen flow to all parts of your body.

·       Enhance blood flow necessary for male sexual performance.

·       Kill infectious bacteria.

·       Make energy supplying mitochondria more effective.

·       Make muscles more efficient; requiring less oxygen to work out at higher intensities i.e. it's easier for you to push yourself harder.

Nitric oxide levels decline as we age, but we can forestall that. Eat beets and spinach, and get plenty of sunlight and exercise. What type of exercise is best?

According to these studies (study 1 and study 2) “It has been shown high intensity interval training (at 85% to 90% of VO2 max) is more effective in improving endothelial function and nitric oxide availability than continuous moderate aerobic exercise.  These studies were done in humans and rats with metabolic syndrome and found that high intensity interval training reversed more risk factors of metabolic syndrome than did continuous moderate aerobic exercise”3.

There is a positive cycle. Exercise increases nitric oxide availability resulting in blood flow increases. This leads to an increase in the capacity for more exercise further facilitating even more nitric oxide availability.

When you push your body to do more than it is used to handling, as self-protection, your body makes a long list of positive cardiovascular adaptations; improved nitric oxide availability is just one of those adaptations.  

Our goal at Austin Personal Training is to safely “dose” clients with the right amount of high intensity training to effectively make those positive changes.  People of any age or fitness level can do this and it does not require hours in the gym each week. Do a little bit more each week; you’ll improve a little each week, and over time your health and well-being will improve dramatically. Do nothing, a negative cycle begins, and you know how that ends.

1 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure-medication/art-20048154

2 https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/how-boost-your-nitric-oxide-levels-without-supplements  

3  https://livelongstayyoung.com/boosting-nitric-oxide-with-exercise/

Exercise that will strengthen tendons and connective tissue

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Too much tendon stress results in tears and overuse conditions such as tendinitis. These injuries often occur as a result of exercise. Injuries sustained in the pursuit of fitness can come back to haunt you.  They present themselves as nagging aches and pains that compromise your fitness as you get older. 

One of the objectives of exercise is to prevent injuries, not cause them. Proper strength training, by increasing bone density and muscle strength, gives one an added measure of protection from injuries. The same applies to tendons and other connective tissue - “Research indicates that resistance training promotes growth and/or increases in the strength of ligaments, tendons, tendon to bone and ligament to bone junction strength, joint cartilage and the connective tissue sheaths within muscle”.1

To minimize risk of injury, the goal is to exercise enough to produce positive change in your your muscles, joints, and connective tissue, not to see how much stress they can withstand . At our Austin Strength Training facility, we have years of experience determining the minimum effective dose of exercise (the amount that safely produces ongoing optimal improvement). Anything beyond that will at best result in a diminishing marginal return and at worst result in injury.

If you do nothing your muscles, bones, and connective tissue will become weaker and make an injury more likely. Is it worth a half hour of strength training each week to help avoid injuries and to live an active life?  We think it is.

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3633121

Strength/flexibility program shown to increase clubhead speed and driving distance

One of my clients, a club pro, told me he was hitting the ball farther. I asked him, “Are you sure?” He replied, “I use GPS to measure my distance. I am positive”.

To hit a golf ball farther you have to increase your clubhead speed. Increased strength helps; increased flexibility helps a bit more. When you combine both increased strength and flexibility the improvement in clubhead speed is more that the sum of the improvement from flexibility or strength alone, as reporting in the December 1997 industry journal Fitness Management, researchers Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., and John R. Parziale, MD,

RESEARCH STUDY RESULTS

Flexibility & Strength Strength Only Flexibility Only

Clubhead speed +20 mph +3 mph +5.4 mph

Shoulder Abduct +11.9 deg. +1 deg. +13.5 deg.

Hip Flexion +16.3 deg. +2.8 deg. +15 deg.

Hip Extension     +8 deg. +3.4 deg.

The study demonstrated the improvement recreational golfers can expect from both MedX Stretch flexibility exercises and MedX circuit strength training. Used properly, MedX exercise equipment will increase:

  • Strength

  • Enhanced flexibility

Properly performed Medx rotary torso exercise produces improvements in strength and flexibility.

Properly performed Medx rotary torso exercise produces improvements in strength and flexibility.

Enhanced flexibility is more that increased range of motion. It also includes more strength through that increased range of motion. For golfers, the result is a more powerful swing and an added measure of protection from injury.

At our Austin Strength Training facility we have a extensive line of MedX exercise equipment. MedX equipment is engineered to provide less resistance at the point where the muscles are weakest (in the stretched position). The resistance in the stretched position is sufficient to stimulate strength increases but not too heavy to be unsafe. With regular exercise on MedX equipment you will be more limber, stronger, and if you are a golfer, you can expect to hit the ball farther. Expect similar improvement for tennis and other sports where strength and range of motion are important.

36 minutes of vigorous exercise over 5 1/2 months, the results.

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To get more out of exercise it is essential to accurately determine the minimum effective dose and the amount of recovery time needed to produce improvement.  Perry, age 69, does his weekly 30 minute strength training sessions at our Austin strength training facility.  He recently began sprint training on one of our stationary bikes about three times a month. 

For the strength training we measure Perry’s time under load (TUL) for each exercise.  When the TUL increases to a certain point we raise the weight the next session.  Perry has been training for four years and continues to improve.  We keep accurate records.

We do the same for sprint training. To accurately measure improvement we control the variables:

  • ·         Same difficulty level

  • ·         Same number of sprints(6)

  • ·         Same sprinting interval (22 Seconds)

  • ·         Same recovery level (heart rate) before beginning the next sprint.

In May it took Perry 28 minutes to do six sprints.  Five and half months later his time had gone down to 18:30 minutes. That is a 9 ½ minute improvement - the same work in far less time.  Adding up all the twenty-two second sprints that comes out to a total of 36 minutes of sprinting time over 5 ½ months.

With 330,000 workout sessions under our belts working with a wide range of ages and abilities, we have a good idea of what constitutes an effective dose of exercise (it is not that much) and the recovery time needed to produce ongoing improvement.The sprints are demanding - that is what stimulates change – but the time commitment is small, and the benefits are worth it.

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·    

Getting More Out Of Exercising Less

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“Instead of trying to find how much exercise we can tolerate, we should try to find out how little exercise we actually require” ~ Arthur Jones, creator of Nautilus and MedX exercise equipment.

Jones further stated that any exercise beyond what is required is at best a waste of time and at worst dangerous.  It is dangerous because too much exercise can result in injuries and a waste of a time because exercise beyond what is required eventually leads to overtraining.  Overtraining occurs when your body cannot sufficiently recover and make gains.  This is particularly the case with strength training, as it takes longer time to recover and rebuild from your last training session.

If you start from the premise of finding out how little exercise you actually require you won’t overtrain, your likelihood of injury will drop considerably, and you will be far less likely to quit as it will require a smaller time commitment.  You will find the weekly improvement motivating as well. With more rest and recovery (and less time in the gym) you will get more benefits by exercising less.

The type of exercise that, by far, has the biggest positive impact on your bio-markers of aging is strength training. In addition to increasing strength the exercise program at our Austin Personal Training facility is designed to produce improvements in:

·         Energy

·         Flexibility

·         Resistance to injury and sickness

·         Bone density

·         Resting metabolism

·         Cardiovascular function

Workouts are 30 minutes – no time is wasted – and are generally once a week. People of any age and level of fitness can do this. Trainers have years of experience determining:

1)    The required amount of exercise to safely stimulate change.

2)    Sufficient time to recover and improve each week.

3)    The proper design of workouts suited to clients’ limits and needs. 

You can avoid injuries and the trial-and-error of finding what works.  You will improve each week. As your fitness improves you will be more inclined to be active, and you will have more time to enjoy life outside the gym.  It is an exercise program people can stick to.

Still young and possibly facing life in a wheelchair she turned things around

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Kate’s doctor informed her that if things continued on the same path, she may be confined to a wheelchair in six months.  Kate is still young; she has a rare genetic muscular disorder that has made her progressively weaker to the point that it has adversely affected her balance.

It has been six months since she started strength training with Glenn at our Austin Strength Training facility – no wheelchair for Kate.  She is stronger and her balance has improved remarkably. Her family was elated to see her walking in heels again, at a quicker pace, and up and down hills no less. This is not a small victory for Kate.

Glenn faced a similar prognosis because of his Multiple Sclerosis.  He was told that he would need a wheelchair within five years, so he began strength training. That was 12 years ago – no wheelchair for Glenn either.

It can be overwhelming when confronted with these health challenges.  You don’t know where to start - therapies, diet, life-style changes, supplements, and an endless array of exercise options. Consider strength training.  A long list of health problems can be alleviated with the right strength training program. The program should be customized to the individual’s needs and take into account these considerations:

  • It would use equipment and a protocol adaptable to working with those with limiting conditions such as Kate’s as well those in top physical shape.

  • It would deliver the minimum effective dose of exercise. The dose that produces the best result; any exercise beyond that is a waste of time and at worst detrimental. It was essential for Kate’s success that she not to overtax her limited recovery ability.

  • It would produce quantifiable improvement each week. Tracking that improvement is important for dosing considerations. Also, seeing and experiencing that improvement is powerful motivation for Kate.

    Each week Kate lifts a little more, she lifts a little longer, and takes a little less time between exercises. Over time these changes add up. As Kate can attest, these changes can be profoundly life-changing.

Yes Virginia, there is good news in your declining health

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So you haven’t exercised consistently in years, and each year, you have gained a pound or two. That fat gain is accompanied by a decline in fat burning hormones, foremost among them testosterone.  Weight gain leads to lower testosterone; lower testosterone leads to even more weight gain - a vicious cycle. 

With that weight gain comes elevated blood sugar and cholesterol levels, plus the threat of metabolic syndrome and all that the syndrome entails - type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and a life cut short.   

You become less active. With that comes a decline in mitochondrial capacity  (your cells’ capacity to produce energy).  The result is even more inactivity and another vicious cycle.

Because you have not done sustained demanding work in years you become weaker. Human growth hormone - necessary for maintaining muscle and bone mass - declines quicker than age would otherwise dictate. Your muscle mass decreases, muscles become weaker, and bone density loss accelerates. 

Your heart becomes weaker. Strong muscles push the cardiovascular system and are necessary to condition the heart. Maintaining strong muscles results in a long list cardiovascular benefits.   

Weaker muscles make it harder to keep your balance. This leads to falling and possible serious injury. 

Your respiratory system becomes weaker.  Your forced expiratory volume (how much air you can forcibly exhale) goes down; pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses pose bigger threats than should be. 

Cognitive decline begins. Without vigorous exercise there is less neurogenesis (the production of new brain cells), and there is a decline in brain-derived neurotrophic factor - important for the growth and survival of those brain cells. 

Aches and pains prevail. Pains dictates your range of motion.  That range becomes increasingly restricted.  Pain causes inflammation; chronic inflammation of joints results in arthritis. 

Pain, inactivity, and declining health can lead to depression.  You are not powerless to change this course. There is good news:

  • All this can be reversed, sometimes dramatically.

  • Unfit subjects’ relative improvement from exercise will be far greater than fit subjects’ improvement.

  • It takes as little as 30 minutes of exercise a week to see that improvement.

While that is not the prevailing wisdom regarding the frequency of exercise, the proof is in the results.  We have clients who have experienced these benefits:

Start now. If you don’t have the time for exercise now you will have to make time for sickness and injury later on. At our Austin Strength Training facility we can guide you through a workout suitable for your age and condition.  Each week you will lift a little more, lift a little longer, and take a little less time between exercises.  Over time these small steps add up. You will reverse the path you are on, and best of all, as your fitness improves you will be more inclined to be active, further enhancing your health and quality of life.

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Thirty-five percent increase in testosterone level without hormone therapy

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The right kind of exercise can significantly raise your testosterone level, while some forms of exercise will lower it. Testosterone affects more than just sex drive; it positively influences bone density, fat distribution, muscle strength and mass, metabolism, memory, and red blood cell production. It is vital for both sexes.

Steady state activities like long-distance running cause your testosterone level to fall, while high intensity activities such as sprint training and high intensity strength training  increase it1.  How much of an increase?  I wanted to find out. My urologist informed me that my testosterone level was low. It was not from too much long-distance running. I had not exercised for the better part of a year and had gained weight. 

I changed my diet and began exercising again – high intensity strength training once a week and stationary bike sprints one to two times a week.  On average it amounted to less than an hour of exercise a week. The first session of sprints liked to kill me. All I could do was two sprints before ending the session. I slowly build up to eight 30-second sprints.

In the four months that followed I lost 30 pounds.   I had my testosterone level tested again and tested a second time just to make sure the number was accurate. I was surprised to see that my testosterone level had increased 35 percent increase.

Testosterone is the most potent fat burning hormone we have.   High intensity strength training increases testosterone. Increased testosterone leads to fat reduction. The body adapts to its environment.  It does this using feedback loops.  The outcome of a feedback loop can be negative - weight gain and lower testosterone level – or it can be positive - weight loss and higher testosterone.

At our Austin Personal Training facility we do supervised sprint training and high intensity strength training.  We can help you start that positive feedback loop.

1 https://kellypersonaltraining.com/blog-overview/2013/08/15/long-distance-running-lowers-testosterone-sprint-training-increases-it

Exercise replenishes the neurotransmitters vital to mental health

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Neurotransmitters – such dopamine, glutamate, and serotonin - are released by neurons to communicate with other cells. They regulate our mental and physical health. Depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders occur when neurotransmitters are depleted. In one study, researchers used MRI scans to measure the impact that vigorous exercise had on certain depleted neurotransmitters. The results showed that exercise activates the metabolic pathway that replenishes these neurotransmitters.1"

A quote from the study:

“Vigorous exercise is the most demanding activity the brain encounters, much more intense than calculus or chess, but nobody knows what happens with all that energy, Apparently, one of the things it's doing is making more neurotransmitters…Exercise could become an important part of treating depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders linked with deficiencies in neurotransmitters.”

While the researchers point out that vigorous exercise will not work for every depressed person, it will work for many.

To start and stick to a vigorous exercise program it helps to set the bar at a height you are willing to jump over each week. Commit to one 30-minute strength training session a week. Each week lift a little bit more weight, lift a little longer on each exercise, and take a little less time between exercises.   You will see improvement each week - a motivating factor to encourage you to stick with it. At our Austin Strength Training facility we track these weekly improvements.  

Over time, you will find that your energy levels rise and aches and pains subside. You’ll then be more likely to engage in other physical activities.  Months from now you can be a lot stronger, physically and mentally.  Being stronger, living pain-free, and having more energy is a step in the right direction – an upward, happier direction.  

Cardio, anaerobic, and aerobic exercise explained

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In 1969 Dr. Kenneth Cooper wrote the book Aerobics and coined that word to describe a form of exercise. Before that, the word aerobic was more often used to describe a type of metabolism. Aerobic metabolism utilizes our energy stores in conjunction with oxygen, while anaerobic metabolism uses energy stores without oxygen.

Both metabolic pathways are working all the time. The aerobic pathway is predominant at rest or at lower intensity activities such as the beginning of a run or picking flowers. The anaerobic pathway predominates while doing demanding activities such as sprints or strength training and is crucial for survival in fight-or-flight situations.

Cardio exercise is exercise that maintains an elevated heart rate at a range of 60% to 85% of one’s maximum heart rate. Can strength training have a significant cardiovascular component? It can; it depends on how your workout is structured. Warm-up sets do not present great demands on the cardiovascular system or the muscles for that matter. Intermediate intensity sets, time resting between sets, and set up time for the next exercise will not be taxing to the cardiovascular system. In the course of an hour long workout there will be a significant amount of time where cardiovascular demands on the body are minimal.

The High Intensity Training (HIT) for strength we do at our Austin Strength Training facility involves a large cardiovascular component. At the end of the first exercise your body will be doing all that it can to accommodate the demands placed on the cardiovascular system – the heart rate increases, arteries dilate, venous return increases, and blood volume per beat of the heart increases.

That first exercise is followed with a series of strength training exercises addressing all the major muscle groups. People of any age can do this workout. You build up to this workout slowly. Each week you lift a little more or a little longer and take a little less time between exercises. With the facilitation of a personal trainer the workout takes less than 30 minutes; it really can’t be longer unless you pace yourself, i.e. exercise at a lower intensity.

The chart of 64 year old man. The average heart rate of 74% is well within the cardio range.

The chart of 64 year old man. The average heart rate of 74% is well within the cardio range.

While the cardiovascular demands are high, [See chart] the long list of cardiorespiratory benefits makes it worth the effort. Best of all anaerobic exercise produces endorphins1. Just like a runner’s high, when the workout is over you’ll experience the deeply relaxed state that results when your body produces endorphinsIt is a great state to be in and one you will look forward to attaining each week.

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1553453

Comparing the side-effects of two different osteoporosis treatments

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Two popular options to inhibit bone loss that results from osteopenia: You can take a drug or begin strength training. Both have side-effects.

From this NYT article Splits Form Over How to Address Bone Loss:

“Millions of people worldwide, most of them women, have been told they have osteopenia and should take drugs to inhibit bone loss. But the drugs carry risks, so many public-health experts say the diagnosis often does more harm than good.” 

The possible side-effects of osteoporosis drugs:

  • Nausea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Constipation

  • Indigestion

  • Muscle pain

  • Bone and joint pain

  • Diarrhea

  • Abdominal distention

  • Acid backup

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Esophageal ulcers

  • Excessive gas

  • Headache

  • Stomach ulcers

  • Vomiting 

An improperly designed strength training program results in injury, drudgery, and wasted time. The side-effects of a properly designed strength training program:

The exercise program we use at our Austin strength training facility was derived from a study working with osteoporosis patients. Researchers found that bone density increased, joints hurt less, and muscles were stronger and more toned with minimal time exercising.  It has been shown effective for women and men of all ages.

One of our clients was 65 years old when she started. She worked out once a week for 30 minutes of strength training. It takes time for the muscles and bones to recover from the stress of strength training.  A year later her bone density had increased 12.4 percent.  Obviously results will vary, but others have had similar results.

Past blog posts on the subject of osteopenia: 

Increasing bone density at age 60

What clients are saying - "My doctor said it would not be necessary to start taking drugs to preserve my bone density”

Diagnosed with osteopenia at age 43 - 22 years later osteopenia free

Where to place the carrot - the difference between finishing and quitting

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Several years ago I participated in the MS Tour For Cure, a two-day 150 mile bike ride.  On the last half of the final 75 mile ride, I settled in with a small group of riders who were keeping up, what was for me, a blistering pace. We sailed past each of the rest stops. Toward the end it was all I could do to take my turn in the lead. I stayed with it because my odometer indicated that we only had a little over mile to go – the carrot (the end of the punishing ride) was very close.

I was really suffering. I wondered if others were suffering too. Then, someone in the group asked how much farther?  Another person replied: “Five miles to go” – that reply suddenly placed the carrot very far away. I knew that was wrong.  One of my co-riders, Shane, didn't know, and he immediately fell off the pace.

I left the group and went back to Shane. He told me he could not hang for five more miles. I assured him that it was not five miles; it was less than a mile – the carrot was close. He got on my rear wheel, and I took him back to the pack.

When we made it back to the pack the finish line was in sight – the carrot was extremely close. Shane bolted to the front and left the group to finish well ahead of us. Shane had more left physically, but he was almost defeated mentally.

This is relevant to exercise. A person is capable of performing at an absolute level. Somewhere below that level is what someone is willing to do by themselves. A good personal trainer will get the subject to go to a level closer to what they are truly capable of and do it in such a way that is safe and without panic. To do that a good personal trainer will be “in the moment” - they will know exactly what the client is experiencing. When Shane fell off the pace I knew where he was physically and mentally.

An experienced trainer who is in the moment will be totally consumed with what is going on with a client during the most difficult repetitions. At our Austin Personal Training facility our trainers know what you are going through; they have been through the process themselves. They keep accurate records of what the clients have done in the past and know exactly what clients are capable of.

Toward the end of an exercise clients unconsciously break form, hold their breath, and begin to panic. A good trainer anticipates those breaks in form and helps the client maintain constant breathing and thereby avoid panic. She will know where to place the carrot. It is anything but boring for the trainer, and the client really appreciates it.  When the workout is over you’ll experience the deeply relaxed state that comes with being flush with endorphins.  It is a great place to be, and with a capable trainer, you will look forward to each training session.

The right exercise to generate new brains cells in Alzheimer's patients

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In a recent study1, researchers found that exercise generates new brain cells in mice who have Alzheimer’s.  A quote:

“Beneficial effects on cognition can be blocked by the hostile inflammatory environment present in the brain of patients with Alzheimer's disease and that physical exercise can "clean up" the environment, allowing new nerve cells to survive and thrive and improving cognition in the Alzheimer's mice. In our study we showed that exercise is one of the best ways to turn on neurogenesis.”

The researchers sought to achieve the same results produced by exercise using drug and gene therapy.  This was met with limited success.  Comparing the two approaches they found: 

“We found the key difference was that exercise also turned on the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF -- known to be important for the growth and survival of neurons -- which created a more hospitable brain environment for the new neurons to survive."

Another quote: 

"It is not enough just to turn on the birth of new nerve cells, you must simultaneously 'clean up' the neighborhood in which they are being born to make sure the new cells survive and thrive. Exercise can achieve that."

The takeaway: Exercise results in neurogenesis (new neuron cells), and more BDNF creates a hospitable environment for those new cells to survive.  So what type of exercise produces the most of both? According to one study2 comparing continuous exercise versus high intensity training (HIT):

“The HIT protocol might represent an effective and preferred intervention for elevating BDNF levels and potentially promoting brain health.”

HIT is what we do at our Austin Strength Training facility. Our trainers have experience working with people of all ages and fitness levels. You can wait for effective drug and gene therapies to be developed to combat cognitive decline, or you can combat cognitive decline before it is too late.

1 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180906141623.htm

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26472862

Both had knee replacement surgery the same week but had very different outcomes

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Jack and Marcus often played golf together, and just happened to have their knee replacement surgeries the same week.  Both surgeries were successful, but post-op Jack fared much better than Marcus.

For years prior to the surgery Jack rarely missed his weekly 30 minute strength training session at Kelly Personal Training.  Jack returned to this regimen as soon as he could post-surgery. Aside from a stint in rehab Marcus did no strength training before or after the surgery.

Two month’s post-surgery Jack, age 75, could get in and out of a bass boat on his own, while Marcus, age 70, was still using a walker to get around.  Jack quickly returned to playing 18 holes of golf. A year after surgery Marcus could play just nine holes and that was about it; the next day he was too rundown to play again.

Jack said he was running out of friends to golf with. He eventually talked Marcus into strength training.  Proper strength training will do more than increase your strength; you will protect your joints, truly increase your energy, and decrease pain and inflammation

A year later Marcus was playing 18 holes of golf, and the next day, he would play 18 holes again. Those 27 additional holes in that 48 hour period produced the added benefit of further increasing his fitness level.  He also was hitting the ball farther and enjoying golf again. Marcus had added quality years to his life, and it took just 30 minutes a week. 

A Thirty Year Self-inflicted Wound 

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Ted loved to run, and he excelled at it. Even in his 40s he would finish in the top 500 out of 35,000 runners in the 10,000 meter Crescent City Classic. His wife did her strength training with me.  She said to me, “Ted will never do any strength training.  He is a runner”… until he wasn’t.

In his late forties running began to bother his knees. His knees got progressively worse. He iced them.  He tried everything he could to get back to running pain-free. He took extended breaks from running.  However, each time he began running again the pain returned.  At age 54 his doctor advised him to stop running, or he would be looking at a knee replacement with into two years. 

He started strength training with me with the intent to getting back to running. We used MedX strength training equipment which when used properly is gentler on the joints. He worked hard, his strength improved each week, and best of all, he didn’t have a hint of knee pain.

He worked up to 450 pounds on the leg press machine. It convinced him that he would be able to run again. He said, “This is amazing.  I will be able to run again”.  One day he did – just a mile - and his knee pain returned.    Lifting 450 pound on the leg press did not result in knee pain, but running a mile did; there is a reason for that.

According to one study a force of up to three times one’s body weight can be exerted on the human foot while running, and it can be much higher at times. Multiply that by each foot fall, and you have tons of weight absorbed through the joints and connective tissues with each mile of running.  Multiply that by decades of running, and you have knees like Ted’s.

According to a Runner’s World article 75% of runners will suffer some sort of injury within a year of running; The New York Times pegged that number at 80%.  That was my experience during my years of running.  Those injuries can come back to haunt you decades later – that was also my experience. 

Running is a wonderful exercise, but like any exercise there is a trade-off between improvement and injury.  Running five days a week instead of four days produces a decreasing marginal positive health benefit for that extra day of running, and it produces an increasing marginal risk of injury.  If you run a lot you have to accept that risk or take steps to avoid it.

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The type of strength training we do at our Austin Fitness Training facility will produce a significant (See graph of pulse rate) cardiovascular effect, and an increase in strength that will protect the joints.  Each week if you take a day off from running to strength train your joints will thank you for it. Following such a plan the progressive deterioration of Ted’s knees might have been deferred, and he might still be running.

Taking That Trip Versus Watching The Travel Channel

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It can come done to a choice: To take that trip you might have to actually train for it, or you could sit back, relax, and just watch the Travel Channel.  

Chris chose to take the trip. To prepare for a 10 day motorcycle road trip with three of his childhood friends Chris began strength training. He lost weight and got stronger.  Towards the end of the trip riding was painful for two of his friends but Chris enjoyed the ride. He’s ready to go again. 

Sarah wanted to go on a cruise, but she was too frail for the demands of travel. She began strength training. To date she’s been on four cruises in the last three years. 

Cindy was in tears walking on the Great Wall of China. She said, “It was emotional partly because I was walking on a part of history that has been there for over a thousand years. I also remembered back to a year ago and it was emotional to think of how much I had changed. A year ago I was in such pain that it was difficult for me to even go out and buy groceries”.  

A year earlier Cindy had her hip replaced, and shortly after, she began strength training.  All three do their strength training, once a week for thirty minutes, at our Austin Personal Training facility.

All three chose not to sit back and watch the Travel Channel. I like to the Travel Channel, but it doesn’t move me to tears. To spend more time enjoying life beyond the gym and the TV room you might have to take steps to make that happen.  Is it worth just a couple of hours a month to enjoy riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, cruising the Mediterranean, or walking on the Great Wall? For Chris, Sarah, and Cindy it is.

Our Radio Ads

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I got a call the other day.  The man told me he had heard our radio ads and liked them.  He wanted to know if there was a link to the ads on our website. He wanted to have his wife listen to them so she could get a better understanding of what we are all about and our approach to fitness at our Austin personal training facility.  The ads tell our clients' success stories.  Below are two of those ads: 

 

 

Lower Body Strength Vital to Neurological Health

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A study found that having strong legs slows the damage caused by neurological diseases.  The study addressed the question:  “Is the outcome of neurological diseases [spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), motor neuron disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS), and others] due exclusively to the lesions that form on the spinal cord in the case of spinal cord injury and genetic mutation in the case of SMA, or is the lower capacity for movement the critical factor that exacerbates the disease?"

They took two groups of mice: a control group that was free to roam and an experimental group that was restricted from using their hind legs for 28 days.  Restricted the physical activity of the mice resulted a 70 percent decrease in the number of neural stem cells compared to the control group.

The study stated,  “People who are unable to do load-bearing exercises -- such as patients who are bed-ridden, or even astronauts on extended travel -- not only lose muscle mass, but their body chemistry is altered at the cellular level and even their nervous system is adversely impacted,"

The conclusion: “The research shows that using the legs, particularly in weight-bearing exercise, sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells, essential for the brain and nervous system. Cutting back on exercise makes it difficult for the body to produce new nerve cells -- some of the very building blocks that allow us to handle stress and adapt to challenge in our lives.”

At our Austin Strength Training and New Orleans Strength Training facilities we use MedX equipment.  With the equipment’s many medical-rehab features we can accommodate those with limiting conditions.  Our clients with neurological conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke have shown significant improvement. 

Overall, it’s important for everyone to stay strong, not just those with neurological conditions. Being strong helps forestall potential issues brought on by the frailty that comes with aging.