Physical Fitness

What Is A Metabolic Conditioning Workout?

Metabolic conditioning is a term that is increasingly thrown around more and more but what does it even mean? Metabolic conditioning is not new but is increasing in it's popularity. It is the ability to work at a high level of intensity for a prolonged period of time. It involves various types of either weight training, and or cardiovascular exercise.  This does not mean that any specific muscle is working at 100%, but that the body as a whole is working at its highest intensity for that extended period of time. The key concept is that the you move from exercise to exercise with minimal rest while maintaining a specific rep scheme and quality of movement.

One of the fun parts of metabolic conditioning is there is no right or wrong way to structure it. 

Here is an example of a great metabolic conditioning workout for a beginner:
5 Push-ups
10 Couch Squats
10 Jumping Jacks
30 second Plank

Here is an example of a great metabolic conditioning workout for anyone who has been training for 6 months to 2 years: 
5 Push-ups
10 Air Squats
15 Sit-ups
Run/jog/walk 100m

Here is an example of a great metabolic conditioning workout for an advanced individual: 
15 Minute AMRAP - As many rounds/reps as possible
5 pull-ups
10 push-ups
15 Air Squats
Run 200 meters

So here you would complete all five pull-ups prescribed before moving to the push-ups, all ten push-ups before the squats so on and so forth. When you finish a cycle you immediately start back at the beginning of the list until the time runs out. It is to be completed at a high level of intensity but that is relative only to you current level of fitness. I may struggle to finish three rounds and the person next to me may finish five. The point is to be continuously be moving and continue doing so even as your heart rate rises.

The benefits of metabolic conditioning are undeniable. It burns a ton of calories in a short amount of time due to it's intensity. Another reason for these workouts is it increases EPOC, or excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption. After high intensity workouts, the body's metabolism is elevated as it is trying to return to homeostasis (balance). During this time the body burns additional calories. The research varies from two hours to 24 hours after your workout and depends on its intensity and duration. 

This type of training is much more efficient, achieving the effectiveness of a workout done at a lower steady state heart rate in a lot less time. 

You are working multiple energy systems at one time. Some workouts can even improve aerobic capacity and anaerobic capacity simultaneously. 

Metabolic conditioning workouts are great if you need to squeeze a workout in a short window of time because they can be done anywhere. You can design them solely of what you have available. These workouts allow you to get creative with both your sequence and paring of movements, number of reps, and times in which you will complete them. 

Try one of the workouts above and let us know how it goes.

Are You In The "Friend Zone?"

As a coach and a frequent gym goer, I have seen a lot that goes on in the gym.  From the cardio junkies to the lifters, from the mirror hog to the modest guy wearing a hoodie. The one thing that really bothers me is the fact that most of the people in the gym are there to socialize and do not take the gym very seriously.  

For example, I was in the gym the other day doing some squats in the racks when this guy in the squat rack next to me was on the phone talking to someone throughout his workout.  He would put the weight on the bar and stop to check himself out in the mirror in front of him, while lifting is shirt and flexing his abs.  I thought to myself “dude for real… people who actually are here to lift cannot use the rack you are on because you are so busy talking on the phone and looking at yourself…. Grow up and be respectful of other people’s time.” 

When did going to the gym to talk become more important than working out? 

In my opinion the gym is where bodies are sculpted and skills are mastered, but in today’s world the gym is considered a “trend” or a local hot spot where you can hit on people or judge others. 

Gym goers have now “FRIEND ZONED” the gym.  

People have this concept in their head that buying workout clothes and going to the gym will make them “fit,” when that is simply not the case.  That is a very lazy way to think about it.  The reason why I used the term “friend zone” is simple, people want to be physically fit and look like an Instagram model without devoting their time and energy into an actual relationship with the gym or a healthy lifestyle. 

The lesson to learn here is that in order to achieve the results you want you have to change your mindset of how you view your health.  The gym is meant for so much more than socializing.  It’s meant for therapy, perfecting crafts, boosting confidence, reaching goals, competition preparation, etc.

The “fit life” is more than just wearing the proper workout clothes and going to the gym; it is taking to time to meal prep and maintaining consistent behaviors with nutrition and workouts.  Its challenging yourself and creating a healthier and better lifestyle. 

Most people go to the gym yet treat themselves to a nice pizza and a cold beer after a workout because they deserve it. STOP THAT.  Treating your body and devoting your life to a relationship with the gym and your nutrition is the only way to see the results you want. 
Most people tell me their reasoning for working out is to be able to eat what they want and still look good.  This reasoning is extremely common and shows the lack of dedication to their bodies.  They placed their health in the “friend zone.” Just because you workout doesn’t mean you are in a relationship with your health. 

Focusing on your health and growing into a better relationship with your body is more than a gym workout, it is adjusting eating habits to healthier ones.  A workout is only 30 percent of how you look.  What you eat and the portions you give yourself are 70 percent… 70 PERCENT of how your body responds to exercise and how long and effective your results are.

Fitness and health are an act of appreciation for your body.  Let’s stop abusing our bodies and coming up with excuses to not treat ourselves correctly.

Stop “friend zoning” your health and start transforming it into a relationship.

No Pain No Gain = Lies

We are in this era where working to reach your goals should rank a level 10 on the pain scale. I was having a conversation with a client that wanted to lose 100lbs. He told me that the only workouts that have worked for him in the past are workouts that made him so sore he couldn't get out of bed the next day. 

Myth: If the workout isn't debilitating then it's not working. 
That is so far from the truth.

Social media has perpetuated the idea that unfit people have to go into extremes to transform their bodies. Think about it with me for a second. 

"Sweat is just fat crying."
"It's not working until it's hurting."
"If you aren't sore the next day then you didn't work hard enough."
"The workout didn't start until you puke or fall down in exhaustion."
"Pain is weakness leaving the body."

These types of things are great for TV and get good ratings on shows that promote weight loss but they absolutely suck in real world application. Unfit individuals think this is what they'll actually have to do to lose weight and get healthy. It's why so many hesitate to start and often never start. I know if it stood true that I'd have to be all or nothing I would walk away. I would stay on the couch If I had a coach who told me the only way to get results is to have such an agonizing workout that I would need medical attention to get the results I wanted. 

If you've ever tried a WebFit workout then you will know that they are appropriate. There will be more times that you tell me you can do more than I prescribed than you telling me you had to throw up half way during the workout. Good coaches know how to scale for each individual client. 

Weight loss shows miss the opportunity to teach participants and viewers about rewarding workouts that build muscle and the metabolic advantage that comes along with them. 

Body composition is the ratio of lean body mass to fat mass. As you build muscle, your body composition improves. As you lose fat, your body composition improves. 

You become a leaner person.

But if you build muscle at the same time you're losing fat, the scale may take its time going down, and it may even momentarily stay the same. Does that mean that you're making zero progress? Absolutely not.

But guess what, sustainable progress doesn't gain popularity or viewers.

Are Abs Made In The Kitchen?

The probability that you have heard this saying is pretty high. It caught steam and it has stuck around for a long time. 

If you have known me long enough we will have already had this conversation and I would have put this to rest already. But many of you are still getting to know me so we might not have had the ab talk just yet. I will give my opinion but I will also give scientific evidence will also show that it is only true to an extent. 

You won't see any visual results from spending 30 minutes a day on abs when you're at 18% body fat. You can do all the abdominal work in the world, but if you're carrying too much fat, you won't see your abs. 

I learned from experience early in my career that it was important to train my core often. It is nice to have defined abs when body fat is low enough for them to show. But it is also important to have a strong core for performance purposes. I saw that the stronger my core got, the stronger I was in general. I could stand for longer periods of time, perform strength lifts with heavier loads, and my lower back never hurt. 

People define the word "core" incorrectly. It's not just your deep spinal stabilizers, abs, and lower back. It's your entire torso minus your arms and legs. 

In 1982, the core of the human body was defined as the muscles that keep the trunk and neck in a tube like form. When your core is firm and rigid, you can do the activities it's intended to do. If the rigidity is enhanced, then you can maximize your athletic performance. This means that the shoulders, chest, glutes, abs, mid-back, and lats are core muscles.

A few studies have taken the position that multi-joint, free-weight exercises such as barbell squats and deadlifts activate "core" muscles better than isolation core exercises.

This led to the belief you shouldn't perform exercises that focus on strengthening your abs and obliques. 

The truth is the common claim that "multi-joint movements like squats and deadlifts are all you need to strengthen your abs and obliques," doesn't make sense. In fact, the common push-up activates the abs and obliques more than squats or deadlifts! That is a fact. 

In theory it's true that the big basics will strengthen the core. But that's only true if your core is functional and if it's not a weak link to start with. But if you can't use your abs properly then they won't receive much stimulation from the big lifts. This is why I start out building the core right away. I'm sure you have seen many "Country Core" workouts and most workouts begin with some type of core movement. 

Balance. I tend to use this word a lot. But it holds so much truth when it comes to this topic. A good balance of training your abs in the most efficient manner and coupling it with proper nutrition is key. Do not get caught up in the hype. 

Why Working Out to Pure Exhaustion is Good For You

Most people will tell me that aging sucks, and hurts. But science contradicts that. I have also observed somewhat the opposite of that as well. I have personally viewed videos of individuals like 93 year old bodybuilder, Charles Eugster; or 70 year old cyclist, Tony Linturn. How is the quality of life of some individuals drastically different than others? Is it dedication? Maybe the mindset they have? Does it have to do with their persistence? It might be a little bit of both but I want to tell you how you can change your health for the better. Your health could drastically change by an all-out effort of 10-12 minutes of exercise per day. Say what? Yes it is true. How about we break down the science and I tell you how?

Did you know your body is made up of some 10 trillion cells? You actually age because your cells age. Therefore, the fountain of youth is found in the process of controlling the aging process of your cells.

Each of your cells has a nucleus, which contains the chromosomes that in turn contain your genes. The chromosome is made up of two "arms," and each arm contains a single molecule DNA, which is essentially a string of beads made up of units called bases. A typical DNA molecule is about 100 million bases long, and at the very tip of each arm of the chromosome is where you'll find the telomere.

Your telomeres shorten every time your cell divides, starting at the moment of conception. If you were to unravel the tip of the chromosome, a telomere is about 15,000 bases long at the moment of conception, and once your telomeres have been reduced to about 5,000 bases, you will essentially die of old age. That is why even with a perfect diet and exercise program no one lives past 120 years old. Exposure to environmental toxins like trans fats, smoking, free radicals, and obesity can actually accelerate the shortening of telomeres and lead to feeling “old” and possibly dying before the age of 70.

It was previously believed that this telomere shortening process could not be affected or stopped by healthy eating habits or exercise. Now, researchers have discovered that both diet and specific training may indeed be able to do just that! In an exciting study published in 2010 showed that there's a direct association between reduced telomere shortening in your later years and high-intensity-type exercises.

Human Growth Hormone is considered to be the ‘fitness hormone’. In 2003 researchers found that exercise intensity above lactate threshold for a minimum of 10 minutes appears to elicit the greatest stimulus to the secretion of HGH. HGH is a hormone that promotes the gain of muscle and effectively burns excessive fat. It also plays an important part in promoting overall health and longevity. If you're over the age of 30, especially if you lead an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, you've likely entered a phase known as somatopause (age-related growth hormone deficiency).

Here is an example of a high intensity exercise routine that you can perform on a recumbent bike that will help promote the stimulus required to the secretion of HGH.

  1. Warm up for three minutes at a low speed with no resistance.
  2. Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds by increasing your speed and the resistance. You should be gasping for breath and feel like you couldn't possibly go on another few seconds.
  3. Recover for 90 seconds, while still pedaling, but at slower pace and decreased resistance.
  4. Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times.

Why Supersets Could Be The Work-out Change You Need

Build more muscle in less time.Fatigue a muscle without lifting heavy weight. Keep training fun, challenging and interesting.

Superset! Superset! Superset! Superset!

Strength gains become harder and harder to attain the longer you train. Adding more weight to the bar or moving up in dumbbells/resistance is not always the solution.

I'll attempt to explain a very underestimated training technique that will help you build muscle, lose body fat, and keep you excited to train.

"Superset" A superset is when you work muscle groups in back-to-back fashion, taking as little rest as possible in between sets (typically just enough time to wipe your face and get a drink of water). This style of training could be done a number of different ways which makes it more interesting. Some supersets have you are alternating sets between opposing muscle groups (such as biceps and triceps or chest and back). Some trainers call this a push/pull program. When you train one muscle group, the other is recovering (sometimes even being stretched) as you complete the set. Think about when you do a bench press and follow it with doing a bent over row. With two muscles or muscle groups being worked, workload is raised which raises your intensity, increases caloric expenditure, and pumps more blood to the working areas. That is considered a win on all cylinders.

A compound superset is when you perform two exercises for the same body part. This can be brutal on the nervous system and requires extra recovery time after a workout. The major disadvantage with compound supersets is that your form can get sloppy, increasing your chances of getting injured. They should always be systematically placed in the workout with the right amount of weight, sets, and reps.

Isolation supersets are when you take smaller muscle groups like biceps and triceps and perform an exercise for each of them. When you perform a tricep kickback and follow it with a bicep curl would be a prime example of this. Isolation supersets are helpful in increasing your mind muscle connection and also great for improving single muscle groups. Now don't get the idea that just because you do 1,000 curls you will get big biceps. Doesn't work that way. But when you have enough years of training under your belt, these little changes in your program can help change your physique.

A staggered superset is where you combine a major muscle with a smaller, completely unrelated muscle. This technique allows you to bring up a weak body part by working it to a greater extent each week. For example, when you throw in a set of lying leg lifts or crunches after you completed a set of leg presses. I love utilizing this in programs because you do not need to be advanced for it to raise your intensity of your session, and it can create an environment where you can get more work done in less time.

"Tri-Set" Doing three sets in a row for the same body-part with as little rest as possible in between sets. Three exercises in a row more thoroughly exhaust you. This training technique is effective for those who want to gain more muscle and for those who are looking to lose body fat. The drawback for this style of training is typically the endurance of a given muscle group for a beginner or intermediate person is relatively low. In my experience until a person can exceed a 55 push ups in a minute or leg press there body weight for 15 or more reps then they will not see the benefits of it. This technique is amazing in stressing the muscle to the max.

"Giant-Set" Doing 4-6 exercises for the same body-part with as little rest between sets. Giant sets are used to create overwhelming stimulation to a body-part and totally exhaust the muscles involved. This technique should only be used occasionally as your body needs time to recover from this level of effort. This type of training is great for muscular endurance and calorie burning. It is also taxing to your nervous system, takes a great deal of discipline and will power and not for the faint of heart.

Advantage of Supersets 1) Save time by reducing rest intervals between two exercises. 2) Having a shortened rest period will increase the intensity of a workout by performing more work in less time. 3) Allow you to overload a muscle quickly without the use of heavy weight and long rest periods.

What is a mind muscle connection?

When I first started training with my mentor Charles Anderson I learned what this old adage meant. Now days it is a lost art because more people are concerned about the superficial aspects of weight training but in the days where huge social media platforms weren't around and the gym wasn't a new workout outfit contest this saying was relevant. No matter your age, your goal, or how long you have been training; you can benefit from this technique.

What is a mind muscle connection? Research shows that when you think about a muscle, greater muscular activity occurs there. For example, one study looked at how much muscles worked in three conditions: (1) thinking exclusively about the muscles that were working, (2) thinking about the weight that was being lifted, and (3) thinking about whatever the participants wanted. Results showed that there was significantly greater muscle activity in the first condition. And more muscle activity during weight training corresponds to the muscles getting stronger.

Let's say you are doing barbell bicep curls. Your brain instinctively wants to concentrate on the weight: "Move this weight up and down." You need to rewire your brain to concentrate on the muscle: "Squeeze and release the biceps." To practice this, imagine flexing in front of a mirror while doing the curls. Using the mind-muscle connection lets you stimulate a muscle effectively with less weight, which spares your joints. It also leads to less cheating - breaking form just to perform an action without engaging your muscles properly. You'll get better results with less risk of injury when you put your mind into it.

Some movements can be completed by more than one muscle, and your body will tend to use the stronger one. For example, maybe you shove your shoulders up toward your ears during a side raise. This means that when you are done with the set your traps and neck are hurting more than the meat of your shoulder (middle deltoid muscle). To target the weaker muscle that is 'supposed' to be the trained muscle, your brain must shut off the dominant muscles and turn on the weaker ones. The mental focus required to do this not only improves your results, but also helps block distractions, relieve stress, and enhance your relationship with exercise.

How do I practice mind muscle connection? I recommend a quick mental systems check for each new strength exercise. Ask yourself: 1) Are the right muscles contracting when I execute the motion? 2) Do I feel mild soreness in the muscles (a sign to take it a bit easier on that area)? 3) Do I feel any pain there (a sign to stop)? 4) Do I feel extraneous contractions anywhere else? 5) Am I completing the full range of motion? By being mindful of everything happening inside your body, you'll get much more from your training than you would by just going through the motions.

To put your mind into your muscle requires organizing your thoughts and concentrating them on the specific task at hand during a workout. Although this sounds like a simple idea, it's not easy to do because there are plenty of distracting thoughts to get in the way. To minimize the distractions, manage your time so that your workout is a priority, which helps your mind be less agitated about other things you think you should be doing. If you start worrying about how you look at the gym or noticing the person next to you, remind yourself that you're there to maintain and improve your health, not to see and be seen by others.

Why You Should Ditch the Scale

January is fast approaching and with it comes New Year's resolutions, which are often based on unrealistic goals, fad diets, and unhealthy habits like stepping on your old dusty scale daily only to place your self worth in a number. Scales are apart of most peoples bathroom landscapes. Something so innocent as stepping on a scale becomes much more threatening if we aren't careful. The scale can become a measure of our self worth. A powerful oracle that can determine if we have a good day or bad day. The judge, jury and executioner of whether we are a good or bad person --- good looking or not --- or whether we hide under our clothes or show off our gains.


The idea that you should weigh yourself daily for weight management benefits is extremely frustrating for me and feeds into a bunch of deep topics that we will dive into on some later blogs. Today we will dive into what the research says about weighing daily and hopefully find a balance with this subject matter. I always believed that health was about the quest for improved energy, sleep, strength, flexibility, quality of life, cardiovascular health and self confidence. When you weigh everyday your health will turn into a number purely connected to the number on that scale.

In a study published by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 1,902 young adults were assessed over a 10 year period.  The majority (over 2/3) of the sample would be classified as “normal” weight. Participants were asked to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the statement “I weigh myself often.” The researchers also gathered data on weight, body mass index, weight disparity (the difference between self reported ideal weight and current weight), body satisfaction, weight concern, depression, and self-esteem.

Results of this study indicate that for both males and females, there was no association between self-weighing and either weight or BMI. This calls into question the common belief that self-weighing leads to weight loss or maintaining a lower weight; if that was true then the participants who regularly weighed themselves would weigh less than those who did not. What the researchers did find was that, for both males and females, self-weighing was associated with greater concern about their weight. Females who weighed themselves regularly also experienced more dissatisfaction with their bodies, more depressive symptoms, and lower self-esteem.

Based on these results, it seems like stepping on the scale doesn’t make people lose weight but it may make you feel bad about your body (increased weight concern and body image dissatisfaction), feel bad about yourself (lower self-esteem), and feel depressed. Meaning that the scale comes with lots of risk and no clear benefit.

Now let's discuss the opposite end of the coin as well. Never weighing yourself isn't the best option either. Basing your health entirely on how you feel isn't the best method and not the right way to go as well. While that number that looks back at you should not be the ultimate deciding factor of your self worth, it does give an objective view in terms of you reaching your goals (gaining lean muscle, losing body fat, etc). The number doesn't deserve the right to control your feelings about who you are but it may help you navigate whether you should make adjustments to your nutrition or exercise program.

What we should do? The fact is, you don't need a scale to tell us how our body is doing. You could take measurements of your chest, waist, hips, arms and legs so you can track progress objectively. This type of measurement could give insight into if you are losing body fat, changing dress sizes, and gaining lean muscle. You could also monitor how much better your performance is on your exercise program. Whether that be a strength training program, or cardiovascular program. Both can be monitored to see if you are improving. You could also weigh less frequent. Maybe once a week or every other week. Creating a habit to where you get on the scale at the same time once every 1-4 weeks isn't a bad practice. It is all about balance and approaching it with the correct mindset. Balance.

Bad Types of Exercise to Avoid

Unfortunately most of us interested in exercise took an American approach to exercise when Dr. Cooper first popularized exercise in the late 1960s. We took the "more is better" approach and started racking up the miles or hours in the gym or aerobics classes and competing in marathons or triathlons. Turns out that this excessive cardio was likely not much better at improving longevity than being sedentary. Most exercise programs today are built based upon a very incomplete picture of the physiology of your body. Getting cardiovascular benefits requires working all your muscle fibers and their associated energy systems. Unfortunately for the long slow cardio folks out there, this cannot be achieved with traditional slow cardio. Unfortunately, anywhere from 90 to 98 percent of people who exercise are NOT doing high intensity exercises. By focusing on slow endurance-type exercises, such as running on a treadmill, you actually forgo many of the most profound benefits of exercise. Your heart has two different metabolic processes: * The Aerobic, which require oxygen for fuel, and * The Anaerobic, which do not require oxygen.

Let's simplify this. Studies show that we have three different types of muscle fibers; slow twitch (type I), and fast twitch (fast twitch IIa & IIb). If you don't actively engage and strengthen all three muscle fiber types and energy systems, then you're not going to work both processes of your heart muscle. Many mistakenly believe that cardio works out your heart muscle, but what you're really working is your slow twitch muscle fibers. You're not effectively engaging the anaerobic process of your heart.


I want to paint the picture of what high intensity is, what the benefits are, and why ANYONE can partake in this type of exercise. High intensity exercises sequentially recruit all the different types of muscle fibers in your body, starting with the smaller motor units made up of slow-twitch fibers which are primarily aerobic (have a lot of endurance and recover quickly) -- to the intermediate fibers -- followed by the fast twitch fibers. If you stopped and gave it some thought, it's actually easy to see that your body was designed for high intensity, short interval exercise. In nature you will never see an animal jogging -- hint hint. Instead of being sedentary for much of the day and then running for an hour on a treadmill, our ancient ancestors combined lots of walking with regular lifting and short bursts of high-intensity activities. It is safe to say that science backs up the notion that they did not have near the amount of cardiovascular diseases and metabolic issues that we face today. So why did we fix what wasn't broken? Steady state aka long slow exercise trains the plasticity out of your physiologic system. This is the ability to handle widely varying levels of exertion within a short span of time. Yes, you can make yourself less adaptable to physical stress in general.

Your fast twitch fibers are largely glycolytic and store a lot of glucose (carbs). When these muscles are recruited, it creates the stimulus needed to grow muscle. We have to remember that muscle is very metabolically expensive. If you become sedentary and send your body the signal that this tissue is not being used, then that tissue is metabolically expensive. The adaptation the body takes is to deconstruct that tissue (Use It Or Lose It). At the same time, it enlarges the glucose storage reservoir in the muscle, which in turn enhances your insulin sensitivity. Normalizing your insulin is one of the primary health benefits of exercise, and this is particularly true in the case of high intensity exercise. Slow long distance cardio recruits the slow twitch fibers only. If you remember, earlier I said those fibers recover quickly. So rather than moving to the next set of motor units, you're just recruiting that one group over and over again. As a result, your intermediate and fast twitch fibers actually begin to atrophy aka SHRINK AND DIE! Aside from losing muscle mass, you'll also experience earlier onset of loss of insulin sensitivity, leaving yourself open to a full scale of health ramifications, such as metabolic syndrome (Diabetes).

High intensity short interval training can be as simple as getting on a recumbent bike and pedaling as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then resting for 30 seconds and repeating that process for 10 minutes. But it also relates to the individual who can perform a set of squats for 6+ repetitions, move on to a set of step ups for 6+ repetitions on each leg and starting over until 2+ rounds are completed. There is no one size fits all. Everyone has to start from somewhere.

Why long distance running isn't that great

I think we can all agree that when it comes to exercise, more is not always better. Granted, this warning does not apply to the vast majority of people reading this, as most people are not exercising nearly enough. But it's still important to understand that not only is it possible to over - exercise, but focusing on the wrong type of exercise to the exclusion of other important areas can actually do you more harm than good. A study performed in 2011 by the European Heart Journal looked at the heart function of 40 elite long term endurance athletes after four endurance races of varying lengths. By measuring cardiac enzymes and taking ultrasounds, the researchers were able to measure the acute effects of extreme exercise on the heart. They found that: ~ Right Ventricular function diminished after races. ~ Blood levels of cardiac enzymes (markers of heart injury) increased. ~ The longer the race, the greater the decrease in RV function. ~ 12% of the athletes had scar tissue in their heart muscle detected on MRI scans one week after the race. The authors of the study concluded that intense exercise causes dysfunction of the Right Ventricular, but not the Left Ventricular. Although short term recovery appears complete, chronic changes may remain in many of the most practiced athletes.

This study is a little scary huh? Right Ventricular damage is not good. Diseases that effect this portion of the heart tends to cause electrical instability that may increase the risk of sudden death. Although exercise reduces your cardiovascular risk by a factor of three, too much vigorous exercise, such as marathon running, actually increases your cardiac risk by seven, according to a study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 in Montreal. This is a powerful lesson to anyone who engages in large amounts of cardio exercise, because as it turns out, excessive cardio may actually be counterproductive.

Exercise remains the most effective and safest means to prevent and treat heart disease. The overwhelming majority still exercise far too little. I believe the US suffers from sever exercise deficiency. This is only a note of awareness into one of the more popular means of exercise, "long distance running."

The real answer is to exercise correctly and appropriately, and making certain you have adequate and proper recovery. This can be just as important as exercise itself. Part of a healthy regimen is variety. I could go through a load of overwhelming evidence indicating that conventional cardio or long distance running is one of the worst forms of exercise there is. Here are a couple that confirm the health alarming effects of long distance running: ~ A 2006 study screened 60 non-elite participants of the 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathons, using echocardiography and serum bio-markers. Just like the featured study above, it too found decreased right ventricular systolic function in the runners, caused by an increase in inflammation and a decrease in blood flow. ~ In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology., researchers recruited a group of extremely fit older men. All of them were members of the 100 Marathon club, meaning athletes who had completed a minimum of 100 marathons. Half of these lifelong athletes showed some heart muscle scarring as a result - specifically the men who had trained the longest and hardest. ~ Recently published in the journal Circulation, this animal study was designed to mimic the strenuous daily exercise load of serious marathoners over the course of 10 years. All the rats had normal, healthy hearts at the outset of the study, but by the end most of them had developed "diffuse scarring and some structural changes, similar to the changes seen in the human endurance athletes."

Research emerging over the past several years has given us a deeper understanding of what your body requires in terms of exercise, and many of our past notions have simply been incorrect. In the next post I will dive into what the research says about exercise based on our human physiology.

References. Seigel, A. (2001). Effect of marathon running on inflammatory and hemostatic markers. American Journal of Cardiology, 88(8), 918-920. Retrieved from Burns, A. (2011). Exercise-induced right ventricular dysfunction and structural remodelling in endurance athletes. European Heart Journal.

Why I don't believe RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) works

For most of my career as a health and fitness professional, the acronym “RICE” was thrown around by my professors, therapist, and physicians as a method of controlling inflammation and preventing injury. This post explores what I believe to be one of the biggest issues in the health and fitness industry. Lifelong learning is what I am about and with that, I am eager to change my approach if the science supports it. And if that means proving myself wrong at times, then I am okay with that. Icing areas of the body that have too much inflammation has been the norm for a long time. Growing up as an athlete, we were always told to go to the trainer’s room to ice down a sprained ankle or other minor injury. Soon after that we are popping over the counter fixes to speed up the healing process. Fast forward and now we have new ideas on inflammation and how our bodies naturally heal. Why are we using ice? The goal is to reduce inflammation right? But inflammation is the latter portion of a multi-step process. So are we saying that we are better at regulating the inflammatory response than the body is naturally? This is where science meets logic and I began to question these methodologies as I looked into more recent research on the inflammation process and its role in the healing process. Let’s talk about the inflammation response so we can gather a little background.

The role of inflammation in the process of healing has been misunderstood for many years. Recent neurological and immunological research has shed light on its importance in the human healing process. A clear shift in science is taking inflammation away from being the enemy of health and a condition to be suppressed and/or eliminated, to one in which its importance and role is allowed to proceed. The inflammatory response is a natural defense mechanism that is triggered whenever body tissues are damaged in any way. Most of the body defense elements are located in the blood and inflammation is the means by which body defense cells and defense chemicals leave the blood and enter the tissue around the injured or infected site. Inflammation occurs in response to physical trauma, intense heat and irritating chemicals, as well as to infection by viruses and bacteria. The inflammatory response:

(1) prevents the spread of damaging agents to nearby tissues (2) disposes of cell debris and pathogens and (3) sets the stage for the repair process.

The inflammatory process begins with chemical “alarms” - a series of inflammatory chemicals that are released in the extracellular fluid. Consequently, exudates - fluid containing proteins such as clotting factors and antibodies - seeps from the bloodstream into the tissue spaces. This exudate is the cause of the local edema or swelling that in turn, presses on adjacent nerve endings, contributing to a sensation of pain. Pain also results from the release of bacterial toxins, lack of nutrition to the cells in the area. If the swollen and painful area is a joint, normal movement may be inhibited temporarily in order for proper healing and repair to occur. Although at first, edema may seem to be detrimental to the body, but when you look at the science it clearly isn’t. The entry of protein-rich fluids into the tissue spaces (1) helps to dilute harmful substances, which may be present (2) brings in large quantities of oxygen and nutrients necessary for the repair process, and (3) allows the entry of clotting proteins which form a gel-like fibrin mesh in the tissue space that effectively isolates the injured area and prevents the spread of bacteria and other harmful agents into the adjacent tissues. It also forms a scaffolding for permanent repair.

So what should we do? We have to first understand that ice does not get rid of inflammation. It can bring core temperature down so we feel less pain but it also impedes the process of healing the affected tissue. We need to allow the lymphatic system do its job and restore our tissues to normal function. The lymphatic system serves several functions but the most important in this case is that it controls fluid balance by draining and cleansing the fluids that leave the circulatory system to deliver nutrients and gases to the tissues. In the circulatory system, our blood passes through the arteries, arterioles, and then the capillaries. The capillary walls allow the fluid portion of the blood to exit the capillaries into the surrounding tissues. Once the fluid leaves the capillaries, it is called interstitial fluid. About 90% of this fluid will diffuse back into the capillaries because of the difference in concentrations of the fluid. However, about 10% of the fluid will enter the open-ended lymph vessels. These vessels eventually deliver the lymph to locations where it can be cleansed of debris and checked for the presence of pathogenic organisms. How the lymph gets there is pretty amazing. There is no heart for this system of vessels to pump the lymph around. So, the lymph moves throughout your body by moving your skeletal muscles. The contraction of skeletal muscles squeezes the nearby lymph vessels, “pumping” the lymph through these vessels which helps us get rid of inflammation naturally.

Based on this recent research and approaching inflammation as a natural part of the healing process, here are some things that are actually effective in helping the body respond naturally:

1) Compression: Wrap the injured area in a light ace bandage. Doing this will help with stability of the area and also increase the body's ability to filter good oxygenated blood to the area. 2) Heat: Sitting in a hot tub or using a mild or low heat heating pad will also assist in filtering good oxygenated blood to the area. 3) Using Skeletal Muscles to your benefit: If the area is able to work under little to mild restriction of range of motion, try performing some very light exercise. Utilizing our ability to squeeze skeletal muscles at or around the injured area can also help the body deal with the inflammation naturally. 4) Electrical Muscle Stimulator: The use of these devices has increased dramatically in the last 15 years. They are now sold almost everywhere and can be beneficial in helping the body use skeletal muscles to help the lymphatic system do its amazing job.

References Wassung, K. (n.d.). The Role of Inflammation in the Healing Process. Retrieved from