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  • Instructor Feature: Tsana D.

    There's less time and close quarters to get to know our lovely group exercise instructors with all the precautions and no Group Ex Launch Parties. So here's some fast facts and advice to get to know Tsana, who teaches BodyPump Thursdays at 6:30am (and also is a licensed social worker, and an ASL-English interpreter!) When did you get into the fitness industry? About 8-9 years ago. There was a class at a gym I wanted to take (Les Mills BodyAttack) and I asked the manager why there weren't more classes on the schedule of that format. She said she didn't have enough instructors to teach it and then suggested I attend training. At first, I balked at the idea (the person who was cut from her 9th grade volleyball team, therefore throwing herself into theater and band), but after she talked/persuaded/convinced me, I took the training and that was the beginning of my life in fitness! How do you personally practice self-care? EXERCISE! All kinds! And I am going to tailor this one to the COVID-world and right now, I'm just a crazy walker. I make sure to go outside for at least 15 minutes during the day and after work, and then one of those is a longer walk of 30+ minutes. I will bring my phone, chat with some friends/family along the way and catch up. In the days now where your work is your home and your home is your work, I feel like that's the one way I can fully disconnect. For a while there, I was running outside (which I didn't like a single second of, but it was a necessary evil when gyms were closed.) Thankfully, now CAC is open again and I can go back to not needing to put on 10 layers to exercise. What are some hobbies that bring you joy? Oddly enough, cross-stitch! I learned when I was a kid (my grandmother taught me) and loved it ever since. Also, I'm a big baker, always giving people sweets (my neighbors love me) and reading is always a good past time. What is one workout or workout move or exercise you LOVE to do, even if it's hard? Why? TUCK JUMP. I love that you can make yourself fly, just for a moment. What is one workout or workout move or exercise you avoid at ALL costs? Why? There aren't any I avoid, but if my body isn't having a particular exercise that day, then I just modify. Always gotta listen to what your body is telling ya! Do you have a health/wellness philosophy, or mantra, you tell yourself? Not really. What's your go-to self-motivation sentence, word, or the thing that drives you to exercise even on the days you don't initially feel like it? "Just put on your gym clothes." I know that if I get my clothes on, then I'll get my butt to the gym and feel better. Do you have any tips for new or seasoned class participants to get into a great, consistent fitness and health routine? Don't be afraid of variety! I try to try every kind of class out there and because of what I've tried in the past, I have so many options to pick from so I don't get bored. I also always joke that in order to work out, I have to be entertained and this could vary from a treadmill with a movie playing or a super engaging group ex class.

  • An Oatmeal a Day: Interview with Nicole, RD

    Nicole Bodin has brought smiles to group exercise class participants for several years now; her latest accomplishment, certification as a Registered Dietitian, allows her to reach even more people in a whole new way. Learn a little about Nicole, her nutrition philosophy, and what it takes to be an RD in this interview. And don't forget to give a big welcome to her as she joins CAC's nutrition team! Introduction AS: You've been a group fitness instructor for CAC and other clubs for around ten years now. What originally piqued your interest in fitness? NB: Growing up, I was a dancer and performer. I loved performing but when I went to college I decided to put away my dance shoes. While at the University of Maryland, I found that I still craved performance but knew that I did not want to dance anymore. That is when I discovered that I loved participating in group fitness classes. I saw that the university offered a group fitness certification course and I signed up immediately. I immediately fell in love with the energy and knew teaching fitness was something that would always be a part of my life. Now, with a Master's in Nutrition, you're able to see a whole new side of the Wellness Industry. Are there any fitness or nutrition myths that particularly grind your gears? Oh boy, this is a tough one. There is so much information about food (true and false) all over the internet. I'm a true believer that there is room for most anything in the diet. Unless there is an underlying medical reason, as soon as I hear a "diet" that promotes elimination of any sort, I become skeptical. Eliminating complete food groups such as fat or carbohydrates are fairly popular approaches, however, we forget that those foods serve a purpose and are key for promoting health. Registered Dietitians have to go through a practicum and accredited internships to gain real-world experience before passing their licensure test. How did you choose where you completed these experiences? My undergrad degree is in Communication and so I spent a few years working in the fashion industry in NYC. I always knew I wanted to become a RD but also wanted to use the degree I already had. I started taking pre-med classes while working full time until I had to leave my job and go back to school full-time. For me, choosing where to complete my clinical experience was a little different than for most. I chose to do my Masters at Boston University because they had a program that would set me up to do my clinicals in the Boston area. I knew I wanted to be in a big city, and always wanted an opportunity to live in Boston so BU was the obvious choice. I did my clinical rotations in a few locations but was primarily at Lowell General Hospital. My clinical experience was thrown for a loop because Covid happened mid clinical. While it was not what I thought my clinical experience was going to look like, being in the hospital setting during a global pandemic forced me to learn fast and ultimately made me a much stronger RD. The Daily How do you practice self-care? Quarantine has thrown us all for a loop, but do you always make sure to brew yourself a cup of tea in the morning? Or never miss the Bachelor on Mondays? Coffee and Bachelor Mondays are both on my list. I also adopted the most adorable puppy, Olive, (I may be biased) over quarantine. Having her in my life has given me a whole new purpose. She brings me so much joy and is definitely a huge contributor to my self care routine. What's your favorite meal to eat? Regardless of price or prep time, what would you eat all the time if you could imbue all the proper nutrients into it? Pizza. I love pizza. Go-to snack? I go through phases. I really enjoy greek yogurt and jam and fruit. Oatmeal is definitely a go-to as well. I like things that are quick and easy. So... we heard you worked for Madonna after college. How was that? Just in case she happens to be checking up on me and reads this, I'll say, ask me about it after class one day or during a consult :) It was definitely a learning experience. I got to create some really unique fitness experiences... bet you didn't know that stilettos and group fitness can go together. The Practice If a member wants to get started with nutrition services, what might they expect during a consultation with you? My philosophy is there is no one size fits all approach to eating. My job is to work with clients to find out what makes sense for them and their lifestyle. I like to focus on adding foods rather than eliminating. I think people avoid dietitians because they think we will tell them what not to eat and take away all of their favorite foods. I can promise, that is not my method. Give us 3 Loves and 1 Dislike- the things you adore about your work, and something you don't. Love: 1. The creativity. Every day and every client is different. 2. The people. I love connecting with and meeting people. Being able to share my expertise and passions with others is the best. 3. Flexibility. I love that I get to practice as a dietitian and continue to teach classes simultaneously. Dislike: 1. There are a lot of people dispersing false, non-scientifically supported information about eating that can be really confusing to people who want to learn how to properly fuel their body. What are you looking forward to in the near future? Teaching more in-person classes! I miss seeing all of our participants! Nicole Bodin teaches classes at CAC and is newly joining our Nutrition Team! You can follow her @nicole_bodin on Instagram. If you're interested in 1-on-1 nutritional consulting, you can reach out to her for a complimentary 30-minute consultation here. (We take most popular insurances!)

  • 4 Tests to Assess Your Fitness Level

    By Emma Hogan for Fit Planet If you feel like you hit a fitness plateau during lockdown, these four new fitness tests will help you assess exactly where you’re at. In just a few minutes you can test your fitness and get on track to record new successes. Benchmarking your fitness and monitoring your progress can be one of the best ways to stay on track with your training. When you assess different aspects of your fitness, it helps you find where to focus your energy, chase new achievements, and keep your motivation at an all-time high. Dr. Jinger Gottschall, a research scientist and science advisor for the American Council on Exercise, suggests four, simple fitness tests that make it easy to assess your fitness and strength and track your successes. Follow these directions and in just a few minutes you can assess your cardio fitness, upper and lower body strength, core strength and endurance. You can download the details of each fitness test, guidance on what results you should aim for, and record your progress here: Cardiovascular aerobic fitness There are many ways to assess cardiovascular fitness, but one of the most straightforward has to be the 1 mile (1.6km) walking test. All you need to do is find a 1 mile (1.6km) flat walking track or neighborhood route and record the time it takes for you to walk the distance. You can slow down and speed up as you wish, but the goal is to complete the mile as quickly as possible. Workouts like BODYATTACK™, BODYCOMBAT™, RPM™ and BODYSTEP™ are key to building aerobic fitness. And if you really want to take it to the next level, LES MILLS GRIT™ is the ultimate. Upper body strength Research shows the simple push-up is one of the most effective functional training options for the pecs, deltoids, and triceps while also strengthening the muscles of the core. To perform the push-up test, you complete as many push-ups as you can without stopping; either on your knees or your toes. For each full-range repetition, bring your elbows to a 90 degree angle. If you want to lift your push-up game, read CAC's tips for the Perfect Push-up, learn how to become a toe push-up pro in 16 days, and find out three common push-up mistakes. Keen to focus on building upper body strength? BODYPUMP™ provides great resistance training for your chest, upper back, and shoulders, or try BODYCOMBAT, which builds phenomenal upper body strength without any weights or equipment. Lower body strength The leg wall sit test is a great way to assess lower body strength, specifically in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. And the single leg version takes into account any difference between your legs. Simply start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back against a smooth vertical wall. Slowly slide your back down the wall until both your knees and hips are at a 90-degree angle. Lift one leg off the ground and start the timer. When you can no longer keep that leg off the ground, stop the timer. After a period of rest, test your other leg. If you’re keen to build lower body strength, there are two fundamental exercises you need to master – learn all you need to know about the squat and the lunge. Workouts like BODYPUMP, BODYSTEP, and RPM are great ways to work on lower body strength. BODYATTACK also provides an amazing lower body workout – and you don't need any equipment. Core strength and endurance Research shows that your front, back and side core muscles are all active in a hover or plank position, compared to isolated core exercises such as crunches or oblique twists. For this reason the hover (forearm plank) test is a great way to assess your core strength and endurance. You simply need to stack your shoulders over your elbows and hold your body in a perfectly straight line for as long as possible. If you can hold this basic hover with an unwavering form for over a minute you can consider adding dynamic instability to take core activation to new heights. Keen to know why we use the hover test not a plank test? Find out the difference between the hover and the plank and why the hover is superior. Building core strength and endurance will make you better at everything you do. While all LES MILLS workouts will challenge your core, it’s CXWORX™ that will take your core strength to the next level. Get round-the-clock access to LES MILLS workouts at LES MILLS On Demand or at Cambridge Athletic Club. This piece originally appeared at

  • Confessions of a Registered Dietitian

    An Interview with Robin Amylon Robin Amylon has about four titles one can suffix to her name, and that's only a glimpse into her credentials. A Licensed, Registered Dietitian, she joined Cambridge Athletic Club in March in addition to her job as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach and Sports Dietitian at Boston University. Not one to sit still, Robin spends her spare hours performing with a contemporary dance company in Boston. As we were sequestered to our homes just as she was hired, we sat down to chat with Robin so you can get a betteridea of who she is and the work she does as a Registered Dietitian. Ground-level AS: How did you get into this field? Have you always been passionate about nutrition and health? RA: My passion for training and nutrition developed from my love for dance. I’ve always been active and have danced most of my life. In high school I started working with a personal trainer and I loved it. I’m very competitive and have always loved pushing myself. My first job related to the field was as a spinning instructor and a few years later I started personal training. Eventually I decided to get a degree in both Nutrition and Exercise Science. I really wanted to help others build a healthy relationship with food and exercise, and feel good about themselves. People often use the terms nutritionist and dietitian interchangeably- can you shed some light on any differences there might be? Can you be both? Anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist”. There are no education or licensing requirements to become a nutritionist. On the other hand, to be a registered dietitian, you need to receive a nutrition degree from an accredited program, complete an accredited internship program, pass the dietetic registration exam, obtain licensure in your state of practice, and maintain continuing education. Nutrition in daily practice Do you have a philosophy or mantra when it comes to healthy eating? I firmly believe in a “food first” and “all foods fit” approach. I work with my clients to build a healthy meal plan that is adequate, consistent, balanced, flexible, variable, and includes moderation. Together we define goals that are realistic, achievable, and can be maintained long term. I live by the mantra “feed the machine”, focusing on fueling the body rather than depriving it. What about life-wise? What’s your favorite quote? “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” -John Wooden What’s your go-to for… Breakfast- English muffin topped with peanut butter and banana Lunch- A sandwich with cut up veggies and fruit on the side or leftovers Dinner- Chicken or salmon with potatoes or rice and veggies Snack- Trail mix or cheese and crackers Drink- Water Working with a Registered Dietitian What are some of the most common nutritional mistakes you observe in your clients? The most common mistake among my clients is under-fueling. They typically skip meals or don’t eat enough in general, following a meal plan that is too restrictive and can’t be maintained long term. What can someone expect during a nutritional consultation with you? During the consultation we will discuss what made the client seek nutritional help, what their goals are, and what they are looking for in a dietitian. We will briefly discuss possible changes that could be worked on if they decide to pursue nutrition counseling, as well as what the next steps would be to get started. What’s the most ridiculous nutrition myth? The most dangerous? There are a lot of ridiculous myths out there. Here’s my take on a few: ”Carbohydrates are bad and will make you fat.” This is NOT true. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy and the main source of energy for the brain. They are not “bad” and should be included in a healthful meal plan. The quantity of carbohydrates will vary from person to person based on their activity level and personal goals, but they should not be restricted nor completely avoided. “Fat is bad and will make you fat.” Fat is also not bad. Actually, consuming a diet too low in fat can be harmful. Fat has many important functions in the body that help keep you healthy. Some of those functions include protection, insulation, cell and brain function, production of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, and enhancing the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. “I need to 'detox' to 'reset' my digestive system.” "Cleansing", “juicing,” and “detoxing” don’t actually detox anything. There is no scientific evidence that indicates any of these “detox” diets actually neutralize or eliminate such toxins from the body at all. Your body is designed to remove toxins efficiently on its own. Why do you think we have kidneys, lungs, skin, a liver and a colon? They aren’t there just to fill up space in your body. Each of these organs work to remove waste and toxins from the body. Never stop learning What are your favored research resources? How do you keep up to date with your profession? I am a member of organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN), Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Through these organizations there are many opportunities for continuing education through conferences and webinars as well as access to a wide array of research articles and other resources. Are there any podcasts, websites, books you would recommend for anyone interested in learning more about a healthy lifestyle? There are a lot of great resources out there. When looking for information on nutrition I would strongly recommend finding materials that have been written by a registered dietitian. Below are a few of my go-to's: Websites: The Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association' Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition, by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Eat Right, by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics National Strength and Conditioning Association Books: Sports Nutrition Guidebook by Nancy Clarke The Healthy Former Athlete by Lauren Link Confused about what a "healthy diet" even means? Want more tea spilled about detoxes and cleanses? Comment below any requests for future blogs by Robin. If you're interested in 1-on-1 nutritional consulting, you can reach out to her for a complimentary 30-minute consultation here. (We take most popular insurances!)

  • 4 Easy Steps to Your Post-Workout Plan

    By: Reese Jones While most people put all their effort into a workout, what they do right after is just as important. Your body goes through a lot of stress during a workout, so much so that muscles develop microscopic tears. It’s not all bad because, given the right post-workout routine, these tears repair and grow later on. That’s how the body adapts to workout stress and gets stronger. If you want to maximize your training gains, you need to follow mindful post-workout habits, too. Remembering these four S's can help simplify your post-workout routine. Stretch There’s still a lot of argument as to the efficacy of stretching before a workout, but there’s no debate about its post-workout benefits. Cooling down with the right stretches helps prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which means you can recover faster. Focus on stretches that lengthen the muscles you’ve recruited in your workout. After a run, for instance, hold hips and hamstring stretches for 30 seconds. Also aim to incorporate drills like these to improve spinal mobility. One of those is self-myofascial release- SMR for short- using a foam roller, which Behara and Jacobson (2017) found to be statistically significant in increasing hip flexibility. Shower Showering after a sweaty workout is great for hygiene, but experts say that it also improves recovery. Physiotherapist Dr. Kristin Maynes explains that recovery showers can stimulate blood flow which lowers inflammation in the body and prevents soreness. She suggests alternating between cold and hot temperatures during your post-workout shower. The cold water reduces local inflammation and pain, like when you put an ice pack on a swollen foot. The hot water then flushes inflamed and dead cells out of the system which can improve recovery of muscles and joints. She continues:"If you are active in aiding your recovery after an intense workout [with] stretching, foam rolling, yoga, etc., then adding an alternating hot shower or an ice bath is going to help. Find out what works best for your body whether it be hot shower, ice bath, or both; stick to it and it will help you." Snack One of the most satisfying meals is the one you have after a workout, so it’s important to make it count. Self Magazine’s guide to post-workout nutrition notes that you can snack or eat a full meal, as long as you refuel right away. Rehydration is key, as well. But don't feel like you're limited to a bland salad to 'be healthy.' CAC's Registered Dietitian, Robin Amylon, suggests "making your plate as colorful as possible, because you're going to get different nutrients from those different colors of vegetables." If you're stumped on what to fuel up with pre- and post-workout, reach out to Robin here. Sleep Getting quality rest is one of the best things you can do for your body. Important muscle-building hormones are stimulated during rest. These include the human growth hormone, known to rebuild and grow muscle tissue after it’s been broken down. You also get to replenish your energy reserves as you sleep. This can help you feel more energized to work out and improve your athletic performance later on. A post-workout routine doesn’t have to be complicated; but it can help you maximize your training gains. Build your post-workout routine on these four principles — stretch, shower, snack, and sleep — and you’ll be well on your way to a fitter, better you. Article written by Reese Jones Exclusively for

  • Sick & Tired: Member Spotlight

    CAC is nothing without our amazing members. Susan H. gives you some insight into a member's perspective at Cambridge Athletic Club. A few years ago, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I was a former gym rat who had let myself go.  Everything hurt, I was verging on pre-diabetic, and my wardrobe was becoming rather... "limited."  I started a new job, and noticed a CAC on the first floor of my building.  A few days later, there was a CAC info session at my office.  I met Carla, who inspired me to check out the gym. That was the beginning of my fitness journey.  I was matched with an amazing trainer, Emily, who was kind and patient (and had serious doubts during my first workout).  She was small but tough.  She pushed me to do more than I ever imagined I could.  While working with her, I grew stronger and gained a lot of my self confidence back.  I've never been very athletic, so this was a great opportunity to compete against no one except myself.  I found myself flipping tires, swinging battle ropes, wheezing my way through 600 m on the rowing machine, and achieving personal bests of a 135 lb back squat and 140 lb deadlift (not bad for a 50-something). Along the way, I was consistently supported by the staff at the gym, and inspired by other members- especially the Crossfit box crew.  They cheered me on when I hit a new target, and encouraged me when I had a bad day.  Even when I was in a boot with a partially torn tendon in my foot, I didn't miss a workout- my experience at CAC taught me to adjust and adapt. I'm now down 18 lbs, off all diabetic meds, and am still incredibly grateful for CAC.  Even through the pandemic, they've been creative and supportive - challenges, online classes, virtual training sessions- it's all been amazing (and helps to keep me sane during this bizarre year).  I'll always be grateful for my experience here.  I've met great people and achieved more physically than I ever thought.  Thanks CAC! Susan H. is a Passport Member at Cambridge Athletic Club. A Roxbury native, she currently works at a biotech company in Kendall Square.

  • Fitness in your 40s

    By: Jennifer Dorcy Aging is not fun or glamorous. We all know it happens and yet, somehow, it sneaks up on us. One day you have boundless energy, you ‘miraculously’ recover from tough workouts, the calories that you eat just ‘disappear’, and working the day after a night out with friends can be done successfully on three hours of sleep. Then, seemingly overnight, it all changes. Now you wake up with neck pain that lasts three days because you slept ‘wrong’. Suddenly you have to make choices like: Do I lose sleep to watch the game (of Thrones) and show up as a shell of a human for work tomorrow? Was it a good idea to agree to help your child move when now, a week later, you can still barely get out of your chair? Do I take the stairs and let everyone witness me floundering for air like a fish out of water, or take the elevator? Should I eat this CINNABON® CINNAMON SWIRL CHEESECAKE or just rub it directly onto my thighs? We can’t stop aging. However, we can slow down the process. There are things within our control to keep, or make, our bodies strong and healthy again. No, you can’t turn the clock back to your actual 20’s (personally I wouldn’t want to go back there), but you can ‘feel’ like you are in your 20’s or 30’s again. It isn’t magic; it’s exercise. And not hours and hours of back-breaking, powerlifting, body-building style exercise. It is realistic, reasonable exercise that everyone can do to help them become healthier versions of themselves. Finding joy in workouts A recent study showed that cardio workouts can even be fun. In one 16-week study participants took an hour-long Zumba Fitness® class 3 times per week. Barranco-Ruiz et al. found that it was an effective strategy for improving health-related physical fitness in sedentary women. The participants all got healthier by dancing. Find a dance-focused class near you, and soon you'll be running up those stairs, with no worry about floundering for air! You'll find it gets easier with time, and the socialization from group exercise promises to benefit your mental health, too. If not now, then when? (Still now) “Some data suggests that peak muscle strength in early life is a very strong predictor of preserved strength later in life,” says Roger Fielding, Ph.D., a lead scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts. Among the numerous studies involving younger women and resistance training, he says, “the improvement in muscle mass is probably a bit larger than it is in older women.” So, the sooner you start weight training, the greater your strength can be, and the less muscle you will lose as you age. Our bodies might feel like they don't need to workout at 21, but starting earlier will benefit your muscles in the long run. But if you haven’t started yet, there's still time. Tufts University conducted a study on women in their 50’s and 60’s using a full-body, twice-weekly workout. The results after a year showed that the average muscle mass increase was almost 3 pounds; the strength gains ranged between 35-76%. The researchers theorized this effectively made their bodies 15 to 20 years younger in a single year. So, regardless of your age, let’s get moving! (And then splurge on that CINNABON® CINNAMON SWIRL CHEESECAKE.) Healthy at any age There are a myriad of other ‘anti-aging’ benefits that accompany regular exercise routines. A long-term study conducted by sports scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) found that people who lead active lifestyles are around 10 years younger in terms of motor skills. For example, a 50-year-old who exercises regularly is as fit as an inactive 40-year-old. With that level of fitness, you could help your son move and still be able to get out of that chair! (Although, do you really want to help anyone move?) If you combine cardiovascular activities with your strength training routine and a healthy diet, then you get your metabolism going, keep/take the weight off, reduce menopausal symptoms, lower blood pressure, and lower bad cholesterol. Being physically fit and active also helps to fight depression and promote better sleeping patterns. This translates to delaying or preventing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate activities such as walking or raking leaves can help to achieve these types of benefits. Sedentary behavior and physical inactivity are among the leading modifiable risk factors worldwide for cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Now if I offered you a Magic Cream guaranteed to make you healthier and probably decrease your body fat. Would you buy it? Ask the beauty industry, and it's a firm YES! Well, here’s how the Cream works: Use it Monday through Friday. Use it either in three 10-minute sessions or one 30-minute session. ... okay, that was a joke, but is almost that simple. Study after study shows that daily cardio and twice-weekly full-body strength training leads to measurable changes in participants' health. These changes lead to younger internal body clocks which translates to stronger bones, improved heart health, increased mental health, weight gain prevention, decreased cognitive decline, and a healthier, longer life. Honestly, who wouldn’t buy that?! So, why aren't we doing it? Despite the overwhelming evidence, the adoption of a physically active lifestyle has remained low due to various reasons: personal barriers associated with perceived limitations in self-efficacy, lack of time, and misconceptions of the volume of exercise necessary for cardiovascular health benefits. Despite the evidence supporting the cardiovascular benefits of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity performed even in bouts of at least 10 minutes, the level of adherence of the general population to the guidelines remains unacceptably low. (See Lavie et. al.) Let’s look at those barriers and try to find a solution. Self-efficacy – Hire a personal trainer, or take group exercise classes. Having others to support you can be a positive effect, especially when you don't believe in yourself. Time – Schedule your health into your day; this is a non-starter. If you do not make time for your health, then it will not make time for you. I guarantee you the time required for the diseases that you acquire later will be much more time-consuming and costly than exercise. Misconceptions – I hope we just covered those here. If you aren’t doing anything now, then start small with just 10 minutes per day and build up from there. Any amount of exercise is better than no exercise. You can't ignore a whole list of pluses Here are some of the benefits of exercise we've covered: Keeps bones strong Prevent muscle loss (we lose ~3-5% muscle each decade starting in 30’s and ~1% muscle loss per year after 40) Improved heart health Increase in mental health A University of Maryland School of Nursing Study showed exercise gave participants “an overall sense of well-being and psychologically felt better with less depression and more energy.” Prevent weight gain Can help to manage stress Can help manage the symptoms of menopause The right types of exercises can delay (or even prevent) cognitive decline, which is a common result of aging According to the American Medical Association (AMA), “Exercise improves cognitive [memory] function in older adults with subjective and objective mild cognitive impairment. The benefits of physical activity were apparent after 6 months and persisted for at least another 12 months after [our study] had been discontinued.” Improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls. Live a longer, healthier life According to the CDC, People who are active ~150 minutes a week decrease their risk of all-cause mortality by about 33% when compared to inactive individuals. (that’s 30 minutes per day, 5 times per week) Benefits start with any amount of moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity. So, three 10-minute sessions of moderate-intensity walking are the same as the 30 minutes straight. So, do you still want to buy that Magic Cream? Works Cited Barranco-Ruiz Y, Villa-González E. Health-Related Physical Fitness Benefits in Sedentary Women Employees after an Exercise Intervention with Zumba Fitness®. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(8):2632. Published 2020 Apr 11. doi:10.3390/ijerph17082632 Lavie C.J., Ozemek C., Carbone S., Katzmarzyk P.T., Blair S.N. Sedentary behavior, exercise, and cardiovascular health. Circ. Res. 2019;124:799–815. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.312669. About the Author Jennifer is a mother of 2 and a high-school science teacher, specializing in biology and environmental science, with 20 years of health and fitness experience. With a Master's in Education and a passion for exercise and cooking, she enjoys sharing the positive effects of a healthy lifestyle with others. You can find her posting gorgeous food shots on Instagram @thehungryplantbasedathlete.

  • Expert Advice for Easing Back Into The Gym

    By: Shannon Roark Remember back in May, when Governor Baker announced the phased reopening plan, and we all groaned when we saw gyms were relegated to Phase 3? It felt like that day would never arrive. Well, y’all, we made it – we made it to Phase 3, and gyms are OPEN. Cue feelings of joy and relief immediately followed by slight panic. Because as excited as we all are to get back, we can’t help but wonder, “How much strength have I lost? What if I can’t hit my squat PR anymore? How will I get back without killing myself?!?" First: DON’T PANIC. Everyone is quite literally in the same boat – it is, after all, a global pandemic. Even those who stayed active over the last few months likely weren’t at the same volume they were prior to lockdown if they were used to working out in a commercial gym. Really, the only people who probably saw no interruption were the people who already worked out at home. All the power to them because if I learned anything in the last 4 months, it’s that I despise working out at home. Get me back in a sweaty, smelly, bro-y gym ASAP. Putting aside the obvious anxious feelings that come with returning to a public space in a global pandemic, there are a few ways to alleviate the apprehension of getting back into a gym routine after a few months off. Start with light weights – This is not going to be a PR workout. This should be obvious, but the personal trainer in me just wants to make sure it’s out there. Start almost embarrassingly light with weight selection – even if it feels like you could do more. Heavy weights might feel okay in the set... but leave you hobbling for 3 days because your body just isn’t used to that volume. Go total body – Disregard whatever training split you were at before lockdown (i.e. don’t go for a leg day). Pick a couple of compound movements, with a mix of push/pull/legs, to avoid injury and DOMS that has you groaning before you even get out of bed. Keep it short – Again, the goal here is to get back into a routine, NOT to have a training session worthy of The Rock. (Check out some of his back-to-the-gym advice below.) Even if tempted to keep going, cut it shorter than usual to prevent overdoing it. Increase rest – Take some extra time in between sets to let the nervous system recover and keep the intensity on the lower side. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. We have been through more in 2020 than most of us have experienced in a lifetime. And the year ain’t over yet. Stress doesn’t just affect us mentally and emotionally but physically as well, which adds another complicated layer to exercise. Movements that used to be easy might suddenly become a massive challenge, which can feel truly defeating and discouraging. Just do SOMETHING and get the first workout out of the way. The longer you put it off, the harder it will be. When you get that first workout over with, relish the endorphins rush that comes with it and let that empower you to return a second time. And a third time. Before you know it, you’ll be back in a routine, making gains left and right, and it’ll feel like you never left. Remember, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” according to Friedrich Nietzsche. (Well, also Kelly Clarkson, but Nietzsche was the OG.) Shannon Roark is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Metabolic Effect Level 1 Nutrition Consultant, and Les Mills BODYPUMP (Advanced), BODYCOMBAT (Advanced), GRIT SERIES, & CXWORX instructor. Learn more about her work and read her blog at Will Squat for Peanut Butter. And follow her on Instagram for a burst of motivation, nutrition facts, and relatable fitness content.

  • PUSH IT UP: July Challenge

    This month we will be challenging your cardiovascular system with in-home body weight cardio exercises. Our central focus for this challenge will be push-ups. (Don't run away yet!) There will be two tiers for this challenge, because, unlike that Presidential Fitness Test we all took in middle school, we know not everyone starts at the same level. Find the quote below that fits you best to select which Tier you'll tackle. (If you are unsure about your form, take a look at this article on how to build the perfect push-up.) "I avoid push-ups at all costs. My arms are noodles." → Welcome to Tier 1. TIER 1: For some, this will be a chance to work up to your first full push-up. Or maybe you can do 2 or 3... once a year. We're going to use this month to increase your upper body and core strength, and you'll see your push-up depth increase. "I've got my push-up form down. I can do more than 5 without crying." → Welcome to Tier 2. TIER 2: If you already have push-ups down, then we challenge you to work on some more difficult variations. Build up your range and increase your PR! By the end you'll basically be able to do hands-free push-ups. Rest days can be taken off completely, but our trainers suggest an "Active Rest" day. This is composed of four simple moves. World’s greatest stretch x 10 reps each side Inchworm to cobra x 6 Kang squat x 10 reps Wall slides x 10 reps How-to videos will be posted in our Facebook album, and we'll be cheering each other on in the BELONG by CAC private group. Don't forget to join us and do a little dance when your fellow members finally get their push-up down. Here's a PDF file for those of you who want to print out the challenge, and vigorously cross out the days you get done. Maybe draw a little angry face on the ones that really make you sweat. Will this be tough? Yes. But can you do it? Absolutely. You've got this.

  • How You Can Use Plyometrics to Thwart Aging

    As you age, you lose roughly 5-8% of muscle mass each decade after you turn 30. This might not sound like much, but the average American male is 5'9" and weighs ~200 lbs. Each decade, that is around 10 lbs of muscle lost. By the time you’re 60 years old, you’ll have lost 30 lbs of muscle. This isn’t just about looking good at the beach. Sarcopenia (progressive, age-related muscle loss) is a major contributor to disability in older adults as it increases risks of falls and vulnerability to injury. Sarcopenia is usually accompanied by a progressive increase in fat mass and increased insulin resistance, which can cause blood sugar problems (Volpi et al. 2004). Along with getting on a good resistance training program and getting strong (the stronger you are the more force you can produce and absorb e.g. from falls), it is also important for older adults to be training muscular power as well. How does muscle power help me as I age? Preventing yourself from falling is a very quick process. Recovering from a stumble involves sensory nerves sending a signal from your lower limbs to your spinal cord and back, forcing your muscles to contract in under a second with enough force to regain balance. As you age, along with losing size, your muscles lose contractile velocity, the speed at which they reach max contraction. “A decrease in muscle power has more significant implications for risk of hip fracture, performance in daily tasks, and functional independence than a decrease in strength.” - (Evans, 2000) One great way to train power is through plyometric exercise. Plyometric exercises are movements that utilize the stretch-shortening cycle of muscle, when muscle is stretched then shortened rapidly, using muscle force and elastic force at the same time. This process is similar to how a trampoline works. And trampolines are exactly what this study by Franchi et al. used to train plyometrics in elderly adults. Their participants, ages 65-76 years, underwent a six-week-long exercise program using a Tramp Trainer, a seated trampoline device that resembles a leg press machine. At the end of the study, they found increases in lower limb power AND muscle size, which is a win-win. Now not everybody has a Tramp Trainer, but there are plenty of other everyday substitutes that can help active agers get more explosive. And if you used to train frequently, but have slowed down as you age, don't worry: your body is extremely adaptable. Active aging in action You may have heard of Joan MacDonald, a 73-year-old woman who's captured the hearts and "Hearts" of the fitness industry. (If you'd like to add to those Likes, you can find her at @trainwithjoan on Instagram.) She started weight training and tracking macros in January 2017, when she was 70 years old. Suffering with acid reflux, vertigo, and arthritis, she decided enough was enough when her doctor said she needed to up her heart medication. Her daughter convinced her to join an online transformation group, and taught her to use apps to track her food and workouts. Joan says she eats five meals a day, and tries not to ban any one food group. She weight trains 5 times a week, and does cardio anywhere from 3-7 times a week. When asked if she can remember what it was like to be her highest weight of 200lbs, she says, "I know I had a challenge going up and down stairs; huffing and puffing like a train engine." She smiles, adding, "but I can go up and down stairs now." Joan's caption explained her joy at implementing this plyometric move: “Who would [have] thought I could do burpees at my age? Like many of you, there was a time I couldn’t even bend down comfortably and sit on the floor, and boy I needed help to get back up again. Just tie 60 lbs around your neck for a day and see what that does to your agility, not to mention my high blood pressure!” Adding in strength-training and plyometrics to your workout will help ease the pain that comes with aging. And if you don't have a regular workout schedule, it's never to late to start one. Just ask Joan. Tips for increasing your plyometric workouts Whether you're approaching a milestone year or you want to encourage your mom or grandpa to get moving, here are some training suggestions. Start slow. The earlier study noted that they chose the trampoline-modality in order to adopt a safer way to train with older adults. Begin with small changes, and see how your body reacts. Listen to your body. If a movement cause pain, your body might be telling you you're doing it wrong. Soreness sucks. (But it sucks less than muscle deterioration.) Your body will be sore, especially if you're just starting out. Keep moving. It's always advisable to talk to your physician and a fitness professional before starting new physical ventures. If you want to implement plyometric programming into your routine, talk to one of our knowledgeable trainers, and let us help you start a new chapter.

  • Accommodating Resistance: How Chains Can Make You Stronger

    Have you ever seen that person in the gym squatting with chains hanging from the bar or maybe benching with bands on either side and thought, “why are they being so extra?” Although hanging a bunch of chains from the ends of your barbell might seem like a meathead move done for more likes on the 'gram or more looks from fellow gym-goers, it’s actually an evidence-based method that allows for maximal force production throughout the entire range of motion (ROM) of a particular movement (Zatsiorsky, 2021). This method of accommodating resistance is called variable resistance because the total mechanical load, or the weight being lifted, is constantly changing throughout the ROM. OK, so what does that mean? Let’s take a look at our new friend (we’ll call him Vladimir) who we saw squatting with chains in the gym earlier. Vlad attached one end of the chain to the bar on each side, and let the rest hang down to the floor. As Vlad descends into a deep squat position, more links drop onto the pile resting on the floor; he’s technically lightened the load, making it “easier” as the movement would naturally be getting harder. (Think: is it easier to sit down on the couch or stand up from the couch?) Now that Vlad is at the bottom of the squat, it’s time to stand back up. As he ascends, the links of the chain are starting to lift off the floor; this makes the load heavier, requiring Vlad’s muscles to consistently generate more force until he’s finally standing upright again. Why is this helpful you might ask? In short, because it’s going to help Vlad get bigger, faster, and stronger. For those of you who’d like to understand the why a little better, I’m going to briefly talk about some pretty cool physiological changes that were occurring within Vlad during his awesome set of squats only moments ago. You didn't skip science class, right? For our body to figure out exactly how much force it needs to generate to lift a weight, a multitude of complex processes needs to occur repeatedly in a fraction of a fraction of a second. It all starts with what we call a stimulus, in this case squatting. As soon as we look at the bar and start thinking about picking it up, our body begins preparing itself for the events that are about to unfold. Our adrenal medullae start releasing epinephrine and norepinephrine. Our cardiac output increases. Our palms start to get sweaty and we might even experience some acute tunnel vision. Then we step under the bar and begin to unrack it, putting immense tension on our musculoskeletal system. Our peripheral nervous system (PNS) transmits information via afferent neurons from this new stimulus to our central nervous system (CNS). Once our CNS receives this new info, it must decide how to respond and then send those instructions to our muscles via efferent neurons as quickly as possible. Under a typical constant or isotonic load, our body can quickly adapt to the sudden extreme change in its environment by recruiting a relatively set number of motor units that remain more or less unchanged. However, in the case of our buddy Vlad who decided to partake in variable resistance training, the message being sent to his CNS is ever-changing because the stimulus is also ever-changing throughout the ROM of his squat. This causes his body to recruit additional motor units to cope with a now ever-changing stimulus- which means Vlad’s body is now moving more efficiently, leading to increased strength. To put this into perspective, think about the last time you moved to a new house and had to get that huge couch from the living room to the moving truck. It’s a lot easier to move the couch with the help of a few friends than it is all by yourself. You and your friends are equivalent to those motor units I was talking about above. Same idea. Implement new knowledge So the next time you hit that plateau at the gym, or you want to try something a little different (and harder), try adding bands or chains to an exercise or two. You might just find that if you stick with it for a bit, you’ll push right on through that plateau and hit a new PR. And of course, don’t be afraid to reach out to one of our trainers if you’re not quite sure how to implement this strategy into your workout programming, or even if you just have questions and want to chat about this awesome training concept.

  • What Runners Don’t Know Will Hurt You

    “I use weights for my upper body and run for my lower body.” “I don’t train legs because I don’t want to get injured.” “I don’t train legs because I don’t want to get bulky and slow down." As a trainer in the city of one of the biggest endurance races in the world (Boston Marathon), I’m still shocked when I hear these statements when I meet with prospective clients, and it happens pretty frequently. Each time I hear it, it gets a little harder to not show my frustration about this common misconception, especially since Boston is so educated when it comes to health and fitness. However, I always remember that educating people is part of why I got into this business. So, let’s chat about why resistance training for your legs is important for runners by helping to reduce your likelihood for injury and how it aids in making your run times faster/stronger. Who cares about resistance exercises and its importance in running? Traditionally, distance running performance was thought to be determined by several characteristics, including maximum oxygen consumption (V̇O2max), lactate threshold (LT), and running economy (energy utilization- running like Phoebe uses more energy and leads to bad mechanics that can lead to issues such as knee valgus that can lead to injury.) The typical and most common way to see improvements in these areas are primarily achieved through endurance training via running “workouts”. However, it has been shown that anaerobic factors also play an important role in distance running performance. A review in the Journal of Sports Medicine showed that because resistance training is unlikely to elicit an aerobic stimulus of greater than 50% of V̇O2max, it is unlikely that resistance training would improve V̇O2max in trained distance runners. However, it appears that V̇O2max is not compromised (i.e. helps maintain) when resistance training is PROPERLY added to an endurance running program. Additionally, it showed that LT improvements have been observed as a result of resistance training. Anatomy 101- major muscles and what they do When looking at running, technically it’s a total body exercise/movement and a great example that everything in the body is connected (kinetic chain). Using the shoulders and arms to swing alternatively, the core/trunk to help stabilize and create various levels of rotation/anti-rotation, and the hips/legs to propel yourself forward. For this article's purposes, let's focus on the lower body, hips/legs when looking at the musculature involved. Even after limiting it to the lower body, there are still too many muscles to review here; you’d be stuck cleaning up the word vomit from this page, so we will filter again to the most well-known contributors. When running we use: glutes (a trio of muscles), hip flexors (a shotgun term for tissue that flexes the hip, we will look at TFL-Tensor Fasciae Latae), Quads (made of four separate muscles), Hamstrings (another term for a group of three muscles), and calves both anterior and posterior sides. Below is a brief list of each and what it’s primary function is (most of them have multiple functions). Glutes (#peachemoji) Maximus- Extension of the femur from the flexed position in the hip joint; lateral stabilization of the hip and knee joint; external rotation of the femur Medius- Abduction of the hip and stabilization of the pelvis; extension and external rotation Minimus- Abduction of the hip and stabilization of the pelvis; extension and external rotation Hip Flexors/ Tensor Fasciae Latae Tenses the fascia lata; abduction, flexion and internal rotation at the hip Quads Vastus Lateralis- Extension of the knee Vastus Medialis- Extension of the knee Vastus Intermedius- Extension of the knee Rectus Femoris- Flexion of the hip joint and extension of the knee Hamstrings Semitendinosus- Extension of the hip joint; stabilization of the pelvis; flexion and internal rotation of the knee joint Semimembranosus- Extension of the hip joint; stabilization of the pelvis; flexion and internal rotation of the knee Biceps femoris- Extension of the hip joint; flexion and external rotation of the knee Calves Posterior (backside)- Gastrocnemius- Plantar flexion of the talocrural (ankle) joint; flexion of the knee Soleus- Plantar flexion of talocrural joint Anterior (front/shin)- Tibialis Anterior- Dorsal flexion of the talocrural joint and inversion Extensor Digitorum Longus- Dorsal flexion of the talocrural joint Common injuries in runners If you’re a runner, odds are you’ve probably experienced one of the top seven most common and suckiest (super scientific term) injuries for a runner at some point: runner's knee Achilles tendonitis hamstring strain plantar fasciitis shin splints iliotibial (IT) band syndrome and stress fracture. All of these can be looked at as either overuse/overtraining injuries (not enough rest for how much work is being done) or doing more than the body is ready to handle (doing too much/inappropriate overloading). How resistance training helps avoid injuries When properly implemented into a training program (i.e. allowing for proper rest and recovery), resistance training can help reduce the likelihood of most of the aforementioned injuries. In the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it has been shown that trained distance runners have improvements of up to 8% in running economy following a period of resistance training as a result of improvements in neuromuscular characteristics, including motor unit recruitment and reduced ground contact time. When looking at the length of time people are participating in endurance events (average of 2 hours for a half marathon and over 4 hours for a full marathon), even seemingly insignificant improvements in running economy can have a large impact on distance running performance and injury frequency. Another study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine also showed that when studied over a 12-month period, fixing your gait (biomechanics of how you run; Phoebe has a TERRIBLE gait) leads to 62% fewer musculoskeletal injuries in runners. Resistance training has been shown to help increase bone density, aiding in the prevention of bone stress fractures and increasing power output, helping to decrease contact time with the ground. It can also help improve your gait by increasing muscle activation, strength, and aiding in correcting movement patterns, making gait adjustments longer-lasting/more permanent. How to implement strength into runners workouts So even if we’ve converted you to the “dark side” of resistance training for runners, now what? If you start implementing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (yes, I had to copy and paste his name from the internet, thanks Google) Mr. Olympia’s lifting program, you can kiss your running goals goodbye. If you do nothing, you’re effectively crossing your fingers and hoping to get better. What’s that saying... doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of… Not just for running, but all training programs should be based on your: goals fitness experience current/previous injuries/movement imbalances with flexibility based on your progress. (If you're ever part of a 'coaching' program that doesn't take these factors into account, run the other way.) There are a ton of ways to set up your program. Your training program should also look different based on where you are in relation to your event (if you have one). Just like your running program, your mileage increases the further into your training you get, and then you “deload” as you get closer to the race. You should have an “off-season” where you can focus a little more on strength and adding a little bit of weight as a lot of runners lose weight and muscle during their training. Possibly add a section where you focus more on power (with plyometrics and explosive lifts) and a section where you focus on function (asymmetrical loading and various planes of motion that create running movements). The bottom line is this: there is always a way to incorporate resistance training. The only wrong way to do it is to do the same workout with the same weights and set/rep ranges year-round. Yes, it will help you at the beginning of your training, but you’ll quickly stop seeing the benefits after 6-8 weeks if nothing changes. If you’re not sure where to begin or just have specific questions, feel free to hit us up on our Instagram story where we do a weekly “Ask a Trainer.” Or contact us on our website; after all, if you’re reading this, you’re just one or two clicks away from getting the answers you’re looking for. Happy running!

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