Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Choosing a gym

One of my clients was asking me about recommendations on a gym to join.  She currently has a membership but was looking to save a bit of money.  I figured I would share some of the things that we discussed with all of you.

"Price is what you pay; Value is what you get." Rupert Murdoch
Far too often people are always looking for the CHEAPEST option when it comes to a gym.  I totally understand, not everyone has a lot of disposable income to spend on a gym but keep in mind there is a reason why some gyms are cheap.  NYC is a totally different animal than most suburban gyms so those of you outside of NYC please try not to have a heart attack when I tell you that some of our gyms are $100-$150 a month!  We also have plenty of gyms like Planet Fitness that are $10-$20 a month!  So what's the difference?  Well your typical $100+ gym in nyc has a very robust schedule of classes, typically a minimum of 10 different classes offered a day.  When I worked at New York Sports club, we offered upwards of 20 different classes a day in our location ranging including spinning, yoga, and total body conditioning. 

$100+ gyms all have complimentary towels, are well staffed with trainers to assist you and have tons of both cardio and strength training equipment.  I once had a membership to a Planet Fitness because it was right across the street from my apartment.  They have ZERO classes and I don't think I ever saw a true trainer in there.  They had a decent amount of cardio machines, but almost NO free weights, just strength machines.  For me it served a purpose, when I needed a quick place to do some cardio, or a few light dumbells for shoulder workouts and a place to do abs and stretch, it worked for me but I would never consider it as a serious place for ME to train and get in shape simply because there weren't enough weights.  It may work perfectly well for you!

Money is a motivator While $100 is a lot of money for some people, lets break it down, it's less than $4 a day.  If your serious about getting fit, most people can find places to get that money.  If you smoke a half of a pack of cigarettes a day, quitting smoking will pay for your gym.  If you buy a starbucks coffee everyday, making your own coffee at home each morning will just about cover your gym membership.  Cut down on eating out lunch at the office and bring it from home and you'll not only save a few bucks, you'll probably cut a lot of bad calories out of your diet!  Everybody gets motivated differently but I remember being unemployed when I moved to NYC and I still chose to pay $100 a month for a gym because in my mind, that was way too much money to spend and NOT show up to the gym.  When I had my $10 planet fitness membership, I often blew off going because the perceived value was low.

A la carte My client that asked me about gyms really isn't much into lifting weights on her own (thats what I'm for!) and she lives 1 block from the East River walk and prefers to get cardio out there.  However, she loves doing Yoga.  She pays a premium price for a nice gym with good yoga classes but travels quite a bit for work so some months she may only take a handful of classes.  There are several great Yoga studios here in NYC that offer classes on a pay as you go basis or let you buy a package of classes. There has also been a big boom in recent years of studios dedicated exclusively to spinning and other specialized fitness activities.  Sometimes chain gyms have great classes but they are overcrowded.  These private studios give you a more exclusive service while also allowing you to simply pay for what you are using.

Do it yourself  You don't need a fancy gym to get in shape. Resistance bands are incredibly versatile, portable, and inexpensive.  We use them for all sorts of exercises in bootcamp.  They come in different tensions for a variety of fitness levels.  Again, larger guys like myself will never build huge muscles with them but I do get a great warmup and dynamic stretch with them.  You can use them indoors  by attaching them to doorways as needed or outdoors in a local park.  The options are endless!

Just do it!  Whatever your budget is, a gym or fitness equipment is only good if you use it!      Figure out what your deal breakers are.  For some people, money isn't an issue but cleanliness of the gym is.  Others really want group classes for motivation and a social aspect of training.  If you don't know what you are doing in the gym it's like having a car without a drivers license!  Don't hesitate to ask me or your local fitness professional for help on how to make the most of your gym!  The feeling of accomplishing a significant fitness goal is priceless.  I've had a few clients over the years that have made some amazing transformations to their bodies and all of them will tell you that if they would have paid any sum imaginable if they knew that they would get the bodies of their dreams!  They didn't just shell out money and magically get transformed; they set goals and objectives along the way and worked towards it.  As Bob Harper of The Biggest Loser says "Trust the process" and the results will come!

Monday, April 18, 2011

When a salad isn't a salad!

Your going out to eat, your doing your best to be healthy and you open up the menu and see the crispy honey mustard salad and think "Oh that sounds good, I'll get that."  Your salad arrives and a couple bites into it you find a fly in your salad!  This is what happened to one of my friends last week and I'm here to tell you that it was the BEST thing that could have happened to her!  It blows my mind the things that restaurants put on their menu's and call "salads".  A bunch of us got a good laugh at my friends expense but it piqued my interest; I had to go the offending restaurants website and see if they nutrition facts were posted for this salad.  Whaddyaknow?  They have a nice .pdf of everything on their menu which is better than what a lot of restaurants have.  Upon further review, this salad (I use that word loosely!) has 1120 Calories, 72 grams of fat, 65 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein.  There is also well over 2000mg of Sodium!  How on earth you have a SALAD with 10% more fat than carbohydrates and 400% more fat than protein is beyond me!
I'm not going to tell you to never eat out, but be careful!  There are all sorts of traps like this on restaurant menus.  You could get out a Foreman grill and season and grill some chicken at home, buy a head of lettuce, a tomato, onion and cucumber and make a salad with 1/3 the calories of this one, for roughly the same price.  But if you have to go out to eat and get a salad here are a few tips:

  • Always grilled, Never crispy  I know the crispy stuff tastes good but you might as well go have KFC
  • Fish, chicken, steak in that order.  If your getting a salad with a protein added onto it, those are your best options however, keep in mind that even with grilled fish or shrimp most restaurants are going to add major amounts of sodium during cooking.
  • Dressing on the side  Put the dressing on yourself and don't drown it!  One of my clients gave me the great tip to simply dip your fork in your dressing then into your salad for a forkful.  You get enough dressing for taste without overloading on calories
  • Beware the bread!  I'm not an anti carb guy but beware of restaurants that offer the "unlimited breadsticks" if your watching your calories (Don't ask me how I know this!)
Follow these few simple tips and you can still eat out, be social and as I told my friend "Wouldn't you rather have a 500 calorie salad and 700 extra calories of Bud light? ;-)"

Monday, April 11, 2011

I am a simple person

Give me some good food, an unobstructed view of my television, maybe a couple cold ones for some 12 oz. curls and a good sporting event (The Masters yesterday was THE best golf tourney I've ever watched in my limited time as an avid golfer) and I'm happy.  It's a pretty simple tried and true way to keep most American men happy (ladies, did you get that? ;-)  So when I'm hanging out in socializing and people find out I'm a trainer, naturally they want to pick my brain on all things working out.  My biggest peeve is when someone who clearly hasn't worked out in ages (if ever) wants to know EVERY single nuance to the science behind training!  I love talking about what I know and why trainers in general do what we do, in fact, thats a huge part of what I'm trying to do with this blog but if you've been away from the gym for a while, don't go crazy!  Keep it simple!  The first part of success in ANYTHING in life is simply showing up!  Spend the first 3 weeks getting your butt to the gym 3-5 days a week and have a simple plan.  20-30 minutes of cardio and 20-30 minutes of weights.  Many gyms have special areas with a few machines setup in a circuit format for you to get a total body workout.  When I got my start at NYSC on 86th & Lex several years ago we had the "XPress Line" consisting of 8 machines targeting all the main muscle groups.  Certain hours of the day it was staffed by a trainer who would take you through all the machines and show you how to set them up.  Don't have this at your gym?  Look to do one exercise for each of the following groups:

Legs (Body weight Squats, lunges, leg press etc)
Back (Seated Row, Lat Pull downs, 1 arm dumbbell row, pullups)
Chest (Bench press, pushups, flies)
Shoulders (Overhead press, Lateral raises, Front raises)
Biceps (dumbell curls)
Triceps (Dips, triceps extensions)
On each exercise, find an amount of weight that lets you get 12-15 reps WITHOUT SACRIFICING FORM.  The last couple of reps should be fairly challenging.  If you can't get 12, lighten the weight.  If the 15th rep feels as easy as the first one, increase the weight.

Keep it simple, start building the habit of getting to the gym and then learn about how to progress and increase your intensity as you go!  In no time you will start looking better and more importantly FEELING better! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I am a very complex person

There is a lot that goes into making me who I am, but when it comes to the gym, I'm always trying to get the most bang for my buck.

A complex movement is a multi-joint movement that recruits large portions of the body to complete the exercise. Let's compare a simple movement leg exercise with a complex movement leg exercise:

The leg extension machine uses a simple, isolated movement to work the quadriceps. You're in a seated position moving only your knee joint. There isn't much involvement, if any, from other muscles and it doesn't burn very many calories.

Now let's look at a free weight walking lunge. You start by standing with your feet together and a dumbbell in each hand at your sides (or a barbell across your shoulders, or a medicine ball held at your chest, or even with no weight at all).
 ou take a large step forward and lower your back knee, keeping your front knee at a 90 degree angle. Now you push off your front foot and pull your back leg forward, repeating the movement. 
How many muscles did you utilize while performing the lunge? Probably too many to count.  You certainly worked your quadriceps, gluteus, hamstrings, calves, abdominals, supporting muscles in your shoulders, arms and back- just to name a few. You also raised your heart rate and really kicked your metabolism into high gear. That's what I call a great exercise. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm a loser

If you've got some excess lbs to lose, especially if your significantly overweight (50lbs or more over your ideal weight) cycling is a great option for you!

I'm going to skip the long back story but suffice it to say that last year I got reintroduced to cycling and quickly became an addict!  It's great exercise for anyone but if you are in seriously poor health, it can really be your ticket back to good health.  Today I wanted to offer up some info on why it's such a great form of exercise and some things that you should look out for in selecting a bike.

The number one issue with serious obesity and exercise is joint pain.  When your carrying around all that extra weight, you can do a lot of damage doing conventional exercise.  Running is absolutely the best way to burn calories and lose weight but if you start injuring your joints you won't be able to run.  Imagine if you could run but have a harness that lifted up on your body and made it feel as if you weighed half as much; this is what gears on a bike can do for you.  Gears allow you to push the pedals at a comfortable rate (cadence) to propel you forward.  Have a big hill to get up?  Shift into your lowest gear and spin the pedals easy so your not mashing your joints into oblivion.  

The other great thing about bikes and their gears is it really allows you to start slow and monitor your progress.  Over time you'll notice that hills that you used to need your absolute lowest gear can be tackled with a higher gear.  You can also coast on a bike.  If your getting tired, you can lay off the pedals a bit.  Even if your not seriously obese, if you have poor cardiovascular conditioning, cycling can be a fun way to start getting in basic cardio and improve your HEALTH!  I love cycling because it's easy for me to vary my workout.  If I'm pressed for time I can jump on my bike for 30 minutes and really pedal hard and go for a high intensity calorie burning workout.  If I've got plenty of time, I can get out and ride nice and easy for 2-3 hours checking out new neighborhoods in the city, finding fun places to go check out at later date and improve my endurance capabilites.

So what should you look for in a bike?  In my opinion the number one reason why people don't stick with cycling is that they fail to buy the right kind of bike!  Below are questions you should ask yourself before buying a bike.

1. Where will you be riding?  If you live in the suburbs and have access to true MTB trails you should consider a MTB.  If you have access to hard packed dirt trails that are relatively flat and may have a little bit of gravel or sand on them from time to time, you should be considering a Hybrid.   Hybrids have sturdy frames but are equipped with flat bars for an upright riding position and bigger tires for a smoother ride and ability to go over rougher terrain. A type of hybrid called a "comfort bike" usually has a suspension fork like a mountain bike to give added comfort on bumpy trails or roughly paved streets.   If you know you will only be on paved roads or paved Multi Use Path's (MUP's) or rail trails, a road bike is the way to go.  If you get the right type of bike for the kind of riding you do, and find that you start losing weight and getting more fit, you won't need to get a whole new bike, you'll just need to make subtle adjustments to how the bike fits you.

2. How does the bike fit?  Once you have picked out the ideal type of bike, you will still have problems if it doesn't fit you.  I'm 6'3 240 but I won't necessarily ride the same setup as another person my height and weight.  One of us may have long legs and a short torso and the other vice versa.  I don't have back problems but the other person might.  In addition to the general published frame size, bikes have different top tube lengths, stem lengths and pedal crankarm lengths not to mention saddles can be adjusted forward and backwards.  If you are on a bike that makes you feel comfortable, you will be more inclined to ride it.   As I mentioned above, if you have the right type of bike, you can always make adjustments to it as you lose weight or get more fit.  You may start with a road bike that is very upright, but as you get fit and your core gets stronger, you may lower the stem a bit or reposition your bars to get more "aggressive"  Fitting of the bike is one of the key differences between a bike bought at a bike shop and a "walmart special"

3. How much do you weigh?  If you are up to 200lbs, pretty much any stock bike can be made to work for you.  

200-225lbs, most stock bikes are equipped to handle you but 32 spoke wheels are a good idea. 

225-250lbs, you should be riding on 32 spoke wheels but you also should have rims that are more durable.  Some rims are very light weight and while they may have 32 spokes, the rims themselves don't have enough material to be strong.  Velocity Deep V's are a very popular choice for durable rims for larger riders on road bikes.  Mavic A319 and A719 are popular rim choices for hybrid bikes that can fit wider tires.  

250-300lbs you should be looking at 36 spoke wheels and again a very durable type of rim.

In addition, anyone over 225lbs should be conscious of the following:

Tires  Your rims may be plenty stout, but often times stock bikes come with very cheap tires.  Cheap tires often can't handle high pressure.  I was 230lbs when i bought my first bike last year.  The stock 700x28c tires could only handle 85psi.  At my weight, the tire would sometimes bottom out against the rim and cause "pinch flats".  I upgraded to a tire that could handle 100psi and that problem was solved.  Cheap tires don't have a protective layer, better tires have a layer of Kevlar that protects you from punctures.  NO TIRE IS FLAT PROOF!  But kevlar lined tires really make a huge difference on the glass riddled streets of the city.  Tire width is also important.  Some road bike frames can only fit small tires while hybrids can typically fit a very wide tire.  A wider tire will give a FAR more comfortable ride and really won't slow you down that much.

Saddle  If your a larger rider, you probably will need a saddle with more padding.  Many road bikes come with thin "racing" saddles.  Beware of too much padding though, sometimes too much padding just means you compress it and you end up being even more uncomfortable.  There are also "suspension seat posts" that have a spring in them that can give a more comfortable ride.  

If you are buying at a bike shop, there may be some upcharges for the items I mentioned above but it's well worth it.  Most bike shops will give you a credit for the items you aren't using.  For example, it may be $300 additional to build you a proper set of wheels, but they  can turn around and sell your stock wheels to someone for $200 so they may only charge you $100 additional for the proper wheels.  You can roll the dice on some of these things, but you'll probably end up paying more later.

My final advice to you "BEWARE THE EL CHEAPO AND THE EXPENSIVE BIKE!!!"  Good bikes come in ALL price points.  The best bike is the one that FITS you and makes you want to ride it.  If money is not an object you can be tempted to shell out a couple of thousand dollars for a high end bike at your local shop.  The truth is that typically expensive bikes are lightweight bikes.  Lightweight bikes have parts that are made out of carbon fiber and titanium and while they make the bike light, they also make the bike LESS DURABLE!  Expensive bikes often have lightweight wheels, with low spoke counts.  Again, the lighter the wheel and lower the spoke count, the less durable.  If you are a 150 lbs racing cyclist, shaving lbs or even grams off your bike can make a difference in winning or losing races.  But when your a heavy rider, you need durability!  You need a bike that you can ride day after day and not worry about it falling apart.  The beauty of cycling for heavier riders is it takes the stress off of your joints, but it does put stress on the bike.  Fortunately, it's easier to replace bike parts than body parts!  

Regarding cheap bikes, the phrase "you get what you pay for" comes to mind.  Department store bikes are usually not properly adjusted, just quickly put together in a store.  They are usually made from the cheapest parts available which isn't always a bad thing but usually is.  If you are on a budget used bikes are a GREAT option.  Peoples garages are filled with bikes that have just been gathering dust and simply need a little cleaning and a tune up and they will ride good as new.  With proper maintenance a bike will last forever so don't shy away from buying used, just be sure that the bike fits you or can be adjusted slightly to fit you.

Check out these two videos of my bikes and see the differences in bikes being used for 2 different purposes.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Bootcamp Cancelled for 2011


C'mon, those of you that know me wouldn't expect anything less of me!  I have to play April Fools jokes!  (I wanted to put Saran wrap on the toilet bowl and leave it for my girlfriend but for some reason our Saran Wrap is red???  Perhaps she read my mind when she bought it! ) I'm going to make it up to you though.  Yesterday was the last day to signup for bootcamp before the price goes up but since the weather has still been a bit dodgy and people just aren't quite in that spring feeling I'm going to extend the discounted signup period through the weekend!  So don't miss out!  Bootcamp is a results oriented class that would still be a great value at twice the price but now is your opportunity to signup at an INSANE rate.  Not only that, I'm going to give you the super secret "hidden" link to my website to sign up for an even more insane discount!  Click Here and tell them that Mr. T sent you!

"I pity the fool" that doesn't sign up today!  First class outdoors tomorrow morning at 9:30 am sharp!  South Gate House of the reservoir!

Dave "B.A." duCille  
(I know, you youngsters don't know who MR. T or B.A. is do you?)