by Jonathan Carroll
How can I get more sleep? How I can eat better? How can I get booty like yours? These are questions I get all the time.
Since my job is really about helping people improve their overall heath and quality of life, I frequently get asked, “How can I improve my _________?” Let’s be clear – there is tremendous variety to the way people fill in this Mad Lib. And, yet, I have found that most questions fall into what I affectionately call “The 4 Pillars of Health”: Sleep, Stress Management, Exercise and Nutrition.
The “4 Pillars” started as a simple, easy-to-follow guideline I provided to the people I coach at The Training Room. Over the past several years, it’s taken on a life of its own! While I am in the process of putting together an entire book that summarizes my complete recommendations in these four areas, I wanted to give you a sneak peek. Hopefully, my suggestions will give you a basic framework for thinking about your habits and goals – either way, I’d love your feedback.
I know this is an ask. As George Costanza used to say, “I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all busy.” I get it. I’m guilty too … but we need to stop priding ourselves on how busy we are – it’s not the first adjective any of us wants used to describe us. A few years ago, I was (un)fortunate enough to have thyroid problems and chronic plantar fasciitis which left me waking up in pain on a daily basis. While I can’t say this was the best of times, it was transformative for me. It’s when I decided that I needed to make some major changes to my life and prioritize my well-being. I know it’s hard. But, I promise you, if you do the same, it may be one of then best decisions you ever make (other than doing another couple deadlifts to get glutes like mine).
Pillar 1: Sleep
I used to stay up late almost every night. I convinced myself that I was a “night” person – that the wee hours were my “creative” time and were precious. While I would routinely come up with four or five ideas a night (all brilliant, thank you … good thing I love being a trainer), I was only getting 4-5 hours of sleep after working 8-12 hour days. Even for super humans (or as I like to call them, the Irish), it takes a toll. Sleep is when your body and mind repair themselves. It’s when the junk gets filtered out and things get reset. Sleep lets you think more clearly and be at your best. And, trust me, since your brain and your body love deep sleep, you should too!
by Jenny Cunha
I became a SFG kettlebell instructor in order to challenge myself and fine-tune my abilities. Going through the training and certification process not only gave me the opportunity to learn from some of the best coaches, but made me focus on the basics in order to push my own endurance and strength. I’m so glad I embraced the challenge, and I’ve got six good reasons why you should train with kettlebells too.
#1 – Skill Acquisition Learning and practicing a new skill, whatever it may be, improves confidence and cognitive function- both of which have a positive impact on your health and well-being. You can increase your focus and involve your brain in your workouts by using a tool that requires a higher-level of technical skill and understanding – the kettlebell.
#2 – Versatility The kettlebell may be the most versatile, stand-alone training tool, period. Inline with the specific goals, structure and timing of your program, the kettlebell can be used to focus on mobility, strength, power or conditioning. A well-rounded training program starts with good movement at its foundation. From there, you can progress in a logical sequence, building strength and then power. The kettlebell can be used every step of the way.
#3 – The Sweat Factor It’s no secret that a good sweat can be satisfying. Physical activity has long been shown to have incredible health benefits, including the ability to lift your mood. Research has even proven that exercise is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. Regardless of whether exercise actually releases endorphins (jury’s out on that, believe it or not), stimulates norepinephrine production to help combat stress, or simply enhances communication between your body’s physiological systems, it’s undeniable that it’s good for your body and your mind.
by Tyler Cote
That’s right, I’ve now been in the fitness industry for 10 years! Don’t ask me where the time has gone — all I can tell you is that when you love what you do, it never feels like work. Today, as I look back, I’d like to share with you 10 things I’ve learned over this period of my life:
1) Make fitness a lifestyle
I assess nearly everyone who starts at The Training Room and have found that most voice similar goals: “I want to lose weight”, “I want to get stronger”, and sometimes both. Rather than jumping straight into an exercise, I follow-up with a series of questions:
A.) What is normal day of eating like for you?
B.) What is a normal night of sleeping?
C.) Based on a 1-10 scale, how stressed are you on average?
Your answers to these questions play a major role in achieving your goals. You can exercise as much as you like, but if you don’t have a strong handle on your nutrition, sleep and stress, none of it matters. Creating good habits and making a life commitment to them will be the game changer. If you’re willing to do this, I promise you that what follows will be easier.
2) Build the foundation
When I think about why the TR has been successful over the years, I accredit it to our ability to form a strong foundation for our clients. Mainstream media constantly advertises the next best exercise or quickest way to burn fat. In reality, all they’re doing is pushing you farther away from where you want to be.
Your focus should be learning how to do exercise basics really well. Learn how to breath correctly, how to brace your core, and how to feel when your glutes are activated. These practices may seem slight, but it is this kind of investment that forms the most stable foundation for you to build upon as you increase your strength and skill over time.
by Alex Tanskey
I often feel like I’m a salmon. Not in a bad way. More in a “swimming against the tide of outdated fitness information” way.
But sometimes, that tide is just too strong.
Whether it’s someone’s preconceptions of training, or previous experiences with other trainers/coaches, people are often surprised when they go through one of my sessions or classes. There’s this idea that in order for training to be “good” it must be 1) hard, 2) intense, 3) bodybuilding style, and/or 4) cardio based. And really, it doesn’t need to be any of those four.
by Heidi Shalek
Let’s face it – we all want to feel strong, happy, healthy and pain-free. Most of us wouldn’t mind having a rockin’ body and friends who care about us either. One of the main reasons we hit the gym is to obtain some, if not all, of these things. So why does the traditional gym experience fall short for so many? One potential answer: because people aren’t getting these things. If they were, they would make it a priority to go, right? Yet, no matter what, on January 1st, gyms across the country will be flooded with a fresh batch of healthy hopefuls who are looking (and likely not for the first time) for these elusive gym benefits in the same old places.
If you’ve been to The Training Room, hopefully you know that not all exercise is created equal. You also know that going to the gym doesn’t have to be a solitary grind filled with pain, anxiety, and self-doubt (I’m willing to bet, if you’ve ever wandered a gym floor in search of an open elliptical machine or piece of equipment you actually know how to use, you know what I’m talking about.)
There’s good news. I can say with confidence that every single coach at the TR is dedicated to client education, building our fitness community, and providing a fun, friendly, and welcoming environment. We believe in setting realistic goals and achieving them through safe, appropriately challenging, progressive workouts. By focusing on increasing what you can do well and safely, we can gradually help you build strength and improve the quality of your movement (Why should you care about the quality of your movements? Another simple answer: so you don’t jack yourself up).
Enter TRAC. Everyone who begins our TRAC program must complete a functional movement screen and demonstrate a solid grasp of the fundamentals of lifting weights and swinging bells (We recruit our coaches from a land where kettlebell swings are as fundamental as tooth brushing … just in case you ever wondered where Alex Tanskey came from). Once you’re in, your TRAC group will inevitably develop its own unique dynamic. Critically, it is that very group dynamic that can often provide the missing link in your quest for health and wellness.
by Eirinn Carroll
by Maren Kravitz
Marci Karplus began personal training at The Training Room in March 2011. Since then, Marci has completed 337 personal training sessions. With the exception of summer travel, a few injuries and life’s minor twists and turns, Marci has remained committed to training twice a week for the past five years.
Beyond her commitment, what makes Marci’s story unique is her late arrival into the world of fitness. Marci picked up running at the age of 58, after a news program mentioned that Jill Biden was running five miles a day. “I thought well heck, maybe I can do that,” Marci said. “Nothing like having a role model.”
Marci got hooked on the exhilarating feeling she got from running. Cautiously increasing her mileage, Marci worked up to four weekly runs – ranging from three to ten miles at a time. Marci loved it. “Running at a slow pace allowed me time to get lost in my thoughts, while enjoying the scenery around me,” said Marci.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade
Within the first year of taking up running, Marci began to get sidelined by aches and pains in her knees. Determined to get stronger and continue her running, Marci began training at the TR and enlisted the help of physical therapists.
Marci was diligent, completing her physical therapy exercises and making sure she took an appropriate amount of time off running to rest her knees. Unfortunately, Marci continued to feel the same knee pain each time she returned to running after a break. Unbeknownst to Marci, a foot surgery dating back 25 years was the cause of her knee pain and eventual end to her running career.
Ray Weaver came to The Training Room in March of 2015 with two specific goals – to lose weight and manage his back pain. At the start of his training with me, Ray weighed 245 lbs. With a true belief that a healthy lifestyle will lead to success, Ray stayed the course, and is now 195 lbs while living pain free. Not only is Ray’s story inspiring, but it can remind us all that real change is possible through hard work, dedication and positivity.
Finding your course correction
The first step toward success in the gym is your personal mindset. Ray understood that a healthy lifestyle did not have to be all sacrifice and no fun. Wishing for a quick fix or directing too much attention to the past could have easily sidelined Ray’s future goals. As a team we remained focused on the positive while embracing the challenges that lie ahead. Results are not a given, they are earned.
Focus on progress not perfection
If you’re dreading your gym time because it’s challenging, uncomfortable or boring, you may find it hard to stay committed to your goals. With a positive mindset, Ray committed to a training program two times a week at the TR in addition to improving his eating habits. In the gym, Ray followed a simple, straightforward weight loss program including total body strength work, core work, and metabolic circuits.
Moving more often and becoming stronger not only helped Ray meet his weight loss goals, but also helped eliminate his back pain. Like most new clients at the TR, Ray had a specific goal when he walked in, and it is my job as his coach to keep these goals at the forefront of his training program while creating a safe, fun and effective workout. Keeping the sessions focused on what he could do, rather than what he could not do, helped Ray maintain a positive mindset and dedication to his training plan.
Join The Training Room, Runfellow, Oat Shop Boston, Neon Bandits and Somerville Local First on Saturday, September 24th for the Community Co-op Series: Health & Wellness Edition. Our mission is to bring small businesses together to strengthen the local economy through collaboration. Proceeds go directly to Somerville Local First, and the funds are used throughout the year to support SLF members as they work to grow their local brands.
How can you help support all things local in Somerville? Sign up to participate in this awesome event that’s not only good for your health, but good for the local economy! Run 2 miles, bike 10 miles (indoor), and run 1 more mile to the finish!
Sign up online via The Training Room website by selecting the September 24th date on the calendar and clicking on your preferred time slot. Registration for this event is FREE, with donations (suggested, $30) accepted at the event. Oat Shop Boston will be on hand for post-workout fuel, and Neon Bandits will serving up socks. That’s right, action-lifestyle socks. What are you waiting for?
When we receive a letter like this from one of our clients, it reminds us what a great job we have as coaches, and how fortunate we are to work in the fitness and wellness industry. Helping people learn how to move well and get stronger so they can enjoy life is quite simply, the best thing ever.
July 26, 2016
To: Training Room
I found out about the TR through a friend. One day I ran into him at work and complimented on how great he looked. He then started to tell me about TR and kettlebell training. He had hurt his back as well and we pretty much experienced the same pain. We both were on the same page how Meds, PT or even a chiropractor wasn’t helping. Seeing how he looked and felt I decided to look into the TR. I asked who he recommended and he told me about a kid, Kyle. November of 2016 I called and made an appointment with Kyle. I had no idea what to expect which I am sure Kyle knew since I showed up in jeans and a sweatshirt for the assessment. Before I started I could hardly walk or stand without having pain. I was miserable every day. I am a very active person and just turned 50 and this injury had stopped me from most activities I enjoyed. At first when I started I thought, “Is this going to help at all?”. The exercises were something I never did and seemed very weird to me. But within the first month I started to feel better and was able to do things I couldn’t do before.
by Rob Colameta
Whether you’re personal training, in TRAC class, circuit training, or even at outdoor sports conditioning, you’re guaranteed to run into the pushup. I’ve seen a lot of different people do the pushup and have found myself using the same two cues to help people get the most out of this popular and really effective strength exercise.
Most people finish their pushups like this:
In reality, that’s not too bad. Note that his hips are in-line with his shoulders, he’s not arching his back, and it looks like he’s holding a solid plank at the top. However, he’s missing out on some serious shoulder benefits by not reaching his hands through the ground.
If he thinks about “reaching” at the top of the pushup, you’ll see his shoulder blades come around to the sides of his torso, like so:
It’s a subtle change but very easy to correct and guarantees you the awesome shoulder benefits that come along with doing the pushup correctly.
#2: Use Your Whole Body
By Chris Mullins
Leiter began training with me back in January 2015 to incorporate strength training into his running routine. He had gone through physical therapy to rehab a calf injury sustained while running back in August of 2014, but was still experiencing some lingering effects. His initial assessment revealed some common imbalances, as well as high training volume. Put these two elements together–repeated overload on a compromised foundation–and it’s not surprising that Leiter’s body started to break down. So the approach was simple:
- Address imbalances
- Reduce training volume (# of days and total weekly running mileage)
However, as always the approach may be simple but the implementation is rarely easy. Fortunately, Leiter is a fantastic client with an aptitude toward structure and routine. Without further ado, here is Leiter’s story.
If you didn’t catch coach Alex’s blog last week… don’t worry, it’s not too late for an interesting
rant read. 🙂 Please enjoy:
I’d like to thank The New York Times for contributing to the malaise and hopelessness currently coupled with obesity.
Why? Because last Monday the Times published After The Biggest Loser, Their Bodies Fought to Regain the Weight. A depressing account of what happens to contestants after they leave the show, it is. But good journalism? It is not.
Sadly, this newest article adds to the disagreeable and outdated health advice from the Times, or those found in an Op-Ed. And full disclosure, I’m far from impartial as The Biggest Loser is among my most hated shows on television. Yet I’m also a religious watcher of The Bachelor, so hey, nobody’s perfect.
I don’t believe the Times had malicious intent, nor were they purposely trying to paint sustained weight loss as some Sisyphean task. Instead, my main gripe was that they didn’t add anything to the conversation and they failed to propose any solutions. We’ve known from study after study that losing weight is the “easy” part, maintaining is the hardest. And the only answers they did provide were bariatric surgery or accepting hunger as the new normal.
Whitney’s struggle with anxiety and depression let her to pursue exercise as a way to improve her mental health. We’re so grateful that she took the time to answer a few questions and share her story…
What initially brought you into the The Training Room?
Mental health. Like many people, I have anxiety and depression and last June, I decided to try exercising as a way of managing. I felt anxious about joining a large gym and knew I needed one-on-one attention. I sent an email to the TR explaining my situation and saying that I desperately needed help. I put myself out there and within hours received a response from Heidi who scheduled me for a fitness assessment and set me up with personal training. She suggested I start with Kyle, and almost a year later, I feel better than ever! Now, exercise is a way of life – my friends even jokingly call me Ms. Fitness, which is a far cry from the person who ran off a treadmill a few years ago shouting “I will never set foot in a gym again!”
What has been your favorite part about your training?
I love the education I’ve received since joining the TR. Each trainer spends time explaining what we are doing and why, taking the time to increase my knowledge about fitness, exercise, and movements. I bring out of town friends to the TR at times and I love that the trainers are consistent with teaching proper form and educating guests. They show their passion and knowledge and in turn, it is passed down to their clients. That, my friends, is my favorite part!
Since my injury, I had countless doctor appointments, saw 2 back specialists, 3 sessions of acupuncture, massage therapy, 20 sessions of physical therapy and 1 epidural injection…all of which did NOTHING for me. In fact, one back specialist told me I had three choices: learn to live with the pain, live on pain killers, or surgery because there is no “magic pill.” I refused to accept any of these options.
Meet Sallie, a student at Wheelock College who is wrapping up her studies this spring. Sallie ran on the Wheelock cross-country team for a few seasons and had begun to experience some discomfort that is all too common with high-volume running. She came to The TR looking to incorporate strength training into her routine to get stronger, improve her running mechanics and, in her own words, “make the most of my body.”
One of the best things about training Sallie is that she always shows up to her sessions with a big smile and a fantastic attitude. (In fact, she has been known to smile in the middle of a Turkish Get-up.) We put together a training program that would fit into her busy schedule and address areas that have caused her problems in the past. Last fall, a stronger, leaner, and more badass Sallie completed her first two half-marathons six weeks apart, injury-free.
Here is Sallie’s story, in her own words:
InnerCity Weightlifting is a non-profit that works with Boston’s at-risk youth, providing career, academic, and social opportunities through fitness. They empower young people with the confidence to say no to violence and yes to opportunity.
The Training Room is excited to host our first fundraiser for ICW on Saturday, January 24th. We are offering FREE online sign up for all TR classes from 10AM to 1PM. Donations for ICW will be accepted at the event.
Something Gud, a local farmer’s market delivery service, will also be on site. 10% of all Something Gud sales will go to benefit ICW.
Please visit www.innercityweightlifting.org to find out more about how you can help reduce violence in Boston and change lives.