The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2007 issue 11



Fitness Travel Tips

Unless your travel is purely for vacation (including a vacation from training) there is really no reason why you should let yourself off the hook and scale back.  Occasional time off from intense training is sometimes beneficial and necessary to let your body recover and rejuvenate completely from chronic training stress.  However, it is also true that it really doesn't take much to maintain fitness once it is developed, and an abbreviated, but still effective, workout routine could certainly be used, if you choose, when you're on the road.

That being said, I wanted to share some tips I ran across that focus on staying in shape and eating right while traveling.  If you are indeed serious about your health and fitness, find reasons to better your situation, rather than excuses to take a break!

Decide to improve while you're traveling and to come home in better shape than when you left.  The only reason most people usually come home with lower fitness and a few extra pounds than when they left is because they didn't make a decision to do otherwise.  Most people hold a belief that it's "impossible" to stay on their eating and exercise program while they are traveling.  Why not get in better shape no matter where you are?

Write out your workout schedule in advance.  In addition to writing out goals regularly, you should also commit your training schedule to paper and especially when you are traveling.  Write down the days, the time of the day, and the exact workout you plan to do and you will be amazed at how easy you will find it is to get to the gym and have great workouts.

Get a hotel with a kitchen.  If you don't have a kitchen, you will be much more likely to skip meals, and it is very difficult to eat 5 or 6 meals a day (as recommended by any good fat burning or muscle building nutrition program).  You don't want to end up at the mercy of restaurant, hotel, or convenience store food.

Go food shopping immediately after checking in.  It also helps to have a grocery list of what meals you plan to make.  This places you in control of the choices that you make for meals.

Check the local restaurant locations and menus and commit in advance to making healthy choices when dining out.  Get in the habit of scoping out restaurants in advance and even check their websites.  Make a decision in advance whether you are going to have a regular meal or a "cheat meal".  If it's a cheat meal, enjoy whatever you want, but keep the portion size in mind.  Consider sharing that piece of cheesecake rather than acting on impulse and complaining about it later.

Cook portable foods and bring meal replacements or healthy snacks for drives, flights and day trips.  Healthy sandwiches, tuna burgers, oatmeal pancakes, fruit... there are a variety of things that you can make or buy and bring on the road with you.

Choose your gym or check your hotel fitness facilities in advance.  Many people workout right in their hotel room with body weight exercises, or portable equipment.  If you prefer the equipment in a gym, look for a hotel that offers a fitness center, or an affiliation with a local gym.

Pack your workout gear and plenty of workout clothes.  When you are in a hurry, it's easy to forget to pack your workout clothes.  Depending on your plan of action, remember to pack what you need for the workout that you are intending to do (ie. straps, lifting belts, etc..)

Change up your workouts as you change up your gym.  Some people get accustomed to their hometown gym and are often upset or disappointed when they don't have access to the same equipment when they travel.  This can be a blessing in disguise.  Your body adapts to any workout, often in just a matter of weeks.  Sometimes a simple change of exercises is enough to stimulate new progress.

Walk, bike, or make physical recreation part of your travel plans.  When you are on the road for business or pleasure, there are usually plenty of opportunities to get some physical recreation and see the sites by foot.  Hiking, biking, sightseeing... find a healthy way to keep your blood pumping.

Pay Attention to Pain and Soreness

When any workout or specific exercise causes you pain, pay attention. Knowing how to react can help you avoid a serious injury. Strength training can cause several types of pain including:

Muscle Soreness
When you use muscles you have not used for a while or try a new exercise or training technique, it is normal to feel a dull ache of soreness in the muscles that were trained. This pain is caused by microscopic tears in the fibers of the connective tissues in your body, the ligaments that connect bones to other bones, and the tendons that connect muscles to bones.

This micro-trauma may sound harmful but is in fact the natural response of your muscles when they experience work. This is the primary reason it is so important that you get enough rest between specific muscle workouts. Each time you work out with weights, you cause this "damage" - these tiny tears in your muscles; they need ample resting time to rebuild and become even stronger, bigger, and more firm.

Pain During or Just After a Workout
During a workout, repeated contractions cause lactic and other acids, as well as proteins and hormones, to build up in muscle tissue. This can cause pain even without injury. But if you experience a sharp, continuous pain, or pain accompanied by a burning sensation, stop lifting and get it checked.

These happen when muscles, often in the calves or feet, knot up in intense contractions. Cramps occur most commonly in endurance sports like cycling and running, where the athlete loses a lot of fluids through sweating. This is why it's very important to stay well-hydrated during exercise. If you do get cramps, the best way to stop them is to gently stretch the cramped muscle.

When working out with weights you need to be in full control of both the weights and your own body as it lifts and uses the weights. Careless weightlifting can result in injury. Not warming up, attempting to lift too heavy a weight, using momentum or jerky movements, letting the weights drop, not using correct form, or forgetting to stretch or cool-down after your workout can indeed result in injury.

Strength training provides many important benefits that cannot be achieved by any other exercise or activity. However, when enjoying this great form of exercise, be sure to pay attention to pain and soreness so that your program is not only effective, but safe as well. Good luck: I hope you enjoy all the wonderful benefits of a safe and effective strength training program.



Elite Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Hanging Ab Crunch

This is one of my favorite bodyweight abdominal exercises and one that I try perform on a regular basis. Because there are several variations, beginners and advanced alike can benefit from the excellent ab work.   Although you can perform this exercise simply by hanging
by your hands, the Ab Slings that are depicted in the pictures allow you to perform more repetitions of the exercise since they take hand fatigue out of the equation.


Target:  abdominals (rectus abdominus)

Count:  2 count

Description Beginners should raise their knees 90 degrees until their thighs are parallel with the floor, while intermediates would continue past this point and attempt to touch their knees to their elbows (or as far as they can past 90 degrees).  For the advanced variation of the exercise the goal should be to touch your ankles or feet to the bar.

Success Story

When it comes to health and fitness you can always find people that work out… and people that don’t.  Since I became a personal trainer, I hear all kinds of stories about people’s challenges and successes.  I wanted to share one with you from a friend and colleague of mine that inspires me to stick to it:  

Why I Exercise – by Michael Spalding

To understand why I exercise, let me give you some background so you get a better picture, without revealing my age at this point.

I grew up as a skinny kid in New Jersey, graduating at a whopping 132 pounds.  Several years later I started playing music and then traveling to do so.  I was eating all the best food any vending machine could provide (nothing like some yo-ho’s at 3am in the morning).  After many years, one day my metabolism just seemed to stop.  I knew that because I could no longer wear my favorite jeans and at the time I thought they had shrunk.  Well, they didn’t, but I thought nothing of it since I was young.

Fast forward several more years… We had a family reunion one year and I was wearing these very awful looking shorts.  Afterwards I saw a picture of what my family saw this out of shape, large guy… ME!  My wife started nagging me to go to a gym and do something because I was complaining about my back hurting.  I blamed that on the many years of lifting music equipment.  I caved in and went to the gym, maybe 1 to 2 days a week… nothing very serious.  Nothing really changed for me… same large guy.  I had gone from a skinny 132 pound high school grad to an out of shape 190+ pounder.

Fast forward a couple more years… My son was born and it was great.  But the sad thing was that the older he got, the harder it was for me to pick him up because of my back pain.  When he was 5, I was 45, and not even strong enough to really pick up my son.  At about the same time some of my friends (who where my same age) started having serious issues.  There were two heart attacks, a stroke, breathing problems… enough to wake me up.  I made a decision that this was not going to happen to me.

I found that fat picture of me, the one from the family reunion.  I stuck it up on my bathroom mirror.  I started going to the gym 3 days a week, even though I really didn’t know what I was doing.  I roamed around from machine to machine and did some cardio stuff… but nothing very serious.  One thing did happen though… my back slowly stopped hurting!  This was after about a year.

Fast forward a couple more years… I picked up a routine after I started doing research on technique and how to get the most out of a three day workout plan.  One day my wife noticed when I was playing with our son and flinging him in the air.  She said “wow, I had no idea you could do that”.  I said “what?”  She said “pick him up”.  We smiled and another thought struck me… what if I did a four day routine?

Well, here we are many years since… I went up to a 5 day routine, including cardio every day along with the weights.  I dropped from that 190+ pound guy, to roughly 175 pounds (give or take).  My son is now almost 17 years old and I have been working out on a 4 or 5 day routine for about 10 years.  I feel better now than I did when I was 20. There is nothing really that I feel I can not do (which is a great feeling when you keep up with the 20 year oldsJ). 

I am a believer in using heavy weights to achieve strength rather than looks.  I typically perform 10-12 exercises per day with 4 sets of 10 reps for each exercise with 40 minutes of cardio each workout day.  I also still keep my fat picture on the mirror as my daily motivation!

In case you were a little slow with the math, my friend Mike here is pushing 57 years old!  (Sorry Mike, I had to come right out with it since I find that very impressive)  Mike tells me that he is using 50 lbs for seated dumbbell curls, does 270 lbs for lat pull-downs, and he is putting up 315 lbs on the bench press!  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I will be extremely happy with myself if I could come close to that in a few years!  I think that a common pitfall with people nowadays is deciding when it is ok to stop working out.  At what age is the excuse acceptable?  The bottom line is that the same principals apply to working out at any age.  Do as much as you can handle, challenge yourself to improve, and you will continue to see the benefits! 

It's Go Time!

The end of October marks the beginning of the danger zone for a lot of people!  Now you have the Halloween candy to deal with, followed by the huge portions during the feasts at Thanksgiving (not to mention the leftovers) and then you have Christmas the following month with the dinners, candy, treats, etc... and a week later, we finish up with New Years and the related celebrations.  That could be quite a damaging season... if you let it!

Be prepared... don't wait until your New Year's resolution to start being good.  If you eat healthy and workout all throughout the season you will have that much less ground to make up when you "decide to get back into it".  I'm not saying that you should stick to salads instead of that turkey dinner, but if you are smart about your choices on most of the other days, then you will be in a much better position by 2008!

If you want to drop a few inches, don't fall for the quick wait loss promises.  One to two pounds per week is a recommended goal to safely lose weight and it takes about 12 weeks after starting an exercise program to see measurable changes in your body.  Do the math and plan accordingly when setting your weight loss goals.

For prior issues of this newsletter go to  

Good Luck!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT


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