The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2008 issue 9



Money Can't Make You Fit

As long as I can remember, I've always looked for an excuse to buy toys!  Whether it be hardware tools, computer stuff, or fitness equipment, there's always something that I can find a reason to buy!

Be that as it may, I've gotten more particular in recent years regarding the perceived value that is placed on some of this fitness equipment.  First of all, let me just start by saying this... if you are just planning to start working out... your start date should not be based upon the purchase of any new equipment, nor should it be based upon your new club/gym membership!  That's just an excuse for you to postpone your training and does nothing for the proper mindset that you want to have!

Now back to my point about perceived value of fitness equipment.  Some of the gadgets that we see in these infomercials and advertisements are just colorful renditions of stuff that has been around for years!  Others are simply gimmicks that appeal to people that are looking for an "easier" way to get results that normally come from hard work.  Sorry, but I personally don't see how you can think that something is very effective, if it doesn't "feel" effective.  I've said it before, they don't call it WORKing out for nothing!

Don't get me wrong, some of the things are definitely functional, but when they start jacking up the price for no reason, it really annoys me!  Let's look at some of the items out there in today's market.  It seems like most of the stuff I'm going to gripe about fall in the category of abdominal equipment.  These companies aren't stupid, they know that everyone wants to work on their midsection. 

The first couple gadgets have been reinvented so many times, I wonder what they'll come up with next.  I've seen the Ab Dolly ($30), the Ab Slide Roller $20, and a few others that basically copy the same independent motion as the old "Wheel of Pain" or Ab Wheel <$10 that has been around for as long as I can remember.  Although it's tough to beat under $10 for this gadget, try grabbing your kids skateboard or another sturdy wheeled toy to accomplish the same motion!

Ab "Lounger"?  Are you kidding me?  Never mind that fact that they are trying to make people think that they can kick back and relax while working their abs, they have the nerve to put this high tech contraption together for roughly $170 when you can work the same muscles doing a full crunch on the floor ($0).

The Ab Roller ($60) was another one that was popular for a while, and I actually know a few people that have purchased it.  Once again, you can get the same results doing more floor work.  Try a standard crunch or even a curl-up and save your hard earned cash!

The next piece of equipment I actually REALLY like and there are countless exercises that you can do with it.  Although suspension training has been around for years, it has recently been getting renewed interest.  When interest increases, so does marketing!  The TRX System is a perfect example of that.  They seem to be promoting this everywhere you look.  It really is a good set up... but not for $150!  Blast Straps ($60) were a little know secret before that (probably due to lack of marketing).  Let's face it, these are basically straps that hang independently to challenge your stability.  I bought a pair of cargo lashing straps ($8) at Home Depot, made a few handles out of PVC pipe and use my $15 contraption (with eye hooks and clips) on a regular basis!

I can go on and on with a lot of these things, but you don't want to read any more ranting.  The bottom line is that you should take a good look at what you are planning to purchase before emptying your wallet.  There are some good, quality, pieces of equipment out there, as well as over-priced junk.  Be smart, make your decisions carefully, and remember... no matter how much money you dish out, your training effect will only come from the hard work that you put in!

Too Much Pressure

High blood pressure is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  In fact, when I was about 35 pounds heavier and very much the couch potato, being diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) after having a few chest pains is what I consider my "wake-up call" to be.

I can remember my blood pressure being so high at my check-up that the doctor wouldn't let me leave the office.  I was prescribed 20mg of blood pressure medication in addition to cholesterol medication, but I was told that it wasn't necessarily a permanent thing.  I started working out again the next day.  Over the next year I went from 20mg to 10mg and eventually got myself off the medications all together.  Diet and exercise can accomplish great things and they are under your control! 

High blood pressure usually reveals no symptoms and can impact people of all ages and backgrounds.  Everyone needs blood pressure to live, but high blood pressure can put you at risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, and blindness.  Taking the necessary steps to control your blood pressure can be a life-saving decision.

What is blood pressure?
A blood pressure reading measures the force of blood as it presses against the walls of your arteries.  It's made up of two numbers that measure your heart pumping and resting.  Systolic blood pressure, the top number, measures the force while your heart pumps.  Diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number, measures the force between pumps.

Systolic Diastolic Recommendation
< 120 < 80 Normal blood pressure. Have blood pressure checked again in 2 years.
120 - 139 80 - 89 Pre-high blood pressure. Have blood pressure checked again within a month.
Greater than 140 Greater than 90 High Blood Pressure. Go to you physician for further treatment. Have blood pressure checked at least three times in the next month.

Why is high blood pressure dangerous?
When blood pressure is too high, blood can not flow freely through your arteries and your heart has to pump harder than it should.  While your diastolic number stays about the same all the time, your systolic number changes frequently as your body responds to daily activities and stress.  Problems occur if your numbers remain elevated for an extended period of time.  These high numbers may lead to several serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, and blindness.

What can I do to reduce my risk?

  • Exercise regularly to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Watch your weight to avoid obesity.
  • Limit sodium to less than 3000 mg per day.
  • Limit total fat to less than 30% of calories.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Keep stress under control.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid extra caffeine.
  • Take medication prescribed by your doctor.

I like hitting the weights as much as the next guy, but I decided years ago when I had my blood pressure scare that I would not ignore the need for cardiovascular exercise no matter how much I wanted to focus on muscle-work.  Cardio exercise needs to have it's place in your workout routine and finding the time to work it in needs to be a priority.  Plan for the future and take care of your ticker!

Resources on the Net:

Elite Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Hop-Over Burpee

I'm a big fan of the "burpee" or "squat thrust".  I think that it is a great overall body exercise that also provides an excellent cardio workout (as many of my wrestlers will attest to).  This variation of the classic burpee incorporates a plyometric hop in between to further challenge your agility and increase explosive leg power.  You can adjust the barrier size that you jump over depending on your abilities.  You can also add a push-up or two to your burpee to make them more challenging.  This is an awesome exercise to add to your "park workout" while using a low bench, log, or rock to jump over! 

(incidently, I made the agility hurdle that I used in the picture out of PVC pipe from Home Depot.) 


Target:  legs, arms, shoulders, chest, abs (quadriceps, triceps, deltoids, pectoralis major, rectus abdominus)

Count:  9 or so

Description:  Starting position standing to the side of your desired barrier (start small and work your way up), squat down placing your hands on the ground, jump your legs back to the push-up position, (add push-up here if desired), jump your legs back to the squatted position, explosively jump up and over your barrier, repeat the burpee on the other side, explosively jump back to the starting position.

The Pros and Cons of Caffeine

In North America, 90% of adults consume caffeine daily.  Caffeine is present in such foods as chocolate, some soft drinks, and of course, coffee and tea.  Caffeine is a stimulant and before drug testing of athletes became routine at major competitions, stimulants like amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine, and strychnine were among the most commonly used doping agents. 

The precise amount of caffeine necessary to produce effects varies from person to person depending on body size and degree of tolerance to caffeine.  It takes less than an hour for caffeine to begin affecting the body and a mild dose wears off in three to four hours.

The effects of stimulants like caffeine include;  reduced fatigue, increased alertness, increased confidence and even euphoria.  With these effects, caffeine is an ergogenic: increasing the capacity for mental or physical labor.

Caffeine specifically benefits prolonged endurance performance.  The ergogenic potential of caffeine has been the subject of many studies and extensive reviews.  A study conducted in 1979 showed a 7% increase in distance cycled over a period of two hours in subjects who consumed caffeine compared to control tests.  Other studies attained much more dramatic results; one particular study of trained runners showed a 44% increase in "race-pace" endurance, as well as a 51% increase in cycling endurance, after a dosage of 9 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight.   Another study found 5.5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body mass resulted in subjects cycling 29% longer during high intensity circuits.  Another primary benefit of caffeine is a glycogen-sparing effect through increased availability of fatty acids, although the glycogen sparing effect does not occur in all individuals.


A typical cup of freshly brewed coffee contains approximately 120 mg of caffeine.  More than three cups of coffee drunk shortly before competition would be required to exceed the urinary caffeine limits permitted by the IOC (International Olympic Committee).  Doses below this range can produce markedly improved endurance times for highly trained athletes.  Although drug testing has substantially curbed the use of stimulants in sports (cheating), caffeine remains in a "gray area" where the stimulants are available in over-the-counter medications as well as in food items.

There are also risks to performance and health.  The principal drawback to caffeine use is a potential diuretic effect, which would be expected to occur most prominently in non-habitual users, theoretically producing a range of effects from inconvenience to performance-threatening dehydration.  Nervousness and irritability may also result from caffeine ingestion.  In addition, those with high blood pressure are recommended to limit or reduce their caffeine intake.

Consumption of caffeine does not eliminate the need for sleep: it only temporarily reduces the sensation of being tired.  By delaying fatigue and producing euphoric effects, stimulants carry the risk that an athlete will be pushed beyond safe physiological limits and could suffer serious consequences.  They are also more likely to "keep going" and ignore injuries.  An additional risk of stimulants is the development of drug dependence. 

Another downside of caffeine for some people is when they stop taking it.  Some people have a different level of sensitivity to the effects of caffeine.  Although I've never been a coffee drinker, I used to drink a lot of diet soda.  I was good for at least a 20oz in the morning at work everyday.  I also was the victim of headaches several times per week.  After realizing that I was suffering from caffeine withdrawal, I have tried to cut out my caffeine consumption whenever possible and the headaches have magically disappeared.  Although the caffeine does make you feel better... it is an addiction that I have chosen to live without.

More information:

It's Go Time!

Back to school!  There are mixed emotions associated with those 3 words.  For the students it means the summer is over and it's back to the books.  However, depending on the student, it could also mean back to athletics and the thrill of competition.  Parents often breath a sigh of relief since back to school often means back to some structure and routine.  Either way, if you are a student, or a parent of a student, this typically means a time for change.  The question is, how will you handle the change?

With change you have a choice to make.  Will this change have a positive or negative effect on my lifestyle?  Will I use this change as an excuse to postpone my workouts, or will I adapt and find ways to prioritize and make it work?  In some cases this change could provide more opportunity for you.  The decision is yours and the opportunity is what you make of it... but first you have to make the choice!

Reminder:  The 2008 MS150 Bike to the Bay is 9/27 and 9/28.  If you are interested in participating in the ride this year, you can email me at or click here to join Team Bank of America Sponsor dollars are great too... you can make a charitable donation for the Multiple Sclerosis Society by sponsoring me for the ride and help us to reach our goal that much quicker!  Thanks for your support!

For prior issues of this newsletter go to  

Good Luck!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT

"We Wanted It More" -
NY Giants

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