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     The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2012 issue 12



My Leg Hurts... I Can't Workout

I've been considering writing this article for quite some time.  When it comes to excuses, an injury is often difficult to argue with.  "No pain, no gain" simply does not apply when you are dealing with injury (only post exercise muscle soreness).  However... sometimes it's tempting to take the easy way out and just stop working out altogether!

I've been overweight before.  I've been sedentary before.  Looking back, I now realize that I did NOT like they way that felt!  Once you are addicted to exercise, it's your job to find a way to keep it going if at all possible.  Let me be clear though... this does not apply to ALL injuries!  You certainly need to be careful with any injury to your neck, back, or anything in the spinal column area.  I'm mostly referring to injuries of your extremities.

If your ankle or knee hurts, it shouldn't prevent you from doing concentration curls, bench press, lat pulldowns, abs etc...  Likewise, a wrist or hand injury shouldn't stop you from doing some bodyweight squats, walking lunges, calf raises, abs etc...

I know, I know... but what about the cardio?  I run on the treadmill, or bike, or do the elliptical, etc..  This can certainly be more difficult to replace, but definitely not impossible!  In actuality, weight training is a type of interval training.  You have periods of work, followed by periods of rest.  If you want to get your heart rate jacked up during your workout, just reduce the duration of your rest periods.  Periodically when I travel, or when I want to change things up, I'll do a cardio routine with 100% sandbag exercises... and I can tell you that my heart rate is jamming at the end of that one!

If you're still looking for a replacement for that cardio machine, there are still other options.  Battling ropes have become popular in recent years and will give you a killer cardio workout without messing with your legs much.  Have you ever tried hitting the heavy bag that boxers use?  Doing it right certainly requires using more hip and legs, but you can still get a workout by just pounding away at it.  I picked up a RopeFlex machine recently that kicks my butt extremely efficiently after a mere 2 minutes on it.

Here's something that you don't see everyday... seated running.  It's actually an exercise used by track athletes to work on proper arm movement.  Sure, it looks stupid... but so does sitting on your couch whining about not being able to workout!

You should be moving your arms with open hands for a full and exaggerated range of motion.  The pace should be brisk enough to kinda bounce up and down on your butt.  It's been a while since I've done this, so I just took a break from typing this newsletter and did a minute's worth... breathing a little heavy right now J.  Once again, if the exercise requires a lot of effort that you can't maintain for 30 minutes, this is an opportunity to incorporate some rest periods so that you can recover and then keep going (intervals).

Where there's a will, there's a way!  Be smart about knowing your limitations, and check with a doctor if you are not sure.  But don't be so quick to write off your workout just because you have a boo boo J.  So your ankle hurts?  Try these exercises.  Pick a few and put them in a basic 2-3 sets each format, or do them one after another with short rest periods in a circuit format...

  • seated running
  • battling ropes
  • heavy bag, speed bag
  • elbow sprints (upper body drag, no legs)
  • bicycle crunch, curl ups, L-sit raises (most ab exercises)
  • russian twist (w/ med ball, dumbbell, weight plate)
  • bench press or pushups
  • dumbell fly or pec deck
  • lat pulldowns or chinups
  • seated row or 1 arm row
  • concentration curls, seated alt arm curls, cable curls
  • tricep kickbacks, tricep extensions
  • seated rear delts
  • seated dumbbell press
  • side leg raises
  • dumbbells lateral raises


I recently received a response to my monthly newletter from a fellow do-it-yourselfer, Ken Kenton, regarding his DIY version of the USA.  He used chain for his USA rather than straps or rope.  You can tell that this design is going to last for quite some time compared to the original design! 

I especially like the way that he used the C couplings at each of the rung connections to join the 3 ends of the chain.  Chain does require a bolt cutter or similar tool to cut into pieces, but it is far superior in durability to the rope and straps.


While very durable, Ken estimated the construction costs of his chain USA at around $100 for the pair, which really isn't too bad considering that my pair of USA originals ran about $80 + shipping.  Great job Ken!


"upward dog"


USA Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

Suspended Quad Extensions


Although leg extensions (quadricep extensions) are probably one of the first leg exercises that people learn to do, they are also one of the least popular exercises performed on suspension straps.  This version is actually tougher that it looks, especially when you take your time and use a slow, controlled pace. 


Target:  upper legs and core (quadriceps femoris, rectus abdominis)

Description:  Start with your hands in a pushup position, and your feet in the straps at a height above your shoulders.  Extend your knee and raise your body up by pressing down with your feet/ankle.  Return slowly to the starting position and repeat for repetitions.

Can I Exercise with a Cold?

By Steve Edwards,

Shut it down and get some rest. It will help you get well sooner and it might end up improving your results in the long term.

When you're sick, your body uses its recovery properties to fight the illness. When you exercise, you use these same properties to recover. To your body, trying to exercise when you're sick is effectively the same thing as overtraining. You won't be able to recover from exercise, rendering it useless, as well as increasing the risk of making your illness worse and lengthening your downtime.

Believe it or not, there are actually a couple of upsides to being sick. It both raises your metabolism and heightens your immune response, meaning that you can eat more than normal and not gain weight. Your immune system also releases performance-enhancing hormones that both fight the infection and help you heal microtrauma incurred during your training program. Because of these factors, when I'm sick during a training cycle I consider it my recovery week. Here is my protocol:

At the onset of symptoms I bump my vitamin C and zinc levels, drink a ton of water, and sleep as much as possible. If I catch it early enough, I'll miss the cold. However, your body plays an insidious trick on you at the onset of a cold. Before you feel symptoms, your adrenal system kick-starts the immune response, which often results in a great workout—too good. Prior to a competition, if an athlete sets a personal record or looks too strong, their coach will often shut them down in anticipation of potential pending illness. If a workout feels spectacular out of the blue, consider backing off and adding immune-boosting supplements to your regimen.

Once I know I'm sick, I rest as much as I possibly can. I clear my social schedule, work as little as possible, and shelve any projects (even mental ones) that can wait. My diet becomes very clean. No coffee, alcohol, sugar, junk, and I drink a ton of water. Also, I eat a lot of small meals all day long. Your body needs nutrients when it's sick but doesn't want the energy burden of digesting large meals.

When the cold has turned the corner I begin moving more. I'll do low-level aerobic exercise and light yoga—restorative exercise. I'll build this gradually as I feel better, so that when the symptoms are gone I can hit it hard, right where I left off. When I follow my protocol strictly it will actually aid my fitness program in the long run.

Finally, there are times when you're sick when hard exercise might help, but it's rare. The most common is near the end of a cold, where the infection has run its course but you still have minor symptoms. You might have heard someone say, "I blew the cold out of my system" with exercise. Just be careful you don't try this too early or you'll get worse. Patience may not be your favorite part of training, but sometimes you gotta not do what you gotta not do.

Anatomy of Your Thigh

Just thought that I would throw some technical jargon into the newsletter to take up some space J.  Most people know where their "thigh" is... some people are also aware that the front of their thigh is called the quadriceps, and the back of the thigh is the hamstrings.  Let's break it down a little further...
Quadriceps (quadriceps femoris) a large muscle group that includes the four prevailing muscles on the front of the thigh. It is the great extensor muscle of the knee, forming a large fleshy mass which covers the front and sides of the femur.
  • vastus femoris (internal)
  • vastus medialis
  • vastus lateralis
  • rectus femoris
Hamstrings any one of the three posterior thigh muscles that make up the borders of the space behind the knee, or their corresponding tendons.
  • biceps femoris
  • semimembranosus
  • semitendinosus

Of course, there are more muscles in your upper leg than just the quads and hammys, but I didn't want to get too carried away and cause you to drool all over your keyboards ; ) 

It's Go Time!

Here we go... it's the last month of 2012.  How was your year?  Looking back to reflect on it, what would you do differently?  That's a pretty open ended question which can take us off on all sorts of tangents... I'll rephrase that, what would you do differently in the health and fitness realm?  Did you work out as much as you planned to last year?  Did you eat healthier than you did in 2011?  Did you start to incorporate more stretching in your routine?  Cardio? Weights?  If you answered no to any of these questions... grab a pencil and a piece of paper and start righting stuff down now!  This is how you start to develop your goals for 2013.

Goals should be SMART.  SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound.  I want to start running next year is not a SMART goal.  I will start running 2 miles per day, 3 days per week, starting next week... and compete in my first 5K run in May is a SMART goal.  Write them down, post them on your wall, and update them if you need to... but make a plan for yourself!  Oh, and by the way... you need not wait until New Years to incorporate them into your "resolution".  If you're serious about it, why not start TODAY? 

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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT

"Good enough never is." - Debbi Fields

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