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Total Results Blog

The Price of Optimal Health, by Matthew Romans

"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. "

This is a popular phrase that has existed for decades, but where it originated is unknown. I first heard the phrase attributed to former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz when he was on the lecture circuit, but I later learned it was a central theme in Robert Heinlein's classic 1966 science fiction novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." While we may not be able to give proper credit to the person who coined this phrase, we do know that the meaning and sentiment of the phrase are still viable today. You cannot get something for nothing; there is always a price to be paid and choices need to be made in order to gain something of value. In the field of exercise, tangible physical benefits and optimal health are what all of us desire. There is a price to be paid for these benefits, but it is probably less than you think.

Regular strength training is the most effective means of stimulating positive physical changes in your body. In fact, as Arthur Jones (founder of Nautilus) once said, "Nothing else is even a close second." Almost all of the so-called diseases of modern civilization (heart disease, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc.) seem to have a corresponding loss of muscle associated with them. The only way to slow down or reverse this loss of muscle is to, as health and fitness author Mark Sisson says, "Lift heavy things once in a while." The Total Results exercise philosophy encapsulates this perfectly. Our methodology involves brief, infrequent, and intense workouts (no more than 20 minutes) with a great emphasis on safety and attention to detail. Strict form and a slow (10 seconds lifting and lowering the weight) speed of movement are paramount. The intensity of effort and focus required in each workout makes brief and infrequent workouts not just something we can get away with, but a necessity for continued progress. It's challenging, it's uncomfortable and often unpleasant, but it's also a biological requirement. You will accomplish more in one or two 20-minute sessions with us than you could possibly hope to achieve with traditional forms of activity.

Certainly, the physical benefits that one can achieve working with us are what the majority of people most readily notice (increased strength, improved body shape, increased energy, etc.), but I believe that the unseen benefits of Total Results exercise may outweigh those that are seen. These unseen benefits can include decreased blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, greater physical independence, less reliance on medication, and increased quality of life. As a result, this can mean lowering the costs of medical care and insurance, as well as staying largely outside of the chaotic medical system.

Part of our job as instructors is to motivate our clients, instill accountability in them, and keep them on track, but I find that the best motivation comes from within One must ask themselves how important an active life and optimal health are to them. If a person wants these things badly enough, they will do what is necessary to achieve them. This means making the sacrifices that will pay off in the long run: consistently getting to bed at a decent hour to ensure adequate sleep, making sound food choices, not cancelling workouts, not making excuses, and consistently giving their best effort in each workout. The blueprint is there; all that is required is the desire to follow through and execute it.

Twenty to forty minutes of exercise per week is a small time commitment, and the monetary cost is an investment in yourself. You can pay a little now, or you can pay a lot down the road; it's all within your control. How badly do you want optimal health and an active life in which the possibilities are limitless? Remember, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Get started with Total Results today.

Posted January 20, 2020 by Tim Rankin

Top 10 Actions (with some twists) to dramatically improve your health and fitness!

Most of these are well known recommendations for being healthy and strong; however, by tweaking these just a little you can accelerate your progress to being your best self!

1. Lift weights - intensely, but slowly and just once or twice per week.

Strength training is THE number one thing you can do to increase your functional ability to move about in the world and reverse the degeneration that comes with aging. Proper Strength training also increases your resistance to injury, improves resting heart rate and blood pressure, increases insulin sensitivity and much more. In order to acheive all these benefits, you do not need to workout every day or for hours at a time. On the contrary, a brief 20 minute workout, just once or twice per week is all that is recommended. However, you do have to move the weights in a slow and controlled manner to rob yourself of momentum and you must perform each exercise to momentary muscular fatigue.

2. Walk at least 3 miles every day.

The human body did not evolve to sit 16 hours per day! We evolved to move, and you must move about at a low intensity all day, every day in order to optimize your health. This movement can include yard work, house cleaning, bike rides, hikes, etc. If you are at a desk all day, walk before work, during lunch, after work and every half hour or so during the day.

3. Go to sleep as early as you can.

There are many reason the body needs adequate sleep. If you cannot get to sleep or have trouble staying asleep, you probably have an issue in another aspect of your life (ex. poor nutrition, vitamin deficiency, dehydration, excessive stress). Sleep is necessary to reset hormone levels and rejuvenate your body. The more sleep you can get (up to about 9 hours), the more you reduce your chances of stroke, heart disease, and dementia. Since most of us either have to wake up early in the morning or simply cannot sleep late, we need to back up our bedtime. I recommend 10:00pm at the latest for most people.

4. Practice intermittent fasting.

Fasting does not mean starving. By simply extending the time between your last meal of the day and your first meal fo the next day to 14-18 hours or more (ex. 6pm dinner and then a 12pm first meal the next day) you will encourage ketosis, which allows your body to burn fat, increase your body's HGH (human growth hormone) and stimulates cellular repair. Calorie consumption will likely decrease when practicing intermittent fasting. Also, by working out intensely in a fasted state, your muscles will release glycogen, hence improving your insulin sensitivity.

5. Eat red meat every week.

Grass fed beef is incredibly nutritious in terms of amino acids (bioavailable protein), and has a significantly better Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio than Chicken or other protein sources. Just a 1/4 pound of grass fed beef has over 90% of your daily b-12 requirements, 50% Zinc, lots of b-6, Selenium, Phosphorus, and other important vitamins and minerals. All this is packed into just a few hundred calories of food.

6. Eat Vegetables at every meal.

I am admittedly a bit picky about my vegetables; however copious amounts of fresh and lightly steamed veggies like broccoli, peppers, spinach, and even brussel sprouts are amazingly nutritious and super low in calories. Whether you eat them in a salad, in your morning egg scramble, or as a large side to your beef or fish at dinner, the more you eat the better off you will be.

7. Get sunshine every day.

Vitamin D Deficiency is a big problem in this country today. So many of us are scared of skin cancer, that we don't get nearly enough sunlight. If everyone got 15-45 minutes per day of sunlight (depending on the season), the collective health would improve dramatically. Sunlight allows our body to produce the prohormone vitamin D, which benefits our bone health, our ability to regulate calcium and phosphorus, as well as possibly reducing heart disease, infections and more.

8. Hydrate first thing in the morning.

Overnight, you naturally dehydrate. By drinking 6-12 ounces of water within 30 minutes of waking up, you rehydrate the body and it can improve energy levels, increase your mental focus, and keep your GI system regular.

9. Increase your protein intake way more than you think.

Adequate protein is essential to maintain your health and body composition. Estimates vary, but active adults should get between 0.6-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. for a 150 pound person this equates to 90-150 grams of protein per day. For reference, three eggs have 18-21 grams of protein, and a 1/3 pound of beef (15% fat) is about 28 grams of protein.

10. Peform yoga stretches first thing in the morning

Stretching upon waking helps work out any stiffness you have accumulated over the previous night, as well as gain some initial focus on your body and your breathing. Just a couple minutes before or after your shower can do wonders for your mental and physical state.

Posted January 09, 2020 by Tim Rankin

Beware of the Six Week Syndrome! by Matthew Romans

New Year's resolutions generally begin in earnest at the beginning of January. Many people, filled with good intentions, resolve to start making significant changes in their lives. Resolutions can take on many forms, such as quitting smoking, spending more time with family, going on a diet, watching less television, and doing more charitable work. One of the more popular resolutions is the vow to exercise and get in better physical shape. The process begins amid a rush of initial excitement and the expectation of fast results. When tangible results don't happen right away, enthusiasm turns into boredom, followed by frustration, disillusionment, and quitting altogether. This is often referred to as the Six Week Syndrome.

2020 started only a few days ago, so I thought this topic was pertinent. No doubt you have already seen many commercials for Planet Fitness, Nutri-System, Peloton (those commercials annoy me the most) and a variety of other diet and fitness-related products. I worked in commercial gyms for several years, so I have seen the Six Week Syndrome first hand. Drive by a commercial gym sometime in the next couple of days; depending on what time of day you go, you're likely to see a crowded parking lot. Go back to that same parking lot in the middle of February, and you're likely to have very little trouble finding a parking space. This little exercise epitomizes the Six Week Syndrome. Most people sign up for gym memberships around New Year's and stop using them within a couple months (often less). The owners of these facilities don't really care if you use their facility as long as you pay your monthly fee. In fact, if everybody who paid for a membership regularly used it, the attendance would exceed the capacity of the gym. Despite what the ubiquitous fitness and diet commercials might lead you to believe, success does not happen overnight. It is incredibly unlikely that anyone will achieve their goals in six weeks, and setting unrealistic expectations is a recipe for disappointment.

It's important to understand how habits are formed. According to James Clear, author of the book "Atomic Habits", "On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic - 66 days to be exact." That means that in six weeks, a habit is not yet part of your life. In order for something to become a habit, it has to be something that is important to you. Written reminders can be a big help, at least until something becomes second nature. Writing out goals, and having a specific plan of action to achieve them. Most people who work in commercial gyms are primarily concerned with increasing their membership totals, and they are woefully ignorant of the science behind safe and effective strength training.

We very rarely see the Six Week Syndrome at Total Results. One reason for that is because many of our new clients are referred to us by successful current clients, but also because most of our clients really do their research before they contact us. They generally know what to expect before they set foot in our studio. It also helps to come in with an open mind and a willingness to learn. There is a lot that we teach new clients in the initial few weeks, but it takes time to build skill. Our clients usually just start to scratch the surface of their potential in six weeks. They have probably gotten to a meaningful level of resistance on each exercise, have acquired enough skill to thoroughly inroad the musculature and start to see some tangible benefit. By the six week mark clients should have started to implement some of the lifestyle changes that we recommend, such as eating a diet high in saturated fat and consisting largely of whole foods, and avoiding sugars and processed foods. Getting consistent and restful sleep should also be a priority. If these changes are made, clients will likely notice an improvement in how they look and feel, and they will find that they have to exert less effort on activities of daily living.

Don't fall prey to the Six Week Syndrome. Set lofty but reachable goals, and formulate a plan of action to achieve success. Be a learner. Think long term, rather than short term. A large portion of our clients have been with us for at least a few years, many have been with us for ten years or more, and we even have a handful that have celebrated fifteen years or more with us. Let us help you start your journey today. Get Total Results.

Posted January 07, 2020 by Tim Rankin

Strive For Impossble Perfection, by Matthew Romans

Nobody is perfect. This is what we have been told, probably since a very young age. To describe someone as a perfectionist has a slightly pejorative connotation. We tend to think of a perfectionist as someone that is never satisfied, unhappy, and generally difficult to be around. I believe it is possible to aim for and set a high standard and still have a positive mindset. At Total Results we strive for a perfection that is impossible to reach, and hope to achieve excellence along the way.

As instructors, we teach our exercise protocol according to an ideal standard that is based on the classical sciences: physics, biology, chemistry, and concepts of motor learning. It is our job to be critical. Sometimes that is difficult for clients to adjust to, but it's important to understand that we are not criticizing people personally. We will never yell at or demean any client that works with us. An important part of the learning process is alerting the learner of mistakes that are committed, so that corrections can be made. We seek perfection on every repetition of each exercise, with special attention being paid to speed of movement, pacing, turnaround technique, head and neck position, and breathing. I am of the belief that every form discrepancy, even one as seemingly minor as the entry or exit of each machine, should be acknowledged. The client needs to be constantly reminded of mistakes so that they can be corrected. Other instructors or trainers might let clients get away with these things, but we try to catch everything! It pays off in the end.

The client's quest for perfection should start with preparation. How well you sleep, eat, hydrate, manage activity level, and manage stress will have a big impact on your ability to focus on the task at hand: your workout. Clients that arrive promptly tend to be in the right frame of mind; it's difficult to focus if you are running late. Try to shut everything else out of your mind for the next 20 minutes so that you can prepare your mind and body for an intense muscular effort. This will allow you to really process your instructor's commands and carry them out. A laser-like focus and the ability to stay in the moment will enable you to concentrate on the minute details that translate into a more effective exercise stimulus, such as performing turnarounds and executing the squeeze technique. When your mind is free from distractions and you can simply focus on following instructions, you will notice a major difference in how you perform and how you feel when the workout is finished. This is something that is nearly impossible to achieve on your own in a commercial gym with inferior equipment. You need the ideal exercise environment at Total Results.

Our goal is to educate you and give you an exercise experience that you cannot find anywhere else. We will push you to a level of effort that most people can not achieve without someone guiding them. It's important to realize that nobody achieves perfection, not even exercise subjects that have exceptional mental focus and are very neurologically efficient. All of this attention to detail may seem trivial to some, but it makes a big difference as far as your safety and exercise stimulus are concerned. Let Total Results help you strive for perfection and achieve excellence today.

Posted January 02, 2020 by Tim Rankin

“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” - A Book Review, by Matthew Romans

I recently read the fairly well-known (at least in the field of psychology) book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, which was originally published in 1990. The author is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University, and he is the former head of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. His work has been referenced in the writings of Martin Seligman and Angela Duckworth, and that is what led me to seek out this book. I believe there are a lot of things to be learned from this book that can help us not just in the field of exercise, but in other areas of our lives, such as school, work, and family.

Csikszentmihalyi coins the term "flow" to describe "a highly focused mental state conducive to productivity." The idea is to achieve an optimal experience, and it can happen while performing a variety of tasks or activities, such as writing prose or poetry, performing a piece of music, completing a work project, or spending time with family. The professor goes on to say that, "The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something worthwhile." This means that, by and large, an optimal experience is mostly likely to occur when you are doing something of your own volition, rather than something you are forced to do. That doesn't mean the activity has to be fun; in fact, many people report achieving a state of flow when performing tasks that most would consider drudgery. The author then says that, "Because optimal experience depends on the ability to control what happens in consciousness moment by moment, each person has to achieve it on the basis of his own individual efforts and creativity." While the flow experience may be similar for many people, specific elements of it can vary depending upon the individual.

This book is not particularly lengthy, but it covers a lot of ground in just over 300 pages (including notes and references). The chapters that I found most interesting covered topics such as the anatomy of consciousness, enjoyment and the quality of life, the body in flow, the flow of thought, and work as flow. Csikszentmihalyi says that, "The function of consciousness is to represent information about what is happening outside and inside the organism in such a way that it can be evaluated and acted upon by the body." In order to achieve flow, information must be processed efficiently to allow the body and mind to accomplish the task at hand. To enhance the enjoyment and quality of one's life involves the merging of action and awareness; a person will use all of the relevant skills necessary to cope with the challenges of a situation. I believe that there is a greater tendency toward happiness if a person believes they are accomplishing something important or of value. This is something that can plague retirees and lottery winners; once the challenge in life is gone, there is little incentive to keep growing or learning. Goal-setting and specific feedback are very important.

When thinking about the body in flow, martial arts, playing a musical instrument, and even viewing works of art comes to mind. According to the author, "...the easiest step toward improving the quality of life consists in simply learning to control the body and its senses." Mind and body certainly work in concert to achieve flow. Flow occurs when one is able to give order to his or her thoughts; it is a heightened state of consciousness that cannot be achieved with drugs, alcohol, or any other stimulant. Flow is the opposite of entropy, which is the normal state of consciousness. Csikszentmihalyi says that entropy is "neither useful nor enjoyable." Entropy is a threat to the idea of lifelong learning. Finally, on the concept of work as flow, the author discusses autotelic jobs, where the challenge of the work itself makes it not feel like work. Joe Kramer's experience as a welder in a Chicago railroad car assembly plant fits this description perfectly. Kramer worked in this capacity for over thirty years, passed up several promotions so that he could remain a welder, and he was so skilled that he could fix any piece of machinery in the plant. He simply enjoyed the challenges of his work, and even though he could have retired much earlier, he still came to work every day.

In a flow experience, goals are usually clear and feedback is immediate. This fits in perfectly with a Total Results workout. The primary goal of exercise is to achieve a thorough inroad of the musculature, which is the stimulus that the body needs to make improvements. The instructor provides feedback and cues throughout each exercise of each workout. This, along with precise record-keeping, helps the client understand exactly how they are performing. During a flow experience, goals should be intrinsic rather than extrinsic, in order to avoid distractions that can negatively impact performance. We go to great lengths to explain to clients the difference between the assumed objective (completing as many repetitions as possible) and the real objective (thorough muscular inroad). Focusing on extrinsic goals during exercise can lead to disappointment, cessation of progress, and injury. Although Csikszentmihalyi doesn't specifically mention exercise, he urges us to "...find rewards in the events of each moment", which is what we instruct our clients to do. Look at exercise as an opportunity to challenge yourself, and stay in the moment on each exercise you perform.

Although he was not mentioned in Csikszentmihalyi's book, legendary guitarist Keith Richards has his own take on the flow experience. In a documentary commemorating the band's 50th anniversary he says, "In a way, the Rolling Stones overtake you, and it's almost like you're sort of levitating. You don't even want to touch the strings, because they're doing it themselves. And anyway, they'd be too hot." Working to achieve flow gives our lives greater meaning because we are challenging ourselves to achieve something that wasn't previously possible. This enhances our self-esteem, gives us a sense of purpose, and a feeling of accomplishment. Achieving flow is a critical component to optimize your exercise experience. The author has the last word: "If the functions of the body are left to atrophy, the quality of life becomes merely adequate, and for some even dismal."

Posted December 20, 2019 by Tim Rankin