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Total Results Blog

Make it Look Easy (Even Though it Isn't)

I am often impressed when I observe people in different industries who are elite at what they do. Athletes and musicians come to mind, especially for me, because I enjoy music and sports as forms of art. A few years before he passed away, I was privileged to see Edward Van Halen perform intricate guitar solos that no one else before or since could possibly match, and in my youth I watched Patrick Ewing effortlessly cover both ends of a basketball court at the peak of his powers at Georgetown. This can even apply to the field of broadcasting. As a regular viewer of Baltimore Orioles baseball games, I marvel at how smooth and polished play-by-play announcer Jim Palmer is at providing analysis and reciting statistics of even the most obscure player. It isn't easy to make a baseball game sound conversational, but Palmer has been doing just that since he retired as a player. Have you ever seen a public speaker that is so poised and fluid in his or her delivery that they look like a natural? Chances are that they worked extremely hard to make it look that way. Through my years of work at Total Results, I consider myself lucky to know many attorneys, realtors, IT professionals, and mortgage lenders who are elite in their chosen fields. One thing I have learned is that when an individual has the ability to make something that is difficult look easy, a tremendous amount of time, effort, and focus have been invested.

We have had many clients at Total Results who make their workouts look easy, even though they are working at an intense level of effort. Our protocol is different from others because we place an emphasis on uniformity in speed of movement, form, and turnaround technique. While we know that each excursion is its own separate entity, our desire is for each repetition to look the same regardless of one's level of fatigue. The first repetition should look the same as the sixth repetition, as long as you are focused on what is important. The main objective of each exercise is thorough inroad; fatiguing the musculature to the point of failure is the stimulus that we seek, and the best way to do that is to maintain impeccable form even when things become challenging and uncomfortable. This requires a calm demeanor, presence of mind, and a knowledge that no matter how unpleasant the situation is, it only lasts a short time. If you focus on the process and execute properly, the results will take care of themselves.

Difficulty in controlling your emotions and losing sight of the real exercise objective can lead to form discrepancies and a lack of proper focus. If you worry too much about achieving an arbitrary time under load you are more likely to take liberties with proper form. This leads to unloading of the musculature and can result in a greater risk of injury. Sometimes clients will instinctively hold their breath, overbreathe, grimace, or clench their jaw in an attempt to demonstrate how hard they are working. Don't do that; we already know how hard you are working, and such behaviors can cause a spike in blood pressure. If you have the correct frame of mind and practice emotional control, a casual onlooker should not be able to decipher how many repetitions you have completed based on your body language. Just like an athlete or a broadcaster, it's important for you to do your prep work in advance of your session. Get 7-9 hours of sleep, eat well, hydrate, and minimize activity that will have a negative impact on your recovery resources. Failure to do this will typically result in a decreased performance.

The word poise is often defined as having grace under pressure. Maintaining the right emotional mindset and preparing yourself physically for a challenging Total Results workout are what is required to maximize your physical improvements. Fans of Ernest Hemingway's sparse and efficient prose know that what he made look effortless was not effortless at all. He removed far more from his initial drafts than he added, and this took time, patience, and grit. If you watch a duck glide across a pond, it looks fluid and easy. Their bodies are very still above the surface, but below the water their feet are kicking like crazy. We know that our workouts are difficult and that you may experience some inner turmoil as you go through them, but if you adopt the right frame of mind and put in the work you can make something challenging look easy.

Posted June 01, 2023 by Matthew Romans

There is More to Exercise Than Meets the Eye

Many well-intentioned people begin an exercise regimen because they want to achieve the visual benefits that a properly structured program will bring them. They desire to gain muscle, lose fat, reduce inches in their waistline, and look younger. Sometimes a specific upcoming event is the catalyst in making the decision to start working out: a class reunion, a wedding, or even a vacation. Appearance is certainly important, and most of us want to look our very best (myself included). Seeing physical improvements builds a feeling of confidence that can give you a real boost as you go through your day. However, I think it's important to realize that a comprehensive weight training program can do far more for you than just stimulate visual physical improvements. The changes in body shape merely scratch the surface, as there is far more to Total Results exercise than meets the eye.

There are numerous published studies that show exercise has a positive impact on those struggling with depression. Mental health has received a growing amount of attention in recent years, and we are certainly much more aware of the triggers that can lead to negative mental health events. Let's face it, most people go through something at one point or another in their lives, and anything that can help reduce depression in those that have been clinically diagnosed is a good thing. Even people who suffer from the occasional "down in the dumps" moods can benefit. The feeling of accomplishment that one experiences after finishing an extremely demanding Total Results workout can do wonders for your mood and should not be underestimated. Even though our clients are fatigued and out of breath at the end of a session, I often tell them I want them to feel better when they leave than they did when they came in the front door. If you are feeling stressed (who isn't?) and anxious, a Total Results session can be the perfect antidote.

The twenty minutes that our workouts last is an opportunity for you to take time just for yourself. If you're a busy parent, professional, or just someone who typically has a packed schedule, you are likely being pulled in many different directions throughout the course of a given day. Some of us need to block out time in our calendars just to catch up on emails or read a few pages of a book. An exercise session is an appointment just for you; it is a chance to shut out the outside world just for a little while and focus on doing something beneficial for your mind and body. If you're like me, these opportunities don't come around very often during the hectic work week, so savor the one or two times a week that you can do it. If you really focus on your workout, it can be an incredibly introspective experience that has a positive impact on the rest of your day. As Rocky Balboa quipped in the film "Rocky Balboa", it's a chance to "get some stuff outta the basement."

In order to keep ourselves mentally and physically sharp, we need to regularly do things that are difficult. There is a concept known as voluntary hardship, where we put ourselves in uncomfortable, albeit safe, circumstances every so often in order to remind ourselves how fortunate we are, but also help us to avoid becoming complacent. Voluntary hardship can take on many forms, from taking a cold shower, to sleeping on a floor, reading a laborious book (think Dostoevsky or Gibbon), or even going outside in the winter for a walk without wearing a jacket. These actions toughen our minds and fortify our bodies. A Total Results exercise session falls perfectly into this category. It is a chance to face a challenge and come out stronger on the other side. Workouts are uncomfortable, often unpleasant, require intense mental focus, and are most definitely not fun. A twenty minute workout that involves pushing to and beyond muscular failure and moving quickly between exercises will improve your mental toughness and increase your tolerance for discomfort. This will help prepare you to mentally and physically handle life's moments of adversity.

Making an appointment with a Total Results instructor will help to instill a sense of accountability, but also provide some structure to your day and week. Some people require more structure, others require less. Individuals can certainly be over-regimented (I sometimes fall into this category), but on the whole, one needs to have a plan in place for how they expect to achieve what they want in life. I believe that structure and accountability go hand in hand; if you're not getting the results you want in life, ask yourself why. Scheduling an appointment is the first step; if you don't make it to your session there is no one else to blame but yourself. Having a regularly scheduled appointment means you need to prepare to be at your mental and physical best so that you can have an effective workout. That means you need to eat correctly and get proper sleep in the days leading up to your session. If you have a solid framework established, everything else generally falls into place. Once good habits are developed, they are easier to sustain. Most people tend to sleep more soundly when they are on an exercise regimen, and I have counseled many clients on developing a routine to help them improve their sleep habits.

As you can see, there is far more to exercise than just achieving noticeable physical improvements. Clients can establish a sense of purpose, take control of their health, become better educated, and focus on being an active rather than a passive participant in their lives. Total Results exercise is an opportunity to practice self-mastery, and your instructor will be your guide. This is all within your power, and it takes less than one hour per week. Mental and physical breakthroughs happen all the time here, and you can achieve things that you didn't think were even possible.

Posted May 18, 2023 by Matthew Romans

"Ravenous" - A Book Review

Author Sam Apple received an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and studied writing at Columbia University. He has written articles that have appeared in such diverse publications as The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, and ESPN The Magazine. In 2021 he wrote "Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection." It is a compelling read and a real page-turner; a non-fiction book that reads like fiction. Even if you are not normally a fan of science writing, you probably have had a friend or family member affected by cancer. If you value your health and you value learning, the information presented in this book should be of interest to you.

"Ravenous" covers the history of cancer research and experimentation in four parts, starting with the late 19th century and working up to the present. A central figure of the book is Otto Warburg, considered by many to be one of the preeminent German scientists of the first half of the 20th century. He was a contemporary of Albert Einstein, and in many ways Warburg was just as influential in his field of physiology as Einstein was in physics. By most accounts Warburg was stubborn, arrogant, and insufferable to be around; he expected those who worked in his lab to have his same drive and to keep the same round-the-clock schedule as he did. However flawed he may have been in dealing with others, this insatiable intellectual curiosity led to some amazing discoveries, as well as the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1931. Warburg's decision to study cancer was largely due to two factors: rising rates of cancer diagnoses in the western world (and Germany in particular), and also the curious case of Crown Prince Friedrich, heir to the throne of Germany. Friedrich was beloved by the German people, yet was diagnosed with and succumbed to cancer after merely four months on the throne. As an interesting footnote, history may have changed significantly if not for this unfortunate occurrence. The Crown Prince was said to detest war, favored democratic reforms, and was quite sympathetic to German Jews. Had he survived, Kaiser Wilhelm would not have come to power, World War I might not have occurred, and the world could have been spared the evil atrocities of Adolf Hitler and World War II.

Warburg's key discovery was that cancer cells, "Produce energy not through the usual citric acid cycle and oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria as observed in normal cells, but through a less efficient process of 'aerobic glycolysis' consisting of a high level of glucose uptake and glycolysis followed by lactic acid fermentation taking place in the cytosol, not in the mitochondria, even in the presence of abundant oxygen." This was a startling revelation, and it gave credence to the idea that cancer was largely a metabolic disease, not a genetic condition. The 'Warburg Effect' went a long way toward explaining not only how cancer cells multiply so rapidly in many cases, but it also shed light on why cancer rates started skyrocketing in the western world in the late 19th and early 20th century: increased sugar consumption. What was different in the more affluent western world, compared to most of the developing world, was that sugar was much more available and present in the foods people ate. Where it was more expensive and harder to produce, cancer rates remained relatively low. Once sugar became easier to produce, cancer rates in those areas climbed. Unfortunately, with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, Warburg's progress stalled and his work began to suffer. He was constantly harassed for his Jewish heritage and rumors circulated about his homosexuality, so he found it extremely difficult to keep a staff together and have enough funding to continue his research. Yet he stubbornly refused to leave Germany as many other prominent scientists did during this time, and many of his colleagues harbored resentment toward him and his theories. Some of this was due to jealousy and Warburg's notoriously abrasive personality (he rarely admitted to being wrong), but he was also unfairly branded as a Nazi sympathizer. Unfortunately, much of Warburg's work was largely forgotten in the scientific community once James Watson and Francis Crick discovered DNA in 1953. At that point, cancer research shifted toward a genetic mindset rather than a metabolic inclination, and that was where the focus stayed for most of the next half century.

In the last twenty years or so, Otto Warburg's reputation has been rejuvenated as we have gained a greater understanding of the links between cancer and diabetes, the dangers of sugar and how diet can cause genetic predispositions to be expressed, and the role of insulin. Diabetes can either be type 1 (insulin dependent) or type 2 (insulin resistant); insulin is the hormone that is secreted by the pancreas to help the cells absorb the nutrients from the food we consume. If you consume a large percentage of your calories from carbohydrates (especially sugar), more insulin needs to be secreted in order to help the cells absorb nutrients. At a certain point one becomes insulin resistant, thus leading to type 2 diabetes. According to the author, "Since 1960 the diabetes rate in the United States has increased by 800 percent, and half of American adults are now estimated to have either diabetes or prediabetes." Further, a consensus report by the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society states that, "Epidemiologic evidence suggests that people with diabetes are at significantly higher risk for many forms of cancer." Fortunately, many younger scientists have taken up the mantle of Warburg's work and continue to explore the metabolic aspect of the disease, rather than simply tow the establishment line about it being simply genetic or environmental.

This book has many interesting components. There is certainly a historical and political angle that covers world events, but it also discloses the fun fact that Hitler was a sugar addict and that most of his teeth had fallen out near the end of his life. I also enjoyed the profile of Warburg's courage in standing up to the Nazis, and the price he paid for his bravery. Apple gives excellent examples of the modern impact of Warburg's work and how cancer treatments have changed over the years, but also what the future might hold. In this book we also learn that the first chemotherapy drugs originated from the emerging German chemical dye industry of the late 19th century. Paul Ehrlich is mentioned as a pioneer in the development of so-called "magic bullets" designed to target tumors while sparing healthy tissue. Unfortunately, as we know, this did not happen; as the author states, "Firing a bullet at cancer was like turning a gun on yourself."

"Ravenous" is a compelling book that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in history, cancer research, or science in general. Apple does a wonderful job of documenting the timeline of research, its origins, and where we may head in the future. His praise and his criticisms of Otto Warburg are accurate; he was right about many things, wrong about others, arrogant, but also brilliant. The author writes extremely well, as you might expect from someone who is on the MA in Science Writing at Johns Hopkins, and his prose makes you want to turn the page and see what's going to happen next. Pick up a copy and experience it for yourself.

Posted May 05, 2023 by Matthew Romans

If You Keep Doing the Same Things, You Will Get the Same Results

This is pure conjecture, but I believe if you asked 100 people why they undertake an exercise regimen, a large number of those polled would say they want to be stronger, fitter, healthier, and have more energy. These are perfectly legitimate and noble reasons to exercise, and I think most of us also, at least abstractly, recognize the need to maintain functional independence as we age. However, how many of us have a measurable and sustainable plan in place that can safely stimulate tangible results without a huge time commitment? What is the percentage of the population that has a grasp of what proper exercise physiologically can and cannot do? Once we enter those two questions into the equation, I think you'll see that number shrink considerably.

If you keep doing the same things you have been doing, you will get the same results. This is true in many facts of life, for both negative behaviors as well as positive actions. We can define the word insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. There are people who perform the same fitness routine without any noticeable positive physical change, and when you ask them why they continue to do it they'll say, "it works for me." I used to see it quite frequently when I worked in commercial gyms; the same members would show up day after day, pounding the treadmill and performing a haphazard weight training sequence for weeks or months on end. Some would give up, while others would get injured or ill due to overtraining and have to stop. I see people in my neighborhood jogging on a regular basis, but over time their paces rarely get any faster and their physiques look the same. Is this a good return on their time investment? Pursuing such a regimen provides very little cardiovascular and metabolic improvement, is time-consuming, and sooner or later will likely lead to an injury. Intuitively, most reasonable thinking people realize there has to be a better way.

Most of us are familiar with the law of diminishing returns. To paraphrase, it states that the gain on your investment lessens as you put more time and energy into the activity. This is true in business, investing, and in exercise. Many people begin an exercise program with high hopes and a great deal of enthusiasm. Sometimes we see the "six week syndrome", where people have unrealistic expectations of the time frame in which they expect to see positive results and stop before they have given their program a real chance to work. Other times they quit because the path they have chosen is not sustainable, or they overtrain and tax their body beyond its capability to recover. Unfortunately, most people who work in the fitness industry don't understand this concept any better than the average gym member. Commercial health clubs are ripe for this type of ignorance, and it's why I refuse to go within 100 yards of such a circus.

There is also what is known as the law of compound interest. It states that, "When you let money accumulate at compound interest over a long enough period of time, it increases more than you can imagine." This isn't the forum for discussing the fractional reserve bank system or the recent large bank failures, so I will refrain from going down that rabbit hole. When we hear the term interest we tend to associate it with money, but interest can pertain to any habit or action, particularly a positive action. If you produce more than you consume and save the difference, your purchasing power and independence will increase over time. If you read a little bit each day, you will gain greater knowledge and insight over your lifespan. If you strength train properly once or twice per week, you will incrementally get stronger. Adding a pound or two to the weight stack every few workouts may not seem like much from one day to the next, but over the span of several months that will translate into a significant gain in strength, functionality, and resistance to injury. It won't happen overnight, but if you give your body the resources it needs the changes will occur. Fasting intermittently a couple of times per week will not result in a great reduction of calories in a single day, but over time this can lead to significant fat loss as well as an improvement in hormonal health. When you're doing the right things, you need to keep doing them; don't be your own worst enemy!

Master yourself before you master anything else. If your current exercise program isn't stimulating the changes you want, be mature enough to look inward and realize that your present course of action is not working. If what you're doing is helping you to stay fit, healthy, and strong (particularly if you are a Total Results client), don't try to fix what isn't broken. When you have found a formula that works, the key is to stay the course. If you have created habits that are sustainable it will be much easier to maintain those habits. The desire to succeed has to come from inside you, and we will provide the educational resources to help you get on and stay on the right path. Control your own destiny!

Posted April 20, 2023 by Matthew Romans

A Plan to Enhance Spinal Health

Managing spinal health becomes even more important as we age. Damage to the vertebrae can be the result of many things: a car accident, poor sitting and standing posture, years of participation in sports, and lack of proper exercise. We can buck this trend for a while, but eventually if we don't do anything about it, pain and loss of function are the result. Spinal surgeries are a risky endeavor. Procedures can be costly, invasive, usually require follow up appointments and physical therapy, and in many cases the success rate of surgery is less than stellar. Lower back pain is not always indicative of structural damage; sometimes it is simply the result of weak musculature. A significant percentage of people will experience some disc or vertebral degeneration after the age of 40; some individuals experience pain while others do not. What if there was a way that you could improve functionality and mobility, reduce pain, and protect yourself against injury in less than one hour per week? If you think this sounds too good to be true, keep reading.

Gaining a basic knowledge of the structure of the spinal column will enable us to understand how we can best improve posture and reduce pain so that we can live an active lifestyle. There are five vertebral regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and coccyx. Only the top twenty-four vertebrae can move; the sacrum and coccyx are fused. A search of Mayfield Brain and Spine, National Institutes of Health, and the Cleveland Clinic yielded the function of each of the vertebral regions. The cervical vertebrae include C-1 through C-7, and their purpose is to support the head, protect the spinal cord, and allow for a range of head movements. The vertebrae of the thoracic region are T-1 through T-12, the most numerous of any of the five regions. These vertebrae also protect the spinal cord and provide attachment points for many large muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi and erector spinae. The lumbar vertebrae, L-1 through L-5, bear most of the weight of the body, provide back stability, and assist with balance. Along with the cervical vertebrae, the lumbar vertebrae are the structures most susceptible to damage. The sacrum consists of the vertebrae known as S1 through S5, and as I mentioned above these are fused and cannot move. Their primary function is to connect the spine with the hip bones. Finally we have the coccyx, colloquially known as the tailbone. This vertebrae is also fused and provides attachments for the ligaments and muscles of the pelvic floor.

The foramen is defined as, "the bony hollow archway created by pedicles of adjacent vertebrae, creating a passageway through which all spinal nerve roots run." Age, disuse, and trauma can lead to a gradual narrowing of this opening, and is often associated with stenosis, disc herniation, bone spurs, and arthritis. Osteoporosis is also something to be concerned about as we age, as thinner bones are more likely to break. In order to maintain optimal spinal health, you should certainly be conscious of how you sit and stand, but you must also strengthen the muscles that surround and attach to the vertebrae. Total Results exercise is the safest and most comprehensive way to train the muscles that have the greatest impact on spinal health. First of all, you must strengthen the body as an entire unit; it is far more than just a collection of different body parts. Everything is interconnected, and if you strengthen some areas but neglect others, there will be muscular imbalances that can and usually do increase your risk for injury. There are four exercises that really highlight the Total Results plan for enhancing your spinal health. The Cervical Extension exercise, performed on our MedX Four Way Neck machine, targets the muscles which are responsible for cervical extension. These muscles include the levator scapulae, splenius, and trapezius, and they work to extend your head down toward your butt. The horseshoe shaped head pad swivels for comfort, and your seat should be set so that the base of your neck is aligned with the axis of rotation. Handlebars should be pressed with your hands to enable trunk stability. The thoracic vertebrae can be best addressed by performing both the Row (on either the MedX or Super Slow Systems machines) and the Pulldown exercises. The muscles surrounding and attaching to these vertebrae include the rhomboids, latissimus and trapezius muscles. The Pulldown, which is a vertical movement, has three separate cam positions based on arm length, and the thigh restraints are adjustable. It is such a comprehensive exercise that it encompasses the entire musculature of the upper body. The Row machine is a horizontal pulling movement, and is also adjustable by arm length. I should note that the MedX Row has articulating handles that can be a little more forgiving for clients with elbow issues, but both machines work exceptionally well. Finally, the MedX Lumbar Extension exercise is unlike any purported low back exercise that you find in commercial gyms. Most traditional low back machines enable you to get a great deal of assistance from your lower body muscles; our machine employs a restraint system and seat belt to place as much emphasis on the spinal erectors as possible. The muscles we are specifically targeting are the erector spinae and multifidus muscles, but you will also find some involvement in the glutes and hamstrings. Based on the recommendations of the late physical therapist and Super Slow instructor Gary Lindahl, normal range of motion is typically set at 50 degrees, but we can customize this distance by either altering your start or end point. Even if you suffer from injuries in these lumbar vertebrae (a good number of our clients do), going to muscular failure is perfectly safe provided proper speed and form are practiced. Finally, performing cervical and lumbar extension open up the space between vertebrae; this helps to provide relief for those suffering from impingement and disc herniation.

Performing numerous sets of abdominal crunches won't strengthen your back; it will likely do more harm than good. One or two twenty-minute high-intensity sessions per week is all that you need to optimize spinal health. Strengthening the muscles that attach to the spinal column is part of a comprehensive program for overall health. And if that's not enough, performing the Leg Press exercise will stabilize your coccyx by strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor. How do you want to live life when you approach your golden years: reliant upon mobility aids to get around and shuffling from one doctor appointment to the next, or do you want to be virile, strong, and fiercely independent? Make the investment in your present and your future today.

Posted April 05, 2023 by Matthew Romans