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Total Results Blog

Specific Instructions, Not Empty Platitudes

Fortunately, I have not had to set foot in a commercial gym in nearly twenty years, but the more things change the more they typically stay the same. Technology may be more advanced and interactive, but the atmosphere in health clubs/fitness centers is still a noisy circus. People who refer to themselves as "trainers" still typically dress as though they are the ones going through a workout, and the facility is filled with poorly-designed (and often dangerous) equipment that serves very little productive purpose. Most of what passes for "instruction" or "personal training" at gyms is glorified cheerleading; essentially, the "trainer" is just a workout caddy that carries a tablet and hangs out with the client while they go through the motions. For this privilege, many people pay between $60 and $70 per hour a few times per week.

Exercise is a serious endeavor and should be treated as such. In order to stimulate the body to safely and efficiently make physical improvements, a clinically controlled and distraction-free environment is the optimal setting, not a social club filled with noise, mirrors, and crowds. In order to optimize performance and results, one needs a specific plan of action and someone to teach them how to tap into physical and mental resources they didn't even know they had. You need a real exercise instructor, not someone who passed a multiple choice test on a weekend fitness course. You need a teacher who will provide you with specific instructions, not a part-timer who will spout empty platitudes.

A Total Results instructor considers himself a teacher first. It's no different than teachers in other settings; the idea is to convey information in a way that is easily understood and to give the client (student) the tools necessary to optimize their chance for long-term success. I suspect that if you look back on your years of formal schooling, the teachers that had lasting impressions on you were the ones that really made you think, and made the material the easiest to absorb. We are teaching concepts that are new for most people, and it should be understood that there is a learning curve. Clients learn and progress at different paces, but we have structured how we teach our protocol so that you can absorb the information and not be overloaded. There is a particular purpose and reason for everything that we say, starting with the initial consultation where we give a general overview of our philosophy and explain preliminary considerations before we even put a prospective client on a piece of equipment. Our expectation is to instill in the client a sense of purpose, and a solid understanding of the primary exercise objective of thorough muscular and metabolic inroad.

There are two exercise examples that really display our commitment to detail in instruction. The first is the Leg Press, the most important of exercises and the first movement that we introduce in an initial consultation. We go over the repetition cycle schematic, discuss speed, pace, and turnarounds, entry/exit of the machine, and customize your machine settings before even performing a single repetition. This is information that serves you well not just on the Leg Press exercise, but as you move forward and learn additional exercises. The second example involves the Calf Raise exercise, which is a smaller movement typically introduced a few weeks down the road for most clients. This exercise does not have a significant metabolic impact on the rest of the body, but is a very important movement that helps improve lower body circulation and has a notable influence on foot and ankle stability. Your instructor will go into painstaking detail about proper loading of the musculature, knee stability, foot placement, and gradually increasing the stretch for the calf muscles as well as the Achilles tendon. These details may seem to be unnecessary, but we go to these lengths to ensure safety.

Clients look to their instructor for guidance, and it is our job to lead. We are detailed in our instructions by necessity, but not overly technical in order to avoid confusion. There is a fine line between spouting off highly technical jargon and not purposely dumbing things down. Specific instructions must be given at the precise right moment, along with gentle corrections that will assist the client to perform better and inch closer to achieve the ultimate objective. It is the instructor's duty to know what they're saying and why they're saying it, and less is often more. Exercise sessions are purposeful and meaningful undertakings, and it should be acknowledged that a Total Results workout is not a social event. I certainly enjoy chatting and connecting with clients before and after sessions, but in the workout room it is strictly business. We value your time and your safety, and would never do anything to compromise your focus.

Someone who simply holds an iPad and periodically says "good job" is not an instructor. They are probably well-intentioned, but could be more appropriately categorized as a workout buddy. Frankly, you could probably find a friend that would do that for free, not $70 per hour. That might motivate some people, and motivation is certainly important, but the best motivation is internal rather than external. A drive to succeed is enhanced by positive reinforcement, correction of mistakes, proper teaching, and accumulation of knowledge. If you're serious about achieving positive physical change safely and in minimum time per week, you need Total Results. Call us today.

Posted January 26, 2023 by Matthew Romans

Is It Really Safe to Go to Muscular Failure?

Many new Total Results clients initially have some trepidation about the intensity of our workouts. For those of you who might be reading this blog for the first time, I should define what is meant by intensity, at least in the framework of exercise. Intensity equals muscular inroad (fatigue) divided by time. Some new clients have never weight trained before, while others may not have done so in many years, and even when they did it was something very different from the Total Results philosophy. Still others may have only been exposed to weight training as part of a sport they played in high school or college, in which case there was likely very little scientific teaching involved. In any event, this initial concern that new clients sometimes have could be a product of poor advice they have gotten from the commercial fitness industry, or it may be due to the fact that they have never worked with the high level of effort and concentration that is the hallmark of our exercise protocol.

Fear is a powerful motivator, but it also causes us to think irrationally. The fear of something, whether it's a fear of heights, snakes, or airplanes, is often worse in one's mind than it is in reality. In our current context, a new client might be fearful of injury, failure, discomfort, or afraid of the unknown. All of these concerns are perfectly normal, especially fear of the unknown, since our exercise protocol is a completely new concept for most people that walk through our front door for the first time. Please allow me to alleviate your concerns right now: the Total Results exercise protocol is the safest methodology that has ever been invented. As we often like to say, this workout is safer than stepping off of a curb.

The most important component of our philosophy, certainly on the cellular level, is that we take each exercise to and beyond the point of momentary muscular failure. This means that each movement will last until you are not capable of completing another repetition in proper form (somewhere between one and three minutes of elapsed time), and then you will push against the movement arm for an additional five to ten seconds before exiting the machine and moving on to the next exercise. The word failure has a negative connotation in most other aspects of life, but here it is quite a positive event. This "failure" is actually the stimulus that we seek to trigger the body's growth mechanism that stimulates physical improvements. These improvements will happen as a result of this stimulus, provided you meet the body's requirements for sleep, nutrition, hydration, and stress management. You must also allow enough time between workouts and not overload your body by performing too much additional physical activity (this can vary depending on the individual).

You might say to yourself, "That's all well and good, but is it actually safe to train that intensely?" The answer is yes, and I will explain why. The primary cause of any injury is excessive force. From physics, we know that force is equal to mass times acceleration (F=MA), and it is possible to cause an injury even when lifting a seemingly light object in a violent or ballistic manner. We don't really know what the tensile limit is for a muscle, tendon, or ligament, but what we do know is that the risk of injury rises significantly as one moves faster. The first two repetitions of each exercise carry the highest risk of injury, largely because our muscles are fresh and at that point they are capable of producing the necessary force to put us in jeopardy. Care must be taken to avoid undue acceleration, bouncing, jerking, or adjusting while under load. Ironically, it is near the end of the exercise, when muscular failure looms near, that the exercise is safest. This is because the musculature has been weakened to the point where it cannot produce that same type of injurious force that it could at the beginning of the exercise. While these repetitions are certainly the most challenging and uncomfortable, you are far less likely to get injured at this point. Arthur Jones, the exercise pioneer who developed Nautilus and MedX exercise machines, had a phrase that described this phenomena - "The harder it seems, the easier it is." The reality is that one is far more likely to get injured entering or exiting the machines in a haphazard manner (often unilaterally loading the pelvis and spine, never a good idea) than they are by going to muscular failure.

With novice clients, we do not push them to muscular failure right away. I explain this to people during initial consultations, and that helps to ease their concerns. Our main objective, certainly from a teaching standpoint, is to use the first few sessions to develop proper form, speed of movement, turnaround technique, pace, and proper breathing as the building blocks for success. It is also critical to customize exercise machine settings to optimize joint comfort and proper positioning. The same is true for clients that return after an injury or significant layoff from exercise. It's important to ease them back into it, not only to develop confidence but also to reacquire skill. In such cases, the weights would be slightly (or significantly) reduced, based on the duration of the layoff. Client safety is priority number one, and we make sure to emphasize that not just during an initial consultation, but on an ongoing basis as we build relationships with our exercise trainees.

Yes, Total Results exercise sessions are brief, infrequent, and intense. Working at a high level of effort will result in some burning exertional discomfort in your muscles. While this is not necessarily pleasant to experience, it is temporary and not indicative of an injury. We find that most clients' tolerance for discomfort improves significantly over time as they get physically and mentally stronger.

The bottom line is that achieving muscular failure is the most direct route to stimulating positive muscular, metabolic, and cardiovascular change, and it is perfectly safe to do so. Having an instructor supervise your workout enhances safety and will prompt you to work at a higher level of effort and focus than you likely would experience on your own. Schedule an initial consultation today!

Posted January 12, 2023 by Matthew Romans

Root For the Underdog

Everybody loves underdog stories. Some of the most successful and enduring films involve an underdog character: Rocky, The Bad News Bears, and Rudy come to mind. You can even consider Jaws to be an underdog story, as there was seemingly no way that Chief Brody was going to survive against that shark after the boat capsized. Many people in a variety of industries have succeeded beyond imagination after overcoming incredible odds or dealing with significant hardships.

I recently heard a radio commercial for a heating and air conditioning company that resonated with me. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the company, but the owner made some really astute points and the story that he told in that brief commercial made me think. There are probably hundreds of HVAC companies in the Washington DC area, many of whom have large advertising budgets and scores of employees (most of us are familiar with Len the Plumber and F.H. Furr). In contrast, this gentleman is the owner of a small company who does much of the work himself. He spoke about taking pride in being on time, doing the work right the first time, and charging competitive prices. Every day he competes against the titans of his industry, and he says he takes pride in considering himself the underdog. Think about that for a second; he didn't shy away from the label, he embraced it.

That is exactly the mindset that we have at Total Results - we are the underdog! According to Lending Tree, nearly twenty percent of businesses fail in the first year of existence, so Total Results founder and former owner Tim Rankin had a lot to overcome when he started the company in his garage. We compete for clients with much larger companies (Gold's Gym, Orange Theory, etc.) that have bigger overhead costs, more employees, and spend far more on advertising. You don't see or hear Total Results commercials; our best form of advertising is word of mouth referrals from our amazing clients and professional partners, as well as in-person networking. We have no interest in competing with the big gyms at their own game; frankly, we don't even see ourselves as being in the same industry as the big health clubs because we have a vision and a philosophy that we refuse to compromise. Sure, we could probably make more money if we didn't have such strict ethics, but there are a lot of things in life more important than money.

The Total Results exercise methodology has always been at odds with the commercial fitness industry. Even before I came to Total Results in 2006, I taught this exercise protocol when I worked in commercial gyms throughout the area. I got plenty of strange looks from people, not only for how I dressed (because I didn't look like a gym rat), but for how I instructed my clients. I have faced obstacles in this industry from the beginning of my career, but as philosopher and author Ryan Holiday says, the obstacle is the way. Our underdog status was cemented in 2020 when we nearly had to close for good during the Covid lockdowns. The deck was certainly stacked against not just us, but many small businesses, and many of them had to close. We have our amazing clients to thank for being able to reopen and stay open.

Being an underdog means you have to work hard for everything you get and nothing is handed to you. I am proud to say that we have done just that, and I am grateful to be a part of this great company for over 16 years. Since we are a small business that is independently owned, our philosophy can remain untainted by outside interests, and we can stay free of the medical and fitness establishment. We will just keep chugging along, working to get better every day and continuing to give you the best exercise experience possible, because that is what you deserve.

Posted December 28, 2022 by Matthew Romans

Make Total Results Part of Your "Winning Formula"

I was fortunate to play football for legendary Seneca Valley High School football coach Terry Changuris. Although I graduated from high school nearly 30 years ago, he and I still talk frequently and visit when we can. I have asked him many questions over the years about strategy and how he was able to have such sustained success, which included a 158-31 record and 7 state championships over 16 seasons. Coach Changuris also knows what it's like to inherit a successful operation (just as I do), as he took over the program from the late, great Al Thomas, who won 5 state championships in 14 years.

Coach Chang (as his former players call him) often talks about finding the "winning formula", which came about through trial and error. He adopted principles that he learned from his coaching mentors, but he also had his own ideas and experimented with them. Some of them were extremely effective, while others were less successful and were scrapped. He crafted a philosophy that included sound special teams, a swarming, disciplined defense, and an explosive offense featuring a passing game that was twenty years ahead of its time (we utilized concepts that you see many current NFL teams execute). The winning formula, as I see it, is as much about having the proper mindset and attention to detail as it is about doing the right things every day. Discipline is key, and each day is an opportunity to be seized. It's not about the latest trends, and it's not necessarily glamorous and exciting, but it works if you put in the time and effort.

A winning formula for your overall health includes proper sleep, stress management, nutrition, time-restricted eating, and effective supplementation. Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, avoid sugar and processed foods, and find worthwhile hobbies or practice mindfulness to help deal with the stresses of life. This will allow you to make the most of the genetic hand of cards you have been dealt, and will go a long way toward staving off chronic disease. A crucial component of your game plan should be Total Results exercise. By now it's no secret that strength training is vital to help you maintain functional independence, bone health, and muscle mass, and there is no safer exercise protocol than ours. Our methodology requires a small time investment (less than one hour per week), and the metabolic return on that investment is exponential. One or two sessions per week consisting of 5-7 exercises is not just something that we can get away with, but is a biological necessity in order to stimulate physical improvements without overtraining.

I mentioned above about having the proper mindset and attention to detail. This is where an experienced exercise instructor plays a critical role. Not only are we looking out for your safety during each exercise, we are preparing you for what to expect once the exercise becomes more demanding. This helps to ease the anxiety that can occur when one gives a great degree of effort. Every repetition is scrutinized, so that you can achieve maximum benefit. We help you to develop the right frame of mind so that you can achieve your goals and get the most out of life. The mental aspect of exercise can never be underestimated.

Lasting success is achieved through a process that is sustainable day after day and year after year. It is gratifying that we have so many special clients who have been with us for a decade or more, and it says even more about them than it does about Total Results. Find a process that works for you and give yourself your best chance to achieve the level of health and vitality that you always wanted. Come up with your own "winning formula" and get started with Total Results exercise today.

Posted December 07, 2022 by Matthew Romans

"The Complete Guide to Fasting" - A Book Review

Jason Fung, MD, is a graduate of the University of Toronto medical school and he completed a fellowship in nephrology at UCLA. Dr. Fung runs the Intensive Dietary Management Program in Toronto, where he works with patients suffering from obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Jimmy Moore is a blogger, author, and host of several low-carb podcasts who achieved a stunning 180 pound weight loss due to a combination of dietary change, exercise, and fasting. These two gentlemen teamed up in 2016 to write "The Complete Guide to Fasting." I was recently asked by a client if I had any book recommendations on intermittent fasting. I had read many articles on the subject and learned about the concept as part of several medical and nutritionally-themed books, but had not come across a book specifically dedicated to fasting. A quick search on Amazon brought me to this title, so I went ahead and purchased the book.

Fasting, very simply, is what happens when we are not eating. Much of what passes for modern dietary advice is flat-out wrong, and over the last 50 years or so we have been conditioned to believe that eating smaller meals spread out throughout the day is the healthy way to go. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fasting is something that has been around for thousands of years, and it has its place in many cultures and religions all over the world. Dr. Fung gives a very concise explanation of what happens when we fast. He says, "Insulin levels drop, signaling the body to start burning stored energy. Glycogen (the glucose that's stored in the liver) is the most easily accessible energy source, and the liver stores enough to provide energy for twenty-four hours or so. After that, the body starts to break down stored fat for energy." So the idea is that we want to tap into our reserves of body fat to use as our primary energy source, which can only happen efficiently when we are in a fasted state. Insulin is the key hormone; its purpose is to help nutrients get into our cells. Lower insulin levels mean you are maintaining insulin sensitivity, which is a good thing. Higher insulin levels can be dangerous to your health, and are often associated with heart disease, stroke, obstructive sleep apnea, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and many other diseases of modern civilization. Chronic high insulin can also lead to Type 2 diabetes. Fasting forces your body to use fat as its primary fuel source. If you temporarily deprive yourself of food, the body will use the resources it already has.

What are the benefits of fasting? I believe there are some psychological improvements that can be achieved through fasting (especially a feeling of accomplishment after an extended fast), but Dr. Fung discusses six key physical improvements that can be obtained through regular fasting.

  1. Stimulate growth hormone. This is key for tissue repair, as well as building and maintenance of lean muscle mass.

  2. Regulate insulin, other hormones, and blood sugar. Energy levels will be kept relatively stable, thus avoiding peaks and valleys at various times throughout the day

  3. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death. This is a normal part of an organism's growth and development, and can help you avoid certain types of cancers.

  4. Autophagy. Similar in nature to apoptosis, but this is a regular form of cellular cleansing that can only occur when you are in a fasted state.

  5. Increased alertness. Think about what happens after a large meal (certainly topical, with Thanksgiving just around the corner). We've all heard the term "food coma", but you're usually groggy, and it's not only because of the tryptophan. Being in a fasted state means that blood is not concentrated in your gut, helping you to digest a large meal. You feel more awake, and your thinking is more clear when you fast.

  6. Lowers cholesterol. Cholesterol, in and of itself is not a bad thing, since every cell membrane in your body contains this substance. According to Dr. Fung, "...Since excess carbohydrates are converted to triglycerides, the absence of carbohydrates means fewer triglycerides. Remember that triglycerides are released from the liver as VLDL (very low density lipoprotein), which is the precursor of LDL (low density lipoprotein). Therefore, reduced VLDL eventually results in lowered LDL."

One particularly interesting chapter of the book deals with some of the myths about fasting. Here, Dr. Fung does a wonderful job of exploding these myths, and hopefully this educates people who have been misinformed. One commonly expressed reservation that people have about fasting is that they think it will cause them to burn muscle. As the author explains, "Muscle, on the other hand, is preserved until body fat becomes so low that the body has no choice but to turn to muscle. This will only happen when body fat is at less than 4 percent. (For comparison, elite male marathon runners carry approximately 8 percent body fat and female marathoners slightly more.)" Most of us carry around more body fat than that, so the risk of losing muscle is practically nonexistent. Another myth that has become accepted as fact is that fasting causes low blood sugar. Not true. According to Dr. Fung, "If you fast for longer than twenty-four to thirty-six hours, glycogen stores become depleted. The liver now can manufacture new glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis, using the glycerol that's a by-product of the breakdown of fat. This means that we do not need to eat glucose for our blood glucose levels to remain normal." The popular version of what we have been told about fasting, from both the mainstream media and establishment medicine is wildly inaccurate.

How should you go about fasting? My personal recommendation is to start by fasting for 12 hours per day, and gradually work up to 16 hours per day, with an eight hour feeding window (the time between your first and last meals of the day). Each individual is different, and the great thing about fasting is that you can customize how you do it in order to best suit your lifestyle. You can avoid fasting during the holidays or if you have a wedding to attend (or any social event that involves food), and then get right back on track afterward. Dr. Fung details some of the programs that he uses with his patients, and he often utilizes 24 hour, 36 hour, or even longer fasts. Co-author Moore devotes an entire chapter to his personal experiences with fasting and the ways that he experimented and experienced great success. If you're doing an extended fast, it's a good idea to consume plenty of water and a multivitamin, to avoid becoming nutrient deficient. Drinking bone broth is also a good strategy. Fasting is safe and effective for the vast majority of the population, but should be avoided if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, under the age of 18, or severely malnourished. The last point I'll make is that fasting is most easily accomplished if you are on a ketogenic diet, or eat a diet consisting largely of single-ingredient whole foods, with plenty of saturated fat. This will make you less prone to hunger.

Dr. Fung writes well, and the insights provided by Mr. Moore adds a nice touch to the book. The concepts are fairly simple to understand and listed in a way that makes for easy reference if you are a health professional. However, this book is not written for the professional; it's written for the layperson that wants to make a significant change to their health. There are even helpful recipes located in the back of the book, as well as some sample fasting schedules that can be adopted.

Fasting, in and of itself, is very simple (but not necessarily easy) to do. Encouragement from friends and family members will go a long way toward success. It doesn't require money or a product, all it entails is not eating for designated periods of time. I highly recommend incorporating intermittent fasting along with your regular Total Results workouts in order to facilitate fat loss and maximize metabolic effect. It will cost you nothing and will give you a huge return on your exercise investment.

Posted November 22, 2022 by Matthew Romans