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Total Results Blog

How Can You Maximize Your Potential?

All of us are dealt a genetic hand of cards at birth. There are some things that you cannot change, such as height, eye color, or the sex you were born to be. Some people have a genetic predisposition to certain diseases of modern civilization, like heart disease, obesity, and cancer. Unfortunately, many people use that as an excuse. Just because your mother suffered from osteoporosis (which is completely preventable) doesn't mean that you have to follow the same path. Even if you are predisposed to a condition, that doesn't make it inevitable. Lifestyle and personal choices will go further toward determining your physical appearance and health (or lack of health) than your genetic predispositions. Everyone has the potential to be strong, healthy, and free from chronic disease; the question is, what are you going to do about it?

I am a firm believer in being in charge of your own destiny. All of us have the capacity to accomplish great things, based on the gifts we have been given. In the realm of learning, there is what is referred to as the fixed and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset states that our abilities are essentially set in stone, while adopting the growth mindset means that you believe anything is possible with the right attitude, desire, and work ethic. In order to maximize your physical and intellectual potential, one must adopt the growth mindset and maintain it going forward. Not all of us can be astrophysicists or Olympic athletes, but if we think positively, live with purpose, and strive to challenge ourselves mentally and physically, we can be the best possible versions of ourselves and reach heights that we thought were impossible.

How can you maximize your potential?

Keep an open mind and a learner's (beginner's) mindset. Don't be satisfied with what you think you know, or with your current level of achievement. Celebrate your accomplishments, but don't rest on your laurels. In the martial arts, even those who acquire high level black belts speak of having a "white belt mentality." Always try to learn something new, and find a way to relate it to your everyday life. This will stimulate your brain and keep you sharp. In order for life to continue to have meaning and for us to be at our best, we need new challenges to face, even when we reach retirement age.

Eat a diet consisting of single-ingredient whole foods. Go organic, whenever it is possible. Contrary to what we've been told by the big food industry (and a lot of clueless doctors), consuming refined and processed carbohydrates, rather than saturated fat, is what makes us fat and causes chronic disease. Here is a little-known fact: our brains are made up of about 70 percent fat, so consume plenty of fat from quality sources (animal meat, eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, butter, nuts). Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, drink alcohol in moderation, stay hydrated, and avoid sugar as much as possible.

Perform regular Total Results workouts once or twice per week. No other form of activity can match the metabolic effect of a high intensity, slow speed weight training workout. Muscle tissue has the greatest impact on determining your body's shape (within your genetic blueprint), and working at a significant level of effort is what is required to stimulate the growth mechanism. This will also enable you to build healthy bones, stabilize connective tissue, and keep your joints properly lubricated. This will make the performance of everyday tasks that much easier, in addition to protecting you against injury (it's hard to reach your potential if you are regularly injured or sick). Every workout is an opportunity to meet a challenge head-on and set a new goal for yourself.

Incorporate supplementation into your lifestyle. Eating a diet similar to our paleolithic ancestors is certainly more nutritious than the typical modern Western diet, but not all of us are perfect, and some deficiencies can occur (particularly if you suffer from chronic disease). I recommend supplementing with Vitamins C and D, fish oil, magnesium, and zinc. If you are over the age of 50, I would also recommend taking Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which will enable your body to effectively manufacture cholesterol, another substance your body needs in order to optimize cell and brain function. This is critically important if you are taking a statin drug, which brings me smoothly to my final recommendation.

Get off medications! Unfortunately, modern conventional medicine has devolved into simply handing out prescriptions to patients. I could go on and on about the pharmaceutical industry, but space is limited. Suffice to say, ALL prescription medications merely treat symptoms rather than correct the underlying problem at the cellular level. In addition to only treating symptoms, prescription medications (and many over the counter drugs) carry with them nasty side effects that create other problems in your body. Be your own advocate, do your own research, and have a frank conversation with your physician about taking charge of your health.

Anything in life that is worth dreaming is worth doing. If there is something that you want, you can do it if you want it badly enough and are willing to pay the price to get there. The price does not have to be that steep, but it does require patience and dedication. Take charge and get started today.

Posted November 27, 2021 by Matthew Romans

Speed of Movement and Pacing - Two Sides of the Same Coin

Most of our clients and regular readers of this blog understand that the Total Results exercise protocol is inherently unique. No other type of exercise methodology places as great an emphasis on the little details: instructional verbiage, entry and exit of the equipment, and recognizing and correcting form discrepancies. Our protocol utilizes a 10/10 speed of movement (on both the positive and negative phases of the movement), but 8-12 seconds in each direction meets an acceptable standard. This is done to maximize muscular loading, minimize momentum, optimize safety, and also to allow for the full benefit of our machines' cam effect. A kevlar belt is attached to the machine's weight stack, and the belt goes around the perimeter of an eccentric-shaped lobe (cam) that is connected to a pulley; this mechanism is what varies the resistance based on leverage factors throughout the range of motion of the exercise. Proper variable resistance is an essential part of obtaining the optimal exercise stimulus, and it's one reason that duplicating the Total Results exercise experience in a commercial gym is virtually impossible.

Total Results exercise founder Ken Hutchins talks about cams and speed of movement in his recent book "Cams Within Cams." According to Hutchins, "Speed is the most important factor affecting the resistance curve of an exercise. This remains the most important factor regardless of the tool - barbell, bodyweight, gymnastic tool, exercise machine." Clearly a standardized and appropriately slow speed of movement is necessary from an equipment (cam) design standpoint. Ken goes on to discuss this point a little further, saying that, "...A defined speed is the only way to obtain a reliable resistance curve. And specifying speed is also the only way to avoid confusion with exercise subjects." This is why most of the equipment that you see in home and commercial gyms is poorly manufactured; the engineers that designed these machines have not standardized their speed of movement and go way too fast. In such equipment, any cam effect is purely coincidental; take a look at most gym rats, and you will see what amounts to throwing and catching of the movement arm on an exercise machine. Incidentally, many of these same engineering flaws were present even in vintage Nautilus equipment of the 1970s and 1980s. Nautilus protocol recommended 2/4 speed (2 seconds on the positive and 4 seconds on the negative), and many of the old guard at Nautilus moved even faster than that during their workouts. In addition, the cams were often backward, with the resistance being too heavy in the most contracted position and too light in the start position. Utilizing a 10/10 speed also allows the instructor to recognize and correct form discrepancies during each exercise; only a standardized and creepy slow movement makes this possible.

But what about pacing? How important is it, and how do we define it? Acceleration is defined as the rate of change of velocity of an object with respect to time. The Khan Academy says that, "Velocity describes how position changes; acceleration describes how velocity changes." This gives us some perspective. I would use the word pace to describe how consistent one's speed of movement is during an exercise, and I believe that pacing is an incredibly important factor in obtaining an optimal exercise stimulus. When judging pace, you want to determine if there is a uniformly smooth movement or if there are significant jumps in the movement, whether it speeds up or slows down. Certainly, we have an ideal standard in mind that we measure against, and not all ten second excursions are created equal. For example, you could take two seconds to perform the first half of the positive phase, and the second half in eight. In theory, your speed would be acceptable but your pace would not. In my judgment as an instructor, that repetition would be counted, but would probably not qualify for a graduation to a higher weight for the next workout. By the same token, you could take six seconds to complete the negative with a relatively consistent pace, but your speed would be too fast. Form discrepancies such as segmentation (which is often due to less than optimal neurological efficiency and motor control), off/oning, and ratcheting will have an impact on both speed and pace, but more often poor pacing is a result of a lack of concentration and spatial awareness.

If you struggle with proper pace and speed, what can you do to improve it? The first key is to focus! Shut everything else out of your mind for the twenty minutes of your workout and think about the task at hand. If your mind is allowed to drift elsewhere, it will be difficult to have good speed of movement and pace. Second, be an active listener! Intellectually process the instructions you are given. Your instructor will periodically utilize a cadence count to give you a reference point for speed and pace; use that to help develop a better feel for the stroke (distance from start point to end point) of each exercise. Some exercises have a greater range of motion than others, but ten seconds works well on all of them. Finally, you can silently count to yourself now and again as you go through the positive and negative excursions of the repetitions. For many years I discouraged clients from this practice, as I thought it led to segmentation of the movement, but I no longer believe that is the case. In fact, we have timers on many of our machines that clients can see in order to help pace themselves. One of the most important factors in motor learning is knowledge of results, and this practice of counting (or seeing the seconds tick off) provides immediate feedback of performance.

A slow speed of movement is a critical factor in exercise, but as we can see, pace is very important as well. Certainly, intensity of effort and getting to muscular failure are essential for spurring the body to make improvements, but just getting there isn't enough. It's how you get there that makes all the difference in the world. In reality, speed and pace go hand in hand, and a proper command of both are needed to achieve optimal form, and in turn, a quality exercise stimulus.

Posted November 12, 2021 by Matthew Romans

What Can We Learn From the Stoic Philosophers?

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading the book "A Guide to the Good Life" by William B. Irvine. This is a book that I purchased over a year ago at the recommendation of my friend Al Coleman, who studied philosophy in college. I kept meaning to read it, but it sat on my coffee table as I pursued other books in the interim. Eventually, I decided to stop procrastinating and cracked it open, and I'm glad that I did. I have read other philosophical-themed books over the years, but this excellent work not only gives a historical account on the beginnings of the Stoic school of philosophy, the author also details some strategies to incorporate its teachings into your lifestyle.

The Stoic school of philosophy was founded in ancient Greece by Zeno of Centium. Stoicism made its way to Rome in the early parts of the 3rd century B.C., and Roman Stoicism differed slightly from Greek Stoicism. The Greeks were primarily focused on the attainment of virtue, while the Romans largely sought tranquility, which is the absence of negative emotions and presence of positive emotions. Stoic philosophy was one of several philosophies that was popular during this time period, and the most recognizable Stoic teachers were Seneca, Gaius Musonius Rufus, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, who later became known as the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome. Stoicism became popular because its tenets were easy to follow, and unlike its philosophical predecessor, Cynicism, did not require you to live in squalor. Unfortunately, Stoicism declined in popularity after Marcus' death, in part due to there being no charismatic teachers around to take up the mantle, but also because of the rise of Christianity. Fortunately, many of the writings of these philosophers have survived and are available for us to learn from.

How do the Stoics expect to achieve tranquility? One method that they use is what is called the trichotomy of control. This means they put everything in life into one of three categories: things over which we have complete control, things over which we have no control at all, and things over which we have some but not complete control. The Stoics believe it is foolish to waste precious time and energy worrying about things in which we cannot control, such as whether there will be heavy traffic on our daily commute to work (although you can prepare for such an event by giving yourself extra time). Instead, it is better to focus our efforts on the things which our actions can have a direct impact on the outcome, since those are things that are within your power to change. If you look at it from an exercise perspective, you have no control over the genetic hand you have been dealt; as the saying goes, you cannot pick your parents. However, you do have a say in how your genes are expressed, and your actions can either optimize or diminish your genetic potential. You can maximize your physical potential by making good dietary choices (something well within your control) and by giving your best effort in your Total Results workouts. A good strategy is to set internal rather than external goals; instead of trying to complete a certain number of repetitions on a given exercise, focus instead on working at a high level of intensity using perfect form throughout. Don't try to compare your performance to that of someone else you know, just concentrate on doing your absolute best. If you do that, you will not be disappointed.

The Stoics also practice something that is known as negative visualization. This technique "...Teaches us to embrace whatever life we happen to be living and to extract every bit of delight we can from it." This helps us to enjoy what we have, but also reminds us that things can be taken away from us at a moment's notice. As Seneca said, "All things human are short-lived and perishable." If you visualize (but don't obsess about) the worst thing that can happen to you, it takes the sting out of it and helps you to prepare for a worst-case scenario if and when that time comes. For example, what is the worst thing that can happen during a Total Results workout? You will likely experience temporary exertional discomfort, you could have a less than optimal performance, and if you exhibit poor form you could experience injury. Certainly our goal is to avoid injury, but even a minor injury is not the end of the world, and muscular discomfort and a suboptimal workout will fade over time. In the end, you will be stronger mentally and physically for the experience, and you will learn not to repeat those mistakes in the future.

Voluntary discomfort is something that the Stoic philosophers embraced and recommended to their followers. Their thinking was that man was destined to encounter hardship at some point in life, and that if they periodically undertook some self-inflicted discomfort it would harden them against the inevitable hardship that life was destined to throw their way. This can be done by simply undergoing a periodic fast, walking shoeless, or taking a cold shower rather than a hot one. According to William B. Irvine, "Alternatively, voluntary discomfort can be thought of as an insurance premium which, if paid, makes us eligible for benefits: Should we later fall victim to a misfortune, the discomfort we experience then will be substantially less than it otherwise would have been." This ties in nicely to the Total Results exercise philosophy. Think about it: our workouts, while brief and relatively infrequent, can hardly be considered fun. They require focus, discipline, and patience, and during the entire twenty minute duration of the workout, you experience significant muscular discomfort. It is all done voluntarily. The physical benefits you derive from our workouts are your insurance policy against injury and chronic disease, and at the same time the experience makes you mentally and physically more resilient.

Lastly, the Stoics talk about the importance of preparing for old age. They caution us not to take things for granted when we are young and in good health. It is important to value health even as we age, and to do the things necessary to prolong your health as the years advance. Performing regular weekly Total Results workouts, in addition to being both physically and mentally active, will help senior citizens to lower medical costs, maintain independence, and enjoy the golden years.

Some aspects of Stoic philosophy are not really relevant to the Total Results exercise philosophy, such as how to deal with grief and anger, or the perils of seeking adulation and fame, but as you can see, a few of the Stoic principles tie in nicely to our concepts. You don't have to be a full-fledged Stoic to reap the benefits of their teachings, and adopting some of these ideas requires very little effort. Stoicism can give you a new appreciation for exercise, and in the words of Marcus Aurelius, "... It is possible, through the practice of Stoicism, to gain a whole new life."

Posted October 29, 2021 by Matthew Romans

Don't Take Your Accomplishments for Granted

There is a tendency for many of us, in the course of our daily lives, to always look forward and think about what lies ahead. This is a healthy mindset to have, and it is the breeding ground for personal growth. It's important to know where you want to go, and to have a plan in place for how you want to get there. That being said, I also believe there is value in looking back at previous experiences, because learning from past successes (and especially failures) can help you to plot a steadier course ahead in the future. Our experiences shape the people that we are today, and you can look back on different periods in your life and track your emotional, intellectual, and physical progress. The progress that you have made over the years should be celebrated, and it's important to not take for granted all the things that you have accomplished.

Total Results clients have achieved some amazing results over the 20 years we have been in business. Some clients have simply improved their ability to perform activities of daily living with greater ease and less effort, while others have been able to run 5K races in a faster time. Still others are able to participate in recreational sports at a higher level and with reduced risk of injury, while other clients can enjoy their children and grandchildren without getting fatigued as easily. As people get stronger and achieve better conditioning, sometimes there is a tendency to forget what brought them to Total Results in the first place. Many novice clients are initially weak, deconditioned, and suffering from joint ailments. Most trainees can see some incremental improvements in these conditions within weeks or a couple of months. Once you have incorporated some lifestyle changes in addition to your regular workouts, such as modifying your diet and supplementing intelligently, the aches, pains, and inflammation that plagued you are often easily forgotten.

Our exercise methodology can be applied to any equipment at your disposal, but our specially engineered machines, clinically controlled environment, and detailed instruction cannot be replicated in a gym or at home. Many times over the years, clients have worked with us for a period of months or even years, and then decide that they want to try doing this on their own in a different setting. More often than not, they return to Total Results because they soon realize just how unique our experience is. Progress is measured both quantitatively and qualitatively, through keeping detailed records of every workout. Total Results workouts only require 20 minutes of your time, once or twice per week, but you are expending tremendous effort for all of that time, both mentally and physically. Don't take for granted that you will be able to achieve that level of effort and focus in another setting without an instructor to guide you. Some have been able to, but most have not.

Once you have achieved an improved level of strength and conditioning, it's easy to forget where you initially were. Maintaining and increasing your physical improvements requires consistent effort every week. Take the time to celebrate and enjoy what you have accomplished, but realize that staying on top is more difficult than getting there. Remember where you were when you started your journey, and keep in the forefront of your mind where you want to go in the future. There is always another mountain to climb.

Posted October 18, 2021 by Matthew Romans

"Good to Go" - A Book Review

What is recovery? It comes across as a vague, all-encompassing, and slightly non-specific term, at least as it pertains to exercise and other forms of physical activity. The Webster dictionary defines recovery (in this context) as, "The process of becoming healthy after illness or injury." In an athletic or exercise sense, we could go a little further and say that it's the body's way of compensating after dealing with a stressor (a single bout) and improving upon its previous levels of strength and/or conditioning; it's not just a return to the status quo. Award-winning journalist and former professional cyclist Christie Aschwanden published the best-selling book "Good to Go" in 2019, which discusses the science of recovery. The book also takes a close examination of many of the popular modalities currently being used by elite athletes and weekend warriors alike, ostensibly to promote healing and optimize performance.

Before becoming a science journalist, Aschwanden studied biology at the University of Colorado and worked as a research assistant in a lab. In addition to being a professional cyclist in the early 1990s, she has participated in a variety of other sporting endeavors at a high level, such as skiing and running, well into her 40s. I think that all of those things come through in her writing and give her a unique perspective to share. The author examines some of the practices of professional athletes such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, high level triathletes, and also participates in a study with several other weekend runners to see if beer is a suitable post-run recovery drink. One theme that resonates throughout the book is the idea that whether you're talking about weekend warriors, average Joes, or elite athletes at the top of their game, everybody wants a magic bullet. People who have a competitive nature want to get an edge, whether it's real or perceived. This is why the "recovery industry" has become so lucrative, and it's the reason that people are willing to invest a significant amount of time and money in the pursuit of performance optimization.

Aschwanden examines the use of ice and cryotherapy as a recovery modality. RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) has been standard operating procedure in athletic and sports training since the late 1970s, and is especially popular in the treatment of injuries. The thinking is that ice slows blood flow and reduces inflammation in the injured area, in addition to relieving pain. The problem is that this may actually delay the healing process, as inflammation is a necessary component for the body to mobilize resources to repair injured tissue. As Gabe Mirkin, MD, who was once a proponent of icing but has recently reversed course, says, "Anything that reduces your immune response will also delay muscle healing. The message is that the cytokines of inflammation are blocked by icing-that's been shown in several studies." Indeed, Gary Reinl, a rehabilitation specialist who has consulted for several professional sports teams echoes Mirkin's sentiment. According to the author, Reinl believes that "...Icing merely slows blood flow to the area, it doesn't halt it indefinitely. Once the icing stops and the blood flow returns to normal, whatever process you were trying to hinder will proceed again. The swelling will continue and the inflammation will start. The only thing you did was delay things." This is a far cry from what has become the accepted mainstream viewpoint. Cryotherapy, in which the participant enters a chamber filled with refrigerated air or liquid nitrogen that can reach temperatures as low as -250℉, has also become popular of late. While many athletes swear by it, cryotherapy has not been shown to be very effective at treating the conditions for which it is being promoted. The existing studies were all of low quality and there was no convincing placebo to meet the gold standard of a randomized, double-blind study. Keep those thoughts in mind the next time you see an athlete jump into a cold tub or a cryogenic chamber after a rigorous practice.

Sports drink commercials, particularly for Gatorade, are ubiquitous during any televised sporting event. Most people are aware of how Gatorade was invented, which was during the mid-1960's at the University of Florida. It was a rather simple beverage composed of sodium, sugar, monopotassium phosphate, and water. Since the original concoction was not particularly tasty, some lemon flavoring was added. The Gator football team figured it now had a secret weapon, and they believed that consumption of the drink contributed to their 1967 Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech. Other teams took notice, and soon thereafter Gatorade became available commercially. Gatorade was acquired by the Quaker Oats company in 1983, and then the NFL signed a deal to make it the league's official sports drink. Does that mean that Gatorade (or any of its competitors) helps to improve performance or recovery? According to Carl Heneghan of the University of Oxford's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, the answer is no. Heneghan says, "Worryingly, most performance tests used to assess sports drinks have never been validated." Author Aschwanden elaborates: "When Heneghan's team gathered and examined all of the available evidence on sports drinks (they even consulted sports drink manufacturers to ask them for their supporting studies, though not all complied), they found what amounted to a bunch of preliminary or inconclusive evidence packaged as more definitive proof." The so-called research being performed at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute appears to be little more than clever marketing, and can hardly be considered objective science, since the sample sizes are typically very small. It doesn't exactly make you want to "Be Like Mike", a reference to the old Michael Jordan Gatorade ad campaign of the 1990s.

Aschwanden also examines the concept of a so-called "anabolic window" that exists after exercise or sports performance, something that has become an accepted tenet in fitness lore. We often hear that following exercise there is a certain period of time when the body is most receptive to nutrients, in order to facilitate recovery and stimulate growth, and that if we miss this opportunity to replenish the resources that we have used during exercise, our progress can be negatively impacted. Does such a window exist? According to Brad Schoenfeld, the director of the Human Performance Lab at CUNY Lehman College in the Bronx, "...It's not so much an anabolic window, it's an anabolic barn door." Aschwanden continues: "As long as you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it's almost impossible not to get through. The barn door doesn't slam shut 45 minutes after exercise. Instead, it stays open for four or five hours, maybe more." This means that what we've been programmed to believe is, at best, misleading, and at worst, outright false. It's important to understand how efficient the human body is at maintaining homeostasis (a state of equilibrium), and to not worry about every minute detail. Instead, the author says, "...It's important to get the big picture right."

Now that we know that several of the accepted modalities provide negligible benefit, what are some recovery strategies that do work? One thing that is proven to work, costs no money, and requires only a little effort to do correctly is to focus on getting a proper amount of sleep. This is something that I have talked about in previous blog posts, but it certainly bears repeating. Most adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, in order to feel refreshed. Keep the temperature in the bedroom around 65℉, with dark enough curtains to block out morning light; ear plugs can block out ambient sounds that make it difficult to fall asleep. Try to establish a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, and minimize your exposure to artificial light in the 30 to 60 minutes prior to sleep. Find ways to relax when you are able. Practicing meditation regularly, or simply being mindful from time to time, can go a long way toward not only helping you sleep better, but being in a better frame of mind and less stressed. While I believe the human body was designed to move and should not be sedentary, it's very easy to overdo it with various types of activities that can tax your body's immune system. This can lead to illness, injury, and a decrease in both exercise and sports performance. Listen to your body; nobody knows it better than you do. If you start to see a dip in performance or are feeling tired or sluggish frequently, it might be time to slow things down and rest.

The placebo effect is very powerful. Even if a modality provides no real benefit, the power of the mind can make one believe it is effective. If you think a ritual or practice is doing something for you, it can provide psychological benefits and relieve anxiety. The science of recovery is inexact and still evolving, and we are learning all the time. The last point I will make is a quote from Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself-and you are the easiest person to fool."

Posted September 16, 2021 by Matthew Romans