Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

March 2019

Discover Your Superpowers

I recently watched The Incredibles 2 with my family. For those of you unfamiliar with this movie, it is a Disney animated film about a family with various superpowers. The family tries to fit into normal society while saving the world from evil doers in their spare time. Their powers range from disappearing, to extreme elasticity, to super strength, to lightning fast speed of movement. While Superhero stories can be fun and entertaining, I am not a big fan of stories that promote supernatural abilities or occurrences. I consider it intellectually lazy story telling and insulting to the amazing natural abilities we humans actually possess. Each of us has the capacity for a variety of breathtaking natural abilities, whether they be physical, intellectual, emotional, or some combination thereof. In order to optimize our "powers", we must both nurture our abilities and treat our bodies and minds in ways that allow us to thrive.

Supernatural abilities in stories and myths allows the storyteller to make virtually anything happen to advance their story. Whether it is a human that can fly or an anthropomorphized animal(ex. Ants or mice that can talk and act like humans) or gods who can perform all manner of fantastic feats, supernatural people and acts are cheap instruments in plot lines used to explain the unknown or confer superiority or consciousness to certain characters. Instead of humans acting in the natural world to solve problems using their considerable talents, and in spite of their shortcomings, we are told that gods or superheroes or talking bears are superior (or at least equals in the case of talking bears) at making the world better.

Of course, nothing "super"-natural actually exists. By it's very definition, the supernatural is outside of the boundaries of the natural world. No talking toys. No Superheroes. No wizards, or schools for wizards. No Isis, or Zeus, or Zoroaster. The natural world is all we have. Within the natural world, we humans have evolved over millions of years. We evolved to survive and to thrive both to propogate our species and make our own existences better. Although humans have some seemingly disadvantageous attributes(weak backs, flat feet, slow maturity cycles, muscular weakness compared to our primate ancestors, etc.), we have evolved some amazing features and capabilities as well. We have large brains capable of long term intellectual pursuits, love, and incredible determination and focus. Our bodies are amazingly adaptable and can survive on a variety of food from seal meat in the arctic to insects in tropical jungles and everything in between. While we cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound, we are able to travel hundreds of miles on foot and thousands of miles in vehicles we have dreamed up and built. We can live and thrive for potentially 100 years or more. We nurture our young and care for our families and communities.

Some of us have learned to optimize our human capacity and have become Olypmic champions, chess grandmasters, wealthy entrepreneurs, and more. However, even if being an Olympic sprinter or a rocket scientist is not in your future due to your genetic makeup (Note: I would not even qualify for race-walking or rocket derby), you can still harness your considerable personal powers by following a few key practices.

First, you must work on what you want to accomplish. In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell says that in many fields of endeavor, it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to develop expertise. If you want to be an expert computer programmer or a champion mountain biker, both of which seem like superpowers to many, you have to put in thousands of hours of focused practice.

Second, you must nurture your body and brain for top performance. You need to sleep a lot (7 hours per night minimum, but 8 or even 9 hours is ideal). You need to eat an ancestrally appropriate diet of clean protein sources, healthy fats and fruits and vegetables. You have to stop smoking and minimize alcohol and drugs. You must move, a lot, every day, albeit at a slow pace. Our ancestors were hunter gatherers and evolved to move daily to find food. If you don't move your body will degrade. We also must stress our muscles once in awhile. If you don't use the muscles, you will lose them and hence your ability to perform everything from mundane physical tasks to amazing feats such as water skiing and tree climbing. Of course, we recommend slow motion weight training for improving strength.

Finally, I highly recommend taking some quiet, reflective time each day, whether you call it meditation, mindfulness, or just contemplating your belly button. Our ancestors did not evolve to be plugged in every minute to technology, or be in big crowds and our bodies and brains will not thrive long term on a 24/7 diet constant stimuli.

Once you start all these practices, then you will be able to find your "superpowers". Why? Your energy and focus will increase. Your strength, stamina, endurance and physical abilities will improve. You will become more patient and accepting. You will be more willing to fail and try things again. You will be on a permanent high. Your productivity at work, school, sport and play will increase. You will start achieving things and reaching goals that once seemed just out of reach. You will then aim for higher and higher goals. Most of the people at the top of their field have this "runner's high" of focus, motivation, endorphin response and drive. Your "superpowers" will reveal themselves at this point. Of course, they are not supernatural powers;rather, they are completely natural abilities. It's just that you have primed your body and mind to achieve amazing things. Maybe your "superpowers" include writing a book, being an inspiring coach, being a top athlete, or a top salesperson, or great musician. Whatever your powers are, they are powers that others will consider quite amazing.

The only question is, what are you waiting for? Do you want to wallow in mediocrity every day for the rest of your life? Just passing the time? Or do you want to thrive? Acheive great things for you and your loved ones. Do not put it off any longer. I promise you if you start these practices today, a whole world of possibility will open up to you. You will find your "superpowers" and you will never look back!

Posted March 19, 2019 by Tim Rankin

Common Exercise Myths by Matthew Romans

The mainstream exercise industry has peddled half-truths and outright falsehoods for years, probably going back to the beginning of the Aerobics craze of the late 1960s. Some of the people perpetuating these myths are well-intentioned but ignorant, while others have more sinister motives (taking your money). With so much information available, it can be difficult to distinguish truth from fiction, especially when the fiction is put forth in an exciting package by a charismatic personality. One of our goals at Total Results is to educate our clients about the true nature of exercise, and while there are a great number of exercise myths floating around out there, I'd like to discuss a few of them in particular and set the record straight.

Myth: Injuries during weight training occur because you're lifting too much weight. While on the surface this seems to make sense, it's untrue. The primary cause of injury is excessive force. We do not know what the breaking point of a tendon, ligament, or muscle is, but the greater the amount of force applied, the greater the risk of injury. Force is equal to mass times acceleration (F=MA); it is possible to lift a relatively heavy resistance safely, just as it is possible to lift a relatively light resistance unsafely. The primary consideration is force. Total Results exercise protocol involves lifting and lowering the weight in about ten seconds each, which keeps the dangerous forces to a minimum. Exercising with us is safer than stepping off a curb.

Myth: Working to momentary muscular failure is dangerous. I remember hearing this myth almost twenty years ago, when I was preparing to take my first fitness certification (the American Council on Exercise). The people in this organization seemed to equate intensity (degree of momentary effort) and exertional discomfort with danger. We know that this is false. Working to momentary muscular failure, while uncomfortable and often unpleasant, is perfectly safe when using the ideal exercise protocol (Total Results). Arthur Jones (founder of Nautilus and Med-X exercise machines) often used the phrase "the harder it seems, the easier it is" to describe the level of safety as muscular failure approaches. As an exercise becomes more challenging, those repetitions become safer, since your muscles have fatigued to the point that their force output decreases. If you're capable of producing less force, the risk of injury goes down significantly, so those last couple repetitions become safer. While it seems counterintuitive, the repetitions performed at the beginning of the exercise are more dangerous, as you still possess enough strength to suddenly increase force and cause injury. Not only is working to momentary muscular failure safe, it is incredibly beneficial and necessary for achieving the optimal exercise stimulus and maintaining your insulin sensitivity.

Myth: Doing "cardio" is essential for improving your cardiovascular system and promoting fat loss. Both of these notions are false. First, we need to understand how the cardiovascular system functions. It functions to serve the muscles, not the other way around. The heart is certainly an important muscle, but it contracts involuntarily and can only be trained by performing mechanical work with the skeletal muscles. Of the three types of muscle tissue (cardiac, skeletal, and smooth), only skeletal muscle can contract volitionally. We have been led to believe that in order to achieve optimal cardiovascular fitness, we need get into a "target heart rate zone" based on a percentage of 220 minus your age for a set amount of time. There is no solid scientific evidence to support this; in fact, the Aerobics industry's academic reputation in the field of exercise physiology has been built on bad science. By exercising the skeletal muscle intensely (as we do in a Total Results workout) and moving quickly between exercises, the cardiovascular system has to function more efficiently to keep up with the increased demands of the muscles. This is a far more efficient means of stimulating the cardiovascular system than performing traditional steady-state activity that has minimal involvement of the skeletal muscles. As far as fat loss is concerned, it is almost entirely a dietary issue. Eating an ancestrally-appropriate diet consisting largely of single-ingredient whole foods, with an adequate amount of protein and healthy fats (while minimizing grains and sugars) is the best way to reprogram your body to use fat as its primary fuel source. Performing steady-state activity is ineffective for two reasons. One reason is that the activity itself burns very few calories, another is that steady-state activity promotes sarcopenia (loss of muscle). Working to build muscle through high-intensity weight training is an important ally in fat loss; every pound of muscle you build can burn between 50 and 100 calories per day.

Myth: It's okay to strength train different muscle groups on different days of the week. I once subscribed to this concept, made popular by the bodybuilding subculture. In my teens and early twenties I often trained four days per week, utilizing a regimen that included exercises for chest and triceps on Mondays, back and biceps on Tuesdays, legs on Thursdays, and so-called "accessory exercises" on Fridays. While it sounded impressive, the problem was that beyond the initial week or two on this routine, I didn't seem to get much stronger and was prone to getting upper respiratory infections. If you are a genetically gifted bodybuilder or professional athlete (some of whom use performance-enhancing drugs) you can probably make progress in spite of training in this fashion, but that likely encapsulates less than one percent of the population. I was severely overtrained and very fortunate that I didn't get an overuse injury. The human body functions as a unit; it is far more than just the sum of its parts. Therefore it should be exercised as a unit, and that is why we perform full-body workouts at Total Results. Our clients perform five to seven exercises no more than twice per week, with at least three days between workouts to allow for proper recovery. We utilize compound exercises (which involve multiple muscle groups in the course of that exercise) to enable us to keep the exercise volume relatively low. We want to stimulate the body to adapt without overtaxing its recovery ability in the process. This prevents overuse injury and keeps the risk of overtraining to a minimum.

These are just a few of the many myths that the mainstream fitness industry has promoted over the years. In a future post, I will discuss a few other wrong-headed notions I have come across in the course of interacting with clients and attending other exercise-related events in my professional life. Let Total Results help you separate exercise truth from fiction. We are here to serve you!

Posted March 18, 2019 by Tim Rankin

The Ignorance of the Medical Community about Exercise and Nutrition by Matthew Romans

Regardless of what your personal stance is on what role (if any) the government should play in medical care/health insurance, I think most of us can agree that the system is currently in turmoil. It can be a challenge to get in touch with your primary doctor, you may have to wait long periods of time to get essential services and tests, and there are often bureaucratic hoops to jump through with your insurance carrier. As Dr. Doug McGuff, author of "Body by Science" and co-author of "The Primal Prescription" says, "you do not want to be in the belly of that beast." To make matters worse, most in the medical community are, for reasons discussed below, either ignorant or apathetic on the subjects of exercise and nutrition. Having a solid grasp on these two subjects would go a long way toward promoting health and preventing disease, yet most doctors don't have the first clue. How can this be?

As many will tell you, being a doctor is not the glamorous job some may think it is. After four years of undergraduate study, four years of medical school, and (depending on their field of specialty) three to seven years of residency, most doctors start their professional careers saddled with tremendous debt. Doctors often put in long hours in dangerous conditions doing work that goes unrecognized. With all of the new regulations of the past several years, the increased non-medical demands on a doctor's time (paperwork, dealing with insurance companies, etc.) make it very challenging for them to keep up with new developments that occur in their own field of specialty, let alone learn about proper exercise and nutrition.

To paraphrase Dr. Ken Berry, board-certified physician and author of "Lies My Doctor Told Me", what is taught in medical schools about nutrition is minimal at best. The majority of the mainstream medical community still believes in the "cholesterol hypothesis" which states that consumption of fat leads to elevated levels of cholesterol, which in turn causes heart disease (if you want to know why this is patently false, read "The Great Cholesterol Con" by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick). Most doctors still subscribe to the traditional low-fat, grain-based Western diet that makes up the bulk of the USDA food pyramid. This has been standard operating procedure since the late 1960s. Unfortunately, the rate of adult-onset diabetes, obesity, certain forms of cancer, and other "diseases of modern civilization" have increased significantly in that time. Rather than recommend a more ancestrally appropriate nutritional approach, the typical answer of the mainstream medical community is to prescribe medication. Unfortunately, this treats the symptoms rather than the underlying problem and creates a whole host of unintended consequences in the form of side effects.

Most doctors know even less about proper exercise; Dr. McGuff, who is an emergency room physician and owner of an exercise studio, has talked about this at length over the years. Since the mainstream medical community generally doesn't understand the principles of safe, slow motion strength training (the kind we instruct at Total Results), they are unlikely to recommend it to their patients. Doctors pay exorbitant amounts for their liability insurance, and they must constantly worry about lawsuits. They are likely to prescribe a walking program, and since walking is an activity of daily living they cannot be sued if you happen to get injured. My experience has been that discussing our philosophy of exercise with doctors is a challenge. I've been talked down to, dismissed, and have encountered attitudes of superiority when trying to explain to them what we do. Having gone through the rigors of medical school, residency, and years in their practice, many older doctors exhibit what author Dr. Carol Dweck calls a "fixed mindset." This means that they feel that they have done all the learning that they need and are not open to new ideas or opposing points of view.

What should you do?

Be your own advocate; do your own research and learn everything you can. Be skeptical; don't just accept the status quo. While we tend to mythologize doctors because of all their years of schooling and their white coats, they are not infallible. Find a physician that is willing to take the time to talk to you, and not just rush off to see the next patient. Ask your doctor what they do to further their education: do they read medical journals and regularly attend conferences/symposiums? What else do they read that is outside of their field? Seek out a doctor that will explore alternative ideas, research things thoroughly, and has a willingness to continue their education. If your current doctor is not willing to do those things, it's time to find a new doctor.

Eat an ancestrally-appropriate diet that is primarily made up of single-ingredient whole foods, with an adequate amount of protein and a large percentage of healthy fats. Finally, it's important that you perform one or two brief, but high-intensity, strength training workouts per week in the ideal exercise environment at Total Results. This will enable you to maximize your genetic blueprint in minimum time, protect against injury, help you slow down the effects of aging, and also keep your immune system functioning at a high level. At Total Results, we have what Dr. Dweck calls the "growth mindset", meaning that our commitment to education and improvement never stop. We will continue to pass the knowledge we have acquired along to you.

Posted March 11, 2019 by Tim Rankin

Persistence Pays Off - by Matthew Romans

For the most part, I generally don't broach the subject of exercise outside of work or professional networking events. The reason I say this is because most people have a preconceived (and usually incorrect) idea of what they think exercise is, based on the misinformation that is put forth by the mainstream fitness industry. Even if I get a few minutes to give a brief explanation of our exercise philosophy, either the information goes in one ear and out the other, or the concept is dismissed as being "too out there", or "too hard." Make no mistake, going through a Total Results workout is hard work. It requires patience, a willingness to learn, mental focus, and effort. To complete one or two of these workouts per week on a consistent basis requires a quality that I think is admirable in this day and age of instant gratification: persistence.

Persistence is a mindset. When a desire to achieve something is strong enough, whether it's building material wealth, attaining proficiency in playing a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, or building a successful business, persistence is what keeps you on the proper path. There is not a single meaningful thing that any of us have achieved in our lives that was easy; the way you accomplished those things was by being persistent. Making improvements to your health and fitness requires the same persistence. You will not achieve your goals overnight, but regularly attending workouts and giving your best possible effort, combined with attention to detail with nutritional and sleep habits will maximize your genetic blueprint.

The persistent mindset starts at the very beginning. Each time you come in for a workout, try to eliminate other thoughts from your mind and focus on getting the best workout possible. Education is a continuous process; most people who come to Total Results have not performed this type of exercise before, and they are learning something that is new and unfamiliar. No beginning client I have ever worked with has ever executed perfect form right from the start; there is a learning curve that is accentuated with continuous instruction in the first several sessions. After this initial learning phase, once you have acquired enough skill to demonstrate good speed and form, the weights will get progressively heavier. While it may not seem that impressive to add 1 ¼ or 2 ½ pounds to the weight stack every few workouts, over the course of several months this is a significant increase in strength. When the exercise becomes uncomfortable and your first instinct is to quit, be persistent! Always believe that you can go on, no matter what. Even when you feel like you can't move the weight, be persistent. Keep pushing; sometimes you may surprise yourself. As Arthur Jones once said, exercise begins at failure; continuing to push against the weight when it isn't moving (momentary muscular failure) is the most beneficial part of the exercise. When the workout is over and you have given your best effort, celebrate what you have done and take the time to enjoy what you have accomplished.

When you have a less than optimal workout (as all of us inevitably will) or overindulge over the weekend, don't lose sleep over it. Be persistent! Try to recognize where you went wrong, be accountable, and correct that behavior. Nobody is perfect. A Total Results workout is hard work; if it were easy it wouldn't be beneficial and everybody would do it. Take pride in the fact that you are doing something that most other people are not. Stay on the persistent path and you will maximize your health and fitness.

Posted March 05, 2019 by Tim Rankin