Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

December 2020

Farewell to 2020 - Here's to Prosperity Ahead, By Matthew Romans

December is winding down, and we are in the last few days of 2020. This has been an interesting and challenging year, to say the least. I find it useful to look back on the past year, as well as look ahead to what's in store for the upcoming year. Whether or not you believe in New Year's resolutions, the turn of the calendar year is an opportunity for a fresh start and to get off on the right foot come January 1st.

Thank you to our Total Results family for sticking by us during the government-mandated lockdown of our facility in March, April, and May. I'm sure that not being able to exercise during those months was just as difficult for you as it was for us to not be able to come to work every day. We definitely missed working with you! Without your support we may not have been able to remain in business during this challenging time. Tim, Ralph, and I cannot thank you enough for your loyalty and commitment to the Total Results exercise philosophy.

Many new clients (and even some former clients) came through our doors and started working with us after the shutdown because other facilities were not open, and because they recognized and appreciated our attention to detail, dedication to cleanliness, and constant study of the developments of Covid-19. That was a tremendous gift that we are thankful for. We found ways to adapt and accommodate clients who were slightly apprehensive about returning to exercise, while staying true to our core principles. This is something to be proud of.

Our commitment to education, learning, and instructing sound, scientific exercise, nutrition, and health principles has never been stronger. It is our obsession to find new ways to improve ourselves and to continue to give you the best exercise experience that money can buy. We will work relentlessly to help you achieve optimum health and fitness and accomplish your goals. Remember, education never stops!

Now is the time to think ahead to 2021. Renew your commitment to yourself, and take the time to really think about what you want to accomplish in the coming year and beyond. As I learned from reading the book "Atomic Habits", goals are where you want to go, but the process is how you get there. If you work to perfect the process, you will accomplish the end result. Total Results exercise is the safest and most effective process to achieve the positive body changes that you seek.

As we close the book on our 20th year in business, we thank you again for helping us get through 2020 and come out stronger on the other side. The journey toward 2021 and beyond starts now. Take your first step into the future with Total Results.

Posted December 29, 2020 by Matthew Romans

It's Supposed To Be Hard, by Matthew Romans

People are often skeptical when they find out that a Total Results workout only lasts about twenty minutes, and they think that very little benefit can occur in such a short time. Many clients who come to Total Results after participating in a variety of other fitness regimens are somewhat surprised at how demanding our workouts are. It's simply not what they are used to. Other workout philosophies are marketed as fun activities that you can do with your friends while listening to music. A Total Results workout is not fun; we would never tell you otherwise. It is a workout that is brief, infrequent, and intense, and these characteristics are in place not because we are masochists, but because they are necessary. In order to safely stimulate optimal physical improvements, the workout must be hard.

Intensity is defined as inroad (level of fatigue)/time. Many people equate intensity of muscular effort with behaviors that are often found in a typical gym (throwing and catching weights, grunting, grimacing, etc.) These demonstrations only serve to increase your risk of injury and minimize muscular loading; they are not to be confused with true intensity of effort. How many people do you know that proclaim to do a variety of activities on a regular basis yet never seem to look any different? Don't be fooled by the appearance of the people riding bikes in those Peloton commercials; those are not the vast majority of Peloton users, they are actors who likely look the way they do in spite of their workout, not because of it. The human body is resistant to change and wants to maintain homeostasis, and making body improvements like building muscle and improving bone mineral density requires resources that are metabolically expensive. This means that the body needs a very compelling reason to change, and that reason is a fairly severe exercise stimulus.

In order to stimulate these physical and metabolic improvements, we must cross over a threshold in the body that sets off internal alarm bells. This threshold is called the growth mechanism, and it is most effectively accomplished by taking each exercise to and beyond the point of momentary muscular failure. We are essentially fooling the body into thinking that there is an existential threat, and the body responds by diverting resources to meet this threat, much like an army sends troop reinforcements into battle. However, it's important to understand that the body is not really in danger, but rather is in a safe environment. There are only two fully objective measurements of effort: zero and 100 percent. Anything in between is not really measurable (ex. "50% effort"). Zero effort will not result in any tangible benefit, but 100 percent effort will. We still do not know the exact percentage of effort necessary to stimulate muscular growth, but pushing to muscular failure, where movement ceases, and continuing to push for ten seconds (note: this is what 100% effort looks like) will ensure that we have done all that we can possibly do for that moment in time.

Our workouts are brief for a reason. If you are exercising with a high degree of effort and moving purposefully between exercises, twenty minutes is about all that one can handle. This is not just something that we can get away with, it is actually a biological necessity. It is critical to regulate the variables of exercise frequency, duration, and intensity, and there is an inverse relationship between intensity and duration. The longer a workout takes, the less intense it becomes, as the body has protective measures in place to guard against injury. There are some days that a workout may feel harder than others, but that can be due to a multitude of factors, such as sleep, stress, nutrition, additional activity performed, and order/selection of exercises in the routine. We usually have clients perform the larger exercises (particularly those for the lower body) earlier in the routine because they are the most demanding.

No worthwhile achievement in life has ever been considered easy. Total Results exercise methodology is not the only way to achieve physical improvements, but it is the most effective way, and it's the exercise protocol most consistent with the classical sciences (biology, physics, chemistry, and concepts of motor learning). Our clients are a special group of people. They are mentally tough, independent thinkers who value their time and want to maximize their benefits in an efficient way, and they grasp exercise concepts that elude most of the population. They work extremely hard and spend a fraction of the time exercising that most other people do. As I mentioned above, Total Results exercise is not fun. The fun occurs when you experience the tangible benefits of your efforts which enable you to get the most out of life. Don't put it off any longer!

Posted December 22, 2020 by Matthew Romans

Should We Strive For A Signature Time Under Load? by Matthew Romans

Most Total Results clients and regular readers of our blog posts know that for every exercise of every workout (except for negative-only or manually resisted exercises) we record a client's time under load (TUL). TUL is a measure of how long your muscles are under tension and contracting against a meaningful resistance. We find that this is generally more effective than recording the number of repetitions completed, since counting repetitions is a step function. You might complete six repetitions in good form and get halfway toward finishing a seventh before reaching momentary muscular failure (MMF); if you count repetitions there will be no credit given for the effort that you made on that final repetition that was not completed, but if you record TUL that extra time spent will be included. We select a resistance that should enable the client to reach MMF between one and three minutes of TUL, and if failure is not achieved in that time frame we will arbitrarily stop the exercise and make a note to increase the weight for the next workout.

I am often asked by clients if there is a specific TUL that they should look to achieve, or if there is such a thing as a signature TUL. This idea theorizes that clients should or will achieve the same or similar TUL on each exercise of their workout, with one of the contributing factors being muscle fiber type. Dr. Doug McGuff, the owner of Ultimate Exercise (a studio very much like Total Results) in Seneca, South Carolina, wrote about this concept many years ago in his collection of articles "Ultimate Exercise - Bulletin Number One." Based on what we had read from Dr. McGuff and a few other sources, we looked to find a signature TUL in our clients and figured that if exercise frequency, intensity, and volume were standardized and if recovery, nutrition, and hydration were adequate that we would find a signature TUL that would enable the client to linearly progress in resistance.

It didn't take long to figure out that we were mostly wrong. I have found that a signature TUL rarely happens with most trainees, including myself. TUL can vary from one person to the next, and even for the same person it can be wildly different from one exercise to another. As I mentioned above, exercise frequency, volume, and intensity, as well as nutrition and hydration will have an impact on TUL, but there are other factors as well. Mental focus, the ability to handle exertional discomfort (burning), sleep, and how much additional activity you participate in will also have an effect on your performance. If you have slept poorly for a few days due to stress or too much caffeine, or if you played three hours of tennis just prior to your workout, there is a good chance that your TUL on the Leg Press exercise will probably be shorter than usual.

The primary exercise objective is to inroad (fatigue) the muscular structures deeply enough to stimulate body improvements in the forms of strength, cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning, bone density, insulin sensitivity, an improved immune system, and protection against injury. We want to reach muscular failure between one and three minutes of elapsed time because this ensures that we are adequately tapping into the aerobic and anaerobic metabolic pathways; too short of a TUL means the weight is too heavy and the injury risk increases, and too long of a TUL means that the resistance is not meaningful enough to stimulate the growth mechanism. TUL is a good guideline to use, but it's merely one factor that measures progress. Pace and speed of movement matter, and if we do not meet our standard for speed (8-12 seconds in each direction) then TUL can get skewed and muscular loading can be less than optimal. The sequence of exercises performed in a workout can also affect TUL; if you normally perform the Leg Press second in your exercise routine but one day perform it as your last exercise, you will get a dramatically different result. To ensure accurate record-keeping, we would like to have as few variables as possible. The majority of our experienced clients tend to have a TUL on most exercises between 1:30 and 2:00.

Don't be overly concerned with achieving a certain TUL. Remember, your main objective is to create an exercise stimulus, not complete an arbitrary number of repetitions. Instead of worrying about how many repetitions you get, focus your attention on breathing properly, moving smoothly, and executing precise turnarounds. I would rather see a client perform 5 perfect repetitions with a thorough inroad at the end of the exercise than for them to complete 7 repetitions in poor form. Giving great effort and using perfect form are far more important than reaching a specific TUL.

Posted December 17, 2020 by Matthew Romans

Reacquiring Workout Proficiency Levels After A Layoff, by Matthew Romans

Several Total Results clients over the years have jokingly asked us just before they go on vacation for a week or two if they will be back at square one when they return. We make sure to tell them that while they may feel slightly deconditioned from a cardiovascular and metabolic perspective, they certainly will not start from scratch in their next workout. Sometimes we find that the time off (if it's only a couple of weeks) is actually a good thing, and that the time away allowed them to rest a bit and recover more fully. As a result, they are just as strong, if not stronger. It has been my experience that it is easier to relearn a skill than it is to learn it for the first time. I have seen it first hand in exercise and in other endeavors, and I believe that the old saying about never forgetting how to ride a bike once you learn is both appropriate and true.

I recently read an article on the website medium.com that discussed the three stages of skill acquisition. The first stage is the cognitive stage. This stage requires total focus on the part of the learner, and it is usually the most difficult stage. During the time spent in this stage, nothing is intuitive. The second stage is the associative stage. Here the learner notices environmental feedback (possibly from an exercise instructor) and is able to implement these directives. This is where deliberate practice happens. Finally, there is the autonomous stage. The learner is able to perform effectively with less thought; things become more fluid and movement is more economical. The autonomous stage can be somewhat dangerous from a developmental perspective, since one's skill level can plateau if deliberate practice ceases.

The first several sessions for a Total Results client represent the cognitive stage. The client is learning something that is most likely very unfamiliar to them, so they will probably struggle initially with speed, pace, smoothness of movement, and turnaround technique. It is about building skill rather than intensity at this point, since there is no way to maximize intensity without first learning proper form. We usually start new clients with a generic beginner routine, so that they can learn the handful of exercises that are the most important and easiest to master. As they progress into the associative and autonomous stages with this generic routine, we normally will introduce additional exercises that will be alternated from one workout to the next. Trainees will start in the cognitive phase on these newer exercises, but will soon move into the associative and autonomous stages on them as well. This is how proper exercise intensity and an optimal exercise stimulus are achieved.

What happens with clients who leave Total Results and then return months or years later? My experience has been that returning clients know what to expect, so they have some advantage over novice clients. There is what is known as muscle memory, and it is one of the few exercise terms found in the general lexicon that is truly accurate. People who resume Total Results workouts usually don't have the feeling of being overwhelmed by learning something that is completely new; there is a sense of familiarity. Unless there has been a catastrophic injury or illness during their time away, even after a few years away from Total Results, clients will not be reduced to their starting levels of strength or skill. A few former Total Results clients have recently resumed workouts with us after extended time away, and they have attained excellent form and muscular effort in less time than it took them to achieve the same levels when they first started. The body understands that muscle is a precious and useful resource, and the longer you have used certain skills or motor pathways, the longer it takes for them to dissipate. The same thing happens to musicians. Jerry Garcia, the late singer and guitar player for the Grateful Dead, lapsed into a diabetic coma for five days and very nearly died in 1986. When he came out of the coma he had to relearn how to play guitar, which he was able to do within a few months. It took him nearly 30 years to achieve the level of proficiency he had prior to the coma, and only a few months to regain that level after the coma.

If you are a former Total Results client that has thought about resuming workouts with us, but are worried that achieving your former levels of strength and conditioning is too tall a task, let me ease your mind. It is easier and will take less time to reacquire skill than it did to acquire it in the first place. Once you have achieved something, you already know that you can do it. Getting back to where you were will require effort and focus, but what has been done once can be done again. One or two twenty-minute workouts per week will give you your best chance for success and enable you to live your best life going forward. No matter how long you have been away, it is never too late to start.

Posted December 08, 2020 by Matthew Romans

How Important Is Supplementation, by Matthew Romans

I have been asked many times over the years by clients, friends, and acquaintances what supplements I recommend that they take to improve their health or improve their exercise or sports performance. Much of the time, when people think or talk about supplements they are referring to products that they see in GNC, the Vitamin Shoppe, or in television commercials. In my opinion, most of those products are a waste of money and provide very little benefit; just because a bodybuilder or professional athlete endorses a product does not mean it does what it is purported to do or is worth buying. At Total Results, we recommend that clients consume a largely whole-food diet in order to optimize their health and get the most out of their workouts. However, even with adherence to the best diet there may be some gaps that need to be filled in. This is where the right supplementation can make a huge difference.

Most of the vitamins, minerals, and trace elements that our bodies need are best absorbed through our diet, but some of them are very difficult to obtain through food alone. I have narrowed it down to four (or five) supplements that I believe most people can derive great benefit from if they take on a regular basis.

Zinc is an essential mineral that 100 different enzymes in the body depend upon in order to bring about biochemical reactions. It is involved in skin repair and in making DNA (the carrier of genetic information), and protects against cellular damage. Zinc is also critical for immune function. Low zinc levels have been associated with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and worse outcomes for COVID-19 patients. Zinc can be found in beef and some seafood, but most people do not consume enough of these foods to meet the body's requirement. Some symptoms of a zinc deficiency include hair loss, loss of appetite, open sores that will not heal, and a lack of alertness. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc is 8 mg for adult women and 11 mg for adult men, and toxicity can occur if you exceed 50 mg per day. Most brands that you find at a grocery store will suffice (I have had a hard time finding it on the shelves since the spring Covid wave), but was able to order some from a company called Nature's Bounty on Amazon. (Note: Most Zinc Supplements indicate a dosage of 50mg, however, zinc glutonate, the form of zinc in the Nature's Bounty product, is about 14% elemental zince (about 7mg), and similar precentages exist for zinc sulfate and zinc acetate found in other zinc supplements. Therefore the 50mg indicated on labels will not come close to toxicity levels.)

Magnesium is an essential element that plays a pivotal role in nerve cell communication, muscular contraction, and maintaining a normal heart rhythm, which it does by assisting movement of potassium and calcium across cell membranes. This element is difficult to find in food, outside of flaxseed and pumpkin seeds. As you might suspect, a magnesium deficiency can be characterized by abnormal heart rhythms, numbness and tingling, and general weakness. The RDA for magnesium is 400 mg for men and 310 mg for women between the ages of 19-30, and 420 mg for men and 310 mg for women aged 31 and up. Magnesium toxicity is very rare, but can occur if you take more than 5,000 mg per day, usually due to consumption of laxatives or antacids that are high in magnesium. Nature Made and Nature's Bounty are good brands to use if you decide to supplement.

If I had to pick one, I would say that Vitamin C is the least necessary of all of these vitamins and minerals to supplement, and is the easiest to get from food. It can be found in broccoli, strawberries, peppers, and citrus fruits, although these fruits can be high in sugar (which should be minimized if fat loss is a goal). This vitamin is integral in maintenance of the immune system, as well as maintenance of the muscles, skin, bones, and teeth. Signs of a Vitamin C deficiency, also known as scurvy, include dry skin, anemia, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and severe joint pain. The RDA for Vitamin C is 65-90 mg, with an upper limit of 2,000 mg. If you exceed the upper limit you're unlikely to do yourself any harm, but can experience abdominal pain and some cramping.

Vitamin D is probably the most important vitamin or mineral to supplement, and this is because most people are Vitamin D deficient, or at least insufficient. Symptoms of a Vitamin D deficiency include frequent illness, regular fatigue, depression, and digestive issues. This vitamin can be found in some foods, such as milk, orange juice, and fish. As I have written about in previous articles (particularly my book review of "The Vitamin D Solution"), this vitamin functions more as a hormone that it does as a vitamin. Vitamin D is most effectively made by the body through exposure of the skin to sunlight, and it is fat soluble, meaning that it can be effectively stored in fat cells and used by the body at a later time. Most of us do not live in the tropics or work outdoors year-round, which is why I recommend supplementation in conjunction with regular sensible exposure to sunlight during the months of March through October (when the sun angle is sufficient to allow the body to produce Vitamin D). The RDA for Vitamin D (from some sources I have seen) is between 600 and 800 IU (international units). This is woefully inadequate. Based on reading I have done, I would recommend no less than supplementing with 2,000 IU per day. I have taken 5,000 IU of Vitamin D per day (manufactured by Nature Made) for a few years now, and have suffered no ill effects; in fact, I have noticed a significant improvement in my energy levels, immune health, and overall well-being since I started supplementation. It is impossible to achieve Vitamin D toxicity through sunlight exposure; you would experience a severe sunburn long before that happened. Dr. Michael Holick (author of "The Vitamin D Solution") has administered a dosage of 10,000 IU per day of Vitamin D for several months to patients with a severe deficiency, and they did not experience any symptoms of toxicity.

Fish oil is the final substance I would recommend using as a supplement to your diet. It is important to regulate your ratio of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids; too high of a ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 can increase your systemic inflammation and lead to a higher risk of the diseases of modern civilization (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders). Those who eat a pre-industrial diet (such as the one we recommend) have a ratio of around 4:1 (Omega 6 to Omega 3), while those who eat a modern Western diet can have a ratio of upwards of 15:1. Good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines, and mackerel, but if you do not eat at least one or two portions of fish per week you may need to supplement. We have sold Omapure fish oil capsules at Total Results for several years, and many of our clients swear by them. There are some side effects if you consume fish oil in extreme excess of what your body needs, but two capsules twice per day is the recommended safe dosage.

A multivitamin can help but is probably not necessary, and some of them do not work particularly well. Multivitamins will probably not contain a high enough quantity of the essential vitamins and minerals that you need, and are often not well absorbed by the body. Keep in that if you decide you want to supplement you should check with your physician. Regular supplementation will not make up for a poor diet, but it can give you a better margin for error if your diet is not perfect, and I also recommend integrating some intermittent fasting to help you get back on track if you fall off the wagon (so to speak). Incorporate intelligent supplementation into your lifestyle and start seeing the difference. Here's to your health!

Posted December 03, 2020 by Matthew Romans