Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

November 2023

Exercise is Not a Panacea

Exercise can do a great many things for you, if you put in the effort. The Total Results exercise philosophy is based upon the classic sciences of biology, chemistry, physics, and principles of motor learning, and it has been greatly successful over the past 22 years in helping people to become stronger, fitter, better conditioned, and more resistant to injury in less than one hour per week. Exercise has limits, however. It cannot make up for bad personal habits, lack of dedication, or a poor mental attitude. In spite of what we might be led to believe, exercise cannot fix everything.

People experience low back pain for a variety of reasons: genetic structure, too much sitting, injuries, poor habits, poor diet, and weak back musculature as a result of insufficient exercise. Low back pain is still the number one cause of missed days at work, even with standing desks, ergonomically designed chairs, and expensive mattresses. Perhaps a low back problem may be the result of a car accident. It's unfortunate that bad things that are outside of their control happen to good people, but that's life. For someone in that situation that is considering having back surgery, I would advise them to think very carefully before proceeding. Surgery is not guaranteed to work, and the rehabilitation process can be lengthy. Exhaust all other possibilities before scheduling yourself for surgery. Strengthening the lower back musculature (and in the process reducing compression in the spinal column) with low-force, high-intensity exercise will go quite a way toward regaining mobility, restoring function, and reducing pain, but it is not a panacea.

Aches and pains are a part of growing older, especially if you have been active for much of your life. That is something I've learned from personal experience over the last few years. According to the CDC (take it for what it's worth), over 21 percent of American adults have some form of arthritis. Between the ages of 45 and 65, that number goes up to 26 percent. I suspect those figures are low, as many people have symptoms but either have not reported them or have not been diagnosed. Total Results won't prevent arthritis, but we can make it better. We can help improve your quality of life but some aches and pains as a result of aging are inevitable. If you are stronger and better conditioned, those maladies are less likely to keep you down. Even Ken Hutchins, who developed our exercise protocol and is in his early 70s, battles a rare inflammatory condition known as Still's disease. Its origin is unclear, but Ken believes he would be in much worse shape today if he had not been strength training for all of his adult life.

Exercise cannot fix a poor lifestyle. If you sleep four hours a night, have constant conflict in your life and cannot manage stress effectively, or if you don't apply yourself properly during your workouts, you will likely have trouble achieving meaningful progress. Remember, you only get out of our program what you put into it, and responsibility must be taken if things are not going as you want them to. The Total Results philosophy doesn't work like magic, it is very much a process. The human body is a logical entity, and if you do the things you need to do and allow the body to do its thing, positive results will happen. We can help you gain muscle, improve bone mineral density, increase your metabolic rate, and feel more energetic, but much of it hinges upon what you do when you are not at Total Results. Making good decisions is absolutely critical. By the same token, intermittent fasting is not a panacea, although it can make up for some poor nutritional choices in the short term. In addition, vitamin and mineral supplementation will not make up for getting enough nutrients in your diet. The key is to combine all of these things and make them a part of your lifestyle. If you change your habits, you can change your life. This will give you the best chance for success.

Death is an inevitability for all of us, and none of us knows how long we will live when we are born. We can choose to live well in the time that we are given, or we can squander our opportunity and make excuses. If you decide to make the commitment and start your exercise journey, it can keep you viable later in life, just as it has for our two 92 year old clients who still strength train regularly. No, exercise cannot cure all your ills, but it can give you the strength to remain an independent and active force for good in the world. The choice is yours!

Posted November 29, 2023 by Matthew Romans

You Have Reached Muscular Failure...Now the Real Work Begins

New Total Results clients experience a learning curve when they begin their exercise journey at our facility. For over 90 percent of the people that walk through our door, the Total Results exercise philosophy is a completely new concept. We explain to them that the first several sessions are not about intensity of effort, but are more geared toward learning proper form, acquiring a feel for appropriate speed of movement, executing precise turnaround technique, breathing correctly, and also making sure that the settings in each machine fit their dimensions. Once these tasks have been addressed, we can then start to make the resistance more meaningful and work with a greater level of intensity. This will happen over the course of a few more sessions, since we want to maintain proper form while the weights become heavier. The purpose is to better prepare the client mentally and physically for the discomfort that accompanies great muscular effort. Through the client's hard work and the instructor's teaching, muscular failure and thorough inroad are achieved. Congratulations! Now the real work begins.

Arthur Jones once said that exercise begins at failure. This can be interpreted in multiple ways, but I take it to mean that reaching muscular failure and pushing (or pulling) for an additional five to ten seconds is the most effective part of each exercise because this is what the body interprets as an existential threat to its survival. This is the stimulus that we seek, and with enough time, nutritional resources, proper sleep and hydration, the body will make physical improvements. Yes, you can still make gains if you don't go to failure, but pushing until you cannot complete another repetition in good form is the only way to ensure you have given a maximum effort. We still do not know what the ideal percentage of effort is, but there are only two objective measurements: zero and 100 percent. Achieving muscular failure indicates that you have given every ounce of effort that is possible. I have talked about this before, but it can do a psychological number on you the first time you push with all of your might and the weight stack won't budge. Once you go through this a few times it becomes easier to deal with because you know what to expect. Keep a calm demeanor, realize that you are in a completely safe environment, and know that your instructor would never put you into an unsafe position. Muscular failure is uncomfortable, but it lasts only for a brief time.

As the old saying goes, it's easier to get to the top than it is to stay on top. Let's say that you have achieved your initial weight loss goal. That's awesome, but it's not time to rest on your laurels. I have seen many clients experience initial success, but then fall off the wagon. Don't subconsciously lose your hunger (so to speak) or let down your guard. Remember the mindset and focus that allowed you to achieve your initial success. The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare to win. You must bring a consistent level of focus and effort if you want to have sustained progress. The most successful long term Total Results clients find a way to accept the challenge. Rather than make excuses or complain about how demanding the workouts are, they understand how important exercise is in their lives and they shut out all of life's other distractions while they are here. You can always set new goals once you have achieved your initial objective. There are many things to accomplish in life, and being strong and well-conditioned is a great way to put your best foot forward as you go on your journey.

Your rate of progress will slow down as you become a more experienced trainee. This is due to the law of diminishing returns. It is perfectly normal to expect that you won't continue to add five pounds to the weight stack on every single workout. Most people see significant gains in strength in short order, but that is largely due to neural adaptation, or a learning effect. Once you start to train with significant effort, we will still continue to be progressive and add weight to the stack, but the increments will be smaller and added less frequently. The good news is that the gains at this point are due to adding muscle to your frame. If you continue to work hard during your sessions and do the necessary things between workouts, there is no reason that your progress can't continue for many years to come. Our two longest tenured Total Results clients have been with us for 20 years, and they still continue to get stronger.

Consistent great effort over time is what produces sustained results. Strive for excellence, not mediocrity. There is a cost for everything in life; you can either pay now (and reap the benefits of good health and functional independence) or you can pay later (by suffering from a loss of mobility and increased risk of chronic disease). Many things in life that are necessary are not fun - think mowing the grass, brushing your teeth, and cleaning the house. Remember, you don't have to love exercise, but you do need to see the value of it and be mentally tough and mature enough to do what needs to be done. Life doesn't stop, and neither should your commitment to exercise.

Posted November 15, 2023 by Matthew Romans

Don't Wait

Even the most motivated self-starters can tend toward procrastination if the conditions are ripe. If you try hard enough, you can find reasons not to do the things that you know need to get done, such as cleaning out your garage, mowing the grass, or getting the brakes replaced on your car. It is also easy to put off getting started on an exercise regimen. You might say to yourself, "I'm really busy and have a lot on my plate right now. When things calm down, I'll begin exercising." This is flawed thinking, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. I don't want to sound morbid, but each day brings us closer to our eventual end and there is nothing worse than regret. Each one of us is given a death sentence the day we are born, and we never know when that day will come. Proper exercise is something that will add value to your life, and there is no better time to start than right now.

Habits, both good and bad, become self-perpetuating. Every day that you wait to start exercising makes it that much easier to simply kick the can down the road. Nick Saban has won seven national championships and is widely considered to be the greatest college football coach of all time. He believes that, "We have to compete within ourselves relative to the determination it takes to be successful." Saban also talks at length about how we have the power to control our own destiny, and I believe that goes hand in hand with maintaining a sense of urgency. That doesn't mean that every situation should reach critical mass, but it means that we should not take life for granted and always assume things will just work out on their own. We need to be participants, not spectators. Beginning the Total Results exercise program is one of the best ways to control your own destiny and enable yourself to be an active participant in all the things that life has to offer.

Every day that you wait to exercise increases your risk for osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower back pain, and other diseases of modern civilization, thus putting your functional independence in jeopardy. There seems to be a common characteristic between heart disease, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and certain types of cancer: muscle loss that occurs with improper aging. Dr. Doug McGuff has talked at length about the concept of physiological headroom, which is the difference between the most you can physically do and the least that you can physically do. When there is no difference between the two, death is the result. If you do what you need to do in order to maintain your health (through strength training and lifestyle choices), you can actually increase your physiological headroom. I have seen it happen many times. If you are over the age of 70, do not think that it is too late for you to start strength training. Clients in this demographic have made some of the most impressive gains in strength and functionality over the years. Just one or two 20 minute sessions per week is all that it takes.

Don't put off until tomorrow what you can start today. The sooner you begin, the sooner you can reap the benefits of the work you put in. Invest in yourself and your future, and move forward rather than backward. Don't wait.

Posted November 02, 2023 by Matthew Romans