Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

April 2023

If You Keep Doing the Same Things, You Will Get the Same Results

This is pure conjecture, but I believe if you asked 100 people why they undertake an exercise regimen, a large number of those polled would say they want to be stronger, fitter, healthier, and have more energy. These are perfectly legitimate and noble reasons to exercise, and I think most of us also, at least abstractly, recognize the need to maintain functional independence as we age. However, how many of us have a measurable and sustainable plan in place that can safely stimulate tangible results without a huge time commitment? What is the percentage of the population that has a grasp of what proper exercise physiologically can and cannot do? Once we enter those two questions into the equation, I think you'll see that number shrink considerably.

If you keep doing the same things you have been doing, you will get the same results. This is true in many facts of life, for both negative behaviors as well as positive actions. We can define the word insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. There are people who perform the same fitness routine without any noticeable positive physical change, and when you ask them why they continue to do it they'll say, "it works for me." I used to see it quite frequently when I worked in commercial gyms; the same members would show up day after day, pounding the treadmill and performing a haphazard weight training sequence for weeks or months on end. Some would give up, while others would get injured or ill due to overtraining and have to stop. I see people in my neighborhood jogging on a regular basis, but over time their paces rarely get any faster and their physiques look the same. Is this a good return on their time investment? Pursuing such a regimen provides very little cardiovascular and metabolic improvement, is time-consuming, and sooner or later will likely lead to an injury. Intuitively, most reasonable thinking people realize there has to be a better way.

Most of us are familiar with the law of diminishing returns. To paraphrase, it states that the gain on your investment lessens as you put more time and energy into the activity. This is true in business, investing, and in exercise. Many people begin an exercise program with high hopes and a great deal of enthusiasm. Sometimes we see the "six week syndrome", where people have unrealistic expectations of the time frame in which they expect to see positive results and stop before they have given their program a real chance to work. Other times they quit because the path they have chosen is not sustainable, or they overtrain and tax their body beyond its capability to recover. Unfortunately, most people who work in the fitness industry don't understand this concept any better than the average gym member. Commercial health clubs are ripe for this type of ignorance, and it's why I refuse to go within 100 yards of such a circus.

There is also what is known as the law of compound interest. It states that, "When you let money accumulate at compound interest over a long enough period of time, it increases more than you can imagine." This isn't the forum for discussing the fractional reserve bank system or the recent large bank failures, so I will refrain from going down that rabbit hole. When we hear the term interest we tend to associate it with money, but interest can pertain to any habit or action, particularly a positive action. If you produce more than you consume and save the difference, your purchasing power and independence will increase over time. If you read a little bit each day, you will gain greater knowledge and insight over your lifespan. If you strength train properly once or twice per week, you will incrementally get stronger. Adding a pound or two to the weight stack every few workouts may not seem like much from one day to the next, but over the span of several months that will translate into a significant gain in strength, functionality, and resistance to injury. It won't happen overnight, but if you give your body the resources it needs the changes will occur. Fasting intermittently a couple of times per week will not result in a great reduction of calories in a single day, but over time this can lead to significant fat loss as well as an improvement in hormonal health. When you're doing the right things, you need to keep doing them; don't be your own worst enemy!

Master yourself before you master anything else. If your current exercise program isn't stimulating the changes you want, be mature enough to look inward and realize that your present course of action is not working. If what you're doing is helping you to stay fit, healthy, and strong (particularly if you are a Total Results client), don't try to fix what isn't broken. When you have found a formula that works, the key is to stay the course. If you have created habits that are sustainable it will be much easier to maintain those habits. The desire to succeed has to come from inside you, and we will provide the educational resources to help you get on and stay on the right path. Control your own destiny!

Posted April 20, 2023 by Matthew Romans

A Plan to Enhance Spinal Health

Managing spinal health becomes even more important as we age. Damage to the vertebrae can be the result of many things: a car accident, poor sitting and standing posture, years of participation in sports, and lack of proper exercise. We can buck this trend for a while, but eventually if we don't do anything about it, pain and loss of function are the result. Spinal surgeries are a risky endeavor. Procedures can be costly, invasive, usually require follow up appointments and physical therapy, and in many cases the success rate of surgery is less than stellar. Lower back pain is not always indicative of structural damage; sometimes it is simply the result of weak musculature. A significant percentage of people will experience some disc or vertebral degeneration after the age of 40; some individuals experience pain while others do not. What if there was a way that you could improve functionality and mobility, reduce pain, and protect yourself against injury in less than one hour per week? If you think this sounds too good to be true, keep reading.

Gaining a basic knowledge of the structure of the spinal column will enable us to understand how we can best improve posture and reduce pain so that we can live an active lifestyle. There are five vertebral regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and coccyx. Only the top twenty-four vertebrae can move; the sacrum and coccyx are fused. A search of Mayfield Brain and Spine, National Institutes of Health, and the Cleveland Clinic yielded the function of each of the vertebral regions. The cervical vertebrae include C-1 through C-7, and their purpose is to support the head, protect the spinal cord, and allow for a range of head movements. The vertebrae of the thoracic region are T-1 through T-12, the most numerous of any of the five regions. These vertebrae also protect the spinal cord and provide attachment points for many large muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi and erector spinae. The lumbar vertebrae, L-1 through L-5, bear most of the weight of the body, provide back stability, and assist with balance. Along with the cervical vertebrae, the lumbar vertebrae are the structures most susceptible to damage. The sacrum consists of the vertebrae known as S1 through S5, and as I mentioned above these are fused and cannot move. Their primary function is to connect the spine with the hip bones. Finally we have the coccyx, colloquially known as the tailbone. This vertebrae is also fused and provides attachments for the ligaments and muscles of the pelvic floor.

The foramen is defined as, "the bony hollow archway created by pedicles of adjacent vertebrae, creating a passageway through which all spinal nerve roots run." Age, disuse, and trauma can lead to a gradual narrowing of this opening, and is often associated with stenosis, disc herniation, bone spurs, and arthritis. Osteoporosis is also something to be concerned about as we age, as thinner bones are more likely to break. In order to maintain optimal spinal health, you should certainly be conscious of how you sit and stand, but you must also strengthen the muscles that surround and attach to the vertebrae. Total Results exercise is the safest and most comprehensive way to train the muscles that have the greatest impact on spinal health. First of all, you must strengthen the body as an entire unit; it is far more than just a collection of different body parts. Everything is interconnected, and if you strengthen some areas but neglect others, there will be muscular imbalances that can and usually do increase your risk for injury. There are four exercises that really highlight the Total Results plan for enhancing your spinal health. The Cervical Extension exercise, performed on our MedX Four Way Neck machine, targets the muscles which are responsible for cervical extension. These muscles include the levator scapulae, splenius, and trapezius, and they work to extend your head down toward your butt. The horseshoe shaped head pad swivels for comfort, and your seat should be set so that the base of your neck is aligned with the axis of rotation. Handlebars should be pressed with your hands to enable trunk stability. The thoracic vertebrae can be best addressed by performing both the Row (on either the MedX or Super Slow Systems machines) and the Pulldown exercises. The muscles surrounding and attaching to these vertebrae include the rhomboids, latissimus and trapezius muscles. The Pulldown, which is a vertical movement, has three separate cam positions based on arm length, and the thigh restraints are adjustable. It is such a comprehensive exercise that it encompasses the entire musculature of the upper body. The Row machine is a horizontal pulling movement, and is also adjustable by arm length. I should note that the MedX Row has articulating handles that can be a little more forgiving for clients with elbow issues, but both machines work exceptionally well. Finally, the MedX Lumbar Extension exercise is unlike any purported low back exercise that you find in commercial gyms. Most traditional low back machines enable you to get a great deal of assistance from your lower body muscles; our machine employs a restraint system and seat belt to place as much emphasis on the spinal erectors as possible. The muscles we are specifically targeting are the erector spinae and multifidus muscles, but you will also find some involvement in the glutes and hamstrings. Based on the recommendations of the late physical therapist and Super Slow instructor Gary Lindahl, normal range of motion is typically set at 50 degrees, but we can customize this distance by either altering your start or end point. Even if you suffer from injuries in these lumbar vertebrae (a good number of our clients do), going to muscular failure is perfectly safe provided proper speed and form are practiced. Finally, performing cervical and lumbar extension open up the space between vertebrae; this helps to provide relief for those suffering from impingement and disc herniation.

Performing numerous sets of abdominal crunches won't strengthen your back; it will likely do more harm than good. One or two twenty-minute high-intensity sessions per week is all that you need to optimize spinal health. Strengthening the muscles that attach to the spinal column is part of a comprehensive program for overall health. And if that's not enough, performing the Leg Press exercise will stabilize your coccyx by strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor. How do you want to live life when you approach your golden years: reliant upon mobility aids to get around and shuffling from one doctor appointment to the next, or do you want to be virile, strong, and fiercely independent? Make the investment in your present and your future today.

Posted April 05, 2023 by Matthew Romans