Archive for September, 2008

The Biggest Loser

Monday, September 29th, 2008

This is the first of weekly updates on CoachMeFit’s celebrity clients, Biggest Loser contestants Shellay and Amy Cremen. The mother-daughter duo has been training at CoachMeFit Birmingham with owner/trainer Derek DiGiovanni since the summer. At stake is a $250,000 prize for losing the most weight by the season finale in mid December. The Biggest Loser airs every Tuesday at 8pm on NBC.The Biggest Loser at CoachMeFit

“I can feel my ribs!” exclaimed Shellay, noting one of the many ways her body is changing as she sheds more pounds each week. Shellay admits that until entering this competition she wasn’t able to maintain a diet or exercise program. She explained, “Not being able to keep commitments to ourselves and lack of self-discipline run in my family. But, I’m very good at keeping commitments to others.” Shellay thinks that’s a big reason why she can stick with her demanding, life-changing workout schedule. She’s made commitments to her teammate, her daughter Amy; to her husband who walks miles with her every night; and to Derek, her CoachMeFit trainer. Scheduling appointments 3 times a week are like making promises. Being accountable for her progress means working hard during each session.

Derek developed a fitness plan to meet Shellay’s goals. Her sessions are a combination of cardio and weight training. “When I have been able to diet and lose some weight, I just looked thinner. Now I can see how toning improves my shape.” In between CoachMeFit training, she works out on her own and adds a long walk every night.

“I haven’t been discouraged because I’ve continue to lose weight and see results,” says Shellay. “My whole mental attitude is different. I’ve stopped sabotaging myself and am convinced that I can do this. The benefits so outweigh the effort.”

For more about the competition read Birmingham’s CoachMeFit trains ‘Biggest Loser’ contestants.


Get Your Butt in Gear.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
As a personal trainer, I always walk that fine line with my clients between what is most effective and least painful for my clients. Given that, my single favorite exercise just so happens to be lunges. Lunges can be done in a wide variety of ways and can focus on different muscle groups depending on how you do them. Here are a few thoughts about my favorite exercise, and my clients least favorite.

1. Gain Strength, Stability and Balance

Alternating lunges improve the stability of the trunk, balance out the muscle strength of each individual leg and tighten and tone the rear end. This exercise is one of the best lower body workouts you can do. Not only does it help to strengthen and develop the glutes, but the lunge also works the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Alternating lunges work the same muscles as a stationary lunge, but it works them harder because of the pushing back movement necessary to stand back up with both feet together.

2. Lunging Correctly

Do alternating lunges as part of the lower body strength routine, two to three times a week. Performing this exercise with proper technique, 12 to 15 times on each leg for two to three sets, is optimal. Be sure to rest in between each set to allow the leg muscles to recover. Slow movements, proper breathing and maintaining form from beginning to end is crucial.

3. Ouch!

Be sure not to lunge with feet too close to each other, which will cause the knee to go over the toes and place undue stress on the knee joints, ligaments and tendons that can lead to injury. Make sure the spine is upright, in a neutral position, not rounded forward. A rounded spine position places too much stress on the vertebrae and discs of the upper back. Finally, do not force the heel of the back leg to touch the ground. Doing this will overstretch and damage the Achilles tendon.

4. Make Lunges Even More Challenging

Challenging the body’s abilities is how people get better and stronger. There are several ways to make alternating lunges more difficult, forcing the body to adapt and develop. One way is to do alternating lunges with increasing weight, another is to use the Smith Cage Machine and yet another is to use a bench to step down from when alternating the legs. All of these options will challenge the lower body, creating a greater amount of strength and power in the legs.

5. Focus on Different Muscles

The distance between the two legs in an alternating lunge changes which muscles you emphasize. The greater the stride, the more the focus you put on the gluteus maximus. The smaller the distance between the front leg and the back leg, the greater the emphasis you put on the quadriceps muscles.

Posted by Brian Dokter, Manager, CoachMeFit Grand Rapids (


Debunking Exercise Myths: A pound of fat is NOT a pound of muscle

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

By: Catherine Munaco, Owner, CoachMeFit West Bloomfield (

As a personal trainer and exercise coach, I find myself frequently having to “debunk” the most recent trend in exercise information. I’ve seen a lot of fads in dieting and exercise come and go (remember Atkins and Cinefit?) and the reason they fade out is because they all lack the one basic element in lifelong health and fitness: sustainability. Most fads aren’t well researched. At the end of the day, the programs that stick around are the ones that work for the long haul and include a mixture of basic cardio, resistance (strength) training, stretching, and, sigh, a bit of hard work. We have to think of weight loss and fitness as a permanent lifestyle change instead of a temporary fix. A consistent fitness regime will take WORK, but it can also be fun and rewarding. A good training program will improve muscular endurance, muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility, and will be sustainable for the long haul.

It is a common thought that the key to losing weight is packing in as much cardio (running, biking, elliptical, etc) as possible. Some of my clients come to me thinking that strength training isn’t an efficient way to lose weight. They have read that cardio workouts are all you need for weight loss. I would argue the opposite: it is nearly impossible to sustain any weight loss without resistance training. There are many reasons for this. In the simplest of weight loss equations, calories (energy) intake needs to be less than caloric output. Meaning, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Cardio workouts definitely burn calories, but they do little to build muscle, so once the workout is done and your body returns to its resting levels, the cardio workout is no longer “with you”. Here’s what I mean by this: if you build muscle via resistance training, your muscle works for you all day (and night) long. Muscle is a very active tissue; it’s designed to burn energy and can do so even when we are sleeping. Fat, on the other hand, is not active. Its main job is literally to take energy from your system and store it. With resistance training, you can increase your muscle mass. Even minimal increases in muscle can lead to increases in metabolic rate, or the amount of calories expended a minute, during rest. Therefore, your new arm muscle works for YOU. It’s a mutual benefit. (But don’t take my word alone for it: )

So why do fitness magazines and websites say that you don’t need resistance training to lose weight? Because in the initial stages of resistance training, you may not always see weight loss. Sometimes, people actually gain a small amount of weight before it starts to drop off. The reason comes from the physical properties of muscle and fat. Muscle is denser than fat, and density is a measure of mass per unit volume. In simpler terms, one pound of fat takes up more volume than one pound of muscle. Our volume is our size. It is possible to lose fat, gain muscle, stay the same weight and still be and look smaller. But how much smaller? Muscle has an approximate density of 1.06 g/ml, and fat has a density of approximately .9 g/ml. Pull out your conversion charts and do some math, and you can figure the volume of pound of muscle to be about 26.74 in3 and the volume of the same weight of fat to be about 31.50 in3 — a difference of 4.759 in3. This becomes a significant difference. In fact, many people who enter into a resistance training program often notice their clothes are fitting considerably looser and they are looking smaller well before they see any weight loss. This is why I always tell clients not to be a slave to the scale. It’s important to keep track of your weight for motivation and to stay focused, but weight is only one part of many important health facets. I have one client who lost four pant sizes and only three pounds, but she is sustaining her new body. Her muscles are working to keep her healthy. Not to mention increases in strength make daily living easier and keep us moving.

The bottom line is that to stay healthy and mobile as we age (and by the way, 60 isn’t old anymore) we have to stay strong. Resistance training helps to increase strength and maintain weight loss. This is why people who drop weight quick and don’t work out at all can’t keep the weight off: they have no method of sustaining their new body. At the end of the day, weighing less is nice, but so is being smaller, more energetic, and freely mobile. So don’t use weight loss alone as a benchmark of your fitness progress. Think about the bottom line and most important part of health and fitness: how do you feel today?


We are rolling in Birmingham, Foam Rolling

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

You might ask, “What is foam rolling?” It is actually a process called self-myofascial release. To perform self myofascial release our personal trainers are using a molded foam piece that is 3 feet long and 6 inches round. Myo refers to muscle, fascia to the tissue that surrounds the muscle fibers. By putting pressure on tender areas along the muscle tissue, foam rolling increases blood flow, removes adhesions in the fascia, and increases the overall movement of the muscle.

This process has really helped many of our competitive running clients stay ahead of any potential injuries. Our personal trainers have incorporated foam rolling into many clients cool down and stretching segments of their workout. However, we have also encouraged our clients to foam roll on their own as a part of their regular fitness maintenance routine.

If you have any specific questions about foam rolling, just ask your CoachMeFit personal trainer about how foam rolling or self myofascial release can benefit your fitness program.


Balancing your health

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

By: Jen Boyce, Manager, CoachMeFit Ann Arbor (

Two weeks ago we had a client talking to his trainer about an article in the Ann Arbor News. The article is about balance and how it helps throughout your life. I looked it up and found that it had a lot of good information.

Many people take balance for granted. As we get older, balance is one of the things we lose, right along with hearing and vision. Falls due to loss of balance is the fifth leading cause of death for people 65 and older. This article mentions different types of products with different levels. Something like the balance pads would be good for people just starting to work on balance. They are thick pieces of foam that create a feeling of instability. Next might be the Dyna-discs. They are round air filled discs that make you feel like you are stepping on a “deflated football.” You can do a wide range of exercises on them. Last would be the BOSU ball. BOSU stands for “Both Sides Utilized.” It looks like a half ball with one side hard. You start using the soft side up, then as you get better, you flip it over to have the hard side up. Definitely a challenging  way to work your balance.

This client that I spoke of never stepped foot on a BOSU because he hated the way it made him feel (unbalanced). His trainer tried to tell him time after time that it was good for him. After he read this article, he not only believes his trainer now but he lets her plan for BOSU exercises every session.