Monday, November 30, 2009


This week we’re coming off a big accomplishment—the 5 K run/walk that 11 of the Biggest Losers participated in. Several more weren’t able to attend the race, but made it up on their own. The most important reason people need to try a 5 K is to learn that you can.

Once you know you can do it, things change quite a bit. You become empowered to do more things, train harder in your workouts, and perhaps try other new things.

But you can learn these lessons in the gym on your own, too. Take Karen for instance. She joined Biggest Loser because she knew someone who’d died at the same age. It was a real eye opener. She also wanted to be around to see her kids and grand kids.

After eight weeks, she’d been very consistent, walking a total of 4 miles a day. She’d also been trying to get more time in on the elliptical, but it was tough. I told her to just add a minute a day—just a minute. Then, in a few weeks, she’d be up to 30 minutes.

So she started pushing herself to add a minute or two, and then pushed some more. All of a sudden she found she was able to do a half hour. Then she did it again a couple days later.

Next we talked about her time spent walking and jogging. She’d said she wasn’t really able to jog more than 50 steps before having to stop. I suggested she try jogging a minute, and then walking two, repeating the process until she covered a whole mile. Then she could hit the elliptical, and then come back and finish walking.

Well, Karen got the mile in, and was surprised. She found that after 9 weeks of training, she was a lot stronger than she thought. She was able to do the jogging intervals for the entire mile, and then did the 30 minutes on the elliptical, although it was much tougher that way. Then she went back and walked 2 miles.

If that had been it, I would have been plenty proud of her. But that evening, she came back again. She said she wanted to make up for missing a workout on Thanksgiving Day. I told her that with everything she’d done that morning, it would be fine if she simply walked.

The next thing I hear is Karen beating feet on the treadmill—running! She did a mile full of intervals. Then she hit two miles, and then three. At that point, I left to go to the store for a few minutes. When I came back, I’d expected her to be gone.

Instead, she was still in there on the treadmill doing running intervals! By now, she was up to five miles and working toward six. Before it was over, she’d logged seven miles, with the jog a little, walk a little more approach! It was an amazing thing, especially since she’d logged three miles that morning. That’s a 10 mile day!

One of the things I like about training people, especially in Biggest Loser is that they learn things, like how to workout, and use the equipment. They also learn how to change up their routines to keep them interesting and effective.

What I like even more is that they learn things about themselves. In this case, Karen had no idea that she could jog more, until she tried doing the intervals. She ended up with a 10 mile day, and now she really knows she can push herself harder.

It showed on the scale too. Even with missing a couple workouts, Thanksgiving dinner, and Texas Roadhouse, she ended up losing 3.8 pounds for the week. That brought her to 33.4 pounds lost, in just 9 weeks, and you can bet she’ll be turning it up during the last 3 weeks.

We worked on a couple new ways to throw the weights around, too. Having spent a month doing Level I training (machines), and a month on Level II training (replace machines with dumbbell exercises), I showed them two new Level III routines.

What makes these exercises harder is that they combine two or three separate exercises into one full body exercise. Since you’re using more muscles at the same time, it becomes more demanding, and also engages your core more.

The first one was Thrusters, a combination Body Squat and Shoulder Press. First, you squat, holding a pair of dumbbells on your shoulders. Then as you come back up, you thrust the dumbbells over head to a locked out position. It’s a great exercise that works your lower body and pushing muscles well.

Since Thrusters use so much large muscle mass, the exercise demands more oxygen, and burn more calories, too. I also taught them how to use a lowered bar, regular bar and chairs to do assisted pull-ups which work the pulling muscles. When done together with Thrusters and some abdominal exercises, they make a complete workout. Try 4-5 sets.

The other routine they learned was the Walking Lunge-Curl-Press. Holding a pair of dumbbells, take a big walking step into a lunge position with both knees bent. While maintaining that position, curl both DB, and then rotate and press them straight overhead. Then, lower them, and uncurl them back down to your side. Finally, take another big walking step into a lunge position on the other side and repeat.

Walking Lunge-Curl-Presses work the whole body and you’ll know it right away. Do 4-5 sets of 12-15 steps, followed by some crunches or other core exercises. Both this workout and the other one are quick and dirty, and you can complete them in as little as 15 minutes after a quick warm-up. Give them a try.

This week’s winner was once again Michelle Nugent, who lost 4.4 lbs and 3.1% of her body weight. Down 27.8 lbs now, and with a strong lead for highest overall percentage of weight loss, she won a $15 gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance.

Second place went to Karen Brown, who I talked about earlier. Karen lost 1.5% of her body weight and 3.8 lbs and is in the lead for most pounds lost overall, with 33.4 lbs. Third place went to Nita Comstock, who lost 1.0% of her body weight and 1.2 lbs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


This week, the group’s challenge was to go walk/run the 5 K “Turkey Trot” over in Marshall, IL. Eleven participants from BL showed up and at least one other did it later in the day on a treadmill. We also had a nice contingent from the gym make the trip over.

After we finished the 5 K, a couple people stopped me and asked how to go about losing some unwanted pounds around the middle. Later in the day, someone asked me what was better– counting calories, or points?

My answer is pretty much the same in both cases. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t really matter which program or plan you follow, it just matters that you’re following one. And perhaps more importantly, you need to be consistent in your approach.

That’s why having a goal like an upcoming 5 K race is so important. You know you have to do it, so you set up a training program so you’ll do better. There are a lot of different ways to train for the race, but in the end, it just matters that you’re consistent.

Show up for enough training, and you’ll improve your 5 K performance. You’ll also get in better shape as a result, and it’s likely that you’ll lose those unwanted pounds along the way.

It’s the same thing when looking at your diet. Whether you’re counting your calories to make sure you’re on target every day, or looking at points, what matters is that you’re doing something.

If you want to lose weight and you’re guessing about your food, know this. Guessing makes you fat. There’s plenty of research that shows people who track what they eat lose more weight than people that don’t track it.

What’s important then is that you track your eating. How you track it isn’t nearly as important. And once you start tracking it, like always, you need to be consistent to get results.

Keep a daily diary or calorie log. Keep track of your points. You might use an online service—there are plenty of them out there, many of which are free.

In your workouts, the most important thing is not what you do. You don’t have to subject yourself to my killer boot camp workout to get what you want. What matters is that you do something, and you do it often. Changing it up will help keep results coming, but it’s the day to day work that really matters.

It’s showing up when your workout partner doesn’t. It means scheduling your workouts, with a high enough priority that they don’t get bumped when other things come up. I’ve known plenty of people who intended on getting to the gym, but… and then 2 months have gone by.

Plenty of people lose the weight, but then put it right back on because they can’t be disciplined enough to keep at it. Someone said “so I really need to exercise for the rest of my life, right?” Yes. Absolutely.

At the end of week eight, we’re two thirds of the way through the program and it’s easy to see who’s been consistent in their approach. It’s been a pretty small group (compared to a previous high of 68). I’m anticipating that BL 10, which starts right after Christmas, will be quite a bit bigger.

This time around we started with just 28 people. At the end of week eight, only 13 made the weigh-in out of the 21 people that are left. That means that 25% of the people have quit, and another 25% aren’t being consistent in their approach.

But of the people that made this week’s weigh-in, all of them have lost weight. Sure, some have lost more than others, but the fact remains that everyone who is showing up has lost some weight.

At this stage of the game, it’s the most important factor. Over the next four weeks, I’ll keep changing up the workouts and adding intensity, but it’s all about showing up. As I told them at the start, “half of you are going to quit for one reason or another—which half are you going to be in.” We’ve got four weeks left to see whether that will be true.

The winner this week was Michelle Nugent, who lost 2.4% of her body weight and 3.4 lbs. She’d had a slight gain at midweek, and I’d told her not to worry about it. She’d been very consistent in getting in her workouts, especially training for the 5 K. Michelle won a $15 gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance and has lost 23.4 lbs in 8 weeks.

Second place went to Nita Comstock, who also turned it up this week in preparation for the 5K. She lost 1.6% of her body weight and 2.3 lbs. So far Nita’s lost 15.0 lbs. Third place went to Cathy Kemper, who lost 1.1% of her body weight and 2.0 lbs.Fourth place went to Karen Brown, who lost 1.0% of her body weight and 2.6 lbs. So far, she’s down 29.6 lbs, the most in the group. Fifth place went to Janet Tyler, who lost about .08% of her body weight, and 1.4 lbs.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


This week the group learned a different workout with the dumbbells. They’ve been doing the first workout for the last two weeks, so it was time to shake things up by changing the routine.

If you recall, the main benefit of using dumbbells is that they activate your core and stabilizer muscles much more than with machines. What we’re trying to accomplish this time, is to switch up the exercises to keep the body changing too.

When you do a routine for awhile it becomes, well… routine. Unfortunately, your body gets used to it, so it doesn’t have to work as hard to get the same job done. This is why people can walk or run for years and actually get fatter while doing it.

If you can already do it, your body has no reason to change. That’s why as soon as it starts getting easier you need to switch it up a little bit. It presents a new challenge to your muscles, and it’s also fresh and interesting for your mind.

We have a couple that does a lot of riding on their bike. They ride everywhere. They’ve even ridden across Indiana, but couldn’t lose the weight. But when they started cross-training in other areas, including weight lifting, they started losing weight again.

Don’t underestimate the power of lifting weights. I’m a big believer in getting out there and pounding the pavement, but weight training helps you accomplish some other things.

If the routine is done quickly enough (without rest in between), you can burn just as many calories as you would running—more than if you’re just walking.

When you tone up and add some muscle to your body, you also increase your metabolism. Muscle uses more energy even just hanging around than fat does. So adding more muscle makes you a fat burner all the time—not just when you’re lifting weights.

As you work out with weights, they’ll respond by getting stronger. It’s called the overload principle. Push your muscles a little bit today, and the next time you try that exercise, it will be a little bit easier. And the more toned up you are, the easier everything gets. Not just lifting weights—but everything you do. You’ll feel better.

Finally, there’s the impact it has on your overall appearance. Hitting the weights will ultimately result in you having the toned, shapely body you’ve been looking for. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also feel better about the way you look.

So all that works together to help you keep moving closer to your goals. If you’re getting your cardio in, and using some sense in your eating, you’ll get there sooner or later. Here’s the routine I taught them.

Do each set of exercises back to back without rest, three times before moving on to the next set. Each exercise should be done with a weight that lets you get 12-15 repetitions. If you don’t know how to do them, make sure you get with a qualified trainer or partner that can show you how to safely perform the exercises.

Level II DB Workout #2
1. Pec Fly on Exercise Ball (2) #10, 12, or 15 DB’s
2. Bent Knee Dead-Lifts (2) #12, 15, or 20 DB’s

3. Pullovers on Ball (1) #15 or 20 DB
4. Walking Lunges (1) #10 or #12 DB

5. Bicep Curl and Shoulder Press (2) #10, 12, 15, or 20 DB’s
6. Tricep Kick-Backs (1) #5 or 8 DB
7. Simple Crunch
8. Crunch with legs up in air
9. Crunch with one leg crossed
10. Crunch with other leg crossed
11. Leg lifts/flutter kicks

Done right, with little or no rest between exercises or sets, this workout should take you about 30 minutes. If you’re sweating and breathing harder, you’ve done a good job. If you can do it easily 12-15 times, you probably need to increase the weight.

This week’s winner was Rob Irish, who lost 2.6% of his body weight and 4.4 lbs. Rob is down 18.2 lbs now, and received a $15 gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance. I’ll bet all that bike riding will be easier now.

Second place went to Renea Mullins, who lost 2.2% of her body weight and 5.8 lbs. She’s now down 18.4 lbs overall. Third place went to Tammi Hewitt, who lost 1.9% of her body weight and 2.6 lbs.

Don’t forget about the 5 K walk/run race in Marshall, IL next Saturday. It’s mandatory for our Biggest Losers, but also a good challenge for everyone. If you need more information or a registration form, stop by sometime this week. See you there!

Friday, November 13, 2009


This week we turned it up again with a special routine I like to do half-way through the program. First, they had to run/walk from the center to the football field (1/2 mile). Once they got there, they were given their challenge.

They had to run/walk a lap (1/4 mile) and then do 25 pushups, 25 body squats and 25 sit-ups—four rounds, for a total of 1 mile and 100 pushups, squats and sit-ups. After they finished, they returned to the center (another ½ mile).

This routine combines strength training and cardio, works the entire body, and also uses interval training to keep the intensity high. Just like everything else, you get out what you put into it.

If you jog the quarters, it’s more difficult than walking. If you run them faster, it’s even tougher. So everyone can challenge themselves, simply by trying to complete the workout faster.

I really like workouts like this, because you’re working on muscular strength, muscular endurance, and cardio-respiratory endurance—all at the same time. It’s also great for weight loss because you’re using your whole body and burning lots of calories.

But the main reason I like the workout, is that it teaches people what they’re really capable of. People can always do more than they think they can do. When they finish the first round, they’re usually thinking “I’ve got to do 3 more of these?” As they dig in and keep plugging, they get another, then another, until finally they get it done.

It creates a real feeling of accomplishment—something I’m always trying to create in my workouts. But what I really hope is that they start thinking that if they could do this thing (that they thought they couldn’t do), what else could they do if they’re just willing to try?

And that’s a powerful thing to start thinking. “What if I tried ______?” Hopefully, they’ll decide to try some other things too. It could be a 5 K, a half marathon, or something different like rock climbing at the indoor rock climbing facility over by Bloomington.

It can be something unrelated to fitness, too. Like going back and getting a G.E.D. or deciding to take some classes toward a college degree. It could be looking at a career change or new hobby that always interested you.

It can also be a decision to stop doing something, like to finally quit smoking. Or to quit doing other things that are destructive. It might be making a change in a relationship that’s long overdue. Or it could be finally standing up to that person that puts you down. It could be asking for a raise.

Only you know what you want, or need. As you learn how to get in shape by disciplining your body and your desires, you’ll often discover you have the power to make other changes too. That’s what I’m really hoping to accomplish.

This week we had a two-way tie for 1st place. Rob Irish and Michelle Nugent both lost 1.6% of their body weight. Rob lost 2.8 lbs and Michelle lost 2.4 lbs. Rob wasn’t present at the weigh-in and workout, so Michelle received the $15 gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance.

Michelle’s also in the overall lead so far, having lost 10.6% of her bodyweight and a total of 17.4 lbs. You can see why, if you watch her in the gym. Take the night before the weigh-in, for example. Her son had to be at the center for a Taekwondo pizza party & movie night.

Since she was going to be there anyway, she figured she’d get a last chance workout, and asked me what to do. I told her to run 3 miles. She asked what to do after that, since she was going to be there awhile, so I told her, to when she got done, do it again.

By the time the movie ended, she’d been on the treadmill for just over an hour and a half, had gone 7.3 miles, and has a picture to prove it. She didn’t run the whole thing, but who cares? She went 7 miles! That’s huge, and it’s why she’s not.

It’s just like Karen Brown, who’s lost 8.8% of her body weight and 24.6 lbs, for 2nd place overall so far. She turned it up last week by doing 4 miles a day, often at a grade. The BL workout was tough too, but she did it, even jogging some around the track.

Rob Irish is in 3rd place overall, having lost 7.5% of his body weight and 13.8 lbs. I know he rides his tandem bike with his wife all the time, but he’s turned it up by coming to the gym more.
Nita Comstock is in 4th place, having lost 7.1% of her body weight and 11.2 lbs. She’s been doing more on the elliptical every week.

Renea Mullins is in 5th place, losing 4.5% of her body weight and 12.6 lbs. Sue Sheeran is in 6th place overall, with a weight loss of 4.4% of body weight and 9.8 lbs.

In 7th place is Tammi Hewitt, who’s lost 4.0% and 5.6 lbs. 8th place goes to Thomasena Collins, with a weight loss of 3.9% and 7.5 lbs.

9th place goes to Hilary Chaney, with a weight loss of 3.8% and 7.8 lbs. Heather Brown finishes off the top ten with a weight loss of 3.1% and 7.0 lbs.

Five others have lost between 3.0 and 5.2 lbs, and two others have lost between 1.5 and 2.0 lbs. Two others have slightly gained, and 5 others missed the weigh-in.

Next week, we’ll continue to get them ready for a 5 K which will be on Saturday, November 21st in Marshall, sponsored by the Marshall Elementary Booster Club. The cost is $15 in advance or $20 the day of the event.

It’s mandatory for all our BL participants, but everyone is invited to participate. For more information, stop by for an entry form, or check in at 8 am in the gym at North School that morning.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


This week the group made a dramatic shift in their training. Up to now, they’ve been using the weight machines, doing what I call Level I training. Now they’ll be using free weights, like dumbbells, exercise balls and other things.

The importance of this shift to free weights can’t be understated. Machines tend to isolate a muscle very well, but there are a lot of other muscles that aren’t needed. When you do a similar exercise with dumbbells, other muscles are needed to assist in the movement and stabilize your body, working your core more.

Getting all those other muscles involved drives up the intensity of the workout. It’s very obvious to a person who’s been on the machines. Once they pick up the dumbbells (DB), they’re always amazed how much more they’re doing. They’re usually breathing harder and sweating more, which are two good indicators that they’re burning more calories.

Here’s the full body routine that they did, with the typical weights the women used. Some women used a little less, and guys would use a little more. Get with a trainer or someone who knows how to do the exercises correctly.


Do 12-15 reps each exercise:
1. DB Press on Ball 15# DB both arms -- hits Chest, Shoulders, Triceps,
2. Body Squats 8-10# DB both arms -- hits Legs, Hips, Lower Back
Do 3x

3. Single Arm Row 15# DB -- hits Upper Back
4. Deadlift 15# both arms -- hits Legs, Hips, Lower Back
Do 3x

5. Lateral Raises 5-8# both arms -- hits Shoulders
6. Single Arm Curls 12-15# both arms -- hits Biceps, Forearms
7. Tricep Press 15# -- hits Triceps
Do 3x

8. AB Crunches on Ball hits Abs
9. Side Twists with Ball hits Abs, Obliques
Do 3x

They did the routine after run/walking a mile. Once they started the routine, they never stopped moving. They did the first two exercises back-to-back three times, and then the next two. Then they did the next three exercises, finishing with abs. While each exercise focused on a specific muscle groups, in every case, they had to use their core muscles to stabilize their position.

It took about a half hour to get through the workout, and then they walked/ran another mile. Remember, in three weeks, they have to do a 5 K walk/run (3.1 miles), so they need to be getting ready for that too.

This week’s winner was Tammi Hewitt, who lost 3.3% of her body weight and 4.6 lbs. If you’ll recall, Tammi won the last BL. She received a $15 gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance.

2nd Place was a tie between Nita Comstock and Michelle Nugent, who both lost 2.2% of their body weight and 3.4 lbs. Nita’s been turning it up by doing long stretches on the elliptical machine—up to 45 minutes!

Michelle’s turned it up by doing some high intensity interval training during her runs, as well as kickboxing and even Brazilian JiuJitsu. She’s also pulled into the overall lead, losing 15.0 lbs and 9.1% of her body weight in 5 weeks!

Next week, we’ll be halfway through the 12 week program, and we’ll look at retention, and total weight loss for everyone. Right now, it’s time for my workout. See you in the gym!