Tuesday, March 23, 2010


This week let’s look at the benefits of challenging yourself. During the 12 weeks of Biggest Loser, the goal is to provide ever-increasing challenges to the group. By the end of the cycle, most of them are doing things they never thought they could do.

On the first day, during the fitness test, the 1 mile walk/run, a minute of pushups and a minute of sit-ups just about did them in. Most of them felt like that was a workout. But it wasn’t. It was just a fitness test.

Since then, they’ve done a month on machines, a month with free weights, with a bunch of cardio thrown in between. Then they did a Level III circuit workout with Wall Ball, Dumbbell cleans, Medicine Ball exercises, and Kettle Ball swings. That was an eye-opener. Last week, they did High Intensity Interval Training.

This week, the goal was to show them how to combine the interval training with the Level III workouts to make an even more fun and interesting workout. To that end, they walked/ran a quarter mile, and then did 25 pushups, 25 body squats, and 25 sit-ups—four times! That means they ran a mile, and did 100 pushups, body squats and sit-ups.

Like everything else, when they heard what they were going to do, they were a little nervous, because it sounds tough. It’s more than that. This type of workout is very deceptive. You start out thinking it’s not too bad, but by the time you get halfway through it, you realize you’re in for quite a challenge. By the third round, you wonder if you are going to be able to finish. In the last round, you’re just trying to hang on.

What makes it so difficult is that you’re caught between energy systems. It’s not completely anaerobic (without oxygen), but it’s not really aerobic either (with oxygen). The first several minutes of exercise are performed mainly by using energy stored directly in the muscles. This fuel is called glycogen, and is basically carbohydrates bound with water.

If you take off sprinting, you’ll use up glycogen until it runs out, and then you’ll feel like you’re gassed out. But if the workload isn’t too strenuous, you can keep going by using some free fatty acids already present in the blood, until your body starts using fats for fuel. It takes several minutes for this to kick in.

As time goes on, glycogen gets depleted, as do the free fatty acids in the blood. That leaves just fat for fuel, which burns in the presence of oxygen. That’s fortunate, because you’re probably breathing a little harder than normal to maintain the levels of oxygen needed to burn the fat.

If the workout gets too hard, you have to back off, because you can’t get enough oxygen in to burn enough fuel to keep it going. That’s why it’s good for people just starting out, to do walk/run intervals, rather than just try to take off running.

The other thing that made this workout difficult was the sheer amount of large muscles being used. It’s not just the running, but also the pushups hitting the upper body; the sit-ups working the core; and those body squats depleting all that glycogen from the lower body.

All that muscle requires even more oxygen to keep moving. Add it to the running demands and it becomes one tough form of high intensity interval training. If you want a challenge, and think you’re ready for it, give it a try.

It’s doing things like this and the workouts over the last couple weeks that are showing these guys and gals what they’re really made of. That’s why I want them to do the 5K walk/run in Charleston next weekend, in place of our usual workout.

Once they’ve made it through the 12 weeks, then they need to try to continue to find new challenges. Some of them will find more 5K runs and try to improve their times. Some might even try a half marathon (13.1 mi). Some will even tackle a full 26.2 mile marathon!

The main thing is to keep active and the best way to keep active is to find activities you like to do. If you can set a challenging goal a few months away, it will keep you training, and that will help keep the weight off.

It was a tough week for weigh-ins. A lot of people hit a plateau, and more than a few even gained some weight. That’s what happens when you get this many weeks into a weight loss program. It will be important for them to try and figure out what happened, and get off to a fresh start.

This week’s Biggest Loser from the Friday night group was Sheri Tyler, who lost 2.4% of her body weight and 5.0 lbs. Leslie Rush placed second, losing 2.2% and 3.6 lbs. Third place went to Scot Grimes who lost 1.1% and 2.6 lbs. Nicole Clodfelter placed fourth, losing about 1.0% and 2.4 lbs.

Scott Dosch was the Biggest Loser from the Saturday morning group, losing 1.5% of his body weight and 3.6 lbs. Jennifer Bowers placed second, losing 1.2% and 2.4 lbs. Dale Rasmussen lost 1.0% and 2.6 lbs to take third, and Cheri Dosch was fourth, losing about 1.0% and 1.0 lb.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I always like the week where we teach the groups how to do high intensity interval training (HIIT). Since they’ve been learning how to turn it up with the Level III training in the weight room, it was time to teach them how to turn it up in the cardio room.

It’s always fun to watch them do something that they were pretty sure they couldn’t do. Once they learn they can hang through the Biggest Loser workouts, they realize they could have been doing much more in their workouts all along. Then it’s just a matter of working it in to their regular routines.

Here’s how HIIT works. Whatever kind of cardio machine you have available, hop on and get going at an easy pace. We’re going to use a scale of “perceived exertion” created by a doctor named Borg. Now stay with me, resistance is futile. OK, enough of the Star Trek jokes.

The scale Dr. Borg put together was based on how you feel during the exercise. Not everyone has access to heart rate monitoring, so this is pretty useful, especially with high intensity intervals.

Scale of Perceived Exertion:
0 This is like doing nothing. (Coach Potato Zone)
1 This is almost like doing nothing.
2 This still feels pretty light. (Not much Benefit Zone)
3 This finally feels like light exercise.
4 This feels like moderate exercise—no big deal. (Low Intensity Zone)
5 This is getting a little harder but still pretty easy.
6 This is getting harder but still pretty doable. (Cardio Zone)
7 This is harder and I’m breathing harder, too.
8 This feels very hard and talking is tough. (High Intensity Zone)
9 This is extremely hard—I can’t talk!
10 This is MAXIMAL—I have to stop!!! (Have to Quit Zone)

Once you’ve warmed up for a few minutes in the Low Intensity Zone (on a scale of 1-10, what feels like about a 4 or 5), take it up to the Cardio Zone (what feels like a 6 or 7) for a minute. Then back it off to the Low Zone for a minute. Then do another minute in the Cardio Zone, and another minute of rest in the Low Zone.

Now take it up to the High Intensity Zone for a minute (what feels like an 8). Remember, it’s based on what it feels like—not actual levels or miles per hour—it’s totally subjective. What feels like an 8 to you might feel like a 6 to someone who’s been doing it longer. Don’t worry about that.

After a minute in the High Zone, back off to the Cardio Zone for a minute. Then hit it again. After another minute in the High Zone, slow it down to the Cardio or Low Zone to catch your breath.

What’s going on there is a condition called oxygen debt. During the vigorous exercise, your body was making more demands than your heart and lungs could—basically you can’t breathe in and deliver enough oxygen to cover the demands being placed on your body.

So, after the vigorous exercise stops, you’ll have increased respiration for a while. Once your breathing slows down, your oxygen demands have been met, and your heart rate will return to normal too. This is actually a mark of fitness. The quicker your heart rate and breathing return to normal, the more fit you are.

Finally, after a minute of rest, take the workload up to the top of the High Zone—to what feels like a 9 on a scale of 1-10. Remember, a 10 would mean you have to stop, so don’t go there—just get it up to a 9. Try to do the exercise for a minute. Then take it back down to the Low Zone for a minute to recover.

In my experience, most people underestimate what they are capable of, and in our group workouts, it was no different. So we did another minute at what felt like a 9, so they’d push it even closer to the limit. For it to really be a 9, you’ve got to be thinking about quitting at 30 seconds, and really wanting to jump off around 45 seconds. It takes all your will to just stay on the thing until a minute has passed, but you can do it. That’s a nine.

After a minute of rest, I had them do one more interval at what felt like a 9, because I still didn’t think they were there. This time, they were all dying—a few actually had to jump off. The rest were able to hang, but it was tough. That’s when I knew it truly was a 9.

For the ones who had to stop for a moment, there was no shame in that, because they’d actually pulled a 10. Now they know their limits. The interesting thing is that next time, there’s a very good chance they’ll be able to do it, because their bodies will adapt to the increased workload. They’ll come back with more strength and endurance, and likely be able to hang for the entire minute.

Once we finished the last interval, we rotated machines so people on the treadmill could try some intervals on the bikes, or elliptical machines and so on. All told, they did about a half an hour of exercise between the different machines. It was obvious that it was one of the toughest—for some it was the toughest—workouts they’d ever experienced.

This weeks Biggest Loser from the Friday night group was once again Scott Block, who lost 1.9% of his body weight and another 3.8 lbs. This brings him to 38.0 lbs overall, in just nine weeks! Second place was a tie between Jessica Trover and Lori Marietta, both losing 1.5%. Jess lost 2.2 lbs and Lori lost 4.2 lbs. Casie High placed fourth, losing 1.3% and 2.2 lbs, and Judy Rush finished fifth, losing 1.2% and 2.2 lbs.

In the Saturday morning group, our Biggest Loser was Jamie Wheeler who lost 1.4% and 2.2 lbs. Dale Rasmussen was second, losing about 1.0% and 2.0 lbs. Only six people made the weigh-in due to other activities and conflicts, but quite a few have also dropped. While the Friday night group is mostly intact, about half the Saturday people have fallen off along the way.

With nine weeks down, and just three to go, it’s time to start thinking about Biggest Loser and the summer groups. Once again, we’re going to do a Friday night group, and a Saturday morning group to give people some flexibility. Sign-ups start in a couple weeks, and the first meetings will be Friday, April 16th, and Saturday, April 17th.

If you’ve been looking for something to help you make a change this summer, you need to think about joining in. And just like the current groups, there will be no prizes—the only prize to win, is really the best prize of all—the chance to get your body back!

Monday, March 08, 2010


This week marked the end of their second month, and it was time for something different. They spent the first month working on the machines (Level I), and the second month getting comfortable using free weights, primarily dumbbells (Level II).

Now that they know their way around the weight room, it’s time to take it up a notch and find something to bring them to the next level. Typically, if someone keeps doing the same thing, their results will start to slow, sometimes even grinding to a halt—that dreaded plateau in weight loss.

At that time, the thing to do is to change it up and find things that the body isn’t used to. Remember, if you can already do it, your body has no reason to change. That’s why you can walk several miles a day and not lose weight. Your body is already used to it.

That was the reason for the Level III workout this week. Where before each exercise consisted of performing one movement and using one muscle group, Level III workouts are made up of compound exercises. These are exercises that have two or more movements at a time, and use more than one muscle group to get the job done.

I split the group up into four stations that rotated between four exercises. Each group stayed with one exercise for a minute, and then moved on to the next exercise as the group rotated. When each group got through all four exercises they’d completed one round. The total workout consisted of five rounds of the circuit, for a total of twenty minutes.

It sounds pretty easy, but it’s not. By the time the Biggest Losers made it into the third round, most everyone was huffing and puffing, and sweat was flowing freely. In the fourth round, they were looking forward to finishing. By the time they got through the last four minutes, they were ready to stop. Here’s what they did.

Station One was “Wall Ball”, where they squat holding a 10-20 lb ball, depending on their size, as they come back up from the squat, they throw the ball up above them and bounce it off the wall, catching it when it comes back down. Then they squat again, doing the entire exercise again for a minute.

Station Two was “Single Arm Cleans” with a dumbbell. From a squatting position, they hold the dumbbell in one hand, between their feet. With an explosive pulling movement, they kind of jump up a bit while jerking the weight from the ground, all the way in a straight line up their body until they are holding it straight over head. Then they put the weight back down between their feet and repeat the exercise. After doing several, they switched arms, continuing for a minute.

Station Three was the “Ball Station.” Here, they partnered up back-to back, and passed a medicine ball back and forth by twisting from side to side. In later rounds they switched the direction that they handed off the ball, even catching it over one person’s head while the other one hiked it like a football. The final round consisted of “woodchoppers” where one person holds the ball on the floor between their feet, and then lifts it overhead while twisting to the side, before bringing it back down, and then back up to the other side.

The fourth and final station was “Kettle Ball Swings.” A kettle ball is basically a steel ball with a handle sticking out, that’s large enough to hold on to. Here they held it with two hands and brought it back between their legs while squatting down. As their arms bounce off the inside of the legs, they brought their arms and the kettle ball back up by using their hips and shoulders, continuing the movement until the kettle ball was straight overhead. It was important to keep a tight grip so the kettle ball wouldn’t swing down and bonk their noodles—but everyone survived!

All four exercises required a great deal of core activity to keep their bodies straight and in position, especially when holding the weights overhead. They also required both their upper and lower bodies to be active throughout the movements, which meant the core was working as well to help them transfer energy from one area to the other.

Another benefit is that the weight training almost becomes cardio, as evidence by all the huffing and puffing in the later rounds. By the time you get 15 or 20 minutes in, you’re pretty gassed, because using all those different muscles at the same time increases your energy demands significantly. That means you need more oxygen to keep things going, and that means you’ll get a cardio workout too.

1. Wall Ball
2. Single Arm DB Cleans
3. Partner Drills with Medicine Ball
(Back and forth, side to side, over and under), and Wood Choppers
4. Kettle Ball Swings

All in all, I think the workout was a real hit. Even though they were all pretty tired after just 20 minutes, there was quite a bit of laughter throughout—always a good sign that a workout’s a success. You might give it a try yourself. Make sure you get with someone who knows how to perform the movements correctly, and try them with fairly light weights until you feel pretty comfortable with them.

Next week we’ll teach them another way to boost the intensity with some high intensity interval training. They’ll also get some more information about the required 5 K walk/run over in Charleston on Saturday, March 27th.

This week’s Friday night Biggest Loser was Donnie Bartos, who lost 2.4% of his body weight and 4.4 lbs. Second place went to Karen Brown, who lost 2.1% and 4.8 lbs. Scott Block placed third, losing 2.0% and 4.2 lbs. Leslie Rush and Scot Grimes tied for fourth place, losing 1.4%. Leslie lost 2.4 lbs and Scot lost 3.4 lbs.

For the Saturday morning group, the Biggest Loser was Brad Adams, who lost 1.6% of his body weight and 3.6 lbs. Scott Dosch placed second, losing 1.4% and 3.4 lbs while Dawn Stewart was third, losing 1.2% and 2.4 lbs. Fourth place went to Cheri Dosch, who lost 1.0% and 1.4 lbs and Shirley Fiscus placed fifth, losing around 1.0% and 1.6 lbs.

Friday, March 05, 2010


The Biggest Loser from the Friday night group was a tie between Scott and Brett Block, who both lost 2.2% of their body weight. Scott lost 4.8 lbs and Brett lost 3.2 lbs. Now that’s a family who sticks together!

Scott’s a farmer who gets a lot of exercise every day taking care of the cows and all the other things that farmer’s do. But even with that daily grind, over time, he put on some weight that he wanted to take off.

Brett’s a science teacher who’d been pretty active working out while her kids were in Taekwondo. Even with working out regularly, she also had a little extra that she was hoping to make disappear.

So we have a couple of pretty active people (who are actually a couple), that wanted to lose some weight together. To all outward appearances, they didn’t look overweight—they both carried their weight well. But they weren’t satisfied.

Some people have a lot of weight to lose; for others, the journey will be much quicker. We have people that need to lose 100 lbs, and while it can be done in six months if they’re extremely dedicated and disciplined, it’s better to take a year doing it.

For others like Brett and Scott, almost the entire journey can be done in 12 weeks of focused effort. We just finished week seven, so we’re just a little more than half way through, and Scott has lost a total of 30.0 lbs. That’s a little over four pounds a week! His total weight loss percentage is 12.5% of his body weight, which is enough to put him in the lead so far.

While Brett wanted to lose a little weight, she primarily joined the group to support her husband, and do it together, as a family. While her total weight loss is only 8.2 lbs, that’s pretty impressive too, because it’s over a pound a week! Her total weight loss percentage is 5.4%.

You have to remember, that as weight loss goes, the American College of Sports Medicine says healthy weight loss is between 1-2 lbs a week. Our mantra here is “One pound is good; two pounds is great; and three or more is fantastic.”

The Blocks aren’t the only couple doing Biggest Loser together. You may recall from earlier weeks, Scott and Cheri Dosch from the Saturday morning group have also put up some great numbers.

Scott says that he’d just let himself go over the years. Active in coaching, and keeping up with his kids, he felt that this Biggest Loser was his chance to get his body back. Cheri had been active and working out, and when Scott decided to join BL 11, she joined with him to show her support.

Scott got started the week before Biggest Loser, and lost 9 lbs! Over the last seven weeks, he’s lost an additional 20.8! His percentage of weight loss (in BL 11) is 7.9%, and he’s doing and feeling great. Cheri’s lost a total of 14.0 lbs in the seven weeks, with a percentage of weight loss of 9.1%, leading the Saturday morning group that weighed in this week.

Shawn and Jennifer Bowers are another couple of Biggest Loser Veterans, with several sessions behind them. Shawn does Friday nights while Jennifer does the Saturday morning group. They’ve found a way to work around their work schedules.

Shawn’s in second place overall on Friday nights, having lost 30.3 lbs and 9.9% of his body weight! Jennifer’s lost 15.2 lbs in the seven weeks, which amounts to 7.2% of her body weight. What makes this work is their commitment to their goal, in spite of scheduling difficulties—which are many.

Another couple is Jim and Tammy Huxford from the Friday night group. Jim’s lost 12.4 lbs in seven weeks, while Tammy has lost 4.8 lbs. They’re regulars in the gym and it’s easy to spot them—they’re the couple over their doing the workouts together!

While Donnie Bartos and Jessica catch their workouts in their home gym, they’ve had some great results too: Donnie’s lost 23.0 lbs and Jess has lost 15.0 lbs. Even Donnie’s mom is involved. An avid runner, and after a lengthy illness, Penny Spinner is glad to be back in action, losing 11.8 lbs in the seven weeks.

And there are some other families training together too. Sheri Tyler has lost 16.2 lbs while her daughter Jackie’s taken off 11.0 lbs. Judy Rush has lost 13.2 lbs and her daughter Leslie has dropped 3.8 lbs.

Quite a few friends have gotten involved as well. While there are always some stars doing it solo, I think the best situation is where participants bring someone with them for support. That way they can measure their work against their partner, and regardless who wins that week, they’re both the better for it.

Like I said earlier, we had a two-way tie for first place. Scott and Brett Block both lost 2.2% of their body weight, with Scott losing 4.8 lbs and Brett losing 3.2 lbs. Third place went to Jackie Tyler, who lost 2.0 and 3.2 lbs. Scot Grimes came in fourth, losing 1.6% and 4.0 lbs. Keeping it in the family again, Sheri Tyler came in fifth, losing 1.3% and 2.8 lbs.

For the Saturday morning group, Dawn Stewart placed first, losing 3.4% and an amazing 7.0 lbs. Second place went to Melissa White, who lost 1.1% and 1.4 lbs. Dale Rasmussen was third, losing about 1.0% and 1.4 lbs.