Tuesday, November 30, 2010


As I’ve said in the past, the key to avoiding weight loss plateaus is changing things up. They’ve been at it for two months, and in most cases are seeing their weight level off. This means we need to shake things up yet again.

Once they’ve had high intensity interval training, it’s time to start combining it with their resistance training. For these Level III workouts, we’re combining cardio intervals with exercises that use their own body weight, like pushups, body squats, sit-ups, and pull-ups.

After walking for a short while to warm up, they started jogging ¼ mile on the treadmill—in the warmer months, we actually take them out to the football field and have them run a lap there. After that, they did 25 pushups, 25 body squats, and 25 sit-ups. Then they took off for another ¼ mile lap. Here’s what it looks like:

• Run ¼ mile
• 25 pushups
• 25 body squats
• 25 sit-ups
(Do a total of 4 times)

The goal is to do the ¼ miles as fast as possible. For some people this is a walk/run. For others, it’s a faster jog. Once you’re in better shape, it’s more like a sprint. Once you get around, you knock off the pushups, body squats and sit-ups as quickly as possible without stopping.

By the time you get done, you’ll have jogged a mile and completed 100 pushups, 100 body squats, and 100 sit-ups. It’s a full body workout that doesn’t take very long to complete, but if you’re pushing hard, you’ll be pretty gassed when you finish.

A good goal would be to try in finish in less than 30 minutes. Once a month, try the workout again and see if you can improve on your time.

This week’s winner was Nikki Johnson, who lost about half a pound. Next week, we’ll talk about the even more intense Level IV workouts. In the meantime, why don’t you give this one a try? Good luck!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


This week instead of the regular workout, the Biggest Losers met in Marshall for the annual Turkey Trot 5 K (3.1 miles) race. They’ve known about the challenge since the first week, and have been working to step up their distance, especially in the last few weeks.

Just about anyone can walk a mile, even three miles, but when you start jogging, it becomes quite a bit more difficult. Much more energy is required once you break into a jog, and your respiration and heart rate go up dramatically to meet the increased oxygen demands. That’s why we teach people how to build up to it by run/walking intervals.

What I like about the organized races, is that it puts you around other like-minded people. In fact, you’ll often find inspiration there. There’s something special about lining up with a bunch of other people all about to do something like this.

Don’t worry about how fast you’re going to be either. If you’ve never done an event like this, the accomplishment is starting and finishing the event—that’s what makes you a winner. Once you have one under your belt, you can then work on trying to improve your time at the next one.

Not everyone in the group was able to make the event. If they couldn’t, they were supposed to make it up on their own. Karen did her 3.1 miles on Friday night (44:30). Here are the others and their Turkey Trot times: Shelly (27:12), Nicole C. (33:13), Nicole S. (39:14), Mary (43:01), Shay (43:13), Nikki (43:28), and Jennifer (45:47). Great job everybody!

Monday, November 15, 2010


This week we taught the participants how to do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for their cardio workouts. This type of training is exactly how it sounds. After a 5 or 10 minute warm-up, you simply alternate higher intensity cardio intervals with lower intensity rest intervals.

There are many different ways to package your HIIT training. When working with someone new, I try to match the level of intensity to their individual fitness level. The first two examples are from actual Biggest Loser participants.

Relatively New Runner—one participant named Jennifer hadn’t had a lot of experience running, and the fastest she’d ever gone on the treadmill prior to the workout was 4.2 mph. After walking a quarter mile (400 meters), I had her start jogging at 4.0 mph for half a lap (200 meters). When she got halfway around the track on the display, I had her walk the other half lap at 3.0 mph to rest and recover.

Then she bumped up the speed to 4.2 mph (her previous fastest pace) for another half a lap on the display. Once she got halfway around again, she went back to walking for the rest of the lap. At the end of that quarter mile, she cranked it up to 4.4 mph for half a lap, followed by another half-lap of walking.

She was able to do another half lap at 4.6 mph, walked half a lap, and then another interval at 4.8 mph, followed by another half a lap of walking. Finally, she ground out a half lap at 5.0 mph, well faster than she’d ever gone prior to the workout. She said it was pretty tough, but she finished the workout. At the end, she did a quarter mile walk as a cool down.

Runner with Moderate Experience—another participant you’ve been reading about for several months was Nicole, who’s been running for the last few Biggest Losers, and has completed several 5 K (3.1 mile) races, running most of the way, with some walking every mile. Just the other day, she completed 3 miles consecutive running without having to walk at all!

Since she had more experience, we divided the workout differently. Instead of half a lap running and half a lap walking, we had her walk a quarter of the way around the display (100 meters), and jog three quarters (300 meters). Since she said she was comfortable running at 5.5 mph, we had her start at 5.0 mph.

Once she made it around the whole lap, she got to walk a quarter of the way around again before turning it up to 5.5 mph. After another walk break, she did the next ¾ lap at 6.0 mph, and then another at 6.5 mph, 7.0 mph, 7.5 mph, and then a final one at 8.0 mph—well faster than she ever thought she could go.

Again, the trick is doing harder intervals than you think you can do, followed by short breaks to let you catch your breath, get a drink, and wipe off the sweat! You’ll burn more calories in a shorter period of time, and stimulate all kinds of changes in your body.

These types of workouts have a much longer after-burn, which means you’ll burn more calories during the hours after the workout while your body is working to recover. It will also make your regular workouts easier.

I’ll even combine HIIT training with short runs and resistance training to make some very intense workouts. In the boot camp class held before the Biggest Loser workout, here’s the HIIT training that they did:

1. Run ¼ mile
2. 25 pull-ups
3. Run ¼ mile
4. 50 pushups
5. Run ¼ mile
6. 25 dumbbell curls (each arm)
7. Run ¼ mile
8. 25 kettle bell swings
9. Run ¼ mile
10. 25 floor-wipers (both sides)
11. Run ¼ mile

This week’s Biggest Loser was Jennifer Bell (from the first example above) who lost about 1.0% of her body weight and 1.6 lbs. With this type of HIIT training to add to her workout arsenal, I’m sure she’s going to continue to have success!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This week marks the halfway point of the twelve week program. By now, the participants have pretty much figured out how to manage their eating. They’ve also got their exercise routines down and are usually able to get their workouts in every day.

Even so, it’s right about this time that many people experience a slump in their weight loss. Where they might have lost a couple pounds a week, now they’ve only lost a half a pound or so.

This plateau in weight loss is a mystery to everyone, including trainers. A very few people never experience them, but most people do. There are a lot of reasons why it could be happening, but it’s tough to really know for sure. Here are a few things to look for.

1. Loss of focus—sometimes you just get tired and start taking things for granted. When you let your guard down, it’s easy to take your eye off the prize. You’ve got to work to get it back. Perhaps you need to start writing down your calories again.

2. Lack of effort—this one makes people mad, but usually I can tell when people just start taking it easy. They start getting comfortable and coasting in their workouts, doing the same things, and quit pushing. You’ve got to get it done.

3. Lack of consistency—this is all about what you do when life starts intruding. There are all kinds of reasons to miss a workout, but only one reason will get you there—because you have to. There’s always a way if you want it bad enough. Doing 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups, and 100 body squats at home will get the job done.

4. Not eating enough—this one sounds stupid, but it really gets a lot of people, especially women. As you get busy, if you start missing meals again (especially breakfast), it can backfire on you. You’ve got to make sure you hit your minimum number of calories every day.

5. Your body needing a change—this is similar to number two (lack of effort), but not because you weren’t trying. It’s just that as things get easier for you, you can do the same amount of work without burning as much energy, so you’ll burn fewer calories. You’ve got to keep turning it up. Take a different class. Try a different workout.

That’s why I taught them a different free-weight routine this week, and next week, we’ll do a high intensity interval workout. It’s important to keep changing it up. That keeps the body working hard and burning lots of calories.

It’s also good for your mind. That helps you keep focused on the goal and keep pushing too. It lets you get excited about your workouts, and that will keep you consistent.

In the end, it comes down to showing up, pushing hard when you get here, and changing it up enough to keep the intensity there. When you’re home, watch what you eat, but make sure you’re eating enough.

Finally, remember that one weigh-in really doesn’t matter—it’s the trend over time. Often, people will get discouraged when they gain a little bit, only to find two days later, they take it right back off. By the end of the week, things are back on track, so keep plugging!

This week’s winner was Nicole Clodfelter, who’s had a pretty good track record since she keeps pushing. She lost 1.4% of her body weight and 3.0 pounds. That brings her six week total up to 11.0 lbs.

Monday, November 01, 2010


This week we introduced the Biggest Losers to a kickboxing class. Since I have a martial arts background, I like to make the kickboxing class very practical—they get to hit stuff like targets and the heavy bags.

Since they’re hitting things, the pads add resistance to the training. This is good for two reasons. First, it makes the workout more intense. It also is pretty realistic. If you ever have to defend yourself, it’s helpful if you’ve actually practiced hitting things!

Kickboxing can also be an amazing cardio workout. It uses the entire body, especially the core, as you bob and weave to avoid punches. Typically, I have partners hold pads that you hit and then block as they pop you back. It teaches you how to cover up and move to avoid being hit.

I like to work on things in “rounds” like in a match. One person might do “Jab, Cross, Cover, Cover” for two minutes while the other one holds the pads. Then they’ll switch roles for another two minutes. This way you get enough time to figure out how to get the skill going, but it’s also a nice little cardio interval.

Then, we’ll add something to the combination like, “Jab, Cross, Cover, Cover, Knee, Knee.” Two more minutes of that and then we’ll switch again. The next combination might be “Jab, Cross, Low Kick, Low Kick” and then “Jab, Cross, Kick, Knees.”

Once they’re pretty good at doing the combinations on the hand pads, I like to have the partner start moving a little bit before and after. This forces the kickboxer to adjust forward or backward which makes it more difficult. It’s also a little more real-world, as physical encounters never happen in a static environment.

People move and you have to adjust. Once they get some experience at moving in and out, I’ll have them start working on slipping to the side a little bit. Again, that raises the level of difficulty. It also raises the level of the workout intensity anytime you add movement.

At some point, we’ll turn to the heavy bag and let them work on their combinations there. While partner drills with pads make for learning how to react and move, the bag provides much more resistance. When you can snap off some combinations on the heavy bag, and get it to move, that means you can deliver some power to your target.

You’ve got to make sure you keep your wrists tight and straight when working on the heavy bag because it’s easy to lose focus. If you hit the bag hard with a bent wrist, you’ll have a sprained, bent wrist.

You’ve also got to wear boxing gloves to protect your knuckles. The gloves add some weight, too, which means more resistance. That means you’ll get more out of the workout.

Near the end of the class, I like to do 30 second intervals where they have to just go crazy with everything they’ve learned. It’s non-stop, full throttle, until I yell time. Sounds easy, but as soon as you ramp up the intensity, it becomes amazingly exhausting—just like a real fight would be.

When I was in the police academy, we learned that in a physical encounter, it’s typical to burn through 90% of your energy in the first minute. Part of that’s due to an adrenaline dump that comes when you’re in danger.

If you’re not in shape, and can’t manage your energy, you can quickly find yourself with little left to defend yourself. That’s why I like to do these short, fast intervals in class.

After three or four of those, people start slowing down big-time, even if they’re in pretty good shape. That’s when I like to throw in a 60 second interval to really blast them. If they can keep going guns blazing for 60 seconds, you’ll probably do pretty well in the real thing.

Normally, the classes last 45 minutes, and if we do it right, you’re ready to leave at the end. As you get better, your combinations get sharper and you can hit harder. You get better at moving, and as you move more, you’ll get an even better workout.

It’s not uncommon to have people burn over 500 calories in a class. Once, a few years ago, I had a gal lose 49 pounds in a year, and the only thing she did differently was take kickboxing twice a week.

This week’s Biggest Loser was Karen Brown who lost 1.6% of her body weight and 3.4 lbs. Karen’s lost 11.0 lbs in just 5 weeks. While she will tell you she wishes it were more, she’s very happy about all the inches she’s lost!

Second place went to Nicole Shaughnessy who lost about 1.0% of her body weight and 1.4 lbs. Shay Jones came in third, losing 1.2 lbs, and Nikki Johnson was fourth, losing 1.6 lbs.