Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I noticed something during our Christmas shopping this year. People seemed to fall into two groups. One was pretty healthy, but there were quite a few who were overweight.

I didn’t see many people in the middle. And the older they got, the more extreme the differences. It seemed like there were those who were moving well, and those who weren’t. Is it just me, or our there more people in motorized carts these days?

“Use it or lose it” is just as applicable as it ever was. As we stop moving, our muscles atrophy (get smaller), our bones weaken, and we accumulate excess fat. Even if our weight hasn’t changed, our body composition has. And if our weight has gone up, our body fat has really gone up!

I’ve got a toddler, and he’s a machine. He’s up and down, all around, moving constantly. Picking things up, throwing them down. He does hundreds of body squats. One of these days I’m going to put a pedometer on him just to see how far he goes!

But I’ve noticed that at a certain age, kids start slowing down. They’ll start spending more time watching TV and playing video games. Every minute they spend sitting on the couch, is a minute they’re not moving anymore.

Kids involved in sports have the opportunity to stay in shape, but the ones that don’t participate will slow down even more. And it’s tough to catch up, because even gym classes aren’t offered every day at many schools these days.

That’s why I’m a big believer in having kids in something, whether it’s team sports, or an individual sport like gymnastics or Taekwondo. We’ve got to keep them moving.

It applies to adults too. Young adults that were active in high school or college sports often stop playing altogether once they enter the real world and start jobs and families. And most of our jobs don’t involve enough real activity to keep us healthy.

It takes a concerted effort to get in shape and stay there. But it’s not impossible. Plenty of people have made the commitment to stay moving. I’ve even got 60, 70 and 80 year olds I’ll see in the gym exercising every day. They want to keep moving.

Of course, the other part of the problem is the changes we’ve made to our diet. There was a time when eating fast foods were the exception. Now they’re often the rule. Junk foods have become staples in our pantries.

Unfortunately, they’re filled with empty calories that don’t provide the same nutritional value. At least if you’re active, you’ll probably burn them off. But if consumed by someone who isn’t very active, junk foods are usually excess calories, which are stored as fat.

It comes down to this. You can get moving, or get fat. You can eat right, or get fat. That sounds harsh, but in the end, if you’re not moving, and you’re not eating right, it’s going to go to your end!

The good news is that for most people, even if you’re overweight, you can turn it around. I’ve seen plenty of people lose 30, 40, 50, 60, and even 100 lbs. I personally lost 35 lbs last year and it’s changed my life. I want to keep moving.

So do you want to get moving, and learn how to start eating better? You might try our community-wide Biggest Loser “15” which starts Monday, January 2nd. If you have questions, feel free to contact Tom through Facebook at !

Friday, December 23, 2011


Can you believe it? We’re about to reach the end of another year. When I was younger, each year went on forever and I couldn’t wait to be older. These days, I wonder where the years go!

But like most people, at least once a year, I like to spend a little time looking back to see what I’ve accomplished. Sometimes it’s a pretty short list!  

We can get so caught up in the process of doing stuff, that a little reflection can help you gain perspective. When you look back, you can remember what goals were attained, identify mistakes that were made, and make some course corrections if necessary.

Maybe you lost some weight but then put some of it back on. You need to recognize you did a good job losing the weight. What you learned then will help you out this next year.

But what went wrong that let you put the weight back on? If you can figure that out, you can take steps to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen again. Maybe you just quit working out. Perhaps you fell off your diet.

Maybe you’ve just been thinking about trying to get your weight under control but it hasn’t happened yet. You might even have started a couple of times, but just got off track.

The good news is that 2012 can be a new year in lots of ways. If you need to lose weight and get yourself healthy, here’s what you need to do to start getting prepared.

Develop an action plan designed to help get you started. Find out about gym memberships. Talk to friends that lost weight. Ask them what they’ve been doing.  

Take a look at some websites like or . Look at phone apps for your smart phone that will help you stay on top of things.

Start telling yourself that this time you’re going to do it. It’s not a resolution that can fail. It’s a fact. You’re going to do it. This is going to be your year. Tell a friend what your plan is. If someone else knows, you just became accountable. Write it down, too. Goals written down are much more likely to be achieved.

Have someone take a picture of you in your knickers, front and side views. Put it on your bathroom mirror. Weigh in. Do your body fat. Take some measurements. Then set some reasonable goals about what you’d like to see happen.

Most people can lose 1-1 ½ pounds a week if they start exercising daily and watching what they eat. With a little more effort, you can take that up to 2-3 pounds a week.

This can be your year. The year you get it together and get thinner. I’m telling you, you won’t believe how good it’s going to feel, and how good you’ll feel about yourself. You just have to take my word for it.

I lost 35 lbs in 2011, over 7 months, and have maintained it over the last few months. Now, everything feels different. It’s so much easier to move and run, and grapple, and do all the other things I like to do. My goal is to keep it off in 2012 while building some more muscle.

So what’s your goal? You better get cracking, because the New Year’s almost here! If you have any questions about exercise, weight loss, or Biggest Loser “15” which starts Monday, January 2nd, contact Tom through Facebook at !

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Another Biggest Loser finally came to an end. While 25 people started, only five people made it to the final workout, with six weighing in—a completion rate of just 24%. That’s about half of what it usually is (typically it’s around 50%).

Part of it was the holidays, shopping, and a few people had injuries or illness. But I always wonder why many of the others simply couldn’t make it. Dropping out is all too common a problem these days, especially with exercise programs and weight loss.

People can know they need to change, even want to change, but it’s often hard finding the will to change. It’s tough coming up with that thing deep inside where quitting is not an option, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes.

12 weeks seems like such a long time when you’re in it, but when you look back, it’s over pretty fast. Compared to a year, it’s pretty short. Compared to a life, it’s not even a blip on the screen. But if you can finish, it’s often produces lasting change. So how do you stick it out? Five women finished the program, so what made them different? I asked them how they did it:

  • “The knowledge of the scale helped a lot—seeing those extra parameters like water percentage and metabolic age kept me motivated.”
  • “Having someone to workout with every time—we scheduled it. It made us more accountable.”
  • “I became moody if I didn’t go.”
  • “I learned that when I weighed in, it was a new week—even if I messed up, ate too much, or didn’t workout, it was a new week and a new start.”
  • “Writing down the calories.”
  • “Being honest—realizing that I was fatter than I thought.”
  • “I wasn’t going to go into another New Years and have to make another resolution.”
One guy also finished, but had to work and missed the final. I’d spoken with him in the gym, and he was always motivated. At that point he was focusing on building muscle.

Four of the five women only missed one of the 13 sessions; the other had perfect attendance. That alone goes a long way to explain their success. So I asked them what difficulties they’d faced along the way:
  • “Scheduling my workouts.”
  • “My guilty feelings—taking away from family and work.”
  • “Laziness.”
  • “Being motivated.”
  • “Being honest.”
Finally, I asked them what they’d want to tell someone who might be struggling:

  • “Do something.”
  • “Get started.”
  • “Everybody has time.”
  • “Quit making excuses.”
  • “I wish I’d done this earlier.”
Our overall Biggest Loser was Michelle Clark, who lost 15.8% of her body weight, and 26.2 lbs. Vince Porter was second, losing 13.5% and 33.6 lbs. Kara Englum finished third, losing 9.9% and 16.8 lbs. Sande Sherer placed fourth, losing 9.0% and 17.0 lbs. Darcy Midgley was fifth, losing 8.1% and 19.6 lbs, and Shirley Fiscus was sixth, losing 7.4% and 16.0 lbs.

If you have any questions about exercise or weight loss, or would like to weigh in on whether we should do another Biggest Loser “15” after the New Year, feel free to contact Tom through Facebook at !

Friday, December 09, 2011


We’ve been talking about raising the level of your workouts by doing high intensity interval training (HIIT). Two weeks ago, I introduced the group to another great set of exercises they could do with just a 30 lb bar and two 5 lb plates (40 lbs total). The guys started with a 45 lb bar and two 10 lb plates (65 lbs total).

The first exercise was 10 deadlifts. Without stopping, they then performed 10 reps of upright rows. Then they did 10 front squats, holding the bar on their chest. Finally, they did 10 front shoulder presses or push-presses (using their legs a bit if necessary).

After the 40 reps, they put the bar down and did 20 sit-ups which gave them a bit of a break. They did 5 rounds of the deadlifts, upright rows, squats and shoulder presses, and sit-ups.

This week, since it was the last real workout with the group, I wanted to make sure they got one more chance to see how to turn it up! I decided to challenge them by adding a couple new things (pull-ups and handstand pushups), to a long list of other exercises they’ve done.

Instead of doing several exercises interval style for 4-5 rounds, this time they did a bunch of different exercises for 25 reps each. They couldn’t move on to the next station until they’d completed all the reps at the current station.

Each movement uses Pushing muscles (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps), Pulling muscles (Back, Biceps, Forearms), Lower Body (Hips & Thighs), Core (Abdominals & Obliques), or sometimes a combination of muscle groups. Feel free to contact me at if you have any questions.

  • Ran ¼ mile
  • 25 Handstand Pushups
  • 25 Pull-ups
  • 25 Body Squats
  • 25 Sit-ups
  • 25 Dumbbell Lateral Raises
  • 25 Kettle Bell Swings
  • 25 Knee-Raises
  • 25 Pushups
  • 25 Dumbbell Curls
  • 25 Box Jumps
  • 25 Mountain Climbers
  • 25 Pilate Crunches
  • Ran ¼ mile
This week’s Biggest Loser was Vince Porter, who lost 1.0% of his body weight and 2.2 lbs. Michelle Clark placed 2nd, losing almost 1.0% and a pound. Third place was a tie between Kara Englum, Shirley Fiscus, and Jennifer Bell who all lost about 0.5% and a pound.

Friday, December 02, 2011


Last week we talked about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) cardio workouts. This week I’d like to tell you about a couple other types of interval training workouts.

Whether it’s with Biggest Loser groups, or folks in the gym, I like to teach four levels of workouts. They range from basic to difficult in a progression that keeps the body changing.

Level 1 workouts use the machines; Level 2 workouts use basic free weight exercises with dumbbells and exercise balls. Level 3 workouts start combining the high intensity interval training (HIIT) with strength training.

Level 4 workouts are the toughest, using both free weights and body weight movements and sometimes, cardio, in a circuit that keeps the heart rate up while still giving you a great muscular strength and endurance workout. They are real calorie blasters!

After showing the Biggest Losers how to do HIIT on the cardio equipment, the next step was teaching them a Level 3 workout where they start to combine the HIIT workouts with their strength training workouts. They did this one a couple weeks ago.

They ran ¼ mile on the treadmill, then went in the workout room and did 25 pushups, 25 body squats, and 25 sit-ups. They did this four times (4x) for a total of one mile running, and 100 pushups, 100 body squats, and 100 sit-ups.

When the weather’s nice and it isn’t dark outside, that’s a good one to do at the football field. That way they can run their ¼ miles around the track, and the pushups, squats and sit-ups on the grass. It was just as intense in the gym, though.

The Level 4 workout they learned was pretty tough, too. Each person started at a different station and did 50 seconds of one exercise, and then had 10 seconds to switch stations.

1.      Wall Ball—tossing a soft 10 lb medicine ball on the wall, catching it, and squatting; works the lower body (hips & thighs), and your pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps).

2.      Kettle Bell (KB) swings—works the lower body, pulling muscles (upper back & biceps), and pushing muscles (shoulders).

3.      BOSU Pushups—on a BOSU trainer; works pushing muscles and your core.

4.      Box Jumps—on a 12-24” step; works the lower body muscles.

5.      Single Arm (SA) Dumbbell (DB) Curls—works the pulling muscles.

6.      AB Routine #1-4—crunches, crunches with legs in the air, sit-ups crossing to each side, and leg lifts; works your upper and lower abdominals and your obliques.

They did each exercise until they’d completed one circuit. Then they repeated the whole thing until they had gone around a total of four times, in just 24 minutes.

Give it a try. If you’re not sure how to do some of the movements, get with someone who does. Feel free to contact me with questions at .

This week’s Biggest Loser was Michelle Clark, who lost 2.2% of her body weight and 3.2 lbs. Nikki Johnson was second, losing 1.3% and 3.0 lbs, and Darcy Midgley placed third, losing 1.2% and 2.6 lbs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


A couple weeks ago, I gave the Biggest Losers a killer cardio workout based on high intensity interval training (HIIT). A friend of mine calls this type of workout the “Death Run!”

You’ll often see HIIT programs show up in fitness magazines. While they might change the progressions and work and rest intervals, or even use different workout platforms, they’re all pretty much the same thing.

You can do them on treadmills, ellipticals, or a bike, but say you’re on the treadmill and you’ve never done any running. After a 5-minute warm-up walking at 3.0 mph, turn the speed up to 4.0 mph. This is about the slowest possible speed that you can still be running (anything slower and you’d just be walking fast).

Whatever it takes, keep jogging at 4.0 mph for exactly 1 minute. If you’ve been seriously overweight, or just haven’t ever been a runner, even that slow pace might get difficult. Force yourself to hang in there for a minute.

At the end of the minute, back off the speed and take it down to 3.0 mph and walk for a minute. By the end of the minute you’ll be ready to go again. This time, take it up to 4.5 mph and jog for a minute, and then walk a minute at 3.0 mph.

Now run at 5.0 mph for a minute and then walk a minute at 3.0 mph. Next do a minute at 5.5 mph and another minute walking. Then do a minute at 6.0 mph, a minute walking, and then a minute at 6.5 mph, followed by another rest interval. If you think you can do it, try a minute at 7.0 mph with a minute rest, and then a minute at 7.5 mph and a minute rest.

Don’t worry if you can’t make it the full minute at the higher speeds. Do what you can, and then jump off (feet to the sides on the rails) while holding on to the handles. Then just walk a little extra. Later, you’ll be able to finish the full minute.

Do five minutes of cool-down at the end. That will be 5 minutes for warming up, 16 minutes of work/rest intervals (6-8 minutes running, 8 minutes walking), and 5 minutes cooling down. That’s only about 25 minutes, so I don’t want to hear you don’t have time to work out.

As you get better, you can always add a couple faster intervals to make your HIIT last longer.  Or, you can do 90 seconds or even two minutes of running. If you’re already a runner, try faster speed intervals and back down to a comfortable jogging pace for your rest intervals!

These workouts will give you a longer after-burn, which means you’ll burn more calories, which will help you lose the weight faster. You can follow the same program on an elliptical, bike, rower, by simply increasing the work levels, while keeping your rpm (speed) the same. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at !

This week’s Biggest Loser was Vince Porter, who lost 2.1% of his body weight and 4.8 lbs. Michelle Clark placed second, losing 1.8% and 2.6 lbs. Sande Sherer was third, losing 1.7% and 3.0 lbs, and Kara Englum finished fourth, losing 1.5% and 2.4 lbs. Michelle and Sande also represented the Biggest Losers in the Marshall 5K Turkey Trot!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


This week I’d like to share some meal ideas with you. Remember, I’m not a nutritionist, just a fitness guy, but these are ideas I’ve seen work with other people. They’re also meals I ate on the way to losing 35 lbs over the last 6 months (I still eat them every day).

All are common foods you can get at your regular grocery. Adjust your total calories to your specific needs. Remember, women should never go below 1,200 calories/day and men should never go below 1,800. I’ve found, though, that people are happier when they come in around 1,500-1,650 calories/day (women) or 2,000-2,400 calories/day (men).

Feel free to substitute to take advantage of other wholesome foods in the same categories. Complex carbs found in healthy starches (ST) give you long-lasting energy. Protein builds muscle and bone. Fruits (F) give lots of quick energy while vegetables (V) have lots of fiber, and both have lots of vitamins & minerals! Add 2-3 healthy snacks between meals.

  • One serving of Honey Nut Cheerios (ST), ½ cup of 2% milk (P), ½ cup of frozen blueberries (F)
  • One whole grain waffle with a little butter and syrup (ST), one small low fat  yogurt (P), and ½ a banana (F)
  • One serving of oatmeal, ½ cup of 2% milk, ½ a banana.

  • ½ Pastrami & Cheese on rye (P, ST), or ½ Turkey & Cheese on whole grain (P, ST), or ½ Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich on wheat bread (P, ST) and a Fruit Cup (F)

  • One serving of meatloaf (P), ½ baked sweet potato (ST), and fresh cut green beans (V)
  • One fried chicken leg or wing and a thigh or rib (P), a serving of mashed potatoes and gravy (ST), and cole slaw (V)
  • A 6” chicken sub (P) on whole grain bread (ST), loaded with veggies (V)

  • Low fat Yogurt or Cottage Cheese (P) with fresh fruit (F)
  • Fruit Cup (F) & Granola (ST)
  • Apple slices (F) with Peanut Butter (P)
  • Peanut Butter Crackers (P & ST)
  • Protein Shake (P & Carbs)
This week’s Biggest Loser was Vince Porter, who lost 1.6% of his body weight and 3.6 lbs. Vince has lost 24 lbs in the last 8 weeks! Nikki Johnson, Darcy Midgley and Shirley Fiscus all tied for second place, losing a little less than 1.0% of their body weight and 1.4 lbs, 1.4 lbs, and 1.2 lbs respectively. Feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


When people ask for help figuring out their diets, I like to pass along the same information that we give our Biggest Losers. So unless you have a specific medical issue you’re dealing with such as diabetes, this might work for you, but sure and follow your doctor’s advice.

If you recall from last week, I believe the best diet is “no diet!” I think the best results over the long haul always come from eating a normal healthy diet that you can maintain for life. The first thing is to get off the pop and junk, and drink more water. 

The next thing is to work on having a balanced meal that has servings of Protein, Complex Carbs (Starches), and Fruits & Greens. If you do this, you’ll feel better right away, and your body will start working better, especially when you’re working out. Here’s why.

Protein is used by the body to build and preserve muscle and bone. While your body can use protein for fuel, it’s not very efficient. Glucogenesis (creating carbs from protein) is very inefficient and produces extra byproducts that your kidneys then have to deal with.

Sources of protein include lean cuts of beef and pork, chicken and turkey, dairy products like low fat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese, fish, nuts (including peanut butter), and some beans. Sometimes it’s useful to supplement with a protein shake, especially when you’re very active.

Your best choices for long-lasting energy are complex carbohydrates called starches. It takes longer for your body to break them down than simple sugars, but it’s much more efficient than trying to use protein for fuel. Starches give you the time you need to complete your workout or get to the next meal.

Complex carbs include whole grain breads and cereals, whole grain pastas, long grain wild rice, oats, potatoes and sweet potatoes, corn and some beans. Our problem is that we tend to eat too many complex carbs and processed, refined foods.

The trick is to eat just one reasonably sized complex carb with each meal. Then you’ll get the long-lasting fuel you need. Go whole grain—it takes longer to breakdown, and you’ll get more nutrition too!

The last category is fruits and greens (vegetables). Self-explanatory, fruits and vegetables are probably the least consumed foods these days. That’s a shame, because they’ll give you some excellent benefits.

Fruits provide quick energy—the kind that gets you going in just minutes. They also have lots of vitamins and minerals and some fiber. Vegetables give you lots of vitamins and minerals too, that will make you feel and perform better. Because they’re packed with fiber, they also contain fewer calories which help fill you fill up.

A complete mixed salad with lettuce, spinach greens, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green onions, green peppers, and low fat dressing tops out at just 100 calories. Most other single servings of vegetables will only run you around 50 calories. That’s a great deal!

If you’re eating this way, the fats pretty much take care of themselves, too. All you really need to add is an Omega 3, 6 & 9 supplement to be sure you’re getting the good fats you need. Next week I’ll give you some sample meals to look at.

This week’s Biggest Loser was Michelle Clark, who lost 2.4% of her body weight and 3.6 lbs. Sande Sherer was second, losing 2.0% and 3.6 lbs. Kara Englum placed third, losing 1.6% and 2.6 lbs, and Nikki Johnson finished fourth, losing 1.0% and 2.4 lbs.

If you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook!

Friday, November 04, 2011


After working with both men and women over the years, I’ve noticed that women are usually pretty different from men. It’s true.

While men tend to overestimate their capabilities (“no, I don’t need to read the map,” “I can lift it,” etc…), women often underestimate what they can do. Men just take off, confident they can handle, solve, or fix anything. Women tend to want to talk about it first—then they’ll do some research—then they’ll talk about it some more.

Men starting a workout program will often overdo it and get really sore, and ultimately quit. But many women starting a workout program will underdo it, get little or no results, and then quit too!

For both groups, the trick is to help them get a better start. With guys, I often try to slow them down a bit and help them avoid overtraining and injuries.

But women often need an extra push to help them “speed” things up. Just a couple days ago, I worked with a woman who’d been walking four miles a day but not losing as much weight as she’d like.

After a warm-up, I asked her if she’d ever gone uphill before. She told me she had “a little bit, on 1% and 2%.” I cranked the grade all the way up to 10% and had her walk ¼ mile. Now that was a hill!

She handled it well, so I asked her if she’d ever done any running or jogging. She said no, but she’d been wanting to. After a little while to recover, I increased the speed to 4.0 mph (about the slowest speed you can go, and still be running).

I kept her running for 100 yards (the length of a football field), and it took a little more than a minute.
She got to the end and said “Wow, I didn’t know I could do that!”

I told her she hadn’t seen anything yet, and after walking another 100 yards, had her do it again, but at 4.2 mph. After another walk break, she did another interval at 4.5 mph, and then one at 5.0 and 5.5 mph!

She’d been disciplined enough to walk four miles a day, but never tried to run—not even a little bit. When we got done, I told her that now she knew she could do it, she should start working in some big hills, and walking/running intervals.

We’ve had lots of women work up to running a 5K (3.1 mi), half marathons (13.1 mi) and a couple even did a full marathon (26.2 mi). Several of our “Wood Street Warriors” recently took on not one, but two “Century” bike rides (100 mi)!

You never know what you can do unless you try, so go ahead and talk about it, do some research, but then, jump right in—I’ll just bet you can do it!

If you have any questions about working out, feel free to contact me on Facebook at “Tom’s Fitness.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


This week let’s talk about the diet we’ve recommended to our Biggest Losers. I’ve always been a big believer that the best diet is… no diet! Now I know there are some very well known diets and meal plans out there and you can lose weight on them.

I’ve come to believe, though, that most diets really work because they impose discipline on the eater, typically by restricting certain “bad” foods and encouraging “good” foods. In many (if not most) cases, diets almost always end up being too hard to maintain over the long haul.

A much better approach is to learn how to eat correctly. I call it “eating right.” For most of us, its also comes down to learning how to manage your portions.

Women usually need to learn how to start eating breakfast and midmorning snacks. This means they need to learn how to eat more. This is a real paradigm shift for most ladies who’ve typically beaten themselves up about food, and are now scared of every single calorie.

Guys typically need to learn how to eat less, by learning some portion control. For guys, this also means they need to quit eating all the junk they shove in their mouths.

It also helps to slow down a little bit. When I was losing my 32 lbs, I realized that a lot of times, I’d eat past the point of being full—just to be eating. Later, it got easier to eat less, and now I find myself filling full sooner, on smaller portions!

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of the foods you like. You should be able to enjoy them—once in awhile. We’ve been given a palate for a reason. Foods are for fuel and enjoyment.

A good plan is to have a cheat meal or even a cheat day once in awhile. Another is to pick your times. If you know you’re going to have something higher in calories you can plan for it by pulling back earlier, perhaps missing a snack. You can also plan in extra activities to burn it off.

Remember, food is fuel. If you’re eating in the right amounts and covering your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which I talked about a few weeks ago, you’ll just burn what you eat. It won’t be stored as fat.

With all your new activity, you’ll also be coming up a little short during the day so your body will go to fat stores for fuel. This is called a calorie deficit and the basis for weight loss.

If you don’t lose a lot of pounds right away don’t worry too much—people often see changes in their clothing first. Last week, two ladies told me that while they both only lost four pounds in the first five weeks, they’d each lost 10 inches around their midsection and hips!

So here’s the Meal Plan: eating right means eating a balanced diet that contains a serving of Protein, Starch, and Fruits or Greens (vegetables). If your plate looks like this, you’re probably doing fine.
Next week, we’ll talk about food choices from each category, how your body uses them, and how this can help you feel and perform better!

This week’s Biggest Loser was Jennifer Bell, who lost 1.8 percent of her body weight and 3.6 lbs! Michelle Clark was second, losing 1.7% and 2.6 lbs. She also won the workout challenge this week, logging 16 hours, 10 min total workout time! Vince Porter placed third, losing 1.6% and 3.8 lbs.

If you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


This week the group got their second free weight workout. After a month of using the machines to build a base of muscular strength and endurance, we taught them their first workout with dumbbells (DB) and an exercise ball.

We try and shift people over to free weights whenever possible. Machines are great for stabilizing the body and targeting specific muscles, but doing exercises with dumbbells and barbells, forces you to use more accessory and stabilizers muscles to control the movement and maintain your posture.

Using more muscle means you’re burning more calories which will help with weight loss. It also means you’re more fully developing the body. There are hundreds of different exercises that exercise the body as a whole, or that zero in on specific muscle groups.

Start with a pair of dumbbells that you can easily hold in each hand. It keeps you from lifting too much weight too soon. If it seems too heavy, it probably is.

Have someone that knows what they’re doing show you the movements, and then try them with a fairly light pair of dumbbells. If you don’t have access to anyone, get a magazine or go online. There are lots of resources out there.

When you do the exercise, shoot for 10-15 repetitions. If you can’t do 10 reps, it’s too heavy. If it was easy to do it 15 times, then the weight is too light and you need to use try the next heavier dumbbell.

Do the movements slowly, making sure you are in complete control of the weights. Keep your posture correct by tightening your core. Make sure you don’t hold your breath. If possible, watch yourself in the mirror to keep an eye on things.

Start with a whole body program three days a week, (M, W, F). Later, if you want to split things up, there are lots of ways to do that. For best results, do opposing body part exercises back-to-back with no break in between. That will keep you burning more calories!

Here are the two full body programs they learned. They did the first one last week, and will be doing the second one this week. They’re both similar, working the same body parts, but using different exercises to do it.

Workout #1: Chest Press on Ball, Squats (3x); Single Arm Row, Deadlifts (3x); Lateral Raises, DB Curls, Overhead Tricep Press (3x); Assorted Ab Crunches on Ball.

Workout #2: Pec Fly’s on Ball, Walking Lunges (3x); DB Pullovers on Ball, Deadlifts (3x); Arnold Press, Double Curl, Tricep Kickbacks; more assorted Ab Crunches on Ball, planks.

Our Week Five winner was Sande Sherer, who lost 2.6% of her body weight and 4.8 lbs. Kara Englum and Shirley Fiscus tied for second place, both losing 1.9% and 3.2 lbs and 3.8 lbs respectively. Kelli Stidham placed third, losing 1.7% and 4.4 lbs.

If you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


This week I want to talk about the final parameter we measure each week: Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). A lot of people confuse this with BMI (body mass index) but it’s quite different.

While Body Mass Index is a fairly common measure that can help you know if you’re overweight, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is a much more specific measure of how many calories your body needs to maintain it’s current state. Put simply, your BMR is how many calories you need to live. I like to call it “hitting your minimum.”

The value of knowing your BMR is pretty high, especially for women. Typically, 9 out of 10 women aren’t eating enough, although most of them believe that they are. We’ve seen this time and time again in Biggest Loser.

I know I keep harping on this, but it keeps coming up. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and just about the entire medical profession says that women shouldn’t ever go below 1,200 calories.

As a practical matter, most women’s BMR will come out higher than that. In this latest group, most of the women had a BMR between 1,300 & 1,400 calories. That means that they need to consume 1,300-1,400 calories each day to maintain, without regard to exercise.

It’s pretty simple. Eat that many calories, add some exercise, and you’ll start losing weight. While there are some other factors that play in, it pretty much comes down to math. Do more exercise, burn more calories, and you’ll lose more weight.

This is why I like to call that 2nd daily workout the secret weapon. It makes a huge difference in weight loss—even if it’s just walking a mile or two.

We used to have to do a calculation to determine BMR for people. Now it’s easy to measure, just by stepping on the scale. This means there’s no excuse not to hit your minimum, since it’s so easy to figure it out!

If you don’t, you’re really fighting yourself. Your metabolism will stay artificially low, you won’t operate at peak efficiency, and you won’t recover from exercise as well either. This can lead to feeling run down, and even illness or injury.

While guys tend to be over-eaters, I’ll occasionally run across one who isn’t, so here’s the guideline for men: never go below 1,800 calories. Holding to 2,000 calories is pretty strict, and 2,200-2,400 calories a day is usually pretty comfortable.

Our Week Four winner was Alexa Stidham, who lost 1.6% of her body weight and 2.6 lbs. Shawn Bowers and Steve Jones tied for second, losing 1.2% of their body weight and 4.0 lbs and 3.2 lbs respectively. Nicole Clodfelter and Karen Wolfe tied for third place, both losing 1.0% of their body weight, 2.6 lbs and 1.6 lbs.

Next week we’ll look at how we’re using free weight exercises to change things up with the group. Don’t forget, if you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


This week our Biggest Losers did a kickboxing workout. After partnering up, I taught them a kickboxing movement. Then they practiced the combination for a two minute round while their partner held the targets. They switched roles every two minutes.

30 minutes later, one partner hit the heavy bag while the other did pushups for a minute before switching. The next time they did a different combination on the bag while their partner did body squats before switching. Finally, they did a third combination while their partner did sit-ups.

Last week I wrote about weight, body fat%, muscle mass and bone mass. This week we’re going to look at Body Water%, Physique Rating, Metabolic Age, and Visceral Fat.

Body Water% should range from 45-60% in women. In men, it should range from 50-65%. We all hear we should be drinking more water, but now we have a tool to measure it. Many of the contestants were under-hydrated, so now we can help them stay on top of it better.

If you had a significant weight loss during the week, but Body Water% shows up below normal, you can be sure that some of your weight loss was probably water. That means you’ll probably just put it back on when you become rehydrated.

Physique Rating is measured on a scale between 1 and 9. For the person who is obese, you’ll receive a rating from 1 to 3 based on your percent fat and muscle mass. This is risky category, because your chance for heart disease and diabetes goes way up.

For the average person, a rating between 4 and 6 shows improvement, and for the “under-fat” (if there is such a thing), a rating between 7 and 9 tells you if you need to put on some muscle. For the participants, their goal is to try and improve their physique rating number during the twelve weeks.

Metabolic Age shows up as a range between age 12 and 50. This is like the “inner age” measure they use on the Biggest Loser TV show. Most of the participants showed up as 50 (or older), although few of them were actually 50.

If you’re 30 years old but have a metabolic age of 50, then you’re carrying the body of a 50 year old. That’s an extra 20 years, which wouldn’t bode well for your future. But if you’re 30, but have a metabolic age of 20, then it’s like you’re carrying the body of someone 10 years younger! The participants should see a marked drop in their metabolic age during the program.

Visceral Fat measures how much fat you’re carrying around your vital organs, which markedly increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. A visceral fat rating from 1-12 would be healthy, while a rating of 13-59 is unhealthy. This should also drop during the 12 weeks.

Our Week Three winner was Stacy Luth, who lost 2.6% of her body weight and 4.4 lbs. Michelle Clark placed second, losing 2.0% of her body weight and 3.2 lbs. Sande Sherer and Vince Porter tied for third, both losing 1.6% of their body weight and 3.0 lbs and 3.8 lbs respectively.

Next week we’ll look at how to use the last parameter (BMR) to ensure you’re not just eating right, but eating the right amount of food. Don’t forget, if you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Even though it’s getting colder outside, we turned up the heat on the participants again this week. The goal is to get them doing more work, with more intensity each week. I call it learning how to exercise smart. This week, they did 2 minute cardio intervals followed by 2 minutes of weight training on the machines, back and forth!

The more exercise they can do, the more calories they’ll be burning. And the more calories they can burn, the more impact it will have on their body. But just losing weight doesn’t always mean you’re losing the right kind of weight.

That’s why we look at the following physical parameters when they weigh each week: Weight, Body Fat %, Body Water %, Muscle Mass, Physique Rating, BMR, Metabolic Age, Bone Mass, and Visceral Fat.

The first one is obvious: Weight. This should drop at least a pound each week. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, healthy weight loss is 1-2 lbs per week which is achievable and sustainable.

It’s fine to lose more weight than that, as long as it’s fat loss. Many of our contestants will lose more than that. On TV they lose incredible amounts of weight, but you have to remember a few things. They live on a ranch. Losing weight is their job—and their only job. They don’t have to take care of kids or run errands. So even though it’s “reality TV”, it’s not real life.

After doing this for quite awhile, I’ve come to believe that losing a pound a week is good; two pounds a week is great; and three or more pounds a week is fantastic. In the end, it comes down to how much work you’re willing to do.

The second parameter, and perhaps the more important one, is Body Fat %. This is the amount of fat we have, compared to our total weight. We carry a lot more fat around than we think. Believe me, I know.

If a man weighs 167.6 lbs with 9.3% body fat, roughly 15.6 lbs is fat. That means about 144.4 lbs is lean Muscle Mass, with about 7.6 lbs in Bone Mass. Healthy bone mass in guys ranges from 5.9 to 8.1 lbs based on your size. For women, it ranges from 4.3 lbs to 6.5 lbs.   

Now if that same guy weighed in at 194.4 lbs, with 17.0% body fat, that means 33 lbs of his weight would be fat (more than double), with 153.8 lbs as lean muscle, and the same 7.6 lbs of bone mass.

It’s good to have a little more muscle mass but twice the fat, it’s just not worth it. Like I said, I know. Even though I was in pretty good shape and carried it reasonably well, that heavier, twice-as-fat guy was me five months ago! My new goal now is to keep the weight and fat down and add perhaps 5 lbs of muscle mass.

People with 30% or 40% fat have greatly increased risk of heart disease and type II diabetes. As they become inactive, they start losing muscle mass. When they consume more calories than they burn, they store it as fat, so their fat weight increases. That’s why it’s so important to keep moving!

Our Week Two winner was Stacy Reed, who lost 3.0% of her body weight and 8.8 lbs. Michelle Clark placed second, losing 2.0% and 3.2 lbs. Jennifer Bell was third, losing 1.9% and 3.8 lbs. Fourth place went to Kara Englum who lost 1.7% and 2.8 lbs. Jennifer Bowers and Shirley Fiscus tied for fifth, losing 1.6% of their body weight. Jennifer lost 4.2 lbs and Shirley lost 3.4 lbs.

Next week I’ll cover the other physical parameters we look at: Body Water %, Physique Rating, Metabolic Age, and Visceral Fat. Don’t forget, if you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at Tom’s Fitness on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I had a chance to participate in the Paris YMCA/Shawna Morrison Memorial 5K Walk/Run (3.1 mi) this past weekend. It’s always great seeing so many people from the community getting together for this event.

People have different reasons for participating. Some do it for the exercise. Some do it for the competition, whether it’s with others or just themselves as they try for a personal best. Many of us do it in memory of Shawna. I also think that many do it just to have a good time.

There were a couple things that stood out to me this year. The first was seeing the younger kids running. Three miles is quite a long way when you’re smaller like that.

Several obviously had a gift for running, but one girl in particular really impressed me. She didn’t have the typical “runners” body, but I happened to watch her finish, and she was really pushing herself. If these kids can find a way to keep this up, they’ll have a life of health and fitness ahead of them!

That’s why our Biggest Losers always have to do their own 5K before the end of their 12 weeks. They should get to where they’re doing several 5K’s a week, but it’s always different when you do it in a race environment. The one they’ll be doing is in Marshall, IL on Saturday, November 19th. I hope you’ll join us!

This week, after a ½ mile walk/run to get warmed up, the group had their first workout. The goal was to throw an assortment of things at them and keep them moving for 20 minutes.

Here’s what they did: pushups, body squats, sit-ups, jumping jacks, running in place, burpees, baby walks, crab walks, jumping squats, jumps across the room, walking lunges, jumping lunges, an assortment of crunches, crunches on the ball, knee-ins on the ball, pushups on the ball, and sumo wrestling with a partner and a ball! The 20 minutes passes pretty quickly when you do all those things.

Our Week One winner was Shirley Fiscus, who lost 6.8 lbs and 3.2% of her body weight. Karen Wolfe, Karen Brown and Nicole Clodfelter were tied for second, losing 2.6% of their body weight. That translated into 4.4 lbs for Karen Wolfe, 6.8 lbs for Karen Brown, and an amazing 7.0 lbs for Nicole. Sande Sherer and Vince Porter were tied for third, losing 2.5% of their body weight, and 4.8 lbs and 6.2 lbs respectively.    

Next week we’ll have the results from Week Two, plus I want to tell you about those new fitness parameters we’re using for the participants. Don’t forget, if you have any questions about fitness or working out, please feel free to contact me at “Tom’s Fitness” on Facebook.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


After quite a layoff, we finally got another group going last Monday night. It’s always an exciting time for me, but I could tell that some of them were a little nervous.

That initial weigh-in causes so much apprehension, but it’s such a powerful tool for the participants. You can “want-to”, know you “need-to”, but when you see that number pop up on the scale, it gives you a pretty good “have-to.”

This is where your initial motivation comes from. It almost makes you sick to think of it, but when you realize how much you weigh compared to what you should weigh, it gets your attention. And when you see how much of your body weight is fat, it really starts to sink in.

Many people haven’t weighed in for a long time, but avoiding the issue doesn’t help you deal with it. Once you know you have a problem, and have made a decision to start doing something, that’s when change can occur. This holds true for a lot of problems, including being obese or just overweight. That’s where we were Monday night.

About half of the 25 had already done Biggest Loser at least once, and a few had done it several times. The most consistent thing I heard was that they’d put a lot of the weight back on. To a person, they all said that they’d just quit working out and watching what they ate.

I told them not to worry about it, because that was the past and this was their chance to get a new start. One advantage they’ll have is that they pretty much know what to do and how to do it. They just need structure and accountability. We’re going to give them plenty of that!

We took a beginning measure for weight, body fat%, body water%, muscle mass, physique rating, their basal metabolic rate (BMR), metabolic age, bone mass, and visceral fat (around their internal organs). We’re going to track all those variables each week and it’ll give us an even better idea of how their body is changing. Next week I’ll cover them in detail for you.

They also took tape measurements of their arm, chest, stomach, butt, and thigh. I also encouraged them to take a couple of pictures wearing shorts and sports bra (gals). Sometimes it’s hard to see the changes when you’re losing weight, and a couple front and side view pictures every month will help keep you motivated.

After the preliminary measures and an introduction, it was time for the physical testing. Everyone did a 1-minute pushup test, a 1-minute sit-up test, a 1-minute body squat test, and then finished with a 1-mile walk/run as fast as they could. At the end of the 12 weeks, we’ll do them again, and they’ll be astonished how much they’ll have improved.

Their goal this week was to fill out and return a daily calorie log next Monday night, and to get their workouts going. They’re supposed to hit the weight circuit three days (M, W, F), and do a cardio workout on the alternating days (T, TH, SA).

They were also given a new secret weapon—a second workout each day! As simple as just getting out and walking a mile first thing in the morning, this second workout will really make a difference in their calorie burning.
Next week we’ll have the results from Week One. It’s not too late for you to participate either, but you’ve got to let me know right away! Feel free to contact me on Facebook at Tom’s Fitness.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My Weight Loss Story

It’s been awhile since I’ve written “Bodies-in-Balance. Last spring, I took some time off to recharge because I kind of felt like I’d been running out of things to say. I also wanted the time to take care of a couple of other things, one of which was quite a surprise.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time helping others lose weight and get in shape, and I’ve always been pretty active myself. Somehow, I took my eye off the ball personally.

I’d been kidding myself that I was “bulking up.” My clothing covered it pretty well, and I was still pretty active, but when the shirt came off, my abs had come up missing and I was getting those “handles” on the sides. Kathy tells me she knew that, but she didn’t want to embarrass me. Great.

The final straw came when preparing for the Illini Half-Marathon last spring. It was just harder running those longer distances. In fact, I was surprised at how much harder it had gotten. I went back and checked my records from a couple years ago, and it turns out that I was carrying an extra 25 lbs of fat. No wonder it was harder!

After the race, I decided to do something about it. I was supposed to be the “fitness guy” with all the answers, so this should be easy, right? It wasn’t—at least at the start. I decided right away to get some extra workouts going (I call these “bonus” workouts).

For me, my “bonus” workout was the exercise bike at night for an hour, watching the news shows I’d recorded, or a morning walk for 2 or even 3 miles. Sometimes I did both. I also turned it up in the gym with more intensity, more variety, and longer workouts.

On the weekend, I’d ride the bike for 2 hours, or go and do a 3-4 mi run followed by an hour on the bike. Sometimes I even got in a third workout, if I had a chance. That fat just doesn’t come off by itself—you’ve got to burn it off!

The other big thing I changed was watching my portions, and getting off the cookies and chips. It was amazing how much I’d been overeating. I started eating sandwiches on 1 piece of bread, instead of two. I also started eating more rye bread.

I cut down to a low fat yogurt, and cut my ice tea consumption way back too. Occasionally, I’d have a treat like a donut, or chips, but basically, I watched it pretty closely for 3 months.

Little by little, it started coming off—at first, just a half pound a week. Then it went to two pounds, three pounds, and a couple times, even four pounds a week.

Before the race, my weight was 194.4 lbs and 17.0% fat. By the end of July, I was down to 174.2 lbs and 12.0%. At last look, I was 169.2 lbs and 9.9% fat. Man, I feel better. It’s so much easier to move and I found my abs too.

Going through this experience myself made me realize we needed to bring back the Biggest Loser program so we can help others get back on track, too. As a result, “Biggest Loser 14” starts Monday, September 19th. We’ll meet from 6-7 pm for 12 weeks (13 sessions).

This is the first time for Monday nights. Hopefully, it will give people a chance to get their week off to a great start. Participants don’t have to be members, but they probably should have a fitness membership somewhere, or at the least, access to equipment at home.

Feel free to email me with questions at . I’m looking forward to getting back in the saddle with “Biggest Loser 14” and with the article too!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Last week I told you about Dad’s adventure that ended with him getting a pacemaker. This week I’d like to talk about the rehab involved. As a healthy, fit 87 year old, the pacemaker basically solved the problem.

Even as they wheeled him back to his room, his heart was beating a steady, unchanging 60 beats per minute. Even though that might be pretty low for most folks, I can’t remember the time his heart rate was that high.

Pacemaker recipients have to be pretty careful of their arm for awhile. Since they put it on the left side, Dad had to wear a sling to keep his left arm immobilized for 48 hours.

The reason is there are little leads running from the pacemaker to his heart, and they want to be sure that the leads have time to become fully attached. If he should lift his arms over his head, or forcefully contract his chest muscles, the leads could be pulled out which would cause quite a problem.

Since he needs the pacemaker to generate a decent heart rate, it could cause the same problem he had before (extremely low heart rate) that resulted in him blacking out when his heart stopped. Obviously, he’d have to be rushed back into surgery if that happened.

Those were compelling enough reasons to cause Dad to agree to take it easy for awhile. He can’t lift weights for 6 weeks to be on the safe side. He was allowed to start walking right away, but it was about 3 days before he really did any walking of substance.

Since Dad needed 24 hour care, he checked into a nursing home for a week or so to be sure he’d have help around. The first few days he needed help getting his shirts on, which was kind of tricky. By the end of the week, though, he was doing it on his own.

He also didn’t need any support while getting up and moving around, although he still needed some help getting cleaned up. The area around the pacemaker can’t get wet for awhile, so right now, sponge baths are in order.

At 7 days, he was feeling pretty good, but was complaining about a little dizziness when he got up out of bed, or out of a chair. They pulled him off his high blood pressure medication, thinking that now he didn’t need it. They were probably right, because the problem seemed to go away.

He’ll have his first visit with his cardiologist since being discharged from the hospital, later this week, and probably move back home after that. At that point, we’ll check on him from time to time, but all indications are that this heart will allow him to return to a pretty normal lifestyle. He’s amazed.

He told us when he was a teenager, he’d gotten burned and spent time in the hospital. “It was $15/day and no way could they do what they did.” He figures they saved his life and now, he gets to “keep on ticking.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I was planning on writing this article over the weekend like I usually do, but something came up. Actually it went down. We got the call from the E.R. nurse at Paris Community Hospital Friday night around 11:00 pm. They said that Dad had passed out and hit the floor at Wal-Mart and now he was out at the E.R.

He’d hit his head, which produced a healthy bump that required 2 staples, so they were doing a CAT scan to make sure there wasn’t any internal bleeding. The real worry though, was the fact that he blacked out, which caused the fall.

Now Dad’s heart rate is exceptionally low, especially for an 87 year old. But that night, it hit a new low. I watched the monitor hover around 45-46 beats per minute, and once it dipped as low as 43 bpm! They kept him overnight for observation and after further testing, transferred him over to Union Hospital in Terre Haute so he could be seen by a cardiologist.

This wasn’t the first time he’d fallen. About three months ago, he fell out of his kitchen chair, cracking three ribs and bruising the side of his head. After getting checked out at the doctor, since everything was O.K., everyone concluded that he’d just fallen asleep.

This had actually happened before, about 14 months ago (without the broken ribs and black eye). Dad takes naps in the chair with his feet up, and everyone figured he’d just fallen out of the chair.

So when it happened again, after making sure he was O.K., we tried to address the problem by having him keep his feet down. We also got a different kitchen chair that had sides for the arms, thinking it would be more secure.

Then in church about 6 weeks ago, he kind of slumped and listed sideways in the pews. Since he’d often take little naps, it didn’t seem that unusual. A nurse was behind us, and he was alert right away so we all concluded that again, he’d simply fallen asleep.

Looking back, we should have taken him in to be checked out then. He’d been treated for lower leg swelling 2 years ago, and his cardiologist put him on a water pill to help reduce the swelling. At the time, they noticed that his resting heart rate was really low and said that if it got any lower, it could be dangerous, and he’d have to be treated for it.

Somehow, all of us missed it—even the health care professionals. But this time, everyone realized that it had gotten serious.

Once he got over to Union, he had several more episodes that night. When his heart stopped again for 6 seconds (and he passed out), they were watching. Then it happened again for 11 seconds.

The final time it happened that night, he was out for 19 seconds without a heart beat. Of course they were monitoring everything and ready to step in if he needed help, but the evidence was conclusive—he needed a pacemaker.

The next morning, he was scheduled to be third in line for surgery, but after those episodes, the cardiologist moved him to the front of the line. In just over an hour and a half, he was out of surgery with a strong heartbeat locked in at 60 bpm!

Dad was a little tired, but feeling pretty good, and in amazing spirits. His doctor said that this should fix the problem. He had a strong heart—it just needed a little help initiating the cycle.

We were grateful for all the great help he had out at Wal-Mart with Edgar County Special Service Ambulance, at Paris Community Hospital and then over at Union Hospital. We were also thankful to God for looking out for him.

For six weeks, he’ll have to be pretty careful moving the arm, so the tiny electric leads have time to become permanently attached to his heart. But in a week, he’ll be able to start walking and riding the exercise bicycle again.

Dad was pretty disappointed when he found out he had to put his weight training on hold for six weeks. We figure we’re going to have to strap him down for the duration. He’s got a lot of heart!

Monday, February 07, 2011


Since Monday was the January 31st, I thought perhaps we could squeeze one more article out of this series before we can’t call it a new year anymore. Technically, we were still in January so it works for me.

Anyway, we’ve talked about how to start the year off right by setting goals, finding things that work for you, and doing things you like. All of these things will help you get what you really want: lasting results.

This is probably even more important than the initial changes themselves. Here’s why. I’ll bet you’ve heard of the yo-yo syndrome. This is where people take the weight off, and then put it right back on.

Going back in forth with your weight is extremely common. Most of us have probably experienced it ourselves. I see it all the time here at the center, and even have to deal with it myself.

What happens is that we get focused so strongly to achieve the goal, that once we get there, we relax just a little bit and maybe even celebrate it. We’ve arrived. It doesn’t even take a big let-down, just a little lowering of our vigilance, and before we know it, we’re sitting there in a cloud of dust, wondering what happened.

Somehow, we tend to think that it won’t happen to us. But it does, and it will. It’s even biblical. There’s a verse I used to quote to friends when they’d say they had it all together. “They that think they stand, beware, lest they fall.”

I wasn’t trying to be a wise guy or high and mighty—I just knew what the verse said, and thought it made sense—for them. That was all well and good until I looked around and found myself in my own cloud of dust, just 7 days from divorce.

What happened is that I’d gotten a little bit too cocky. I guess I thought that it wouldn’t happen to me. But it did. So now I quote the verse to myself.

Once you’ve fallen, you have a decision to make. You can surrender or get back up and start walking again. Sometimes getting knocked around a little bit actually makes you wiser.

Perhaps you can identify why you fell. What things contributed to your fall? What were you thinking? Why did you make those decisions?

Once you’ve figured it out, you can start to put your life back together. You can also use this information to help you keep from doing the same things again that got you there.

For people trying to take off those same 10-20 pounds again, it’s both hard and easy. It’s hard because you have to start over, but it’s easy because you know what to do.

Actually, it applies to people trying to take off the same 50 pounds, or even 100 lbs. I’ve seen people put that much back on again.

What we have to do is maintain our discipline and our vigilance. We need to do the things we know we’re supposed to do—and not do the things we know we’re not supposed to do.

Have reasons why it’s important to you. Stay watchful, especially when you know what your weaknesses were that led to your fall. Christian marriage counselors say we need to build a hedge around things to protect them.

If it’s a marriage you need to protect, you need to build a hedge around yourself to protect you from doing something stupid. Don’t let people in that shouldn’t be there. Don’t have conversations that lead to emotional attachments with somebody else. It’s a slippery slope, and a quick fall.

If it’s your diet that’s at risk, maybe you need to build a hedge around your mouth—or your pantry. Don’t bring things home you know you shouldn’t eat. Don’t stop at places where it’s easy to mess up. Once you’ve started down that path it’s easy to keep indulging. Take smaller portions. Have other, more healthy choices available.

Some people have told me it’s laziness that keeps them from getting the exercise they need. Maybe they need to build a hedge around their time or schedule. Or arrange workouts with others to help keep them interested. Or get stuff they can do at home if it makes it more convenient.

You see, it’s not just reaching the goal and arriving, it’s staying there that really matters. It’s where we are next year that counts, the year after—and the year after that. That’s lasting change.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Not everybody loves working out. It’s tough for me to understand, because it’s fun for me—maybe even more than fun. I guess it stems from me not being able to workout as a kid.

Back then, my asthma was so bad, just about anything at all triggered attacks. They didn’t have much in the way of medicine back then, so the doctors were very cautious. Basically, I couldn’t do anything.

A couple years ago, I had a chance to go back to Angola and do a concert at the same church I grew up in. Afterward, they had a little get-together and I had a chance to meet many of the people that came to the event.

Amazingly, I met my old 3rd grade teacher, kindergarten teacher, and of all things—my grade school P.E. teacher! Here it was, 40 years later, and they were telling stories about me.

It really touched me when my P.E. teacher told me she’d really felt badly for me. The principal had called her in and told her not to let me participate, because the doctors said that if I’d had an attack, it could have been really bad, even fatal.

As it was, I had attacks all the time and just had to tough it out. Back then they didn’t have rescue breathers (inhalers). So I spent grade school P.E. sitting on the sidelines. The other kids thought I had a good deal, but they didn’t realize that I’d of given anything to get in there.

My parents steered me toward music lessons, and I filled up my time that way, but even into high school, I always wished I could be more physical. Once I got to college, I started working out and training in martial arts.

Asthma treatment also improved, but I still had quite a few hospital stays in my early 20’s. Still, I was getting in shape, and ended up getting my master’s degree in exercise physiology.

About seven years ago, they finally came up with medicines that prevented attacks and I didn’t need to carry inhalers anymore. So I love working out. It’s not hard for me to get to the gym. Even if I didn’t have a gym, I’d go find one.

But when I run into people that are here, but really don’t want to be, I feel for them. It can be hard work, working out—especially if you need to lose a significant amount of weight. My best advice is to try and find things that they like to do.

For example, I was just talking with a woman who didn’t like the cardio so much, but really liked doing the machines. She said, “I could do those every day.” So I suggested that perhaps she try splitting up the routines.

Typically, people will do the whole circuit three times a week. You need at least 48 hours to repair your muscles after your workouts. More intense workouts can even require as much as a week before the muscles are fully recovered.

But what she could do is do a little bit of cardio, and then split the machines up into Upper Body movements and Lower Body movements, doing those on alternating days. That way she’d have time to recover in between.

Or, she could split it up three ways: Pushing movements (Chest, Shoulders, Triceps), Pulling movements (Back, Biceps), and Lower Body movements. Then, she could do them on alternating days with a day off after two cycles through.

If you don’t like the weights so much but don’t mind the cardio (walking, jogging, elliptical, bikes, etc…), focus more on the cardio machines. Just make sure you hit a few upper body exercises to keep your arms and shoulders toned.

Some people like classes like Zumba, Step, or Kickboxing. That’s great. Whatever you like, you’ll be more likely to do it—and keep doing it. It’s the doing it that takes the weight off, but it’s the keep doing it that keeps the weight off.

Me, I’m pretty grateful and thank God everyday. I love working out and have a job that lets me do it. In fact, I’ve got to run—it’s time for my workout. I mean, I really have to run—on the treadmill. There’s one open now. See you next week.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Have you seen those ads with those new devices that you hold and shake, that are supposed to take the place of all those machines and exercises that you’d do in the gym. Do they work? Well, it depends. Let’s take a look at it.

Of course the model demonstrating the device in the ad is absolutely ripped, and having a great time using it. But do you think they got that way with that particular device? Most likely it was lots of hard work doing all the traditional things in the gym.

But there is actually some science behind those things. When we started sending people into space, they discovered that they came back with smaller, weaker muscles.

Subsequent research revealed it was prolonged exposure to zero gravity that caused the problem. In space, they didn’t have to work as much to maintain posture, or move around, so, their muscles started getting weaker.

When the astronauts got back to earth, they were subject to gravity again, but they had to work to build their muscles back up again. Basically, it’s the same old thing: “Use it or lose it.”

They started experimenting with ways to let the astronauts exercise in space. One thing they did was create machines that actually shook the astronauts. The vigorous shaking forced the muscles to respond to counter the movements, and so they received exercise.

This concept has worked its way into commercial gym equipment research with a vibrating platform that you stand on while doing exercises like squats. The tiny vibrations make the body unstable during the movement which initiates more muscle work to help stabilize the body. That equipment is pretty pricey and places that have it are pretty rare.

So now we can order those devices on T.V. that you hold and shake. They’re much smaller, and much less expensive, but the science behind it is similar. Basically, you’re contracting the muscles on again, and off again, a whole bunch of times to resist and reverse the movements.

So yes, the muscles are getting loaded up, and that means they’re getting exercise. But are you getting as much exercise as you would with traditional equipment and exercises? Let’s go back to the people demonstrating. Did they get that way using that thing? Probably not.

What’s at the core of this latest gimmick is the idea: “You can get results easier if you’ll just buy this product!” This is the reoccurring theme of all of these ads. If you’ll just buy this one thing, you’ll look just like this, without all that nasty hard work.

As a trainer who’s tried just about everything that’s out there, I’ve learned that almost anything will work if you work hard enough, and do it with some consistency. But nothing works as fast as most people want it to. And it’s always inconvenient and messy.

If you’re not sweating and breathing hard, it’s probably not going to be enough to get you what you want. But if it makes you sweat, breath hard, and you feel like you just got a great workout, you’re probably on your way.

If you want real results this year, here’s an idea. Make a commitment to stick. Be consistent in your efforts. Don’t make excuses—make yourself accountable. And just get started. That’s the ticket. That’s what works.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Last week’s column was about taking a look at how things went in 2010 and setting some new fitness goals for this year. This week I want to take a closer look at those new goals.

Hopefully, you had a chance to write a few things down. Remember, things that get written down are much more likely to get done. You can further increase your chances of success by having what we call S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S. is for Specific. These are goals where you know exactly what you want to do. For example, you want to lose 50 lbs. That’s pretty specific. Write it down.

M. is for Motivating. This means you’ll be excited or happy when you achieve them. How would you feel if you lost 50 lbs? You’d be looking pretty good, right? That’s pretty motivating. You can also be motivated by how you’ll continue to feel if you don’t do something about it.

A. is for Achievable. An achievable goal is one that you can actually accomplish. If you want to lose 50 lbs in one month, it’s probably not very realistic for you. Losing 1-2 lbs a week is probably more achievable. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), weight loss of 1-2 lbs a week is both achievable and safe.

R. is for Relevant. The goal has to really mean something or be important to you. If it’s not very important, you’re not likely to keep working toward it. If it’s crucial to you, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it done. Ask yourself why you want to lose the 50 lbs. What will it mean to you? Why now?

T. is for Trackable. This is pretty important, because you need to track and measure your progress as you work toward achieving your goal. Getting on the scale once a week is just about right. More than that will drive you crazy with all the little ups and downs that occur. Weighing once a week will show you the trend—and that’s what’s important. It will let you know if you’re right on track, or if your train has jumped the track.

Once you have your S.M.A.R.T. goals, the main thing is to get moving. We can be more specific about how to exercise, but you just need to get moving. The other thing is to start watching what you eat. Knock out the junk. Write down your calories for awhile until you’re sure you’re eating right.

There are several good websites out there that will help you do that. A friend of mine just told me about a new phone application that will even let you track your calories on your smart phone! Go to and give it a look. Or go to or .

So go set some S.M.A.R.T. goals already. Good luck getting started and I’ll see you in the gym!

Friday, January 07, 2011


Hard to believe, but another whole year has come and gone. It’s time to take stock of how things went for you in 2010 and start planning for 2011.

Even though the focus of this article is usually health and fitness, the same process can apply with other areas, like personal relationships, personal finance, or your work & business. Just follow the same steps.

So let’s talk about your health and fitness. You’ve got to assess the situation. How did you do this past year? How did you feel? What has your doctor said about your health? How are your clothes fitting? The first step to fixing something is to see that something needs to be fixed.

If things went great, and you’re right on track, great! Give yourself a pat on the back. And keep on doing it. If they went the wrong direction, that’s O.K. You can’t change the past—you can only change yourself and try to do better next time.

Once you realize you need to do something about it, it’s time to set some goals for yourself? It’s much more likely you’ll get something done if you write it down, tell people about it, and review your progress from time to time.

That’s why it’s useful to have a “to do list” or goal sheet. It’s a master list of things that are important enough for you to put lots of effort into it. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and not too detailed. Some people carry it in their phone or day planners. Others put it on their refrigerator or the mirror in the bathroom.

Once you have the goals, how are you going to accomplish them? You need a plan of attack. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. If someone’s doing something that’s working, figure out what they’re doing, and do it too.

If you want to be successful at something, it helps to hang around with successful people. Hopefully, some of that success will rub off on you! If nothing else, you’ll be inspired!

After you have a plan, you’ve got to just get started. That’s often the hardest thing to do. It’s easy to keep putting it off. Things will always come up to interfere with your plans.

Getting started might mean calling about information at the YMCA, Curves, or here at Tom’s. It could mean making an appointment to check things out. It’s hard to sign up for something if you can’t even get your butt in the door.

Go with a friend to one of those classes they keep talking about. Or look in the paper for a used treadmill to put in your new fitness room! Or go online and order an exercise ball, some dumbbells and a workout DVD. Start out with trying to walk a mile every day. Then adding some weight machines two or three times a week.

Probably the most important thing is to schedule your training times. Don’t leave it up to chance because things will always come up to frustrate you. Pick a time and stick to it. If you can develop a regular routine, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

Take some measurements of your arm, chest, waist, hips and thigh. Get your current weight and body fat. You might even take a picture in something skimpy. Put that on your bathroom mirror—it might give you lots of motivation. In 12 weeks do it again. I’ll bet you’ll be pretty excited. Good luck, and have a great New Year and a New You!