What is the best/worst advice a personal trainer has ever given you?

I need your help, dear readers.

This semester I am teaching a course on Exercise Testing and Prescription for undergraduate Kinesiology students. At the end of the course students will be eligible to challenge a national exam to become CSEP Certified Personal Trainers (the professional designation for personal trainers in Canada), and I’m trying to make the course as useful as possible for students who choose to go that route.

This is where you come in. I’ve heard lots of horror stories in the past from people who have received absolutely terrible advice from their personal trainers.  And I’ve also heard stories of people who absolutely love their personal trainers, and have seen great benefits as a result of their training.

In class we’ll be talking a lot about ideal ways of working with clients, but I’d really like to bring in some stories from the client perspective.  If you have had a personal trainer, did you find it to be a positive experience?  Why/why not?

Did they give you excellent advice?  Did they consistently fail to provide you with an actual training plan?  What made you want to leave/stay with your trainer for a long time? I would love to hear all of your thoughts in the comments section below, or via email (saunders dot travis at gmail).

Please leave out names of the trainers/gyms, and you can even omit your own name if you choose to do so (the comment box requires a name and email address, but they need not be real ones).  Any thoughts on what your trainer did to make working out a good/bad experience would be extremely useful to both me and my students.

Thanks!

Travis

 

Category: Miscellaneous | Tagged , | 10 Comments

3 Awesome Science/Health Books To Read This Holiday Season

I know that I’m a little late to the game on the whole “gift guide” this year.  Last week I covered what *not* to buy your kids (a screen-based device), earlier this week I covered how to stay active with a baby (a Chariot stroller), and today I thought I’d give some suggestions on the best science and/or health books that I’ve read in the past year (in no particular order).

1. The Sports Gene

The Sports Gene

Written by David Epstein of Sports Illustrated, this book covers all of the many factors that contribute to elite athletic performance.  It covers training (Epstein takes a *lot* of swipes at Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that it takes 10 000 hours of training to become an elite performer), physiology, genetics, ethinicity, sex, you name it.

The book is absolutely riveting.  I normally don’t get all that excited about books on physiology since I spend my days immersed in it, but this book was amazing (the book was lent to me by my colleague Dany MacDonald, and at first I was a bit skeptical, but it was every bit as good as he promised).  Incredibly readable, covering the science but in a way that is very approachable for non-experts, and absolutely fascinating from start to finish.  It was good enough that I assigned one of the chapters to my undergraduate physiology students, and it led to a much better discussion than anything from the textbook.

Perfect for: Anyone interested in the science of sport performance.

2. What makes Olga run?

What makes Olga run?

This book takes a more focused approach, with author Bruce Grierson following 91 year old track sensation Olga Kotelko, recounting her accomplishments and examining the underlying science of aging and sport performance.  This book has less hard science than The Sports Gene, but is no less compelling as it follows how impressive Olga is compared to her peers, and how she almost appeared to improve with age (sadly, Olga passed away earlier this year).

Perfect for: Anyone interested in active, healthy aging.

3. The Diet Fix

The Diet Fix

The Diet Fix was written by the physician and blogger Yoni Freedhoff (disclosure: I consider Yoni a friend, and received a demo copy of the book).  The book explains why “dieting” doesn’t actually work (as many people already know through personal experience), then provides a number of simple techniques to help improve the quality of any diet (keeping a food diary, making sure you include protein and other filling foods in all your meals and snacks, etc).  It also includes a number of simple, healthy recipes (if you’ve read Yoni’s blog, you know that he’s a big proponent of home cooking).

It’s a common sense book for a field (e.g. diet books) that often lacks any kind of sense whatsoever.  I’ve personally recommended Yoni and his book to a number of friends and family, and will continue to do so.  My only critique is that he left screen time until the last two pages of the book (I guess the topic was so important that he had to save it until the very end!).

Perfect for: Anyone looking to have a healthier diet, and especially those people who are easily taken with fad diets.

 

Category: News | 4 Comments

The demise of Dr. Oz

dr ozWe first came across Dr. Oz back in 2009 when he was on Oprah peddling the weight loss benefits of infrared saunas.

As Travis pointed out, infrared saunas are not a miracle cure for obesity. Nor can they “liquefy fat cells.”

Over the years, Oz has enthusiastically promoted countless “miracles in a bottle” to his loyal viewership, offering new weight-loss potions on a weekly basis. At one time or another green tea extract, raspberry ketones, and garcinia cambogia were all touted as the next panacea for obesity. Meanwhile, those in the medical profession, researchers, and skeptics shook their head in disappointment.

When I was on a tour of the NBC building back in 2011, I was taken to the studio of his show, and was surprised to be the only one in my group of visitors who was NOT an Oz fan (I came for the SNL studio tour, obviously). I had asked the NBC guide about the legal ramifications of a TV doctor promoting health interventions based on folklore rather than scientific evidence. Before the guide had a chance to respond with rehearsed Oz propaganda, a couple of fellow visitors jumped at me with their eyes wild and mouths foaming, yelling out non-sequiturs about  Big Pharma suppressing natural treatments, Oz being a saint, toxins in food, etc.

From this point forward, Oz’s cult-like following continued to grow, as did the ridiculousness of his claims.
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Category: News, Obesity Research, Peer Reviewed Research | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Chariot jogging/cycling/skiing stroller is what every parent needs to stay active

The Chariot stroller in its many forms. (Source)

A few months ago my wife gave birth to our first baby.  It’s been a steep learning curve.  As expected, getting much physical activity has been tough at times.

However, the single most helpful tool we’ve had has been our Chariot jogging stroller (disclosure: this fawning review is completely unsolicited).  It can be used as a jogging stroller, a bike trailer, and the wheels can even be swapped out for skis if you want to take it snowshoeing or skiing.

My wife pulling the Chariot on cross country skis.

My wife pulling the Chariot on cross country skis.

See the video below for a quick overview of the Chariot (this is the two-seater version, although I personally have the 1 seater, which is considerably more narrow, which makes it more useful as an actual stroller).
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Category: Miscellaneous, Products | Tagged | 2 Comments

Dear Parents/Grandparents: Your Toddler Does Not Need a Screen for Christmas

The end of civilization as we know it. (The iPotty. Source)

Christmas is upon us.  If you are a parent/grandparent/relative, you are likely scrambling for that last minute item that your child will love.  One thing I urge you to avoid: screens, and toys that incorporate screens.  Your toddler does not need a huggable iphone case, or a learning tablet, or (does this need to be said?!) an iPotty.

The Woogie (Source)

The research is absolutely clear: the more time that kids spend in front of screens, the worse their physical and mental health (a full review of the evidence is available here, and concluded that excess screen time was associated with excess body fat, reduced fitness, worse grades, and worse behaviour).
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Category: News | 3 Comments

3 tricks for preventing holiday weight gain

holiday dinnerAlthough only 1 in 10 individuals will gain 5 lbs or more during the holidays, most of us will put on some weight that tends to stay with us during the course of the following year. Thus, to help you avoid becoming that 1 in 10 who puts on more weight than average during the next couple of weeks, here’s a list of 3 easy tricks to curb overindulging.

1. Drink 1-2 glasses of water prior to all big meals
A study published online in the journal Obesity randomized overweight/obese older men and women to either a hypocaloric diet alone or a hypocaloric diet plus increased water consumption for a duration of 12 weeks. The hypocaloric diet consisted of 1200 calories for the women and 1500 calories for the men. Those in the diet + increased water group were required to consume 500 ml of water (2 cups) 30 minutes prior to each of the 3 large daily meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner).

While participants in both groups lost a significant amount of weight (5-8kg) in response to the diet, those who also consumed more water before their meals lost an additional 2 kg in comparison to the diet only group.

The greater weight loss in the group consuming pre-meal water was likely the result of smaller caloric intake during each meal (~40 calories less per meal).

Drinking more water will also have the added bonus of forcing you to take bathroom breaks, thereby increasing your level of physical activity.
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Category: News | 7 Comments