LIES, LIES, LIES….No Pain, No Gain

It is the BIGGEST LIE on the PLANET

As a coach, instructor and trainer, I cringe each time I hear this phrase.  Sure, it is supposed to be motivational in nature in a feeble attempt to get the short-changing types to push the limits outside of their comfort zone.  HOWEVER, the competitive, the insecure, the one-uppers, the weak, the weak-minded, the deconditioned and everyone else in between HEARS this and feels compelled to PUSH themselves through the pain, only creating the HIGH PROBABILITY for injury and possibly long-term debility.

What is PAIN?

Pain is your body telling you that something is in need of repair.  PERIOD.

Notice, I didn’t say pain is something horribly wrong and you will die in the next 10 seconds nor did I say pain means stop what you are doing altogether.  I simply said PAIN is your body telling you something is not right.  You may need to stop what you are doing or simply modify what you are doing. You may even need to get something checked out by a medical physician.

For example, if I trip and fall and experience extreme nauseating pain in my forearm, do I tell myself “NO PAIN, NO GAIN…buck it up, buttercup”?  There are some, I’m really sorry but IDIOTS, who would proclaim this mantra.  Usually, it is the male-centric personality purporting this methodology.  Me, I would be thinking “sprain? strain? break?” and would likely contact a medical facility immediately.

On the other hand, performing an exercise that leaves you in PAIN doesn’t necessarily mean that particular exercise isn’t for you.  You may have worked an entirely NEW muscle group or your body may not be READY for that which you are doing.  You may be working through the limitations of scar tissue or you may be overexerting your joints.

Sharp intense pain, like “OUCH THAT HURTS”, is very different from “WHOA THIS IS REALLY DIFFICULT AND BURNS”.  Pain a few days after a workout may indicate a significant level of lactic acid in the muscles, thereby limiting one’s ability to move normally.  Debilitating pain a few days after a certain workout or particular exercise that prevents you from getting out of bed and creates that nauseating painful cryogenic – like sensation (anyone who has ever had a herniated or ruptured disc in their spine knows what I’m talking about) is something altogether DIFFERENT and denotes the high probability of an injury.

Pain doesn’t result in gains.

So many variables contribute to what brings you the pain, but it is all pointing to small injuries or greater injuries often preceded by the big bad inflammation monster.

INFLAMMATION is the predecessor, or beginning, to all pain.  Inflammation is the process that begins when damage occurs.

Inflammation can occur when new muscles are worked or overworked.  Inflammation can occur when you cut your finger.  Inflammation can occur when you have an infection.  Inflammation is often the unknown variable that occurs prior to that feeling of “my knees hurt”, which if left unattended to, eventually leads to serious injury, pain and possibly surgery.

I just want to get it out there….I am a STRONG ADVOCATE (barring medical emergency) that the LEAST INVASIVE measure possible produce the best long-term results.  As an orthotist and working in physical therapy, I cannot count the number of individuals who have opted for premature surgery only to find they were worse off 1, 2 and even 10 years later!

MOST people think of inflammation as red, swollen, angry, hot and painful, however, this is far from the case in that inflammation can be unseen and internal.

There are in reality, two types of inflammation:  acute and chronic

ACUTE inflammation is a normal and necessary response to injury.

CHRONIC inflammation is a long-term condition that is associated with SERIOUS ILLNESS AND DISEASE such as CANCER, HEART DISEASE, OBESITY, DIABETES and ARTHRITIS.  Think of Alzheimer’s disease and the fact it begins with inflammation of the brain.

If you get rid of inflammation, you get rid of PAIN.  Why?

Because inflammation is triggered by a hormone-like substance and inflammation stays because of an inflammatory enzyme in the body.  To control either of these actually controls inflammation, therefore controlling things like CANCER, HEART DISEASE, OBESITY, DIABETES, ARTHRITIS and even ALZHEIMERS/DEMENTIA.

There are chemically derived drugs that help with inflammation, however they have side effects, especially with LONG-TERM USAGE.  An example would be asprin, which has PROVED to have lower incidents of CANCER in those who take it long term.  The negative to this long term use is the potential for stomach ulcers and leaking blood vessels, possibly leading to death.  Over 40,000 people die EACH YEAR for overuse of asprin type medications and anti-inflammatory drugs such as Naproxin and Motrin.

Many studies have found the combination of Curcumin, AKBA (a specific type of boswellic acid), DLPA (also known as dl-phenylalanine…NOT phenylalanine which is found in chemically processed sweeteners and breaks down to a toxic substance) and Nattokinase create an almost IMMEDIATE inflammation and pain relief action and have none of the side effects common drugs have.

Many people in the health world have heard of curcumin, a highly valuable part of the naturally potent anti-inflammatory/pain reliever.  Curcumin is found in TUMERIC ROOT, but the root is comprised of only around 5% or less of the good stuff so you would have to consume a HUGE amount of root powder to get a beneficial amount and even then you would not reap the benefits because it isn’t HOW MUCH YOU TAKE of something, it is HOW MUCH IS ACTUALLY ABSORBED!

The combination of these four natural ingredients, curcumin, AKBA, DLPA and nattokinase, is not only purported to relieve inflammation, but it activates the “FEEL GOOD” brain chemicals such as dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine, it PREVENTS the breakdown of one of the essential pain killer substances in the brain, it serves as a transport to carry the anti-inflammation substances to their NEEDED area (specific joint, muscle, etc.) and reduces fibrinogen, which causes that STIFF MUSCLE FEELING upon waking and standing, that over time, damages muscle and joints.

No PAIN, No GAIN is a horrible lie so many have been conditioned to believe.  We hear coaches tell their secondary education level athletes this lie.  We hear gym coaches perpetuate this lie.  We hear people claiming “man” status if you engage in this lie.

Pain, if not addressed, has the high probability of leading to problems as we age.  I see this every day when I listen to people talk about themselves or their loved ones in terms of how they “USE TO” be active, but due of their knees, back, elbow, etc. they are no longer enjoying a life of activity.  This “USE TO” is most often used hand in hand with justifications as to why they are no longer active, including being on tons of chemical medications, chronic pain and chronic disease and injury.

Age is not an indication of activity.  It simply means we are at higher risk of injury if we do not pay attention to our individualized needs, specifically the inflammation and pain signals our body are sending us.

Don’t perpetuate the lie.  PAIN MEANS NO GAINS and it is our body warning us of not so good things to come.  Listen.


Why Am I Fat?

The question of obesity and the confusion of how we have literally grown as a society is nothing new.

Most of us own an automobile or some small engine equipment.  When these vessels fail to start, the first thing often asked is “does it have gas”?  Gasoline (fuel), oil and regular maintenance is what keeps these things running smoothly and efficiently.  The wrong fuel can damage the engine, forcing us to repair or replace the item.

Your body is NO DIFFERENT.

Fad diets, supplementation and exercise claims are nothing new to this boom in body size and yet the more diets and products on the market, the bigger we get.  Barring any real and diagnosed medical conditions, being overweight is a choice.  It may not be a choice we made yesterday, but it is a much bigger choice we have made through many small choices along the way.  For some, it may even be the consequence of those choices coming to a head.

Some people start as children consuming primary mealtime foods like boxed cereals, white or brown bread, margarine, processed sandwich meats, hamburger helpers, canned soups, frozen foods, crackers, macaroni and cheese, pizza, hamburgers, fries, chips and dip, fish sticks, ranch, ketchup, mayo and chicken nuggets.  These foods are often complimented with sugar laden drinks such as Kool-aide, Gatorade, PowerAde, soda, juice drinks and fruit juice.  Snacks often consist of cookies, donuts, kolaches, croissants and other pastries. Moreover, the only vegetable known to their palate is the canned green bean.

Sound familiar?

Parents pass down their childhood nutrition habits to their own kiddos, and the cycle continues and helps answer the question….why am I fat?

Basically, it is the combinations of foods you eat, the excuses you make and the timing of foods you consume.

What is body fat?

Before we can fully understand WHY I’m fat, we must understand what it is to be fat.  Fat is NOT a number on the scale. It isn’t a BMI (don’t get me started on that overgeneralized fallacy).  Fat is the polar opposite of lean muscle mass and to be honest, SKINNY people with little muscle mass and poor nutrition are termed as being “skinny fat”, which means they carry many of the same dangerous health concerns as those individuals who are “overweight fat”.

It basically means that despite my body weight, the amount of lean muscle mass and skeletal mass compared to fat mass, both inside and out, is seriously out of whack.  Regardless of size, if my nutritional choices are poor and my activity level is low, I am at a high risk for significant health issues that can lead to loss of leg, stroke or even death.

In addition to this lean muscle mass ratio, it is important to note that FAT ON THE BELLY, WAIST, CHEST and ARMS is dangerous.  Fat on the booty and legs, given its not significant and the amount of muscle mass is in a healthy range, is more in line with optimal fat.  In fact, we need a LITTLE fat to keep us balanced and functioning, its just the “where the fat is located” that should give rise to concerns.

Why am I fat?

That is an easy question to answer, although some may attempt to argue with me.  You are fat because of the FOOD COMBINATIONS you consume.

Simple Sugars plus High Fat foods plus low fiber foods equal a very BAD COMBINATION.

This combination of foods not only undermines your optimal health but contribute to obesity and belly/arm fat more than lack of exercise.

Simple sugars:  These are basically ANYTHING, sugar-free or not, made from sugars and processed white or wheat flour, sugar, grains, corn.  Pasta, rolls, tortillas, pastries, cookies, sugar-free cookies, soda (of any kind) candy, jello, syrups, rice, protein bars, milk, fruit juices, corn (popped corn, table corn, corn tortilla, etc), tomatoes, potatoes, sauces that contain sugar or flour, healthy foods that substitute flour or sugar products for fat or sugar, and basically anything that raises your blood sugar rapidly.

High fat:  This can be anything animal based such as eggs, salmon, steak, pork, dark meat poultry, butter, margarine, olive oil, coconut oil, trans fats, ranch, milk, yogurt, bacon, avocado and any other food that has a high fat content.

Low fiber:  Since fiber is part of vegetable, fruit and grains in their WHOLE FRESH state, it is safe to say that any means of processing these three items would yield LOW FIBER.  Fruit juice, white or wheat bread, white potato, processed or boxed cereals and white pasta are some common offenders.  You should be eating more that 25g of fiber EACH DAY, with men working towards a fiber rich diet of 38g or more a day.

Examples of poor combinations:

Steak, baked potato with cheese and bacon and a side salad with ranch dressing and croutons (sugars, high fat and low fiber).

Stir fry rice

Bacon, eggs and toast or roll

Breakfast taco

Bowl of cereal

Chicken Alfredo and breadsticks


Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich

Burger and fries

Popcorn with butter and a soda (anything with a soda)

Fajitas with corn chips, salsa, and flour tortillas

Examples of good combinations:

Grass-fed steak and baked sweet potato plain

Wild rice with egg white and vegetables stir fried

Bowl of whole oatmeal made with water and sweetened with raspberries

Zucchini noodles topped with organic sugar free tomato sauce

Baked chicken salad

Fish tacos with Ezekiel tortillas

Turkey sausage on Portobello mushroom cap

Bunless turkey burger with triple veggies, pineapple, avocado and no cheese

Plain organic popcorn, no butter and unsweet ice tea

Mixed fajitas with double guacamole and pico on top eaten from the sizzling platter

Those are simply a handful of combination examples that can make or break your health and help predispose you to a life of vibrancy or a life of metabolic issues and obesity.

Following food combinations, excuses are the number 2 reason why you are fat.

“I don’t like this” or “I don’t have time” are two very common excuses seen in behavioral patterns of the overweight, whether metabolically fat or outwardly and metabolically fat.  Being picky is really a choice in that your taste buds themselves regenerate every 7-14 days, making the “I don’t like” theory totally impractical.  People are frightened of change and trying new things.  FEAR prevents change and creates excuse.  “I’ll wait until the family reunion is over”, “my wedding is in a few months”, “we are remodeling and don’t have time for healthy eating”, “I don’t have any good recipes or don’t know how to cook”…we would rather stay comfortable in our own skin, no matter HOW MUCH we say we desire change, instead of making adjustments that would enable us to be healthier.

The finale is timing of foods, or better stated what foods we eat when and how often.  Even if you opt for a simple sugar food, timing and frequency of that food is very important.  You don’t want to consume a whole cheese meat lover’s pizza at 10pm, and certainly not on days where you do NO activity.

An occasional indulgence in a grilled cheese sandwich or a breakfast taco is not a deal killer, given that 90% of the rest of your meals are nutritionally and combinationally sound.

Ice-cream is one of the worst foods due to its simple sugar, high fat and zero fiber composition.  However, once a year, a good ice cream cone is not considered potentially dangerous unless of course, you are diabetic or the rests of your nutritional consumption consists of simple sugars, high fats and low fiber.  Another poor food is the peanut butter and jelly or honey sandwich…bet that staple was a shocker.

Furthermore, eating the right combination of foods relative to YOUR ACTIVITY is essential.  On days where you do significantly intense exercise and heavy strength training, you need to indulge in complex starchy carbs and whole fruits before and following your workout to replenish the energy stores you depleted.  High sugar items such as Gatorade or powder mixes should be avoided.  Eat nutritionally sound and whole foods prepared to your tastebuds.

On days you do not exercise or do light exercise such as walking, stick to NO carbs, and eat lean proteins and HEALTHY fats (salmon, avocado, a little olive oil, nuts, etc).  Stay away from fruits and starchy carbs like Ezekiel breads and sweet potatoes.

The bottom line here is to enjoy LOW GLYCEMIC, or COMPLEX CARBS which are foods like oatmeal or Ezekiel bread on intense training days and the vegetable carbs on active recovery or rest days.  All days should consume lean proteins.  If you MUST indulge in simple carbs, do so in the ABSENCE OF FAT (and yes, steak has fat).

Most of all……think before you eat.

No excuses.



One Push Over the Edge…Intensity Training in High Heat Conditions

Its summer and the thermostat is on its way to RED!  While many people are planning beach, river and resort vacations that center around cool waters and relaxation, there are a lot of individuals and groups who are continuing INTENSE EXERCISE in these elevated temperatures.

Working out in extreme temperatures is dangerous for the vast majority of individuals who are exercising.  Moreover, working out at high intensity levels in extreme temps is actually more like a dangerous game of roulette.

So why do we do it?

Akin to the manipulated and skewed theory that eating bacon at every meal will make you “thin and fit”, there are some easily manipulated and erroneously informed mindsets who believe exercising in the heat will make you stronger and perform better.

Both theories possess a very small fraction of validity, but that validity is NOT a one size fits all program.  In fact, the finite structure used to evaluate this validity is almost non-existent in local athletic communities, including gyms, boxes, running/cycling programs and high school sports programs.

What does that mean?  Local coaches, trainers and instructors who encourage MAX EFFORT WORK (the PUSH – for time, to beat someone, to beat the clock, etc…) in EXTREME HOT AND HUMID CONDITIONS are playing a risk game with their mostly average fitness folks.  Period.

The primary question asked, or that should be asked, is “Does working out in extreme conditions improve performance?”.

The answer is mostly NO, with a very tiny esoteric YES.

Preliminary, or initial studies of this long time belief, proved some points that are definitely worth a look.

A study performed and published in 2010 on endurance athletes, testing this theoretical application, revealed that YES, there was a SMALL improvement in endurance in the ELITE TRAINED STUDY PARTICIPANTS.

Now it’s time to crank UP the heat, right?  Well, as we know, most people would read that and say “HELL YEA, I’m gonna breed some competition winning athletes!”


In fact, only ELITE ENDUARNCE athletes, most around 24 years old, with highly trained bodies were used to test the theory.  Control groups are extremely important but this group is a FAR CRY from what you have in your class, your box, your gym, or on your trainee list.

Secondly, these top notch athletes all performed the same activity PRIOR, and therefore were all equally matched.  This is hardly the case in the box or gym setting.

They were split into two groups, a control and a study, with the study group put though an “ACCLIMATION” process with heat being increased slowly over the study period to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  The control group hung tight in a stable air conditioned lab.  Same protocol and same workout with only the temperature of the control group being increased.

At the end of the study, the participants from both groups were put to the test in the same air conditioned lab chilled to 55 degrees.  Those who were heat ACCLIMATED over the course of the study performed an average of 6% better.

When the need to WIN is your LIFE, then this small edge is positive.  However, the VAST MAJORITY of exercisers are NOT competitive athletes and their life’s work does not rest on WINNING the gold, money, prestige or other self-serving reasons.

Give me ALL of your annual earnings and I will hang onto it for a year and give you back a 6% increase.  If you hand me $2,000, I will give you back $2,120!  WOW, you are WEALTHY NOW (sarcasm for the not so bright).  If you handed me $10K, your return would be $600 and guess what?  You were without your money for a YEAR so if you gave me your $45,000 annual salary, I’d give you back an extra $2,700?

That is hardly a return on investment and the risk of losing everything is much greater without an income for a year.

SO WHY the HELL would someone encourage HIGH INTENSITY exercise in EXTREME HEAT on a regular basis?

The bottom line is the lack of understanding and the false belief it makes EVERYONE a better athlete.

When the body completes an INTENSE WORKOUT, regardless of outdoor or indoor temperature, it is subjected to the HIGH risk of OVERHEATING.  This can happen in a 55-degree lab or a 110-degree metal gym.  Intensity is intensity.

When you add hot external temperatures, the fact that most exercisers only do so intermittently….you know the ones who say “sorry, my job….sorry, my family….sorry, I was tired….sorry, I’m in school….sorry, I had to work” and show up once every 2 weeks…, and MOST of your exercisers are NOT in top notch condition (on meds, eat crappy, drink a lot, take steroids….etc), then the risk is even higher.

WHAT happens to the body to cause overheating?

“The most common heat-related symptoms are those associated with both heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and the early symptoms involve such things as goose bumps, tingling sensation in the skin, kind of a dull headache, nausea. Those things really portend one of those two diseases, either heat exhaustion, which is really a disease of dehydration that causes cardiovascular strain, or the more serious heat illness, heatstroke……..eventually in heatstroke, sweating stops in – somewhere around 50 percent of all cases. So we used to teach people in health class that the only people who are suffering heatstroke were those who stopped sweating. That’s not true, and it’s also dangerous because you may have stopped sweating half an hour ago but if it’s still hot, and especially if it’s still humid, the sweat that you produce stays on the skin, and there’s no way of knowing that you’ve stopped sweating.”

Heat fatigue, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are major issues with intense training in intense conditions (anything over 90 degrees).  Heat fatigue is really the body saying OK SUCKER, YOU BETTER LISTEN TO ME.  This is usually expressed through cramps in the body, the legs or even the gut. Heat exhaustion can happen immediately or even a few days after intense heat / training exposure, especially if proper rehydration is not enacted.  Heat stroke is the advanced stage and can cause death.

When your body temps begin to rise, the body adjusts to try and keep cool.  It sends the blood to the skin’s surface and AWAY from the muscles and tissues and organs…. including the HEART.  The HEART must work even HARDER to try and pump necessary blood to the muscles, tissues and organs.  Basically, your heart is under attack.  Now, add to that the fact that you are SWEATING, which is a process of DEHYDRATION.  Dehydration causes even MORE STRAIN on the heart.

I’m CERTAIN no one exercising in the gym is on ANY type of blood pressure medication (again, sarcasm) or other medications/supplements, pre-workouts, caffeine, OTC or prescribed, that have ANY impact on the heart…right? NONE of them are hung over.  NONE of them are out of shape or have an excess of body fat.  NONE of them have any health conditions whatsoever.  NONE of them have unknown heart conditions or blockages.  RIGHT?  WRONG….

A cocktail for disaster for the average or recreational gym-goer.

Yes, drinking plenty of cool liquids, regardless of the kind of liquid (water, tea, electrolyte replacement and even iced lattes) will help cool the body down. However, it is essential to be amply hydrated of body DAYS before intense or heat-laden exercise.  This means you are taking in adequate water for YOUR body on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, cool fluids can only do so much in keeping the internal temps cool.  You are most fortunate that your body will typically begin to TALK to itself before any significant danger, like feeling ill or losing energy.   LISTEN to it!

If you are slamming beers on Sunday at the river and hitting the box on a Monday, working out in high temps and at intense levels, you are playing with your own life!


Headache – if you experience a headache during or at the end of an intense, hot or combined with intense exercise, it is a sign of dehydration or worse, possible heat stroke

Heat cramps – can happen anywhere on your body and mean stop, your body is losing sodium and needs cool water or low sugar electrolyte drink like coconut water.  This is typically the first, often ignored, sign

Dizziness, weakness and nausea – signs that you are overdoing it and need to stop immediately to cool off in the shade and rehydrate

Confusion and disorientation – signs of heat stroke, a medical emergency

Red, hot and dry skin that has stopped sweating – this means DANGER, you have gone too far and may not get back…seek medical attention immediately as this is a medical emergency

Who is at risk?

Most folks over 55 years old, anyone who has high blood pressure, people on medications, people who are not in top physical condition, individuals with HIGH BODY FAT percentages (over 18-20%), those going through heat acclimation training and athletes/recreational exercisers training at intense levels in temperatures above 85 degrees, especially if they are not use to training in the intense heat.  That is MOST of your clientele and most of the exercisers abroad.

Anyone training in high heat, high humidity, dark clothing and in direct sunlight in the heat of the day is at high risk, all other variables held constant.

The bottom line is:  If YOU CHOOSE to train intensely in extreme temperatures, you are playing roulette with your health.  If you are going to train in an intense environment at an intense level, keep in mind that you need to “shorten” your workouts to less than an hour (30 min max) and focus on major muscle groups like legs and glutes, ensure that you are obtaining adequate hydration, vitamin C, B and minerals, don’t push yourself during these times and if you are smart exerciser, train in the early part of the day or the coolest part of the evening when the sun goes down.

Also, remember that indoor temperatures can be 5-15 degrees hotter than what is outside so if its 101 outdoors, you can bank on the indoor temps being 110 minimum!

The bolus of the outdoor exercisers and those who train in facilities without AC in temperatures above 85 degrees are not elite endurance or highly trained athletes and therefore, should not be pushed to run or perform harder or better than they are able to do. Racing for time is probably not optimal.

The body will typically have lower outputs in these conditions, so comparing a morning workout group to a 6pm workout group is really comparing apples to oranges.

Nausea, dizziness, headaches, red faces and even fatigue mean you are past the yellow line and fastly approaching the red.

Meat is considered DONE at 160 degrees Fahrenheit……