What to do When Cardio is Difficult

In the last few days a few of my clients have managed to do things like rolling an ankle walking down the street. Yes bad things do happen to good people. But what to do about it when you have injured toes, ankles, knees, hips or IT bands?

Here I will outline 4 strategies so you can keep going with your cardio workouts and work through your injuries. The first thing you need to do is determine how severe your injury is.

Strategy 1: Walking – no incline – no equipment available
For those of you with aches in your joints, pulled muscles, and the like, you know that going for a run would probably not be a good idea, even if the pain goes away as you warm up.

Walk for 10 to 30 min based on how you feel before the workout, not during. It can be very difficult to actually listen to your body, but it is important to do so if you are going to be able to manage the inevitable injuries you will encounter during a long healthy life.

Start with a very short stride and gradually lengthen the stride over a couple of min to your normal longer brisk walking stride, but keep it at a casual walk pace.

Strategy 2: Shadow Boxing – Joint / Muscle really hurts – no equipment

Sometimes all you can do is stand up, your body is telling you that even walking would be a bad idea. So shadow boxing can be a great alternative. With shadow boxing you can move your legs as much as as little as you think you should based on your injury.

Start by throwing light short range punches and gradually increase the intensity of the punches and their length. It’s helpful to imagine a man about your height standing in front of you. Some punches to the head, some to the body. Mix it up, have fun.

A simple combo that I use all the time with my clients is to throw two jabs left hand followed by a power punch from the right hand for 30 sec and then switch hands and throw the jabs from the right hand for another 30 sec followed by a 30 sec break. This is called interval training. Get twice the benefit over normal cardio with half the time. Depending on your level of conditioning, you can do 10 to 20 rounds of the 60 sec punching and 30 sec break protocol.

Stance is with one foot forward, one foot back so you are standing with your body at an angle to your “opponent.” The jab is a lighter punch thrown from the side of the body that has the foot forward. The power punch is a much harder thrown punch thrown from the side of the body that has the foot back. My clients tell me theses boxing interval style cardio sessions are a lot of fun!

Strategy 3: Interval training with Kettlebells

Swinging a kettlebell has a much shorter range of motion for your legs than going for a run, yet more than you would need for shadow boxing, so again listen to your body when selecting an exercise for your cardio movement.

A kettlebell looks like a cannon ball with a handle attached to it. It’s an amazing simple device to give you a fantastic workout in a short period of time. We use kettlebells all the time at the gym for strength training and cardio interval training.

Although there are many, many exercises you can do with a kettlebell, for cardio interval training, you only need to know one: the two handed swing. This swing is accomplished by standing tall with the kettlebell held in both hands at the top of the looped handle. Bump the kettlebell out by moving your hips and allowing the kettlebell to swing back through your legs as if you were going to hike pass a football. Now while the kettlebell is moving back you are bending at the hips and keeping your back straight and abs tight. Just before the kettlebell reaches it’s back most point, you start to snap your hips forward, keeping your back straight and watch that kettlebell rocket forward. It will swing out to about chest height, then lower and repeat.

For interval training, you can use a lighter kettlebell. Swing it for 30 sec. and rest for 30 sec. Do this for 10 to 15 min.

Strategy 4: Long Rope Training: lots of leg pain, no upper body pains

When I say long, I mean we have a 50′ 1.5 inch diameter rope at the gym for people that want insane cardio without having to move their legs. I initially bought this to work with a client that couldn’t move her knee at all.

Wrap the rope around a heavy piece of equipment or pole so that you have two 25′ sections anchored at the pole. Grab one end in each hand. Now raise both hands and lower both hands sending your energy down the length of the rope. The idea is to get the entire rope to leave the ground. You do this by making a sign wave. Just watch that wave move from you all the way to the pole. It’s pretty cool until you realize that this fun motion is ripping your heart out of your chest. 10 to 15 min of 30 sec making sign waves followed by 30 sec of rest. This simple exercise is murderous and will improve all aspects of your cardio fitness without ever moving from one spot.

Want to learn more about getting back in shape for life? Try my http://2xJumpstart.com program.

To Your Health!
Coach Charles


Today I Started a Short Cleanse

Today I started a 3 day cleanse. Why? Mostly because I don’t like how my body feels from the inside out lately. I think the many days of poor food choices that surround the holidays and Super Bowl have caught up to me and made me feel like I have a bit of sludge that needs to be cleaned out. The effortless energy that I normally have isn’t quite there. So just like you need to change the oil every few thousand miles in your car, it’s time for a cleanse.

I follow a very simple cleanse philosophy:

1. No meat, chicken, fish or other animals / creatures that move or swim, only plant based foods
2. No wheat or other processed foods
3. No added salt, no alcohol, soft drinks, caffeine or dairy
4. Eat nuts, fruits, beans, legumes and vegetables of all colors
5. Limit salad dressings to olive oil and non salt seasonings or salsa

It’s simple and extremely easy to follow with no costly supplements which cause your body to do certain things. Your body is constantly in the process cleansing itself, but in general we put in too much crap for our bodies to keep up. Stuff collects in our colon and in the blood stream. Eat like this for 3 to 14 days and see how different you feel. I follow a simple cleanse like this as needed. The first time I did it for 10 days and ever since then I have been able to enjoy vegetables and salad greens I have never liked before.

Follow me on facebook to see what I am actually eating: FitHealth on facebook.

Facing My Reality

As much as I’d love for things to be different, when I eat like a fool, the weight comes on insanely fast. For years I simply ignored the truth – the truth for me. Some are lucky and can drink every night and have dessert without putting on weight. That’s not me, I have to plan around my binges. Super Bowl weekend of drinking and eating whatever I wanted caused me to eat all kinds of things I normally don’t want to eat, but food is a drug. This drug “taken” poorly results in an almost impossible to overcome desire to eat more crappy food. 3 days worth resulted in a 1.5″ gain around the waist on Monday morning.

As of this morning, every millimeter of that gain is gone. Lots of tough work and far better eating habits allowed me to get there in 4 days of intensity. Was it worth it? Well for me it was. I thoroughly enjoy scarfing down all the foods I used to enjoy eating on a regular basis a few times a year. And hitting the workouts with such high intensity for several days allows me to remember what it’s like for my new clients that are struggling to come to terms with their reality as they are moving towards health and body transformation.

Feburary 2010 Arlington Biggest Loser Contest


Cost: $FREE
$2000 in Prizes

Here’s what you’ll get…
Free Online Fitness Training Tips
Detoxification Program and Eat The FitHealth Way healthy eating plan
Consistant Lifestyle Coaching

Here Are The Rules:

  • Must commit to the program.  Your individual dedication to this challenge is a prerequisite to the program.

  • Must workout three to six times per week for the month.  Listen to your body and know your limitations and adapt to the pace that suits you but work HARD. Know the difference between not wanting to continue and feeling pain or true muscle exhaustion.

  • Must weigh in and take measurements weekly.

  • Must strive and work out to the best of your ability.

  • Must journal your own progress.  Set a goal; and journal your progress whether it is a progress or set back. The process for creating effective goals and monitoring them will be provided to contest participants,

Age Group:
18 Years of age and over.

This will only go to one person that has lost the most percentage in weight overall.

  • Free Gourmet Dinner in your own home for up to 8 of you and your local friends and family (valued at $999.00)
  • Free 2xJumpStart personal training package (valued at $720.00)
  • Free $300 in FitHealth gift cards

  • And the best prize of all … all those pounds and inches you will lose!

Time Frame:
6 Weeks to a new you. It takes 21 days to form a habit and 21 more days to reinforce that habit so it’s unbreakable. Contest ends 6 weeks from the start date.

These 42 days will allow you to deal with real world struggles while learning to become healthier with health and fitness as a number one goal.

Start Date:
Febuary 1, 2010 and March 16, 2010 to give you more time to get ready and prepared!

Pre-Registration And Sign-up Date:
Starts Now! This gives you plenty of time to get your mind ready for change. We hit the ground running on the first! To sign up send your contact info to CoachCharles@fitHealthUSA.com. Be sure to include the following details Copy and paste the below into your email so you don’t forget to provide any information:
Contest Start Date:
Full Name:
Cell Phone:

Payments Made By:
Cash, Check or Credit Card

No payments are required for this contest. Donations can be made out to FitHealth. Donations go to support our program of free personal training. At least a dozen people will be able to benefit from this program this year.

Amount of Workout Days Per Week:
(3 to 6 Days Per Week) …… 20 minutes to 1 hour per session. However you may workout up to 2 hours per session without breaking the rules!

Weigh In:

Once a week …on Mondays, Initial weigh in is documented and all other weigh ins are tallied and calculated weekly. Totals are based on (% percentage loss) not pounds loss and your measurements lost!

Get started now, send an email to CoachCharles@fitHealthUSA.com

Note: Prizes will only be awarded if at least 50 contestants participate and complete the contest (not current fitHealth Clients).

Eating the fitHealth Way

The basic protocol: Eat healthy 6 days a week. Eat some of the things you enjoy on the seventh, but not a wagon load.

1. Eat 3 meals a day and 2 snacks.

2. Divide your meals into one third healthy fats, one third healthy proteins and one third complex carbohydrates.

3. No dairy, no simple carbs, no juices, no soft drinks, no alcohol

4. No whites: no white rice, no white bread, no regular pasta

5. Eat only 100% whole grains, brown rice, steel cut oatmeal instead of processed grains

6. Eat 3 to 5 servings of fats, proteins, vegetables and fruits

7. Seek dark green leafy vegetables to replace dairy for your sources of calcium.

8. Olive oil is the oil of choice for cooking. Pressed flax seed oil is recommended for adding omega 3 fatty acids to meals.

9. Drink lots of water: squeeze lime or lemon for taste

Sample Meals:

Breakfast, keep it simple. Always eat breakfast. If you don’t your metabolism will slow down. Eat high fiber and remember to always have proteins with your breakfast. Proteins and fats take 3 to 10 times longer to digest than simpler carbs typically found in cereal or waffles. Fiber not only keeps you feeling fuller longer, but it will keep your bowels moving. If you are constipated, try adding more fiber to your diet (fruits and beans work well). Here are a few breakfast choices:

1. My favorite – a fruit smoothie, follow this link for a full description

2. If you like cereal, then eat steel cut oatmeal (available in bulk from Whole Foods or Giant and other grocery stores by the name McCanns Irish Oatmeal). Add a table-spoon of Flax Seed Oil (available at fitHealth Arlington Personal Training Gym). Then cut up some fruits like half a banana or some strawberries or blueberries as you like. Then add almonds or walnuts.

3. A couple of times a week, 2 eggs and veg make a great breakfast. I personally like a modified western omelet: olive oil, 2 eggs (omega 3 eggs), green and red peppers, onion, garlic, crushed red pepper, ground pepper and a bit of salt (add asparagus if you have it)

Snack (mid morning, mid afternoon) choices:

1. Handful of nuts

2. Medium sized fruit

3. Half a handful of nuts and small fruit

Dinner choices:

1. Salad: choose mixed greens or other salad greens but not iceberg lettuce as a base. Get your fats from sources like hard boiled eggs, avocado, olive oil (not regular dressings) and nuts. Proteins from egg whites, nuts, small portion of chicken, pork or steak, or medium portion of fish.

2. Fish dish: such as salmon on bed of brown rice and side of mixed veg

3. Best option for chicken, beef or pork: grill it! Then mix with a serving of vegetable and dessert of fruit

Lunches: keep it really simple: make extra servings at dinner time and pack them for lunch the next day. Therefore healthy dinner equals healthy lunch!

Coach Charles

Why do I have to brace my abs all the time?

What are the goals of resistance training?

1. To get stronger

2. To burn calories

3. To build additional functional muscle that will burn more calories all the time

4. To increase flexibility and balance

5. And to improve our appearance by toning muscle.

It’s most efficient to reach these goals by lifting the heaviest weights or applying the greatest resistance you can currently handle for sets and reps. But to do it without hurting yourself. And the by product of this is a flexible, balanced and strong body that can perform better doing all tasks we can perform as humans.

Bracing your abs and core has the immediate benefit of protecting your spine from injury. There are probably more back pains across the country than any other ailment. You hear about back injuries all the time, everywhere you go. Bracing your abs works better than wearing a weight belt (which most people want to wear so they can lift more) because it provides an internal brace perfectly fitted to your frame rather than an external brace which would never be perfectly sized for you. And if you lift weights limited to what your internal brace can handle, you are much less likely to hurt yourself as you might in a moment’s in attention with a weight belt. And remember the weight belt only helps while you are wearing it, while the stronger braced abs are with you at all times, protecting your spine should you need them, even in rare instances of falling down the stairs or in a car accident. That car won’t wait for you to put on your weight belt before it hits you!

So at a basic level the internal brace is beneficial to you at all times, from improving your posture to being able to take a punch from a bad guy. But there are other benefits as well. As you brace your abs, you pull into play your other core muscles. As they get stronger and you learn how to move and breath while holding them tight , your ability to generate power in any sport you may play will be greater. Your golf swing will be faster allowing you longer drives and with less pain or likelihood of damage to the spine, your tennis serve will be faster allowing you more aces, your karate punch or kick will land with more force, your ability to get off the line of scrimmage and avoid a tackle at family Thanksgiving day football games in the backyard will greatly improve and so on for all sports. Even doing things as simple as checking your blind spot while driving or putting a heavy suitcase into the trunk will get far easier.

So we train the core in all resistance movements. As it gets stronger, your life will change. You’ll feel more like a kid. Running up and down stairs won’t bother you anymore. Getting into and out of a chair may have caused you to decide not to do some things in the past because of the effort involved. No longer. Things like that won’t bother you at all anymore. And you will likely begin to see yourself participating in more athletic oriented events that you subconsciously avoided in the past.

To Your Health!

Coach Charles

Shouldn’t I Run??

The following article is for those that want to lose weight (specifically fat). If you are running for competition, training for a 5K / 10K / 10 miler, etc., I would have completely different recommendations for you as I used to be a competitive runner myself. However I would still recommend training as I describe below until you have reduced your fat content to near athlete levels before beginning a serious running program (one that required you to run significant miles each week) as less carried weight will put much less stress on your joints, and we can do many other things to improve your cardio capacity in between. So if you are a man, you shouldn’t start running long distances if your gut measures 37 inches or a woman with a gut over 32 inches around. Build significant strength around your joints first. Build in extra muscle mass to aid in the absorption of the pounding stress first.

But Shouldn’t I Run On My Cardio Days …

I get asked questions about running all the time. 6 days a week you should be doing some type of workout. The body needs daily exercise. However it is good to give the body one day per week of near complete rest so that you can push yourself harder during the next week and there is also the added benefit of breaking the pattern so that it is more difficult for the body to adapt and reach a plateau. So with the idea that doing something is good, doing more is better, and the more difficult it is, better still but limited to your current level of conditioning and strength / endurance. This is important so that you don’t over train and cause the body to reduce it’s calorie burn and enter a healing only mode where you just don’t have any energy. Go hard, but as part of a program! You can’t go hard all the time. Take breaks, change it up.

Perhaps the most frequent question about I get about running is when I tell people they should be walking at a brisk pace 3 days a week (three resistance training days, three cardio days). “Shouldn’t I be running on those days?”

Well let’s look at your goals and time commitment to answer that question. Then let’s take a look at the underlying assumptions that prompt questions about running. The number one goal of my clients is to lose weight and tone up as quickly as possible. And most of my clients really don’t have more than 30 min to an hour each day to devote to working out. If you have 3 or 4 hours of time each day you can devote to working out, I would have different advice for you.

Now let’s take a look at the underlying assumptions regarding why running seems like such a good thing to do, especially when doing more is better, and harder still is better still. When you see a long distance runner (athletes competing at distances greater than a mile such as a 10K or a marathon) on TV winning the race, whether it is a man or a woman, they are always thin. When you meet a thin person, they frequently speak about their daily runs. When you walk into a traditional gym you see a lot of people running on the treadmills. For the last several decades, running has been highly publicized as a great way to lose weight. So why don’t I recommend it on your cardio days?

Let’s take a deeper look at distance runners and compare them to sprinters. You may only pay attention to runners during major world events such as the olympics, but think back to the impressions you are left with after watching these world class athletes. While both types of runners are certainly thin, one group has less body fat and looks much healthier. Which group has less body fat? Is it the long distance runner, the one that runs 5, 10 or 20 plus miles every day and rarely if ever lifts weights? Or is it the sprinter that probably never runs more than half a mile at at time for warm up, while running many sprints or intervals and lifting large, very heavy weights. Without thinking about it, most of my clients subconsciously believes that long distance runners have lower body fat. But they quickly see that world class sprinters actually have the lower body weight. Distance runners are thin to looking sickly as they have lost all their upper body muscle so that their bodies can efficiently fun long distances while burning as few calories as possible. Their bodies are lopsided in their development, toned legs, stick arms and bony chests. At first sight, they appear to have very low body fat percentages, but as you look closer, you realize that you can’t tell how low it is, but you assume it is lower than yours. However would you believe they have 2 to 3 times the body fat of their sprinter cousins? They need more fat to be able to sustain their bodies over long distances.

Sprinters on the other hand have nicely muscled and balanced bodies. Their upper bodies are built in proportion to their lower bodies. And you don’t have to guess that their body fat percentage is low, it is obvious. Their skin is taught against powerful muscles. Their stomachs do not protrude in front of their chest. It’s not uncommon to find these athletes to have only 3, 4 or 5 percent body fat. And since they have so much more muscle as a percentage of their body weight, they find it far easier to avoid getting fatter. Remember more muscle raises your resting metabolic rate (muscle burns more calories than fat all day long).

And now the point that really drove this home for me (for I too used to believe that running was the answer to all my weight loss needs, but I never go for a run anymore, haven’t in years). Every year I see the coverage of famous marathons like the Boston Marathon. The winners are all rail thin (none of my clients seem to think this is an attractive look – men with bird chests and women without boobs!). But if you look at the folks that finish in the last third, they are all FAT. How is this possible, I used to ask myself. It really befuddled me as I know what it takes to train the body to the level where it can run 26.2 miles straight. You see I used to run 5 to 16 miles every day (well at least 6 days a week). And even at that level of training, I was not capable of competitively running a marathon. However when I stopped running I put on a ton of weight. But I digress. How does a person remain fat that can run 26.2 miles straight? How in the world is this possible. Well, initially the person training for such a long distance will lose weight. But quickly they hit a plateau, and more and more running is offset by the body becoming more and more efficient with it’s energy consumption until the runner reaches a plateau. Week by week goes by and the body achieves more and greater endurance. And so the body becomes so efficient with it’s consumption of energy that it can run 26.2 miles while staying fat. Of course many people cut their calories while doing this, thus thoroughly confusing themselves.

In fact I have clients that have done mainly cardio workouts for 2 years and gotten fatter the entire time. When I switched them to strength building resistance workouts, the results were immediate. Body fat went down.

So if you are interested in quick weight loss that won’t be permanent go for long runs and burn a bunch of calories. However if you want to lose this weight forever, you need to build muscle while allowing the body to rest between intense workouts with brisk walks or tennis or similar activities that are not at a steady state running level of exertion.

I know some of you will ignor my advice because you have simply had too many years of brain washing about the huge benefits of running long distances, including getting fat to burn away (I’m sure you have heard that you have to have your heart rate beating in the target range for 20 minutes to burn any fat – perhaps, but intervals and building muscle works better because this raises your resting metabolic rate, not just during the workout such as with a long run – you only burn calories for a short time after a long run, but after an intense resistance workout, your calorie burn may be increased for up to 48 hours). So if you must run, then do intervals where you sprint for 30 sec to a min and walk for 30 sec to a min. But some of you will ignor that and just run. If you are going to do this, then only go for runs once a week. Then pay close attention to how hungry you will be, and how often you will want to eat simple carbs.

When’s the best time to run? Do interval runs right after you finish your resistance training workout, not before. This will intensify the workout. Then walk the next day.

Now for other benefits of not running long distance. Just think of all the shin splints, knee aches, ankle aches and hip aches you will avoid.

In conclusion, to reach your goal of losing weight, complete 3 resistance training sessions each week and walk at a brisk pace 3 other days each week. If you must run, run intervals. And it’s best to do them on the days you do your resistance training.

To you health!

Coach Charles