Friday, December 16, 2016


When you get to the gym, do you ask yourself, "Hmm, what am I going to do today?" Or do you have a plan?

There are many misunderstood concepts in the fitness world. One of them is the notion that we must “shock the body” to achieve gains, whether the goal is to gain strength, lose fat, or perform better.
While there is some truth to this, the way it is implemented is usually faulty.
The "shocking" can come from changing certain program variables, such as resistance, sets, reps, and rest periods or by doing a completely different workout every time, with no reasoning behind it, with randomly chosen exercises and done in no particular order.
Doing different random workouts every time you exercise has its drawbacks, which can limit your results. I've listed some of them here:

  1. The body doesn’t get a chance to adapt to a repeated stimulus, which is necessary for strength gains and muscle building.
  2. Lack of skill development. Performing an exercise correctly requires a certain amount of proficiency. Some movements are more complex than others and having to keep “relearning” them will slow your progress.
  3. It limits your ability to increase the load which can keep you from getting stronger.
  4. Most people tend to repeat their favorites exercises, the ones they are good at, which does not enable them to address weaknesses.

For the average gym goer, a better way is to craft a program where the workouts include the same exercises (or a variation) for a period of time, changing the program variables along the way.
This is referred to as periodization, where the workouts are systematically planned in advance to achieve the desired outcome. Power lifters, body builders and many athletes follow a periodized plan because, simply, THEY WORK. While you may not fit into any of these categories, this type of programming will get you the best results in the most efficient and safest manner.

For example, an A/B workout split could be implemented for 3-6 weeks (we call this a Phase), rotating the different workout days, with the goal of increasing the “8 rep resistance” during that span. Allow one day of rest between A-day and B-day, and by the end of the phase, you should see strength gains and added muscle.

Day A
4 sets of 8 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets
Dumbbell chest press
Cable Row

Day B
4 sets of 8 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets
Goblet Squats
Shoulder Press
Lat Pulldown

Another method would be to use the same exercises as above and change the sets, reps, and resistance during a 4-day workout split, allowing one day of rest between days. This could also last 3-6 weeks.

Day A
3 sets x 15 reps, 60 seconds rest between sets
Dumbbell chest press
Cable Row

Day B
3 sets x 15 reps, 60 seconds rest between sets,
Goblet Squats
Shoulder Press
Lat Pulldown

Day C
4 sets x 8 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets
Dumbbell chest press
Cable Row

Day D
4 reps x 8 reps, 90 seconds rest between sets
Goblet Squats
Shoulder Press
Lat Pulldown

*It is important to select a weight that will challenge you for either 8 or 15 reps, in this scheme. If you are using a resistance you can lift 15 times and only do 8 reps, you will not see good results.

As you enter a new Phase of training, the set and rep variables should change, and/or the exercises can become more advanced.

For example:

Phase 1                                       Phase 2
15 reps x 3 sets                          8 reps x 4 sets
Kettlebell deadlifts                       Trap bar deadlifts
Dumbbell chest press                  Barbell bench press                    
Cable row                                    Bodyweight inverted row
Goblet squats                              Single leg squat
Shoulder press                            Kettlebell single arm overhead press
Lat Pulldowns                                 Chin Ups    

At our gym, Active Life Fitness, every member receives a customized 12 month periodized workout plan. They know exactly what they are doing each and every workout, as we spell out:
  1. exercise selection
  2. order
  3. load
  4. sets 
  5. reps
  6. tempo
  7. rest
To learn more, call us at 908-389-8009 or email

Active Life Fitness Personal Trainers & Gym
94 North Ave, Garwood, NJ 07027
(908) 389-8009


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

The holiday season has begun. How do I know? I see half-priced bags of candy corn at the CVS, people are planning their Thanksgiving feasts, and of course, the stores already have their Christmas displays up.

Many have family traditions that recur year after year and are passed down through the generations. Some people even have a “tradition” of putting on weight during this time of year and then spending the first five months of the year trying in vain to take it off in time for swimsuit season. Is it any wonder why health clubs are packed in January.

Why do we do this to ourselves? The reasons I hear are many:

  • "I have no time to exercise with so much to do for the holidays."
  • "My co-workers keep bringing cookies, pastries, and candy into work."
  • "My family puts out a huge spread every holiday. There is so much food."
  • "All this shopping makes me hungry, and the food court has nothing healthy."
  • "I have so many parties to attend this time of year."
  • "I feel like I'm missing out if I'm the only one not eating and drinking to excess."

Are these valid reasons or merely excuses we tell ourselves to decrease the guilt?

When you finally make the brave decision to avoid this annual ritual, follow these tips for success:

  1. Rid yourself of all leftover Halloween candy and treats. If it is a trigger, it shouldn’t be in your home.
  2. Rev up your workouts NOW, increasing your visits to the gym and pushing a little harder each time. It may even be time for a new program.
  3. Plan some healthy dishes for your Thanksgiving meal. Prepare vegetables without the fattening sauces, sweet potatoes without the marshmallows and molasses, and eat fresh berries with low-fat yogurt, instead of cherry pie.
  4. Replace at least half of your alcohol consumption with water. The extra calories, slower metabolism, and inhibitor to fat loss isn't worth it.
  5. Recruit some friends and family members to join you in your quest. Being the only person who is eating and drinking sensibly can be lonely. You are more likely to succeed when others share the same goal.
  6. Eat a healthy and filling meal before you go to the shopping mall. The aroma from Cinnabon is much more tempting on an empty stomach.
  7. Bring healthy snacks to your workplace to give yourself a fighting chance against the temptation of holiday cookie platters. Tell your coworkers of your goals, so maybe they will respect your wishes and not apply peer pressure. They might even join you!

Please don't take this message to mean DO NOT HAVE FUN. If you need to eat and drink to excess to have fun, then the advice I'm giving you may very well fall on deaf ears.

Fun, for me, comes from being with loved ones, eating good (but healthy) food, having a drink or two, and engaging in interesting conversations.

What's not fun for me is feeling stuffed, getting drunk, waking up with a headache, and not being able to button my jeans on January 2.

Why wait to make a New Year's resolution when you can resolve TODAY to get fit and stay fit! If you need help, check out our website, or email us at

Active Life Fitness Personal Trainers & Gym
94 North Ave, Garwood, NJ 07027 (908) 389-8009

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Glory Days Revisited....and a Lesson Learned

Almost nine weeks have passed since “the incident, ” and I’m finally ready to tell my story.

On Friday, May 21, my 27-year-old nephew Ricky called and invited me to watch him, and seven of his buddies wrestle the next day in a local tournament for charity. The Bald and Fat Classic provides a chance for old grapplers to get on the mat and compete again. The age divisions were: "Past my prime," “Dead”, and “Fully Decomposed.” The organizers of this tournament surely have a sense of humor about old guys rolling around in singlets with big bellies, bald heads, and hairy backs.

I impulsively decided that I wouldn’t go as a spectator but as a participant. The event was being held in Kenilworth. This is important to the story because my nephew, a fellow Bogota, New Jersey native, now living in Virginia, thought he was going to Kinnelon, which is why he didn’t think to call me months prior when he signed up. He thought it would be too far for me to drive. The day before the tournament he realized it was is Kenilworth and that we live just a couple towns away.

As a personal trainer, fitness coach and Functional Aging Specialist, I knew that to compete in this grueling sport, you must train for it. My head, however, was over-matched by my heart. My passion for the sport and my belief that I would be in better shape than anyone I would go up against, even at age 54, led to my decision. I had just set a personal record in my deadlift, pulling twice my bodyweight and I was feeling great about my strength.

I weighed in at 180 pounds and entered the “Fully Decomposed” division, which was for those aged 45 and up. I drew the line at wearing a singlet and opted for Under Armour compression shorts and shirt. I was pumped up but nervous. I last wrestled in my early 40’s and was hoping I wouldn’t meet any former NCAA champions. You never know who is going to be across the circle from you.

My beautiful and supportive wife Kim came to cheer me on. She never questioned my decision to wrestle and was excited to see me in action. I had warmed up pretty well and was ready to rumble. I tied up with my opponent, who was neither bald nor fat. I was feeling him out and trying to gauge how strong he was, but before I could find out, he shot in with an ankle pick and put me to my back. Getting pinned in 35 seconds was not my idea of a good time.

I was down but not out, and I had another match coming. My next opponent had already beaten the guy who just pinned me. As we sat in the bleachers, Kim was giving me a shoulder massage and a pep talk and asked, "What are you going to do differently this time?" I said, "I'm not going to tie up, and I'm going to get the first shot."

I got in on a nicely executed single leg, hoisting his right leg up in the air and grabbing hold. To win the points for the take down, I still needed to get him down to the mat. As he tried to hop out of bounds, I dug my heels in with as much force as I could muster in an attempt to pull him back in and take him to the ground. My left hamstring, however, was not prepared for the applied force, and I felt it pop. This is what it looked like:

I could barely get to my feet as I told the ref that I couldn’t continue and apologized to my opponent while hobbling off the mat. The first thing I thought of was that I wasn’t going to be able to work on Monday. Kim and Ricky were there to console me, but the physical pain I was feeling was excruciating. There were no athletic trainers available, but Kim was able to find some ice as I sat against the wall unable to move for about 30 minutes. I eventually got to my feet and limped in pain out to our car. 

Kim wanted to take me to the emergency room, but I insisted on just going home. This was mistake #2 (#1 was wrestling without preparation) I really should listen to my wife.

I reclined either in bed or on the couch with my leg elevated and ice on my hamstring. My entire posterior thigh was now a large patch of black and blue. I medicated on Advil around the clock. By Sunday night, I was feeling incrementally extremely small increments, or at least I thought I was. Maybe I was trying to convince myself that getting back to work on Monday was somehow possible.

I came to my senses and decided to give it one more day. Kim valiantly coached all of the sessions on Monday and Tuesday. I decided that I would be able to go in on Wednesday, but not in the early morning. The pain and stiffness were the greatest in the early hours, so I limped into the gym for the late morning group. One hour was enough as I barely made it through.

A week went by with me training only one or two sessions per day and spending the rest of my time at home in my familiar place - bed and couch. Planning our gym's August reopening kept me sane as I was able to get a lot of work done with all of this time on my hands.

My hamstring was finally starting to feel a lot better, but my lower leg began to hurt tremendously - It had swelled up bigger than my right leg. I told myself that it was probably from altering my gait and this too would pass. A client told me of his bout with blood clots and urged me to get it checked out. Another client, whose husband is a Doctor of Sports Medicine and happened to be home on his day off, scheduled me to go directly to their house so he could take a look. Thank you, Joe, Ann, and Dr. Mike!

The Doctor poked and prodded and told me that I did indeed have a torn hamstring, confirming what I already knew. The pain in my lower leg, however, could be a blood clot. He said if it continued to hurt like this that I should go to the emergency room and get screened for a possible clot.

Saturday came, two weeks since the incident, and after 2 hours of training in the morning, and with the pain not subsiding at all, I drove myself to the Emergency room at tiny Union Hospital, just 7 minutes from the gym. In my mind, going to this small hospital would enable me to get in and out quickly and rule out a blood clot, but the Doppler test showed extensive clotting - I was going to have to be admitted. I received a shot of Lovenox, a blood thinner, in the abdomen and they scrounged up some food for me to eat.

Since this hospital was so small, I would have to be transported to Overlook Hospital anyway, which is the larger affiliate and the place I was avoiding in the first place. I waited in that bed for 5 hours until my transportation was available.

I enjoyed a thrilling ride in the ambulance up to Overlook Hospital. The driver zipped in and out of traffic up the Parkway, then Routes 78 and 24, avoiding most, but not all of the jarring potholes. The view that I was enjoying reminded me of sitting in the rear-facing seat of my family’s Buick station wagon when I was a little kid - I’m glad my father didn’t drive like this.

I was ushered (rolled) into the hospital and right up to my semi-private room, sweet digs with an adjustable bed, television, and a roommate. As it turned out, the bed was uncomfortable and mysteriously moved on its own, the television only had 12 channels (no ESPN!), and the roommate snored like a hibernating bear.

I was sitting in a hospital bed with a torn hamstring, extensive clotting in my leg, and with no knowledge of how long I would be in for. I wasn’t happy about my situation, but I reminded myself that I was lucky to have caught the clot before anything worse happened. Shortly after I got settled in my bed, Kim showed up with Nick, 17 and Caroline, 15, plus supplies. That made me happy.

When it was time for me to go to sleep, the snoring from the bear in the next bed was getting louder. I had to download a “nature sound” app to my phone, plug my headphones in, and fall asleep to the sounds of the rain forest. My slumber didn’t last long, as it was once again time for the nurse to take my vitals.

Later that morning I received the good word that I would be released in the afternoon. They were sending me home with oral meds and I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to give myself injections. I was thrilled to be going home to my family, a home-cooked meal, and to my own bed.

I continue to rehab my hamstring, slowly getting back to deadlifts, kettlebell swings, squats, and lunges. I will be on blood thinners for the next few months at least until a new Doppler test shows better results. The support and well wishes from clients and friends have been amazing, and for that I am grateful.

I learned my lesson - pursuing what you love takes training, whether it’s wrestling, hiking, tennis, basketball, skiing, golfing, or any other sport. Even a professional strength coach can get overzealous and get injured. I am determined to get back to next year’s Bald and Fat Classic and revisit those Glory Days once again! Training has already begun.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Resistance Training FAQ's

In this post, we answer the most frequently asked questions we get about resistance training(RT).

Q:  Why do I need RT?
A:  RT will help to make you stronger, leaner, and healthier.

Q:  Won't cardio exercise make me stronger, leaner and          healthier too?
A: Cardio most likely will not make you stronger, it might even make you weaker.  You will improve your health from a "cardio only" routine but not necessarily become leaner.  Getting leaner is the result of many factors, building muscle being one of the most important.

Q: Will RT make me big, bulky and masculine (asked by females)?
A:  No it will not, mostly because of females' lack of adequate amounts of testosterone.  In addition, you would need a much higher volume of  training and calories to pack on too much muscle.  Women who get bigger during RT probably eat way too much and they are bigger because they gained fat.  Eating at or below your maintenance level of calories, is the best way to make sure you don't get big and bulky.

Q: What is the difference between resistance training and weight training?
A:  We use the terms interchangeably as resistance can come from many sources, including free weights, kettlebells, machines, rubber bands, medicine balls and especially your own body weight.

Q:  Are machines better than other forms of resistance?
A:  It's not a "cut and dry" answer, but in our opinion, most machines take a back seat to dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and body weight exercises.  Most typical health club machines will require you to sit.  This will not get your core and stabilizer muscles much work at all.
For example; a pushup will require your core to engage throughout the movement to keep your body in proper alignment, whereas a seated machine chest press (where you are leaning against the back of the seat) will render those muscles relatively inactive.

Q:  How often should I do RT?
A:  It depends on your goals, but a general rule would be 1 time per week to maintain strength and muscle, 2 times per week to build and 3 or more for even better results.
More important is the program you are following.  A bad program done 4 x per week is not as good as a program put together by an expert done 1-2 x per week.

Q:  I've heard light weights and high reps are better for fat loss.  Is that true?
A:  It is not true at all.  The best strategy for fat loss is to incorporate a program which will cycle light, medium and heavy weights over time.  If you always lift light weight (a weight you can handle more than 15 times), you will stop progressing quickly.  
An example of resistance training for fat loss could be:
  • Month 1, sets of 15 Reps
  • Month 2, sets of 10 Reps
  • Month 3, sets of 12 Reps
  • Month 4, sets of 8 Reps
Even if you did the same exercises, but changed the reps AND the resistance, you will see better results than if you always did the same reps and resistance.

Q: Is RT appropriate or safe for older adults?
A: Age is not the determining factor in deciding who RT is right for.   We have clients in their 80's who are thriving with RT.  They are stronger, leaner, healthier, and more mobile because of it. 
Anyone can participate as long as the movements are appropriate for the individual and the program is written to conform to goals and ability.

Q: Do I need RT for my legs if I'm running and using the elliptical trainer?
A:  These types of cardio activities will build endurance in your legs and hips, and may yield some small strength or muscle gains, but they cannot compare to squats, lunges, step ups, deadlifts and other leg based RT exercises for building strength and muscle in your legs, hips and core!

To find out how Resistance Training can benefit you, contact us at Active Life Fitness

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

5 Ways to Feel Younger and Age Better

Have you ever heard someone older than you say, “Wait ‘til you’re my age?” They complain about their weight gain and their aches and pains. They bemoan the fact they no longer can do the things they once enjoyed, like playing golf, riding a bike or hiking. They blame “slowing down” in their advancing years and not on bad choices, including poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle.

There are typical changes in physiological function and body composition that occur with age, even in healthy folks, according to the American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand on Exercise and Physical Activity for Older Adults (2009). For example:

·         Muscle strength declines after age 40 and that decline accelerates after ages 65-70. Lower body strength declines faster than upper body strength.
·         Muscle power, a product of force and velocity, declines faster than strength.
·         Muscle endurance declines.
·         Motor performance and control are impaired as reaction time increases. The speed of simple and repetitive movements slows. Complex tasks are affected more than simple tasks.
·         Flexibility and joint range of motion decreases, especially in the hips, spine, and ankles.
·         Cardiac functions, such as maximal heart rate, stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped out of the heart and into the body on each beat) and cardiac output (the volume of blood pumped per minute) decline.
·         Fat-Free Mass (mainly muscle) decreases and body fat increases.

Exercise—combined with proper nutrition—can improve all of the functions listed above, slow these changes and allow you to have a far better quality of life for many more years. It’s never too late to start, either. Evidence shows regular exercise improves health and fitness for adults of all ages—even after years of sedentary and unhealthy behaviors.

Want to begin Feeling Younger and Aging Better? Here are five things you can start doing today:

1.       Use a foam roller and other self-massage tools daily to release muscle tension and improve joint function. Add mobility and flexibility exercises to move better and reduce your chance of injury.

2.       Increase the intensity of your cardio workouts. You will strengthen your heart and improve your cardiac function. In most cases it’s more beneficial to work harder rather than longer.

3.       Lift weights and do other forms of resistance training. This will improve your strength, power and muscle endurance. It also will help increase muscle, raise your metabolism and reduce body fat.

4.       Try simple activities you used to enjoy when you were younger, such as skipping, jumping rope, hopscotch, biking and swimming. These all can help improve agility, reaction time and mobility.

5.      When it comes to food, however, eat less like a kid and more like an adult. Cookies, candy, donuts, cake, chicken fingers, pizza, French fries, hot dogs and ice cream will only add unwanted body fat and leave you at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes. Eliminating these things from your diet and instead including more vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts and whole grains can lower your body fat and reduce your risk of many diseases.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

13 Helpful Tips Part IV

 1) Eat more fiber, which can help to control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol.  It also helps you feel full, so you will eat less and increase your chances of successfully losing body fat.  Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds are great sources of fiber.

2) Drink green tea or black tea, both of which have cancer fighting anti-oxidants.  They also provide cardiovascular benefits.

3) Eat berries, which contain phytochemicals, naturally occurring nutrients that help protect cells from damage. They are lower in sugar than many other fruits, which is great for fat loss, heart health and fighting diabetes.  For more information on the benefits of berries check out this website:

 4) Improve your post workout meal to improve your body composition, performance, and overall recovery.  Precision Nutrition explains in great detail here.

5) Use a foam roller to improve flexibility and movement efficiency, aid in muscle recovery and to reduce pain.

6) Do Yoga, which has a myriad of benefits, including increased strength and flexibility along with improved posture and alignment.

7) Eat a peach, not just the name of a great Allman Brothers Band album, but it is also a great idea for a healthy snack.  Peaches are a low calorie, antioxidant rich food that is referred to in China as a symbol of good luck, protection, and  longevity.  

 8) Eliminate sugary soft drinks from your diet.  Beverages such as soda and iced tea contain useless calories that can derail your fat loss.  Diet drinks are no better since artificial sweetener comes with its own set of risks.  

9) Go dancing to burn more calories and enjoy life!

10) Take some rest from your workouts.  If you are hitting it hard every day at the gym, then plan to take a few consecutive days off so your body can recover.  Over training can lead to stress, injuries and poor results.

11) Train more like an athlete.  You don't have to be an athlete to train like one.  Focus on getting stronger, leaner, and moving better by doing ground based exercises (with your feet or body on the ground, not with your butt on the seat).  Athletic movements like running, stepping, hopping, lunging, rotating, jumping and crawling cannot be done while sitting. 

12) Cut back on alcohol consumption.  If you are trying to lose weight, alcohol can sabotage your efforts as you will take in far too many calories, slow your metabolism, and lower your food inhibitions.

13) Avoid crunches and situps.  These exercises, when done improperly or to excess, can do damage to your back.  The muscles of the core have a  primary job, which is to prevent movement.  Crunches and situps flex the spine repeatedly.  Planks and anti-rotation exercises that strengthen the spinal stabilizers are safer and more effective.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

13 Helpful Tips - Part III

1) Drink water as soon as you wake up. Doing so is vital since you have gone at least 5 hours             (depending on your last drink before bed and how long you sleep) without it.  It's a great way to purify your internal system; it fires up your metabolism, helps your body flush out toxins, gives your brain fuel, and may even help you eat less.

2) Get comfortable consuming "serving size" portions.  Let your body adapt to this new way of eating and don't overfeed those hunger pains.  Portion control is a major problem for most of us and it can really sabotage our efforts to lose body fat.  For greater insight into this,  watch the movie Overfed and Undernourished.  Also, check out this portion size guide

 3) Clean your own house!  It's a great way to burn extra calories and save money.  Use that money to purchase a new outfit in your smaller size.

4) When you eat chocolate make sure it is dark chocolate which contains less sugar than milk chocolate and more cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, which have many amazing health benefits. Learn more here:

5) Brush your tongue. It removes bacteria and improves your taste reception, reducing your need to add salt and sugar, which may keep you more satisfied.  

6) If you are constantly hungry maybe you just need to add another small meal to your day.  Starving yourself is not a good strategy to lose fat.

7) Snack on pistachio nuts.  A recommended serving size is one ounce or 49 nuts.  Pistachio nuts have both fiber and protein which will keep you satisfied and may even help you eat less at your next meal.  Shelling them will slow you down and give your brain time to realize you are full.      

8) Shovel snow (unless you have a heart condition or a bad back).  Be smart and take the snow down in layers.  Take breaks as you get tired.  Refer back to tip #4 and have some hot cocoa to warm up.  Yard work chores, such as raking and cutting the grass are also great ways to stay active and move more.

9) Read nutrition information on the menu, when available, before making your selection.  More and more restaurants are providing this information to make it easier for customers to eat healthier.

10) Stop labeling yourself as a lazy person that does not like to exercise.  Negative self-talk sabotages goals.  Use the power of positive thinking!

11) See yourself as the person you want to become.  Act as if this has already happened and your choices and actions will follow.  For example, if you weigh 180 and want to weigh 140, then eat like a 140-pound person would eat.

12) Use the 90/10 rule for serious fat loss.  Be perfect 90% of the time.  It's okay to "be naughty" 10% of the time.  It does not have to be all or nothing. 

13) Stop eating "on the run."  When we do that, we usually make bad choices, opting for convenience over nutrition.  If you know you have a busy day ahead of you and your meal time is limited, plan ahead and prepare healthy and easy-to-eat foods like nutritious sandwiches, bite sized raw vegetables, fruit, and hard boiled eggs.

For more help with all of your fitness needs, visit us at or email me at