Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sea Change

Enough time goes by in life that a sea change occurs. I can feel that sea change acutely now. I look back on my life; I don’t feel I am in any way in the same place. I ran along the lake in Chicago tonight. Chicago. I used to run late at night when I was a kid growing up. But it wasn’t Chicago, it wasn’t cancer, it wasn’t kids or marriage or money, houses, jobs, startups. It was me and my dreams. My dreams are real now.

All of us are alive you know. The pains that we feel are a cold reminder that we are Alive. That is a good thing.

Go run. Push. Feel the discomfort and remember it. Your heart was beating fast. Remember that. Do it again. Do it to feel alive.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Fast Run on a Friday Night

Twenty years ago, when I was 14 years old, I went for a run with my friends Mike and Dan. It was an early October Friday night. It was a special night, because it was one of only a few events that have happened to me that forms the spiritual foundation that agile was built upon.

Me, Mike and Dan. We met on the corner of our block. We started jogging side-by-side. It was slow, but by the 1/2 mile mark, we were running at a steady but fast pace. Mike was moody, I could tell because he would keep jumping out in front of us, as if he didn't want to be bothered. I'd take a tight position right behind and slightly to the left or right, depending on the turn coming up. I'd position myself in a way that he could see and feel me right there, just to piss him off. Dan was steady right behind us, never really fighting for a lead or asserting his presence. But he was there. He was always there.

Mike and I took turns jumping. The pace was ridiculous. All 3 of us were on our high school cross country team; we ran fast all the time. But tonight there was an edge to that speed. We were moving faster than we usually do. We were 2 miles into what would be a 5 mile run. But there was no thought of pace. There was thought only of each moment, each turn and each jump. And with each turn and jump, the pace escalated.

About 3 1/2 miles into the run, we started turning home. Dan began to fade. It was probably the last time he ever would fade against us; he went on to be the top runner in our state 3 years later. Any other night, we would have moderated our pace to stay together, but as I said, Mike was in a mood, so Dan would be left behind.

Mike and I kept notching up the pace. It was a simple and totally primal game of one-upmanship. It hurt for a while, but then it didn't hurt anymore. It seemed as if the pain was a temporary state that we simply ran past. And it was that state that I will never forget. A state where you come within yourself. Outside forces disappear and feel abstract. You feel and hear your breadth and nothing more.

Except Mike's elbows in my ribs. We kept jockeying for position. It seemed that our speed was so fast that the only way to keep up was to take every inside corner. If not the inside, then so close to each other that our natural strides collided with one another.

With about 10 blocks to go, I was running as fast as I could without jumping into a flat-out sprint. Mike was doing the same. Desperation did creep in now because I wondered, with so many blocks to go, how could we keep this up? But the blocks seemed to only take a few strides to notch. It seemed we could do this. It didn't matter what I thought, we were doing it.

We turned down the last block, our block, and shifted to sprint.

Hands on knees, drop of sweat on edge of chin, Mike looked up at me walking toward him. He was smiling. But I was smiling. He beat me. We were wide-eyed over never having run that fast. More bitter-sweet for me, but sweet all the same.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Toning is a Bad Word

If you mention that you want to tone your body to a trainer or other fitness professional, he or she is likely to do a mental cringe. You see, from a physiological point of view, there is no such thing as 'toning' your muscles. Muscles can only get bigger (called Hypertrophy) or smaller (Atrophy).

So why then did I put Tone as one of the main goals on the Agile home page? Because I need to find a way to relate to you. I know what you're looking for, and I know how to give you that, but it may not be words that you'll readily embrace (i.e. words like hypertrophy, lean body mass, vascular muscle tissue). I want to speak to you in terms that you will understand, and then teach you about your body as we get to know one another.

The initial effect from weight training is a perceived tightening, or firming, of the muscles. So when people say they want to tone their body, they're looking for this firming effect plus some fat reduction in certain parts of their body. But, the idea of making your muscles grow longer or shorter is really not possible. You cannot manipulate the length of your muscles - you can make the more flexible and vascular, but not physically longer.

You can still achieve a lean look. You can get this look by reducing your body fat weight and increasing your muscle mass. This is where some people, mainly women, get afraid - it's that word 'mass' - they don’t want to get bulky. Well, okay, I won’t make you ‘bulky’ but we’re still going to lift weights and increase your muscle mass. You would have to lift weights 6 times per week with high volume and intensity cycles to get so muscular that you look bulky. If you appear bulky because your muscles are growing a little bit but they’re layered under fat weight. Well, that’s a diet issue.

Now what about those whose muscles grow fast, they've lost their excess fat weight and they actually think they're too bulky? Don't worry, even hear we can lean out your muscles by increasing your cardiovascular exercise volume. But this is very hard to do because it requires a lot of cardio conditioning and a strict diet.

I can show you how to reduce the fat that is over your muscles and I can show you how to increase the size of your muscles. I can show you how to strengthen your heart muscle and increase your cardiovascular efficiency by growing more capillaries. I can help you increase your coordination and balance. I can tweak each of these benefits to a certain degree so that your body has a certain look and feel.

If you want to call that toning, that’s okay, it’s just a word.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Doing It The Wrong Way

Here are the 10 most common mistakes I see in a gym - and I see these mistakes almost every time!

1. Walking on Treadmill while holding on with hands. This is cheating. If you need to hold on, then the speed is too high and or the incline is too steep.

2. Resting between sets: I see way too many guys reading a magazine or chatting with their buddies in between sets. Here's the deal: if more than a minute goes by between sets, you're either a Division 1 football player in the Strength Phase of your sport specific strength training program that demands a 2:30 rest period, or your a 'Joe' wasting time in the gym.

3. Overweight men & women lying on their back doing abs. If you are overweight, you need to be doing exercises that are getting - and keeping - your heart rate up. That means staying on your feet (weight-bearing exercises). 100 crunches a day will firm up your abs, which will always remain buried under 25 extra pounds of fat. I promise you that crunches do nothing to eliminate the fat weight on your gut.

4. Skinny girls doing Pilates. Not the best use of your exercise time. Lifting weights is more effective and can teach the same virtues as those of Pilates. A popular benefit cited by Pilates enthusiasts, 'lengthening' muscles, is a misnomer. You cannot make a muscle longer. Muscles attach to bone via tendons and ligaments. Unless your bones grow longer, your muscles cannot get longer. Now you can and will get more flexible, but a flexible Serena Williams is still a very muscular women.

5. Guys wearing pants in the gym. Quick giveaway that their legs are totally undeveloped because they chose to concentrate on upper body beach muscle. Result: very tight back because they stopped squatting down and bending over 5 years ago.

6. Recumbent bike TV Watchers. This bike has a good purpose: light riding for heavier people on their easy days. But what it ends up being instead is an ideal position for watching the TV on an exercise bike.

7. Poor exercise sequencing: chest and biceps are a bad combination. Your biceps act as a 'secondary mover' when pulling. Do biceps after back. Do triceps after chest.

8. Muscle targeting: guys are targeting 2 muscle groups + abs in one workout and doing this twice per week. Your better off doing 1 or 2 exercises per muscle group 3 times per week. You'll get bigger and more fit!

9. Elliptical machine: okay, I'm warming up to this machine. It’s a legit choice for those whose bodies simply can't handle the higher impact treadmill. But geez, get more into it! Bring your strides per minute up and really use those arms. Don't hold onto the arm rest handles.

10. The Smith machine: it’s tragic that this machine has found its way into most gyms. It allows your muscles to 'shut off' from having to think about what they're doing. No balance or coordination is needed, so men are able to really load up on the weight to boost their ego. Guys: who the heck cares how much weight you can lift?! Find another ego satisfier.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Difference Between Trainers and Coaches

Good personal trainers are awesome at exercise sequencing; they are very good at putting together fresh, challenging workouts.

Good coaches are awesome at designing exercise programs. Less emphasis is placed on exercise variety and more emphasis is placed on program goals.

The trainer has to keep the client happy and coming back; the coach dictates what his or her athletes are going to do if they want to play on the team.

The trainers approach is more fun, but the coaches’ approach is more effective.

The challenge for us at Agile is of course to do both: make goal-oriented exercise programs that are innovative, fresh and fun.

The challenge for me is walking the fine line between my roles as coach and trainer. On the one hand, I have to be a hard-ass, demand more and keep you on track. On the other hand, I have to be sensitive to the demands on your time and cheer you to do the best you can.

What's the balance between those two? I’m still not exactly sure.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Get in Shape This Fall!

I cannot believe that today is September 1st! I love that we have a new season upon us. It’s a chance for renewal. Sure we've got plenty of days of warm weather left but the daily pace and tempo is going to be different after this long weekend. Time to get back into the work routine. And time to get back into the workout routine!

I just counted that we have about 12 weeks between now and Thanksgiving. That's the perfect chunk of time to plan an exercise program. And think what a perfect scenario to have 3 solid months of exercise training under your belt before the Holidays and New Year's.

All Agile exercise programs are one month long. That means you can start one now, then a new and slight harder one in October, and then a newer and even harder one in November. Each exercise program is calibrated to have you 'Peak' in the 3rd week of that month. Then on the 4th week (Taper Week) the workload gets easier. 3 months of that and you will be in the best shape of your life!

If anyone is browsing through the programs on, and you’re unsure of where to get started, then email me at and let me know. Email this information and I'll tell you what program you should choose:

1) Exercise and Health History (or Sports History)
2) Age, Height, Weight
3) Activity likes and dislikes (i.e. "I hate the stairclimber")
4) Where you will workout (i.e. Home or Gym)
5) Anything else you think I should know

I’m so passionate about this stuff. Please let me know how I can help you!

About Me

My photo
NY, New York, United States
I'm 34 years old, the proud father of 2 beautiful children and husband to Jennifer, a beautiful, smart, and very caring woman. I'm an athlete - someone that was blessed with the ability to move fast and fluidly past, around, up and over my opponents. But, my body now reminds me that those days are numbered. I'm the Founder of Agile Fitness, a company dedicated to helping others achieve their fitness goals. Resume: - Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist ('96). - Bachelor of Arts & Science, University of Delaware, ('95) - Masters in Business Administration, Baruch College Zicklin School of Business ('01)