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Less sedentary time crucial for children’s health

3 Apr

When you teach high schoolers, as I did for a number of years, there are very few things that they do that will really surprise you. But spend a day shadowing any student and you will be astounded at how much sedentary time they have: they sit on their way to and from school, they sit for hours on end in class after class, they sit down while they eat lunch with their friends, they go home to sit down and spend hours cranking out homework and updating their Facebook status.

Play time!

Perhaps the student gets a moment of rest from all this sitting to spend an hour or two at a team practice for a sport. Perhaps not. But with how much sedentary time children and students have, we have to wonder how this affects their health.

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined the association between vigorous physical activity and sedentary time amongst healthy children. Examining cardiometabolic measures–i.e. waist circumference, systolic blood pressure, fasting lipoprotein, and fasting insulin–across more than 20,000 children and adolescents, the study suggests that minimal sedentary time, or more movement through the day, is more important to health than brief bouts of formal, intense exercise in the gym, during a practice, or in a PE class. In other words, time spent in sedentary behavior all day can undo the benefits gained from formal exercise.

The point? Moving more throughout the day–even slow and unstructured movement–is more important to your child’s health than living mostly sedentary with occasional exercise.

It’s important to note that activity is not necessarily just another thing that we do–another box we check off from our to-do lists–but a way of living. Activity is an underlying characteristic to the things we do day to day. To live an active lifestyle does not necessarily mean joining all kinds of teams and clubs and gyms, thus making ourselves even busier than we already are. Living actively means enjoying movement throughout your day.

But what do we do with this? With the pace that we can run in life and the number of things on our plate, sometimes it feels like it is all we can do to get our children out of the chair for those few moments of activity during their PE classes or team practices.

So, take small steps. Here are some ideas. If your child enjoys video games and you own an Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii, encourage them to take a “brain break” every 30 minutes or so from their homework for a quick game of ping-pong or tennis. Create challenges for your children each month such as walking or riding their bike (if possible) to and from school. Encourage your children to read their school books while standing up for 10 minutes instead of hunched over the text. Or think up quick five minute games to do during the commercial breaks of your children’s favorite TV shows like playing paddy-cake with your feet instead of your hands (don’t laugh, it’s actually quite difficult).

Perhaps you have already taken steps to encourage more unstructured movement time in your children’s daily routines. If so, please post to the comments to share your ideas and keep the dialogue going. Slow and steady wins the race.

Coach Rick Advances to NorCal CrossFit Regionals

28 Mar

When we last left our heros, FIT coaches Rick D., Scott K., and Matt B. were taking on the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Open competition, a worldwide test of fitness, along with fellow CrossFitters Jenny Lewis and Dan “the man” Atler. As of our last post, heading into the final workout of the grueling five week competition, Rick stood just outside of the top 40 male athletes out of nearly 1500 in the Northern California region.

Coach Rick Answers the Question

And what was the final workout? A classic CrossFit couplet of two very challenging movements: the “thruster” with a barbell weighing 100 pounds and pull-up in which the athletes must bring their chest in contact to the pull-up bar for the repetition to count. With a seven minute time limit, Rick had to follow an ascending pattern: 3 thrusters, 3 pull-ups, 6 thrusters, 6 pull-ups, 9 thrusters, 9 pull-ups, and so on. The more reps he could complete in seven minutes, the higher the score. Here’s a clip of Rick’s first minute of the workout.

An incredibly strong performance of 137 reps catapulted Rick into the top 40 athletes. Considering each worldwide region only allows the top 60 athletes to move on to the Regional competition, Rick feels happy with his placing so far: “I’m definitely more confident about where I finished this year considering I just barely made it into the Regionals last year. I’m looking forward to two months of preparation to get mentally and physically ready to compete with the big boys in May.”

If you’ve never witnessed first hand a CrossFit competition, the NorCal Regional will be an awesome opportunity to watch your own FIT coach take on some of the best athletes in the world. The NorCal Regional competition is a three day event beginning on Friday May 18th through Sunday May 20th.

So mark your calendars, write a note in your iPhone. Believe me, you won’t want to miss this. You can find details for directions here and tickets here. See you there!

Busting through those Late Winter Plateaus!

9 Mar

So you’ve made it to March on your New Years Resolution program of eating better, sleeping more, and getting some exercise, but now you’re running out of steam.  I get it: you put all your gusto into changing all of your habits at once, and you’re just a little bit fatigued at this point.  Yes! You HAVE seen some great results, but you want more!  What do you do when the program you have been so diligently following is getting stale and no longer giving you the results that you want?

This is the perfect time to change things up for the better, adjust your program to jump-start progress, and reinvigorate your enthusiasm for health and wellness.  With the weather warming up, why don’t you take your program outside?  There are plenty of ways to create challenging and fun workouts in the sunshine and away from all of the noise and clutter of the gym.  In addition, you’ll give yourself a needed dose of vitamin D after spending all those months cooped up indoors.

How about a complete change in program? After working hard for the last 3 months, nothing will get your exercise passion back like trying something different.  Personally, I like to completely revamp what I’m working on a few times each year.  This keeps me from feeling stale, as well as gives me new challenges to work toward.  For example, if you recently spent the last few months trying to really increase your strength in the gym with a progressive weight program, why not try a completely bodyweight program?  How do you add resistance you ask?  Well take that push up and invert it – handstand pushups are quite challenging, but work the same muscles that you would with a shoulder press or push press.






Why not finally master those pull ups you have been working on?  Nothing says I’m ready for the impending beach season like well sculpted arms and a nice strong back.  And I know that too many of you have avoided trying those pistol squats for fear of falling and making a fool of yourself.  Now is your chance to master all those 1-leg exercises that looked too intimidating.

And what about learning a new skill or sport?  I myself have endeavored to become proficient in the competition kettlebell lifts and the Turkish Get-up.  While training with kettlebells is en vogue these days, the competition lifts – and the training that goes along with them – is still something that I haven’t really experienced yet.  Even though I have been using kettlebells in my training for the last several years, I have no idea how many 1 arm snatches I can do in 10 minutes.  Think about something new that you’ve been dreaming about doing, and set your heart and mind to it.  Think of this as your New Year’s Resolution version 2.0!  Find yourself a qualified trainer or instructor in a new discipline and dive in.

Outdoor Workout

Sprint 50 yards

10 x Tree Stump Throws (can use a tire, sandbag, big rock)

10 x Tree Branch Pull Ups

10 x Log Lateral Hurdle Jumps

50 yard Bear Crawl

5 Rounds; 1 min. rest in-between

Bodyweight Workout

5 x Pistol Squats (each leg)

10 x Handstand Push Ups

15 x Inverted Rows on rings or bar

As many rounds in 15 minutes as possible

Kettlebell Workout

5 Sets

5 x Snatch/5 Windmill

10 x Swings

5 x 3 Turkish Get Ups (per side)


Let me know how you get through the next 3 months!

Save the Date: Thursday, November 10th!

9 Oct

Join FIT & The College of Adaptive Arts on Thursday, November 10th at 6:30pm for a screening of      Happy:  The Movie.


600 Fremont Ave.  Los Altos, CA  94024


*We are asking for a suggested donation of $10 in support of The College of Adaptive Arts.  The CAA is a non-profit that provides college courses for adults with differing abilities.


Roko Belic, director of the Academy Award® nominated “Genghis Blues” now brings us HAPPY, a film that sets out to answer these questions and more. Taking us from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.

What Do You Value

20 Jun

I was listening to a discussion between two strength coaches the other day talking about the excuses they hear from people regarding exercise and nutrition, and it got me thinking.

What are your priorities in life and where do exercise and nutrition fit in all that?

One of the most often used excuses is, “I don’t have time”.  But this raises an interesting counter-question in my mind: don’t have time for what?  Everyone is dealt the same 24 hours in the day, and it is really a matter of how your prioritize those hours.  Some will tell you that family comes first, or that work must be a priority, and those things are ok.

But everyone also has to eat.  Why not make those meals good ones?  Food has taken on almost mythical properties in our culture, purported to assist in any and all that ails you: Ice cream heals a broken heart, wings and beer make watching the game more fun, vegetables cure cancer, rice and sprite calm an upset stomach, chocolates and oysters help to set the mood.  I think you get my point.

In reality though, food’s primary role is to fuel your body and mind from day to day.  That is not to say that there aren’t better (and worse options).  My approach to food has always been to eat foods that are either of the earth or on the earth, and as close to their natural state as possible.  Examples you ask…

Vegetables, fruits, tubers are all OF the earth.  Animals, of course, are ON the earth.

The question I used to get from the high schoolers I worked with was about the natural-state clause: Grilled chicken thighs with the skin on are much closer to nature than those deep-fried and breaded wings you just gobbled down.

So what foods are the better ones?  In a recent nutrition seminar I attended, I heard the most succinct qualifier for which foods one should eat – those that move you closer to optimal health.  While there are health claims made about almost any food under the sun (twinkie diet anyone?) there are obviously more nutritious and healthful foods out there; there are foods that while superficially benign, are actually responsible for all sorts of negative consequences under the surface.

Shouldn’t we all be trying to provide our bodies (and brains) with the best foods we can?  Maybe that means forgoing the pizza because it’s quick, and instead spending the extra time to grill the steaks and veggies you have sitting in the fridge?  It might take a little bit of planning on the front end, but the benefits will be much more long-lasting (UC-Berkeley journalism professor and food writer, Michael Pollan, has spoken at length about the hidden costs – medical, environmental, etc. – of quick processed foods, and that spending more time and money preparing healthy foods will actually be cheaper in the long run).

So I bring you back to the earlier question: where do you place your priorities?  I know for myself, a good meal is only a great meal if it actually makes me healthier for eating it.

Seasons of Change

9 May

This month F.I.T. turns 10!!!  It seems like only a short while ago that Thom, myself, Jason and Gabe opened the doors and anxiously awaited the first few clients to walk through our doors.  Yet, looking at how much we have evolved as people and professionals, as a facility and a community, I have a hard time believing that’s all taken place in 10 short years.

We have serviced over a thousand clients through the years and hopefully have positively impacted the lives of most of them.  For those who have been here all the while, as well as those who are newer to the fold, we sincerely thank you for giving us the opportunity to help you on your pursuit of long-term health and lifelong vitality.

With growth and evolution, there is a natural transition of staff.  Many of you were sad to see Analisa leave a few months back and now we are preparing for Jimmy’s departure.  I can assure you that members of our team ‘leaving the nest’ hit no one harder than Thom and I.  We believe the ‘secret sauce’ at FIT, that is palpable from the first moment you walk through the door, is the sense of community or possibly even family.  It is for this reason that I liken the transition of staff to what a parent must experience when a child goes off to college.  They are ready, it’s time, but it’s hard, very hard. 

Sticking with the analogy, we experience a great deal of pride in learning about the success each individual achieves, much like a parent would.  So, to brag for just a moment . . .

Jason – Product Manager, Apple Inc., CA

Josie – Executive Assistant, Sequoia Venture Capital, CA

Kellie – Owner, Moylan Training, WV

Trey – Performance Director, Velocity, TX

Katy – Franchisee, Stroller Striders, TX

Todd – Performance Director, Velocity, VA

Kris – Medical Device Rep, Stryker

Manny – Educator and Exercise Specialist for Chronic Pain Management, Feinberg Medical Group, CA

Herm – Ranger, US Army deploying 2012

Johnny – Program Director, The 3rd Door, CA

Analisa – Owner, Training Business, CA

Jimmy – Owner, Training Business, NV

Scott – Director of Wellness, Hunter Laboratories, CA

Jen – Owner, Buddies in Action, CA

In addition to these pursuits, Karen and Matt are currently working to complete their Masters degrees.

With each individual’s departure there has been sadness and stress as we all, clients and staff alike, adjust to their absence and adapt to the new faces that have replaced them.  The good news is that with each new person to join our staff, we evolve a little further.  We recently hired Michelle Watson, whom some of your will remember from the year she interned with us prior to pursuing her degree in Kinesiology.  In addition, we are currently interviewing a number of remarkable candidates and will go to great lengths to ensure that these new staff members are of the same caliber you have come to expect.

We consider ourselves very fortunate to hold on to our trainers as long as we do (5x the industry average) but it seems that we are currently amidst a season of change.  And change is never easy, but F.I.T. is and will always be a place where both clients and trainers come with a set of expectations and leave achieving so much more.  We are both inspired and inspiring.  The term development is often used when referring to fundraising or philanthropy, but a definition I recently heard applies to the spirit of F.I.T. . . .

Facilitating discovery of shared values.

Growing a community of individuals who care about a common cause

Just by walking through our doors you have committed to the common cause of living longer and living healthier.  And the discovery of shared values comes into play every step along that journey.  Thank you for supporting us over the years and for continuing to allow us to support you.

“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is a success” – Henry Ford

Spring Cleaning: Identify your cleaning habits

9 May

Spring is officially here.  It is time to clean out the closet, garage, toy room, attic or whatever appears to be overflowing in your house.   Some tackle this project every year, some are on the five-year plan, while others go in about every three months and eliminate a few things.  If you are like me, you just move every year and that solves the clutter problem!  Regardless of what your de-cluttering strategy is, one thing is for sure, there is something refreshing about making that goodwill drop-off.  It is something that no one can do for you because 1) you would not get the same feeling of accomplishment and 2) they may give away those favorite pair of sweatpants from high school that you are just not ready to part with.

Is there a relationship between spring-cleaning habits and attempts to make dietary/lifestyle changes?  I think so.  Is one habit or strategy better than the other?  Not necessarily.  What is important is to identify what your habits are and identify the most realistic path to get to your goals. 

Every couple months do you throw a little away?

You may prefer to remove or reduce one thing at a time; slowly make dietary changes, such as that daily latte.  There is something to be said for gradual consistency.  However, this constant cleaning out may be masking an overwhelming sense of fear, or a way to skirt around what really needs to be done.  If you feel like you are constantly attempting small dietary changes but are not reaching your goals, you might be better off making one big change.

Are you actually eliminating the stuff that is taking up the most space?

Do you constantly sort through the small unassuming pile of t-shirts instead of tackling the massive amounts of shoes you trip over every morning?  Many people give up or get rid of the things that are easiest to part with.  For example, it might be easier to part with the occasional ice cream indulgence, but eliminating the nightly glass of wine may have more impact.

Do you get rid of stuff only to replace it with something new or similar?

This is fine if your goal is not to make a dent in your closet or in your diet.  An updated pair of Lulu’s is definitely better than the worn out pair of spandex.  You can say it’s better to swap rice for nutritionally dense Quinoa.  Sometimes replacing something can be positive (and necessary), for example a piece of fruit instead of a piece of cake.  However, be mindful of what you are swapping because it may be more calorically dense and actually “take up more space.”

Do you opt for the once a year spring-cleaning swoop?

You go for it.  Get rid of all the clutter and see the difference right away.  You are probably willing to make big dietary changes with the hope that you will see the results in a short amount of time.  Many start a challenge, such as the FIT 30-day challenge, with the mindset, “it’s only 30 days.”  Make sure you have a plan for after the 30 days.  Watch out for over indulges and the vicious yo-yo cycle; we all know yo-yo dieting does not work.  If you have never made drastic changes, try it at least once.  It is one of the best ways to identify your true dietary needs.  But if you are constantly in an purge and binge cycle, it’s time for a little moderation.

Do you choose a strategy or habit that you prefer or the one that you know is truly best for you? 

It is not always about breaking habits; it’s about identifying your habits, and, yes, probably changing or removing some old ones.  But, it’s also about understanding how to work with your behaviors in order to reach your desired goals.  It’s about identifying barriers, such as stress, travel, or busy schedules, and knowing how to make changes that work with your lifestyle.

Whether or not you embarked on FIT’s 30-day challenge, take time to identify your eating habits.  At FIT, we can help you identify a path, make suggestions, and provide support, but we can’t clean out your closet for you.  You have to do the work and the results will be due to your own actions. 

Have you ever regretted a trip to Goodwill?  I doubt it.  Go for it.  Try to eliminate what you think you NEED (your daily latte, glass of wine, etc) and yes, the first couple weeks will be hard, but in the end you can make the decision whether you really need it, whether you should swap it for something new, or whether it should even be a part of the “junk in your trunk.” 

PrimalCon 2011

9 May

A couple of weekends ago, joined with Tracey, Angelo, Shaun, and Serena, I had the opportunity to attend Mark Sisson’s (author of The Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple) PrimalCon 2011. 

PrimalCon is a health and fitness retreat with the purpose of bringing us back to basics, back to the beginning, referring to our ancient ancestors of the Paleolithic era and how they survived as hunters-gatherers. How is this relevant to us, you might ask.  Mark’s philosophy for primal fitness is simple: sprint, lift heavy things, play, rest, and then repeat.  And of course, it’s also supposed to be fun.

Physical exercise is only half of Mark’s philosophy. Nutritional eating habits make up the rest (approximately 80%). However, this article will only focus on exercise.  With that, a way of implementing what Grok would do (Mark’s caveman mascot) on a weekly basis would be as follows:

Sprint (once a week, session length: less than 10 minutes)

Example: run, bike, row, even the elliptical with an all out effort.

Try Tabata intervals: (20 seconds of work; 10 seconds of rest; repeated eight times for a total of 4 minutes).

Lift heavy objects (1-3 times a week, session length: 7 minutes-1 hour)

Example: squats, pull-ups, push-ups, handstand push-ups, and planks.  More advanced examples include: deadlifts, push press, snatches, cleans, thrusters, kettlebell swings, and jerks.

A normal presumption is that you have to pick up something to count as moving heavy weights, but in actuality your own body weight can be just as effective.

Move frequently at a slow pace (2-5 hours spread across 1 week)

This is what should be called “Play Time.” It’s easy to moderate exercise that keeps you moving, gets your heart pumping (55-75% maximum heart rate).

Example: walking, rowing, biking, elliptical, jump roping, and dancing.

Other examples would be: hiking, swimming, playing outside with the kids, ultimate Frisbee, soccer, or channeling your inner Angelo.

 In conclusion

Mark’s philosophy for fitness is functional, realistic, simple, and fun. It’s what we try to achieve and implement into your training regimen at FIT.          

FIT leads the way….

30 Mar

Read this article About how FIT and FIT Buddies is leading the way in training kids with intellectual disabilities.

Balance Your Exercise with Play

9 Mar

Sometimes the activities that we ask our clients here at FIT to engage in can heighten self-consciousness.  For most people, going to a gym at all can be intimidating, let alone being asked to perform a complex movement such as a clean and jerk or being pushed to the point of physical discomfort for the sake of goal attainment.  As a team of trainers, we frequently discuss how best to appreciate what we ask of our clients.  For this reason, we opted to videotape ourselves in a Zumba class taught by a colleague, Sehin Belew.  The thought was to experience feeling uncoordinated and mildly self-consciousness in a physical pursuit.

As I’m sure you too can note, some of us were a bit more inhibited than others, but the more notable observation would be how much fun everyone had.  Too often exercise is associated with work or something that has to be done.  How different would exercise feel if the mental association was fun and play instead of work?

Last year, we had the opportunity to spend time with Wes Walker, a young, Olympic-caliber runner. Wes was returning from studying the Tarahumara people of Northern Mexico who are renowned for their long-distance running ability.  While coaching us during a run, he continually asked us to think, “how can I make this easier?  What would make me more comfortable?”  I’d always viewed running as an opportunity to literally pound out my frustrations; I enjoyed punishing myself by pushing to go faster and longer.  Never once, since I began running 12 years ago, had I ever considered how to make running easier, and thereby possibly more fun.

Mark Sisson, author of and the book, Primal Blueprint, emphasizes the importance of play in a way that resonates with me.  He discusses how play has become a bit of a guilty pleasure rather than a necessity.  For reasons that are unclear, or possibly different for everyone, ‘real life’ seems to get in the way as the drive for ‘success’ takes precedence.  In contrast, Sisson goes on to note, “Besides its stress-reducing and social qualities, play has other quantifiable benefits.”  The vacation gap study performed in 2006 showed that workers were 25% more productive following a vacation, and their sleep habits improved: averaging 20 more minutes per night and three times as much deep sleep.  The New York Times recently covered a study showing that increasing leisure activities improves immune function faster than stress can suppress it.  Although it has long been theorized that the more relaxed you are, the easier task seems, and the better you feel.  Now there is research to support it.  Couple that with the sheer pleasure that is inherent to play or the benefit of the laughter that often accompanies play, and a significant increase to quality of life is inevitable. 

While Zumba may or may not be the fun you are looking for, something is.  Finding it within yourself to laugh at yourself in place of being self critical, seeking opportunities to play with others, and, most importantly, making play a priority will not only be fun but will be as (if not more) beneficial to your health than the extra time spent at work, running errands or doing whatever else gets in the way.  This month we are speaking of balance, which means something different to all of us.  I’m not looking to define balance but I am suggesting that as you consider your social and physical engagements, prioritize those that involve laughter and fun, or consider approaching the activities you are engaging in with a playful spirit.  Fun has always been an important component of how we design and implement programs at FIT but it is a team effort.  We can’t make you have fun – that’s up to you.  Not everything in life can or should be fun, but for the activities that can be, try to let them.