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Prescription for good health diet and exercise flat lay overhead with copyspace.

Sam: A Case Study

Question from Sam, age 84: Hi Pat! Sam, here. I appreciate your ‘real people’ common sense approach to this aging thing. Your 7S Buckets resonated with me, and I would like to report that I am doing my darndest to keep them ALL full and robust.


Back to Basics

As health and fitness professionals we like to think of ourselves invincible.  After all, we help people feel better, and accordingly, we should never do anything to appear less than indomitable.  We also all know this is simply not true.  


Keys to Empowering Women in the Weight Room, Part 2

In Part 1, I reviewed the ACSM study goals, statistics and barriers to weightlifting unique to women

In this article, I’ll cover the three E’s for empowering women in the weight room, and translate these recommendations into strategies that non-professionals can implement for themselves.


Understanding how physical attributes of gyms perpetuate negative messaging regarding women’s bodies and harmful myths about women’s fitness.

  • Body image as the sole motivator for exercise with full-length mirrors and posters presenting unrealistic expectations for women’s bodies.
  • Insufficient equipment and scaling options.
  • An overwhelming male presence and masculine perceptions that can complicate women’s relationship with the gym environment and diminish their confidence to participate.

Overcoming these barriers:

  • When considering an environment that is the best fit for you, avoid those spaces with attributes that make you feel uncomfortable. You may prefer a gym with more limited mirror space, and that has a more balanced male/female demographic and female trainers. An example of a more supportive environment is a typical CrossFit “box” where the male-to-female demographic is often split and you will rarely find a mirror.
  • Consider a female-only gym space.
  • Consider group weightlifting classes. As a former BodyPump instructor, I can vouch for this program as a fantastic way for any beginner to gain confidence with weights and develop a base of sound movement patterns.
  • One-on-one training is an excellent way to get personalized instruction on safe weightlifting technique and individualized goal-setting to gain confidence in the basics of weightlifting.


People will often gravitate toward their comfort zones and do exercise routines that are more familiar and that are easy to execute.

  • Unrealistic expectations for results and timelines to achieve them.
  • “Weightlifting is hard.
  • Fear of injury or “being sore”.
  • “I don’t want to exercise by myself.”
  • “I don’t have time to lift weights.”

Overcoming these barriers:

  • Focusing on realistic goals of improvements in strength, movement quality, well-being, and specifically for mid-life women, maintenance of bone density and muscle mass to prevent fractures and maintain a healthy metabolism and glucose control.
  • Working with a Coach or Trainer to create a personalized program design and dispelling the misconceptions that one needs to spend many hours per week and be sore after every workout to achieve benefits.
  • Effective workouts can be achieved in as little as 10-20 minutes provided that the sets, repetitions, and rest periods are programmed accordingly.
  • Seek out gym environments that promote small-group weightlifting classes and allow members to bring a guest.


Knowledge is power. Promoting an understanding of the principles of weightlifting and its benefits is key to debunking myths and misconceptions and building a healthy relationship with the barbell.

Common myths and misconceptions about weightlifting:

  • Resistance training is less beneficial than cardiovascular exercise.
  • Weight training is “dangerous” for women.
  • I need to spend hours in the gym to see any benefits.
  • Resistance training is not optimal for fat burning.

Overcoming these barriers:

  • Seek out opportunities to work one-on-one with experienced trainers who have experience with resistance training in female clients of all ages.
  • Take a personal “inventory” of what is most important for you to feel comfortable incorporating weight training into your fitness program and your specific goals. Do you prefer one-on-one instruction? Do you prefer a women-only environment? Is a group setting important to you? Do you have injuries or physical limitations that need to be considered?
  • Advocate for yourself. Once you have an idea of what is important for you to succeed, don’t be afraid to ask questions when visiting a facility.
  • Do your homework. Read reviews of a facility before you join. Talk to other members. Review the credentials and experiences of the Coaches who work at the facility.
  • Seek out reliable sources of information about the benefits of weight training for women as well as safe and effective approaches to the barbell for any level of experience. Here are some of my go-to’s for reliable information:

This is the time of our lives when we need to kick the societal status quo to the curb and take our health and wellness into our own hands and away from destructive narratives. The world is our oyster. We have established our careers, raised our children, and had our share of triumphs and failures. With that comes the wisdom to pave our own way into this new prime of our lives.

So, whether it’s your first back squat with a PVC pipe or a deadlift PR (personal record), congratulations on forging a new frontier to being your fittest, strongest, most vital self!

Dr. Carla DiGirolamo is a double Board-Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist and Reproductive Endocrinologist who specializes in the care of reproductive age and mid-life women. Carla completed her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brown University Medical School/Women and Infants’ Hospital and her Reproductive Endocrinology training at the Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School. She is a North American Meno

Fit Pros: Offer menopausal and perimenopausal women an individualized approach to training, nutrition and wellness as a Menopause Health and Fitness Specialist.


  • Ford, C, Kercher VM, Kercher KA; The 3 E’s – Keys to Empowering Women in the Weight Room. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 27(3):p 14-19, 5/6 2023.
  • Harne AJ and Bixby WR. The benefits of and barriers to resistance training among college-age women. Journal of Sport Behavior 19(2):151-66, 2005
woman lifting crossfit-534615_1280

Keys to Empowering Women in the Weight Room, Part 1

The hormonal changes of mid-life bring our muscle and bone mass under assault. As circulating estrogen declines and estrogen receptors in skeletal muscle become scarcer, changes in bone density, muscle mass, and metabolism become apparent.

Shoulder to shoulder with the importance of cardiovascular health, optimizing our muscle and bone health helps stave off decline in bone density which can lead to fracture, and can help mitigate the increasing insulin resistance that wreaks havoc on our changing metabolism.

To coin a phrase from Dr. Stacy Sims, there is a great benefit to women in this stage of life (and all stages of life) who “Lift heavy sh*t”. Now, if you have never lifted weights, this can sound intimidating. But don’t worry. You are not alone.

Historically, there have been many barriers to women in the weight room. Training environments where achieving a certain body image is the focus rather than building strength, healthy movement patterns, and improving body composition can be unmotivating and intimidating. The stigma of weightlifting as “masculine” or that it “makes you bulky” and the misconceptions that weightlifting is not beneficial for women are also among the many obstacles that women of all ages face.

In the May/June issue of ACSM Health and Fitness Journal, Claire Ford et al. do an excellent job of defining the obstacles that women face in the weight room and have created a framework called “The 3 E’s” that outlines strategies to overcome these barriers. I’ll take the summary points from this article and translate them into practical solutions for women and fitness professionals to empower themselves in the world of weightlifting.

The 3 E’s – Keys to Empowering Women in the Weight Room

Ford, C, Kercher VM, Kercher KA; ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 27(3):p 14-19, 5/6 2023.

Goal of the study

Use a socioecological model to provide insight into the nature of women’s unique experiences with weightlifting and describe a practical approach for empowering women in this environment.

Some statistics

Just 2 days per week of resistance training can reap physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

Only 25% of the US population meets these recommendations.

17.5% of women engage in weightlifting on a regular basis

Benefits of Weightlifting

  • Improves body composition.
  • Helps prevent bone loss.
  • Maintenance of healthy metabolism.
  • Maintenance of quality movements over the lifespan.
  • Promotes emotional well-being and self-concept.

Barriers to weightlifting unique to women

The notion that women face unique barriers to weightlifting has been a subject of investigation. Harne and Bixby organized these barriers into the following 3 categories:

Time / effort

  • “I don’t want to get bulky”.
  • ”I’m afraid I’ll hurt myself”.
  • “I don’t want to be sore”.
  • “I’m in terrible shape”.

Physical Effect

  • “I don’t have time to lift weights”
  • “It’s too hard”
  • “It’s easier to hop on the treadmill”
  • “I’m overwhelmed at the gym


  • “I don’t have anyone to go to the gym with”
  • “Isn’t weightlifting better for men?”
  • “I like the group classes because my friends can come with me”
  • “There are too many men. I feel like I don’t belong”

The 3 E’s: A framework through which we can understand and address women’s barriers to weightlifting

After identifying and categorizing these unique barriers to weightlifting that women face, the authors created a framework upon which to overcome these barriers. This framework is called “The 3 E’s”.

This ACSM article speaks to an audience of fitness professionals and how the fitness industry can work to overcome these barriers.

In Part 2 of this article, I take this a step further and translate these recommendations for fitness professionals into strategies that non-professionals can implement for themselves.

Fit Pros: Offer menopausal and perimenopausal women an individualized approach to training, nutrition and wellness as a Menopause Health and Fitness Specialist.

Dr. Carla DiGirolamo is a double Board-Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist and Reproductive Endocrinologist who specializes in the care of reproductive age and mid-life women. Carla completed her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brown University Medical School/Women and Infants’ Hospital and her Reproductive Endocrinology training at the Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School. She is a North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Certified Menopause Practitioner and has been featured in multiple podcasts and speakerships at various events discussing the physiology of the hormonal changes of menopause, hormone therapy and functional fitness training.


  • Ford, C, Kercher VM, Kercher KA; The 3 E’s – Keys to Empowering Women in the Weight Room. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 27(3):p 14-19, 5/6 2023.
  • Harne AJ and Bixby WR. The benefits of and barriers to resistance training among college-age women. Journal of Sport Behavior 19(2):151-66, 2005

Exercise and Sleep: Use Your Workout to Stave Off Insomnia

Like sleep, exercise is a free, relatively easy-to-access fountain of youth—especially for those of us who are more or less able-bodied. If you are one of between between 50 and 70 million American adults who chronically suffer from a sleep disorder, take heart. Among the many tricks that add up to a healthy sleep hygiene, you can harness the power of exercise and find that as a result you are getting more rest at night.

It is important, however, to realize that the relationship between exercise and sleep is not as simple as the formula that says more exercise always leads to more sleep. The effect of exercise on sleep can vary from person to person and depend on the time of day, length of time from workout to bedtime, intensity of exercise, the type of workout (cardio vs. strength-training vs. yoga), food and drink consumed, and fitness level. And sometimes we have to deal with other exercise-related complications: If you, say, have the misfortunate of incurring a back injury from exercise, factors like the kind of mattress you sleep on suddenly matter a great deal.

All these variables notwithstanding, it is generally true that a physically active life tends to lead to getting more and deeper sleep on a regular basis. A meta-study back in the 90s found that for the general population, exercise improves the metrics of sleep quality. The length of deep sleep, amount of REM sleep, and total sleep time all tend to increase with exercise. And, at the same time, sleep onset latency (how long it takes to fall asleep) and sleep fragmentation (middle-of-the night wake-ups) tend to decrease. A study published in the journal Sleep found that increasing physical and social activities among older adults resulted in more of the higher-quality slow-wave sleep and showed improvement in memory-oriented tasks.

But, according to a study of sleep habits of adults in their 60s published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, effects of daily exercise on sleep habits might be more complicated than expected. Additionally, in the short run, sleep might have more influence on exercise than vice versa. One surprising thing that was clear is that if you sleep well tonight, you are more likely to get beneficial exercise tomorrow. The reverse causal relationship in the short run is not as clear. The study participants’ insomnia improved as a result of a moderate endurance exercise program that amounted to three or four 30-minute workouts a week—but only after four months. That’s when exercisers saw the benefit of sleeping more deeply and, on average, 45 minutes longer than before. One lesson, then, is that it’s worth it to keep at it with workouts for a few months in order to see a steady and lasting effect on sleep.

Too much exercise can, however, lead to sleep disturbances. Ultrarunners and triathletes can sometimes run into this problem. For one, running attracts the more active, type-A personalities who tend to get off on the runner’s high.

“I think with the general population, vigorous exercise leads to reports of better sleep quality,” says Amy Bender, a Calgary-based researcher at the Canadian Sleep Society who helps Team Canada Olympians fall asleep. But she notes that in case of elite athletes whose workout routines are extra intense, too much exercise leads to troubles sleeping. According to a study published by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, insomnia is one of the symptoms of the overtraining syndrome. Most of Americans, though, are at risk for what might be called … the undertraining syndrome?

Another area of conflicting information when it comes to exercise and sleep is the timing of workouts. Some respected medical resources recommend keeping your workout away from bedtime. The National Institutes of Health, for example, recommends not exercising two or three hours prior to bedtime. The idea is that vigorous exercise, especially of the aerobic sort, can be too rousing and the resulting adrenaline spike does not promote sleep. Harvard University sleep experts, too, caution that “exercise stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain.” As a result, they recommend planning to be done with workouts three hours prior to bedtime.

However, a poll conducted in 2013 by the National Sleep Foundation found that people who exercise in the few hours before bedtime report sleeping just as well as those exercising earlier in the day.

“The timing of exercise ought to be driven by when the pool’s lap lane is open or when your tennis partner is available or when you have time to get away from work, not by some statement that has never been validated,” says Barbara Phillips, a University of Kentucky sleep medicine specialist who was one of the researchers working on the poll.

Our solution? Since we each know our bodies best, we can pay attention to whether or not exercising late in the day has effect on our sleep. If need be, tweak the time of exercise. If you find that exercising too close to bedtime winds you up, try saving the more quieting yoga or the more drowsiness-inducing strength workouts for the evenings and do aerobic exercise farther away from bedtime.

So long as you keep these tips in mind, along with the basic sleep hygiene guidelines, you are well positioned to draw from the two fountains of youth.

Agnes Green is a researcher for the sleep research community Tuck Sleep. She holds two master’s degrees in the social sciences from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. She sleeps most soundly after a kettlebell workout done three hours prior to bedtime, on a medium-firm mattress, to the sound of a drizzle wafting in through a cracked window in Portland, Oregon.

weight lifting barbel

Lift Ugly!

The title of this article is a quote from UK physiotherapist Adam Meakins. The context is that one does not need to exhibit or use “proper exercise technique” constantly throughout daily life or even during physical rehabilitation for pain or injury.

Now, this at first sounds counterintuitive to what the majority of fitness professionals and even physical therapists are taught and believe. The mantra of “poor exercise technique leads to injury” has been spouted for decades… but there is absolutely no proof of this in medical and fitness-related academic research.

Yep, your absolute most favorite go-to coaching point as a FitPro is pretty much bunk. So, do we throw the baby out with the bathwater and let our clients lift just however they please? No, not exactly, context is king.

If you are working with an athlete, which includes body builders, stricter exercise technique is beneficial to a high degree (esp. with physique athletes who require symmetry and maximal muscle development) but real-life sport doesn’t look anything like the gym when it comes to movements. Some variation in technique is beneficial as it will expose the athlete to forces in various, and more realistic fashions that provide greater benefits on the sport field or ring.

If you are working with general population, mostly healthy clients, “proper” exercise technique should honestly not be force fed initially, as this can be both physically uncomfortable for the client as well as demotivating if they’re “still not able to keep the back flat on a deadlift.” Find whatever movement pattern is natural for them and coach from there.

I used to be a hardcore stickler for technique, now, not so much. Instead, I coach my patients to lift in a manner that “feels stable, safe, and powerful” for THEM. The result? Better client engagement, better client results, and far less stress on them and yourself during the coaching session.

Now what about medical fitness and physical therapy? While strict joint actions may be required during some phases of physical rehabilitation or other therapy, we must consider how a client naturally and instinctively moves and wants to move. We need to understand any fear-avoidance behaviors they might have developed previously, and we certainly want to know their beliefs about physical activity.

So, if “improper” exercise technique isn’t to blame for gym and sport injuries, then what is?

We don’t have a firm answer, but we can say with a high degree of certainty that it’s a combination of physical and mental stress, distractions, nutritional state, hydration, focus in the moment, and how well prepared the individual is for that movement they are about to engage in. Simply not getting a good night’s sleep before deadlifting the next day can potentiate an injury, but that’s not a guarantee either. Load management and recovery are far more important when it comes to injury prevention than anything else, and this is why you should be writing and logging client training plans and sessions and not winging it. Otherwise, you have no historical record with which to troubleshoot things with which will only frustrate you and your client.

I sincerely hope that I have ruffled some feathers and also have given you some food for thought. There’s a time and place for everything, including strict exercise technique, it just takes some insight and thought to determine if “this” is the appropriate context.

Reprinted with permission from the Move Well, Live Well blog.

Joshua Slone is an Exercise Physiologist and Pain Therapist. He serves as Rehab Team Lead/Physiologist at the Center for Health in Yucca Valley, CA. His clinical expertise includes chronic pain management, joint replacements, sport and orthopedic injuries, complex medical condition management, geriatrics, degenerative neurological conditions, and psychiatric disorders. Visit his website, movewelllivewell.org


Taking it Slow. Not Every Fitness Goal Needs to Be Fast and Hard.

Go big or go home? We all want to see fantastic results from our hard work and dedication to any fitness program. If we maintain nutrition, eat well and work as hard as we can, we are going to see results: that is inevitable. But, do we have to train as hard as possible each and every time we workout, each and every day? Sure, we fit in a rest day, but what else can we do to make sure we are restoring our bodies and minds?

Fitness goals are most easily reached when they are part of every aspect of our lifestyle and not compartmentalized into a few hours of the day. We have limited energy sources no matter how healthy we are, so it is important to maintain awareness about how each of our decisions & actions influence our wellness and choose accordingly.

From a physical aspect, we can slow down some of our workouts to build strength. This works in a variety of ways. By increasing resistance, continuing muscle exertion over a period of time and working muscles beyond the support of initial momentum, strength can be gained, even with relatively light weights or by using the weight of the body alone. This can be true of some weight training programs and is something you can discuss adding to your fitness routines with a certified personal trainer. It is also one of the key elements of building strength through yoga practice and asanas (yoga postures). An additional consideration from a holistic health perspective is the effects of the stress hormone cortisol on weight loss. By taking part in calming physical activities such as restorative, gentle, yin and meditative yoga practices, it is possible to reduce stress, allowing the body to shed weight, heal and be at top capacity for more intensive strength and cardio training when you are working with your personal trainer or in other group fitness programs. By taking time to slow down, you can actually optimize performance and fitness results.

Nourishing your mind can also come in handy, as a way to promote your health when you are not busy exercising or working. Take time to read, learn, talk with fitness experts, organize your time and plan your meals. A wealth of free information is available online to support you in your fitness goals. Blogs with entries from personal trainers and other fitness experts are a great place to start, like the MedFit Network blog. Many personal trainer certification organizations (like ISSA or ACE) also maintain blogs with a variety of advice for personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts. You may also get inspired and decide to take your fitness goals one step further. Once you get involved learning more about fitness, biomechanics and how amazingly capable your body is, you may even get inspired to become a personal trainer or group fitness instructor yourself!

No matter where you are at in your fitness journey, don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Slow down sometimes to speed up your progress!

John Platero is the founder of National Council of Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT), which has certified thousands of personal trainers both nationally and internationally.

Article reprinted with permission from John Platero.


The Importance of Stretching

I remember the first time I figured out what my piriformis was, and how having a tight piriformis and IT band affected my movements. I had just started running hard core. As a former dancer, we stretched our hamstrings, inner thighs, the “dancer muscles”. But a piriformis or IT band was not something a DANCER experienced as this was not a muscle that was targeted in ballet, or other forms of dance.

The PAIN, was a knot in the right side of my hip/tush. It began to radiate all the way down the side of my right leg. It even affected my lever length so that the right leg felt “shorter”. I eventually learned how to do stretches such as “parvritta trikonasana”, and a bastardized version of pigeon on my back to target this muscle group (the external rotators).

Also, as a swimmer, and runner, my calf muscles will get super tight. This eventually pulls on my achilles tendon. Having torn my right achilles tendon in a freak accident in 2002, I can tell you keeping the achilles tendon happy can make the difference between being able to walk or not. Hand to foot calf stretches both standing and supine, as well as forward bend, and parvritta trikonasana, will take care of the problem. I also flex my foot against a wall before starting my run.

If my knees ache, it is usually because my quads are tight. I start with alternating kick ups from down dog into lunges to warm up. I also do natarajasana, which provides me an open angled quad stretch.

My students will often have problems targeting their abdominals. Tight hamstrings and hip flexors are usually the problem. I will do a “half lunge” where they press through the psoas to release it, then stretch the ham/calf in a forward bend while flexing the front foot, and keeping the standing knee right under the hip.

For other hard to read groups, such as under the shoulder blades, nothing beats a foam roller. I body surf along the foam roller, and hold until the knot dissipates. I have a chapter in “Healthy Things You Can Do In Front of the TV” complete with photos to describe how to target key muscles.

Stretching is often a forgotten, and yet necessary part of fitness. It makes the difference between proper kinesthetic alignment and gait, or movement that is off-balance, which can cause injuries. Not to mention, it just feels good before or after an intense workout. It also aids in recovery, so that you can be ready for your next challenge. Even die-hard couch potatoes need to stretch. And many stretches can be done at work or at home. See my lovely book for more examples of how to keep your body functioning at its best.

Kama Linden has been teaching fitness for over 2 decades. She has taught strength, step, pilates, vinyasa yoga, senior fitness, and has worked with clients and students of all ages and fitness levels. She is certified by AFAA Group Exercise and NASM CPT, as well as 200 hour Yoga. She has a BFA in Dance from University of the ARTS.  Her new book, “Healthy Things You Can Do In Front of the TV” is now on sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kindle.

healthy middle aged man workout at the beach

The Aging Athlete

If you’re reading this you are likely interested in beginning or improving in a recreational activity or sport. You might want to train for stadium football, a rec team, fun runs, obstacle courses or something as major as a triathlon. While you may be anxious to jump right into a training program there are a few things you should consider such as your current activity level, current physical condition (i.e. chronic conditions, aches, past surgeries, injuries), and knowledge of physical fitness programming.

Who is the Aging Athlete?

The aging athlete can be anyone who needs to rethink their recovery strategy as it relates to the rigors of the desired/continued activity due to the aging process. Likely this is any athlete or recreational athlete in their 30’s, 40’s and beyond. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) states, that while the cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength of older competitors or athletes are truly exceptional, even the most highly trained athletes experience some decline in performance after the age 30. As such participating in recreational sports or activities fully depends on your health and preparation and the sport or activity you are pursuing.

Before you begin you should consult with your primary health care provider (PHCP). If you’ve been cleared but inactive for any period of time complete a physical activity readiness questionnaire (PAR-Q) to ensure nothing has changed. Additionally, if you have a chronic condition, chances are your PHCP has already discussed exercise with you, and most likely gave you some general guidelines. A chronic condition defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a condition that lasts one year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits activities of daily living or both. This does not preclude you from participating in recreational sport or activity necessarily, but it is a factor to be taken into consideration. You may be asking yourself, is this something I can do? Is this something I can do on my own? Do I need a trainer? How do I know what trainer I should go to?

Is this something you can do on your own?

The answer is yes, with this caveat. Unless you have a background in exercise, likely there will come a point when you will need someone to reach out to for advice. If that happens reach out to a professional with the appropriate qualifications. Frequently, I have heard gym members echo comments questioning the validity or worth of paying someone to do something they can do on their own. They often do not realize or recognize that hiring a professional who is educated and experienced in strength and conditioning is more than just programming exercise, it’s also injury prevention. Activities, movements, or lack of recovery may not have caused injury in the past, but as we age the dynamic changes, and to remain healthy and injury free, we must change. Commonly people just work around injuries, avoid certain exercises, or reduce intensity and accept that’s just part of aging, so they press forward. However, if they would have consulted with a fitness professional they may have found a better more comprehensive solution.

Working around past injuries is a useful and worthy approach, if done correctly. However, the truth is that most of those injuries are a result of their habits. Perhaps they have been predominantly inactive, spending much of the day sitting. Perhaps they were training hard without any or little variation in intensity, without any or little variation of joint movement, and without any or little variation in program design. These all add up to repetitive stress injuries. Common repetitive stress injuries often appear as bursitis, arthritis, tendonitis, and lower back pain/injuries.

That is not to say you cannot do this on your own nor that you need a trainer or will always need a trainer. It is to communicate the point that we do not inherently know how to exercise properly. Many in their youth have participated in sports, and the programs they were taught may be missing some crucial elements to keep them healthy and pain free. These elements are missing sometimes because years ago we did not have the information we have today. Sometimes it’s because we only remember some of what we were taught, and other times it’s because we have aged, or our physical needs have changed and require a change in programming.

If you’ve never exercised before, it’s recommended you either take a few classes (not a fitness class such as spin, but an instructional class offered at a gym, YMCA, or college) or hire a trainer for a short period of time. Perhaps you are on the fence on taking a class or seeing a trainer. If that is the case, ask yourself these questions:

Are you developing aches and pains that are lasting for longer periods of time?
Do you know what a plane of motion is, and how to exercise your joints in each plane of motion?
How often do you change your program? Do you have a chronic condition?
Are you developing lower back, knee, or hip pain?

The answers to these questions can give you a good sense of whether you may benefit from seeking professional assistance or instruction.

The Key is Individualized Programming

Assuming your destination is recreational sports and activities or even occupational activities the program should be appropriately progressed in intensity, duration, and specificity to get you to your desired destination.  Repetitive stress injuries occur because one set of tissues in the body/muscle/joint continue to be challenged in the same way at the same spot over, and over again. By taking your occupation, past activities or recreational sports into account your program can be structured to bring the proper balance of strength, and flexibility to the areas that may be neglected or strained. Below is a list of general guidelines if you’re choosing to do this on your own:


  • It is recommended you undergo a health screening by your PHCP prior to beginning
  • Cardiovascular and resistance training are both recommended, intensity in both depend on your medical clearance, training status, and sport of choice
  • Perform exercise through a full pain free range of motion, and do not exercise if the joint is in pain or inflamed3
  • Listen to your body, and when in doubt seek guidance from a qualified fitness professional

Resistance, Cardio and Sport Specific Exercise

  • Warm-up for 5-10 minutes with low-moderate aerobic activity and calisthenics, and perform static stretching after the warm-up and at the end of the workout2
  • For cardiovascular/endurance perform 20-60 minutes of large-muscle aerobic activity most days at an intensity of 60%-90% of age-predicted heart rate1
  • If you have been sedentary or are just beginning, resistance train no more than twice a week, allowing 48-72 hours to recover, as you progress you can workout daily with different muscles groups at different intensities each day2
  • Focus on mastering basic resistance exercises then implement exercises that are more sport specific, as well as balance, free weights, multi-directional, multi-joint, and power/agility exercises2
  • Begin doing 8-12 repetitions of a weight that is equal to 50% of your maximum weight and gradually increase to up to 80% of your maximum weight, weight should be lifted and lowered in a controlled manner, and at a slower speed in the beginning (2 seconds for the lifting phase, and 2 seconds for the lowering phase), for 1-3 sets2
  • Take 1-3 minutes of rest between sets3
  • Avoid holding your breath during exercise2
  • Once you’ve advanced to power/speed training, perform 1-3 sets per exercise at 40-60% of your maximum weight and 6-10 repetitions at a high (but controlled) speed2
  • Train each joint in multiple directions (ie. planes of motion). For example, the hip can perform flexion, abduction, adduction, or circumduction.

What Should I look for in a Trainer?

If you elect to see a trainer there’s a few things you want to look for. You want a trainer with verifiable experience, an accredited certification/college degree, and liability insurance. The fitness industry is largely unregulated and there is some debate among which certifications are the best. A good place to start is the MedFit Network as trainers have to meet professional criteria in order to be listed. Additionally, it is important that their experience and background suits them to your specific needs. If you have a chronic condition, dealing with pain or have past injuries these are areas you want to be confident they can serve. As you are either engaged in athletic activity or want to engage in athletic activity it is important that the trainer have a solid foundation of periodization, and athletic performance. Quack science and self-professed gurus have no place here. The trainer’s practices should be founded in the principles set forth by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Most trainers offer a free assessment, which gives them an opportunity to learn about you, and you to learn about them. Be sure to meet with several trainers and ask for client references. This is a reasonable request and a quality trainer will not take offense. Lastly, if something feels off, seek a second opinion.

When undertaking rigorous activity and sport, there are other services you may want to consider, or discuss with your PHCP such as massage therapy, nutritional counseling, or chiropractic care depending on your needs. Remember one size does not fit all and by keeping your health in balance now you will be able to continue to enjoy the activities and sports you love for years to come.

Jeremy Kring, holds a Master’s degree in Exercise Science from the California University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University. He is a college instructor where he teaches the science of exercise and personal training. He is a certified and practicing personal/fitness trainer, and got his start in the field of fitness training in the United States Marine Corps in 1998. You can visit his website at jumping-jacs.com


  1. Jacobs, P. L. (2018). NSCAs essentials of training special populations. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  2. Haff, G., & Triplett, N. T. (2016). NSCAs essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
  3. Brown, L. E. (2017). Strength training se/National Strength and Conditioning Association. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.