Monthly Archives: June 2013

“I’m losing weight! (but not size?)

Awhile back I posted a blog titled “I’m losing inches! (but not pounds!) which has turned out to be one of the more popular pages so far.  If you are new to the Mytrainerchris page, you can find it here:

It can be boggling,  how could a person weigh less, yet retain nearly the same size? Unless you are on a helium diet, the following are my usual suspects…

1. Measurement errors.  Body measurements including scale weight, tape measure, calipers and bio-impedence readers are imperfect.  Your body weight moves up and down throughout the day, in some cases up to several pounds/kg’s.  The foods foods you eat, the amount of water you can retain and how much your stomach bloats following a meal can all alter measurements.  In the case of skin fold calipers and measurement tape, a slight variation in placement can alter readings.

2.  Measurements need to be taken of multiple parts of your body.  Typically this includes the waistline, thigh, chest, shoulders and upper arm, calf and neck.  If you are only measuring the waistline, please note that this is usually the slowest portion of the body to reduce size.

3. Weight loss typically comes before size loss, but the amount of each is not equal nor exactly proportionate.  Losing weight means you lose fat, water and muscle.  The goal of course is to lose fat and maintain and preferably build muscle.

When you lose fat, which is less dense than muscle, you lose bulk.  When you lose muscle, you still lose weight, but you lose less size.


4. Your current workout program could be causing you to lose more muscle than fat.  During a recent 12 week transformation challenge, I noted a contestant who spent hours nearly everyday on the cardio equipment at a modest speed drinking fat-burner drinks.  I can only recall him lifting weights once.  In the end, he did indeed lose both size and weight, which is awesome and will certainly benefit his heart and joints, but his overall composition looked like a slightly smaller version of his previous self.  Personally I would have prescribed doing less exercise at a higher intensity, allow his body to recuperate between sessions and couple his cardio training with resistance to build muscle.


5. You body is a miser.  This taps off nicely with point #4, during endurance based exercises your body burns the muscle’s glycogen stores.  The more you train, the more your body becomes miserly with glycogen expenditure, better at refueling it and you become more bio-mechanically efficient, therefore expending less overall energy.  Therefore you lose less fat.

With resistance training, and varied workouts including HIIT, MIxed Martial Arts and CrossFit Workout of the Days, you’re utilizing other aspects of your muscles, and your body spends glycogen more freely.

With my current weight loss clients, I prescribe cardio after our resistance/HIIT training. I want to lower their glycogen stores before they engage in steady-state or interval cardio training.


My Personal Trainer: Real or an idiot?

It should be no secret that In commercial gyms (Bally’s, 24 hour fitness, Gold’s, Equinox, LIfetime among others) personal training services are a huge source of revenue.   While I stand by my opinion that everyone could benefit from having  a personal trainer, I add the caveat that the trainer be both qualified and capable in providing personal training services.

Truth be told, not every trainer you see in the gym is equally capable.  Some are quite capable in handling a wide variety of clients, some can handle only a few types of clients or elect to specialize in one or two specific areas and yes….some have no business training anyone.

If the trainer has a small tool box or limited/no experience in training certain populations they should be honest about it.  They can elect to stick within their comfort zones or seek further education and guidance under other well qualified trainers.


So how do you know if your trainer is real, or possibly an idiot?  Especially if this person is your first trainer and you don’t have any standard to compare against?  Time to bust out the 1-2 combination of intuition and the My Trainer Chris trainer checklist!

Q; When I ask my trainer question, how is it answered?


They take the time to answer it and every question is answered thoroughly and in a respectful manner.  (Even if you thought it might be a silly question)


My trainer seems to be able to anticipate my questions. Sometimes it freaks me out how well he/she seems to know me.

My trainer doesn’t always know the answer, but is very good about getting back to me (or) my trainer may not have the full answer, but does know where to look it up or whom to consult. 



My trainer doesn’t ever seem to have the answer, but will Google the hell out of it  and forward me the link.


My trainer NEVER Googles it….he/she Asks Jeeves.


My trainer doesn’t Google or Ask Jeeves…he hits his bro up on Facebook or iPhone Facetime for what to do.  Amazingly, his bro happens to be in the same gym at the same time.  (and thanks to Facebook updates, we know today is his 5th Pecs-Biceps workout for the week…and it is only Tuesday.)

stink eye

My trainer does answer my questions, but it always comes with an odd look first.

Q: My trainers knowledge base can best be described as….


My trainer explains the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing and occasionally blinds me with his/her brilliance.

My trainer can break things down in simple terms that make sense and doesn’t require an Indiana Jones level knowledge of Latin.

My trainer can advise in several areas in which he/she specializes in, which they were very upfront about the first time me met.  They will admit if they don’t know something, or if the question is outside the scope of their practice.  (Self example: I have no intentions of running a marathon or participating in a triathalon. I can advise on the strength and conditioning sides of either, but a running/swimming/biking coach would be a far better coach on the sport specific side of things.

My trainer seems to always be engaged in learning something new.


My trainer baffles me with answers that have a slight…to pronounced BS odor.

My trainer knows everything about everything and was upfront telling me that the first time we met.

My trainer copies his routines from various muscle magazines…I know because I just saw the workout in the latest edition of _______  magazine.

Q: My trainers methods are effective . 


It must be, I am seeing/feeling results.

It is, my trainer is very good about tracking my progress in muscle gain, weight loss and performance improvement.

It is, one area may get special attention, but I am certainly advised of improvements as well as needs for regression.

It better be, he/she constantly monitors me (AKA “On my butt”) and has even prescribed exercises for me to do when I’m NOT with him/her. (AKA “When the trainer is NOT making $)

Too early to tell, but ‘m thinking it will be.  My trainer introduces me to his/her other clients and they all seem pretty happy.

It better be, I swear my trainer is trying to get me ready for the Navy SEAL program.

Too early to tell, but my trainer has testimonials supporting their skill.  (NOTE: New trainers may not have enough history to have built up a few client testimonials.)

cookie cutterIt must be, all my trainers clients are doing the same routine I am.   (Group exercise, HIIT and CrossFit coaches are exempt, this is just for 1-1 training)

Too early to tell, I rarely/never see my trainer with anyone else,

I’m not sure…he handed me a shake weight and……..

I’m not sure, I’ve never been told how or where I am improving and my trainer seems to be able to hold all that data in their head. (Note: Some trainers can hold an amazing amount of data in their head, I personally cannot and HAVE to write things down…even if I only had two clients.)

Q: Does my trainer know how to train me? (Client specific)


Special Populations,: including the elderly, disabled, pre-post natal, youth and those with chronic conditions that are medically cleared for physical training.

My trainer is educated and credentialed for my specific needs and has client testimonials to support his/her skills and abilities.

My trainer is willing to consult with, or is already networked with local doctors.

BONUS POINTS: My trainer holds one, or more of the following credentials: ACSM CEP,HFS  or CIFT, NSCA CSPS, NASM SFS/YFS/WFS, Medical/Post-Rehabilitation Conditioning Specialist.

Sports Performance: My trainer has a history of coaching athletes of various levels and the education/certifications to back it up.

BONUS POINTS: My trainer holds one, or more of the following credentials: NSCA CSCS, NASM PES, or a degree in Exercise Science or Athletic Training

Rehab/Medical/Corrective Exercise: My trainer has the credentials and education to identify faulty movement patterns, muscle imbalances and is more than willing to consult with my physician/physical therapist/chiropractor.

BONUS POINTS: My trainer holds one, or more of the following credentials: NASM CES, Medical Exercise/Post Rehab Conditioning Specialist, Functional Movement Screen certification or a degree in Kinesiology.

Bodybuilding/Physique/Strongman/Competitive Weightlifting: My trainer has a verifiable competitive history or has coached competitors that have placed/won in competition.

BONUS POINTS: NPC / IFBB Pro Card, USAW Coach certification, NSCA CSCS, NASM PES certification as applicable.

I do not fall under any of those criteria, but my trainer does specialize in one or more of those areas.


My trainer said he/she knew it all and is quick to disagree with my physician/chiropractor/physical therapist/dietitian et al.


My trainer never stated an area in which they were particularly strong….unless you count them being able to max out on the hip abductor machine.

My trainer said “Shut up, pick that heavy thing up and put it down”

What I’m up to while not training clients….

The relationships that form between well matched clients and their personal trainers is something that I truly find amazing.  Although the relationship is professional, the bond that is created is hard for me to express in words.  I think this  is the case with any trainer that actually cares about their clients.

I’m still surprised when a client asks me what sort of stuff I’m doing when not with them or my other clients.  The truth is, I think I am a pretty boring guy outside of the gym.  Among our gyms training staff, I am among one of the busier trainers,  Unique among the full time trainers is that I work only three total days per week  (Mon and Thurs full days, Tues and Sat half-days.)

With so few days in the gym, you’d think I’d have plenty of free time.

But you’d be wrong…...


–  I am currently studying for an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certification in inclusive fitness so that I can best service clients with disabilities.


– Following this, I will begin the  year long certification process as a Medical Exercise and Post-Rehabilitation Conditioning Specialist.

– I am further researching diet and exercise prescription for Type 2 Diabetics from multiple sources (AMA,ADA, ACSM et al.)  I continue to read up and learn about exercise prescription for knee, shoulder, spine and hip dysfunctions, kinesiology and corrective exercise.


–  On the diet front, I have agreed to go vegetarian for 90 days with a client.  This is not a huge thing for me as I was previously a vegetarian for a year.


– I currently spend 2-4 hours weekly updating exercise programming for my clients.   I usually spend the same amount of time serving as a consultant on other trainers clients.

joke phone

– I spend exactly two phone calls trying to track down clients that disappear on me without notice.  After two unanswered calls, I file them as MIA.  Whatever spot they had on my schedule is promptly given to a new client.  Thankfully, I have not had to make too many of these calls.


On Wednesdays I  stop at my favorite comic book shop.  But I only buy manly-man comics.



Monitoring Hydration Levels

The following article appeared in the most recent edition of NASM Insider monthly – CS

With the hot weather upon us in the northern hemisphere, this marks a time for many to get outdoors and enjoy the warm weather, but caution should always be exercised given the potential risks for dehydration.  Fluid is perhaps the most important, but least recognized nutrient/compound we need to ingest, given how the body cannot survive more than a few days without it in comparison to food where the body can survive without it for much longer.  Before discussing effective methods by which we can monitor hydration, take a brief moment to reflect upon the existing strategies you utilize to verify hydration.  Do you rely upon the sensation of thirst as your guide, daily weight fluctuations or perhaps urine color to monitor fluid needs?

Considering how the sensation of thirst generally kicks in only when the body reaches about one percent dehydration (i.e., 1 % loss of normal body weight), and the fact that performance is negatively impacted at two percent dehydration, this approach alone may be inadequate (1, 2).  It does not provide much of a buffer for individuals exercising in the heat who may be susceptible to compromised performance.  For example, a 180 lb. (81.8 Kg) man need only lose 1.8 lbs. (0.82 Kg), to initiate the sensation of thirst (1 % dehydration), and 3.6 lbs. (1.64 Kg) to reach 2 % of body weight.  Given how sweat rates range between 0.5 and 1.5 L per hour (1.06  – 2.13 lb. / hour) during light-to-moderate intensity exercise, but can increase to 3.0 to 4.0 L per hour (6.25 – 8.5 lb. / hour) in well-conditioned, large male athletes who have acclimatized to hot environments, the loss of two percent of body weight can happen very easily (3).

Body weight and urine specific gravity (USG) are two common methods by which euhydration (maintaining normal total body water content) can be monitored (1, 4 – 6):

  • Consistent body weight measurement can be used by first establishing baseline body weight using several days of body weight measured first thing in the morning (after voiding) after implementing hydration practices the preceding evening (ingesting 17 – 20 oz. or 600 – 700 mL). Keep in mind, the body strives to regulate total body water (TBW) within a 0.5 % range of daily body mass (i.e., attempts to minimize daily fluctuations in weight by greater than 0.5 %), thus fluctuations over short periods of time (i.e., a week) should be small (7). For example, for a 135 lb. (61.4 Kg) woman, the body strives to minimize losses of total body water to no more than 0.68 lb. daily (0.3 Kg)
  • Urine Specific Gravity test, typically measured in a laboratory setting with the first morning urine void or collection where USG ≤ 1.020.

Although urine color is oftentimes used as a marker of hydration where we follow the guideline of maintaining a clear-to-lemonade color while avoiding darker, apple-juice urine colors, we need to exercise caution with such generalized guidelines given how various factors can influence urine color and volume that are discussed subsequently. Figure 1-1 provides general hydration guidelines for urine color where consistent urine colors between one and three indicate well-hydrated levels equivalent to less than 1 % loss in body weight; scores between four and five indicate minimal dehydration levels equivalent to 1 – 3 % loss in body weight that merit ingestion of 7 – 10 oz. (200 – 300 mL) of fluid within the next 60 minutes; scores between six and seven indicate significant dehydration levels equivalent to 3 – 5 % loss in body weight that merit ingestion of 7 – 10 oz. (200 – 300 mL) of fluid immediately; and a score of eight indicates severe dehydration, equivalent to > 5 % loss in body weight that requires medical attention (8).

5-29-2013 1-53-16 PM

Consistent, larger volumes excreted during the first morning void with a lemonade color (scale of 1 – 3 ) usually indicate euhydration, whereas consistent, smaller volumes excreted during the first morning void with darker colors (4+ on the scale – apple juice-to-ice tea color) usually indicate levels of dehydration. Exceptions do exist however, and should always be considered – they include:

  • Large intakes of B-vitamins (multi-vitamins, etc.), pigments in dark red vegetables like beets, and some artificial food colors can all discolor urine. If an individual follows a seven-day wash-out period where he or she eliminates these compounds from their diet, continues drinking fluids as usual, and observes urine color, it may provide insight into the individual’s normal level of euhydration.
  • Medications (e.g., diuretics) will consistently increase urine volume and potentially lighten urine color.
  • Protein supplements can consistently discolor urine. If an individual follows a seven-day wash-out period from their protein supplements, continues to drink fluids as usual, and observes urine color, this may provide insight into their level of euhydration.
  • Urine volumes and color can be misleading during rehydration stages. For example, a dehydrated individual consuming amounts of water larger than what the body can initially store will produce large volumes of clear urine, creating the perception of euhydration, whereas the individual may still be dehydrated.

Lastly, pre- and post-exercise weight differences represent another method to assess total body water, albeit it a method used more appropriately to determine rehydration needs following exercise.  Implement a practice of collecting pre-exercise weight (voided), either naked or in light clothing and again following exercise to determine fluid needs to rehydrate.  The efficacy of this method however is contingent upon an individual being in a state of euhydration before exercise.

Fluid Requirement = Pre-exercise Weight – Post-exercise Weight

For example, if a female weighs 145 lbs. (65.9 Kg) before exercise (voided, dry) and then weighs 142 lbs. (64.5 Kg) following exercise, even after drinking during exercise, she needs to replace 3 lbs. (48 oz. or 1.36 L) of fluid. This does not imply that she only needs to drink 48 oz. of fluid.  She will probably need to consume more as a portion will be lost to urine. The quantities needed vary between beverage choice (i.e., water or sports drink) that are discussed in a subsequent article.


  1. American College of Sports Medicine. Position Stand: Exercise and Fluid Replacement. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, 2007; 39(2):377 – 390.
  2. Montain SJ. Hydration Recommendations for Sport. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, 2008; 7(4): 187 – 192.
  3. Gisolfi CV, Wenger CB. Temperature regulation during exercise: old concepts, new ideas.  Exercise & Sport Sciences Reviews, 1984; 12: 339 – 372.
  4. Fink HH, Mikesky AE, Burgoon LA. Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition, 3rd ed. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012.
  5. Morimoto T, Miki K, Nose H, Yamada S, Hirakawa K, Matsubara C. Changes in body fluid volumes and its composition during heavy sweating and the effect on fluid and electrolyte replacement. Japanese Journal of Biometeorology, 1981;18: 31 – 39.
  6. Skolnik H, Chernus A. Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2010.
  7. Cheuvront SN, Carter R, Montain SJ, Sawka MN. Daily body mass variability and stability in active men undergoing exercise-heat stress. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2004;14: 532 – 540.
  8. Casa DJ, Armstrong LE, Hillman SK, Montain SJ, Reiff RV, Rich BSE, Roberts WO, Stone J.  National Athletic Trainers’ Association: Position statement: Fluid replacement for athletes. Journal of Athletic Training, 2000; 35: 212 – 224.

Body of Knowledge

I firmly believe in the value of continuous education.   I have already mapped out my next certifications that I wish to achieve over the course of the next year and had my last several certifications planned a year in advance.   I think this sort of planning is a result of my military leadership background as short, midterm and long term goals were always something considered.

Presently I am studying exercise prescription for the disabled (for a future ACSM credential), functional movement screening procedures (as an adjunct to my corrective exercise programming) and diabetes management.

Two questions posed over the  past week that brought me to this article.  The first conversation was from a client of mine “What is minimum level of knowledge a personal trainer should possess?”  I was initially stumped, and truthfully told her 48hrs later that I was still stumped. Not that I hadn’t given the question any thought…I was genuinely stumped.

The truth is, a trainers body of knowledge can be deep, shallow or somewhere in-between.   Personal trainers, in my opinion, fall under three distinct groups: (1) Those that can work with some types of clients and achieve results.   (2) Those that can work with a very wide variety of clients and achieve results. (3) Those that can’t seem to get results out of anyone.

Pressed for an answer (in an effort to de-stump myself and forgetting trainer type #3) I would say the following is my definition of the minimum body of knowledge a trainer should possess:

1- CPR/AED/Basic First Aid.  Current and genuine, not earned online.

2-Ability to design training programs for apparently healthy and medically cleared individuals.  Training children and older adults may be outside some trainers body of knowledge.

3-  Familiarity with the safe operation of free weights, resistance machines, body weight exercises and cardio equipment operation.

4- Ability to take and record client measurements. Minimum requirements are the operation of bodyfat reading instruments, tape measures and scales.

5- Ability to assist clients in conditioning, weight management or muscle gain.  Assisting clients in sports performance, power lifting, rehabilitation, medical exercise programs or correction of muscular imbalances require a deeper body of knowledge and/or experience.

6- A basic level of knowledge in human anatomy, muscle function and nutrition.

I’ve had the fortune of  working with several trainers that held only entry level certifications but were quite adept at servicing a wide variety of clients and are skilled in their craft.  I’ve also had the misfortune of meeting trainers that were severely limited in skill.  Certification aside, those that engage in some form of continuous education seem to be ahead of their counterparts.

There are many (way too many in my opinion) certifying organizations for personal trainers.  Some have notoriously difficult proctored exams  (ACSM, NSCA and NASM) some considered comparably easier and others that are taken online, allowing for open book and open internet.

The CPT (certified personal trainer) designator is the entry level requirement that any personal trainer should hold.  The general prerequisite for most of the accredited organizations CPT is the candidate be at least 18 years old, be a high school graduate with valid CPR and AED BEFORE the test is administered (1).

Not all organizations follow this standard.  One particular organization has decidedly  less challenging prerequisites:

“A minimum age of sixteen and possess good reading skills;  You should have some basic resistance training, aerobic, martial arts, or yoga experience.  You need to be familiar with resistance equipment and exercise machines.” (2)

So I’m to understand a 16yr old that has been lifting weights for a semester in gym class can be a trainer? and he doesn’t even have to be CPR/AED certified?

Far worse than that, I found one particular organization that will grant you a trainer certification provided you pass their online test, if you don’t pass it then you don’t pay…but you get plenty of chances!  To illustrate how bad this situation is, the organization and their practice was outed after a 12 year old girl passed, and was certified as a Kettlebell Instructor. (3) (SIDEBAR-They also offer a Master Personal Trainer certification!)

The second conversation took place during a break by another trainer while I was reading up on spinal conditions and exercise prescription.  He asked if I was “trying to learn how to work around it?” (As in, how to not deal with the problem by avoiding it completely) My answer was fairly short… “No, I’m reviewing spinal stabilization techniques to build a program that suits the needs”

I lacked the time at the moment to explain that there is no way (at least that I know of) to simply “work around” a problem like that. (ANOTHER SIDEBAR- A trainer at another gym told me he could work around a clients problems…which happen to be numerous joint and muscle dysfunctions from the knees to the shoulder including the hip complex and spine.  He never worked with the client, but I would have loved to have seen his exercise programming.)

As I said, a trainers body of knowledge can be shallow, deep or somewhere in the middle.




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