<b>Fitness & Diet Expert</b> Nick Sortal
Q: I have been working out at a gym for many of the past 25 years and I very much enjoy being strong and the burn I get from a good weight workout but the gym has become a stale, boring place for me. Any suggestions? -- Evan Sade

A:That is a comment many people are making these days, according to Christina Leon, who has been in the fitness biz for 25 years. She says that's why she created the Athlekinetix program. (Sorry for the promo, folks, but it is in response to the question, and there are many, many in the fitness industry who vouch for her.)

"It is a non-stop, 70 exercises in an hour, no repetitions workout that utilizes all the toys possible - the glider discs, BOSU ball, dumbbells, Body Bars, Foam Rollers.... if your gym has it, we use it," she says. It's harder than a boot camp, maintains the high heart rate of a spin and incorporates the muscular endurance and strength of a weight training session, she says. Her other suggestion: Other than that, try getting outdoors to a boot camp class or try taking your workout to the beach.

Feb. 25, 2009

Q: When working out with weights, and doing two different muscle groups in the same workout, say for example chest and back., is it better to do all chest exercises first, then move on to back? What if you can handle heavier weight if you alternate chest/back/chest/back than you can handle if you just did all chest exercises one after the other? Which way is more beneficial? -- Natalie, Deerfield Beach, FL

A: Alternate 'em. The practice is known as "supersetting," and a.) can make your workouts more intense and b.) shorten the time you spend in the gym. "Alternating muscle groups is very time efficient and there also seems to be some physiological benefits to it," says Doug Jackson, who runs Personal Fitness Advantage studio in Plantation, Florida, and has an e-mail signup for fitness tips. But he cautions people to change the order in which they work their body parts. "So if on month one you work chest first, make sure to work back first on month two and so on. Failing to change the order in which you work body areas can lead to muscle imbalances and injuries," he says. Feb. 18, 2009

Q: Why do cyclists riding on road bikes insist on wearing lycra bike suits when shorts and a T-shirt work just as well on a normal workout when there is no need to be aerodynamic when not racing? -- Ralph in Orlando, FL

A: It's part style and part practicality. Style first: Part of getting into a cycling mind-set is to look the part, I'll admit. My thinking goes, 'Oh, I have on my bike stuff, so I can't just pedal halfway; I need to do this seriously.' Kind of like Tiger Woods in his red shirt each tournament Sunday. The practical part of this is visibility; the louder, more colorful jersey, the better the chance cars will see you. (In the South, some cyclists wear American-flag jerseys; they figure drivers might hit a cyclist, but no way they'd hit a flag.) Also, a T-shirt can act like a sail and catch air. You make a good point about no need to be aerodynamic; but whether I'm racing or not, I don't want to do extra work. Plus, I love the extra pockets. I even wore my solid blue bike jersey cruising Shark Valley this week. And those black pants? Well, there's a little padding in there, so, no, gym shorts are not as good. If it's either-or, I need the pants way more than I need the jersey. Anyone else have thoughts?

Feb. 17, 2009

Q: To lose weight, what is the most effective method of cardio?

A: Losing weight happens when we're burning more calories than we're consuming. Which means, burn, baby, burn... Whether it's a treadmill, a stationary bike or some gizmo you see on a TV infomercial, No. 1 is finding a cardio machine that you prefer. As Tori C. Plyler, a trainer with Life Time Athletic in Boca Raton, Florida, notes, enjoying your exercise regimen increases the chances that you will stay with it for a longer period of time. She suggests finding something that you like to do for at least 45 minutes, then gradually kicking up your intensity. Change up your routine to avoid plateaus, she says. "Behavior modification is usually harder than the exercise itself," she says. So is finding a program you'll stick with over a period of time. "The key to success is consistency," she says. Personally, I've been on this craze of just playing along with whatever's on FIT TV. I've kind of hit a slump, and jumping around in my own house -- and not having to dream up something to do, but merely following Gilad or whomever has been a welcome change.

Feb. 13, 2009

Q: I hear bench presses are bad for women over 50. What's the deal?

A: Several physical trainers jumped on a line in my story about how to pick a personal trainer. In the article, I quote Jill Boyer-Holland of Hollywood, Florida, a senior trainer for 25 years through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. The comment came in the context that people should make sure a trainer is tailored to the clients' age and abilities. Bench presses in themselves do not "increase" the risk of osteoporosis, she says. Being female, over 50, Caucasian and menopausal increase the risk. (Increased risk of osteoporosis has been linked to diminishing estrogen levels.) "As we age postural problems caused by our working environment and the pull of gravity over time tend to bow the shoulders forward, collapsing the rib cage downward and in the worst case scenario cause an abdominal protrusion (pot belly)," she says. Bench presses can exacerbate this problem, she says. So would a failure to balance your workout with chest opening exercises, such as the seated row, reverse fly, etc. Like everyone, she suggests exercises to improve core stability and posture. "Pushups are the gold standard," she says. "It is not that bench presses are bad - it's just that there are other exercises that work better, faster and involve more muscle groups - they give you a bigger bang for you buck."