Archives for April 2016

3 Reasons You Can Always Feel Great!

Yes, we’re  getting older. All of us. You can’t deny that there’s no stopping time. To many people that means it’s inevitable that they’ll get more aches and pains and wind up in worse shape. That doesn’t have to be the case! Today I want to talk about some reasons that you can continue to feel great no matter what the calendar says. You can do it!

  1. Motion is lotion. The main reason that people lose function as they get older isn’t because it’s inevitable, it’s because they stop moving. You’ve heard the phrase “Move it or lose it” haven’t you? Well, that applies to the body. If you stop moving the body just forgets how. This happens at any age! I’ve seen it happen to people in their 20s and 30s!Motion is Lotion
  2. Mindset. How do you look at motion and exercise? Is it something you feel you have to do and you hate every second of it? I’ve seen hundreds of clients and I can tell you this: The people that come in with a positive mindset get better results EVERY SINGLE TIME! Try not to focus on how you feel when you’re tired and doing your squats. Focus on how you’ll feel great when you’re done and the good you’re doing for yourself. Mindset Feel Great
  3. You keep going. One of the biggest problems as many people get older is actually a combination of the first two. When someone doesn’t move very often they greatly increase their chance of injury. This leads to an overall sense of fragility which can effect absolutely everything about someones life and not in a good way. Here’s an example. Someone hurts their knee. That’s obviously not good, but here’s the thing. You still have another leg, two arms, a core, a back and a heart that you can work with. The other part of this equation is that the vast majority of the time good movement will actually help the injury! So in short, keep going. Don’t do anything that hurts, but do what you can and your body and mind will thank you!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley

4 Nutriton and Fitness Myths That May Hold You Back

Hello everyone! I hope you’re doing well and had a great weekend.

This whole fitness thing can be crazy sometimes! When I look around I see all kinds of conflicting information concerning exercise and nutrition. I know how confusing it can be, so today I just want to go over a few of the most popular, and ultimately destructive fitness myths that I still see perpetuated out there.

  1.  Women shouldn’t lift heavy weights. This might be the worst fitness myth out there. In many ways women need to lift weight more than men! Let’s break it down a little. Since women produce maybe 10% of the testosterone that men do they don’t have the same natural strength or muscle mass. This leads to the high risk of osteoporosis. Strength training is also incredibly important for just functioning in daily life! It helps:
  • Strength
  • Body composition
  • Movement quality
  • Posture
  • Immune system function
  • Emotional health

I know what you might be thinking. Some women are afraid of getting too bulky. Well, that’s probably not going to happen. Women just don’t produce enough testosterone to get very bulky.

The picture below is of 77 year-old Ernestine Shepherd who didn’t even start lifting until she was in her ‘60s. It’s never too late! Studies have shown that strength training can produce results at any age!

Ernestine Shepherd Fitness Myth

  1. You have to do a low-carb diet to lose weight. Low carb diets can be great for losing weight. So can high carb diets and medium carb diets. The bottom line is that calories are what determine weight loss not just carbs. There are many different ways to structure your diet to get you the results you want. The key is to make it work for you and your lifestyle.
  2. I have to be perfect to get results! Let me ask you a quick question. If you’ve been doing great on your diet for several days and then have a piece of birthday cake at an office party what is your reaction?
  • I ruined it! I was doing so well and now it’s over. I knew I couldn’t do this! I’m such a loser! Oh well, I guess I might as well have more cake and forget this whole thing.
  • Wow! This cake is delicious! One slice is fine, thanks.

If your reaction is the first one then you’re falling victim to “All-Or-Nothing” thinking. I’ve seen so many people fall victim to the “all-or-nothing” mindset and I can’t tell you how damaging it is. The bottom line is this. You do not have to be perfect to get results. We’re looking for about 85% or so with our diet. That should be good enough to get us some nice results. After all, a piece of cake might have 400 calories. In the long run 400 calories isn’t much of a big deal. If you forget your diet because of it and wind up eating an extra 1000-2000 calories every day, that is a big deal.

  1. You have to do crunches for 6-pack abs. I’m surprised when I still see this fitness myth pop up. First of all, you can do ab work forever and never flatten your abs if you don’t change your diet. That is what determines how flat your stomach is. Those TV infomercials are lying to you.

Second, there are many ways to work your core that are much more effective than crunches. You should realize that our core isn’t just our abs but our whole midsection front, back and sides. The other important thing to understand is the true function of our core. While crunches work the muscles through movement, the true purpose of the core is stability. In other words, it is to provide a base so our extremities can do what they need to do. Taking that into account, the most effective exercises for our core are ones that work on that stability. Planks are a great example although there are many more.

Plank Fitness Myth

I hope this straightens a few things out for you. Let me know if you have any questions are have any fitness myths you’d like addressed.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley
Discover Your Strength!



5 Hints To Get You Back In The Gym

I know it’s hard. You take some time out of the gym thinking you’ll be back soon. That turns into a couple of weeks, which turns into a couple of months, which turns into a couple of years or even longer! It may seem overwhelming but you can get back into it. Here are a few keys.

1 – It’s OK to make yourself a priority! Listen, I know how it is. When we’re young we have all the time in the world. We can hit the gym, take a while to prepare our food and still have some time left over for relaxation. That changes when family and/or work enter the picture.

What I see over and over is that people wind up putting themselves last. Here are two things I know:

  • Your spouse and kids want you to be happy and feel good. If they really love you don’t they want the best for you, after all?
  • Doing something for yourself makes you a better parent and spouse. We know that doing something positive gives you more self-confidence, more energy and more happiness. It also will give you a much better chance to be around longer for them!

2- Start small. People always ask me how many times a week they should work out. I tell them to pick a number they know they can stick to 100% and start there. You can always add more later. Think of the phrase “Progress not Perfection”. If you’re not doing anything right now, one or two days a week is progress. This leads us to the next one.

3- Enjoy the process. This isn’t supposed to be a quick fix, right? It took you years to gain that weight or develop that knee pain or bad posture. It’s going to take some time to fix it. That’s OK. There are going to be a lot of wins along the way so enjoy them! Just hitting the gym again is a win!



4- Don’t compare yourself to others (that includes the younger version of you). You’ve taken your own path to get where you are, as has everyone else. I guarantee that the people that look like they have everything together still have plenty of things they struggle with. Every single one of us do and that’s OK.Comparison is the thief of joy in the gym

5- Commit. If you’re going to do this, just do it. Don’t go halfway. Commit to working hard and you’ll be amazed at what happens. You don’t need to be one of those fitness models you see in the magazines (they don’t even really look like that) but if you give yourself over to the process you’ll be fine.

Let me know what you think and thanks for reading!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley

Ways to Deal With Chronic Pain

Let’s face it. We live in a society that is growing more and more sedentary all the time. We all sit in front of a computer for a very large part of our day and it is absolutely destroying our bodies. Everyone who is familiar with the Fitbit knows about the 10,000 steps per day goal. Well, it’s not uncommon at all to see that someone’s step total is accrued almost completely from walking from their house to their car to their office chair and back. You’d probably be lucky to get 3000 steps from that.

I’m not going to get into all the hows and whys this is so damaging in this article but suffice to say that this is absolutely destroying how we move. When you add in the stress we feel from being super-busy all the time it’s no wonder so many people’s posture suffers so badly.

I know this isn’t nearly as sexy a topic as how to lose weight but I can’t stress how much more important it really is than that. All day I see people who have knee pain, shoulder pain, back pain, hip pain. They’re all looking for the one thing that gave them that pain and I do my best to explain that just one thing didn’t do it. It’s the end result of hours and days and even years of poor posture and poor movement.

Let me repeat that in a little different way.

Unless someone took a baseball bat to you, that chronic pain you’re feeling is most likely the end result of hours, days and years of poor posture and poor movement.

I could repeat that statement from now until Saint Smithen’s day and it would ring just as true each time I said it.

There are a number of different ways to deal with this kind of pain and I’m going to talk about that here. I like to classify the treatments for these things as being either active or passive.

Passive treatment would be something like going to the chiropractor or getting a massage. In other words something where you go and have something done to you.

Active treatments would include exercising or stretching. In other words something you do to yourself. (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

What I want to do in this article is explain what I’ve found with these different treatments, both the positives and the negatives. I’ll keep it quick because I think there are some basic principles that apply, no matter what. (It’s funny how simple some of this stuff is when you really think about it.)

First let me say this as an over-riding principle: Passive treatments put you in a position to be better able to correct your issues through some kind of active treatment. In my opinion, passive treatments can be very valuable but are not an end unto themselves.

Let me explain what I mean by this. What passive treatments do for the most part is relieve some sort of tissue restriction. Now here is the important part.

They do not address the underlying issue of how that restriction got there in the first place.

Let’s get a little specific to explain what I mean.

By far the biggest single issue I see is shoulder pain. I see shoulder pain way more than back pain. I’d even say shoulder pain is at least 3 or 4 times more common. The reason for most of the shoulder I see is closely related to three reasons:

  1. People’s tendency to elevate and hunch their shoulders when typing.
  2. People’s tendency to elevate and hunch their shoulders when stressed.
  3. People’s tendency to jut their head forward while typing, driving, watching TV, or looking at their computer. This head position will force an elevated and hunched shoulder position.

The elevated and hunched position over time leads to a pretty common shoulder issue known as impingement. It’s a pretty wide-ranging term but some version of it is the most common cause of shoulder pain that I see.

The most important thing that someone can do to alleviate this kind of shoulder pain is to work on his or her overall shoulder and head position. To be specific, making sure that your shoulders are back and down and your head is not jutted forward, particularly while under stress or in front of a computer. While working on this you should also be working on shoulder movement, specifically the tendency to use your upper traps and neck instead of your shoulder blades for much of your shoulder and arm movement. This is what contributes so much to stress and tension.

After years of improper movement and posture there will be lots of movement restrictions that have built up in the form of scar tissue and other things. Due to this it may be very difficult to move properly or hold good posture. This is where passive treatments can be valuable. A good massage therapist, for example, will be able to manually break down some of these restrictions, which will temporarily give you greater range of motion and the ability to move better. I say temporarily because if you don’t work on these things after your massage, old habits and positions will put you right back where you started.

Let me talk a little about more specific types of treatments and the positives and negatives of them. We’ll start with passive treatments.

Massage – Everyone loves a good massage. A good massage therapist will be able to find tight muscles and restrictions and either break them up or start that process if you have a lot of these issues. There are a few ways that you can do some self-massage work (we’ll talk about these in a minute) but there is nothing like having someone who knows what they’re doing get in there.

The negatives are that, as I’ve mentioned many times already, if you don’t take advantage of your improved range of motion and work on your movement, you’re going to find yourself right back where you started pretty soon.

Chiropractic – Chiropractic work can be a little controversial. There are some who swear by it and others who consider it a sham. I’m on board with it and have seen its value. Having said that, I know way too many people who rely on it way too much.

Consider the overarching theory of chiropractic work. In a nutshell it says that the body, if put in the right positions, has the ability to heal itself. I certainly believe that. The key here is that you must put your body in the right positions. A good chiropractor will set you up to do that, but ultimately the responsibility is up to you.

If you’ve been going to a chiropractor every week for years to work on the same issue, you’re doing something wrong.

Ultimately passive treatments can be very helpful but the main issue with them is they don’t work directly on movement or posture.

Let’s talk about some more active treatments.

Foam Rolling – This kind of bridges the gap between passive and active treatments. It’s active because you do it yourself but it is pretty similar to a massage. It can be great at getting rid of some restrictions and giving your muscles the ability to relax. This alone can increase their range of motion and reduce pain. We always foam roll prior to exercise and sometimes after, as well. It is like any passive treatment, though, in that it can remove restrictions but doesn’t work on movement itself.

Stretching – Stretching for the sake of stretching may be the biggest waste of time there is to relieve pain. There are a few reasons for this.

  • It doesn’t work on movement
  • People frequently stretch in a fashion that actually tightens the muscle instead of loosening it making the problem worse
  • People stretch the muscles that feel tight not realizing that they feel tight due to restrictions somewhere else which, again, makes the problem worse (if you spend lots of time stretching your low back and hamstrings this statement applies to you)
  • People stretch in a way that forces them into bad posture which, again, can make their problem worse

That being said, targeted and proper stretching of specific muscle groups can be helpful in getting certain muscles to relax. The key is using proper techniques for the right muscles.

Mobility Work – This can be a little hard to define because some people’s mobility work is some people’s exercise and vice versa. There is a little gray area here but a good general definition is that mobility work is a lower level exercise that focuses purely on the mobility and/or movement of a specific joint. The key here is that it’s a lower level (usually meaning relatively easy) movement.

We generally use mobility work as part of a warm-up. We use it there because it’s usual purpose is to get the body ready for more difficult movements that will test the movement pattern. Think of it like practice. The gray area comes when some people learning a specific movement pattern may find it so difficult that they are not yet able to make it more difficult.

If you don’t know what I mean lets think of it like driving a car. For an experienced driver, driving at 10 miles per hour would be kind of like mobility work whereas for someone just learning that may be full on loaded exercise. I hope that makes sense.

The positive aspects of mobility work are that you are working on your movement. One thing to keep in mind here is that there is no excuse not to perform mobility work with 100% good technique. If you can’t, then it needs to be regressed to the point where you can. If you don’t, it’s like driving into a parked car at 10 mph only to hop right back in the car to go 25mph.

The negative aspects are that you can’t stop here. Once you can perform your mobility work at 100% you must systematically make movements more difficult in order to teach the body the proper movement patterns under stress. That is the only way to make good movement a habit.

Strength Training – This is the ultimate active treatment. Not only does proper strength training improve muscle function, it improves proper movement due to the muscles in questions simply being stronger. How does this happen?

A stronger muscle can withstand more stress while still moving well and holding positions properly. Doesn’t that make sense?

The disadvantage is that improper strength training can cement poor movement patterns and force compensations.

I hope that this gives you a better idea of ways you can go about recovering from chronic pain. I assure you I know how discouraging and uncomfortable chronic pain can be. Like everyone I’ve had my share of dings and tweaks. Not too many people know that over the last several months I’ve suffered through some pretty uncomfortable left knee pain. Having said that, I squatted 463 pounds and deadlifted 480 pounds pain-free at a powerlifting meet a few weeks ago. I did it using a combination of the treatments described above and following these guidelines as written by Max Shank, an excellent trainer from the San Diego area:

“I’m convinced the fast track is as much non-painful movement as possible. Maintain range of motion and prevent excessive scar tissue. Need to lay off movements that hurt, though.

I have found that total rest is actually worse because then people develop a sense of fragility, which impedes long-term improvement.”

I know this is a complicated subject. I hope I could shed a little light on it. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can help you in any way.

As always, thanks for reading!


Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Lean Eating Coach Level 2, FMS


2861 Grove Way in Castro Valley