Archives for May 2016

Injury: Avoiding and Dealing With It

Hello, everyone! I hope you’re all doing well and feeling great. Let’s face it, though. Some of you may not be. It’s possible that some of you may be dealing with some sort of injury. Two weeks ago, we talked about chronic pain and what to do about it. If you haven’t read that post you can find it here:

Ouch! A Simple Guide To Chronic Pain

Today I want to talk about injuries. First let’s clarify the difference between chronic pain and an injury. Chronic pain is when something is hurting on a somewhat regular basis. Let’s say when you move your arm in a particular way and you feel something in your shoulder. Another indicator that it’s chronic pain is that you can’t exactly pinpoint when it started.

An injury is marked by the fact that something specific happened. You got hit with something, or fell down or something like that. Now there may be some gray area in those descriptions but let’s keep things as simple as we can today.


Leatherface wants to cause an injury.

I hope that clarifies things a little bit. What I’d like to talk about today is two things: How to prevent injuries and also how to get over and deal with them.

Let’s start with how to prevent them.

Preventing an Injury

First, common sense tells us that there are certain injuries that just can’t be prevented. Things do happen from time to time. That being said, there are certain things you can do to protect yourself the best you can. Let’s talk about two of them.

Get strong

The first is to get stronger.

  • Strength helps protect your joints and bones.
  • Strength training improves bone density so possible injury causing events, such as a fall, don’t result in broken bones. (This helps with osteoperosis as well.)
  • Strength training builds lean tissue which will also help cushion you in case of a fall.
  • Strength training will allow you to recover faster because YOU ARE STRONGER.
  • Strength training can ingrain and strengthen proper movement patterns which may help you avoid injury in the first place.

The last one kind of bridges us into the next way you can prevent injuries.

Work on proper movement.

This is when what we talked about with chronic pain comes into play. There are many times something may seem like an injury but it’s just the result of weeks or even years of poor movement patterns that add up. We’ve all heard about someone whose back popped when they were bending over to pick up a pencil, right? Do you really think it was the overwhelming weight of the pencil that caused the injury? Of course not, it was the hundreds of times that person rounded their back instead of used their hips to pick something up. That’s what really did it.

That leads us into what to do when we’re injured.

Treating an Injury

Of course, there is a very wide range of things that constitute injuries. A broken leg is going to be treated differently than a strained rotator cuff. That being said there a few principles that are somewhat universal.

The first is simple.

Don’t do it if it hurts. 

That being said, just because something hurts it doesn’t mean the exercise itself is bad. It might be that your form isn’t right. An easy example would be if your shoulder hurts while doing a dumbell row. It’s probably because you’re elevating your shoulder instead of bringing it back and down.

Shoulder Injury

Working on those kinds of form adjustments feeds into what we were talking about with ingraining proper movements patterns.

The second thing you should do is something. What do I mean by that? Sometimes I’ll see someone injure their knee for example, and then stop doing anything at all. This is exactly the wrong approach. There is certainly a time to rest after an injury, but generally speaking that time is fairly short even if you can’t really use the injured body part. If you have a a broken leg you still have another leg, two arms, a chest, back, shoulders, and core.

The bottom line is that you need to keep moving. The benefit of this is that it keeps your body working which keeps your internal systems working which speeds up recovery! Inactivity just shuts everything down. That is not good. Patients are even asked to move within a few hours of full joint replacement surgery at times.

To understand the biggest benefit of this you have to understand that the body operates on a “move it or lose it” principle. That means that if you neglect movement the body will respond by making it harder and harder to move. Eventually it will shut it down completely. A small scale version of this happens whenever you sit for long periods of time. I’m sure you notice that you feel stiff when you stand up. Over time this leads to tight hips, tight shoulders, a tight back, etc. Imagine what would happen if you stopped doing everything because of an injury.

The key principles really come down to this:

  1. Use as much pain-free movement in the injured area as possible, and
  2. Continue with good overall movement as soon as possible.

I also want to talk about the mental approach to injury recovery and the benefit of resuming movement as soon as possible. One of the worst aspects of an injury is simply the fear of getting injured again. That is certainly a justifiable fear but it is crucial that you don’t let it get in the way. This doesn’t mean to disregard common sense and exercise through pain but it is important not to develop a sense of fragility that impedes your recovery. Over time that will lead to many worse issues.

Having said all this, it is of course important that you follow your doctor’s instructions if you are recovering from an injury.

Let me know if you have any questions about this. It’s a complicated and sometimes emotional subject but if you move forward properly that should help in the long run.

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



My Rugged Maniac Experience

Hello, everyone. I hope everyone had a great weekend. I certainly did.

I did because I did something I’ve never done before. One of those mud run obstacle races. It was called the Rugged Maniac and took place at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. It was quite the experience! I don’t usually write about myself here, but I just want to recount the experience I had.

Rugged Maniac

Me and my son Robbie covered in mud after the Rugged Maniac

First of all I’ve never done anything like this before. I train as a powerlifter so doing endurance training, long runs in particular, are not usually a part of my training. I was kind of guilted into doing it because a client of mine named Tammy walked into the gym one morning and announced to everyone that she and another client named Steve had signed up for it. She asked me if I wanted to join in.

Let me digress for a moment and say that I belive that one of the most important, if not THE most important things I do as a trainer is take people out of their comfort zone in a way that is appropriate and helpful. Everyone is different in this respect and everyone has a different tolerance to how far they can go and still progress. We know without a doubt that everyone needs to go outside of their comfort zone to improve, but if they go too far out of it they can actually regress.

For example, let’s say you want to start exercising. You see a trainer and they tell you you’ll be squatting today. If they have you do a bodyweight squat like this:

good squat rugged maniacthat should take you out of your comfort zone enough to get a good result. However, if your trainer leads you to a rack with this on it:

rugged maniac bad squat

I’m guessing they don’t have a good idea about taking people out of their comfort zone in an appropriate way.

Anyway, I thought that if I didn’t join in I wouldn’t exactly be walking the walk, as it were, so I decided to sign up.

The first thing people asked me is how I changed my training. The answer is not much. Really there were only two changes.

  1. I did more running and general conditioning. This took the form of sprints, battle ropes, heavy bag work and the air bike and was mostly done when I was finished with my lifting for the day. I’d say that the majority of this was running sprints. I pushed my conditioning pretty hard while doing it and while it was all done interval-style, I mixed up the timing between 15 second and 2 minute intervals.
  2. I did more pull-ups. I’ve always done pull-ups but I knew that one of the obstacles was going to be a monkey-bar kind of thing so I did pull-ups during every single upper body workout. I also progressed them a little bit so that every time I did one, I let go with one hand for a second to mimic the obstacle.

An important takeaway here is that nothing can train you for a specific activity as well as doing the specific activity. In other words if I need to improve my running, I have to run. Other things I do in the gym can put me in a better position to improve my running, but nothing is as good as running itself. (This is a pretty simple concept, but it doesn’t mean that the activity itself should be the only thing you do. That can create imbalances and issues that can cause problems.)

On Rugged Maniac day I really didn’t know what to expect but I was looking forward to it. I immediately knew that doing the extra running was a good idea as it started out with a run of maybe a quarter-mile or so to the first obstacle as well other runs between each obstacle. The first obstacle was one that we’d see a few times throughout the day albeit in different forms. Basically something you’d climb up and over. Some of these were like wooden ladders, some were rope ladders and some of them got to at least 15 feet off the ground. I’m not a huge fan of heights but I pushed and pulled myself up and over them. Robbie was absolutely flying through everything right ahead of me.

Some of the other notable obstacles included crawling through chest deep mud under barbed wire. It wasn’t as dangerous as it might sound but it was pretty tough as the mud didn’t have much of anything to hold on to. There were also many opportunities to demonstrate balance over a floating pad or beam. If you fell there was some lovely dirty water to catch you. We tried to keep our team together for the most part and that meant waiting for a few minutes after some of the obstacles. Robbie didn’t want to wait, though and did some of them twice! What a machine!

The toughest obstacle was actually the last one. The warped wall. You might be familiar with this if watch American Ninja Warrior.

warped wall Rugged Maniac

You have to run up and over the wall. There are some people at the top to help you get over it. The wall is about 15 or so feet high and is really pretty intimidating. It certainly was for me as I was a little tired at that point, having gone for about an hour and fifteen minutes over three miles. I was also feeling pretty slippery and covered in mud. Lastly I realized a little early on that my beloved Converse Chuck Taylors were not the best shoes for this race. Not much of traction on those flat soles. Particular when covered in mud.

Anyway, I lined myself up and sprinted for the wall. I wasn’t expecting to get too far on my first run as I was watching many people take 2 or 3 tries before getting over it. That was a mistake as I got almost all the way up! It sounds good except that as I found myself, surprisingly, nearly to the top of the wall I haphazardly threw my arm up to grab the top and tweaked my shoulder a little in the process. I had some help getting over it but I do think that with a better approach I could have made it over under my own power. Rest assured although the shoulder still hurts a little, it’s getting better and I’m sure it will be fine in another day or two.

Overall, Rugged Maniac was a great experience and I took some things away from it.

  1. Getting out of your comfort is a tough, but very important thing to do. I saw some of my team members doing some crazy things even though I know it was hard for them and that really inspired me to do the best I could. When you get out of your box, no matter how you do, it always feel pretty darn good!
  2. Proper strength training really is athletic training. As I said, with minimal changes in my usual training program I sailed right through and felt fine doing it. I was actually very surprised that I had pretty much no soreness at all the next day.
  3. Who doesn’t like mud? After literally crawling through a trench of mud I don’t think I saw anyone who wasn’t smiling.
  4. I think I actually liked running a little. This might have the biggest surprise of the day. I’ve always liked sprinting (don’t take this to mean I’m at all fast) but maybe adding some longer runs to my training won’t be such a bad thing. Hmmmm.

Anyway, thanks for reading. If you did the race please let me know what your experience was.

Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS
Mitch Rothbardt Fitness at 2861 Grove Way



Ouch! A Simple Guide To Chronic Pain

The most we’ll see someone at our gym is 5 hours each week. Most of the time it’s actually 2 or 3. That means that there’s somewhere between 163 and 166 hours for someone to either work on good movement patterns or bad ones.

Let’s backtrack a little bit. So many people have chronic pain. Shoulders, knees, back. You know those kinds of pains that you just started noticing one day and can’t really remember when they even started.

I’m about to tell you something important about chronic pain. Something crucial that, if you listen, will change the way you look at them and will give you a much better chance at dealing with them successfuly. No hyperbole here but, if you pay attention to this it could change your life.

OK. Are you listening? Well, here it is.

The chronic pain you have, generally has little or nothing to do with where you are feeling the pain.

What does that mean? It means that if you have knee, back or shoulder pain it probably isn’t because you have a problem with your knees, back or shoulders.

Let’s just take your knees as an example. If you have some knee issues, let’s try something real quick. Stand up, close your eyes and march in place for 10 seconds. When you’re done marching keep your feet right where they are. Got it? Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Great! Now I want you to look at the relationship between your foot and your kneecap. Your kneecap should face straightforward as should your foot. That would mean that your knee and your foot are in alignment and facing the same direction. Another way to look at it would be to draw a line from your kneecap straight down to the floor. The line should intersect your foot right in the middle. Take a look at the picture below. Notice how the left foot and knee are lined up and the right isn’t?

Knee Chronic Pain

I’m guessing that if you have a knee issue, the alignment on the side that hurts looks more like the right knee.

So if this is the case, is it your knee that’s the issue or the alignment (which is actually caused by either your hip or ankle)? You guessed it! The alignment!

Chronic Pain

There are many ways to work on these things, but the key to all of them is understanding that dealing with these issues is an everyday thing. You can’t just work on it at the gym and forget about it the other 165 hours a week! There are weeks, months and even years of bad habits that have to be undone. It can happen, but you have to do the work.

Now, these things can get complicated but let me just give you a very quick and very simple guideline on the causes of knee, back and shoulder chronic pain. Obviously it goes without saying that if you’re having a major issue, see someone who can help whatever specific issue you may have.

Knees – As we discussed above it’s all about the alignment. Look at your hips and ankles. One or both are probably tight.

Back – Again, this is about the hips. Do you sit all day? It’s important to note that your hips are supposed to have lots of mobility and your low back isn’t, so if your hips are locked up what has to take up the slack? The low back. That equals pain.

One more thing, when your doc takes x-rays and notices you have bulging discs? In study after study it’s been shown that something like 90% of adults, both with and without back pain, have bulging discs. In other words, it’s unlikely that they’re the source of your problem.

Shoulders – Posture, posture, posture! This is the key. How’s yours? Almost everyone we see with painful shoulders has some sort of postural issue.

Here are the keys:

  1. Stand up tall!
  2. Keep your shoulders down. (This is a HUGE issue when we’re under stress and/or sitting and typing for long periods of time.)
  3. Breathe deep.

I don’t want to get too complex with anatomy here so I’ll make this quick. Take a look at the picture below and notice that there are lots of small muscles in the shoulder but not a lot of room between them and the clavicle. What that means is that if those muscles get irritated and inflamed they actually rub against the clavicle, which causes pain. What causes inflammation and irritation? You got it! Bad posture!

shoulder Chronic Pain

Well, I hope this helped and you now have a better idea of what is causing some of the chronic pain you may have. Please let me know if you have any other questions or have any thoughts about what we’ve talked about.

Have a great day!

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



I Don’t Feel Like Exercise Today

I love exercise. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I love it so much that I built my entire career around helping people use it to improve their lives. Having said that, there are days when I just don’t feel like doing it.


I know that may be hard to believe, but it’s true. Exercise is hard. It takes time. It takes effort. Sometimes it even hurts!

You know what I do in these situations? I put on my big-boy pants and go to the gym. You know what happens then?

I feel better.

Every. Single. Time.

So, yes. We all have those days. The question is what you do with them.

I think I’ve mentioned one or one thousand times how important consistency is to reaching any goal. (I acutally wrote a two part post about it. You can read part one here and part two here.) Exercising when you’re not exactly raring to go is absolutely crucial to your success! There’s just no way around it.

It’s important to realize that every workout isn’t going to be great. It’s also important to realize that it doesn’t necessarily have to be. There are days when you go to the gym, do what you can and leave. That’s it. Just do what you can. Had a hard day and feeling tired? Come on in and do what you can and you WILL feel better when you’re through.

Focus on exerciseAnother key point is simply focusing on how you’ll feel when you’re done. If you don’t exercise, how will you feel?

If you do exercise, how will you feel? I think you know the answer to both of those questions.

Focus on the end goal.

Now if you can honestly and unemotionally look at all these things and conclude that it’s best to take the day off, then maybe you should. But I caution you that the vast majority of the time this is not the case! How can you tell when it is? Once again, you need to be honest and unemotional. If you truly are then you’ll figure it out. An easy way to know is if you have any question at all about whether or not you should exercise, then you should. Nice and easy.

Let me know what you do when you’re not feeling it and if you have any questions.

Have a great day!

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





Back To Basics

Hello and welcome to Back to Basics week!

Basic Fitness

A few years ago when I was just starting out I had a friend who was training a female high-school soccer player who was going to play for Notre Dame college. Yes, the Fighing Irish. I felt I had a pretty good grasp on how to program for most people but in my head I thought that Notre Dame, being one of the greatest and most storied athletic programs in college history, would have a very elaborate and complex programming system way out of my league. My friend had a copy of the program that Notre Dame had given his client and I asked to see it.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that her program looked almost exactly like most of the programs I had written for my clients. Yes, there were a few small differences, but for the most part they looked the same. They were working on the basics.

Sometimes people think the basics are just for beginners but in my experience that’s not the case at all. When you have a good grasp of the basics you realize that they are something you build everything else on and that you keep coming back to.

Let’s talk specifics. Go to Amazon and look up a book with the “Best Diet”. Actually you don’t need to because I’ve already done it.

Best Diet Basics

Wow! That’s a lot of choices! Now, some of these books are great and some not so much, but I’d bet the good ones focus on eating high-quality, nutrient-dense foods in the right amounts. Sure, we can get into the benefits of nutrient timing, resistant starches, organic vs. non-organic and other advanced techniques but none of that matters if the basics aren’t taken care of. Not only that, but the vast majority of the time the basics are all that anyone really needs to begin with! What does it matter if you only eat non-GMO organic spinach if you’re drinking a six-pack of soda every day?

Let me go over the things that I feel are the basics for both excersie and nutrition. Just to let you know that if you’re looking for the “Silver Bullet Secret” in this list you will be disappointed.

Exercise Basics

  1. Movement and posture first. Whatever your goal is, be it fat loss, improved mobility or anything else, you’ve got to focus on your movement and posture. Without that you won’t be able to get everything you can out of your workouts and you won’t feel very good in the process.
  2. Strength second. I don’t want this post to be too long so I’ll just keep this simple. When you train for strength you build muscle which helps burn fat and increase your metabolism. It also helps with your mindset in more ways than I can explain right now.
  3. Be consistent. It doesn’t get any more basic than this. You won’t get results if you don’t show up. It is surprising to me how many people lack basic consistency.
  4. Work hard. This doesn’t mean you have to puke after every session or anything like that, but push yourself. If a weight is easy get a heavier one. If you’re doing a circuit, move faster. Just push and you’ll see better results.

Nutrition Basics

  1. Eat minimally-processed, nutrient dense foods. In other words focus on lean protein, fruits and veggies, healthy minimally-processed carbohydrates and healthy fats.
  2. Eat the right portion size. An easy way to figure your serving size is this:
    • Protein – 1 palm size
    • Carbs – 1 cupped handful
    • Veggies – 1 fist size
    • Fats – 1 thumb size

These may not be absolutely perfect but they are a good starting point. You can always make adjustments later.

I mean it when I say that if you just follow these simple things, you’re not going to need much else.

Let me know what you think.

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