Archives for January 2020

January 2020 Member of the Month – Diana Zankowsky

It is our pleasure to recognize Diana Zankowsky as the CV Fitness Member of the Month.

Diana has been a member for 1+ years.   She found CVF through Facebook.  Her initial goal was to work on her balance and build her strength.  She is also working to improve her bone density.  She has made great progress which was recently demonstrated when she was able to help lift up and move her washing machine. She has set a 200+ lb. deadlift as her January goal.  We are confident she will meet (if not beat) that goal!

Diana is very busy.  She works part time and volunteers a great deal.  You may see her picking up trash on Castro Valley Boulevard.  She is a member of her Synagogue’s governing Board, she teaches at the Synagogue and if that isn’t enough, she mentors student Rabbis. In her free time (not sure when that is) she likes to read.  She has two grown children and a daughter-in-law.

The three words Diana uses to describe her experience at CVF are “enjoyable”, “community” and “challenging”.

Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of my “Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer” posts. If you missed Part 1, here is the link:

Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer: Part 1

Let’s jump into Part 2.

4) Strength is King

I will put this very simply.

Strength is the most important thing you can work on in the gym. 

There isn’t a goal worth pursuing in the gym that shouldn’t involve getting stronger. Proper strength training helps:

  • improve bone density
  • helps you move better
  • improve cardiovascular health
  • improve flexibility
  • get you stronger
  • become more resistant to injury

Strength is what allows you to get up after you’ve fallen.

Strength is what keeps you from getting hurt when you do fall.

Strength is what helps prevent you from falling in the first place (even though we all will at some point. Gravity always works.)

Strength is what will give you the ability to play with your (grand)kids, pick up your groceries and move things around your house.

Strength is what allows you to continue to be independent as you age.

(Notice that I emphasized that last one.)

There isn’t a physical quality that can’t be helped through improved strength.

5) I Hate Gimmicks

I think I’ve always had a problem with gimmicks, but as I’ve trained more and more people and seen more and more things I’ve become more and more bothered by them. In truth they run the gamut from just silly to potentially damaging.

Lose 16 pounds in 21 days!

Try the Wolverine workout!

This supplement will change your life!

Cool Sculpting will freeze off the fat!

I actually saw this at CVS this morning AFTER I had written this line about Cool Sculpting.

It’s all a bunch of garbage.

Have you ever tried to help a kid with their homework? You know how they work so hard at trying to cut corners that they take longer to get things wrong then if they just did it right in the first place? Well, that’s what happens to people that fall for this stuff.

I know I may sound old-fashioned here but the things that matter with diet and exercise are the basics. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it probably shouldn’t be.

This is what matters:

  • Consistency
  • Hard work
  • Sustainability

That’s it. Don’t believe anyone or anything that tells you that there’s a shortcut or a secret.

Remember what the great Dragon Warrior, Po the Panda said.

If you want to read more of the life-changing wisdom of “Kung Fu Panda” (I’M NOT KIDDING) go here:

The Film That Changed My Life

6) No One Really Has A Bad Back

This one will might get some people upset. Let me explain by giving you a few facts.

  • In a study of people with no back pain, it was shown through imaging tests (X-Rays, MRIs) that over 90% of the people in the test had bulging discs.
  • There is much anecdotal evidence showing that in people who have back pain there is very little consistency between what imaging tests show and the pain that the people are experiencing.

So to sum up, everyone has bulging discs whether they have back pain or not, and there is almost no way to predict what kind of back pain someone will experience by looking at their discs anyway. Doesn’t this mean that it’s probably not the bulging discs that are causing the pain in the first place? After all, if someone sees a broken arm in an X-Ray they can fairly accurately predict where the pain is going to be, right?

Tell us where the pain is, Bobby.

OK. So if it’s the case that much of what people thought caused back pain doesn’t actually cause back pain…..

then what does?

Two things:

  • Posture
  • Movement patterns

I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me they can’t do an exercise because it hurts their back, only to have it feel fine after I give them a cue directing them to use their hips or engage their core differently.

The true function of our core/low back is stability. To put it simply, our core/low back has to stabilize in order to effectively allow our extremities (arms and legs) to do what they have to do. Our core fires up every single time we move our arms and legs even if we don’t feel it. You really understand that when you do pull something in your back and it stabs you every time you reach for a pen or a glass of water.

The true function of our hips is mobility. In other words, movement.

Put the two together and you get that the hips move and the core/low back stabilizes. Almost to a person, what I’ve seen in people that have low back issues is that their hips don’t move well which means that the low back has to take up the slack for that lack of movement.

That causes pain.

When you think of all the little movements you do every day, this really adds up and it’s all those movements put together that come into play when people blow their back up picking up a piece of paper. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Now, please keep in mind that I understand there are people who have different sorts of chronic conditions that are more complicated than this. I also understand that, for the most part, THESE CONDITIONS DO NOT APPLY TO THE VAST MAJORITY OF BACK PAIN SUFFERERS. I also understand that even for the people with those conditions, working on posture and movement patterns can and should be a very important part of the recovery process.

Obviously, having been a trainer for 10 years I have learned many things but these these six things stood out to me as pretty important. Again if you haven’t read my first post on this you can find it here:

Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer: Part 1

If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear them.

Have a great day and a great 2020!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, Egoscue PAS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

Things I’ve Learned During My 10 Years As A Trainer: Part 1

At the beginning of each year I like to think about what I learned the previous 12 months. There are usually some take-aways and confirmations of things I previously thought and got more sure of. Occasionally, there are things I realize I was just plain wrong about.

I was about to write my “Things I Learned in 2019” post and my wonderful wife, Kristi, suggested that I take it a little further and write about some things I’ve learned since I started training. Since it’s basically my 10-year anniversary as a trainer I thought that was a great idea!

1 – It doesn’t take much

I remember my very first session with a client. I had a nice program all written out. All the movement patterns accounted for. Warmup stretches for everything head to toe. Set and rep schemes to maximize every outcome. As written, the workout was probably two hours long and my first client let me know half way through the warm up that they had to finish up and get to work. I realized right then that it just doesn’t take much for someone to get started.

Too often I hear stories about how someone was so sore after their first workout that they couldn’t walk for days. What good is that to anyone? It took one session for me to realize that the most valuable thing someone can get out of their first workout is the desire for another one. I’d much rather a new member has a super easy first workout that allows us a good foundation to build on. I want them set up for years of solid and effective workouts not just one crazy one.

2- Food is food

Over my time as a trainer I have seen literally every kind of food demonized. Right now, for example two of the most popular diet crazes are Netflix Documentary-inspired Veganism and the Joe Rogan-inspired Carnivore diet. (I know that being Vegan has been around a lot longer then Netflix. It’s just that Netflix is where a ton of people are hearing about it lately. I also know that many Vegans are doing it for humane reasons, which I completely support.)

Yes, right now in this day-and-age of being able to find out just about every piece of information on the internet in 5 seconds there are people who believe that eating meat is unhealthy and others with access to the exact same information who believe that eating anything but meat is unhealthy.

Healthy or Unhealthy? Pick One!

I’m not joking. This is happening right now.

I’ve even fallen prey to it at times. I tried to figure out “the secret combination” of “good” and “bad” foods and I realized there wasn’t one.

What I’ve come to realize is that food is just food. A cookie is just a cookie. Broccoli is just broccoli. There are perfectly valid reasons and delicious ways to eat and enjoy both. There is no good or bad. As a matter of fact, the stress of trying to figure out and stick to that kind of food regimen is likely more damaging then the occasional cookie.

Think of it like this. The more you demonize and restrict something you like, the more resentful you make yourself and the more powerful you make the food. And then comes the rebound.

The moral of this story? Just figure out what works for you and eat. And what works for you needs to be sustainable. Stop kidding yourself about what is really sustainable for you. I’m looking at you Keto!

3 – Losing weight is a horrible goal

I’ve had literally thousands of conversations with people who are starting some sort of exercise program. The goal of weight loss has been mentioned in at least 95% of them. I’ve heard people of all shapes and sizes tell me they want to lose weight. It’s almost as if people believe that losing weight is the only goal worth attaining. I joked one time that if aliens came to earth just to hear people talk about their fitness goals they’d think the only acceptable weight on earth would be zero pounds.

Jowka the Alien now realizes earthlings all weigh too much

Please know this:

The Whole Weight Loss Industry Is Designed To Make You Feel Bad About Yourself So You Will Buy More Stuff

Do I need to be any clearer about that? It has no interest in helping you lose weight.

The cycle goes like something like this:

  1. Through an oppressive and continuous series of media images and messages, amongst other things, people are told to believe they need to lose weight.
  2. People are sold some kind of diet/workout/supplement to do so.
  3. When person inevitably fails either in the short or long term, due to the fact that the diet/workout/supplement is completely unsustainable or just doesn’t work at all, blame the person and make them feel like a failure.
  4. Sell the person something else.

It’s likely that many of the people reading this have gone through this cycle many times.

What I’ve come to believe over my ten years as a trainer is that people aren’t asking the right questions of themselves.


Once you start to figure out what that is, things start to feel different. You feel more empowered, more in touch with your true self and values.

Losing weight itself is incredibly disempowering. You are essentially giving all your power to some inanimate object that will let you know how you should feel about yourself. If it says one number you’re awesome. If it says another you’re an unworthy failure. Even if the numbers are for any practical purpose, the same. That’s not to mention the stress of judging yourself every time you eat literally ANYTHING AT ALL!

I wonder if I’m a failure today?

I had a client tell me that the night before they weighed in they were so stressed out they couldn’t sleep. I’ve had more than one person tell me they get on the scale every day and can’t help but judge themselves based on that number. None of this is OK! It’s not that it just doesn’t help, IT ACTUALLY HURTS!

As a trainer I now know to look for other, more empowering and meaningful ways to measure progress. The important thing about this is to figure out what you really want in the first place. Is it to stay off some medication? Is it to be able to move easier? Whatever it is, working towards THAT goal is much more likely to give you what you want.

I hope this helps clear a few things up for you. I’ll have Part Two next week.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, Egoscue PAS
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

Member of the Month December 2019 – Stephanie Corliss

It is our pleasure to recognize Stephanie Corliss as the CV Fitness Member of the month.

Stephanie has been a member for 1 ½ years. She is a Social Worker with two bunnies as pets – Olive and Arthur. We have learned so much about bunnies since she joined CVF. She found CVF through Yelp and participates in Boot Camp on a regular basis. She was looking for a place close to home, would fit with her work schedule and was fun. She wanted something group based, with a community, something that would bring her in and keep her coming in.

Her initial goal was to work out consistently to reduce her work stress and to get strong. It is important to her to be mobile as she ages. Her current goal is to just get stronger. She is well on her way to meeting that goal.

She likes the exercise variety in Boot Camp and her sense of humor really adds to the fun.

The three words Stephanie uses to describe her experience at CVF are “challenging”, “fun” and “community”.