Our Nutrition Philosophy

Recently we started a small group at Castro Valley Fitness. It’s a group of people who want to start thinking about nutrition and their body in a different way.

Through years of coaching people through the process of “losing weight” I started to see problems.

Big ones.

I thought it was important when I started the group to lay our nutrition philosophy out there so that it was clear that we are going to be doing something very different here. I wrote this up and I thought it would good, and possibly kind of ground-breaking, for many people to read, so here it is.

By the way, if you’d like to see the kind of work we are doing in our group, just reply to this email and we can talk about it. The group is open to anyone but we’re limiting it to 10 people total. Here we go:

“What do you want to do?”

“Lose weight.”

I’ve had some version of this conversation hundreds, if not thousands, of times in my years as a personal trainer. If I had to pick the one thing I hear most, this would come in second. (We’ll get to number one soon.)

People just reflexively say, “Lose weight” as if it’s the only goal worth attaining. In reality I think people just say it because they’ve been told over and over throughout their lives that it’s what they SHOULD want. That goes triple for women who are told in many ways from the time they’re little girls that the most valuable thing they can be is small and pretty.

In this group we reject these notions.

We will talk about nutrition here, but that is only a part of it. We are going to talk about why, “I know what to do but I just can’t do it” is the number one thing I hear most.

The reality is that we really do know the vast majority of what we need to know about nutrition. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you a few questions:

  1. What has more nutrients, an apple or a candy bar?”
  2. Should you eat fruits and vegetables?
  3. What has more nutrients, fried chicken or grilled chicken?

I’ll bet you knew the answers to those questions and I’ll bet you think I’m kidding when I say that you don’t need to know much more than that. I’m not. This is the level of knowledge most people need to have a pretty healthy diet. Society at large does not have a knowledge problem on this issue.

Now you may be asking yourself, “If that’s all I need to know, why is this so hard?”

The answer to that is 42.

Now I’ll bet you’re really confused.

Unless you know about The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

In that phenomenal book (one of the funniest ever written) it’s revealed that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42. The problem is that no one knows what the actual question is.

Kind of like nutrition.

We are asking the wrong question.

We are focusing on weight loss when we should be focusing on something else.

I’ve come to believe something after all this time and all of the conversations I’ve had over the years. I’ve come to believe that most of the time, weight loss is actually damaging. I know that you’ve been told quite the opposite but stay with me for a minute.

What have you all been told all these years? If you can’t lose weight it’s because you’re weak. Unmotivated. Unfocused.

What you haven’t been told is that losing weight and keeping it off is incredibly hard. Even harder if you have a job, a family and anything in the world you’d like to do other than prep and weigh food.

How about what happens psychologically when you lose weight in an unsustainable way (keto anyone?) and what happens emotionally when you gain it all back. Now you have the double whammy of feeling like a failure because you couldn’t sustain an unsustainable lifestyle and feeling valueless because of your size.

Does this sound empowering to you? Does this sound healthy to you?

If everyone tells you to lose weight so you can be healthy and happy and the whole process of losing weight is unhealthy and makes you unhappy WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE REALLY DOING TO OURSELVES?

I’m not even going to get into what happens physically when trying to lose weight causes us to stress LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE TIME WE THINK ABOUT FOOD OR EAT ANYTHING AT ALL!


You might be a little confused now. What’s the point, huh? Why try? I’m going to ask you to think of things a little differently. Instead of focusing on your weight, I want you to focus on what you really want.

Do you want to be healthier? Focus on that. Do you want to feel fitter? Focus on that. Here’s the thing:

when you focus on what you really want you have a

much better chance to achieve it!  

Oh, and if you think you really want to just lose weight, you’re wrong.  You want what you feel losing weight will get you.

That’s what this group is going to focus on.

What we really want. Not what we’re told we should want.

We are going to focus on things that actually empower us, not make us feel small.

We are going to focus on things that actually make us healthier, not things that stress us out and demand disordered and unsustainable activities like most diets do.

We are going to focus on ways we can start living a more full and vital life RIGHT NOW.

Let me be clear about this: We will not talk about weight loss here. We will be doing check-ins every week that may reference goals we have set. None of those will involve weight loss. If you agree to this and still step on your scale each day you will be sabotaging what we are trying to accomplish.

Let me clear about this, as well: You may, in fact, lose weight in this group but you may not. Either one of these things is fine as long as you are advancing in the work we are doing.

Success will not be measured on the scale here. We are forming a new model. One that will ultimately be a lot more rewarding than a mere number that society tells us reflects our personal worth.

We will be concentrating on the process of being healthier both mentally and physically through focusing on things that empower us.

I know this approach may seem foreign to you. That’s OK. It’s only by stepping outside of our comfort zone that we can truly achieve what we are trying to achieve.

If you still don’t know about this, I want you to ask yourself what focusing on weight loss alone has gotten you. Has it helped you in any way?

I am so excited you are a part of this group. I truly believe that getting this information out there can make the world a better place and you are at the center of it!

Once again, if you’d like to hear more about about our group please let me know. Thanks for reading! 

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

Biggest Loser Returns: My Thoughts

“You’re not going to yell at me, are you?”

Jillian Michaels being a

Not what we do

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to a prospective client and had them ask me this question. It always surprises me until I realize that for many people their only exposure to personal training is The Biggest Loser. When I think of that, and then think that they still want to come to a personal trainer for help, it makes me realize how important getting healthy is to them and how desperate they are for something, ANYTHING to work.

I’ve been training people for over 10 years and I haven’t yelled at one person. I can’t imagine doing that. It goes against everything I believe.

I was pretty surprised when I saw that The Biggest Loser was coming back on the air. I thought that all the controversy saying that contestants took drugs to help lose weight, grave physical and psychological affects were suffered by the contestants, contestants metabolisms were permanently damaged by the extreme weight loss methods they were put through, most of the contestants have regained most if not all the weight back, among other things would put this thing off the air for good. I guess not.

According to the article I read they are going to change things up now and focus more on holistic changes for their contestants. According to USA Networks president Chris McCumber, “We’re re-imagining The Biggest Loser for today’s audiences, providing a new holistic, 360-degree look at wellness, while retaining the franchise’s competition format and legendary jaw-dropping moments.”

Sounds good, I guess.

Last week I decided to take care of all my loyal readers and “take one for the team” as the saying goes. Basically,  I watched the season premiere so you don’t have to.

I told myself I’d go into it with an open mind.

Maybe they updated the problematic focus on weight loss at all costs.

Maybe they’ve started to treat their contestants like actual people instead of like things they can attack and punish for having the inexcusable audacity of being big.

Maybe they’d give their viewers a real look at how to establish sustainable fitness and dietary habits that allow them to live healthier lives based on their personal values.


I’m sure you’ve guessed that this is not what they’ve done.

Let’s go over it.

The show starts off innocently enough. All of the contestants seem very excited to be there. You may recognize the host, Bob Harper, who was previously one of the trainers. He’s always come across as the “nice one”. He assigns everyone to be on one of two teams and they’re all happy.

Interspersed throughout are different profiles of the contestants and their struggles. A general theme from them is some kind of emotional or phyisical trauma in their lives and a lot of emotional eating.

Let me clear about this next point.

This is very real and it can go very deep. Fitness can, and likely should be a big part of the recovery process, but a personal trainer is just not qualified to truly deal with this in the deep and meaningful way it deserves, any more than a psycho-therapist would be qualified to help someone with movement patterns relating to back pain. 

Another important point here is that for someone dealing with these kinds of issues, a focus on weight loss is likely to be extremely counterproductive! Especially when factoring in what this show considers important, which can best be described as “losing weight is the only thing that matters!”

Back to the show.

The next thing we see is their first challenge. Everyone has to run a mile and the team that finishes first gets a 6 pound advantage at the first weigh-in. Now, I’m not going to mention (well, I guess I am) the fact that running is a high impact activity and that the average person takes about 2500 steps per mile. So they’re asking these people, who we know aren’t in the greatest physical shape, to essentially do 2500 reps of a high impact activity and then judge them for how poorly they do it. There are basically three possible outcomes here.

  1. They do well
  2. They don’t do well
  3. They get hurt

Options 2 and 3 are by far the most likely.

Let me describe two scenarios to you surrounding the same activity (running a mile) and please think about the one you feel would lead to a better experience with physical activity and a more sustainable lifestyle change for someone who has had a history of bad experiences with exercise.

  1. People are pushed into going as fast as they can no matter how they feel and are made to feel inadequate, like failures and like they let their team down for not going fast enough.
  2. People are asked to go for a mile at a pace that feels good and are encouraged to keep a healthy pace. When they finish they are congratulated for taking a great first step toward getting healthy.

Yes, I know that insulting and belittling people probably make for more exciting TV than encouraging and supporting them, but now we’re starting to get to the heart of the problems with this show and why the statement about a “360-degree holistic view of wellness” rings so false.

There is a lot of talk after the run about the contestants getting a “wake-up call” about their physical condition, as if it’s something that hasn’t dominated their thoughts for years. What they really experience is nothing more than a public shaming. This does nothing more than confirm to them that physical activity is just a punishment for being big. Not something to be enjoyed. Not something that can be part of a healthy and meaningful life for them. Just a punishment.

Let me ask you how eagerly you’d look forward to doing something that has been demonstrated to you over and over again to result in you feeling like an incompetent failure.

Anyway, after they complete their run we next see them all huddled together in what looks like the living room of the house they’re all living in. Bob tells everyone that this is going to be the most important room in the house. This is where they will all get together and talk about their experiences. He then adds that they can’t lose the weight without addressing what is going mentally.

This actually gets pretty emotional as Bob shares his story of almost dying from a heart attack about 3 years ago. He talks about waking up from a coma not knowing where he was, how he had to conquer his fear of physical activity and about how he was petrified of even entering a gym after the doctors cleared him to exercise.

Harper learned he has a hereditary condition involving high levels of lipoprotein (a) in his blood, a particle that contributes to plaque in the arteries and blood clots, and can increase the risk of heart attacks.”

According to the article it’s a little known condition that doctors don’t commonly test for.

I don’t want to make light of this at all. He was in a coma and almost died while seeming by every appearance to be in perfect health. It is great that he is trying to relate to the contestants by showing them how he has been able to overcome his fear. Helping people to face their fears is a crucial step for anyone to be able make healthier choices in their lives.

I just want to point out one seemingly obvious thing that is never mentioned:

Maybe since Bob Harper seemed to be the epitome of health at his size and bodyweight there is more to be considered when thinking about health than just size and bodyweight.

After this we see what is called the “Last Chance Workout.” This is the last workout they do before their weigh-in. Of course, the trainers are talking it up and telling everyone how hard they have to go.

Let me say this: The idea of one single workout making any kind of major difference in someones physical condition or body weight is the exact opposite of everything I believe in. I believe that is also the belief of any other conscientious trainer.

The body just DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT!!!!!

This is the kind of thinking that gets people to feel good or bad about themselves based solely on what their scale says each morning.

I wonder if I’m a failure today?

In case you didn’t know this let me tell you, it is nearly impossible for the body to gain or lose anything significant other than water weight or glycogen (a substance your body stores in its muscles and uses as energy) over the course of one workout, one day or even several days. When you get up in the morning weighing 2-4 pounds more or less than you did the day before all it means is that you’re storing more or less water. Not that that you have gained or lost fat.

This knowledge, of course, isn’t something that makes for exciting TV. It’s much better to drive everyone into the ground and dehydrate them as much as possible. That sounds healthy and sustainable, right?

As a trainer, this is the part of the show I hate the most. There is nothing at all we see during these workouts that is effective for the long-term. Quite the opposite in fact.

Here is a quick rundown.

At one point a contestant says while obviously exhausted, “I’m in so much pain right now.” Let me tell you that if I heard anyone in my gym say that they wouldn’t be continuing that workout.

Again I ask, is doing something that makes you utter that statement likely going to be sustainable for you?

We see three different people puking into buckets and we even hear trainer Steve Cook yell at one point in reference to the other trainer, Erica Lugo’s team, “She’s got people puking! You guys aren’t working hard enough!”

Puking is not a sign that you are having a good workout. It’s a sign that you should probably stop what you’re doing.

We hear someone say that they feel dizzy and light-headed. Again, NOT WHAT WE WANT FROM A WORKOUT!!

We actually see Erica tell one contestant that she should feel light-headed because she’s pushing herself so hard. Again, NOT GOOD!!!

Predictably, we then see this poor contestant puke and Erica telling her to “Get it out” while her head is in the puke bucket. Presumably so she can get back to the workout.

We hear one contestant tell Steve that because the workout is so hard “I don’t know if I even want to be skinny.” Steve answers back, “It’s not about being skinny. It’s about being healthy.” On the surface this statement couldn’t be more true. Unfortunately nothing going on with this workout is even remotely in the same hemisphere as healthy.

The form on display with almost every exercise is horrible. In seeing this, I’d be shocked if there weren’t several injuries that occurred during this workout alone.

Exhausted people + bad form = problems

I know I keep coming back to this, but they talk such a good game about teaching their contestants sustainable, healthy habits. Nothing about this kind of workout is healthy, sustainable or even effective! It is only meant to exhaust and dehydrate people.

This is the kind of thing that is incredibly damaging. Not only to the poor people on the show, but to those watching, as well. The implication is that this is what you have to do to get healthy. Nothing else will do. If you don’t, you’re a failure. You don’t have the willpower. You don’t work hard enough. Forget everything else you may have accomplished in your life. It doesn’t compare to losing weight.

What do people think when they watch this? I can’t do that. I don’t want to go to the gym and puke and be in pain. I don’t know what to do but I don’t want to hire someone just to yell at me and make me feel worthless.

It breaks my heart to see this and know what people must think. Knowing that what they’re seeing is the polar opposite of what really matters and works.

Last up is the weigh-in. This is where we see how much weight the contestants have lost during the week. It’s not uncommon to see that people have lost over 10 pounds. During this weigh-in the weight loss ranged from 6 pounds to 22 pounds.

Do I need to tell anyone that losing this amount of weight in such a short amount of time is problematic and very unhealthy? Every bit of research done on this topic has shown that anyone losing weight like this is almost certain to gain it all back and then some. Likely, with a huge bit of emotional stress on top of it. Again, there is nothing healthy or sustainable about any of this.

There is one woman on the show who was previously a contestant in the Miss America pageant. They make it pretty clear how much more valuable she was in her thinner body as opposed to her bigger body that hasn’t done much of worth except raise a family, I suppose.

I guess you can tell that I’m not a fan of this show. It creates unrealistic expectations and practices methods that have shown beyond a doubt to be ineffective for long-term health at best and very damaging both mentally and physically at worst.

I hate how they try to present the methods as healthy and sustainable when they are anything but.

I hate how they completely ignore methods that have actually been shown to help people.

I hate how they make sport of punishing and shaming the people on the show and through them, millions of other people.

I hate how the show gives an incredibly wrong impression of what fitness and health are and how to achieve them.

I hate how the show prioritizes something as meaningless as bodyweight.

It’s obviously something I feel pretty deeply about. One of the things I think about most is how to make people understand what really works when it comes to fitness. Nothing about this show promotes anything but unhealthy, outdated and disproven methods and attitudes about fitness, diet, body weight, body size and health in general. I hope this helps clear some things up for you.

Thanks for reading this and please let me know if you agree disagree or have any questions. This is a very important subject.

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


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

2019 Christmas Fitness Shopping Guide

Hello and happy holidays! We are just one week away from Christmas and a mere two weeks away from 2020!

How about that!

Anyhow, just in case you haven’t completed your shopping and are a little stuck as to what to get that special someone, I thought I’d give you a few suggestions.

Let’s get started!

The F*ck It Diet Book

Castro Valley Fitness gift ideas

Click for Amazon link

If you know someone (or maybe are someone) who has been on and off diets and is pretty frustrated with the whole thing, or someone who is realizing that there must be more to life than constantly trying to get smaller, or someone who should understand that their value in this world should be tied to more than just their physical appearance, than this is the book for them (or you).

This is simply the best book I’ve read about the entire culture behind dieting, how unhealthy it all is and most importantly, how to get away from it. It’s a great audio book, too.

Simply put, if losing weight or body image has been an issue for anyone you know, PLEASE get them this book.


Click for Amazon link

Yes, I know this isn’t a fitness related item, but you need some culture and you need it way before the hurley-burley is done! Besides Hamlet contains one of the greatest quotes ever:

“…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Act 2, scene 2, lines 268-270)

Whenever you start talking about “good” or “bad” foods please remember this line. The Bard knew what was up!

You Know Who I Am!

Mobilitywod Supernova Massage Ball

Click for Rogue Fitness Link

This is one of the most popular things at our gym. People use it on their hips, glutes and shoulders. Someone borrowed for it for a couple of days once and it nearly caused an riot!

It comes in two sizes and is a fantstic addition to a foam roller for anyone who has a little tightness or pain is the areas I mentioned.

Nobody’s Perfekt Dogs

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At Castro Valley Fitness we love our pets.

Big time!

If you’re looking to be a little charitable this holiday season Nobody’s Perfekt Dogs is a wonderful organization that needs all the help they can get. They specialize in finding homes for dogs that may have some issues, whether it be medical, age related, or behavioral that make it hard to find homes.

For example, at our fundraiser for them last July, everyone fell in love with Blossom, who is completely blind and incredibly sweet.

That’s Blossom!

One look at their site NobodysPerfektDogs.org and I guarantee you will fall in love!

Lifting Belt

Click for Link

This is a little more specialized gift. A lifting belt is great for anyone who really wants to push the numbers on their lifts. It’s not going to help anyone who doesn’t really know how to use one, so your friend may benefit from some coaching even more than a belt if they’re not already getting some, but if you know someone who really wants to get their squat and/or deadlift weights higher, a belt can be a big help!

Their are lots of brands to choose from, but I happen to like Inzer. I recommend the single-prong, 10mm belt.

Well, those are some suggestions in case you need an idea. If you need some more please feel free to drop me an email and I’ll do my best to help.

This will be my last post until 2020 so please have yourself a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!!

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




An Exercise For Your Hips, Knees and Back

This is one of those exercises that can look pretty easy but that doesn’t mean that it is.

This one move can help strengthen your hips, glutes, hamstrings and core and that can help your knees, back and hips feel a heck of a lot better!

Take a look and let me know what you think.

Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way

The Film That Changed My Life

Sometimes you see something that says it all. Something that, even though you may have seen it before, strikes you differently this time. Buddha is credited with coining the phrase, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I have had occasion many times in my life to believe in the truth behind Buddha’s statement.

I had another occasion over the Thanksgving holiday as I watched a movie I’ve seen many times before, first when it was released over the summer of 2008. The movie even contains one of my very favorite quotes. (I’ll let you know what it is later.) This weekend as I watched, it struck me how deep, meaningful and enlightening this film really is.

I am talking of course about the brilliant “Kung Fu Panda”.

The film that can change your life

If you haven’t seen it, let me quickly describe the plot.

Po, a rather clumsy and rotund Panda bear is an avid fan of Kung Fu and especially of the finest Kung Fu team of all time, the Furious Five. Po hears the announcement that  the true Dragon Warrior will finally be chosen! The Dragon Warrior will be able to read the secret Dragon Scroll which contains the ultimate secret to Kung Fu Power.

Through a crazy series of events Po, who has never learned kung fu, is chosen as the Dragon Warrior over each of the members of the Furious Five. He must now train to defeat the evil and powerful Tai Lung, who desires nothing more than to read the scroll and become the Dragon Warrior himself.

No one, least of all Po himself, believes he is capable of defeating Tai Lung until he finally understands what the Dragon Scroll has told him. In an incredible battle he defeats Tai Lung, saves China and gains the respect of his Master and the Furious Five!


OK. So how can this movie change your life? I’m about to tell you.

1) Do what works for you.

When Po is declared the Dragon Warrior he is a complete beginner at kung fu. His teacher, Master Shifu, attempts to teach him Kung Fu the same way he taught the Furious Five. It doesn’t work. After all, how could you expect to teach kung fu to a panda the same way you’d teach a tiger, a crane, a snake, a mantis or a monkey? That’s silly isn’t it?

It’s only after Master Shifu figures out how to teach to Po’s individual strengths that he really starts becoming the warrior we know is inside him!

The Lesson: We all have strengths, weaknesses and situations that are unique to us. The situation of a working mother with 2 kids that take dance lessons and play soccer is a lot different than that of a 22 year old who works part time and goes to school. When people don’t take these types of things into account it can lead to problems.

2) Go to work.

The big turning point in the movie occurs when Po’s father (a noodle shop owner) tells him the secret ingredient in his special “Secret Ingredient” soup. Do you want to know what it is?


There isn’t one.

This brings us to the quote I told you about earlier:

The Lesson: Everything you need is inside you. There isn’t any special diet, workout or supplement that is going to get you what you want. It’s got to come from you. You know if you’re really working hard. You know if you’re really engaging with the lessons that are trying to be taught. You’ve got to do the work and stop expecting shortcuts.

3) Accept who you are. 

This falls in line with the first two lessons. Once Po realizes that everything he needs is already in him, he fights Tai Lung using the unique strengths he has. He’s no longer trying to be anyone other than himself AND HE’S KICKING A$$!!!! He finally accepts that he’s a Panda and everything that goes with it.

The final straw is when Tai Lung, who is starting to realize he can’t win, desperately exclaims, “You can’t defeat me! You’re just a big fat panda!”

Just before he strikes the final knockout blow, Po shoots back, “I’m not A big fat panda. I’m THE big fat panda!”

The Lesson: The only way to grow and really achieve what you want is to accept who you are. That doesn’t mean you are satisfied with it, but it does acknowledge your situation, your strengths and weaknesses, and if you actually take the time to think about it (and you really need to) it clarifies your values!

It’s also incredibly empowering! How do you think Po felt when he said that?

He feels like a BADA$$!!

Only once you start to really accept who you are, you can start to feel the same.

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


OK. Next week is Thanksgiving. A few weeks after that is Christmas. The week after that is New Years Day.



As a personal trainer who has worked with hundreds of people over this time of year I am going to tell you that what you’re about to go through over the next six weeks is inhuman. There is no way out. You will feel stressed out. Terrible. Horrible. Like your head is about to explode. Like there is no end to the calorie laden, sugar-filled sweets that will literally be shoved down your throat unceasingly.

You will feel this way because it is the truth. You might as well face it. You will spend the rest of your life trying to recover from the damage that you will endure.

Of course I’m joking, but every year I do hear some version of what I wrote. I know this can be a stressful time of year for a number of reasons but I hope that at the end of it you can look back and realize that you enjoyed and appreciated it. We only get a certain amount of these, you know.

Let me give you three quick tips to help you with that.

  1. Breathe. If you find yourself starting to spin out of control take a step back, notice how you feel, know that it’s OK, and take just a few minutes to breathe and think about nothing else other than that. I know this isn’t easy to remember to do in those stressful times, but if you do it will make a huge difference. I promise you.
  2. Exercise. This is the time of year when people start skipping their workouts. I get it, there’s a lot to do. In January, though, I start to see the people that skipped workouts really regret it. Study after study shows that exercise is one of the best ways you can combat stress. Just do what you can. 15 minutes is better than nothing. Put it on your schedule and DON’T BREAK THAT APPOINTMENT WITH YOURSELF!
  3. Eat. Don’t be the person at the dinner table talking about how much cardio you have to do to pay for that extra helping of stuffing. Just eat and enjoy yourself. I personally plan on eating an entire 9×13 pan of pumpkin bread pudding with caramel sauce, Tillamook Vanilla Ice Cream (the creamiest ice cream I’ve found) and whipped cream. And that’s before I get to the Apple Pie!

The Last Few Weeks At Castro Valley Fitness…

It’s been a hectic few weeks here at Castro Valley Fitness. Like everyone else we’re starting to get ready for the holidays. People are working hard at the gym.

We are pretty busy here, as I’m sure you are with your life, and when you’re busy, sometimes it can be hard to take a step back and see some things that have been going on.

Here is a short list of things some of our members have told me over the past few weeks:

  • One of our members remarked how much more stable she felt as she went on some long hikes over a weekend trip
  • One of our members told me that this was the best he’s ever felt and the most consistent he’s ever been with any kind of exercise
  • One of our members said that she was able to run 10 gates to catch a flight after her connecting flight landed 45 minutes late
  • One of our members told me she was better able to pick up her child
  • One of our members tripped over something in her kitchen and fell pretty hard sliding across her floor. She was able to get right back up with just a few bruises to show for it

I think we can all agree that the ability to do all these things is pretty good. It’s empowering. These are the kinds of things we can point to as being conducive to living a better and fuller life.

I want to point out one more thing.

None of these things is about losing weight.

Please let that sink in.

Yes it’s true that being better able to do some of these things might result in weight loss, but if weight loss is your main focus then I believe you are missing the proverbial forest through the trees.

weight loss misses the forest through the trees

I don’t see a scale in this picture

What I mean is that if your only focus is a number some appliance tells you then you’re missing what really matters. Being able to enjoy a trip, being able to avoid injury, being able to play with your kids or grandkids. Aren’t all these things more important?

If so, why do so many of us let that number determine how we feel about ourselves and our progress? Does that seem healthy?

Is it healthy that we tell ourselves losing weight is good for us only to feel shame and stress every time we eat?

Is it OK that we’re made to feel like failures when we don’t lose weight as easily as the model in that Facebook post or magazine article tells us we should?

Does it seem right that we can live better, fuller and more vital lives and still feel we haven’t accomplished anything because of what our scale tells us?

I don’t think any of those things feel right or healthy at all. Not in the slightest.

Now this is the part when I challenge you to try something. I want you to try and adjust your thinking a little bit. Instead of your success being determined by an external force (your scale) I want you to go a little deeper.

I want you to think about what you really want. What will mean something to you and allow you to live that more vital life we’re talking about.

Is it

  • being able to walk longer distances
  • having more energy to play with your kids or grandkids
  • feeling less pain
  • getting stronger so you can remain independent

or is it something else entirely?

Whatever it is, I’m sure that losing weight isn’t at the core of what you really want.

So I’ll ask you one more time:

What do you really want?

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PAS, PN Level 2
Castro Valley Fitness
2861 Grove Way




What Pain Can Do For You – Video

I’m going to challenge you a little today. I know many people suffer from chronic pain. Back, knee, shoulder, hip. Most people’s reaction when they feel pain is to back away to avoid it.

That’s understandable. Pain hurts! It’s not comfortable. The thing is, though, that pain is telling us something and if we don’t listen it will be back!

I want to give you a different way to look at pain that may help you get rid of it. Not just right now but for good! After all, isn’t that the goal?

Let me know if you need help figuring out your pain.

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, FMS, Egoscue PAS

Castro Valley Fitness

2861 Grove Way