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Not-So-Hot Yoga: Beware the Perils of Preposterous Postures!

Over the last several decades, thanks in large part to the personal fitness movement, yoga has emerged from the dark and mysterious realm of spiritual ritual to become a mainstream and universally embraced mode of exercise. The age-old practice of mindful stretching, while it has had its variations, remained virtually untampered with for centuries, but yoga as many know it today has morphed into less of a spiritual practice and more of a challenge to practitioners who want to take personal fitness to a new level.

The Myth of Harmlessness

Many assume that because yoga postures lack velocity and momentum, they pose no risk to practitioners. While it may be true that momentum and velocity do add an extra element of risk to any physical activity, their absence does not necessarily make the practice of yoga risk-free. In fact, injuries are as common in yoga as they are in any other sport or fitness activity. Some common yoga injuries include: 

  • Injuries to the cervical spine from headstands and shoulder stands.
  • Spinal injuries from back-bending postures like lotus, bridge, cobra, updog and camel.
  • Sciatic nerve pressure from heel-sitting postures.
  • Various injuries to the hips, ribs, ankles and wrists and hamstrings.

Why the Upswing in Injuries?

The upswing in yoga-related injuries no doubt correlates with its rising popularity. As yoga becomes more mainstream, it is attracting more students of low to average fitness levels who are drawn to it because they think it will be easier and less risky than cardio or weight training. People with low fitness levels face a variety of obstacles when it comes to doing yoga:

  • Core muscles that protect the spine and provide stability are weak, putting the vertebra at risk for injury.
  • Overweight students are often top-heavy, adding extra strain to the body’s structures and raising the center of gravity.
  • Sedentary lifestyle behaviors that involve long hours of sitting create imbalances in muscle tension throughout the body, with some muscles too flaccid and weak, and others too tight, setting participants up for strains and sprains. 
  • Unfit populations often have metabolic disorders like hypertension and diabetes, putting them at risk for falls and dizziness during yoga.

In addition to attracting less fit participants, group yoga classes are often taught by unqualified or under-qualified instructors who do not have a sound grasp of human anatomy and biomechanics. The group class environment can also be highly competitive, encouraging participants to push themselves to the point of injury.

Tips for Avoiding Yoga Injuries

Before enrolling in a yoga class, there are a few things you should do to prepare yourself: 

  • Begin a general fitness program of cardio and resistance training to build endurance and correct muscle deficits. A simple routine of 20 to 30 minutes of walking followed by a basic machine circuit and gentle stretching, performed three times per week, is a good place to start.
  • Focus on core strengthening exercises to stabilize your trunk and protect your spine.
  • Begin the practice of yoga with a non-competitive mindset. Yoga is all about self improvement. Tune into your body and listen to its messages, and tune out other students. 
  • Shop around for instructors. Find someone who understands your needs as a beginner and does not promote competition among students. 
  • Do not force yourself into postures that cause pain or extreme discomfort. Ask your instructor to show modifications for challenging poses. 

If you do sustain a yoga injury, seek professional intervention with a physical therapist. PT can help you heal, and can teach you to move in ways that prevent injuries. With effective and educational treatment, you can begin to improve your personal fitness in ways that pose no risk for injury.

Resources

As sports and fitness become more competitive and demanding, W.I.T.S.  is keeping pace with continuing education that keeps you in the know. As a fitness professional, you need to stay a step ahead of your clients and competitors if you want to be recognized as a top fitness service provider. Lay the foundation with a certification, like Personal Fitness Trainer or Older Adult Fitness Specialist. Then, get valuable renewal credits while you hone your skills with courses like Conditioning for Football or Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Don’t let your competitors leave you in the dust. Take the lead by staying in step with the latest trends and research in fitness with W.I.T.S.

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How Stress and Sleep Deprivation Keep Your Client From Losing Weight

In most cases, helping our personal training clients achieve their weight loss goals is a simple matter of math and science. If they make the recommended lifestyle changes and put in the time and effort, change is inevitable. However, for some clients, adhering to your program and following your advice may not be enough to get them to their goals. When you run across a client who just can’t lose weight, you need to dig deeper to identify their obstacles.

The Chemistry of Stress

While studying to become a certified fitness professional, you learned about homeostasis, the state of balance that the body strives to achieve and maintain. Homeostasis is governed by chemical reactions within your cells, and driven by hormones. As long as you are physically and mentally in a state of relative rest, you are able to maintain a state of optimal homeostasis. 

Homeostasis becomes disrupted when you are physically active, as your body strives to meet imposed demands for oxygen and energy substrates. However, once the activity subsides and you return to a resting state, resting homeostasis is quickly reestablished. 

Homeostasis is also disrupted when your Central Nervous System (CNS) perceives a threat to your safety. In this case, your inbred “fight or flight” response kicks in, causing a dump of protective hormones that heighten your senses and prepare you to do battle or flee. Once the threat abates, your body restores its chemical balance and returns to homeostasis. 

Sleep deprivation correlates highly with stress, and its negative effects are driven by the same chemical mechanisms. When you are stressed, elevated adrenaline levels prevent your body from relaxing, and your over-active mind cannot succumb to sleep. Once stress is resolved, productive sleep patterns are restored, and you are able to get the rest you need to perform at your best, both physically and mentally. 

Ongoing Stress and Weight Loss

The problem arises when stress is ongoing, as is common in our culture. Personal training clients are often successful driven people who set high standards for themselves, and whose lifestyles are perpetually stressful. They often skimp on sleep, work long hours, and take little time for recreation. Many even plan their vacations with a grueling schedule of sightseeing and activities, trying to get the most bang for their bucks.

When stress is ongoing, hormonal levels of cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones, remain high. In an effort to produce more serotonin to restore homeostasis, the body begins to crave carbohydrate foods, causing blood sugar to rise and fat metabolism to shut down. A vicious cycle of food cravings, elevated blood sugar, and sleep deprivation eventually lead to weight gain, metabolic disease and depression. 

Helping Your Clients Deal with Stress and Sleep Deprivation

Sometimes people are not aware of their stress levels. In many cases, stress is such a common part of your client’s lifestyle that it begins to feel normal. A simple test, called the Perceived Stress Scale, can give you insight into your clients’ stress levels. Once you identify your high stress clients, you can begin to talk to them about how stress affects their health and interferes with weight loss. You can then work with them to devise strategies to help them manage stress and improve sleep. 

Resources

Diet and exercise are the cornerstones of fitness, but many other factors come into play when it comes to achieving weight loss and other goals. A certification in Lifestyle Fitness Coaching can help you bridge the gap between fitness and lifestyle. Plus, adding a new certification to your credentials can be a great career move for building and expanding your client base. 

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Jay’s Corner of the Industry – Time to Cast a Large Shadow.

Jay’s Corner of the Industry – Time to Cast a Large Shadow.

By Jay Del Vecchio W.I.T.S. President & CEO

 

Next month we will share even more to help you share all of this valuable info with your local media, clients and employers.  It is time to engage and increase your value so you are appreciated even more!!

 

You are a superior fitness professional by all accounts do to your collegiate training, education and NCCA Accredited testing in knowledge and practical skills.  Your fitness service will reflect it in an industry of minimalized certifications.  What do I mean by minimalized?  Unfortunately or fortunately for you as a W.I.T.S. CPT, the other certifications have not built out the infrastructure like other legitimate health occupations.  The other certifications only have prospective fitness professional candidate’s complete written exams.  There is no direct responsibility to perfecting the hands on skills nor testing it.  Why do other certifications groups that have been around twice as long as W.I.T.S. not do more for the public and the trainer’s success?  You can attend an internship with senior trainers to extend employment opportunities.  Your reward is an additional Level 2 Certified Personal Trainer certification.  So what are you going to do about it?  How are you going to increase your value in the market with clients, employers and educate the media?

(more…)

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Jay’s Corner of the Industry – How We Stepped Out Of The Shadows

By Jay Del Vecchio W.I.T.S. President & CEO

A little bit of history:

25 years ago at the urging of CEO’s at a Club Industry Conference we went national.  This came about after I revealed in a roundtable that we had a regional certification with these very same titans in the industry.  The problem was simple to these CEO’s.  The other certification groups were not bringing them good overall solid employees to build their businesses.  In 1993 we set up our first site with the Virginia Beach Adult Learning Center in Virginia,  we then added Mercer County Community College in New Jersey.  Our national certification was launched  and we were ready to improve the industry.  I knew we could do better than just having candidates for this profession read a book or take a weekend review course followed by a written exam to be a “qualified” Certified Personal  Trainer.

(more…)

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Are Changes to the Cervical Spine Inevitable as We Age?

Complaints of back pain are common among adults, and a stooped posture with rounded shoulders and a forward-jutting head is one of the markers of advancing age. Yet much of the research on spinal integrity and degeneration neglects to examine lifestyle factors that influence spinal alignment, musculature and bone mineral density. When it comes to upper spinal alignment and degeneration, there are multiple factors that contribute to changes in the cervical spine.

Factors that support cervical spinal health include:

  • Good postural habits
  • Regular physical activity
  • Weight bearing exercise
  • Balanced nutrition
  • Good sleep hygiene
  • Proper movement mechanics

Sadly, most people do not pay attention to spinal health until they experience pain, and by then there is often irreparable damage that cannot be corrected, only managed.

What New Research Says About Cervical Spine Degeneration and Symptoms

A recent longitudinal study by Daimon et al. (2018) examined changes in cervical spinal health in 193 subjects over a 20 year span, from 1996 to 2016. The research team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify spinal degeneration. Patients were also questioned about the presence or absence of cervical spine-related symptoms.

The study revealed that 95 percent of the study participants experienced some degree of degenerative changes in the cervical spine over the 20 year period. Interestingly, the research team found no relationship between the patients’ reported clinical symptoms and spinal degeneration, except in the case of foraminal stenosis and upper-limb pain.

While this study appears to indicate that degeneration of the cervical spine is common and inevitable, the study does not attempt to identify contributing factors to spinal degeneration. A full 5 percent of the study participants exhibited no changes to the cervical spine over the 20 year period, leading to the question of why those individuals maintained a healthy spine while others did not.

Why Spinal Health Matters, and What You Can Do About It

The bones of your spine house and protect your central nervous system as it descends from your brain to the peripheral regions of your body. As the spine degenerates, nerves become vulnerable to outside forces, leading to damage, pain and dysfunction. Moreover, your spinal alignment is governed by your muscles. Too tight, weakened or too lax muscles can affect overall spinal health, and can lead to postural issues, neuromuscular problems, and faulty movement mechanics.

A healthy spine is foundational to overall physical performance, and reduces the risk of pain, falls and injuries as you age. Good spinal alignment makes you appear more youthful, and promotes healthy function of your vital organs. Over time, muscles tend to become imbalanced, pulling your spine out of alignment. Even elite athletes can develop muscular imbalances, because most sports do not recruit the muscles in a symmetrical way.

You can take measures to improve your body alignment, optimize muscle tension and promote long-term spinal health today. A physical therapist can help to identify spinal misalignment, postural defects and imbalances in muscle tension. Most people can benefit from gait analysis and retraining, and from training programs designed to correct poor posture and faulty movement mechanics.

Resources

As sports and fitness become more competitive and demanding, W.I.T.S.  is keeping pace with continuing education that keeps you in the know. As a fitness professional, you need to stay a step ahead of your clients and competitors if you want to be recognized as a top fitness service provider. Lay the foundation with a certification, like Personal Fitness Trainer or Older Adult Fitness Specialist. Then, get valuable renewal credits while you hone your skills with courses like Conditioning for Football or Fundamentals of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Don’t let your competitors leave you in the dust. Take the lead by staying in step with the latest trends and research in fitness with W.I.T.S.

Source

Daimon, Kenshi, et al. “A 20-year Prospective Longitudinal Study of Degeneration of the Cervical Spine in a Volunteer Cohort Assessed Using Mri: Follow-up of a Cross-sectional Study.” JBJS 100.10 (2018): 843-849.

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What You Need to Know About Working as an Independent Fitness Contractor

Helping people reach their fitness goals can be gratifying and rewarding, but if your fitness job doesn’t pay the bills, you may find yourself looking for a “real” job. One solution for many fitness professionals who want to make fitness a lifelong career is to work as an independent contractor. As such, you have more control over your schedule and rates, and total autonomy when it comes to making business decisions. (more…)

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Identifying Special Populations: Carve Out Your Niche to Grow Your Business!

As more Personal Trainers are certified every day and gym owners conspire to keep wages low, you may find yourself wondering whether you can survive with a fitness career. But like any other business, when the competition gets tough and the market gets crowded, it is time to think like a Marine:

Improvise, adapt and overcome!

(more…)

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Step Up Your Tech and Grow! The Best Apps for Your Personal Training Business

In case you missed the revolution, technology is here to stay, and if you are operating a personal training business, you cannot afford to ignore it. Not only does technology offer many benefits and solutions for business owners, but it tells the world that you are on board with the latest advances in the industry and ready to give clients the most bang for their buck. (more…)

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5 Reasons You’re Not Converting Personal Training Prospects into Clients

Launching a new career as a personal trainer is an exciting step for anyone who loves fitness and wants to make a difference in the lives of others. In the process of becoming certified, you studied anatomy and exercise physiology, learned how to create effective programs, and how to prevent injury. Yet, no matter how much you learned about fitness training, you probably were not fully prepared for the business end of personal training. (more…)

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Avoiding Liability: Sexual Harassment

Avoiding Liability Bulletin –

Sexual harassment is in the news.  Allegations of inappropriate and unlawful conduct based upon sexual conduct currently permeate Washington DC, Hollywood and even Main Street USA.  Fitness facilities and fitness personnel, including personal trainers and other fitness professionals, are not immune from sexual harassment claims and litigation.  As a consequence, fitness professionals need to know what is involved, what kind of conduct is prohibited and how professionals may be able to avoid claims and suits based upon such grounds.

Sexual harassment can take several forms.  Mere verbal expressions of unwanted of sexual conduct coupled with some overt action amounting to an unwanted sexual advancement but short of actual physical contact can be an assault as well as sexual harassment under federal and state civil rights laws which protect discrimination.  The actual unwanted “sexual” touching of another in this regard can be a battery as well as a violation of state and federal civil rights laws.  The posting or display of nude photos or depictions of sex acts or various sexual scenarios, the communication of sexually based jokes, remarks about sex or gender can all be forms of sexual harassment.  Promises of hiring, promotion or good employee reviews in exchange for sexual favors can be sexual harassment.  In essence, all forms of harassment because of a person’s sex can amount to sexual harassment. (more…)