Thursday, June 30, 2011



By Monika Tarkowska-Carter, CPT, LWMC, HLC 2

Short of liposuction or liposculpture, there is no such thing as spot reducing. Everybody puts on weight somewhat differently, but the way you put the weight on is most likely the way you will also lose it. If you gain weight all over, then it will come off evenly from your whole body when you lose it. But….here are the exceptions: if you’re a woman, the older you get the more fat tends to accumulate on the back of the arms, on the hips and thighs, and most commonly, the abdomen. And that’s where it is also the hardest to lose. Tricep muscles don’t get used very much, so the area often looks flabby. Hips and thighs are a typical way for women to store fat. Some of it is predetermined by nature. Some is the result of eating way too many polyunsaturated fats, especially the bad quality and proinflammatory ones, which also cause cellulite. Some can be a result of being estrogen dominant, so common in our society because of many xenoestrogens in the environment. And some is caused by the cells in the hips and thighs being less sensitive to insulin than other areas of the body.
In regards to the abdomen, losing fat becomes particularly difficult because as women age the ratio of male to female hormones (specifically testosterone to estrogen) increases due to lower estrogen levels. This gives us a more male-like body, with practically no waist. Having a heavy toxic burden, wherever the toxins come from, be it heavy metals, organic pollutants like chemicals, etc., can make losing abdominal fat particularly difficult. Toxins get stored mostly in the adipose tissue and during the process of weight loss, they get released into the bloodstream. Your body will be protecting itself from being flooded by these toxins and work hard against your best efforts, making weight loss very hard, if not virtually impossible. If you suspect this might be the case, seek a doctor who is trained in environmental and functional medicine, and who will be able to do specific tests to find out what the causes of your difficulties may be.

All the above said, however, it still makes sense to exercise. What is flabby will definitely tighten up and what has no shape will look better if you put some work into it. I think it is much more attractive to look at a person that’s a little overweight but has a decent shape and toned muscles, than a, what I call, a” skinny fat” person with an overall thin body but high percentage of body fat and lots of flab.    

Tuesday, June 28, 2011



By Monika Tarkowska-Carter, CPT, LWMC, HLC 2
This is a multi-faceted question and my answer would be: it depends. Generally, the one that you like enough, and that is comfortable enough, that you will actually use it. One of the best pieces of equipment for a hard workout and a high-calorie burn is a Stepmill. The problem is most people can only last on it for 10 or so minutes, or if they stay on it any longer they are leaning on the hand rails and using terrible form or moving so slowly that the benefit is minimal. If you can really stand upright, use your abdominals and other core muscles to support yourself in this position, and also lift your legs up as if you’re climbing rather than just pressing on the stairs, it can be an amazing workout. If you can also add some high speed intervals, but at a level where you are still able to maintain the same good form, it becomes one of the best cardiovascular options out there. In general, however, you can get a great (hard) workout on almost any machine, provided you are using it correctly. The question is: does it allow you to really push yourself?

But to better answer the question of “best” piece of cardiovascular equipment properly you’d have to ask yourself: What position do I spend most of the day in? What aches and pains do I have? What hurts?
If you sit all day at work and spend a considerable amount of time in the car, you probably shouldn’t use a bike, but rather a piece of equipment that will force you to work on your posture and stretch the muscles that get tight while sitting. If, on the other hand, you have knee problems, a bike would definitely be easier on your joints. If you’re very overweight but would like to do something standing, then an elliptical trainer is probably ideal. Elliptical trainer will put a bit more pressure on the knees than a bike so that’s why sometimes people find walking on the treadmill easier than being on an elliptical trainer. If you’re overweight AND have knee problems, you’ll have to make a smart choice between a bike and a treadmill to choose what’s gentler on the joints AND what gives you a better overall workout.

If you want to increase the challenge and walk on the treadmill uphill, make sure that your hip flexors are stretched enough to allow you to keep the upper body upright, instead of bent over and with your butt sticking out a mile behind you.

So, to sum it all up: the best piece of cardiovascular equipment, or best cardiovascular exercise, is the one you like and therefore will do,  the one that doesn’t put unnecessary stress on your joints, especially if they’re hurting, and the one that will challenge both your muscles and your cardiovascular system and allow you to break a good sweat.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011



By Monika Tarkowska-Carter, CPT, LWMC, HLC 2
Here are some different options for back exercises that will tone your back and force you to use all your core muscles while doing them. They may appear easy at first but just by incorporating a balance component you will be targeting muscles that are normally not involved in a typical back training. These are not the exercises to build huge back muscles, but rather to sculpt the back and get more definition. Remember that there are many different muscles in your back and in order to get some real definition you will have to work these muscles at many angles so that all the fibers are challenged. That’s why I am showing exercises that are performed, for example, as a low row, mid-row and high row as well as others, like overhead pullover on the ball, that will allow you to do just that.
Please, remember to do a 5-10 minute warm up before starting any exercise.
Start with 1 set of 12 repetitions and progress to 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions. The weights will vary depending on your level of experience as well as the cable machine used. It’s always good to do a few very different back exercises to hit all those different muscle fibers.
Perform all exercises slowly and through the full range of motion if you can. If balancing on one leg makes it too hard for you, learn the same exercise in a stable position first, and then progress to the less stable one. You have to be able to stand on one leg for about 20-30 seconds before you can start doing one leg exercises. You can challenge your balance by starting on the floor and holding the position for 20-30 seconds. Then do the same on the half foam roll, then the Airex pad and eventually on the Dynadisc. Once you’ve mastered any of these levels you can also add standing upper body exercises for a more advanced challenge.
Always consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.