Saturday, December 31, 2011


BY Elite Ziegelman, CFT

The field of personal training is built on a basic fundamental fact that we as humans are intrinsically social creatures, and usually have to have that comraderie aspect as the dangling carrot before us.

A personal trainer, by nature ends up wearing more than one hat in addition to being a skilled professional that brings to the table a wealth of information that their client can either embrace or dismiss. Truthfully if the entire population would be able to summon up the incentive to workout on their own, a good amount of personal trainers would find themselves out of work.

The gym, for the novice can be a terribly intimidating place, full of people whom may or may not have superior bodies to them. A personal trainer then becomes "the barrier"  to insulate their client through the awkward transition of working out in front of others.
As life comes fully packed with other commitments, the priority of fitness and personal health can wane form time to time, the trainer becomes "the cheerleader"  and gently but enthusiastically, creates a ceremony to keep the client motivated and in consistent routine. Not always easy, and not always successful.

As other aspects of the day and person can bleed into the session, the trainer can transition into the life coach/social worker role, all of which can be benign if the client sees it as well meaning advice, and DOESN’T substitute that training session for actual therapy in the true sense. That’s where the waters can become very murky for the client as well as the trainer.

 To recap,  the many hats a trainer may have to wear to induce, maintain, and motivate a person toward good health, the human factor will always keeps this a field, that cannot be outsourced or mass produced in the sense that they will ever become obsolete. Even with the economic malaise of the past two years, those with the ability STILL saw their trainers even if it were a reduction in frequency, it was still present. So here’s to the social creatures. Cheers.....
-Elite Ziegelman is a certified personal trainer and a founding partner in The Bridal Body Shop –

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Women's History Month piece: "I Am Woman" by Laurie Towers

Originally published in
WHOM YOU KNOW blog and the TOPRICIN newsletter, March 2010

"I am Woman"...Celebrating the Ladies During Women's History Month....

By Laurie Towers

 Each culture develops a general perception of what the ideal female body type would be. Surely this could only be deemed unfair as the newer Western ideals can be a bit stringent and applauding of emaciated structures. Although these may look flattering in a pair of jeans, it becomes a futile effort to obtain or maintain in reality.

In design the male physicality has always been nurtured and subsidized for sport and strengthening prowess. Before adolescence however, males and females have very similar builds. At puberty, estrogen makes its entrance for the girls thus endorsing breast development and a wider pelvis to accommodate childbirth. Another feature of estrogen is to encourage the body to store its excess fat in the hips, thighs, abdomen. As you would imagine, this is hardly a welcomed gift and is usually met with either the fight of intake depravation or any other item that may reduce the appearance of this.

Throughout history, radical efforts have been embarked upon to reduce and alter a woman’s shape despite the fact that it would forfeit her certain rights of comfort. Corsets although considered a bit Barbaric now, were certainly a common dweller in a women's wardrobe by many cultures specifically during the Victorian era. Never totally obliterated from existence however, they do live on in a more humane presence by way of implementation of more comfortable and flexible materials. Truth be told, visual reduction or augmentation is a lucrative industry and will always exist as long as there is a society to subsidize this…and there always will be.

During the wars, both WWl and ll, many women found themselves having to venture out of the household to seek out the work that their husbands, now in battle, were pulled away from. It was during this time that an advertising frenzy began to heavily market products to women to encourage their retaining their femininity. As most women were now doing "man's work" they were a receptive and captive audience to this marketing angle, to which the print media profited greatly by way of the burgeoning advertising in magazines.  It wasn't until after the 1920's that American woman were no longer " under wraps" and began to wear clothing that displayed more of their bodies, and made way for increasing concerns of body image that of course, still plague us today. The more “voluptuous" appearance was no longer the ideal and it didn't take long for the concern to give birth to the diet craze.

Our culture has celebrated the athletic male body for thousands of years, but while the aesthetic beauty and strength of the male body has long been a common subject of art, women have not felt the same embrace. Throughout the 20th century though the new role of women both physically and intellectually had come to be re examined. We gained the right to vote, own property, enter into politics and other professions ordinarily reserved for the boys. Despite the many gains, the allowance of women to redefine their "bodies" remained culturally stagnant. It is still society that dictates the limitations on what is deemed "Aesthetically acceptable" as far as the female body is concerned. Women and girls of the 60's were assaulted with the visuals of Twiggy and Barbie dolls as the look to strive for. This look became the standard of impossibility that only proliferates the cycle of negative body image and cements the growth and profits of the diet industry. Thin was in, and there was no turning back. Until.......

The standards of femininity sketched by societal hands were certainly challenged in the late 70's when bodybuilding introduced a new type of feminine physique. The rules that dictated the "societal norm" as far as the female body should look like, was blown out of the water completely and for good. Never before have female bodies looked like this, in the recent or distant past. Muscles were visibly developed that were unheard of on the female form, and the proportion became bigger and most importantly...stronger. Mentally, emotionally and physically.

According to a recent survey of teenage girls, they list their primary source of news and issues on women's health, comes from the media. That has to make you wonder what chance does an expanding mind have if it are being spoon fed a distorted philosophy. As parents, mentors or just concerned adults, we can inspire and offer a more diverse and healthy image of women that would no doubt promote a more healthy self esteem. Our daughters deserve it, and so do our sons who will go out and marry not just the woman but all she encompasses due to what we nourish her with. This so that she doesn't succumb to pressure that some feel the need to in conforming to a societal ideal. So that she can grow, conquer and command her place in the world based on a fair starting point, and measured by merit and equal value. Baby steps and progress made day by day, but progress surely made. Perhaps still a long, long way to go....."until I make my brother understand"......

"Winter Work Out" by Laurie Towers

Originally published in SHAPE online, 2010

Winter Work Out........
 By Laurie Towers

Blame it on shorter days, blame it on light deprivation, now you may want to blame it on the recession that’s your call. Wherever you see fit to lay the fault, the fact of the matter is that people statistically tend to reduce their working out by a large margin in the winter months. The exception being only those ill fated New Years resolutions that have gym memberships spike right after the holidays, then dwindle after we shake the confetti from our hair.

The fact is the winter moths offer some wonderful natural opportunities towards working out in addition to creating a wonderful landscape for it. Think about those endless hours of our youth playing in the snow. Those snowball fights and snowdrift jumping were not only endorphin-releasing, but those movements were dripping with plyometric, velocity encouraging and cardio vascular activities. Guess what? Those were all the caloric burning FUN things we did as kids that kept our metabolism clicking away like a New York cab meter.

The truth is there are quite of few activities that can translate well from indoors to outdoors providing the proper preparation. Assuming the climate is compatible to it, walking, running and biking will always be mainstays with the investment of the proper insulation and clothing.

 a) Dressing in layers with cotton , wool or any other breathable material is highly preferred, as this will keep the moisture AWAY from the body. Hats worn to seal in the body's natural insulation , in addition to gloves.. Sunscreen and moisturizers can also create a barrier between the elements and exposed skin, and trainers should make sure that they make this information available to their clients.
b) Re hydrate the same as you would during the warmer months. A common and costly misconception is that because you don't sweat as much, your need to drink water is naturally cut in half. the fact is that you NEED to re hydrate at the same level as you normally would in the warmer months EVEN though , you will not necessarily feel as thirsty.
c)Trainers should make sure that their clients are properly warmed up, as the colder climate will promote more muscle shortening and restriction, thus leaving the muscle vulnerable to any insult or injury.

As with anything that goes on within the parameters of a workout session, the onus is on the trainer to keep it interesting and diverse. If you are going to use all that Mother Nature offers as a gym, you will find these activities enjoyable as well as beneficial. As snow provides a "Natural resistance" to our normal activities, simply walking, running and sled pulling, provide a wonderful and natural addition to any outdoor workout. For a more challenging walk, you can have your clients wear snowshoes for that little bit of extra effort that makes a difference.
On a personal note, I think that snow shoveling (when done correctly and with good form..) is probably THE most complete and potent workout that you can have in the outdoors. It’s the marriage of velocity and endurance that gives you everything you need in one setting.

Revisiting my prior statement about New Years Resolutions and weight loss, body improvement. Having been in the field for nearly 20 years, I'm here to tell you that they never work. I often marvel at how many empty boxes of fitness gadgets, I see in people’s garbage bins after the holidays, but I NEVER see any difference in physiques when those layers of clothing come off in the summer months. Why? Simply because things done for a "short term" goal never work. A commitment to philosophy and lifestyle is the only ideology that keeps us on the right track. It’s so funny how we are taught since childhood that we need to brush our teeth at least 4 times a day, threatened with the outcome of rotted teeth falling out of our heads if we don't. In actuality though, we use and treat our bodies far more abusively than we ever could our teeth ( I can hear the jaw clenching of every dentist in New York as I say that, but who cares...).  The truth is , it was NEVER engrained early on that we need to treat our bodies in a mindful fashion. A simple commitment to a healthy, realistic diet( the occasional junk food..), so that the person doesn't have the resentment of deprivation and leave the door open to sabotage.  How often has any of us seen that happen? At least every other day in some fashion. Even the most well informed and inventive trainer, can give his or her client the best possible workout and environment for it, while they are IN their presence. The key here is…the client needs to hear their gospel when they are not........

Hope that helped, please feel free to email or call.....
Yours in heath,
Laurie Towers CEO
Physical Advantage PC
139 East 57th Street  penthouse
212 460-1879

Foot Fitness: "The Agony of Da Feet" by Laurie Towers

Originally published in the TOPRICIN newsletter, Oct 2011
" The Agony of  "Da feet ".......

By Laurie Towers

  Musing over the reruns of youth that play often in my head, I pause a moment to pay homage to the older relatives that actively surrounded me. Particularly my maternal grandmother who was a featured character in the series of my life, and came to her scenes fully formed and full of passion and flavor. As most of her contemporaries, her wardrobe was a flowered housedress and some overly worn slippers, whose support went out the window with the Roosevelt administration. I found that out immediately as when going to kiss her, I would always manage to place my foot on one of her bunions as she howled in Italian-seasoned pain.
Her feet were a problem to her for so many years, due to the fact that as a young girl in Italy, whenever the "shoeman" came around with his wagon, it was every man for himself, and whatever you were able to get, you forced your foot into. Regardless. Needless to say, her price for this was paid for the rest of her life....

When you really dissect the foot you really can’t help marvel at its complexity. Comprised of 28 in total sum, and articulated by various muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Because of it being a weight bearing joint by nature, it is subject to numerous insults and trauma mechanically.
About 80 percent of all foot pain is caused by mechanical or functional defect, usually exacerbated by improperly fitting shoes. As we are fast approaching the Marathon mayhem that engulfs the populous this time of year, I can’t help but see the necessity in deep investing in supportive footwear.
But whether you are running or walking, a good arch support is paramount, but specifically more crucial when you are engaging in former.

Some common condition and causes of foot pain:

-Plantar fasciitis: Acute or chronic inflammation caused by extreme stretching of the plantar fascia. This condition quickly lends itself to heel and arch pain and eventually heel spurs. Usually brought on by flat feet, or an overly tight Achilles tendon, it can also be caused by weight gain but largely by faulty mechanics in walking where the foot is repetitively pronating.

-Achilles tendonitis:  This condition will bring about profound inflammation of the Achilles tendon and can often present without any known history or trauma and insult. The majority of those affected however are distance runners and athletes. The pain can be shooting or a burning sensation and is usually most obvious when the individual takes their first steps in the morning.

-Shin splints: A common complaint among dancers and athletes specifically, this condition presents with moderate to severe pain in the anterior portion of the leg. Gradual in onset it usually begins as a faint or dull ache that slowly intensifies. As they usually involve small tears in the muscle itself (tibialis anterior) left untreated you run the risk of increasing your chances of developing stress fractures.

Although the endless line up of diverse foot pain continues to be part of our everyday lives, the common denominator in all cases is the recruitment of proper and insulative footwear.

Foot wear tips:
Since every “body” is different so will the proper footwear be.
-Factoring into all this would be weight, intended distance or surface if this is a running related purchase
-Although everything should “feel good” in the store they should NEVER have to be broken in. Changing footwear before a major run can be the most costly mistake one could make.
-Go shopping for your footwear at the end of your day when your foot is its largest. Leave your running socks on for a more accurate fit.
-Replace shoes after a certain mileage. This is usually tallied at the last 400-600 miles and of course will be based on the type of shoe. Also a notation that the heavier the runner, the more quickly the shoe will wear .
-Athletes that run everyday, your shoes will never be given any reprieve from this activity and result in a shorter shelf life as far as protection. Buying 2 pair and alternating will be the best investment in shoe longevity, and overall better insulation for your body.
-Avoid running in the rain, if at all possible as wet footwear loses the cushioning and support they carry when they are dry.

“Barefoot running”
The controversy this topic has encouraged has no end in sight as more and more people are attempting to try this on for size…or should I say..take it off.
Supporters of barefoot running argue the fact that it is far healthier for the feet and surprisingly reduces the rate of injury.
I am of the mindset that there isn’t enough data accumulated to support this ideology and we should wait out the incidents that will undoubtedly present.
The popularity of barefoot running goes back to 1960 when Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the Olympic marathon in Rome, after feeling his footwear was only hurting his feet. Although the natural inclination is to surmise that footwear can only be of supportive value, many runners have switched to barefoot running in quest of relief from chronic pain. Here are their findings…
Based on the natural anatomy of the foot, it is mechanically well suited to absorb impact and using this energy to propel forward, utilizing the natural bounce of the foot’s arch. It is only when padding is placed under the heels that we are now in the position of landing more directly on the heel, rather than the ball of our foot. This interrupts the foot’s natural mechanics and the arch and lower leg compartment are called upon to absorb the shock of the landing. Since they are ill suited to do so, the shock of the landing resonates upwards causing trauma to the knees and hips.
To be fair, we need to state that the opposing opinion offers that there is NO evidence that running shoes can be damaging and affect the foot adversely by defying nature. NO evidence produced shows that running shoes with arch support and structured soles may actually lead to compromising the muscles of the feet resulting weakened arch strength.

Needless to say the debate goes on and will for some time. Judging by the findings of the organizers of the 2010 New York City Marathon, they expect to see a surge in the increase of barefoot runners participating in this annual event.
Whatever side of the fence you sit on regarding these opposing philosophies, the importance of footwear will be as much an active participant in our sports of choice and always will be.
As for me, I will be sitting and observing the outcome with my feet on my desk..and oh yeah..I WILL be wearing shoes.