Training Edge

Industry News, Insights & Tools

by Laura Quaglio

Train Like Their Lives Depend on It

Some of the most demanding careers in America involve serving within the nation's military force. If you have a client who plans to enlist, you may want to modify his or her program. "At our core, we're a fighting force," says U.S. Army Staff Sergeant (SSG) Nicholus Savas, who is a Medical Instructor for the 80th Training Command's Health Services Brigade. "We need strength and endurance in a way we will genuinely use on the battlefield." In addition to being a U.S. Army Master Fitness Trainer, SSG Savas is an NASM-certified personal trainer who holds every NASM specialization. Uniquely, he earned his NASM Master Trainer title while serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His dual role means he works with a diverse population civilian-side while specifically training and instructing medical personnel Army-side. Here are some of his insights:

  • Know who you're training. "These are warriors in every sense of the word. I have a family at home and can't afford to be killed, so I train hard," he says. "We have to train as we fight." Consider adding extra challenges, such as training safely in temperatures outside of the client's normal comfort zone. A moderately weighted vest in place of body armor is realistic.
  • Start with a solid framework. "We're a team of professionals. Every one of us is an American Soldier, but we each specialize in a few areas. Check out this statistic my counterparts have uncovered," says SSG Savas. New recruits are at risk for stress fractures—particularly if they are white, female, and/or under the age of 20 [2016; AMSUS, 181 (10), 1308–13]. According to a summary article in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the risk "may be reduced by high intakes of calcium, vitamin D, and possibly protein (e.g., milk products)," so be sure to discuss proper nutrition [2008; 40 (11), S609–S622].
  • Assess and address compensations. In addition to assessing the client with the NASM Optimum Performance Training™ (OPT™) model, consider doing the gait treadmill walking assessment (Appendix C, NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 2017). "Correcting a simple mechanic distortion like externally rotated feet can go a long way for people doing miles and miles of heavy rucking," says SSG Savas. "A common U.S. Army ruck covers 12 miles in less than 3 hours, but ideally closer to 2. We wear a full combat uniform with matching boots, put a minimum of 35 pounds on our back (before water), and carry rifle in hand."
  • Talk about cross-training. Events in the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) are pushups, situps, and a 2-mile run. Doing only those things can quickly become ineffective or counterproductive. SSG Savas highly recommends foam rolling and stretching. In the office, he keeps a full set of dumbbells, a TRX® Suspension Trainer™ and a jump rope alongside his mounted punching bag. This allows him additional ways to get his cardiovascular fitness in without running. Arming your clients with knowledge of cross-training may help them to avoid overuse injuries during basic training.

Clean, Free, Friendly: What Makes Members Smile

It doesn't take much to turn members' frowns upside down and their thumbs, up.

If you want word-of-mouth advertising from your members, you'll need to keep them "very satisfied," according to a recent Market Force survey. [2017;] Customers who gave their gym a five-star rating were almost three times as likely to recommend their club compared to those who ranked theirs at four stars. "Simple things can make a huge difference in customer satisfaction," says Liz Cox, NASM Master Trainer and general manager at The Center Fitness Club in Wilmette, Illinois. For starters, she advises that you walk the floor of your club every day and listen to every member's opinion, even if you can't always accommodate their request. "This shows them they are valued," she explains. A few more five-star tips from Cox:

  • Be the friendliest place on earth. We forget that the gym environment can be intimidating. Say hello to everyone, learn names, hold doors open, offer assistance whenever you can, and always smile.
  • Clean, clean and then clean some more. Cleanliness is everything! I have trained my staff to clean constantly, and our members notice. It's not unusual for members to express gratitude regarding how much effort is put into making the facility shine.
  • Offer some complimentary wellness activities. I budget for special programming for members each year. Maybe it's a 30-minute session with a personal trainer or a special workshop focused on proper weightlifting form. Do something for members without expecting anything in return; when you focus on serving versus charging, you build trust and loyalty.

"Water" You Thinking?

Water crossings won't hydrate you! Make sure you drink regularly during outdoor exercise.

In a study reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 10 elite cyclists experienced less dehydration and better performance when following a prescribed rehydration program than they did when drinking "ad libitum" (as much as they wished) in temps around 88 degrees Fahrenheit [2017; doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001202]. The takeaway here: Elite athletes training in the heat may want to focus on matching fluid losses during training, rather than relying on thirst or convenience to trigger a water break.

Traveling at the Speed of Air Pollution

Waiting to exhale: With outdoor exercise, timing matters more when air quality is poor.

Urban athletes take note: Workout pace can affect the amount of pollutants you inhale. A recent study reported in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation examined how the speed of walking/running/biking affects the amount of air pollution inhaled over the course of the trip [2017; 11 (3), 221–29]. The paper's author, Alex Bigazzi, PhD, assistant professor in civil engineering at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says, "Speed affects both your breathing rate and the amount of time it takes to complete a trip." He found that the study participants (who were "travelers," not athletes) seemed to naturally select a pace that exposed them to the minimum dose of air pollution (referred to as minimum-dose speed or MDS). The report listed the MDS for walkers as 2–6 kilometers per hour and for bicyclists as 12–20 km/h; that's roughly 1.2–3.7 miles per hour and 7.5–12.4 mph, respectively.

However, "for people vigorously exercising, the pollution inhalation can be several times greater than for people walking slowly," warns Bigazzi. "Basically, the faster you go, the harder you work, and the more pollution you will breathe in per minute of exercise."

While Bigazzi doesn't recommend abbreviating your workout, he says there are ways to be smart about it. First, check the local Air Quality Index on to see if it's safe to exercise outside. When air quality isn't as good, or when your route wends through more-polluted areas, try to slow your pace. Also, avoid exercising in industrial areas and other locations where you know air quality is poor. "Traffic-related pollution hotspots will be any high-volume roadway, such as a freeway, and areas with lots of diesel trucks and buses," he says. "Cycling behind a diesel bus is an especially bad idea." If you encounter that often, it's time to map a new route.

A Water-Bottle Secret to Cope Better With Heat

Water weight: Do this simple thing, and you can carry half as much.

While today's research sets the minimum hydration rate at 2 grams of water per kilogram of body mass, there is no current guideline telling athletes what temperature the water should be. In a recent trial at the University of Montana, researchers tested the effects of an "ice slurry" on thermoregulation and physiological responses during a 3-hour treadmill workout in 88 degree Fahrenheit ambient temperatures (with 50% relative humidity). The ice slurry was made up of two-thirds shaved ice and one-third water.

When cyclists drank the ice slurry, they fared better in terms of thermo regulation and physiological responses than they did when hydrating with room-temp water and following the same 2 g/kg hydration rate. But even those who sipped ice slurries at a reduced rate of 1 g/kg body mass did just as well as when they drank 2 g/kg of ambient-temp water.

The study, published in Wilderness & Environmental Medicine, suggests that people who need to carry water with them during outdoor exercise may be able to tote far less if they are able to keep it icy cold [2016; 27 (3), 386–92].

Patch Work: 3 High-Tech Wearables for Athletes

Is it time to seek shade? Science is working on an easy way for athletes to tell for sure.

It helps to be in tune with your body, but thanks to today's wearable technology, you don't need to be tuned in all the time. Researchers have been working to develop small, low-cost patches to measure a variety of factors that may help athletes know when to make adjustments to their training. Three of the newest patches perform these functions.

Monitoring sun exposure. Researchers at the University of Southern California have developed a half-inch-square patch that changes color when it's time for the wearer to get out of the sun. The patch turns orange when the dose of a "day's worth" of vitamin D has been reached [2016; ACS Sensors, 1 (10), 1251–55].

Measuring hydration. A palm-size patch created by Purdue University researchers changes color based on the body's hydration level. Tiny channels loaded with water-activated dye turn from blue to red as perspiration increases, reminding the wearer to drink up [Dec 6, 2016;].

Analyzing biomarkers in sweat. Northwestern University researchers developed a patch about the size of a quarter that analyzes biomarkers in sweat such as chloride and hydronium ions, glucose and lactate. A smartphone app then shares data on sweat rate, total sweat loss, pH, and concentration of chloride and lactate. This can help athletes know when to replenish electrolytes and fluids [2016; Science Translational Medicine, 8 (366), 366ra165]. 

Strength Training Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and CVD


It's worth convincing your cardio-only clients to indulge in a little strength training. A study reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise [2017; 49 (1), 40–46] looked at nearly 36,000 women ranging in age from 47 to 97. Those who did any amount of strength training had a 30% lower risk of type 2 diabetes and a 17% reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease compared to women who didn't strength train at all. What's more, women who did both strength training and cardio activity enjoyed greater benefits than those who stuck with aerobics alone. "This study shows that women who are currently doing aerobics will gain significantly more protection against CVD and type 2 diabetes by adding strength training," says lead researcher Eric J. Shiroma Jr, ScD, from the National Institute on Aging (part of the National Institutes of Health).

Meet our experts

AFM_Author_Quaglio Laura Quaglio, has more than 18 years of experience as a writer and editor for numerous magazines, books and websites on such diverse topics as wellness, nutrition, fitness, finance, after-school activities and parenting.

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