Yoga at Lexington Athletic Club

Group Exercise classes are included with your membership at LAC, even Yoga.

Check out the new Yoga Basics class starting this Saturday.


Group Exercise classes are included with your membership at LAC, even Yoga. Check out the new Yoga Basics class starting this Saturday.

A photo posted by Lexington Athletic Club (@lexingtonathleticclub) on

Hard Exercise Is Actually More Fun, According to Science

By Lauren Mazzo via

The latest study shows that HIIT tops steady-state when it comes to enjoying your workout.

If you looooove the feeling of almost dying during your workout and silently cheer when burpees are on the menu, you’re imagesofficially not a psychopath. (You know what might make you one? Staying friends with your ex.) Turns out, you’re more likely to enjoy and stick with a workout routine if it’s kick-you-in-the-butt tough instead of a “meh” intensity.

If you’re starting a new exercise program, you’re more likely to continue to enjoy it if it’s high rather than moderate intensity, according to new research done by kinesiologists at McMaster University in Canada. (And that’s just one of the proven reasons you should make your workout routine harder.)

Researchers recruited about 40 young, healthy (but sedentary) adults, and had them exercise on a stationary bike three times a week for six weeks—half doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and half doing consistent, moderate-intensity exercise. The HIIT group alternated between 1-minute sprint and recovery intervals for 20 minutes, and the moderate-intensity group cycled continuously at about 70 to 75 percent of their max heart rate for 27.5 minutes. Researchers monitored things like their VO2 max (aerobic endurance), heart rate, and total power output throughout the study, and at the end of each week the exercisers rated their workouts on an enjoyment scale.Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.22.46 AM

By the third week of the program, HIIT exercisers enjoyed their workouts more and their enjoyment levels continued to increase each week. Meanwhile, the moderate-intensity crew’s enjoyment levels remained relatively stable, and consistently lower than the HIIT group. The researchers also found that HIIT is altogether a more effective workout—which we already knew was one of the benefits of HIIT.

The only time high-intensity isn’t better than moderate exercise? When it’s so hard that you can’t complete it, according to the study. For example: when you’re lying facedown on the floor during boot-camp class instead of planking like you’re supposed to. (Which makes sense, because it definitely feels like a #fail.)

So why exactly are tough workouts more fun in the long run? The researchers found that increases in total power output predicted exercise enjoyment—meaning the stronger the participants got during each workout, the more likely they were to enjoy it. This could be because feeling competent (that “I got this!” feeling) is a key driver of positive workout feels. However, the increase in their VO2 max—or aerobic endurance—didn’t predict enjoyment in the same way. This could mean that strength gains mean more fun in the gym (yay muscles!) or the researchers hypothesized that it could be something else: Exercisers could clearly see and keep track of their total power progress from week to week, but couldn’t see their increased VO2 max. So the positive reinforcement of watching their progress might be a key reason they enjoyed it so much. Think about it: Knowing you were able to push a little harder, lift a little heavier, or bang out some more reps during your workout feels like a #win, which would definitely leave you feeling happy about your sweat sesh.

Consider this an excuse to hop off the elliptical and splurge on boot camp or a HIIT-specific class instead.

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Boot Camp at Lexington Athletic Club

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5 Ways to Get the Most Bang for Your Workout Buck

via Mark’s Daily Applejoin now and get 010516 cropped

Late last year, I introduced the idea of the minimum effective dose: the lowest dose to produce a desired outcome. Whether it’s calorie
intake, exercise, sunlight, carbohydrates, or work habits, we often think we need much more than we actually do to get the results we want. Why crank out those extra reps, put in those extra few hours, choke down another chicken breast if they won’t make you any more prepared to handle what life dishes out? Failing to heed the minimum effective dose costs you money, time, and mental real estate. Figuring out the minimum effective dose for the various inputs shaping our days can make us more efficient and open up the rest of our life to do the things we actually want to do.

What, exactly, are the minimum effective doses for exercise? How little do I have to train to stay and/or get fit? And what kind of effects can we expect to get from said minimal doses?

The answers to those questions will depend on who’s asking, but we have a few specific examples of people maintaining, improving, or radically transforming their fitness levels with minimum effective doses of exercise. Let’s take a look.

1. To maintain cardiovascular fitness.

Cardiovascular de-conditioning during the off season is a big issue in cardiovascular-intensive sports like soccer. The last thing many athletes want to do after a grueling season is to resume even more-grueling training on a regular basis. Understandable, but then they

Lexington Athletic Club photo shoot with Meredith Clark, on Tuesday August 13, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison

come back a couple months later and suck wind for a few weeks until they’ve regained their endurance. What if there were a quick and dirty, efficient way to train and maintain your endurance in the off-season — or any season, for the average person who doesn’t want to work out more than he has to work out?

In 2014, semi-pro soccer players were placed on one of two off-season training regimens:

High intensity interval training, once a week.

High intensity interval training, once every two weeks.

Both HIIT regimens used identical training loads, and it was fairly brutal: five 4-minute high intensity rounds at 87-97% of maximum heart rate. No mention of rest intervals, but I’d imagine they were at least several minutes long to allow them to recover sufficiently. Whether they did it every week or every two weeks, the soccer players maintained their VO2max. There was no cardiovascular advantage to doing it every week. Those biweekly sessions would have been miserable, but they were over pretty quickly, leaving the soccer players plenty of time to work on sport-specific skills and other forms of training (or, you know, reading, going out to dinner with friends and family, hiking, watching good movies, etc). In fact, those players running HIIT every other week also trained a couple hours every week, mostly strength training; the every week group trained over five additional hours a week.

2. To improve muscle endurance and aerobic capacity.Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 8.22.46 AM

We all (think we) know how to improve aerobic fitness: cardio. Whatever that means. But cardio, at least how most people envision it, takes forever and is pretty darn boring. What if you could improve your aerobic fitness while also improving your muscular endurance — the amount of work your muscles can endure, the amount of time you can keep your force output high — in a fraction of the time?

Four times a week for four weeks, adult females performed a single four-minute Tabata protocol with a single exercise. Exercise choices included burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, or squat thrusts. Another group ran on the treadmill for 30 minutes at 85% max heart rate.

After four weeks, their fitness levels were evaluated. While the treadmill group enjoyed a 7% improvement in aerobic capacity, the interval group improved theirs by 8%. And when it came to muscle endurance, the interval group saw massive gains:

  • Leg extensions: +40%
  • Chest press: +207%
  • Situps: +64%
  • Pushups: +135%
  • Back extensions: +75%

Most importantly, the women found the Tabata exercise protocols more enjoyable and sustainable than the aerobic exercise protocol. Their “intention to engage” in exercise was higher than in the aerobic group.

All that in just 16 minutes of work a week.

3. To improve overall physical fitness._MG_2055[1]

What does “physical fitness” mean to you? In my book, it’s a combination of strength, strength-endurance, and aerobic capacity. The ability to go hard, go fast, and go long. A pair of researchers came up with a “7 minute workout” designed to improve these physical capacities in as little time as possible. The exercises are basic, but effective (as is always the case, right?). Each one is to be performed for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between exercises.

  1. Jumping jacks
  2. Wall sits
  3. Pushups
  4. Crunches
  5. Step-ups
  6. Squats
  7. Dips
  8. Planks
  9. Running in place with high knees
  10. Lunges
  11. Pushups with rotation
  12. Side planks

Solid list of movements, eh? This year, researchers tested the 7 minute workout. A cohort of men and women were divided into three groups. One group did a 7-minute circuit training workout three times a week, another group did a 14-minute circuit training workout three times a week, and the third group was sedentary. The 14-minute and 7-minute groups performed the same circuit exercises; the 14-minute group just did them twice.

Both exercising groups enjoyed improvements in muscular endurance. The males in both groups also got stronger, while the females improved their aerobic capacity. Training for 14 minutes (which is fairly minimal to begin with) wasn’t necessary to obtain results.

4. To increase metabolic health.

You’ve probably heard me discuss mitochondrial biogenesis: the creation of entirely new mitochondria. This is important because mitochondria are the power plants of the cell and ultimately the body. They metabolize fuel and convert it into useable energy. The more mitochondria you have, and the better they work, the more fat and glucose you’re going to utilize. And since energy overload is toxic to our cells and predictive of many disease states (diabetes, inflammatory conditions, etc) having more mitochondria on hand will keep you healthier for longer. How much exercise do you actually have to do to promote mitochondrial biogenesis?

Not a huge amount, but you will probably have to sprint. In the short term, a workout consisting of four 30-second all-out cycling sprints activated mitochondrial biogenesis in the skeletal muscle of human subjects in one study. Shorter sprints work, too. In fact, a program consisting of three sets of five 4-second (yes, four seconds!) treadmill sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between each sprint, done three times per week for four weeks up-regulated molecular signaling associated with mitochondrial biogenesis. You could do that during a commercial break.

I’ve also talked about the importance of maintaining good insulin sensitivity and how exercise can hep in that regard. Turns out that it doesn’t take much to see a positive effect. Research indicates that four to six 30 second bouts of all-out sprint cycling with four minutes of rest done three times a week improves insulin sensitivity in already-active and sedentary young adults. Measurements were taken 72 hours post training, just to be sure that the improved insulin sensitivity wasn’t a result of acute exercise effects. That’s 6-8 minutes a week of actual work for massive improvements.

5. To control blood sugar.

Visit most fitness communities online and walking gets short shrift. Walking isn’t exercise, they’ll say. It’s a poor substitute for “real” movement that invariably involves grunting, heavy weights, gallons of milk, and chalk. Not to take away from the heavy lifting, because that stuff is indispensable. But walking isn’t useless; it’s essential. There’s even evidence that a tiny amount of walking at a moderate pace — 15 minutes’ worth, to be exact — is enough to blunt the postprandial spike in glucose that can occur in people and lead to real problems down the line. Make that walking “brisk” and you can cut the necessary volume down to a single 21 minute bout while enjoying beneficial effects on postprandial insulin.

So don’t let anyone tell you those short post-meal strolls aren’t helping. They are. They represent a minimal yet highly effective dose of movement that improves your ability to handle blood sugar spikes after meals and regulate your fasting blood sugar throughout the day. More intense, higher volume training certainly improves blood sugar control, too, but a short walk after meals is the simplest, easiest, and most minimal.

Let’s briefly review:

  • To maintain your cardiovascular fitness, do 5 4-minute intense intervals once every two weeks.
  • To improve your conditioning and muscular endurance, do standard protocol Tabata burpees (or mountain climbers or any of the other exercises listed) a few times a week.
  • To become more fit overall, a 7 minute continuous bodyweight workout is sufficient.
  • To increase insulin sensitivity, go all out on the bike four times for 30 seconds with four minutes of rest, three times a week.
  • To grow more mitochondria, five 4-second all-out sprints with 20 seconds of rest, three times a week might be enough.
  • To reduce blood sugar spikes and improve fasting blood sugar, walk for 15 minutes after each meal.

Furthermore, many of these protocols will have crossover effects with each other. You don’t have to — and probably shouldn’t — do all of them, because then you’ve just constructed a high volume training regimen.

Not so daunting, is it?

What are your minimal effective doses for exercise? How little have you gotten away with while enjoying improved health, fitness, and vitality? I’m always looking for ways to cut back on training while retaining the effects, so have at it down below!

Thanks for reading, everyone.

Read more:

13 Reasons To Start Lifting Weights


via Huffington Post_MG_2055[1]

Maybe you’re convinced you shouldn’t lift weights because you prefer not looking like The Hulk. Maybe you figure you just wouldn’t like it, since you’re not one of those CrossFit types.

We hate to be confrontational about it, but frankly, you’re wrong. Despite a prevalent allegiance to cardio machines for things like weight loss and overall health, strength training not only builds muscle but can prevent disease, improve mood and — really! — help you lose weight.

Here are 13 smart reasons to include a little work with the weights into your fitness repertoire.

1. You’ll live longer.
While most forms of regular exercise can add years to your life, strength training in particular has big benefits. As we get older, the more muscle mass we have, the less likely we are to die prematurely, according to 2014 research from UCLA. “In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death,” study co-author Arun Karlamangla, M.D., said in a statement. “Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.” And what better way to maximize those muscles than by pumping iron?

2. For better sleep.
Regular exercisers — especially those who truly push themselves — report the best sleep, and weightlifting is no exception. In a small 2012 study in older men, researchers found that resistance training reduced the number of times the study participants woke up during the night, as compared to a control group who performed no exercise.

3. Your progress is so noticeable.
There’s nothing that feels quite as rewarding as setting a goal and crushing it. If you’re new to strength work, you’ll find that a weight you once thought was impossible to lift starts to feel easy sooner than you might imagine. And then, you’ll feel like a boss.

4. To protect your bones.
Weight-bearing exercise and particularly strength training is thought to increase bone density, reducing the risk of fractures and breaks among older adults.

5. To boost your balance.
Of course, one major cause of bone breaks as we age is falling. Some of weightlifting’s benefit in protecting against osteoporosis may be improved strength and balance, resulting in fewer falls. Indeed, research suggests that various resistance routines can reduce an older person’s rate of falling by around 30 percent.

6. It can make you happier.
Like many forms of physical activity, a little lifting can work wonders for your mental health. Strength training has been linked _MG_2011to reduced anxiety and depression symptoms as well as improved self-esteem, and it may even give your brainpower a boost.

7. To look better in your skinny jeans.
Now, we don’t suggest you lift weights (or do any exercise, for that matter) solely for appearance — there are just so many other benefits! — but when it comes to slimming down, endless hours on the elliptical may not be getting you any closer to the results you desperately seek. In fact, building muscle may help you lose fat more effectively than simply doing cardio. “If you’re looking to lose fat, go with strength training,” trainer Nick Tumminello, author of Strength Training for Fat Loss told Business Insider. “Watch your diet to reveal your shape, and strength train to improve that shape.”

8. To burn more calories.
Simply having more muscle on your frame helps your body burn up extra calories — even when you’re sitting completely still.

9. You can do it in under 30 minutes.
Adding strength work to your regular exercise routine doesn’t have to eat up the tiny bit of free time you had left in the day. In fact, lifting is one area where more is not always better — around 30 to 60 minutes a week, total, is plenty, according to Runner’s Times.

10. And you don’t even have to go to the gym.
We’re using the term “lifting weights,” but the world of strength and resistance training includes a whole host of options outside of what you’d find at the gym. You can “lift weights” with cans and jars you find in your kitchen. You can “lift weights” using only your body. You can buy a pair of five-pound dumbbells and lift along with a DVD in the comfort of your own living room, where the only person checking you out in the mirror is you. In fact, if you’re new to strength training, many moves are safer if performed with just your bodyweight until you can get the hang of perfect form. Plus, many of those machines at the gym aren’t adjustable enough for the wide range of bodies that use them.

11. To run faster (really!)
Or swim longer or bike harder or get better at just about any other athletic endeavor you fancy. Why? Because you’ll be cultivating stronger, more powerful muscles to then put to good use. Also, strength training can help prevent injuries in other athletic pursuits, by helping correct muscle imbalances that in turn throw your form — even just while sitting or standing — out of whack.

12. To help your heart.
Despite the name, cardio isn’t the only form of exercise with cardiovascular benefits. A resistance training routine has been shown to lower blood pressure, in some casesas effectively as taking medication. The American Heart Association recommendsadults aim for at least two strength training sessions a week.

13. Because then you can wear shirts like this.
lift weights
Image via

New Year’s Weekend Hours

LAC Hours:new-years-day05

Saturday 12/31: 7am-4pm

Sunday 1/1:  8am-8pm

Class Schedule: LINK



Holiday Class Schedule

Group Exercise Schedule

December 24-January 1: LINK








Club Hours:

12/31: 7am-4pm

1/1:  8am-8pm

2016 Holiday Hours and Class Schedule

Holiday Class Schedule: LINK

Holiday Hours:
12/24: 7am -4pm
12/25: Closed
12/26: 5am-11pm

Why Older (and Younger) Runners Need to Strength Train

via Mark’s Daily Apple

Last month, the NY Times Well Blog dropped a piece discussing the results of a recent study of how endurance runners alter their stride as they age. Investigators observed a group of 110 experienced runners aged 23 to 59 making their way around a track. Runners under 40 tended to display greater lower leg activity as they ran, whereas runners over 40 showed impaired lower leg activity. The latter relied more on their hip musculature (the absolute activity of which was still lower than that of younger runners) and showed an impaired “push off”; they had weaker strides and didn’t rise up as high off the ground. Overall, the older runners used their ankles and calves less without increasing hip musculature activity to cover the difference. They just got slower.

The study has its limitations. This study was a brief snapshot in time, rather than a decades-long study of how the same runners change their stride over the years. But it was quite clear: older runners tend to be weaker than younger runners, especially in the lower legs, and this results in a less powerful stride, an altered running gait, and a slower running speed.

What’s my take? I’m completely unsurprised.

This is just the latest in the growing body of evidence showing the beneficial effects strength training has in endurance athletes, especially older ones. Long ago, when I was running marathons competitively, I was one of the few guys paying any serious attention to strength training. It’s partially why, despite my genetic predisposition to joint injuries, I was able to stay in the game as long as I did. Sure, I had sky high inflammation, digestive issues, and some nasty tendinitis, but structurally, I got out relatively unscathed. I look around at some of my peers who are hobbling around and I realize I got off easy.

First and foremost—because it’s what runners truly care about—strength training can improve performance. Yes, even if you replace some of your miles with time in the gym. Yes, even if you spend less time running and more time lifting. Yes, even if you lift heavy, you’re not going to “get too big and unwieldy” enough to hamper your running performance. Why?

Strength enables optimal positioning. When you run long distances, you get tired. That’s unavoidable. Fatigue is a fact of running life and dealing with it is the name of the game. If you’re deadlifting once a week, your trunk musculature will be able to support the proper upright spine during long runs. If you’re not strength training and your lower back is a weak point (as it is for many runners), your body will reduce power output to protect you from injury. By strength training, you’ll increase your resistance to form degradation and increase power output.

Strength actually increases endurance. Lifting heavy things makes the muscles doing the lifting more efficient at what they do. That includes running long distances. And as the NY Times article showed, a distinct lack of lower leg strength may be causing the performance deteriorations associated with increased age.

Strength improves your finishing kick. It’s a pivotal moment of any race: the finishing kick. You’re coming up toward the last leg of the race. You’re exhausted. You want to quit. But what about that poser just ahead of you who’s been leading the entire race? He’s right there. He’s within reach. You can totally beat him if you just summon a burst of strength for the final few hundred meters and go all out. The guy who strength trains every week is going to have the explosive power necessary to make the final kick happen, even when fatigued at the end of a long endurance effort.

Strength reduces unnecessary stress. My friend Dr. Kelly Starrett, master physiotherapist and author of Becoming a Supple Leopard, notes that the optimal positioning provided by strength training can actually make running less stressful. Superior strength allows runners to keep an upright posture throughout the stride pattern, even as you fatigue in the latter stages of a workout. Rather than droop the head forward, roll the shoulders, tuck the pelvis, and constrict the breathing apparatus when fatigue sets in, strength training allows runners to maintain the “power pose.” This minimizes the fight or flight stimulation from the workout and speeds recovery by reducing unnecessary added stress that has nothing to do with the actual training effect.

Strength training improves resistance to injury. For many reasons, lifting heavy things increases your resistance to common running injuries.

First, strength enables good positioning and maintenance of proper technique; bad positioning and poor technique is what ultimately causes most degenerative injuries that occur in runners.

Second, strength training increases the injury resistance of joints and connective tissue. Running puts a huge amount of stress on the knees, ankles, and hips. Lifting heavy helps prepare your joints for some of that stress, and it may even help you recover from existing damage; just last week, a paper was published showing that high-weight, low-volume strength training may heal degenerated discs in the back.

Third, strength training improves bone density. Long distance runners consistently have lower bone density scores than age-matched athletes from other disciplines like sprinting, middle distance running, and power athletics. One reason is that endurance training tends to burn the most calories and cause the most stress to accumulate, leaving little energy left over to devote to bone maintenance, let alone growth. Another reason is that except for the legs, endurance running is low impact. Our bones require the application of direct mechanical stress to stimulate bone density growth. Throwing in a couple sessions of heavy (relative to your capacity) strength training each week can really make up the difference and stimulate bone density improvements. Since older folks are already the population at the greatest risk for low bone density, older folks who are also endurance runners absolutely must lift heavy things.

In the NY Times article, they reference a 2012 list of standard lower leg stretches and exercises older runners should employ to make up the strength deficit, the kind of thing you’d get on a fading printout from the orthopedist’s office. Give it a look. These are actually great choices, but they’re probably not sufficient. For instance, the heel cord stretch they recommend is inadequate. You’ve seen this one. Face a wall and do that thing with your legs where it looks like you’re trying to keep the wall from falling over. It’s the classic calf stretch, but in my experience, it doesn’t do much.

Two better alternatives?

Kelly Starrett’s heel cord wall stretch targets the same tissues with greater intensity. Just wear shoes for this one.

Lately, my favorite calf/Achilles’ tendon stretch has come from Angelo dela Cruz. If I squat, feel a bit stiff, do a few rounds of Angelo’s stretch, and squat again, my range of motion noticeably increases. Really raise those toes off the ground to stretch the calves. This also hits the hamstrings a bit.

The rest of the exercises are actually really solid. You might add some weight to the calf raises or, if you have a partner and a willingness to look ridiculous, try donkey calf raises. Still, simply focusing on the lower legs isn’t enough to truly obtain the benefits listed above.

Going barefoot (or minimalist) will help. Anyone who’s ever gone for a long hike or run in their bare feet or wearing minimalist shoes can attest: it blasts your calves and strengthens your feet. Doing that every once in awhile is a recipe for perpetually sore calves. Doing it habitually and gradually until your lower legs are inured to the stress makes for rock-solid, powerful calves, feet, and ankles. Be sure to run through my barefoot transition exercise recommendations, which are also good for general lower leg health and function, and be extremely cautious if you’ve spent your entire life inside shoes.

To really get the benefits, you’ll want to do some basic full-body strength training. Now, strength training is scary for many people who’ve been told to “take it easy” and warned about catastrophic injuries. Seniors can strength train. Heck, they can do power training. They can move quickly and lift heavy. Why? These are relative terms. A 64 year-old master’s marathoner doesn’t need to do jump squats with his own bodyweight laid across his back. A 55-year-old 10k enthusiast doesn’t have to power clean 0.75x her bodyweight to get an effect. What’s important is that they lift weights that are heavy—for them. One systematic review of the evidence even found that power training is slightly better than standard strength training at producing benefits to functional fitness in elderly people.


Bodyweight movements may be plenty. For most runners who aren’t doing anything strength-related, bodyweight training is perfectly adequate. Establishing proficiency first in the Primal Essential Movementssquats, pushups, pullups, planks—will give an inexperienced runner a huge boost to performance and injury resistance. Bodyweight training also gives a good foundation for further exploration of strength training methods.

The classic barbell lifts—squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, bench press, rows—are difficult to surpass for sheer strength-building. They probably offer the most bang-for-your-buck.

Barbells are great, but machines are not the enemy. While I’ll always celebrate the aging runner who wants to squat and deadlift, the leg press and hack squat machines are both excellent choices for building real strength without requiring the mobility of the barbell movements.

Single-leg and single-arm training (unilateral exercises) build strength and offer a unique stimulus without requiring the loads inherent to bilateral movements. Instead of squatting with a 200 pound barbell, you can do reverse lunges or rear foot elevated split squats with a 50 pound dumbbell in each hand.

Whichever you choose, go high-weight, low-rep, low-volume. Keep sets short. Take breaks. It’s better to do 5 sets of 3 reps with slightly more weight than 3 sets of 5 reps with slightly less. You’re not trying to get huge (well, maybe you are). You’re not trying to destroy yourself and ruin the next day’s run. You’re looking to enhance your endurance work with smart, targeted strength work.

In my upcoming book Primal Endurance, I’ll lay out the optimal way for endurance athletes to strength train for performance, injury resistance, and longevity. For now, though, just go lift!