Increase Your Metabolism to Burn More Fat!

Metabolism: Convert Energy to Heat

It was on my cycling commute Monday when I got to thinking a bit about how the internal combustion engine in your car creates motion and heat not too much unlike the way your body creates motion and heat.

Your car’s engine combines fuel and oxygen to create thousands of tiny chemical reactions that run your car’s engine. The faster these (extremely quick) reactions (called explosions) occur, the faster your engine runs.

The primary fuel types are octane and, to a lesser degree, ethanol, both (carbon based) organic compounds. Byproducts of this chemical reaction are heat, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other carbon particles.

Your body similarly uses (carbon based) organic matter as fuel for motion. Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins … all organic compounds… undergo chemical reactions with oxygen that contract muscle fibers. We even talk about it the same way: ” … doing some cardio to burn a few more calories.”

In this context, your body is little more than a heat producing machine!

A Calorie, is in fact the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water 1 degree centigrade. So, ‘burning calories’ is technically, literally, and figuratively accurate. But we also call it metabolism. At the chemical level metabolism is merely the production of heat through the conversion of energy sources into body motion. Our bodies are, therefore, heat producing machines!

The byproducts of metabolism is (like the internal combustion engine) heat, carbon dioxide, and other carbon particles.

How, and in what proportion these fuel sources are utilized is fully described in my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic report. It seems that the website that had once hosted this document is broken, so just shoot me an email if you’d like a copy. Or, check out my Fat Burning Myth blog from a few months ago for a quick tutorial. The philosophy is quite simple: the larger your metabolic engine, the more fuel you require.

Quite simply put, if you have more body fat fuel than you’d like, making your metabolic engine a bit larger will help, quite literally, to burn off that fuel!

So, here are a few tips for boosting your metabolism, consuming more fat, and looking better than ever in your summer swim wear!

  1. Increase your lean body mass. Lean body mass includes bone, blood, and muscle tissue. Increasing your lean body mass allows you to consume more energy when you exercise, but, and more importantly, increased lean mass allows you to consume more energy when you are at rest. And we are typically at rest as much as 95% of the day, so having a larger, idling engine burns more fat. Lean body mass is living, “breathing”, calorie consuming tissue that continually requires fuel. And just as a large SUV V8 engine will consume a lot more fuel than a compact 4 cylinder engine, the larger your body’s fuel consuming engine, the more fuel you’ll consume.
  2. Increase your exercise frequency. As mentioned back in December, Exercise Quickies will boost your daily metabolism: two smaller workouts per day will consume more energy on the whole than a single, longer workout. Additionally, the recovery period following those workouts also requires elevated metabolism. Maybe you really should start walking the dog each morning!
  3. Just move more! Exercise yes, but also find ways to simply use your body more. While no longer available, the American Heart Association ran the Just Move campaign for years with this sole objective. Check out my Spread Office blog for ways to be more active in your sedentary office job. Bike to work instead of driving! Use the good old fashion hand masher tool to mash your potatoes instead of the mix master. Carry your groceries. Park in the most remote section of every parking lot you drive to. Etc. Here’s a good collection of other ways to turn your daily chores into more active events.
  4. Take advantage of our Get Fit Fast Fifteen Percent off May promotion! Or, give us a call for a free consultation.
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Dealing with Ailments and Injuries as we Age

Exercising regularly or not, the frequency with which we incur ailments and injuries increases as we age.

As we age:

  •  the body naturally looses mineral density in the bones (sometimes resulting in osteoporosis);
  •  the muscles themselves shrink (technically called atrophy); 
  •  the tendons and ligaments holding it all together become less pliable and weaken; and
  •  metabolism slows, increasing the time it takes for the body to mend.

It all starts somewhere in our early 30s increases into the 40s and then accelerates into the 50s and 60s.  Regular exercise is, of course the best way to stave off the process, but even regular exercisers experience ailments and injuries, sometimes even more so than sedentary adult simply because some of us still think and behave like we’re 20!

Injuries

If you’re exercising regularly it’s typical to pick up injuries large and small overdoing it in some way: that extra mile on a long run; that 6th day of training;  that extra hill on the bike ride;  that extra 20 pounds on the bar when squatting for the 1st time in a while.

Injuries come with acute pain.  You normally know exactly when the pain started and exactly what you were doing when it occurred: it’s tough to forget smacking your face into a forest tree!

Sedentary adults are most frequently injured simply navigating the course of life … hurting your back moving that piece of furniture or slipping on some ice.  Exercisers get injured in these ways too, but less so.  Stronger muscles, joints, and bones help the body tolerate impact better, and, of course improves overall coordination and balance.

Ailments

Ailments are technically injuries too, but are introduced slowly over time as a result of over use and insufficient recovery.   Athletes and aggressive exercisers ( anyone exercising 5 or more days per week) work with ailments on a regular basis, normally around joints.   Runners who only run frequently develop knee and ankle ailments.  Cyclists who only cycle often experience hip and knee trouble.

But ailments also, and perhaps more commonly occur within the daily grind for both exercisers and the sedentary:  carpal tunnel syndrome and strained shoulders are all too common modern-day office worker ailments.

They are incurred with the same problem: overuse of a body part without sufficient recovery.

Responding to Injuries

For minor injuries and ailments the 1st remedy is normally RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation on the effected area.  Depending on severity, this could be for an hour just once to several intermittent hours each day for a week.

If you are in severe pain, or if the pain lasts longer than a couple of days, or just want some piece of mind, see your doctor.  

Exercising with Ailments and Injuries

Exercising with an injury isn’t just possible, it’s actually quite common.     In fact, it’s often an opportunity to introduce beneficial cross training into the mix … swimming, for example, if you’re working through a calf injury.   Or simply limiting overhead and torsion exercises if you’re nursing a strained back.   Unless you’re in traction, a good fitness trainer will easily find something to do no matter what the injury!

The key to a quick and safe recovery is allowing the injury to completely heal before re-introducing the effected body part  into your exercise program.  

This may include some physical therapy, but almost always begins with the pain-free range of motion test: if you can move the limb or body part completely through its range of motion without pain, you’re probably ready to begin putting a load and stress on it.

Begin cautiously with low resistance, low volume and low intensity.  Increase these three elements (volume, resistance and intensity) one at a time waiting at least a day between any further increases.   Be sure to stretch, stretch, and  stretch some more, especially if it’s a joint issue.  You may develop some minor soreness and swelling in the process; use RICE along the way.   

This process of improving range of motion, incrementally increased load,  and incorporating RICE is, in fact rehabilitation.  It’s best overseen by a physician, but …

If you know your body well, or are working with a highly skilled fitness professional, it’s actually  straightforward enough to rehabilitate yourself through injuries.   You know how your body feels and reacts better than anyone else. 

But if you’re not working with a professional of any type, it’s best to go see your doctor.

Illness

While exercising with and recovering from ailments and injuries gets tricky, handling illness is comparatively simple.

We call it the neck test.

If your symptoms are in your neck and above, you pass and should be OK to exercise in some way.  

Depending on how you feel, it might be a good day for your long, slow cardio event, or other light activities.   Dial it down a bit if you need to, but DO exercise!   It will boost your immune system and increase your metabolism, getting you back to good health more quickly! 

But if your symptoms are in your chest, you fail, and should rest and/or see a physician.

 

Extra Holiday Calories Actually GOOD for Your Health?

Get your flavonoidsThey’re good for your heart!  Eat lots of fruits and vegetables for those.

Make sure you get enough Omega 3 fats in your diet; they’re good fats and can reduce cholesterol and ease the metabolism of bad fats.  Salmon, flax seeds, walnuts, and soybeans are good sources of those.

Make sure you get enough dairy in your diet; protein, calcium, and Vitamin D are all needed for strong bones and will help avoid degenerative disease like osteoporosis. Cottage cheese, yogurt, and milk will cover you there.

Oh, and don’t forget about fiber, vitamin C, minerals, and … the list goes on and On and ON.

Has it occurred to anyone else that if we actually followed all of the nutritional guidance pumped into the media by food companies, supplement companies, our government,  and well-intentioned fitness professionals, that we’d all look like Santa?

The missing <ahem> ‘ingredient’, of course is exercise.

While reading a few things written by other Fitness Professionals around Holiday indulgences this morning, and the creative ways they’ve suggested to restrict calories and abstain from some of your favorite foods during the holidays (I’ve been guilty of making these suggestions too), it suddenly occurred to me … duh 

… it’s simply easier to exercise than it is to worry about all the extra calories!

Because what’s the point of even attending a party or preparing a special meal if you can’t fully enjoy it!  So, while there are lots of great reasons for exercising, THE MOST SIGNIFICANT BENEFIT OF EXERCISE could very well be that it simply allows us to eat more!  Most of us love to eat, and a lot of us exercise just so that we can eat more!

But without exercise, most of us would be obese within 6 months if we consumed all of the food needed for proper nutrition.

Or, you could pay thousands of dollars per year on organic supplements, though even the best manufactured nutrients fall far short on nutrient quality when compared to natural food sources.

It’s well documented that exercise alone:

  • Improves your heart health
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Fights anxiety
  • Fights depression
  • Increases your energy levels; and
  • Simply enriches your lifestyle.

HOWEVER, IS  IT POSSIBLE  THAT THE MOST SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION OF EXERCISE TO YOUR HEALTH IS THAT IT ALLOWS YOU TO EAT MORE, AND THEREFORE GET BETTER NUTRITION?

And then there’s Hydration. Water is the body’s primary means of cleansing itself by flushing toxins out the back (bottom) door. Further, proper hydration improves digestive efficiency, reduces blood pressure, and improves the appearance of skin, nails, and hair.

We’ve all heard that we should drink 8 glasses of water each day. You know what, that’s a lot of water! It actually takes significant, conscious effort to consume that much water on a daily basis. But crank out a few hot cardio intervals, or knock down one of our HEAT programs, or blast through 35 sets in 45 minutes, and you’ll have 20 ounces through your body before you event think about food!

The primary vessel we drive, OUR BODIES frequently requires exercise induced thirst to get enough fluids in on a regular basis.

So, there you have it! Never mind that exercise improves your health and reduces the risk of acquiring all types of disease and illness. 

Exercise primarily gives us the privilege to eat and drink more and be healthier for it.

So, it’s  baah humbug to all the Fitness Pros out there with tips on avoiding calories this holiday season!  

I say go ahead and eat!

Just make sure you exercise plenty too!

Six Essential Holiday Survival Secrets

Happy Holidays!

One big event down, but LOTS more to survive!

The turkey and pies may have been last week’s hazards, but with office parties, holiday parties, Christmas, and the New Year, we’re just getting started with caloric catastrophes! 

Just remember, our goal for the holiday season is to simply not gain any weight.  Forget losing any. 

Net Zero from November 1st to January 1st! 

Nothing to lose, but let’s not gain anything either! 

Four Lifestyle Tips for making it happen:

        1. Stay active
        2. Exercise regularly
        3. Focus on FITNESS related goals, and
        4. Eat smartly

The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios revolutionized 4 industries in his lifetime by demanding the impossible.  

  • He and Steve Wozniak changed the world of computing when they launched the Macintosh.  
  • He put Disney on her knees with industry first, mind blowing animation films from Pixar.  
  • He changed the entire music industry with iTunes and iPod, and then, of course …
  • He changed the entire communications industry with the iPhone.

None of us are Steve Jobs, but we are all in control of two things:

Attitude and Effort.

You can do this! 

Think Positive.  THINK YOU CAN.  And Think Clean.

Regarding the Holiday blues, the Holiday stress, the Holiday food fest, and the rest, replace negative thoughts like …

  • There’s nothing I can do to stay healthy during the holidays.
  • That’s just the way I am during the holidays.
  • The holidays make me feel so stressed.
  • I can’t take the time to work out until after the holidays.
  • I Can’t…………………I Must……………….If Only

… With proactive thoughts such as:

  • I’ll find alternatives to overindulging this happy season.
  • I can choose a different approach this year.
  • I control my own feelings at all times and I choose to feel great!
  • I want to take the time necessary to make sure I stay healthy during the holidays.
  • I Choose……………….I Prefer……………I Will

The point is: “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right either way.” — HENRY FORD

Here then are Six Essential Holiday Eating Secrets to help make it happen:

  1. Substitute low fat yogurt or low fat cottage cheese for sour cream in cooking and recipes
  2. Wear your tightest, most form-fitting pants to dinner parties and/or tie a string around your waist under your shirt that will not budge with the bulge. They’ll help keep you conscious of overeating.
  3. Have a healthy, protein rich snack before going to cocktail or dinner parties. Or a meal replacement shake. The high fat content appetizers won’t look so good of your not hungry.
  4. Don’t keep trigger foods in the house; just don’t buy them!
  5. Do not stop your regular exercise program.
  6. If you don’t have a regular exercise program, get one immediately!

 

Need some accountability on this?  Ask me about my Health Coaching Program

Beating the Holiday Blues

The holidays can be an especially depressing time for a lot of folks.

Stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial stress, and the inability to be with one’s family and friends all contribute the ‘Holiday Blues.’ 

Factor in overeating, alcohol, travel, and normal sleep pattern disruption, and the formula gets worse yet!

The good news is that there are plenty of remedies, and (I know you’ll be shocked to hear that) Nutrition and Exercise play a huge part!

As mentioned  few weeks ago in my 5 training tips for making it through the holiday season, one of the most effective ways to both fight the holiday blues AND get a head start on your New Year’s fitness resolutions is to start an exercise program now!

Experts from Mayo ClinicWebMD, and others all recommend exercise as a critical part of fighting the holiday blues.

Making time for exercise, especially with extra holiday activities underway, is generally the hardest part!

Here then, are my Favorite Four Tips for getting it done:

1. Exercise quickies. While 3 or 4 resistance training workouts AND 2 or 3 cardio workouts per week are optimal for good health and weight control, planning on more frequent, shorter workouts can help get you fit it in.

2. Train with a partner, or hire a trainer to hold you accountable. Showing up is more than 90% of your grade in exercise, and you’re much, much more likely to show up if some one’s counting on you to be there!

3. Abandon all of your weight loss, and fitness – related goals for the month of December. You’ll have plenty of time next year to work on those. Instead, merely establish attendance goals: “I will exercise 3 or 4 days per week not matter what!”  Circle completed days on your wall calendar to help track your commitment.

4. Exercise in the morning. Not only will you avoid allowing other agenda items to trump your exercise appointment, but you’ll have extra energy for the entire day!

Bonus Tip 5 – Work with an Expert! 

Spice up your Day with a Quickie!

There’s nothing like a quickie to get your morning started right!  Or pick you up in the afternoon!

Or punctuate your day in the evening!

Exercise Quickies, that is.

You see, December is one of the toughest months of the year for Fitness Professionals. As if busy lives, work schedules, and family affairs weren’t enough, extra travel, holiday parties, out-of-town guests, and office gatherings all add to the daily grind

Making time to exercise is always a challenge, but this added pressure can be a nightmare for trainers trying to keep their clients on track!

Of course, in the blinder-ed world of a Fitness Professional (because no matter what the question is, exercise is almost always one of the best answers), we’d argue that if you’re life gets so stressful that you don’t have time to exercise, you really can’t afford to NOT exercise. Indeed, exercise is the ultimate anti-anxiety medicine.

So, before you blow off your workout in lieu of yet another gluttonous holiday party, consider rolling through December distractions with Frequent Exercise Quickies!

Here’s how it works.

Rather than spending your normal 75 to 90 minutes working out 3 or 4 days per week this month, plan instead for training 4 or 5 days per week (one extra day) for just 40 to 50 minutes (less time per workout).

Normally, we coach clients (and you should plan) for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes warming up before your workout and 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular work following your session.  Along with your 45 minute training  session, this gives you a standard 75 to 90 minute workout.   Normally.   And while that doesn’t seem like a huge time commitment to us (after all, isn’t your health, sleep, and appearance worth it?), it can certainly seem intimidating when there’s cooking to be done, the in-laws are inbound, and you have an unfinished gift shopping list.

A 45 minute workout, on the other hand, is short, sweet, and mentally conquerable.
Indeed, just showing up is the hardest part!

Heck, it’s not even a workout … more of a workoutling ... a workout too small, cute, and incomplete to be a real workout. Get in, get it done, and be on your way.  The key, of course, is that if you reduce you cardio and resistance workout volumes, you’ll really, really need that additional exercise quickie per week!  Quickies are only acceptable if you get more of them into your week!

Training for 45 minutes 4 times per week (200 total minutes) instead of 75 minutes 3 times per week (225 total minutes) also has other advantages.

For one, you raise your metabolism one extra day per week. Not only do you burn calories while exercising, but you’ll burn additional calories recovering from the exercise after your workout. And this extra day of recovery effort more than covers for the reduced total volume (25 minutes).

Additionally, the 4th workoutling per week gives you one more boost of energy to make it through stressful days, and another shot of endorphins to make the holiday stress more tolerable.

Keep these things in mind for effective exercise quickies:

  1. It’s just 40 minutes, so plan for being seriously committed for the entire workout; it goes fast!
  2. Rest no more than 1 minute between sets
  3. Drink plenty of water
  4. Perform mostly compound exercises that incorporate a lot of major muscle groups
  5. Wear your headphones, and don’t make eye contact with anyone else in the gym (no time to get pulled away into a conversations)
  6. Look ahead, and plan your next exercise before you’re finished with your current one
  7. Have an alternate exercise in mind with alternate equipment to keep you moving should your equipment get taken before you get there (and good training for the January gym jams)
  8. Go relatively light with high repetitions (20+) on the 1st set of any exercise (the abbreviated warmup will increase the risk of injury, so you’ll need to warmup in-line)
  9. Plan for no fewer than 10-12 repetitions on any exercise (again, making the workout more aerobic in nature to compensate for reduced cardio)

Need Help in planning for a Quickie?  Give me a Call!

Pain Good, Agony Bad

Proposed to be among “… the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud…”

Viktor Frankl makes the case the case in Man’s Search for Meaning that a significant part of life’s meaning is your suffering through it.

Indeed, your exact purpose is to shoulder your life’s unique burdens in a way that only you can, says Frankl.

Allegedly, this is why Catholics sacrifice during lent. And why world class cyclists refer, quite literally, to “suffering” during race and training events. I’m quite sure that psychiatry and psychology schools have long studied the bizarre relationship between meaning, suffering, and happiness. And will continue to do so.

But just how does this apply to exercise? What’s the relationship between pain and progress with regards to health and fitness? Well, as we all know, exercise introduces pain in a number of different ways.

Unfortunately, not all exercise pain is created equal, and tricky part is recognizing the difference between good pain and bad pain.

Joint problems, muscle strains and over training fatigue are all bad pains. Suffering, to the degree that you become faint or dizzy during cardio is also bad pain. These are to be avoided as they only deepen injuries and will retard recovery.

Good pain, however, does have it’s role. It is, in fact, needed to push the body to adapt. And despite however wrong he might have been in guiding the state of California to near bankruptcy (which, in his defense has been done by several previous CA governors throughout history), Arnold appeared to be onto something when he coined the phrase “No Pain No Gain” back in the 70s.

Indeed, only after you are physically pushed to your limits does your body adjust to the stress by becoming stronger, leaner, or more fit aerobically.

With weight training, we push clients to exhaustion (and beyond) on a certain (managed) set of exercises to fully recruit muscle tissue.

Muscle fibers, you see, are arranged in muscle fiber groups that are used to complete a physical movement. The problem is, muscle fiber groups behave in a way we call the “All or Nothing” principle: either all of the fibers within a group are working for you, or none of the fibers within the group are working for you.

To make matters worse, additional muscle fiber groups are recruited to assist with the movement only after the initially recruited groups have been exhausted. And that’s why we push to exhaustion on a few sets … suffering through the lactic acid pain that tells us to stop … to simply get to a point where we can incorporate the additional muscle fiber groups.

When done within a managed program, this is the exact stress that is needed to adapt, and is one of the primary reasons why personal trainers exist at all: finding that fine line between good and bad pain.

So, no matter what the verdict is on Frankl, Schwarzenegger was right all along!

An Interval Training Primer

Interval Training 101

Most folks get their 1st taste of interval training with cardiovascular exercise.

In fact, one of the most commonly used and basic interval programs is the hard/easy cycle.

Walkers frequently become runners with interval training without even knowing it! They walk for a bit, run for a bit, and then walk for a bit more. And in the process complete their 1st interval workout!

An interval is quite simply a distinct period of exercise followed by a distinct period of rest.

The aspiring runner who runs until ‘very tired’, then rests ‘until feeling better’ is interval training every bit as much as an athlete who sprints for 30 seconds and then walks for 2 minutes.

Four things create an Interval of training:

  1. The Intensity of an Exercise Effort
  2. The Duration of an Exercise Effort
  3. The Intensity of the subsequent Recovery Period
  4. The Duration of the subsequent Recovery Period

Fitness professionals, athletic trainers, and coaches prescribe interval training to accomplish highly specific goals. For athletes who depend on explosiveness and quickness, much emphasis is placed on short duration high intensity efforts to develop burst and power … those required during competition.

Similarly, endurance athletes commonly use lower intensity intervals with long (and sometimes really long) durations, perhaps with very short recovery periods to develop cardiovascular efficiencies… again, as is required during extended competition.

Unfortunately, athletes and exercisers who exclusively limit their training in this way actually miss out on multiple beneficial exercises askew to their niche.

Here’s why:

For one, interval training, is hardly restricted to cardiovascular exercise! In fact, you might legitimately argue that the very 1st straight set resistance (weight lifting) programs were actually the original seeds of interval training! A Straight Set does quite handily satisfies all 4 of the above interval requirements: lift a weight until failure; then recover for 2 minutes, for example.

Secondly, narrowly focused cardiovascular intervals actually fail to cover all of the zones within a heart healthy exercise program.

More educated athletes do do some form of cross training these days to supplement their sports specific activities, but runners who simply run run run, and cyclists who just ride ride ride are not only prone to overuse injuries, but also cheat themselves of the benefits of a more balanced exercise program.

For the average forty fifty something simply looking to look and feel better, interval training has significant relevance.

Non only do they play a part in a comprehensive cardiovascular program, but they can be a key element in resistance training as well!

Indeed, straight sets are hardly the degree to which interval training can be applied to resistance training! In programming for muscular endurance and body fat reduction, low resistance, high repetition, longer duration INTERVALS are a highly effective and extremely efficient resistance training interval.

Lean Summer Muscle Starts with Range of Motion in March

March is one of my Favorite Months of the Year!
If you ski, there’s still good coverage on a lot of the trails.  If you cycle,  you’ll have more than a few sunny and not-too-cold days to saddle up and spin off a few miles.
And when the weather stinks …
… head indoors and get serious about that summer body!

Work begins right now on muscular development that you’ll appreciate when you lose those last few more pounds of body fat with increased Spring and Summer cardio work.

Pay particular attention to good form, proper positioning, and strict range of motion with your resistance training.  The tone you create in March goes a long, long way towards how those limbs look in July! 

In fact, one of the more common mistakes I see in the gyms is incomplete range of motion exercise.

People get too hung up on the volume of weights, and end up jerking and throwing the weight through a shortened range of motion. As a result, they do, in fact, develop shorter muscle fibers than the disciplined lifter who exercises good form.

It takes focus and some practice, but if you’re looking for a long, lean and toned muscular look, use smooth controlled muscle contractions, and be sure to keep good overall body posture throughout the exercise.

Trainers use the term Range of Motion, or ROM to describe how fully muscles and bones rotate around a specific joint.  Complete ROM is your key to long, well defined muscle tissues. Allow the resistance to fully elongate the muscle fibers around the joint during the eccentric (recovery) part of the exercise, and completely contract the muscle fibers when shortening them (the concentric part).  Not only does this tone and build tissue from tendon to tendon, but it also stimulates full fiber development up and down the muscle group to avoid ‘bulky’ looking muscles.
And breathe! Exhale when contracting muscle and inhale elongating.
 

So, Your Look Great This Summer Formula is Pretty Simple:

  1. Use Good Form and complete range of motion with your resistance work for the next 8 weeks
  2. Get get outside for extended periods of additional cardio in April and May to shed body fat fast
  3. When it’s time for shorts and sleeveless in June, the beautifully developed muscle groups and will emerge looking as good as the form you used to build it!

Unsure of your form and technique?  I can probably (click) find you a trainer to suit your needs.