Category Archives: Fitness Tips

Vitamin Z

Welcome to that special time of year, best characterized by the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, body ache…FLU SEASON (among other illnesses)!!!!! Year after year we hear: “This is the worst flu season ever!” Ads from various drug stores and doctor’s offices urge the young and old to get their flu shot; while the shelves are routinely overstocked and repeatedly barren where the OTC analgesics reside.  There are many GOOD ways of protecting yourself from other people’s illness and amping up your immune system to handle any wayward germs that may make it past your best efforts:

To name a few:

  • Drink lots of water (64+ ounces/day)
  • Wash your hands every hour or more in hot water with anti-bacterial soap
  • Avoid sharing food, beverages, or other items that could be infected
  • At the gym, wipe down equipment before and after each use
  • Increase intake of vitamins A and C

This week I had my own bout with a particularly harsh stomach virus that left my so dehydrated after 10 hours that I ended up in the Emergency Room receiving 2 liters of IV fluids to replace what I had lost. I was told in the ER that I would probably feel sick for 4-5 days but after 48 hours, if a-symptomatic, I could return to work without fear of contaminating anyone else’s space.

I proceeded to doze in and out for the next 36-of-48 hours, which brings me to my point:


I promise, you can take all the Airborne, EmergenC, Multi-Vitamins, etc. you want to keep your immune system strong, but at the end of the day, SLEEP is the single best thing to boost your immune system and keep your body strong enough to fight off the crap Mother Nature continues to send our way!

If you do get sick: in addition to increased sleep, think protein and veggies! The same stuff that keeps you slim will keep most viruses and colds away. These “bugs” live on sugar (all carbs, especially wheat turn to sugar in your mouth). The more you can stay away from the “comfort foods” and stick to lean meats and veggies the quicker you will be back on your feet!

For more information on keeping yourself and loved ones healthy this Winter please speak with any of our Excel Fitness certified personal trainers (860) 523-8167.

By Ilicia Balaban, C.P.T.

What are Battle Ropes?

What are Battle Ropes?

Chris Caruso, CPT 4/10/2012

Battle ropes are heavy duty ropes designed to be lifted and moved with controlled motion. Training with battle ropes develops functional strength, power and endurance.  Battle rope exercises require the whole body to move the rope, which engages the core and increases the heart rate. Implementing rotational movements with the rope stimulates the oblique muscles of the abdomen/core which helps to support our bodies to better perform activities of daily life. This includes housework, driving, bending over, walking as well as sports like golf, baseball, etc…


From personal experience, I always had weak wrists which interfered with my workout routines. I found that I was unable to easily do pushups, lift weights like the bench press, or any pressing motions. Determined to fix my predicament, I wanted to find something that would be enjoyable but at the same time challenge my workouts. After researching, I stumbled upon what is known as battling rope. Over the past year I have noticed a significant strength difference in not only my wrists but also my core and stamina. Today, I’m currently using the ropes 2 to 3 times a week in my circuit-training program. I use them to help train for flag football by building endurance and power. If you’re someone who is looking for something fun, different and bold to help build your cardiovascular endurance, strengthen weak bones and shed some body fat, the battling ropes are right for you!



Core Focus

Core Focus

Ilicia Balaban ACE C.P.T. 3/21/12

My clients are sick of hearing it: “Use your core, tighten your abs, focus your breathing on contracting your stomach.” Core conditioning continues to be a foundational building block to unlocking true fitness potential. Good fitness is characterized by performance in five areas: aerobic capacity, body composition, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility. Every single one of these categories and additionally, balance, stability and coordination, is affected by core strength.

Your core in composed of several difference muscles including the rectus abdominus (the pretty muscles that compose a 6-pacK), internal and external oblique’s, transverse abdominus, multifidus and erector spinae (lower back).  Too often in an attempt to achieve a flat stomach, individuals pay extensive attention to the rectus abdominus and obliques while virtually ignoring the other muscles. For sufficient core strength and to reap the benefits of increased balance and stability, equal attention must be given to all core muscles. The transverse abdominus (TVA), often the most overlooked of the core muscles, is arguably the most important with regard to regulating proper form, support and distribution of weight during exercise. Basic crunches and sit-ups do not work the TVA to the extent that a plank or full abdominal extension and contraction (like on a BOSU or Stability Ball) does.  For example try a single leg plank or BOSU single leg rotational crunch.  Additional attention must also be given to the muscles of the lower back as they work in to promote stability and provide support in a balanced training regimen.

The best part about abdominal strength training is that most any exercise can be become a core focused movement with a little modification. First and foremost, remember to engage your core upon lifting any weight, regardless of difficulty, direction or momentum. Bracing ones core means contracting the abdominal muscles much in the same way you would contract any other muscle, your bicep for example. Bracing DOES NOT mean sucking your gut in. You should be able to breathe normally with your abs contracted. Then add a balance challenge. Performing a simple movement like a bicep curl or overhead press on one foot or on a BOSU ball will add inherent core dynamic. Spending a little extra time and focus on training your core muscles both in the gym and throughout daily activities will promote increased balance, coordination, and build a stronger foundation from which other aspects strength, endurance and cardiovascular training will prosper. For more information on adding core training exercises to your workout please see one of our experienced trainers.

Exercising while injured, my personal story.

Jeff Roux B.S. Exercise Science 11/23/11


I recently and unfortunately suffered a laceration on my dominant hand requiring 9 stitches.  The ER doctor asked me what I do for a living and when I told him he kind of laughed and said, “Well, you won’t be working out for a couple of weeks.”  Little did he know who he was dealing with and what I was capable of trying?  In actuality, I believe that he should have suggested continuing to do lower body exercises and cardiovascular work, ensuring to keep the wound clean and dry, but that is another story in itself.


My injured hand

Needless to say within 3 days of the injury I was back in the gym.  I was able to complete a full lower body workout using plate loaded machines, crunches on the ball and two shoulder exercises.  I thought I would still able to palm a shoulder press machine and not affect the stitches and while griping a dumbbell with my left and use my right hand to support and perform a modified DB front raise.  I also ran 2 miles.  2 days after that I returned to do more core, and plate loaded chest machine and used the resistance bands to perform Lat pull downs, back rows, chest fly’s, bicep curls and overhead db triceps extensions.  Through only slight modification in placing the band around my wrist instead of in my palm I was able to complete many of the traditional exercises one would normally complete in the gym.  One week after the injury I was playing tennis with my left hand and actually beat the person I was playing with.  My point is, whatever you’ve hurt there is usually a way to exercise around that injury.  UBE’s (upper body ergo meters, hand bikes) are great for people who have injured their lower body.  The question remains if an injury occurs does this take away from the fact that you still have a health goal?  Are you going to sit at home and wait, or are you going to explore the alternatives?  Everyone knows exercising has positive effects on mood; many people get depressed when they cannot exercise, so why stop exercising?  Find a way, your mind and your body will thank you.

For more information on modifying your exercise program to fit your needs contact the fitness professionals at Excel Fitness, you’ll be glad you did.

30 Classes in 30 Day Challenge

30 Classes in 30 Day Challenge: Militant Yoga

By Ilicia Balaban

I am a goal oriented person and I love a good challenge.  Yoga has been a staple of my exercise regime and spiritual practice for years but I have not felt truly challenged by a yoga class in a long time.  Last Monday I decided to try my hand at Bikrum yoga. Bikrum differs from traditional hatha yoga in several important ways. The studio is heated to 107-110 degrees with 60 percent humidity, classes follow a standardized 26 posture protocol with two sets of each posture, breaks (including water breaks) are built in to the class so that the body can return to homeostasis, and students are instructed to stretch beyond their limits to the point that they feel like they are going to “break in half and fall down backwards.”

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I walked in to Simsbury Bikram for the first time. It was a shock to my entire system. All of my faculties were exhausted after that first 90 minute class. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually I felt as if the instructor had rolled up his mat and smacked me in the head with it. But, like I said, I love a challenge and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I signed up for 30 day introductory membership and have since decided to challenge myself by doing 30 classes in 30 days and I’d to take all of you on my journey with me with weekly updates.

I went through waves of love and hate with Bikrum. The first day my goal was simply to stay in the room and try my best.  The next few days I was on a high, so excited to get to class, ready to push myself as hard as I could, convinced that this was the day I would hold the posture for the full 90 seconds or touch my head to my feet. What I have found most interesting this week is the psychological transformation happening. I have always struggled with body image issues having been very overweight as a child. Because of the heat, participants typically don’t wear much clothing in the studio. Every day I spend 90 minutes in a room full of people, in front of a mirror in just my sports bra and shorts. Normally I would spend that time critiquing my body and then feeling bad about myself for wasting energy criticizing myself. I can’t do that in this class. If for even one second I begin thinking about my body rather than the posture I am holding I will lose my balance and fall over. Bikrum forces me to leave my baggage, my hang ups about myself at the door and focus 100% of my energy on the task at hand. Mindfulness and intention are the name of the game and after just one week, the fruits of my labor are becoming apparent in many different facets of my life, from my relationships to training my clients and how I feel about myself.  More to come next week as I continue on with my 30 day challenge…

Matthew Knight’s Marathon Training Update

Marathon Update

by: Matthew Knight– B.S Exercise Science CSCS Personal Trainer at Excel Fitness

As many of you know I am currently training for a marathon in the Fall Season.  I have been training for about two months and my joints have definitely been taking a pounding running on the hard surface.  I have worked up to my longest run of 16 miles, running that distance I have found it to be more of a mental battle.  But I have pushed myself by running 8 miles out which leaves me no choice but to run 8 miles back.  I recently timed myself in the half marathon and completed it in 1 hour and 37 minutes which is about a 7 minute mile pace.  I figure that isn’t too bad considering 2 months ago I never ran more than a 5k.

In the past month I have also had a battle with maintaining my weight and muscular strength.  By completing a 16 mile run I am burning well over 2000 calories which is the average person’s calorie intake in a whole day.  Therefore I have increased my calorie and protein intake dramatically but it is still hard to keep up with my caloric expenditure.

Have any questions feel free to contact or continue following my marathon progression on Excel Fitness’s Blog

The Last Year Revisited

When you are looking for something new, Don’t just change EVERYTHING look back at what you did first!! 

Make something you are doing better OR revisit something that worked well in the past and tweak it.

This week I revisit this past year’s accomplishments and how looking for something new really means tweaking how you do something.

Here are a few posts from last year-

Growing and Learning – The First Post

Knowing the Facts – Shawn O’Brien’s First Knowledge Based Post

Jeff Wins 40 Under 4o with HBJ

Excel Fitness Goes Pink!

Miss Hartford County, Martha Price and Her Workout

Lynn Sweet-Dobrow Testimonial for Matt Knight

A year later, as we look to what we can do to grow as a business and become a greater asset to the community Team Excel Fitness looks to where we can TWEAK things.  Since last year, we have won or been nominated for a few more awards, the entire staff has contributed to our blog with great testimonials and fitness advice, we had multiple successful charity drives for food, school supplies, and clothes and one of our greatest moments was raising over $7000 for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides for Breast Cancer (look carefully in this photo I am the only guy Pacesetter in this photo).


  • Wine Tasting Open House For Charity

                   Supporting the American Cancer Society

                  at Excel Fitness, Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 from 6p to 8p.

                  Wine Cellars of Farmington, CT will be donating 10% of its sales here that night

                   Excel Fitness will be donating a portion of its sales from July 13th, 2010 to July 27th

  • Continued Expert Fitness Advice From Our Trainers
  • Excel Fitness Brings Staff to St. Joseph’s College for Adventure and Team Building
  • Helping Local Charities
  • Making Hartford County a Healthier Place to Live

We will continue to move fitness and the community in to a good direction.

Thank you for all your feedback and referrals.

Shawn O’Brien

Got a Marathon You Are Training For? We can help.

Marathon Training

Matthew Knight – B.S Exercise Science CSCS and Personal Trainer, Excel Fitness

For those of you that don’t know, I’m currently training for a marathon.  As a personal trainer I have put clients through different marathon training programs, but as an actual participant I get to experience this first hand.  Someone new to running might just think that the best way to train for a 26.2 mile run is simple, just run; when in fact there is so much more in preparation for this event.

Here are a few of the different workouts that I include in my program…

Long Runs                     Short Runs       Pace Runs

Interval Training         Hill Training    Fartlek Training

Upper Lift Circuit        Lower Lift Circuit        Core Circuit


Other things to consider when creating your training program are frequency, duration, rest periods, and proper nutrition.

Entering yourself in a fitness event it is a great way to get in shape and maintain your exercise habits.  By competing and setting a goal for myself it gives me the motivation to train harder.

As the summer is approaching maybe a fitness event like a 5k run/walk will give you the motivation to take your fitness to the next level…

For More Information contact:

Spring and Summer is Here!

Wow, did the Northeast have a heck of a Winter or what?!?!  It does feel like this past Winter season was a little colder, a little longer and a little less tolerable.  Ahhhhh, but there is relief as we speak.  It is 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky here at Excel Fitness  in West Hartford, CT, so I decided to take break (recess) and shot some hoops for 30 minutes.  My basketball shooting burned 188 calories, but it did so much more for my mind to be outside and relax for a few minutes.   See how many calories you burn doing your favorite outdoor activity here  Calorie Counter.

The point is go outside for some type of activity.  Staying fit and getting mentally refreshed can be easier than you think.  My next activity is hiking up to Heublein Tower in Avon, CT (120 minutes is 900 calories burned).

Time-bound vs. Goal-bound

Time-bound vs. Goal-bound

by: Shawn O’Brien, M.S.

In the current days of the ever expanding technology BOOM, everything is instant.

Instant Oatmeal, Instant Messaging, Instant Coffee, Instant Food and you can fill in a few more.

There are numerous versions of quotations floating around which go something like this – “IT WAS WORTH THE WAIT” or “THEY DON’T MAKE THINGS LIKE THEY USED TO” or “ANYTHING WORTH DOING IS WORTH DOING WELL.” I guess even though these sayings are still used, not many people apply the principles of hard work and dedication to the art of long term planning.  Whether you are trying to lose 20 pounds, buy a house, help the community or grow your business you have to set some appropriate goals.

Setting these goals should mean you have something important in mind to accomplish and these same accomplishments should have a realistic time frame to complete them.  Not only a realistic time frame, but having smaller or short-term goals as stepping stones to a long-term goal or project will increase your likelihood of completing this and all goals.  Inversely, having long-term maintenance objectives in place at the completion of the short-term goals you have worked so hard to achieve, will increase your success of maintaining said objective.

In summary, the term “INSTANT” may only be able to applied to your coffee or oatmeal, but if you really want to achieve something great take more than a minute to think about where your GOAL IS BOUND AND HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE TO GET THERE.   You will be surprised how gratifying it is to get there.