Tag Archives: fitness

Victory @ Excel Fitness 3rd Annual Wine Tasting and Open House

Excel Fitness, an award winning gym and personal training studio in West Hartford, CT held their 3nd Annual Wine Tasting and Open House to kick off fundraising for Making Strides against Breast Cancer on Thursday, September 26th.

The event was a huge success! Dozens of local businesses donated over $1500 in prizes for the silent auction and raffle. Wine Cellars on rt. 4 in Farmington donated wine, beer and the time of seven different distributors. Snacks were provided by Pho 68 and A Little Something Bakery. Excel Fitness massage therapists Kelly Perkoski and David Mendez kept guests even more relaxed with luxurious chair massages. The evening culminated in two fantastic fitness presentations; instructor Kate Barrett and personal trainer Ilicia Balaban shook it up with a sizzling Zumba routine, followed by an outstanding display of strength and self-defense demonstrated by Paul Millholen and Danielle Mathura from Jitae Taekwondo.    

All in all, Team Excel Fitness raised over $1,000 for breast cancer research! We would like to humbly applaud the dedication of our members, local business supporters, staff and others in the community that came out for the fundraiser. As always it was a fun night, we look forward to the opportunity to make it even bigger and better next year!


Miss the wine tasting but still want to contribute to a great cause? Join us in Bushnell Park on Sunday, October 20th at 9am for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides against Breast Cancer Hartford 2013 walk/run. Inquire today with one of our certified personal trainers for more information.


There is Always a Reason


Our sudden journey with Autism and alternative medicine

There is always a reason. You do something and there is a consequence. You speed, you get a ticket (or wink and smile). You eat too much and you feel sick. You drink too much and you act like a jerk. Same goes for injuries. You fall, you sprain your ankle or break a bone. These things don’t just occur. You don’t wake up one day and have a broken leg or are suddenly drunk. Ridiculous, right?

As you know there are reasons for internal issues in your body too.  Heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer…anything and everything.

And there are reasons for behavioral/emotional and psychological disorders as well. Why shouldn’t there be? This is what most Autistic children are up against. Most doctors, specialists and even families have no clue that there are in fact reasons, real reasons for their child’s obscure behaviors. In fact, most of the behaviors that Autistic children display have very clear reasons.

We talked about low levels of zinc and magnesium and how it can disregulate the system causing sensory issues and bathroom issues. We talked a lot about food and its effects on the body and especially behavior.  We talked about yeast overload and bacteria and the changes that can take place as a result in the body. And of course we talked about the “leaky gut”. This causes incredible behavioral changes and dysfunction. There are reasons for everything. It’s not magical, or invisible and should never, ever be dealt with in that matter. Somebody needs to carefully dissect the behavior to determine what went wrong in the machine we call our body.

We aren’t robots, I know that.  We shouldn’t all be perfect. We all have personalities, similarities, differences…things we don’t necessarily need to change. But, when something goes wrong or deviant trying to figure it out instead of covering it up with medication should be the first line of defense. Why do we settle when we know that something is wrong. Much like a serial killer. This is not “ok” behavior. We all know this. Doctors/specialists/investigators have been trying to figure out the difference in these people for years…an extra chromosome, an abnormality in the brain, too much of one hormone and not enough of another.

Two weeks ago Liam started displaying some very strange, out of character behaviors at school and at home. We were completely stressed about it. It was scary and awful. Liam has always been a love. Sweet, kind, affectionate and generally obedient.  He is a really good listener and aims to please. But, suddenly things changed. The school, friends and even we didn’t know what happened? “Everyone changes”, people said. Maybe he is just “fed up” with listening to everyone that he is protesting? Maybe he’s bored or trying to get out of work….

I emailed our Nutritionist thinking maybe she would know if something had gone wrong with his diet or he is deficient in a vitamin, or has another parasite…she said that there is“always a reason for behavior”. I knew that. Of course there is. But, when you are in the thick of it and the people around you have little to no schooling in this philosophy it’s difficult to be the one, the brave soul to act on such radical thinking.

We went to see our Nutritionist a week after all of these “crazy” behaviors started and sure enough Liam had two types of yeast that were extremely high in his body. She named the 5 most common behaviors seen in Autistic children with high levels of yeast. Liam had all 5 of them. She gave us a new probiotic which helped both types of yeast and anti-fungal yeast drops to take twice a day. Three days after we started both remedies Liam stopped these behaviors. There is no amount of behavior modification,  ABA, or consequences that would have stopped these behaviors in three days!!!

I can’t help but think about many other Autistic children displaying “obscure” behaviors due to internal problems in their bodies.                                                                     Behaviors including:  self injury, crying and screaming out , tantrums, hurting others, loss of language and other skills like potty training . The list goes on.  It’s heartbreaking. Imagine that is your child. Just for a minute. And you could help them. Wouldn’t you? We can change the fate of our children. Good or bad. Many families have no idea that this is possible. They are told, to this day, that they should “accept the fate of their child and to move on”. We were told this…..only 10 months ago.

If I would have brought Liam to the Doctor or Specialist when he started these behaviors do you know what would have happened? We would have been sent home in tears thinking that this is “our new normal”. To readjust our expectations and to move on. That just infuriates me. It’s not ok!

I guess the moral to this story is to always do your own investigating. Don’t let others choose the fate of your child. If you see something “off”, different or wrong do your research. Look very closely at what has changed. Don’t accept this as your “new normal” or a phase until you are absolutely sure that everything is working properly inside. There is always a reason.

Please pass this one along. I wish I wrote this as my very first post. I think it’s more important than anything else I have written.

Thx for reading

The author, Erin Turner is the sister of Excel Fitness trainer Ilicia Balaban. For more information on Autism and alternative treatments, please visit www.liamsjourney.net or speak with Ilicia who can put you in touch with Erin directly!

Are You on a Healthy Diet?

Millions of people in the United States are considered to be overweight, and many of those who are overweight are actually obese. Carrying excess weight often leads to a whole list of health problems, including: heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes among others. Weight loss isn’t easy, and for many of us it’s a battle just to maintain a healthy weight, let alone lose the extra weight that’s making us sick and keeping us unhealthy.

Finding the right diet for you can be a challenge on to itself. Conflicting messages in the media tend to lead us in many different directions, making it hard to know what information to trust or which diet plan will be most successful for our unique body. I mean every day you hear about some new fad diet, which is guaranteed to lose weight fast. Okay, some of these diets do that, but they are extremely low calorie diets, and as soon as you go off the diet and eat regular foods again, you will see the weight you lost come right back. The best way to lose weight and keep it off, is to follow a healthy diet that has all of the nutrients we need to stay healthy, and make sure that you are eating enough so that you do not feel hungry. Make sure that when you are on a diet, that you allow yourself the occasional treat. This will help to keep you from binging, which often happens to those who are on extremely low calorie weight loss diets.

For more information on proper nutrition for weight loss or exercise, schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our Excel Fitness certified personal trainers today!!! Stop by the gym, call (860) 523-8167 or email info@excelfitnessct.com.

By Chris Caruso, CPT

Facility Upgrades Happening at Excel Fitness

The team of trainers at Excel Fitness has always been committed to providing the highest standard of service to all of our clients and members. In the past month, Excel Fitness has undergone some cosmetic changes to match our excellent service with performance equipment and special features!

While Hurricane Sandy dampened our spirits, Excel Fitness owner, Jeff Roux was hard at work brightening the gym with a beautiful new paint job and working with trainer, Chris Caruso to replace a portion of the carpet with brand new rubber gym flooring. New light fixtures have been installed in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms, enhancing our member’s pre and post-workout experience.

Most notably, we have NEW EQUIPMENT! We recently purchased a brand new, state-of-the-art Cross Trainer that utilizes a stride sequence, which engages the gluteus and hamstring muscles without requiring users to change directions. All of our cardio equipment is now outfitted with cardio theater units, enabling users to tune into television programs while working out. Stop by today to check out our new appearance and find out how the team at Excel Fitness will revolutionize your exercise experience!

The Point of Fitness Part 2: The Workout

So, Kettlebells…

Now that I am a new Dad and spending more quality time at home, I’ve been shifting a lot of my fitness towards kettlebells, simply because they’re a lot more practical for home, saving both space and time.

The Turkish get up (or “get up”) is arguably one of the most effective functional movements out there you can do, and it’s perfect to do with a kettlebell. It looks deceptively simple, but even if you have a lightweight kettlebell, a dumbell, or even a cloth bucket with sand in it, you can make this work.


Remember, there is no “core” muscle. There are muscles throughout your body and people call the ones in the middle your “core”, which to me is strange. “Core strength” is up there with “tone” for nonsense fitness terms used by people who have been reading too many magazines.

Strength training builds muscle, builds bone, and makes you (duh) stronger. I could write paragraphs on why these are so important but I doubt I’ll convince anyone of anything; so instead, here’s my strength training program, every other day:

30 minutes, constantly looping through these will beat the crap out of you, or at least it beats the crap out of me. Start with the lighter bell, move up to heavy for the middle of the workout, then go back to medium as fatigue kicks in:

– 20 pushups or dips.
– 15  clean and jerks, each arm.
– 15  snatches, each arm.
– 15 single arm swings, each arm.
– 5 turkish get ups, each side.
– 5 wind mills, each side.
– 20 double arm swings.
– 10 single arm rows, TRX rows, or pull ups (preferably).

Conditioning is a little different, but fortunately I’ve got something else in my life right now that fits the bill and I enjoy doing. Every other day…


It takes patience and determination to “get your legs”, so to speak. Ask anyone who can run five miles enjoyably and they’ll tell you about how much it hurt in the beginning when they could barely run down the block. Once you get your legs, you don’t want to lose them. Running even once a week (in addition to all the other stuff) helps keep you in the game. There’s something about the beating it puts on your legs where if you don’t do it enough your body stops keeping you in shape to do it again, and there you are not being able to run down the block.

Please feel free to ask me or any one of our trainers any questions on kettlebells or running. We would be happy to spend some time showing you some of these exercises.

To schedule a consultation with Gary Maher or any of the Excel Fitness Personal Trainers please stop by the gym or call (860) 523-8167.




The Point of Fitness

Everyone has their own reason for fitness. Body builders are into border-line body modification, power lifters huff huge weight, and Olympic lifters snap incredible weights with technical moves that must be reviewed in split frame slow motion because of the speed they can muster. Some people are in it for vanity, others for health, and most a blend of several things.


For me, fitness is essentially about being able to live the life I want to live. It gives me a body that lets me climb mountains, hop on a paddleboard and zip around the lake, or go running with a friend, and yes, enjoy going to that pool party. Although I won’t be mistaken for a cast member of Jersey Shore, I might get a few smiling glances. Beyond all that, I strength train to build muscles which hopefully fend off injuries. Overall fitness slashes my chances of getting a host of ailments, and lifting weights combined with running and enough calcium mean I am doing as much as I can to keep arthritis at bay.

I want to be able to go running and lift weights with my daughter when she’s in her twenties, and if she can smoke me athletically it’s going to be because she earned it fair and square.

The point of fitness is not to sit around and squat more weight. You need to squat weight in order to be fit, but the real core of it all is to be able to live a long and healthy life, doing everything you want to the fullest. A body that responds as well as it can. You can’t be 25 forever but since you’re going to be 50 one day you have to pick if you want to be a broken down old man or an active grandpa. So, I’m cutting back on my barbells and switching to other activities, but its part of the big goal which is enjoying life to its fullest. If you never leave the gym and stay within range of Nautilus machines and elliptical trainers your whole life, how much of the world can you really see? How much can you really do?

By Gary Maher, M.S.

To schedule a complimentary consultation with Gary or any one of our certified personal trainers please call Excel Fitness at (860) 523-8167.

The Gym Membership Contract


A sad truth in the fitness industry is that from a purely monetary prospective, the best members are the ones who never show up. Places like  Planet Fitness and W.O.W. really have this strategy nailed down: plan on the fact that you won’t show up regularly (thereby lowering their operating costs), charge a low enough fee that you don’t really complain when you see it every month in your statement, and rely on the psychological deterrent of “cancelling your gym membership”. Because as long as you have a membership that means you can go, even if you don’t. But if you cancel, which is a pain in the butt, it sends a clear message that you in fact have thrown in the towel.

Once you’re a paying member they have you, with psychology and probably by a contract termination penalty, by the proverbial balls. The only missing link is ensuring that they close the deal once they have you in their clutches, and most gyms have the gym membership “closer” guy. I’ve seen personal trainers do it as well, essentially guilt tripping you into paying more money.

Why This Bothers Me So Much


Fighting back the sedentary life of a non-physical culture is hard. Walking into a gym that you don’t feel comfortable in, probably in a body you don’t feel comfortable in, and perhaps dealing with meatheads or at least people in far better shape than you, is not comfortable. At all. It is down right intimidating, scary, and unwelcoming.

Anyone out of shape who can walk into a barbell room and learn how to squat properly, especially by them self, deserves a golden trophy encrusted in diamonds. If that person is deconditioned, alone, and the gym is crowded, the trophy should also have little rocket boosters on the bottom so it can follow them around.

The membership guy isn’t the devil, of course. He’s some guy who needs to make money and it’s his job to sign you up, and he’s probably primarily on commission anyway. Certainly his performance is judged by the amount of people he or she is getting onboard. However, and there are books written about this very topic, the membership dude and his boss are both wrong.

Just Say No To Stupid Gyms

Give your money to a gym that puts fitness first, and relies on happy customers who are achieving their goals. The pressure sales tactics so commonly used in the fitness industry are, quite frankly, shameful. I have people who want to workout with me because they know I care about fitness and take it (and theirs) seriously. Look around for it. It probably won’t come in a glossy membership pamphlet and the gym might not have a lot of fancy gear, but I can promise you that a glossy brochure and an elliptical machine have zero bearing on you achieving your fitness goals.

For more information on the variety of personal training, health, and fitness services Excel Fitness has to offer please stop in or call one of our certified personal trainers to schedule a complementary consultation.

By Gary Maher, B.S.


2nd Annual Excel Fitness Wine Tasting and Open House!

We are gearing up to kick off fundraising for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 2012!!! Last year we raised over $8,000 for the cause. Come celebrate and support a great cause again this year and bring your friends and family along with for the fun!

Wine donated by Wine Cellars Rt. 4. Snacks from Hartford Baking Company.

Over $1500 in door prizes from local businesses…Silent Auction and Raffle!  

All are welcome…bring your friends and family!!!

Thursday August 23rd 6:30-8:30pm

Auction Packages Include:

Fitness package:  3 personal training sessions, Excel Fitness t-shirt and water bottle!  $350 value!

Spa Package: Massage from Nurturing Hands, $100 gift certificate to United Artists Hair Salon, and spray tan from Tan Lines! $250 value!
Mind/Body Package: Gift certificate to Lucy, 5 Pilates group matt classes, 2 private dance classes at Arthur Murray Studio and dinner @ Arugula!  $275 value!

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.