Category Archives: Ask Sam

Shoe Guy

The Complete Beginners Guide to Buying Cross-Training Shoes

HEY SAM:  I am thinking about buying cross-training shoes to use in the gym. Is there anything specific I should look for in cross-training shoes?

~Bob, Los Angeles

As with men, it’s important to know that not every shoe is equipped to handle every need. Knowing the differences between these types shoes will help you get what you need, but moreover — prevent unnecessary injury! In terms of exercise, there are three kinds of shoes to be concerned about: running, walking and cross-training shoes. So what makes a cross-trainer a GOOD cross-trainer?

7 SECRETS ABOUT GOOD CROSS-TRAINERS:

MESH — The shoe needs to have some mesh fabric. Mesh in a cross-training shoe helps the shoe handle variations in temperature, as well as to be moisture-wicking, (pulling moisture away from your skin). Breathability determines whether your foot drowns in a pool of sweat, or glides along comfortably.

Shoe Guy 257x300 The Complete Beginners Guide to Buying Cross Training Shoes

FLEXIBILITY— One surefire way to developing unsightly corns is an inflexible shoe (especially in the toes). A good cross-training shoe should feel flexible. Does it bend in different directions easily? Does it allow your foot to move easily for movements like burpees and pushups? If in doubt, do a few in the shoes and see.  Continue reading

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What To Eat For Breakfast?

HEY SAM:  I just had a protein bar for breakfast, but I’m still hungry. What should I eat now?  ~LaManda, Los Angeles

That’s great that you got some protein with breakfast! (Research shows that people who eat a high protein breakfast 30 minutes after waking lose more fat than people who don’t).

The reason you are still hungry is because a protein bar is not a meal replacement, it is usually a snack.  Check the carbohydrate content of your bars. For your first meal—every day—your breakfast must also contain carbohydrates. This is a rule. It doesn’t matter whether you’re following the Easy, Standard or Express version of the Zig Zag diet, because your body always needs carbohydrates to kick off strong. (To balance out this protein bar breakfast speficially, good choices could be some oatmeal, or some Greek yogurt).

If you’re trying to lose those last 2o pounds, you will need to remember the inconvenient truth about weight loss.

Here are 14 ways to control sugar cravings.

How to Tighten + Tone Your Inner Thighs

HEY SAM: Wondering if I could get some advice from you on the troubling “inner thigh” — I really want to slim my inner thighs, but they seem to keep bulking up.  I’m getting to the point of wanting lipo. Help me, buddy. ~James, Salt Lake City, Utah

I have found that repetitive motions, using only body weight, to be very effective in toning up the inner thigh. For example, try squeezing a very small rubber ball tightly between your upper thighs, with feet raised off the floor at a 90-degree angle. Perform 25-30 crunches, then drop your arms and neck back, and just pulse the ball with your upper thighs over and over again. You will begin to feel the inside of your thighs burn. Keep going for about 30 seconds past the “burning” point. Don’t use ankle weights. In fact, I recommend using only your own body weight and isometric movements.

Another tool you might like are a series of DVD’s from a fitness studio in Los Angeles called Pop Physique, which is all the rage among ladies here in Hollywood. The principles behind their uber-targeted workouts are to tone the stomach, inner thigh, transform your arms, and lift your butt. My friend Lisa treated me to a month of Pop Physique classes for Christmas. As a dude wearing dance tights, surrounded by 20-30 ladies, I found the PopPhys workouts in the Silverlake studio to be both challenging as hell, and fun. I’m sure the DVD’s capture some of this while offering a great workout targeting these areas!  ~Sam  

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What Can I Do About My Low Thyroid?

I just found out I have low thyroid and am now taking a prescription for it [about a month now]. I haven’t been able to lose weight for two years and I’d been working out like a crazy person. I tried to gain muscle but my body fat just went up to 31 percent. I thought, WTF? Have you trained many people dealing with this medical condition, and if so have you seen success stories of people finally losing weight with the combination of exercise and Rx?  I think I’m about ready to invest again in weekly/daily exercise now that I know it’s not my diet or exercise routine that is the problem.  I just got so frustrated and gave up for a while.  Damn you, thyroid!  [well at least I now have a name for it and know what the problem is].  Just wondering your thoughts on the situation. —Betty, Lansing, Michigan

[Note from Sam: I asked my physician friend John (who's had low thyroid issues of his own) to share his thoughts on your question.  Here's what he said].

From a personal standpoint, I can tell you that I did not find much of a correlation between [weight loss and thyroid medication].  I’ve been on it for about 5 months now, and went off of it for about a month approximately two months ago. And, while that five month period roughly corresponds with my weight loss (which started in March), I do not believe the two are related. Actually, that one month that I was off the drug was the time when I began to really lose a lot of weight. It surprised me. The only explanation I can come up with is that I was falling asleep at 8PM because of the hypothyroidism, and therefore didn’t snack at night.

I know that a ton of people out there, who are morbidly obese, and want to attribute that to a thyroid deficiency. Never mind that their lips are shiny from Kentucky Fried Chicken even as they tell you this.

The gold standard for internal medicine is Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. My copy is a bit old (1987), but here’s what it says:

“Obesity can result from hypothyroidism because of decreased caloric needs. However, only a minority of hypothyroid patients are truly obese, and an even smaller proportion of obese patients are hypothyroid. Indiscriminate use of thyroid hormone in the treatment of obesity is to be deplored, and should never be instituted in the absence of documentation of decreased thyroid function.”

Perhaps the correlation with being simply overweight is clearer, but I don’t think there are many studies out there documenting this. There actually probably are not a lot of studies. But, still, lower thyroid function, so lower metabolic rate. Few calories expended, and before you know it, horizontal stripes are completely out of the question.

By the way, there are a ton of other great benefits from the drug other than just being able to stay up later. I found that it gave me a little more of a sense of well-being. Took away some sadness. Increased sex drive.

How to Mix Up Your Exercise Routine

HEY SAM:  You mentioned “shocking” the muscles when you work out and doing different exercises. Does that mean that every time you work out, it’s good to always change your workout, or should you be consistent and change your workout routine every couple weeks? -Joseph, Los Angeles

jocksniffer How to Mix Up Your Exercise RoutineThe body responds rapidly to any weightlifting or exercise routine. Yes, it’s important to continually challenge your muscles by “mixing it up.” When I train clients, I make sure to change up their routine (on average) every 4 weeks (or every 8-12 workouts).

The theory behind this is called “periodization” which means that workouts should be periodically changed to make them effective.

You can “periodize” your weight workouts by trying these 6 steps, in order:

  • CHANGE THE ORDER. Do your current workout backwards. For example, if you generally finish by training abs, on your next workout, start with abs and work backwards.
  • CHANGE THE REP PATTERNS. If you generally lift in four sets of 12, consider changing your rep pattern to an inverted pyramid (i.e., 12, 10, 8, 6, then 12) or change the number of repetitions for a given set from 12 to 15, or 20.
  • PLAY WITH THE WEIGHTS. If you’ve become accustomed to a certain weight on an exercise, try reducing the weight and working with higher rep patterns with extremely strict form. Or if you’re using light weights, try “upping” the weights to heavier amounts and doing fewer reps (again, with very strict form).
  • CHANGE THE EXERCISES. Probably the most obvious thing to do is to do different exercises to hit the same body parts. For example, if you’ve been doing squats, try lunges or the leg press instead.
  • CROSS TRAIN. Remember that the goal of weight training, for most of us, is not to become a competitive bodybuilder, but for “real life” strength. Cross train your muscles, using circuit training, “boot camp” like classes, “core” classes, and other types of training that brings resistance work to a new level.
  • TRAIN YOUR WEAKNESSES. I’m a sucker for a good pull-up, because they are by far my worst exercise. But I manage to do several pull-ups every day in my quest to improve. What are your body’s weaknesses? Be honest about them, then hit those areas in the gym with rigor and fierce dedication.