These ‘killer balls’ are brutally good for a workout with my personal trainer


No, that’s not me but that is similar to the heavy ball I use when I workout at Total-U-Fitness. It’s brutal but it does the job.

It’s amazing what you can do with a rubber ball. I remember when I was young and Wham-O came out with its Super Balls. You slammed the ball on the concrete and were amazed at how high it bounced. My personal trainer, Michelle Myatt, at Total-U-Fitness, has me bounce rubber balls, too.

These aren’t Super Balls. In fact, I call them killer balls. She has several sizes of killer balls. Most are black with a color accent, such as red or blue. The largest killer ball is about the size of a basketball. That’s the blue one. The red one is about the size of a volleyball, though you’ll break your arm before you serve this ball over a net.

I call them killer balls because they’re solid rubber. In other words, these are not feather-light balls you toss around while sipping a Mai Tai on the beach. If someone dropped one off the roof, you wouldn’t want it to fall on your head. But, that’s not why I call them killer balls.

I call them killer balls because, the way Michelle has me work with them, they’re brutal. Yes, sometimes she has me bounce one of the killer balls. It’s nothing like bouncing a Super Ball though. With killer balls, Michelle has me raise my arms over my head and swing down hard to slam the ball on the floor.

Frankly, the bounce factor isn’t that great. Therefore, to ensure the ball comes up high enough to catch, I have to slam it with pretty much all my might. It can’t be done several times without raising my heart rate.

Other times, Michelle has me bounce the ball off the wall. Sometimes the bounce is chest high and sometimes higher. To make matters worse, I have to bounce the ball while skipping to the side and moving my way down the wall. The wall at Total-U-Fitness is three-football-fields long.

OK, that’s an exaggeration. However, that’s how it feels after I’ve bounced the ball down the wall and back.

On other occasions, I don’t have to bounce the ball; I merely hold the ball. Sounds better, right? Not so fast. I have to hold the ball while doing squats. With each squat, I extend my arms and hold the ball out in front of me. I’m guessing she has other unique techniques for using the balls that we haven’t gotten to yet. I’m sure I can’t wait.

The reality is that, whether I bounce the ball or hold the ball, when Michelle has me use the ball, inevitably, I work up a sweat.

I’d like to resent her for that but I can’t. The truth is, that’s what I came for – to work up a sweat. I’ve worked out on my own in the past and noticed that I had difficulty working up a sweat. I had a sense that this indicated I wasn’t getting the most out of the experience.

I’m fairly sure that, when I work up a sweat, I’m raising my heartbeat, too. Raising my heartbeat indicates, to me, that I’m exercising my heart, which I think is a very good idea. By translation, that means, working with Michelle, is good for my heart and my pores no matter how much I complain in the process.

Working out with a personal trainer means that I use my time effectively. I suspect it would take me a couple hours on my own to gain a portion of the benefits of half an hour working out under Michelle’s tutelage. It also means that I’m working out safely.

The other day, someone told me how, when they work out, they’re sore for two or three days afterwards. That fits my memory of working out on my own. I’ve noticed that, though I may feel a little sore the next day, I’m never a basket case after working out with Michelle. She knows how far to safely push me.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop complaining when Michelle pushes me. I figure it’s her job to push me and my job to complain. Or, maybe I just like to complain when she pushes me. Don’t tell her I said that, though. She’s liable to push me harder.

I’m so cool … ‘cause my personal trainer has me stretch properly with workouts


This is an example of static stretching, which you’ll want to do after you work out. Before your work out, you’ll want to do active stretching – stretching with movement but without holding the stretch.

Michelle Myatt is very big on the importance of stretching when she provides personal training at Total-U-Fitness. As my personal trainer, it’s one aspect of my personal training experience that I appreciate. It helps to ensure that I’ll get the most out of exercising while reducing any risk that I might get hurt in the process.

Over the years, when, off and on, I’ve challenged myself with an exercise routine, I always made a point of stretching before and after each workout. I can’t say I did it right, but at least I tried. I tried because I heard somewhere that this is important and obediently included it in my fitness regimen. Turns out, there’s more to it than I realized.

I’ve noticed that, other than walking a bit before each workout with Michelle, she doesn’t have me stretching out and holding. Recently, I came across an article on the subject that has helped to explain why. I sent the article to Michelle and her husband, Tony Myatt, her partner at Total-U-Fitness and another personal trainer. The article, from the USA Today, clarifies that there is a right way to stretch and a wrong way to stretch. Which is right and which is wrong also depends on when you’re stretching.

Tony replied to the article with an enthusiastic – “This is spot on.”

The article explains, “When people stretch to the maximum, they are more likely to pull a muscle.”

As for stretching before exercising, Kieran O’Sullivan, an exercise expert at the University of Limerich in Ireland, said, “When you stretch before exercising, your body may think it’s at risk of being overstretched. It compensates by contracting and becoming more tense [sic].”

Tony said that may be a little misleading for the layman who reads the article. The point is that you want to do dynamic stretching before you exercise and static stretching afterwards. The difference is whether you hold the stretch or not. What O’Sullivan is describing is static stretching.

“When you hold the stretch you’re elongating your muscles,” Tony said. “Before working out, you want to do dynamic stretching, active stretching, stretching with movement. You’re warming up the muscles – preparing them for dynamic movement.”

An example of dynamic stretching is to stand next to a wall with one hand braced against the wall as you swing your leg through and back. While you don’t want to bounce into the stretch, as long as you keep moving, you’re doing fine. But, if you swing your leg out and hold it, now you’re doing static stretching – not a good idea before you workout.

That brings up a key goal of stretching – increasing flexibility. That’s an important factor for me. In fact, it was one of my stated goals when I started working with Michelle. And it’s something I achieve through static stretching at the end, and only at the end, of each workout.

I told her how Denny Norton, the owner of Performance Unlimited and a friend to us both, had helped me find a new used car. It’s a sporty thing – a 1993 Dodge Stealth.

I look really cool driving this car or, at least, that’s the story I’m selling between my ears. The first week I had the car, a young man who saw me drive by hollered, “Nice car.” No one yelled that when I drove by in my previous car – a 1996 Ford Contour.

As cool as I may, or may not, look driving my car, I look proportionately silly getting in and out. The thing sits so low to the ground it’s almost as though I’m sitting on the ground. To get in and out, I have to plop down on the seat with my right foot inside. I then have to grab my left knee and pull my left leg into the vehicle. If there is a car parked next to me, and I can’t open the door far, I tend to look doubly goofy on egress and entry.

My decision to work with Michelle was not driven by a choice to either get in shape or buy a different car. However, it would be nice not to look quite as ridiculous getting in and out of my car. Already, after working with Michelle for only a couple months, I’m seeing a significant difference. My flexibility is definitely improving. Therefore, my self-perceived cool factor is on the rise, whether I’m driving or parking.

Of course, a friend once sent a test on the Internet where I could find out if I was cool while in high school. I clicked on the button to take the test and it took me to a page that read, “You’ve failed. If you were cool in high school, you wouldn’t have needed a test now to know it.”

For more information, call Tony or Michelle at 815-530-6368.

Thank goodness personal trainer reminds me to breathe while working out


Here I am working out recently. OK, that’s not really me but, like me, this guy is breathing while exercising. Sometimes, I do that, too, when I work out.

I’m learning a lot working with personal trainer Michelle Myatt of Total-U-Fitness in Ringwood. I’m learning the right way to perform various exercises, such as punching a heavy bag, squatting and more. I’ve learned how to stretch at the beginning and end of every workout session.

Doing these procedures correctly is vital. Not only does this help me to get the most out of my workouts, it also ensures that I won’t get hurt in the process.

Some aspects of performing exercises correctly come easier than others. Michelle is often reminding me to soften my knees as I workout. Of course, she’s not talking about sprinkling my knees with meat tenderizer. Rather, she says I should avoid locking my knees.

One aspect of working out that I’ve struggled with is something of a surprise for me. It’s something I learned to do at a very young age and I wouldn’t have expected to have trouble with this. And I mean really, really young. It’s something I do almost every day, whether I workout or not. But, somehow, when I start to workout, I frequently forget to do this important aspect of each procedure.

Michelle is prone to remind me. I’ll be punching the heavy bag, or walking while curling dumbbells and she’ll have to say, “Breath.”

I really didn’t expect that someone would have to remind me to breath. After all these years, breathing comes almost naturally for me. In fact, once I learned how to breathe, I can’t recall my parents ever telling me, “Richard, you need to breathe.” They assumed I was breathing and, as long as I didn’t turn blue, they trusted me to handle this on my own.

My parents, apparently, had more trust in me than does Michelle. She simply doesn’t assume I’ll breathe unless she reminds me. What’s more, she will occasionally give me instructions on how to breath. “I-n-h-a-l-e … e-x-h-a-l-e … i-n-h-a-l-e … e-x-h-a-l-e.”

I really thought I had that part down. Of course, it may be that she wants me to inhale at a particular time and exhale at a particular time. I have noticed a possible correlation between the times that she says “I-n-h-a-l-e” and when she says “E-x-h-a-l-e.”

I considered that this could all be in my mind so I began to observe carefully what was happening when she said “I-n-h-a-l-e” and when she said “E-x-h-a-l-e.” Sure enough, by coincidence or design, she frequently said “E-x-h-a-l-e” when I was contracting on the weight bearing part of an exercise. Likewise, she always said “I-n-h-a-l-e” when I was letting my arms down from a curl or otherwise recovering or releasing from exertion.

Finally, to clear the matter up once and for all, I asked her: “Michelle, now that I seem to have mastered this breathing business, is there a particular reason you want me to inhale at certain times and exhale at others?”

Turns out, as I deduced from Michelle’s reply, oxygen is a good thing to have when you exercise. It’s even good other times of the day. But, as Michelle explained, when working out, it’s a good idea to bring oxygen in to mix with your bloodstream. By inhaling after exerting energy, I increase the flow of oxygen into my blood.

I’ve decided that this is a good thing, you know, having some oxygen with my workouts. So, I’m determined to breathe with or without instruction. Unfortunately, I get so caught up in the other aspects of each exercise that I forget to breathe. Fortunately, Michelle is there to remind me. And if I don’t listen, I’m hoping she’ll catch me before I hit the ground.

Stress doesn’t stand a chance when personal training calls endorphins to the rescue

ImageA fitness program, such as the personal training I receive at Total-U-Fitness in Ringwood, helps to knock off those extra pounds. It’s also good for your heart and your health. More than just your physical health, however, it’s also good for your state of mind.

These days, with the economy creeping along like a slug, with fewer Americans working full-time jobs compared to those working part-time positions, and a lot of people out of work altogether, folks are often feeling a bit of stress. In fact, we tend to feel stress even with a thriving economy.

Tight purse strings, marital conflict, incorrigible neighbors, teenage offspring – these are just some of the issues in our lives that can bend the stress-o-meter needle to the high side. Lately, I’ve felt a twinge or two of stress in my life, too. I’ve discovered that a fitness program is one way to help deal with this stress.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries.”

It would be nice if we could get our endorphins in a drink or as a side dish with dinner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Endorphins do their happy magic when I get off my butt and move. The problem is, the more stress I feel, the harder it is to motivate myself to get off my posterior and do something. Stress breeds lethargy. The paradox is that, if I get started, I’ll soon have the oomph to carry on. That’s not always easy to see sitting on the couch watching TV.

Another way to look at it is that stress is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more stress takes hold the harder it is to break away from its grip. The harder it is to break away from stress, the more stress you feel.

No matter how much I whine when I show up for my personal training sessions with Michelle, by the end of my workout, not only am I happy that it’s over, I’m also happy that I did it. There’s a sense of accomplishment but, apparently, that’s not the only reason I feel good. As it turns out, I’ve also awoken those dormant endorphins.  

Proper fitness attire is good for your workout, and keeps you out of hot water with your personal trainer

This will teach me to come to fitness class without my proper workout clothes and water bottle.

This will teach me to come to fitness class without my proper workout clothes and water bottle.

If I were in grade school, a note would have gone home to my parents:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Rostron,

For the second week in a row, you son, Richard, failed to bring the proper equipment to class. If this flagrant disregard of the rules continues, Richard will have to stay after class to clean erasers.


Richard’s Teacher

Yes, it’s true. For two weeks in a row, I showed up for my personal fitness training at Total U Fitness without proper attire and without a bottle of cool water. No, Michelle Myatt, my personal trainer does not expect me to bring the note back signed by my parents and, frankly, I don’t think she has erasers since I haven’t seen a blackboard in the fitness center. In fact, the note she slipped into the leather bag I use to carry my workout clothes was at least somewhat tongue in cheek.

I say ‘somewhat’ tongue in cheek because, I’m sure she did it with a smile but I’m also sure she wants me to show up for class prepared, and that, in this case, means wearing proper footwear.

The first week of class, I wore an old pair of gym shoes and their age was apparent in the way they hurt my feet. Michelle suggested I replace the shoes. Unfortunately, I forgot and worked out the next week in my stocking feet. I thought that went OK and figured I could do that the next week. Michelle had different ideas on the subject.

In particular, she told me that she had to change my routine those days because it wasn’t OK to do some of the techniques without shoes.

The need for the water bottle is obvious. When I work out at Total U Fitness I work up a sweat. Perspiration is the body’s way of cooling itself using internal fluids secreting onto the skin. As moisture leaves the body it requires replenishment. If the water is not replaced, the body becomes dehydrated.

When I spoke with Michelle about the shoes, she said I didn’t need to go out and purchase an expensive pair of gym shoes. Rather, the focus she suggested was on something that fit correctly and offered support, including arch support.

This was good news as I, personally, consider the purchase of shoes with someone’s name or a fancy swish on the side a waste of money. Gym shoes are not status symbols in my eyes. And, since I seldom wear gym shoes otherwise, the shoes I purchased from a local department store will do fine, I’m sure. In fact, the shoes I chose were discounted and cost a little more than a meal at McDonald’s, which Michelle doesn’t recommend. Of course, that’s a topic we discussed in another recent post.