Exercise, Flexibility/Stretching, General Health, Injuries, Personal Trainers, Q&A

Muscle Cramps During Exercise?

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 7.19.43 PM Why Do I Get Muscle Cramps When Exercising and What Can I do about it?

You’re really jammin’ on your workout and then suddenly it happens, your muscles just cramp up and you can’t go on. Maybe a charlie horse hamstring or a calf pulsation ..What gives? Well there are many factors that could cause it and that’s why I often ask my clients if they have eaten recently and I also review their training program and ask about their activities between training. Aside from medications (like those for high blood pressure and cholesterol) and nerve issues, there are many factors which can cause cramping including overexertion, dehydration/electrolyte imbalances, inadequate nutrition, or chronically tight muscles.

When someone is new to fitness, deconditioned, or working out harder than they usually do, muscles are subjected to forces much stronger than that which they are accustomed. As a result, they may go into a spasm as a protective mechanism to prevent injury. Isn’t the body marvelous! Okay, it may not feel maahvelous at the moment. If this is the situation the obvious solution is to get more fit- gradually. Things like interval training will build up your endurance: both cardiovascular and muscular.

Another factor which often leads to cramping is dehydration. Potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium in and out of the muscle and surrounding tissues maintain an electrical charge which allows it to do its work. When the levels of these minerals aren’t adequate or in the right amounts or the fluid which carries them in your body-H2O-water isn’t adequate, the muscle either can produce a weak contraction or make a contraction that fails to let go-a cramp.

Most people do get enough sugar and salts in their diet. Unless you are a serious athlete your issue is likely to be dehydration rather than inadequate salt intake. Make sure to hydrate before, during and after your workout. Consider avoiding caffeine and diuretics.

However, some people are sweating so much in their workout and having water but are not replenishing their sodium fast enough and water alone won’t relieve the issue. Typically this isn’t something happens in a one-hour training session but more of a marathon training of 90+ minutes of moderate to intense exertion. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that salt inhibits the message the brain sends to nerves which cause muscles to cramp. (It was a study where they made athletes cramp and then fed them pickle juice and it worked to stop the cramp within seconds). So you could try having something salty to relieve the cramping.

Low Potassium levels can contribute to cramping. Try eating potassium-containing foods such as banana, avocado or oranges at least once a day.  Calcium and Magnesium found in dairy and nuts can also help reduce cramping events. .

Some clients think that carbs are the enemy. However carbohydrates are the primary fuel for aerobic activities. The muscle can only store so much glycogen to fuel the workout and at a certain point it can become depleted. It takes about 60-90 minutes to deplete the glycogen stores but if we’re working very intensely it could become depleted in 45 minutes. Muscles need energy to contract and to relax.. So adequate fuel in the form of complex carbohydrates like whole grains and fruits can totally be part of your healthy lifestyle and may help performance.

Some researchers hypothesize that shortened/tight muscles- like shortened hamstrings from prolonged chronic sitting are more likely to cramp. The solution then is to become a regular stretcher. Things like standing toe touches, down dogs from yoga, lunges or similar modifications against a wall or using a chair etc can stretch the calf and hamstring area.

At this point you may be wondering why am I writing to you about cramps just after Passover?

I always think of cramps during Passover because while pregnant in 2002 or 2003,  I got the worst cramp that would not go away. I turned to Rabbi Blumenkrantz’ Passover book for a remedy in 2002 and on page 486 he writes, “ Vinegar is high in potassium and low in potassium levels;may cause some cramping, For best results, drink a mixture of 2tsp vinegar and one tsp of honey in a glass of warm water.”  Worked like a charm.

If you have fitness questions that need answers, write to me Kayla@getfitwithkayla.com


Personal Trainers

TRX Training

I attended the TRX Suspension Training Course this past weekend.  KaylaTRX

Sometimes after a training course, you leave inspired, but your head is just spinning with such info-overload that you can’t really recall or apply what you know.  I wanted to avoid that overwhelmed kind of feeling, so I googled around the night before just to see if I could get a course outline or preview.  I just couldn’t find much out there aside from the TRX web site to reassure me about the course.

So this blog post is for you – the exercise enthusiast as well as the newbie to TRX and the seasoned Personal Trainer looking to diversify your modalities and help distinguish/boost your personal brand and anyone else who is considering taking a TRX suspension training course.

Recommendations to help you juice your dollar for the experience

I did a few things which I would recommend other people do before attending, besides getting a good night’s sleep and eating well/packing a decent lunch… I took a few classes in TRX and ordered one for home use and familiarized myself with some of the more popular exercises to do on the TRX.  While you don’t have to have ever used a TRX before the workshop, I would recommend at least spending some time playing around with it or going to a class at a local fitness studio or bootcamp, simply to prevent that information overload head-spin experience because it is a lot of info. At the same time, the printed materials are wonderful and complete, so you can always go home and spend a couple hours or more pouring over them afterwards to help you piece it all back together.

What it was like to be there and what’s the content of the course?

Our instructor, Alex McLean, gained my respect immediately – from his warm welcome to his impressive credentials and his physical capabilities, and knowledge about training, group fitness and the TRX. Alex gave a focused, organized presentation and kept us riveted. There was not a moment of wasted time. A fantastic motivator, educator, entertainer and all around ring leader.

There were 20 people who attended. Of these, one was an exercise enthusiast and the rest were personal trainers with the majority possessing under 5 years of experience if I recall correctly.. two were studying for Trainer Certification, but had experience teaching fitness and there were some veteran trainers with 10-20 years experience. One person flew in from Arizona and another from Uruguay. There was an instructor from Orange County and a couple from San Louis Obispo.

Alex presented the material in a way that seemed unique and genuine and he wasn’t afraid to digress from the text to illustrate a form pointer or logical progression or make the information flow better and link concepts logically. While I didn’t manage to snag a course outline, I’m going to mention a few items from memory and the text that we did cover and discuss some things which weren’t covered in the course.

First, we took a few seconds for everyone to say their background and where they’re from, which was great for networking and generally just breaking the ice. Then we got down to anatomy…of the TRX. Using the same terms really helps when you have to explain to a client how to adjust the TRX quickly so you don’t have to demonstrate each exercise and you don’t have to have them stop working out to allow you to make adjustments to the equipment. The terminology lesson kept all of us trainers on the same page when discussing how we would use the TRX to perform exercises for different types of clients.

We also went over some differences between various TRX models. We had an overview of the history of the TRX and suspension training, along with its benefits. We learned some cool ways to get in and out of the foot cradles and when to position the TRX in the fully lengthened, shortened, mid-length and mid-calf position. We learned some of the why behind the training – how using multi-planar exercise is more functional for real world activities than typical machine based exercises, which generally work clients in the sagittal plane, thus continuing to allow muscle imbalances from sitting most of the day (car/desk). We placed the TRX into single handle mode so many times I could probably now do it correctly blindfolded.

We covered 3 principles of progression – making exercises harder by moving closer to the anchor on some exercises, for instance, changing stability (feet together is less stable than feet apart etc), and 6 problematic ways of using the TRX and how to correct those errors. Learning how to progress and regress exercises for the 3 client scenarios: the couch potato with an injury, a regular exerciser and an athlete looking to develop power were all really helpful. In addition, we covered many exercises I had not seen before on the TRX.  We paired off and were led through exercises where one partner would correct the other’s form on the TRX and we could see and feel where the issues could be for our clients.

Alex stopped the course at various times to point out a particular issue related to form on the TRX so that all of us could help that individual do the exercise better by decreasing the resistance or increasing it or changing their position or the position of the TRX. That part was fabulous. I actually found myself the subject of one of these exercise correction sessions when I couldn’t perform the TRX incline press – it was a cross between a pushup and a handstand pushup with 1 leg on the floor. I just lacked the upper body strength to handle the load in that position. I think everyone met their match, regardless of ability, at some point – some exercise that just totally whooped their butt big time. The entire group got to brainstorm how to either change my position or change the exercise so that I could perform that movement to exercise those specific muscles required.

Later, we were given an awesome total-body workout for about 20 minutes on the TRX to music which Alex cued and instructed verbally.  I was amazed to see how we could follow even without him stopping to demonstrate each exercise. As one of my fellow participants told me – It was the best full body TRX workout she’d ever had. Kicked my booty!

We had a break for lunch, did more exercises and learned some alignment cues for each. One of my favorite parts was taking one exercise like a chest press typically done on a weight bench, performing it on the TRX and making about 8 progressions/regressions of it…It helped me remember and link the various exercises I learned to ones I already knew – the chest press and see how there are various ways to make that exercise more or less challenging by changing foot or hand positions, length of straps, and stability…and what I like about doing this exercise in the TRX as opposed to a bench is that it requires much more core stability in any of the positions and that’s functional training, because real life generally doesn’t isolate muscles.

It became apparent even after covering most of the book that we were just brushing the surface of the amount of exercises that could be performed with this tool and that it was up to us as trainers to create appropriate programs for our clients using the knowledge we already have as trainers. In other words, now that we are more familiar with the TRX, and we have our training background, we need to apply that knowledge to program design. It was super fun to have a break-out session and as a group, design a program for a client scenario—ours was Homer Simpson – a non-regular exerciser with a prior back injury…and then in teams of two, present one of those exercises to the group.

I did expect some sort of sales pitch going into the workshop because it was a workshop on one piece of equipment.  That pitch was about the CORE and how to market yourself using the CORE. One of the trainers in our group mentioned how he had purchased a TRX t-shirt and was stopped 3 times by people wanting to know more. That was cool. Yep, I bought a shirt. Nobody has asked me about the TRX while I was wearing it yet though.

I loved how we weren’t totally on our own after the workshop! Alex emailed the exercise list we had created for our imaginary client scenarios and the exercises in our group workout that he made for our workshop. I also got an email from someone at TRX offering support. That’s awesome. I also made some FB connections among other participants – great for networking.

I was concerned after the workshop if I sent my clients, they might feel overwhelmed by technical jargon or being surrounded by trainers so I emailed Judi – the 60-something fitness enthusiast to ask her how she felt about the experience. She absolutely loved it and felt inspired to learn more. She felt warmly accepted by the trainers and was grateful. Alex didn’t make her give an exercise presentation to the group or anything like that. She enjoyed learning about how most of our exercises work in the sagittal plane and how we can work in all planes of motion on the TRX. She was particularly impressed that Alex uses it with an 80-something year old wheelchair bound client who wants to maintain mobility – hello couch potatoes…now what’s your excuse?

So it sure seems like everything including the kitchen sink was in there! There were some things noticeably not covered though.

The burning question- Did we learn how to use it as a sexual aid? No. Though I am still convinced if used regularly it should make you better in bed – every exercise is a moving plank right!  Just checking if you are still reading. But I digress…

We were not given a list of specific contra-indicated exercises. We learned that for an exercise to qualify as suspension training, one limb was supported by the TRX and the other was on the floor, and each exercise was to be a moving plank..For those Personal Trainers and Group X instructors like me whose education included warnings from your certification agency that  “you can get your assets sued if you do certain danger-prone exercises like squats below 90 degrees or dead lifts etc.” kind of caution…or “make sure your heels hit the floor during the jumping jack or you will fail” … just know there was nothing of the sort at the TRX training.

I found that some of these training rules apply to suspension training, some don’t.  For instance, you aren’t perpendicular to the floor in a TRX squat, so you probably could go deeper safely… You will have to find that Goldilocks “just right” spot for your client by relying on your expertise and knowledge of your client and the movement pattern you want them to accomplish and the muscles you want them to engage when determining what’s right for them.

Speaking of that “just right” level of intensity, I knew I would likely be sore the next day because I would be doing movements in a new way that’s not typical in my regular routine. I didn’t expect to find myself not strong enough to do certain movements in certain positions.

I felt a grinding sensation in one hip flexor during my atomic sit-up and decided to back it off a bit on the intensity and change my position. The TRX, like any exercise modality, does have the potential to be something you could become injured on and it does use muscles in conjunction in a way you do not use them on other pieces of equipment.  Going through the movement myself and feeling the changes with another set of trained eyes pointing out the issues was very valuable.  Many of us have developed muscle imbalances and areas of weakness in our body mechanics that need to be addressed and the TRX could help us find those areas and eliminate them. Having a qualified trainer to guide you in a new TRX exercise so you don’t go too far too fast, and insure your alignment is correct, really can prevent a possible injury.

If you want to try out a few moves on the TRX, please contact me via my Facebook page.

If you would like to purchase your own TRX, go to the TRX Training Site.

Personal Trainers

Signs Your Personal Trainer Might Be a Dumbbell – Part 4

So, you decided to shell out the bucks for a personal trainer?

This is the fourth and final part in our series of signs your dumbbellpersonal trainer might be a dumbbell, with tips #5, #6 & #7.  The first 3 parts can be found here and here and here.

You don’t jive with their vibe

Are they the drill sergeant and it makes you want to cry because they are yelling insults your way?

Are they so chipper all the time that its depressing or a total turn-off?

Do they seem knowledgeable, but they are as warm as a cold fish?

Do they seem friendly and approachable…a little too approachable?

The drill sergeant thing doesn’t work for most folks except maybe on TV or in the Army.  You want someone to support you, push you and keep you motivated, not put you down or insult you.

Find someone whose energy level and personality is to your liking.  This is someone you’re going to share your personal fears with about weight loss and your struggles with your saddlebags and the jello in your triceps.  You’re going to spend a lot of time putting your trust in this professional, so you need to feel comfortable with them.

Speaking of comfort level.  If at any time a trainer touches you in any way that makes you uncomfortable, you need to tell them so.  If their sense of personal space is consistently encroaching upon yours or they are inappropriate, suggestive, give you the willies for some unexplained reason etc…trust your gut and go find another trainer!

They don’t look the part

Sometimes that trainer who appears about 10 lbs overweight may have successfully battled their own eating disorder that previously had them weighing in at 100+ lbs over what you see them at, so although they don’t look like a Chippendale’s dancer, they might be just the inspiration you need.

However, it can and should be hard to put your trust in someone who has never remotely been where you are trying to go in your fitness journey.  ’Nuf said.

They are Cheap

If your trainer costs about the same as your babysitter or a car wash, there’s a good chance they’re not qualified.

Personal trainer certifications cost $400-$800 or more and have yearly continuing education costs to maintain.  Some trainers also have Bachelors and Masters Degrees (cha ching $$).  Liability insurance costs money.  Equipment and facilities cost money.  Advertising, printing, etc have their costs.  The government wants a share in the form of taxes.

This is just a ball park range, but in major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, an hour with a personal trainer can run you $50-200.

Personal Trainers

Signs Your Personal Trainer Might Be a Dumbbell – Part 3

So, you decided to shell out the bucks for a personal trainer?  This is the third part in our series of signs your personal trainer might be a dumbbell, with tips #3 dumbbelland #4.  The first two parts can be found here and here.

Your Trainer is selling you nutritional products or giving you a diet to follow.

Although Certified Personal Trainers do receive training on nutrition and can provide general nutrition advice such as that found in the public domain like choosemyplate.gov and they can teach you how to find foods lower on the glycemic index or how soon before working out you should eat or what percentage of your diet should come from carbs or how to decipher a food label, they should not prescribe a diet.  They can share what they found works for themselves, but Registered Dietitians are the trained professionals who can prescribe a specific diet for you, not your trainer.

Likewise, pushing vitamins, or energy drinks, shakes and the like might be a nice money making proposition for some trainers, taking these types of things should be discussed with your Doctor.  Just because “Company X” made a study to show their product will make you thinner doesn’t make it healthy and doesn’t necessarily make that claim true.

Be your own skeptical scientist and make sure whatever study was done wasn’t carried out by the manufacturer of the product they’re trying to sell.  Let’s get some objectivity…And let’s get a trainer who stays within their scope of practice.  Ask your Physician before taking vitamins, supplements or other products to make sure they are right for you and are appropriate given any other medications or things you are currently taking etc.

Your Trainer Isn’t “There”

They answer their cell phone in the middle of your sessions.

They are looking everywhere in the room except at you and the muscles you’re working.

They are counting your reps, but they aren’t talking you through the movement or helping you focus on proper form and breathing.

They chit chat so much that you’re captivated by their amazing personality, but you don’t have time to work your muscles during your session.

They are so busy talking about themselves that they don’t really HEAR you whether it’s an emotional block you are having with your nutritional goals or your workout program or an injury you’re working around and they won’t stop when you really have had enough.

Our final installment, Part 4, is coming soon with the last 3 tip-offs.

Personal Trainers

Signs Your Personal Trainer Might Be a Dumbbell – Part 2

So, you decided to shell out the bucks for a personal trainer?  This is the second part in our series of signs your personal trainer might be a dumbbelldumbbell.  The first part can be found here.

Tipoff #2!

Your routine is the same each time you see them or is the same as every other client you have seen them train

A good trainer will provide a program uniquely individualized for your unique needs, abilities and likes/dislikes.  If you hate running, your trainer might first try and discern if perhaps your improper footwear or form might be causing you discomfort and therefore a lack of enjoyment from the sport and have you give it a go with those tweaks…but otherwise if you hate running, there are so many other forms of cardio exercise your trainer could work into your program instead that there’s little excuse for them continuing to give you exercises you dislike.  That’s not going to keep you working out as a lifestyle!

While we are speaking of a program designed for you…did your trainer begin with an assessment of your current abilities?  If not, run away from him/her fast.  It’s pretty hard to know how far to push your client if you don’t know what their base starting point is.  That could be dangerous.  If your trainer doesn’t know what your goals or limitations are, they can’t build an appropriate program for you.

If you have a specific issue or goal, make sure that your trainer understands and knows how to approach that goal.  If you are training for a triathlon or you just recovered from having a baby, make sure the trainer knows what issues are specific to that circumstance.  Often, trainers have different areas of expertise (athletes, post-natal Moms, children, seniors).  Make sure the trainer you hire is familiar with your issues.

Personal Trainers

Signs Your Personal Trainer Might Be a Dumbbell – Part 1

So, you decided to shell out the bucks for a personal trainer.  Maybe you are new to exercise and have been sedentary fordumbbell a while, or you’re coming off of an injury, or your doc told you its time to lower your cholesterol by exercising.

Perhaps it’s to break through a plateau you can’t beat on your own, or you simply want someone to hold you accountable.

Whatever the reason for hiring the trainer, you want to make sure you are getting what you’re paying for: results.

The wrong trainer can not only be costly in terms of time and money lost but it can even be bad for your health and cause injury—even death.

Here’s the first tipoff that your trainer might be a dumbbell:

They Aren’t Certified

Did you know that in the State of California, anyone can call themselves a personal trainer?

That’s right.  Your hairdresser needs a license.  Your accountant needs to pass an exam to practice, but a trainer who has the potential to make you sore, injured or worse needs no license, no degree, and no certification to practice.  Nevertheless, you should look for one who is Certified!

Yeah, but he/she is HOT and obviously knows how to achieve a good body, just look at him!

No.  This isn’t proof that he/she knows how to work YOU out appropriately. In fact, it may not even be proof that they know how to work themselves out appropriately. They may have muscle imbalances your untrained eye didn’t detect that could make them a walking time bomb for an injury. They may know how to achieve their particular look, but it may take them living a lifestyle you couldn’t sustain in order to do so.  Perhaps they know how to work themselves out by pushing really hard with heavy weights, but they have no idea how to safely start out someone who is deconditioned – and that could be very dangerous to your health!

They may not know proper form and body mechanics or how to work around your specific injuries.  So while they obviously should look the part to some degree….HELLO, they spend their day in the gym, so they should look like they actually break a sweat from time to time when they’re there.  The physique of your trainer shouldn’t be the litmus test of their knowledge or ability as a trainer.

Even though I spent plenty of time in the weigh room and read quite a few books and articles about fitness and diet over years, there were some skills I needed to learn.  Studies for my Certification lasted about 10 months and taught me things like important signs and symptoms of cardiovascular disease and at what point I need to work with a client’s physician when designing an appropriate program specifically for them.  I learned more anatomy and kinesiology than I ever thought I would have a use for, so that I could communicate effectively with other healthcare professionals when designing programs for my clients.  I was taught how to work around most common injuries to the back, knees, and shoulders on all kinds of equipment and for a wide variety of age groups and abilities. I became educated on how to design safe and effective workouts for people who aren’t built like me and for people who have different goals than me – for older people, frail people, people who want really big muscles, people with specific diseases and how to progress them safely.  More importantly, I learned which things to avoid for certain individuals in order to prevent injury or even death.

OK, so you get it – they should be Certified..but by whom?  They should be certified by a third party accredited reputable agency like DETC or NCCA.  Some of these Certification Agencies include ACE, NASM, ACSM, and AFAA.  These organizations have third party proctored exams and a long history and good reputation in the fitness industry.

I’m not concerned with whether the trainer took a year or a weekend to pass their exam or whether they did it online or in a classroom or a 3 day seminar.  I’ve seen debates about this on the ‘net and I don’t think it matters how long or in what format.  I’m just interested in whether they were certified from a reputable agency.  A bicep is still a bicep and you work it pretty much the same ways no matter who certifies you.  Some will have more of a physical therapy approach, others more focused on safety, and some more scholarly and research-driven approach but the information is generally going to be the same, so just make sure your trainer has the information behind them to give you a safe and effective workout.

By the way, you can call these agencies to make sure the trainer really IS certified currently.  These certifications must be maintained by the trainer continuing their education and sometimes passing exams every year or two to be sure they are working with the most current up to date information and industry standards.  The trainer should also have current CPR and First Aid Certification.


The next Sign Your Personal Trainer Might Be a Dumbbell is Coming Soon!