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April 4, 2013

Having a Healthy Relationship with the Scale

Filed under: General Wellness — Darin Starr @ 3:00 am

In our quest to lose weight and improve our overall health, we often look for some kind of metric to measure our success.  Over time you will notice your clothes fit differently, you’ll find you can lift more on certain exercises, or you can do specific tasks that you couldn’t do before – or at least have an easier time doing something you could do before.

All of these are acceptable, and in fact great, ways to measure your progress.

Because of how easy, convenient, concrete, and absolute it is, many of us instead rely on the scale to measure our success.  This is, as you could imagine, a less productive way to measure your progress.  Not only because the only thing the scale is capable of telling you is your body’s relationship with the gravitational pull of the earth, but also because using it to get an accurate and fair assessment of your progress is very difficult.

First, always weigh yourself at the same time of day – ideally the very first thing you do in the morning.  This way, your body is in a consistent and predictable state every time.

Your weight will go through normal daily fluctuations as well.  Even though over all you may be “losing weight”, you will have days where you may be a little heavier than the day before.  These peaks and valleys can be emotionally stressful if you weigh yourself one day on a “valley”, and then not again until 2 weeks later on a “peak” day.  While you may be losing weight, those 2 numbers can give you a very different impression.

Understanding how your body operates is essential.  If you weigh yourself every day, you are essentially just measuring your fluid retention on a daily basis.  Variances in your activity, food intake, and water intake will cause that to fluctuate wildly which affects the number on the scale.  A more accurate take would be to watch your weight measurements taken on a regular basis over time.  This way the peaks and valleys of your measurements will smooth out and a trend can be established which will prove your success.

With all of that being said, I maintain that there are still much easier ways to gauge your progress, as mentioned above.  Take it from this trainer – the one who doesn’t own a scale!

March 26, 2013

Heavy lifting how-to’s!

Filed under: Exercise,General Wellness — Darin Starr @ 12:11 pm

When I speak with people the conversation will invariably turn to nutrition, exercise, or fitness in general at some point, if even just for a few minutes.  Things start out very innocently, “Hi, I’m Matt, what do you do, Darin?”, and before we knew it I’m listening to a verbal food and exercise log of the past 2 weeks of Matt’s life.  I don’t mind at all – I really love what I do and it gives me the opportunity to offer a little informal advice and also pick up and identify some trends in the “non-personal training client” demographic, albeit with a small sample size.

The trend I’m noticing, especially among females, is the mindset that losing weight comes from starving yourself and doing more cardio.  I don’t judge anyone based on their attempts to lose weight because hey, at least you’re trying something.  And our society has promoted those 2 items as being the key to weight loss for quite some time – unfortunately, our society doesn’t know diddly squat about healthy and effective weight loss.

Here is a more balanced approach:  healthy weight loss is achieved through dietary control, weight lifting, and cardiovascular exercise – in that order of importance.  Without a proper diet you are spinning your wheels – you’ve probably heard the adage “you can’t outwork a bad diet” and that is 100% correct.  Weight lifting builds muscle, provides continuity and balance to the body, and increases your self-awareness so you move better, feel better, have less chronic pain, and burn fat more effectively because of the shift in body composition.  Cardiovascular exercise not only makes for a healthier heart, but provides a little extra caloric burn that should be a supplement to your weight loss efforts, not the entire focus of them.

The problem is that weight lifting can be complicated and intimidating.  So, you could hire a personal trainer (watch as I try to talk you out of that….keep waiting….ok, that’s not happening), or do some research on your own to find lifting programs that are compatible with your goals.  They are out there!  Another option would be to hire a coach (I do this as well) that can provide instruction on some essential moves and also write up a program specifically for you.  When I coach people, I meet with them less frequently (every 2-4 weeks) to check-in, see how they are doing with the written program, offer some changes and provide instruction on new exercises.  If you don’t have accountability issues and can get yourself to the gym on a regular basis, this could be a great option for you.

In an attempt to demystify 2 of my favorite exercises, I made the 2 following videos for the deadlift and the squat.  These are the “cliff notes” version of what you might get in a coaching session – both of these exercises are fantastic for total body development, and a program that I might write for weight loss would very likely revolve around these 2 movements as the main program components.  Mastering them would never be a bad idea!

December 13, 2012

Rebecca F.

Filed under: Testimonial — Darin Starr @ 6:01 pm

Few decisions can be filed under “best decision ever”, and working with Darin Starr is one of those decisions. From day one he makes it very clear that whatever you need and whatever questions you have, that he is in your corner and you aren’t doing this alone.

I met with Darin at the end of May but didn’t begin training with him until August. The consultation was much different than what I imagined. He wasn’t trying to sell anything, he gave me solid ideas to begin working out and eating healthier. Then sent me off with instructions to call, e-mail, or text him with any question or concern I had. His want to motivate and help you succeed is apparent from the minute you meet him.

Darin raises the bar in all aspects of personal training. Not only does Darin have a wide array of exercises in his arsenal, he is very well versed in nutrition. He set me up with a solid, clearly laid out plan with numerous ideas for meals. How many calories I should be eating, what types of foods I should be eating, simple ideas to prepare those foods, alternatives to foods I don’t like, etc. As a full time student with a part time job, convenience is key. One of the great things about Darin is his understanding. He has never made me feel guilty, embarrassed or made me feel the need to lie about what I’ve eaten. After Thanksgiving he asked how I had been doing with my food choices. I was honest, and told him I had been eating out too much and not been making great choices. The first thing he said wasn’t, “well then we are wasting our time here”, or “do you really need to be eating that junk?”. It was “what can I do to help?”.

During our sessions, I have his complete attention. He makes it clear, you are his priority. If I say “hey, my arms are super sore from the last session”, he gives me a fist pound then takes me through some stretches to loosen them up. He encourages open communication; he asks on a regular basis “how was that?” and expects an honest answer. In my case that can range anywhere from “I don’t ever want to do that again”, to “I didn’t hate that”.

From August to present, our sessions have been varied. I’ve been working out with him anywhere from two to three times per week, and every session has included at least one new exercise or a new variation. Before Darin, I could have told you probably two basic exercises and preformed even less than that correctly. I have the knowledge base now, that if I wanted to I could continue this journey on my own. I know what I should be eating, exercises for specific muscle groups, how many sets/reps I should be doing and proper form for those exercises.

It makes a world of difference having a professional like Darin in your corner. There is no guessing game as to what you should be doing. If you’re looking for someone to help you reach your goals, even if you don’t know what exactly they may be, Darin Starr is THE best choice. I’ve lost weight, gained muscle, knowledge and confidence. You can’t and won’t find a more knowledgeable, personable, comical, and genuinely good hearted personal trainer within 500 miles, so stop looking and give him a call!

December 12, 2012

Vanessa F.

Filed under: Testimonial — Darin Starr @ 2:39 am

Darin Starr is hands down the best personal trainer in Asheville. You really won’t find anyone more committed to your success. When I first entertained the thought of a personal trainer, I was really concerned because I hadn’t done any kind of exercise for any serious period of time. I also had some back problems (I had scolosis and had harrington rods placed when I was 13) and going in to the consultation I didn’t even know if he could help me. I went in the consultation prepared for the worst, that whoever this guy was, he was going to belittle me for the way I was eating and lack of exercise in my life and I was prepared to listen to every sales pitch in the book. I got the complete opposite. He seemed to really care about what I had to say and not one time did I feel like he was selling me anything. We talked about my health history and past history with diets and exercising, and he gave me solid ideas on what to change, why I should change it and what the benefits would be all during the consultation.

My sessions are something I always look forward to. They’re very, very challenging but they’re also very rewarding and even fun. Darin has a way of balancing the fun with the necessary, but still making it enjoyable. He really works hard to make you feel like his only client. I really thought that working out with a complete stranger would be awkward or embarrassing, and it hasn’t ever been that way, even once. He has this uncontainable enthusiasm for what he does, that I honestly have never seen before. It’s also contagious. He makes you want to do the best you can, and you have a great time doing it. He’s very down to earth and it’s like he has a never ending stream of jokes and bad puns, that you still somehow laugh at even in the middle of doing squats. When I thought “personal trainer” I thought of the stereotypical man who had a timer, clipboard and bullhorn complete with the “you must suffer” attitude. Darin has, on numerous occasions, gotten down and done whatever he was asking me to do with me. He doesn’t yell if you don’t want him to, and as far as I know there isn’t a bullhorn in his bag of tricks. You will never find anyone more encouraging, either. During our sessions, he always makes a point to talk nutrition. I’ve never felt like I had to lie to him if I had gotten off track during the weekend and I’ve never felt like he was judging me for anything I’ve eaten. I’m a very picky eater and he’s been great about working with my food preferences while still encouraging me to try new things. He is always honest with you, and he wants honest feedback from you. If you don’t like something, he’s always willing to talk and make changes to the plan if necessary. He also is always mindful of my back and other various issues that sometimes even I forget about.

In working with Darin for 6 months, I’ve lost 55 pounds, gained muscle and the knowledge that when I do go to the gym on my own that I can exercise safely and effectively. I also know more of what to eat, when to eat and why I should eat certain things before certain types of workouts. Before working with him, when I went to the gym I was limited in what I could do by what machines were available. Now, the only limit I have is time and my endurance. I know what exercises to do together, what weights are appropriate and how to get the most of my time in the gym. Darin doesn’t strive to make lifetime clients. In fact, he does everything he can to make sure you know how to do things safely on your own. He also makes himself readily available outside of our regular sessions, for any questions that come up or even a “hey, I’m hungry and the only thing I have access to is a vending machine, what would be a good choice?” text. I’ve probably emailed the man 100 times in 6 months asking questions about nutrition and things to do in the gym. He has the patience of a saint, as well. He’s happy to write workouts for you to do on your own time, and they’re equally as challenging as the ones you do in sessions with him.

All of the above can be summed up in 3 words. Darin is awesome. You really won’t find anyone better. Seriously, give him a call and at least talk to him. The only thing you have to lose is maybe some unwanted pounds and a few bad habits :)

December 11, 2012

Pam A.

Filed under: Testimonial — Darin Starr @ 8:06 pm

September 5, 2011, the day that changed my life and Personal Trainer, Darin Starr was the one person that would guide me along my journey. I was interested in seeking a trainer the year before but the time was not right. A year later I revisited the idea, searched online, and came across Darin Starr’s site FiveStarrFitness.com. I read all the material about three times and watched his online videos. It was like Darin was talking right to me, hitting on all the areas in my life that needed changing from the diet, food preparation and workouts. I immediately emailed him my interest and within a half an hour I received a response.

A Weight Watchers member since 2007, I had lost 25 pounds up until this point and knew I needed something extra. I needed someone to help guide and push me outside my comfort zone in both nutrition and an exercise program, someone to be accountable to, and someone that would be supportive and knowledgeable in my journey. This I found in Darin Starr during our first meeting and he has been guiding me for 15 months, and still going.

Darin provides a personalized plan of action which includes varied workouts of interval training, cardio and weightlifting, and a personal meal plan. For me simple food swaps, eating salads, and changing to a six meal a day plan to keep the metabolism up have made all the difference. I now work out three times a week and Love powerlifting. (Lift the weights ladies!) I even won a Biggest Loser contest at work with Darin’s guidance losing 21.8 pounds in eight weeks keeping to my meal plans and upping the exercise regimens. At my one year mark I had lost 40 pounds and four clothes sizes! Including Weight Watchers
that is a total of 65 pounds, yes!

Knowledge, you bet! Right at my one year anniversary I had to have shoulder surgery for arthritis on the clavicle area (not an injury mind you). Darin added exercises for the shoulder and back areas to strengthen the area before my surgery date. Surgery went well and during recovery he adjusted my workouts to protect the area and we concentrated on other areas instead, legs, abs, etc. Physical Therapy went well and the therapist was impressed with Darin’s knowledge and what we accomplished prior to surgery. Darin would add an exercise back into the program only after I would ask the therapist’s approval which enhanced the recovery. Two months later I was released from physical
therapy ahead of schedule to continue my home therapy, and we continued strengthening exercises in the gym. Three months later I am back to almost full strength, lifting again and released from my doctors care. Now I can resume a complete program to continue losing weight.

Thanks Darin! It’s a pleasure to come into my weekly sessions excited to do my workouts with the guidance and support you have given me. You lift me up when I am weary, help me meet challenges (even ones I ask for- and rein me in when needed), and I so enjoy the camaraderie at the gym. Your attentiveness to answer questions at any time and keep in touch with your clients through various media is an awesome bonus to your program.

I am so thankful I found Darin at that important moment in my life when I made a decision to change. It only took me 55 years to get to that point and now I know it is never too late to start changing one’s life.  It has been an enlightening 15 month journey and the ride is not over. He has taught me much about the drive and determination I have within, what I can do when I don’t set limits upon myself, and that I can make a difference by the actions I take concerning my health and well-being. So if you are looking for a personal trainer in Asheville, NC or for On-Line Training, give Darin Starr of FiveStarrFitness.com a good look, he’s Awesome! Did I mention he has a great personality to go with that awesomeness?

November 5, 2012

Making Your Cardio Work

Filed under: Exercise — Darin Starr @ 2:27 pm

You will find people (and trainers, and magazine articles) tell you all the time about how you can lose weight without spending endless hours on the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike by doing metabolic training or high-intensity intervals.  While this is true, often times some steady-state cardio is the right choice based on time of day, how you feel, and your energy levels.

What steady-state cardio does not mean is that it is leisurely.  You need to pick a level of intensity and stick with it.  I recommend 65-75% of your age-predicted maximum heart rate as a guide.  The math looks like this (uh oh, watch out):

( 220 – age ) * 0.65 = 65%

( 220 – age ) * 0.75 = 75%

Double-check yourself here:  I’m 35, so for me my 65-75% range would be 120-139.  I’d split the difference and say 130 is a reasonable target to maintain.  Now get yourself a continuous heart rate monitor (the kind with a chest strap) so you have at-a-glance access to your current heart rate.  Pick your favorite cardio apparatus, and get to work.

Now you may find yourself in a pickle – getting the machine to help you maintain that heart rate.  For example, I prefer to walk briskly rather than jog, but even at a steep incline it can be tricky to maintain a heart rate of 130.  I could temporarily bump it up to a jog to spike the heart rate and then resume my regular pace, but not only would I have to do that repeatedly, it’s a lot of button pushing and I’m not a fan of that.

So how do we make this work?  Time to get creative.

Ok, maybe not that creative.

There are many things you can do that are simple and effective to help keep your heart rate in the right zone:

  • Increase the pace.  If you’re walking, walk faster.  If you don’t feel you can sustain the faster pace long enough, reset your expectations and build up your time progressively.
  • Increase the resistance.  This could mean incline on the treadmill, or plain resistance on a bike or elliptical.
  • Incorporate an abdominal routine.  At specific intervals (60 seconds, 90 seconds, whatever), carefully dismount from your trusty steed and get down on the floor for some crunches, leg raises, full sit-ups, planks, side crunches, etc.  This spikes your heart rate AND gets your ab workout done at the same time.  Let’s hear it for efficiency!
  • Carefully dismount for pushups or burpees at pre-defined intervals, or as needed.  If I notice my heart rate dropping too low, I’ll jump off and knock out 5-10 burpees and viola, problem solved.
  • Isometrics.  Work through your upper body muscle groups and see how many you can isometrically flex at one time.  I’ll bring my hands in towards my chest and squeeze chest, shoulders, and biceps, then extend the arms and focus on triceps and my back.  This is a very quick, intense spike if you contract hard enough because of the blood flow these otherwise relaxing muscle groups are suddenly demanding.

Using these tricks you should have no problem keeping your heart rate in the right zone.  One of the biggest changes you can make to that end as well is ditching whatever book you’re reading and listen to some music instead.

Try out some of these tricks and let me know what you think!

October 8, 2012

Dick & Mibs (early 60′s)

Filed under: Asheville,Testimonial — Darin Starr @ 2:35 pm

What does it feel like to:

Be stronger than you were in your fourties

Have all the stamina you need to d what you want

Laugh when someone says “do you want help out with that?”

Live with so much less knee and back pain

Have a renewed view of life and the future

Understand more about our general health

Get on the floor and “rough-house” with your grandchildren

We know what this feels like everyday — thanks Darin!

September 27, 2012

Tire Flip Recap!

Filed under: Asheville,Exercise,Motivation — Darin Starr @ 12:06 pm

While it seems like it’s been forever since our Tire Flip fundraiser on Saturday, I’m only now getting around to summing it up in words.  It’s been that kind of week around here.  Busy busy busy!

All told it was a great turnout and we raised more than last year for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  Still waiting on the exact amount but I know we had some flippers working hard to get sponsored and the results paid off.

The flippin' crew

Everyone’s exact totals escape me at the moment, but I know Keith and I tied for 3rd with 109 flips in 5 minutes.  Ahead of us was fellow trainer Adam with 112, and taking home the grand prize of a rightfully inflated ego was boot camper Steve with 118 flips (back row center in the above picture)!  Way to show us all up Steve.  Next year, the bull’s eye is squarely on your back.  Or chest.  Take your pick.

Everyone who flipped last year also beat their previous mark, which is a great sign of the continuous improvement that regular training provides.

All of this is secondary to the fact that we raised some money for a great cause.  The fact that we were able to get people active and involved in their training for the event just makes it a win-win.

Until next year…

September 17, 2012

Tire Flip Training III – The Return!

Filed under: Asheville,Exercise,Motivation — Darin Starr @ 7:58 pm

Today’s weather in Asheville? Wet. Ideal for tire flipping? No. Should I do it anyway? You bet. Am I? No.

The weather combined with a weird schedule for the day makes the cross-town trip impractical, so I’m improvising. Keith (the owner of O3 Health & Fitness) came up with this earlier today so I thought I’d give it a shot.  Here goes:

0:40/0:20 interval timing for 5 rounds

On the 0:40 portion, perform a 135lb deadlift as many times as possible.

On the 0:20 portion, perform 3 burpees, and rest for the remaining time.

My nemesis

The 135lb is somewhat arbitrary.  It should be a weight that you can handle with minimal difficulty.  The real challenge with this workout comes from the pace.

For my 5 rounds I recorded 17, 14, 10, 10, and 9 reps on the deadlift.  The burpees were definitely looking a little iffy towards the end as well.

Wednesday’s practice session will need to be rescheduled or modified, as my training schedule that day has changed enough that I won’t be able to make the trip across town.  We’ll see what happens!

September 15, 2012

Tire Flip Training II – Recap

Filed under: Asheville,Exercise,Motivation — Darin Starr @ 12:11 pm

Yesterday I returned to the Riverside Drive gym to get in a little more flipping practice for the 22nd.  On Wednesday if you recall I went 1 minute on, 1 minute off for 5 minutes and totaled 116 flips.  Friday I cut the rest periods in half, so it was 1:00 on and 0:30 off for 5 rounds.  The results?

24, 24, 24, 23, 24 flips.

So my math skills are pretty amazing but I used a calculator to double check anyway – that’s 119!  Cut the rest in half, get in 3 more flips.  Following that recipe, I should be completely owning the competition come event day.  Unfortunately I think the formula breaks down eventually (something about lung capacity and desire to not die).

Next up?  Monday, when I cut the rest intervals down to 0:15.

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