Heavy Breathing

Heavy Breathing

You may hear that demanding male trainer at CBF shout “Breathe!” As if anybody needs to be reminded! If you’ve lived long enough to be there, you’ve lived long enough to know how to breathe, right?

Actually, during most of your daily life your breathing takes care of itself without you giving it a thought. However, during exercise, things are very different. Your body is under significant stress as your skeletal muscles, heart and brain demand oxygen and energy to fuel your movement.

Here are a few breathing techniques you can use to help yourself exercise effectively and safely.

lungsFirst, NEVER hold your breath. Sometimes people hold their breaths to get an extra push on a weight or max out the last ten seconds of the ropes. Don’t. Holding your breath can spike your blood pressure to dangerous levels because it restricts blood flow back to the heart, making it work even harder. Grunt, pant, gasp, but never stop breathing.

Second, when you are working with resistance, such as a kettlebell, machine, or tubes, exhale as you lift (when muscles contract) and inhale when lowering (when muscles stretch). For instance, when doing the kettlebell swing, exhale when you contract your glutes and hamstrings to send the bell up, then inhale as it swings down between your legs. When doing a lat pull down on the machine, exhale as you pull the weight down, inhale as it goes back up. Ditto with tubes. Exhale as you push your hands out in a chest press, inhale as they come back.

Third, when doing an exercise targeted at your core, like band knee to knees, walkaways, or primal moves, purse your lips as you exhale. Do a quick experiment on yourself. Put your hand on your belly, take a deep breath, and exhale hard with your mouth open wide. Now do the same thing, only this time exhale hard through pursed lips. Feel how your abdomen tightens. You just activated the transverse abdominus, a powerful band of muscles that is key to proper core activation and exercise performance

Finally, when you are running or sprinting, maintain an erect, head-up posture to maximize the volume of your thoracic cavity, thus space for lungs to expand. Breath so deep so your belly button goes out and in, as your chest rises and falls. Help your body engage the breathing muscles in your ribs and back that are idle when you are not exerting.

With good breathing technique, you’ll find you have more strength and endurance than you thought.



The Black Ball Workout

The Black Ball Workout

Last Friday CBFers participated in the first solo/pairs workout with new medicine balls that begins easy and ends not so easy. It’s a great addition to our program for older adult fitness.

Think about how you move every day – forwards, backwards, sideways, facing up, facing down, turning, reaching, tossing, throwing, crouching, kneeling, and other …ings.

Often you must complete these movements while managing a light load of one to ten pounds – laundry, groceries, a child, skis, a case of beer, daypack, firewood, coiled hose, box of books, a chair, a stack of dishes.

These diverse movements require strength and flexibility, in equal amounts, from head to toe. There’s no better or safer way to develop this combination than by moving a weighted medicine ball against gravity – in multiple directions, at varying velocities – throughout your range of motion.

twins1 (1)In the fitness world, you hear the phrase “range of motion.” Maintaining a useful range of motion is really important for older adults to continue participating in life’s many activities and remaining independent deep into old age.

twins2 (1)

Having a useful range of motion is much more being able to reach up or bend down or twist into a static yoga pose. That’s just the beginning. You also need to be able to generate force and absorb force.

For example, when you reach up to the overhead bin to remove a bag on the airplane, if you have a useful range of motion, you’ll not only grab the bag, you’ll also control its descent, avoiding dropping it onto the passenger seated below. When you need to move a shovelful of dirt, you’re be able to sequence the flexion of your ankles, knees, and hips to reach it, then able to quickly straighten them to lift the load, rotate, and toss it away.

The physical advantages gained with medicine balls is more than stronger muscles. The wide range of movements improve the tensile strength and elasticity in ligaments, tendons, and the connective tissue that surrounds every muscle. These are what tend to get injured when you are not fit.

Check the pictures of excellent range of motion for 50+ adults. These exercisers are able to extend their arms straight out from their bodies while holding up the weighted balls because their arms and shoulders are strong. Their arm and shoulder actions are supported by a stable platform provided by their flexed ankles and hips. Straight backs and engaged cores protect them from dangerous pressure on their lower backs.

We spend lots of time in the numbered circuits developing raw strength with heavier resistances in isolated muscles, like biceps, triceps, quadriceps, and hamstrings, as well joint complexes like shoulders or knees.

In the Black Ball Workout, these strengthened body parts come together, preparing you for useful movement in the real world.

And it’s fun. One CBFer said it was one of the funnest things she ever did in her entire life.









Love That Fantastic Elastic

Love That Fantastic Elastic

One of the best workouts we do is with tubes because they develop total body, multi-planar strength that you can’t get with machines or free weights.

You might wonder when you lay awake at night: How can simple tubes be superior to all those pneumatic/cabled contraptions and hardware in the globe-gyms?


At CBF we believe poet Elizabeth Barret Browning was thinking about exercise tubes when she penned Sonnet 43, which begins: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

First, tubes create resistance in multiple directions – overhead, diagonally, sideways, forwards – that are impossible to replicate otherwise. Research shows you engage more muscle fibers around joints, like those in the rotator cuff.

Second, the typical way you call on muscles to work in everyday activities or sports is when you are on your feet, not seated or laying down as is the case with machines. Many more muscles must engage. Think about when you do overhead triceps. The triceps are the prime mover, but in back the muscles of the legs and torso must create a stable platform for the triceps to move.

Third, as the tubes pull against your body from various angles, you improve your balance, whether upright doing front presses or on one knee doing wood chops. Your body is forced to make subtle adjustments to variable forces to the changing resistance as the band stretches and contracts.

Fourth, the maximum resistance of the tube occurs at the end range of motion, where injuries often happen in daily life, eg, you reach up to lift a heavy object off a shelf and pull a muscle. Tubes provide resistance from start to finish, increasing your resilience.

Fifth, tubes are especially effective for use by older adults because they develop cross-sectional strength in the targeted muscle, while also incorporating integrated movements  that are required in everyday tasks and athletic pursuits.

Sixth, tubes are very safe. You can quickly adjust resistance if you fatigue, and they are easier on tendons and ligaments that can be threatened by weights that are too heavy.

Tubes are used routinely by elite athletes these days because there’s so much to love.





Hot Bodies

Hot Bodies

This piece about hydration and heat is an update of one CBF posted on June 8, 2014.  It includes a video shot on Aug. 15, 2010, when we lived in Colorado. The information is still true and relevant for our pickelballers, trekkers, nudist volleyball player, and others who exercise under the hot summer sun.


Dehydration is an unavoidable result of exercise because body heat rises right along with work rate. Mild dehydration is no big thing because we can get to water in a matter of seconds at home or in the gym.  But it can be a different story if you are outside on a sweltering day, especially more than an hour.

Older adults are at increased risk for dehydration because our kidneys do not regulate fluid retention as well, nor do we feel thirst as early as younger people as body fluid levels drop. Certain medications, like diuretics, can also accelerate dehydration.

The human body cools by routing blood to 3 million sweat glands that are distributed along a fine network of vessels near the surface of the skin. This incredible control system tries to maintain the core body temperature at a normal 98.6 degrees F. Just 8 to 10 degrees above this magic number, you are delirious or dead due to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Everybody needs to know their warning signs(Also, read “Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Body and Mind at the Limits of Human Endurance” by Kenneth Kamler, M.D He was the medical support on several expeditions into hostile environments. You’ll learn fascinating details about  the body’s response to heat as he tells the unlikely survival  story of an ultra-marathoner who got lost during a race in the Sahara Desert.)

Be aware that although dehydration may not result in full-blown heat stroke, even mild dehydration can cause early symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, muscle cramps, and mental confusion. These don’t kill you, but they increase the odds of accidents and falls.

Sweating indicates your body is regulating internal heat stress, which is a good thing. However, there’s a cost. As you dehydrate, your blood plasma decreases, causing the blood to thicken which then causes your heart to beat harder. Your brain also signals your blood vessels to open as wide as possible to help dissipate the heat, which in turn  further taxes your heart to continue to deliver an adequate supply of blood to the muscles in need of oxygen and nutrients to fuel your movement. Lastly, there’s the loss of those important electrolytes.

You cannot replace all the fluids at the same rate that they are lost. It takes time for anything you drink to transit through your gut and into the bloodstream. Even for young people, thirst lags dehydration. For this reason, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 1/2 to 1 cup of water for every 15 minutes during exercise, whether you are thirsty or not.

If you are exerting more than an hour, you can also add an electrolyte like a little sodium or potassium, which is basically what’s in sports drinks like Gatorade. If you are seriously over-heating, drinking fluid alone will not lower your core body temperature.

Research shows that even drinking ice-cold water has little impact, though it tastes good. The only way to lower your core temperature is to lower your metabolic rate, which means you must slow down or stop altogether.

Remember your muscles, including your heart, are 70% water, so drink, drink, drink.

Up & Over

Up & Over

CBFers who understand what we’re up to at CBF learn to love the hurdles – why we run, not walk, go sideways, not just forwards, leap and land on one foot, are forced into quick decisions and adjustments.

Below is a video of last Monday’s classes doing the hurdles. Lots of excellent technique here.

We frequently do the hurdles or other similar drills requiring quick motion because they confer huge physical benefits, as explained in this blog and video from last August.

But there are practical benefits as well:

- You’ll be able to negotiate obstacles – puddles, rocks, toys, icy spots, curbs – in your environment. You are less likely to fall. The fast, high-knee steps you see in today’s video, in which balance must be rapidly re-established after an abrupt movement, becomes what is known as a “stumble step” if you trip forward or are jostled from the side.

- You’re ready to perform and stay safe in recreational sports and activities.

- You’re in control of your movements and can think fast. On Monday somebody commented that two hurdles were too close, forgetting that the objective is to adapt to whatever the circumstances are.

You’re ready to meet challenges in or out of the gym.





Control Freaks

Control Freaks

Motor control is how our brains instruct muscles to enable movement-related skills like balance, agility, coordination, and power.

Below is a video of CBFers running the agility ladder last Monday. By doing this, they are maintaining high level of motor skills for un-young adults. The patterns entail quick balance adjustments, significant lower leg strength, fast cognitive processing, and overall body control.

Motor skills are developed through practice. Everyone can improve theirs. Maintaining good motor control is how you avoid becoming rickety. You are able to move younger in day-to-day activities.

Watch the feet, especially how the quickest bounce on their toes. Arms stay down to lower the center of gravity, posture stays upright, good concentration. Lots to like here.


Stayin’ Alive

Stayin’ Alive

Each month we get a slick magazine from our trade association. It always has a some useful scientific reports on exercise physiology, biomechanics, etc., along with plenty of filler on topics like weight loss, motivation, and fitness technology.

We faithfully read it, even though it is sort of annoying because it’s so full of grinning, young people with bodies-to-die-for, clad in the latest look-at-me workout fashions. Grey hairs, wrinkles, and age spots are few and far between because they have been photo-shopped away.

However, in an article in the most recent issue, Pamela Peeke, MD, the author and host of the Discovery Health TV Series “Could You Survive?” proposed that “classic functional fitness needs a survival twist.”  Beyond feeling good or looking sexy, there’s another serious purpose to exercise the is often over-looked – just plain survival.

A fit person, at any age, has a much higher probability of survival in an accident or natural disaster like floods, tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, and blizzards. Lots of exercises we do at CBF increase our physical and mental abilities to survive, like shown in this video.

This obstacle is excellent strength, mobility, and endurance training. Quickly getting up and down, pushing off the ground, pulling body weight with arms and legs, maintaining spatial awareness on your belly and back, managing physical discomfort – all of them are survival skills.

Some fateful day you may need to jump over a fallen power line, crawl out of the smoke in a burning building, ford a flooding stream, or flee a forest fire.

If you’re fit, you’ve got better odds for stayin’ alive.




CBF Fast & Furious

CBF Fast & Furious

There are lots of physical abilities to see as these CBFers sprint, which is a  high-intensity activity with big benefits.

In this video, you’ll first see a side view at normal speed, followed by slow motion. Then you’ll see a front view.

Here’s what’s worth noting in their sprinting:

- They start with slight forward lean to drive off their toes, and sustain this form over the distance. The downward thrust of the foot is called plantar flexion, the same movement used when walking, but now done with a fast, powerful contraction of the calf muscle.

- While sprinting, they go from toes, to the bottom of the foot, back to toes.  While sprinting the foot literally springs off the surface, making the entire body slightly airborne. It’s harder to generate power and speed if you are flat-footed and upright.

- Arms driving forward as the opposite legs extend backwards help lengthen the stride and increase speed.

- There’s really good form shown in the front view – nobody bobbing sideways, arms swinging forwards with no wasted motion.

So what’s sprinting got to do with real life? Don’t most people just need to walk to the car or refrigerator? Lots…

- You might need it to survive, like getting across a street quickly to avoid traffic.

- The powerful leg movements enable you to walk with a faster gait. Gait speed is associated with longevity.

- Sprints develop and preserve Type II muscle fibers, which are predominately the type lost in older adults that make them rickety and unstable. Walking doesn’t.

- Sprinting optimizes lung and heart capacity, both volume and endurance.

- Sprinting improves balance.

- Sprinting promotes ankle mobility and strength.

Next time you watch a track meet on TV, spot the sprinters.  They’re the ones with  the toned, sculpted bodies. (Not that anybody at CBF really cares about that, much.)

If you want to elevate your fitness, do some sprints outside the gym. They don’t have to be long. Just start with five sprints for 25 yards. That’s a perfect use for all those parks with nice green grass.

Born to sprint.














Bodyweight: You vs. Gravity

Bodyweight: You vs. Gravity

Last week, CBFer’s performed one of the best and hardest workouts we ever do. No frills, no station numbers, no apparatus, no clock, no stopping, no recovery. It’s a basic, down and dirty, no nonsense, see what you got workout.

We did the Bodyweight 8′s and 10′s, completing over twenty different exercises to move bodies against gravity in different directions. Many of the exercises have a right a left, so the number of movements is in the hundreds. A form of “cardio-resistance” training, it builds muscle strength and cardio-vascular endurance.


Here’s the benefits your get for your effort:

- Mobility and stability in every joint complex. You cannot attain the excellent plank forms you see in the picture above without a strong core, shoulders, and hips. Even ankles and wrists are included.

- Aerobic and anaerobic cardio conditioning. As the pace of the workout continues, your heart rate begins to rise and stay high. Exerting at this level of intensity stimulates the heart to maximize its performance to deliver oxygen and energy to muscle cells in ways no hike can. One of the great discoveries in modern exercise science is that when it comes to the heart, less can be more. Meaning you can get better heart function from short but intense bouts of exercise than long, slow ones.

- Enhanced metabolic performance. The steady, shifting demands on various muscles requires your body to optimize energy utilization. Blood glucose drops, insulin response improves. Fat burns. These improvements last for hours after your workout.

- Pure strength. Most older adults do not lift loads approaching their own weight. With body weight exercise, you build muscle. Somebody said the Bodyweight 8′s and 10′s feel like boot camp. Why do you think the military uses basic calisthenics? It’s how you get lean and strong.

The CBF Bodyweight workout has more functional benefits compressed into a single workout than any other. Almost every muscle challenged, lots of up and down to the point of deep fatigue. One of our, uh, exercise thinkers suggested that the burpees be placed at the beginning of the workout because everyone would be fresh so the exercise movements would be easier. That’s the point, to perform well when it isn’t easy.

This workout is special, and we don’t do it very often. Older bodies can only handle this degree of challenge every so often.  The goal is to push it hard, then recover at a higher level of fitness. You don’t need that level of intensity every workout.

Don’t worry, it won’t be long when we do it again. Meanwhile, we do many of those exercises individually during circuits. Go hard in those so you’re ready to do them one after another when there’s no stopping.

Rest assured, if you can do the CBF Bodyweight workout, you are fit and getting even fitter. Be proud of yourself.




Nunzia, age 67, was born and raised in Naples, Italy. During her school years, her physical education consisted of walking everywhere – up and down hills and over long distances – because her family did not own a car. In 1972, she moved to the USA.

Over her past twenty-five years in Bend, she tried all kinds of gym programs, but would only last for a few weeks because they never “clicked’ with her. Finally, at CBF she found what she was seeking – a program that “works every part” of her body, plus encourages camaraderie with other exercisers and provides plenty of fun, too.

For over a year, she has exercised twice a week at CBF to maintain her strength and flexibility. Outside the gym, she walks her dog and hikes. Her favorite exercise is to walk on a sandy ocean beach while watching the waves come in.

As you’ll see in this video, Nunzia is strong and capable. Watch her great V-Ball shot in slow-motion at the end.