Monday, May 8, 2017

A Hands-On Approach to Helping People: Introducing Better Living's Newest Personal Trainer, Joshua Plonka

Josh Plonka joined the Better Living team back in November of 2016, working on the front desk to welcome members and schedule personal training sessions.

As of March, though, he's the one being scheduled – and we're thrilled to have him as our newest personal trainer!

Josh Plonka training Will Burchfield at Better Living Fitness Center in Ann Arbor. Josh is our newest personal trainer.
Josh (left) with Will Burchfield
Josh has always known that he wanted a career focused on helping people, and first went to school to pursue occupational therapy.

“I've always been physically active, and I wanted to help people live healthier lives,” he said. “But after being in school for awhile, I decided I wanted to practice a more hands-on approach to helping people heal themselves, and decided that earning a B.S. in Exercise Science was the way to go.”
When he's not training clients, Josh's hobbies include cooking and watching cooking shows. Josh is Better Living Fitness' newest personal trainer -- welcome, Josh!
Josh in his kitchen
Eventually, Josh plans on earning a doctorate in physical therapy. In the meantime, though, he's enjoying learning even more about the ropes of personal training from Better Living Fitness founder Mark Thiesmeyer.

“Mark teaches Better Living trainers a lot about communication with clients, as well as the proper techniques for all of the exercises,” Josh explained. “I've also learned how to quickly spot when a client's form is 'off,' so we can prevent an injury before it happens, and muscle testing to help target areas where a client needs special attention.”

When he's not working with personal training clients, Josh said that he's still staying active with camping, Frisbee golf, and biking. When it's time to rest, though, Josh makes time for one of his abiding passions – food.

“I'm a foodie – I love cooking, going out to restaurants, and trying new things,” Chef's Table on Netflix, because it's not just a full hour of cooking. The show also looks at food culturally, and why people cook what they do the way they do.”

Back at Better Living, Josh said the biggest surprise he's had so far as a personal trainer is how quickly the time goes by during sessions. “The hour just flies because my client is having fun, I'm having fun – it doesn't feel like work at all. We're just having a grand old time together, while at the same time my clients are working toward their fitness goals.”
he said. “And I also love cooking shows. Right now I'm obsessed with

Josh, and our other Better Living personal trainers, are available to help you achieve your best body ever. Just click here for your free initial consultation, and we'll set you up with personal training that works!

Monday, April 24, 2017

'I'm Confident In My Body for the First Time in My Life' – Dawn Weirauch's Better Living Fitness Story

Note from Mark: Dawn Weirauch has been a Better Living Fitness personal training client for almost three years, and has been coming to Full-Body Fit sessions since we opened the fitness center in 2016. Dawn is also a professional writer who has been helping me with this blog and Better Living's Facebook account, so we were excited when she offered to share her fitness journey in her own words.

By the time I finally met my first Better Living personal trainer I was on the verge of giving up on fitness again; this time, possibly, forever.

Better Living Fitness founder Mark Thiesmeyer trains client Dawn Weirauch during a Full-Body Fit strength training class. Dawn gives Better Living Fitness credit for saving her from eventual knee surgery.Two months before I'd fallen off my bike, hyper-extending my knee in the process. I was barely able to climb a flight of stairs, and was resigned to the idea that a cane, walker, or possibly even a wheelchair would be in my future by the time my sixties rolled around.

I was fifty-one, and I was tired of banging my head against the brick wall of trying to get and stay in shape.

Even growing up, I'd thought that true physical fitness was probably beyond my reach. As a child I was both asthmatic and clumsy to the point that the other kids didn't just pick me last for teams during gym; they fought over who would have to take me! 

As an adult I'd occasionally decide to try to get into shape, but generally with the same results: one or two dozen trips to a gym, an inevitable injury, and back I'd go to my “fat clothes” and totally sedentary lifestyle.

Or, on the occasions when I tried fitness classes, being unable to keep up left me feeling so self-conscious and inadequate that my first class was always my last.

In my forties I discovered martial arts and finally found a physical activity that gave me real joy – but the injuries (inside and outside the school) piled up to the point that my opponents had to help me off the ground after sparring with me.

With all of those disappointments behind me, I honestly didn't expect much from training with Better Living. At most, I thought, I might lose a few pounds and put off the day my knees would need replacing by a year or two.

Was I ever in for a surprise! Today, I can get up off the ground not only without assistance, but without using my hands. I can walk for miles without feeling sore or stiff the next day, picking up thirty-five pound bags of litter for my two cats is easy, and in February I attended a convention where I was on the dance floor for four straight hours.

My legs will press over 200 pounds, I can bench press fifty-five pounds without help, and even the exercise I dread the most – lunges – are well within my reach. I'm over ten pounds lighter, too.

I've stopped worrying about needing a cane or a wheelchair or having knee surgery in my sixties. Instead, I'm planning on doing my own grocery shopping, and cleaning my own home, and hitting the dance floor, well into my nineties and beyond.

Better Living has worked for me because every Better Living personal trainer emphasizes proper form – and proper form while exercising doesn't just prevent injuries, it helps heal them.

Not only that, but Better Living is a friendly community of people who support and encourage each other. I couldn't keep up during my first Full-Body Fit session, but it didn't matter – Mark and the other exercisers helped me without making me feel the least self-conscious, and now I offer that same support to every new person who joins us.

Today, thanks to Better Living Fitness, I have solid and lasting confidence in my body for the first time in my life.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Nutrition Science and the Food Industry: An Unhealthy Combination

Given the huge role that proper nutrition plays in everything from weight loss to achieving optimum health, many Better Living Fitness clients pay close attention to nutrition-related news to find out what the latest science says about what we should (and shouldn't) be eating.

Food industry-funded nutrition science may be misleading you. When you see news articles about the health benefits of foods, check to see who paid for the studies.
But some, and maybe a lot, of the latest science may not be trustworthy. Why? Because in part as a result of decreasing government funding, the food industry is stepping up to fund “science” in the industry's own interest.

In the 1960's, the sugar industry funded studies downplaying the role of sugar in heart disease. More recently, Coca-Cola funded scientists who claimed that a poor diet didn't really play that much of a role in obesity.

It turns out that there are lots of ways to bias scientific findings to make a food industry player look good. Just check out this recent article in, which among other things shows how the beef industry fed disguised beef fat to a vegetarian control group to “prove” that a plant-based diet doesn't really effect our cholesterol!

Attempts to bias scientific research aren't limited to the junk food industry. Corporations that produce foods ranging from blueberries to pomegranates, and even nuts, all fund science aimed at discovering every possible health benefit of those particular foods.

If you think chocolate is a "superfood," you may have been fooled by an industry-funded study.
Think chocolate is a "superfood"? Think again.
This sounds like a great idea. After all, we all want to know which foods will help us achieve our specific health-related goals. The problem is that these industries fund such studies with only one goal in mind – finding any excuse to call the food they're producing the next “superfood,” so they can sell us more of that food.

Many, and probably even most, of the scientists who take funding from the food industry aren't consciously trying to trick us. But scientists need money to do their work, and no one wants to slap the wrist that writes our paycheck.

One obvious answer to this problem is to put more funds into government-sponsored nutrition research. Sadly, the Trump administration is calling for a twenty percent cut to the National Institutes of Health, which among other things funds scientific research in nutrition.

Another answer is to require all scientists to disclose their funding sources, and still another is to expect the journalists who report nutrition stories to do more digging to make sure they are giving us the facts.

In the meantime, take these steps to protect yourself from nutrition science-related misinformation:

1. Work with a dietitian or your physician. We offer nutrition counseling at the Better Living Fitness Center – just click here to schedule an appointment. Our nutrition counselors are certified dietitians with the education and experience to see through the latest food fad, and we spend time evaluating studies as they come out to learn which seem to offer the best information for our clients.

2. Subscribe to the Nutrition Action Healthletter, a publication by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food industry watchdog organization that's been doing good work in this area since 1971.

3. Be cautious when you see articles about nutrition research. Check to see who funded the study – and if the news outlet hasn't disclosed that information (and you have the time and interest), write them to ask that they do so.

**Images courtesy r. nial bradshaw and Siona Karen via Flickr

Thursday, April 6, 2017

He's Doing it for Love: Introducing Better Living Trainer Will Burchfield

From left to right, Better Living client Lou works out with one of our newest personal trainers, Will Burchfield, at Better Living Fitness Center in Ann Arbor.
Unlike many of the personal trainers working here at Better Living, fitness wasn't Will Burchfield's first career choice.

First there were a few detours, including a stint with AmeriCorps supporting the agency's work in disaster areas in Colorado and Missouri.

After that, Will worked in LA as a grip electrician on film sets, specializing in small online productions.

So how does someone go from being a disaster agency support person and film crew member to working as a personal trainer? In Will's case, the answer is all about love. First, love for his partner -- and next, a passion for kickboxing.

Over a year ago Will's girlfriend, Alison, was accepted as a law student at UofM and the couple moved here to Ann Arbor. When they first got here, Will says it took him a little while to figure out how to keep the lights on.

“I spent a some time looking for a film job, but the market here is pretty saturated,” he says. When deciding what to do instead, Will focused on personal training because it's a natural outgrowth of one of his favorite hobbies -- kickboxing.

Will joined the Better Living team as a member of our front desk staff about a year ago. He earned his American Council for Exercise (ACE) certification in August of last year, and after completing further training with Better Living founder Mark Thiesmeyer, Will became one of our newest personal trainers.

While personal training may not be as glamorous as working in Hollywood, Will says he loves working with clients.
“I feel like I'm actually helping people as a personal trainer, especially our clients who come to us with joint issues or who are recovering from injuries,” he says. “I've been injured, and I know how frustrating it is not to be able to move your body properly. At the same time, helping people get moving again is really fulfilling.”
According to Will, the additional education he received from Mark has been “vital” to his work with clients.
“My personal training certification is a general one; it got me ready to help people with generic goals like building better shoulders,” he says. “But with Mark, I've learned things like how to help someone with a knee replacement get back in shape to run a 10K.”
In addition to working with personal training clients, Will leads our Tuesday Strength and Tone sessions and also fills in when needed to lead Full-Body Fit and other Better Living Fitness Center classes. In his spare time, Will is keeping up with his kickboxing and hopes to compete in his first match in August.

Interested in working with Will to achieve your health and fitness goals? Sign up here for a free initial personal training consultation. If a group setting is more your style, check out Strength and Tone on Tuesday evenings from 5:45 – 6:30 pm.