Merritt Clubs Blog

What a Personal Trainer Can Teach You

Posted by Merritt Clubs

Jan 24, 2017

Have you ever thought about the value of a personal trainer? It is not uncommon for people to have a certain trepidation over someone standing over them, while they struggle to lose weight and get fit. However, knowing in advance what a personal trainer can teach you can put your mind at ease. A personal trainer has the education and expertise to understand your needs, goals, and limits. Therefore, they are an invaluable asset for achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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Topics: Personal Training, Personal trainer

Premiere Fitness Health Club

Posted by Merritt Athletic Clubs

Aug 31, 2016

Choosing to join a gym is a big decision and can truly be an overwhelming process. Whether you're working out at home and feel the gym would offer more inspiration or are only just beginning to work out, it is imperative that you get the most out of the exercise gym. Regardless of where you are in life, there are some details that you certainly need to think about before deciding on a gym.

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Topics: Personal Training, MD health clubs, health clubs, best health clubs, Personal trainer, best health club, merritt clubs, premiere health club

Nutrition and Strength Training Goals: A Woman's Perspective

Posted by Joanna Meade

Feb 12, 2015

Last night was our last free Women & Weights seminar. We ended our six week seminar with a discussion on nutrition. I wanted it to be a positive discussion. So many people, women in particular, struggle with their body image and have negative feelings toward the word diet. Your diet is what you regularly eat, not just something you do to lose a few pounds. Your diet is not temporary. I didn’t want it to be another disheartening talk about all the things we shouldn’t be eating. My take home message was this: Focus on adding a wide variety of nutrient dense foods to your diet, not on everything you should avoid. Here’s why:

In the United States, we universally over-consume sugar and sodium, while simultaneously under consuming Vitamin D, Vitamin E, potassium, Calcium and fiber. It’s the obese and malnourished paradox. When focusing on all the things we’re supposed to avoid (cholesterol, saturated fat, etc.), we forget about a lot of things we should be eating - like adequate protein, vitamins and minerals. We eat far too many processed foods stripped of nutrients and far too few whole foods and home-made meals. The average American woman is protein, iron and calcium deficient. This has serious impacts on strength training and was the focus of my seminar.

Protein supports training and recovery. Without sufficient protein we cannot build the body sculpting muscle that we so desire. Muscle gives us shape. When you say you want to tone up, it means you want to build muscle and likely lose some fat. Women who strength train should be consuming the same relative amount of protein as men for optimal results: 0.75 to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day. Yep, that means over 100 grams of protein each day for most women.

Low iron affects metabolism and oxygen transport, as well as causes chronic fatigue. All of which, negatively impact strength training. By including red meat, seafood, lots of leafy greens and veggies in your diet you can increase your iron levels. Simultaneously, avoid pairing foods with high amounts of tannins, like coffee or tea, with your meals. They can block absorption of iron. Instead, pair foods rich in iron with other foods high in Vitamin C which helps with absorption of iron. For example, a spinach salad topped with mandarin oranges or red bell peppers. Cooking with cast iron cookware can increase the iron content of your meals, and taking iron supplements can also help. In general, the only supplements I recommend are fish oil, quality multivitamins and Vitamin D or Iron, as needed.

Adequate calcium is imperative for bone health. Strength training improves bone density at any age, however if you do not consume enough calcium in your diet, you will miss out on this major benefit of strength training. Dairy isn’t the only, or even the best source of calcium either. Fish, tofu and veggies in the cabbage family (broccoli, kale, bok choy, mustard and turnip greens, etc.) have very large amounts of bioavailable calcium. Also, bone broth is a great way to get more essential vitamins and minerals in your diet. Save your chicken carcasses, and your pork or beef bones in the freezer until you have enough to make a stock (about 2 pounds). Drinking a warm mug of bone broth in the morning during the winter months could improve your health and take off the chill.

Lastly, a note about treats. Treats, in small amounts, have a place in a healthy diet. Beyond our health, there are many reasons we eat food; pleasure, social community, identity, and tradition are all reasons why we might eat certain foods. We need to have a healthy relationship with the food we eat. The problem isn’t indulging occasionally; it’s when we treat ourselves daily, or most days of the week. Then it’s no longer a “treat”, but a part of our diet: what we habitually eat. Stay mindful of the undeniable emotional aspect of eating. There is no need to berate yourself for an occasional indulgence. Don't turn these indulgences into negative self talk that fuels an underlying self loathing. That’s not healthy either. If you are not in maintenance or strength building state, you should limit yourself to 1-2 small treats each week. Once you’ve reached your goal, you should allow no more than 2-3 small treats each week. Notice I didn’t say cheat meals, or cheat days. You can still stay on track when you indulge by balancing the rest of your macronutrients and daily calorie allotment around your treat.

The rest of our talk concentrated on calculating a daily caloric and macronutrient intake to support a strength training program. I had a great time chatting with a spectacular group of women and I’m looking forward to making Women and Weights a regular occurrence. Attending a women’s college, I learned the vital importance of relationships among women. I plan to offer a 12 week women only strength training program starting in March. The goal would be to introduce women to strength training, as well as to other like-minded women. I’ve experienced first hand the transformative power and inspiration that accompanies women working together, not against each other, as well as that of strength training. Combining the two can only spell success! Stay tuned for more information.

Joanna Meade (view bio) is an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She is also a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, a women's college in Virginia, as well as Johns Hopkins University. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906.

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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, women strength training, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, women and weights, women only, weight loss and exercise, Fitness Tips, best way to lose weight, fitness, women nutrition, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, nutrition

Broccoli Parmesan Fritters

Posted by Joanna Meade

Feb 12, 2015

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Topics: recipes to get more vegetables, Healthy Recipes, Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, best way to lose weight, recipes for healthy snacks, Broccoli, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, healthy weight loss, healthy diets

5 Reasons Women Need to Squat More

Posted by Joanna Meade

Jan 29, 2015

Despite the snow last week, we still had intrepid ladies turn out for the Women and Weights upper body seminar. This week we hammered squat mechanics and practiced many progressions and variations of the squat. However, we didn’t have quite enough time to cover all the reasons ladies need to squat. Yes, that’s right, we need to squat. Coincidentally, on the same day we reviewed squats, this blog post showed up in my news feed and I felt inspired to make my own list. So, without further ado, here is my list of reasons why squatting is so important:

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Topics: Personal Training, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, women and weights, women only, Fitness Tips, squat, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness

Women and Weights Week 2: Upper Body

Posted by Joanna Meade

Jan 20, 2015

Week one of Women and Weights is in the books. Last week we discussed the core, it’s importance in injury prevention and exactly what it feels like to engage your core. Then we went over several different exercises that test one’s ability to engage and maintain their core. This week we are discussing upper body movements. This is where we start seeing some major differences in the sexes. In general, men and women respond to resistance training in similar ways. However, differences exist between the sexes in overall muscle mass, strength and hormone levels. The upper body movements are where this becomes most obvious. Upper body movements are much more difficult for women. Why is that, you ask?

Men tend to be larger, have more muscle, they are leaner and have higher levels of the sex hormone, testosterone. These sex hormone related strength differences are mostly found in the upper body. Women possess lower body strength levels similar to men relative to their body weight, but men have greater upper body strength relative to their body weight when compared to women. According to top trainer and researcher Brett Contreras, women possess 40-60% of a man’s upper body strength. That being said, when comparing strength per-pound of fat free mass (i.e. bones and muscle) the differences become less apparent. Women’s muscles are capable of producing the same amount of force as men’s muscles.

In our women and weights seminar this week we will be discussing proper form and will practice a few movements to help ladies increase their upper body strength. Here are a few women specific strength training tips to get you excited:

  • Learn how to engage your core and maintain it while exercising. Many women starting a strength training program initially posses poor levels of core stability; they utilize an array of lumbar-pelvic strategies when lifting and often end up overarching (excessive hyperextension) the spine during planks, push ups, pull ups and deadlift movements. If you lose your stable core during an exercise, stop the movement and re-engage before continuing.

  • Work your weaknesses. If you are already really flexible, focus less on stretching and more on building strength and stability. Women tend to have greater mobility in the shoulders, hips, upper back and pelvis and are more likely than men to possess hypermobility.This hypermobility results in less stability and a greater risk of injury. Women are also more likely to over-prioritize cardio. If your cardio is already sufficient, work on building some strength.

  • Utilize eccentric movements in your training. Women have good reactive or elastic strength, but poor starting strength compared to men. This means it is easier for a woman to lower herself down from the pull up bar (i.e. muscles are lengthening, eccentric movement), than it is to pull herself up (i.e. muscles are contracting, concentric movement). Use caution with eccentric training, as this can cause greater microtrauma to tissues, resulting in greater muscle soreness. Additionally, don’t short movements. Keep working throughout the entire range of motion; don’t just drop off the pull up bar, or drop the bar on a deadlift. Concentrate on lowering all the way down.

  • Do several total body workouts each week. Women have an advantage in recovery time. They tend to fatigue less and recover faster, meaning they can train the same muscles frequently throughout the week. There is no need to spend one day each week on a specific body part (i.e. chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, glutes on Wednesday, quads on Thursday, etc.) like many of the men in your life may be doing. One day each week on certain body parts might not be enough to produce the changes you desire. However, please remember, there is no such thing as spot reduction. There is no amount of tricep extensions that will get rid of ‘granny arms’ if you aren’t fueling yourself properly and engaging in other strengthening movements.

For more training tips and some hands on advice come to Women and Weights Wednesday nights at 6pm at the Downtown Athletic Club. Even better, schedule a one-on-one appointment with me, or email me to join my newsletter. Women and weights will only last until February 11th. Also, much of the information here can be found in Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body by Brett Contreras.

Joanna Meade (view bio) is an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906.

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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, women strength training, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, women, Fitness Tips, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness


Posted by Joanna Meade

Jun 27, 2014

A little over a week ago, another addict lost the battle with his disease. This addict was my friend, Matt. I met Matt through a small non-profit triathlon club for recovering addicts, Tri-harder Triathlon Club. Like many other members, when I joined the team I was broken both physically and emotionally. I was spiraling down the drain of depression.

Immediately, I felt at home with this ragtag team of lovable misfits. We use the term 'triathlete' liberally with this crew. We have triathletes from all walks of life, all ages, and abilities. Some of us haven't sat on a bicycle since we were children, some of us can't swim or even run. Originally, I joined the team to share my experience training for triathlons, as well as to fill a hole in my life that was left behind after completing my first half-ironman and getting injured. What I got out of the experience can scarcely be put into words. It was more than I ever anticipated. It became evident after a short time that the term 'recovery' can be applied just as liberally as the word 'triathlete' in our group.

Matt was a part of the team before I joined and had moved on by the time I started attending practices. However, I knew of him through stories, photos and because he was, quite literally, our poster child. That's him in the photo above. Tri-Harder uses this photo of him triumphantly crossing the finish line in almost all of our marketing materials. I have no doubt that during his time with the team he experience the same acceptance and sense of accomplishment that I did. He would say so himself if anyone asked. Some time after I joined the team we got word that Matt was not doing well, and had landed in jail. The team sent him letters, and he wrote back to us. When he got out he resumed practices with us, and that's when I got to know this remarkable young man.

The last time I saw Matt was during the MCVET's Memorial Day 5k and 10k race. Matt was a combat veteran. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the Marines. He served overseas for three tours of duty. At the time of his death he was taking advantage of the services offered to veterans at the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training (MCVET). In honor of Matt, Tri-Harder participated in the 5k and 10k race that benefited the organization. However, in our usual fashion, we were a tad unorganized and running late. We set off minutes after the starting gun was fired. We had not found Matt before the race and so, he started alone.

It was hot. I hadn't been running regularly, and oh, yeah, the finish was uphill. Barf. As I started climbing my way up Charles St. in the last quarter-mile, I spotted Matt in front of me. I was willing him to slow down, and my lead-filled legs to speed up so that I could catch him. After what seemed like forever, but was probably only a few seconds, I was close enough to call his name.

He turned and looked almost as relieved as I felt to see a friendly face and to be distracted from the agony one feels in the final quarter-mile of a 5k. We chatted through gasps of air and then fell silent as the hill steepened. The course leveled off and we turned the corner toward the finish line. I told him he better beat me and began to sprint with all the energy I could muster. A few seconds later he roared past me and we crossed the finish line laughing.

I'm so thankful for that moment we were able to spend together. My memories of him will always involve triumphantly crossing a finish line. Addiction and recovery are difficult topics to discuss, and generally people know very little about them. When an addict overdoses, the shock and anger make it difficult to comprehend. This is a great post that can give you a clearer picture of the struggle addicts face. It states, as an addict...

"...he suffered from a deep sadness, a deep loneliness and a deep disconnect between himself and the world around him. He felt, for lack of a better description, not quite right. Regardless of his undeniable talent, he felt uneasy. He felt just not “good enough”. He felt apart from the world, from other people, from a spiritual connection to others and from himself...He did not “choose” to get high again. Someone that is drowning does not “choose” to gasp for air. It just comes natural. His choice was which path to choose. Immediately relief from something he knew could kill him. Or a healthy alternative, slower but more sustainable. And not a deadly path. He chose one of two paths. The unhealthy one, but the one he knew would guarantee an immediate relief from his pain, from his loneliness, from his suffocation. He overdosed and died seeking relief, because for a drug addict without a healthy solution, that’s what happens."

I would argue that these feelings are not unique to individuals that abuse drugs and alcohol. Many individuals that do not abuse drugs or alcohol can relate, perhaps to a lesser extent. At some point or another most of us have sought out a means of relief that wasn't particularly healthy, whether it was in the form of overtraining, a decadent desert, a one night stand or a few too many drinks. At one point or another we have all looked for a distraction, an escape or solution to shelter us from the difficult realities of life.

When I joined Tri-Harder I realized that I had been running from myself for a long time. None of the goals I was chasing brought me the satisfaction I was seeking. At first I used graduate school to keep me busy. When I graduated, I replaced school with triathlon training to find fulfillment. By the time I completed the race and was injured, I finally ran out of the "healthy" ways I'd learned to cope with my own feelings of inadequacy. It was a difficult time, but with Tri-Harder I realized I was not alone.

After every practice we would have a 'recovery moment' where we shared things that were on our mind. At first I hated this moment. I was terrified of being called on to share. I remained silent, eyes downcast, so as not to draw attention. Isolated. When I finally stopped being so afraid of being seen and started listening to what everyone was saying I was blown away by the honesty and bravery of the people around me. I was inspired and eventually found the confidence to share my own thoughts.

I found that to be in recovery means you must first take a good long look at yourself, you have to see your flaws as well as your strengths, and you have to make peace with them. For an addict, their life depends on it. I want to take it one step further though. For anyone that is avoiding that long hard look in the mirror and the feelings of inadequacy that often come with it, you may be fighting for your life too. You are just like me during the recovery moment, eyes downcast, praying not to be called on, trying to avoid saying something that might give away your secrets, and all the while missing out on the amazing people and events going on around you. You are not living. You will not experience the joy you are seeking through your distractions. You will be unable to make the healthy lifestyle changes you so desire. You will not feel the connection you seek with those around you.

We end all of our Tri-Harder practices and meetings with the Serenity Prayer; a prayer that epitomizes the process of recovery. "Grant me serenity, to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference." Followed by a final "Keep trying harder!" We are all waging our own private war against the ugliness we see in ourselves; against the things that we think make us unlovable. Matt's battle is finally over. He has crossed his final earthly finish line. Recovery is the ability to stop running and fighting; to take a good look at yourself; to know that you are imperfect yet capable and deserving of love. And it never ends. You have to keep trying harder.

Tri-Harder at the MCVET 5k 2014


Joanna Meade (view bio) is a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer at the Downtown Athletic Club. She is a Level OneCrossFit instructor and competitor. She can be reached at Merritt Athletic Clubs Downtown Club at 410-332-0906 or click here for a Free Session.

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Topics: recovery, Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, Addiction

One decade, ten lessons

Posted by Joanna Meade

May 7, 2014


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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, weight loss and exercise, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, best way to lose weight, fitness, Personal trainer, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change, the best way to lose weight, being present

3 Reasons to drink the CrossFit KoolAid

Posted by Joanna Meade

Apr 11, 2014

Looking at these pictures, I am reminded of why I love CrossFit. I can see the agony and determination on our faces. What’s more difficult to see is the the elation. This was one of the most fun and challenging competitions I’ve ever experienced. The pictures are from the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate Challenge, a team competition for CrossFitters from the entire Mid-Atlantic region. This weekend I’ll be competing for a second time. A lot has happened in the last year, including a shoulder injury, a lot of time off and rehab. Leading up to this point every time I think about it I fight back the urge to toss my cookies. All the old self-doubts surface. Am I ready to compete again? Will I hurt my shoulder? What if I let my teammates down? And so, on. What's worse is after last year I know just how bad it hurts physically. Why on Earth then, would I voluntarily put myself through the agony once again?

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Topics: Personal Training, health fitness tips, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, baltimore gyms, help with weight loss, workout routine to lose weight, fitness, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate Challenge, Fitness workout, Personal trainer, merritt charm city crossfit, Baltimore fitness, get healthy, diet lifestyle change, group fitness

Sitting: public enemy #1

Posted by Joanna Meade

Mar 19, 2014

Bias notwithstanding, my mom is pretty amazing. She plays tennis like I much as possible. About 6 months ago she started having low back pain, which migrated into her hip, then through her glute and down her leg. It would come and go, and it would change locations. She didn’t think too much about it. That is, until she ended up in the hospital with severe back pain earlier this winter. To add to her pain, she hasn't been able to play tennis or engage in her normal social interactions. It's been a pretty miserable winter.

Like many Americans, for the last 30 years or so she has sat at a desk for 8 hours a day. She commutes to work 30 minutes each direction, so another hour is spent in the car. Add another hour or two for dinner and any tv she might watch and suddenly she is sitting for over 10 hours each day. Even though she is active, playing tennis five to six days a week for an hour or more, mountain biking and gardening on the weekends, a new study indicates that all the sitting could be taking a toll.

It’s well known that the more sedentary you are, the greater the risk of all disease and mortality. But a recent study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, indicates sitting is a health hazard all by itself. It found that regardless of how much they exercise, for individuals 60 or older, each additional hour of sitting per day increases the likelihood of becoming physically disabled by 50%. Meaning, if sitting for 10 hours daily gave you a 6% risk of becoming disabled, bumping up your sitting time only one more hour to 11 hours a day would increase your risk by an additional 3%. The study found each hour per day spent sitting increased the odds of problems with daily living by 46%. Increasing exercise did not negate the risk.

Why is sitting so bad for you and what can you do about it?

There was a great Washington Post infographic recently about the dangers of sitting. I printed out copies and posted it above every computer in the office at the gym. I’m looking at it right now and reminding myself to sit up tall while I type. The dangers include organ damage, muscle degeneration, neck, shoulder and back pain, decreased circulation and bone density problems, not to mention increased disability and mortality risk.

You can’t make up for it at the gym. In order to maintain your muscles’ ability to do low-intensity, basic tasks you have to use them for a long duration throughout the entire day doing said low-intensity, basic tasks. You have to incorporate non-fatiguing activity into your daily routine as much as possible to stave off the negative health effects of sitting. Lifting weights a few times a week won't work your muscles the same way. That means incorporate walking around the office several times a day, walking to a co-worker's desk instead of sending a message, using a far away printer or bathroom on another floor, parking at the far end of the parking lot, and standing while you talk on the phone. Here are some other great ideas to keep you moving throughout the day, complete with a difficulty, sweatiness and humiliation rating.

My mom has regained her ability to get around and exercise. She's been getting out on the court a couple times a week, but it is literally a pain in the butt. That’s a referred pain joke. I couldn’t help myself. She is coping with degenerating disks, and compressed nerves. Sitting has likely contributed more to her current condition than a lack of exercise. It turns out the old saying is true; move it or lose it!

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Topics: workout tips, Personal Training, exercise, Merritt blog, Weight Loss, sitting, weight loss and exercise, healthy lifestyle, Fitness Tips, fitness, Personal trainer, weight loss healthy, Baltimore fitness, diet lifestyle change