February is Heart Health Month!

Your heart is a muscle, and like all muscles, we want to keep it strong and flexible.

When one thinks of exercise to strengthen the heart, the mind generally focuses on cardio. But cardio isn’t really the place for us to turn for a stronger heart. As with any muscle, the heart’s strength comes from working against a resistance. In this case the resistance is your blood pressure. Strength training is the key to a stronger heart muscle. When the muscles in your arms and legs contract to move a weight, your blood pressure rises, making your heart squeeze harder to continue pushing blood around your body. Repeated squeezing against this resistance makes the heart muscle stronger.

But a strong muscle that is stiff is not as efficient as one that is supple. Cardio exercise is like yoga for the heart. When your heart rate rises, it pushes more blood around your body. What goes out, must come back. That high volume of blood traveling through your body gets forced back into your heart which stretches the heart muscle. The higher the heart rate, the greater the stretch. So doing some interval cardio, vacillating between higher and lower intensities is definitely beneficial.

Remember: these exercises do put a stress on your heart and your vascular system. If you have had any heart conditions or vascular issues such as a heart attack, stroke, or aneurysm, or you are not sure if you have any conditions, you should consult with your doctor before engaging in a resistance or higher intensity cardio exercise routine. I would also recommend working with a certified trainer who can show you how to perform these exercises correctly and safely.

** this article was originally published in the YMCA Buffalo Niagara newsletter. Its inclusion here does not imply endorsement from the YMCA

It’s About Fitness – Not What You Can Fit Into

Get a hot bikini body in just two weeks!

You believe that? Really?

I don’t. And I also know that attempting rapid weight loss can lead to more issues than the actual weight. It can lead to loss of lean muscle mass, digestive problems, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and malnourishment. Severe, rapid weight loss can also play havoc with your body’s metabolism – which means it’s even easier to gain that weight back, and harder to take it off the next time.

There are a lot of positive reasons to increase your fitness level – but trying to drop a size for your trip to Florida next week is not one of them. Focusing on all over improvement of your health will make you more likely to achieve that goal.

You know your reasons and you know you’re ready!

We can help you get started – whether it’s making your best nutrition choices or putting together a workout program that works for you – or both!

Check out our programs here,

or drop us a line at BrianCassickFitness@gmail.com


Adjust the Resolution

What is this?

We are nineteen days into the new year, and already some of the fitness pages I subscribe to are giving me tips on how to keep going on my New Year’s resolutions when I am ready to give up. Do they really think it’s that hard to keep a resolution?

Apparently, it is.

A quick Google search netted me a plethora of statistics about resolutions and the subsequent disregard thereof. It seems anywhere between 35% and 45% of Americans make “lose weight” their top resolution each new year, but not even half of them will succeed. That’s not very encouraging. I also found plenty of tips for keeping your healthy resolution, but if those tips on their own worked, I scarcely think 70% of adults in the U.S. would be overweight.

Maybe dramatically recreating yourself on a certain date each year isn’t such a great idea?

Here’s a better one:

Make moderate changes, one at a time. Start when you’re ready, not when the calendar tells you to.

We set ourselves up for failure when we make too many vows at the same time. Start with one thing: You will give up that unhealthy bedtime snack. After a few weeks of heading to bed without a bowl of ice cream or stack of cookies, you will notice two things: you are already feeling better and slimmer, and making that healthy choice has become a habit. Then you are ready for the next step. Maybe for you it’s to start taking a 30-minute walk four times a week. Maybe it’s get a set of weights and start some resistance training. Maybe it’s to track your calories and become more aware of your daily consumption. You decide the next step – and take it. Each change you make, give yourself time for it to become a habit before you make another change.

If you need help figuring out where to start – no matter what time of year! – we are here for you! There is no substitute for personal attention from an experienced trainer who can use your health and lifestyle information to create a plan tailored to your needs.

Don’t just take my word for it: we invite you to read the glowing reviews Brian receives from his past and current clients!

New Year, New You? No Way!

I am emerging from my Holiday haze, and noticing the annual increase in ads for gyms and diet plans. Overindulging during the holiday season seems par for the course, and the New Year is the obvious time to make big changes, right?

source: pixabay
source: pixabay

The thing is, trying to make too many changes at once is overwhelming, and pressuring yourself to make all these changes coincide with the New Year can set you up for failure.

Every day can be New Year’s day – any time is a good time to make a change. I’m not saying you can’t start first thing Friday morning. I’m saying you can start today. Or next week. Or yesterday. It doesn’t matter. Maybe this week you get back on the treadmill a few minutes each day. That’s a good change! After that becomes habit, you get your weights back out, and start some resistance training. Small steps give better results than a complete overhaul at once.

Happy New Year from BCF! May it be a healthy one; the first of many.

Not sure where to start? That’s what Brian is here for!

Find out how he can help you make those changes.

Season of “Light”

On your Holiday menu:

One cup of stuffing, 350 calories. Really?

Eggnog, 450 calories in one cup. Seriously?

Pecan pie, 460 calories in one slice. What?

Four sugar cookies, 340 calories. Kidding me?

source; wiki commons Author: Anthony DeLorenzo
Source: wiki commons Author: Anthony DeLorenzo

There are some things you can eat in a moderate amount. There are some things you can substitute a lower calorie version. There are some things that should be off the table – walk away and don’t look back.

Go into the holiday season prepared to know what’s what for you.

Aunt Clara makes the best crab puffs in the known world. This is the only time of year you get them. What’s your plan? Make sure you have room in your daily caloric allotment for a couple. And take your time. If you are going to treat yourself with something special, give its deliciousness the attention it deserves. You didn’t restrain yourself all day so you could gobble those two crab puffs in 3.5 minutes. Take small bite. Enjoy the texture. Swallow, and wait a minute before you take another bite. If you chomp it right down, you will still feel unfulfilled by the experience of eating it.

Substitutions. If you are making your own holiday goodies, or partying where there is a large variety of choices available to you, subbing can be your best bet. There are definitely substitutions that work, and if you’re wanting that holiday yummy, you can try to make it a little less likely to leave you looking like Mr. Claus. Here are some great substitution ideas, and there are plenty more available with a quick search: Healthy Holiday Food Substitutes and Simple Swaps Healthy Holiday Recipes.

If you’re not sure what items should be a flat-out nope, take the time to check out some caloric content lists. I’m always touting the benefit of My Fitness Pal, and Calorie Control has helpful charts as well. Some things might surprise you. When the count on something small is outrageously high, that might be when you say, “You know what? That’s off my menu.” A HUGE psychological tip: Don’t think “I can’t eat that;” think “I DON’T eat that. I choose to treat my body better than that.” Saying no is your choice – be proud of it.

You can make it through the holiday season without needing a new wardrobe as a gift. Educate yourself, know your weaknesses, and make good choices.

Brian can guide you through the snowbanks and icy patches of holiday wellness! Drop us an email to find out more, or sign up for one of our programs today!

The Art of Weight Loss

“Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.”  – Sun Tzu; “The Art of War”

Simo Hellsten; Wiki Commons
Simo Hellsten; Wiki Commons

“This.”  – Me

Before you begin, you must already be convinced that victory is not merely achievable, but the only possible outcome. You walk on to the field knowing you have already won.

It’s a mind game – and you know what? It works.

It also works when the battle is fought with a knife and fork.

Before I started a fitness journey, I told myself things like: “I don’t like feeling too full,” and “I’m the type of person who needs to move all the time,” and “I love how I feel after I lift weights.”

I convinced myself that I was already a fit, healthy person. I started out knowing I had already won.

It was a mind game – and you know what? It worked.

Every day, tell yourself who you want to be. And make sure you listen to your own words.

Need help setting those goals? That’s what a fitness consultant is for!

Let Brian get you started – he knows you can win that battle!

Put a Lock on that Trigger

Hi-ho Trigger!

Triggers are anything that can cause a reaction that is difficult to control. Many people who have struggled to maintain a healthy weight know this pitfall. Something happens, and your answer is to eat.

source: pixabay

Brian teaches evening classes three nights a week, and gets home late. He’s hungry – he hasn’t eaten since a hurried dinner between clients. But his evening snack is a huge trigger for me. My self-control is at low ebb by that time. It takes a lot for me to resist joining him, and I am too tired to make good choices. I end up binging.

It’s not his responsibility to go without. It’s my responsibility to say no. I have to have a plan in place. Go brush my teeth, to reinforce that I am done for the day. Grab my book, and continue my own bedtime routine. Reserve some of my daily calories, and keep a healthy snack nearby that won’t exceed my allowance. Play solitaire on my tablet, so I start feeling sleepy. Some nights it’s harder than others. But knowing my trigger and having a plan ready helps me stay in control.

Triggers vary from person to person. For some, on the job stress can trigger a binge. Maybe it’s when the kids get off the bus and grab snacks for themselves. It could be simple presence of a certain food – a food that might have been fine in moderation. Learn to recognize yours, and have a plan ready.

Need help making a plan?

Brian can assist, no matter what your trigger might be!

Have we MET?

What is a MET and why does it matter?

MET (Metabolic Equivalent):  The amount of oxygen the body consumes per minute to create the energy needed to support body mass and activity. The higher the MET level, the greater the need for energy and oxygen. Therefore, the higher the MET level, the more calories you are burning during the activity.

Your body consumes calories for fuel as you move around every day. You can probably figure out that you are burning more calories on your elliptical than while sitting on the couch, watching one episode of “Once Upon a Time” after another. But it cuts a finer line than that. There is a difference between sitting and simply standing.

Above is a picture of my workspace. Hey – that’s this article right there on the screen. Notice the peculiar lack of a chair? My keyboard is on top of the printer, and the monitor up on the shelf at eye level. I stand while I work.

Does that make a difference?

The formula to find out how many calories are burned during an activity is: 1 MET at rest = 3.5 ml Oxygen per kilogram of weight per minute. Sitting and working is about 1.5 METs.* Standing and working ranges between 2.0 and 2.5 METs.* Your body burns about 5 Calories per liter of oxygen consumed.

We’re not going to make you do the math. We have figured it out for a person of about 150 pounds:

Sitting and working, a 150 lb. (68kg) person will burn about 107 Calories in one hour.

Standing and working, a 150 lb. (68kg) person will burn between 143 and 179 Calories in one hour.

The difference between sitting and standing ranges between 36 and 72 Calories burned in one hour.

It would appear to make a difference! And those Calories burned will increase the longer you stand up!

What activities could you change from sitting to standing? 

*figures for average MET consumption from Harvard School of Public Health

Recipe Time!

I do love mini-muffins, I do. They are a perfect snack for the kids, easy to pack, and a nice treat with coffee in the afternoon. These little guys are flavorful, and the steel cut oats give them texture and crunch. This is a very basic recipe. You can substitute in whatever you like, but always be mindful of how that will affect your calories and fat. Adding cinnamon and allspice will give them a tasty kick for fall. Nutrition information comes from the recipe function of My Fitness Pal, an app I heartily recommend for tracking your meals. Enjoy!

Basic Mini Muffins

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix together:

1 cup skim milk

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup canola oil

In a separate bowl, combine:

1 ½ cups all purpose flour

½ cup steel cut oats

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Once combined, dump dry ingredients all at once into the milk mixture. Fold just until all ingredients are moistened – do not over-stir. Fill mini muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake 10-15 minutes, until muffins are browned on top and spring back to the touch.

I get 36 muffins out of this recipe. I have a small cookie scoop – like a mini ice cream scoop – that I use to fill the cups. This is very convenient – cuts down on spill, and helps make them all the same size.

Calories 43

Fat 2g

Sodium 75 mg

Why Do I Need a Fitness Consultant?

You might not.

In which case, you are still welcome to enjoy the posts here, as often as you like. It makes Melissa feel useful.


Here’s why you might:
– If you live in an area where no personal trainers are available, or their prices are prohibitive.
– If you have questions that can’t be answered by unreliable information from the web.
– If you have an injury or physical challenge that requires special attention.
– If you are confused about what constitutes the healthiest food choice for you.
– If your current fitness program is no longer giving you any results.
– If you would like to be able to contact someone at any time, and know you will receive an answer within 24 hours.
– If you must or prefer to remain at home, and make your changes in your own familiar environment.

By Robsonbillponte666 via Wikimedia Commons
By Robsonbillponte666 via Wikimedia Commons


A Fitness Consultant knows and respects your goals, and will take every aspect of your lifestyle into consideration when making recommendations for you. Brian can help you no matter how near or far you are.

If you decide you do need a Fitness Consultant,

let’s get started today!