Neuropathy, Diabetes, & Arthritis – (how she did it…)

exercise with neuropathy, diabetes & arthritis: How she's stayed active through it all

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When lifelong athlete Bryna Rifkind found herself struggling to exercise with neuropathy, type II diabetes, and arthritis after cancer treatment, she tried something new.

She found slow-motion strength training, and for over 6 years has been religious about staying consistent with her workouts.

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In 2001, Bryna Rifkind was diagnosed with cancer. Throughout her treatment she developed neuropathy in her feet. Neuropathy is a “disease or dysfunction of one or more peripheral nerves, typically causing numbness or weakness” (Oxford).

She could not wear shoes, certain items of clothing, and her activity was limited. 

I couldn't even do swimming because the mere action of moving your feet back and forth felt as though somebody was whipping my feet.”

As a self-proclaimed “jock,” she had always exercised and knew she needed to remain active. But her limitations and level of pain made that challenging.

After doing research, Bryna found that strength training was the smartest exercise solution for her. She began to lift weights at her local YMCA, but she experienced pain in her knee and the workout just didn’t “feel right.”

In 2013 Bryna was diagnosed with type II diabetes and she realized she couldn’t do this alone. She needed help.

“I needed to have something formal, something that somebody could help me with.” 

Bryna came across an article about a doctor who used to bicycle and run but traded those methods in for a different way of exercising: slow-motion strength training. The doctor’s personal story and affirmations saying this method was good for cardiovascular health was just enough to get her to try it herself.

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In August 2014, Bryna joined The Perfect Workout’s San Mateo studio.

“I believed in weightlifting, so I joined. After I read everything [about the science] and went through the practice workout, I said, ‘Yep, this works.’ And I've been very religious about it.”

And she wasn’t kidding! Ever since joining, Bryna has trained with her Personal Trainers twice a week, every week, even when she traveled to the East Coast. 

At the time we didn’t have Virtual Training, which allows you to train from anywhere. Luckily we had studios in Bethesda, MD and Alexandria, VA to keep her workouts consistent week-to-week.

“This has been really, really an important part of my life.”

In addition to battling cancer treatments and diabetes, Bryna has faced a number of ailments. In 1992 she injured her hip in a car accident which developed into arthritis. She’s also had injuries in both shoulders. 

But no matter the injury or issue, her Personal Trainers adapted her workouts. 

 

Bryna Testimonial

Bryna’s 20-minute workouts have also:

  • Helped her get stronger
  • Increased her stamina for daily life
  • Become a tool to combat depression


“This is a gift I give myself.”

Bryna believes the quality of the Trainers at all of the studios she’s visited has been exceptional. She’s always felt close to them and appreciates that they make accommodations for how she’s feeling. 

“I really do feel cared for. And, that is exceptional. I expect to be doing this for a long time.

Diabetes & Blood Pressure Under Control (naturally)

how he got diabetes & blood pressure under control...naturally

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A Mediterranean escape on the itinerary.

A plan to get in shape.

A perfect workout to help get him there.

Then COVID hit.

Read about our client Tom Curry’s story of keeping up with his get-in-vacation-shape plan during quarantine and the surprising health improvements he made training at home.

His Vacation Motivation

Tom’s story started with his wife, Cathy. She had been training in our West Plano studio for about a year and a half before she finally got Tom to try it out. The only exercise Tom had been doing was walking his dogs twice a day. It was better than nothing, but not nearly enough to get in shape for a big trip they had planned.

Going to Greece was on the horizon for the Curry’s and Tom had made it a goal to get in shape for it. 

“We were going to be doing a lot of walking and I just wanted to make sure I could handle all of that for the trip.”

Tom had done weight training before but never tried the slow-motion strength workout we do at The Perfect Workout. In less than a year, it’s proven to be more effective than anything else he’s done.  

With just two, 20-minute workouts a week, Tom feels like he has more energy each day, especially the next day after his workout. And he is getting the benefits of a cardio workout with strength training. 

“I never was a big cardio fan. The idea of getting on a treadmill and doing that was not ever very much fun. I'm getting cardio with this workout, because I can certainly tell my heart's beating faster!”

Tom got in the groove of training at the studio twice a week and felt excited about his new workout regimen and how it would help him tackle the hills of Greece, and then COVID hit.

COVID Didn’t Halt his Progress

“I was skeptical of this at home (Virtual Personal Training) at first just because I'm not very good at doing things here at the house.”

Many people struggle to keep up with their workouts at home, which is why having a Personal Trainer, even via video, makes each session productive and worthwhile. 

“It’s motivation knowing that I'm connecting with somebody, even if it's on a computer screen.”

Luckily, being a resident in West Plano, TX, Tom didn’t have to quarantine nearly as long as other parts of the country, so he was back in the studio as soon as it opened back up.

After going back [to the studio] I didn't lose any ground. That was nice not having to start all over again. I can certainly tell now that I'm back in the studio that I'm a lot stronger than I was.

Tom Curry

But Tom is considered “high-risk” in COVID-terms so he needed reassurance that the studio would be a safe place for him to workout if he returned.

Tom was in excellent hands returning to the studio since we are by-appointment-only and adhere to all CDC guidelines on distance, masks, and sanitation, We've even gone one step further and installed HEPA air filters in each room, which cleans the air every 2-3 minutes, just like on airplanes and in hospitals. See what else we’re doing to keep you safe.

“They're doing a great job keeping it clean and the number of clients down. I'm in one of those categories they say you got to be really careful So far, I've felt safe.”

Diabetes & Blood Pressure Under Control

Tom has Type II Diabetes and almost a year ago he was having problems managing his A1-C levels. His Doctor was changing his medications to see if they could get it under control. After dropping one type of medication, his A1-C levels spiked up to 7.4 (anything over 7 is considered “bad.”) 

During quarantine and over the course of his Virtual Training Sessions, Tom was able to lower his levels back down to 6.4. 

“I dropped a full point during the pandemic doing things at home!”

In addition, his blood pressure dropped as a result of his 20-minute strength training workouts.

Feeling Good About Health Again

“I sing the praises when somebody asked me about [The Perfect Workout] because I think it's, far easier to go do something like this than to spend 45 minutes in a gym- 25 minutes on a treadmill and, and then trying to pick out your own routine with weights which you're inevitably going to screw something up.”

Tom is extremely happy with all of the Personal Trainers he’s worked with. They’ve all been very encouraging and are personally invested in his progress. He feels like the entire team has been very engaged in helping him make positive changes in his health.

“I really feel good about my health.“

The Best Kept Secret to Controlling Diabetes

The Best Kept Secret To Controlling Diabetes

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“My diabetes is so under control, my Doctor doesn’t even want to see me anymore.”- Larry H.

This is every patient’s dream outcome. And if you’ve got diabetes you know that frequent trips to the doctor are pretty common.

It’s a shame more people with diabetes aren’t doing what Larry did to get his levels under control.

What’s that? You want to know what he’s been doing?

Slow-motion strength training of course 😉

What is Diabetes?

“Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream.” (CDC)

Who Gets Diabetes?

Just about anyone can develop diabetes, but first let’s decipher the difference between the different types. There are two main types:

  • Type I Diabetes: an autoimmune disease typically diagnosed in children and young adults. There is no prevention for this type.
  • Type II Diabetes: 90% of people with diabetes have this type. It is generally a result of unhealthy lifestyle factors such as diet and lack of exercise/activity.
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How Serious Is It?

Very serious if not controlled.

“In the United States, 88 million adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes” (CDC.)

The very serious thing about prediabetes and diabetes is it raises your risk for other serious issues like heart disease, kidney disease, vision loss, stroke and even loss of limbs.

Diabetes is also strongly correlated with obesity- a major cause of many health issues.

Producing a lot of insulin can lead to both diabetes and weight gain.

One solution is to decrease the need for insulin by improving insulin sensitivity… strength training.

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How do you control it?

Fortunately, strength training improves insulin sensitivity, and therefore also decreases insulin in the blood.

Men and women between 50 and 70 years old strength trained for four months in one study [2]. They performed full body workouts three times per week, with each workout featuring 10 exercises. At the end, the trainees improved their insulin sensitivity by 21%.

A second study was similar in terms of length and age group [3], except the workout included only five exercises per session. The result was similar: a 25% improvement in insulin sensitivity. And, the trainees lost averages of 3 and 8.4 lbs of fat.

Effective strength training can help keep your insulin levels in check, helping you to manage your weight while reducing risk of diabetes.

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how does strength training improve it?

People with type 2 diabetes have an abundance of glucose in their blood, an amount of blood sugar beyond what is considered a healthy level. High intensity exercise, such as strength training, is the only type of exercise that uses predominantly glucose as fuel.

One study conducted at Louisiana State University lasted nine months and the participants were men and women of various ethnicity and averaged 56 years of age. The average starting hemoglobin A1c (a measure of blood glucose over three months) was 7.7%. Six and a half percent is considered the minimum amount for type 2 diabetes.

The strength training regimen featured:

  • nine exercises targeting major muscle groups in the upper and lower body
  • each exercise was performed for one set
  • workouts were conducted twice per week


At the end of the study, the diabetic men and women experienced improvements in hemoglobin A1c ranging from 0.3 to 1.0%.

Forty-one percent of the participants improved by 0.5% or more, or were at least able to decrease their medications.

To put this into real-life perspective, a decrease in hemoglobin A1c as small as 0.3% is significant: it can translate to years of life regained.

The strength training program required a total of only 30 to 40 minutes per week, and the participants also walked approximately 100 minutes per week (an average of about 14 minutes of walking a day).

At The Perfect Workout, we know of a number of people with type 2 diabetes who improved their blood glucose with strength training and no other changes in their lifestyle.

They simply showed up for a high-intensity strength training session twice per week for about 20 minutes each visit.

That’s good news for people with diabetes looking to improve their health and extend their lives.

  • Church, T. S., Blair, S. N., Cocreham, S., Johannsen, N., Johnson, W., Kramer, K., … & Earnest, C. P. (2010). Effects of aerobic and resistance training on hemoglobin A1c levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 304(20), 2253-2262.
  • Turner, R. C., Holman, R. R., Cull, C. C., Stratton, I. M., Matthews, D. R., Frighi, V., …Hadden, C. (1998). Intensive blood-glucose control with sulphonylureas or insulin compared with conventional treatment and risk of complications in patients with type 2 diabetes (UKPDS 33). The Lancet (British Edition), 352(9131), 837.
  • Cauza, E., Hanusch-Enserer, U., Strasser, B., Ludvik, B., Metz-Schimmerl, S.,…Pacini, G. (2005). The relative benefits of endurance and strength training on the metabolic factors and muscle function of people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. The Archives of Physiology and Medical Rehabilitation, 86(8), 1527-1533.
  • Brooks, N., Layne, J. E., Gordon, P. L., Roubenoff, R., Nelson, M. E. Castaneda-Sceppa, C. (2007). Strength training improves muscle quality and insulin sensitivity in hispanic older adults with type 2 diabetes. International Journal of Medical Sciences, 4(1),

Training: At-Risk of Heart Disease & Diabetes

Strenght Training for those at-risk of heart disease & diabetes

strength training for those at high risk

Over 18 million US. adults have Heart Disease,

34.2 million have diabetes.

There are countless medications out there to treat them both.

We're prescribing a “medication” for those who are at risk of developing either one.. and it may not be what you think.

“Metabolic syndrome” is a phrase health professionals and researchers use to classify people who are at risk for developing heart disease or diabetes. While it’s not something that requires medication to treat, it’s a status that needs attention. A person with metabolic syndrome has unhealthy levels in most of the following: lipids (cholesterol) and triglycerides (fats) in the bloodstream, blood glucose, blood pressure, and waist size.

There is a “medication” that can improve all metabolic syndrome measures (and I think you know where I’m going with this): strength training…and specifically using The Perfect Workout formula!

slow speed, ideal intensity, muscle use

Researchers from Seoul, South Korea, tested this in a study published in 2016. Adults with metabolic syndrome participated in time-efficient strength training sessions twice per week. The workouts required 30 minutes or less. (Does this sound familiar?)

Before and after, the researchers measured all factors related to metabolic syndrome in these people labeled as high risk. Here’s what happened:

  • Triglycerides decreased by 25%.
  • HDLs, or good cholesterol, increased by 5%.
  • Waist size and systolic blood pressure both decreased by 4%.
  • Blood sugar, which was at a healthy level to start with, dropped by 3%.
  • Grip strength and muscle mass were both enhanced, with muscle mass increasing by about 10%.

Furthermore, the training was safe. 94% of the original participants completed the entire program, and no injuries were noted.

While not all of the changes were large, changes in all of those important health measures accumulate to a meaningful change in health risk. Reductions in triglycerides, waist, blood pressure, and blood glucose, with an increase in HDLs, are likely to significantly reduce the overall risk of developing diabetes or heart disease. Also, the training led to desirable side effects: more strength and muscle!

male client with female trainer doing a leg press on a machine

If you or your loved ones have seen elevated blood pressure, blood glucose, or waist measurements in recent years, these could be signs of being on a path towards disease diagnosis. The research results show a clear option to reverse course: strength train twice per week for less than 30 minutes per workout.

Yoon, D.H., Song, H.S., Hwang, S.S., Son, J.S., Kim, D.Y., & Song, W. (2016). The effect of circuit training and workplace improvement program on the prevention of metabolic syndrome and the improvement of physical function in office workers. Korean Journal of Health Promotion, 16(2), 134-143.

Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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