by Mary Jo Campbell Cambridge on March 22nd, 2016

HHS Lady Mariners
On a sunny, Tuesday afternoon in early September, a large group of pony-tailed ladies walked into ATR.  I knew few by name, but rapidly grew to know and love this hard working, close-knit group.  With 12 weeks until the first practice, I knew I had a golden opportunity to influence their lives in a positive way and effect their season as both individuals, and as a team. I took both of those responsibilities very seriously. I had basically begged head coach, Chad Felice, to trust me with his group of athletes.  

My goals were simple: to create a work ethic and conditioning base that allowed for long term, injury-free competition, and to develop a periodized program that would allow the team to PEAK in late March for the ASAA State Championship. None of that mattered to the team, though, as I constantly reinforced my motto: All you have to do is show up, work hard and it will take care of itself. And show up they did.  The sweat, the pain, the time that could have been spent just being teens is all that mattered.  As they say, "the proof is in the pudding"… 28 weeks later, the Lady Ms have finished the regular season with a 21-2 record, and an 18 game winning streak halted at the Regional Final. Now they wait a week, to go forward. They are sitting patiently just below that peak…like sitting at a high base camp of Everest, waiting for the final summit push… to make that push, they have to stay together, stay hungry and rely on each other. Finish it, ladies, and Finish STRONG!

No matter what happens this weekend. I will always hold this team in my heart for the trust and love and cohesiveness that they showed each other and me. As a very wise and loving colleague always told me, “Kids don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  Good luck Lady Ms…play your hearts out like warriors and leave it all on the floor. Homer loves you. Whoop whoop  <3.

by Mary Jo Campbell Cambridge on February 15th, 2016

The key to your child's physical health is striking a balance between participation and prevention.  Many children participate in sports and are not equipped physically for the rigors of daily participation. Some of these situations are made more difficult by pairing athletes based on their chronological age (in years) rather than their biological age,(actual size and stage of development.)   In middle school, it is not uncommon to see two athletes on the same team who are vastly different in their biological make-up.  Yet, due to age group pairings, they find themselves on the same team and at times competing against each other.  Obviously, this is a recipe for disaster.  

Puberty is the great equalizer when the late bloomer catches up to his precocious teammates and opponents.  However, prior to puberty and the onset of hormones like testosterone and estrogen, strength gains are mainly due to neurological adaptations. Simply put, before puberty, the central nervous system is the engine that controls strength and movement patterns.  With the proper frequency and quality of movement, those patterns are improved. The CNS becomes very efficient and performance improves. It does not cause an increase in actual muscle size, that does not happen without testosterone, so in the absence of hormones, these changes are very hard to maintain. "If you don't use it, you lose it." Prevention is a difficult task for children who practice daily and must balance the rigors of school and sport at a young age.  Frequency is a vital part of the equation. For children, it is recommended that they participate in strength & conditioning at least 2 times a week to prevent injury.

Do we train children like we train adults? The simple answer is NO! They certainly can perform many of the same multi-joint movements that incorporate balance, stabilization, and core strength, however, all should be done with body weight, dowels or very light dumbbells. Although they are young, there is a vital window of opportunity to learn power and speed movements. It is much easier to teach and learn coordination of movement prior to puberty than after, but again, all must be taught with little or no resistance.

Another factor to consider when discussing the load and intensity of workouts for children is their stage in development. Prior to puberty, the ends of their long bones (growth plates) remain ‘open’, allowing for further growth, making them vulnerable to injury. These plates ‘close’ soon after puberty and become stronger with time.  It is at these sites on the long bones that the very strong muscle and tendon units attach. During growth spurts, the muscle-tendon unit becomes taut and inflexible.  With the right mechanism, it can be pulled from the much weaker bone, causing an avulsion or even a fracture to the growth plate itself.

The best way for children to develop properly is to play, to participate in multiple sports that offer a variety of movements and skills. I will discuss further, in a later post, the value of multi-sport participation.   As with adults, sedentary behavior and ‘screen time’ have led to muscle imbalances and under-developed posterior muscles of the body. If your child displays any characteristics that would lead to injuries, such as a ‘winging scapula’ (weak muscles in the upper back causing the scapula to stand up rather than lie flat to the body)or a ‘wide Q-angle’, (the angle from the hip to the outside of their knee- more common in girls due to larger hip circumferences) you should consult with a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach who has experience working with children. Not all ‘personal trainers’ have the knowledge, skill and experience necessary for the job and can actually cause more harm than good. Don’t be afraid to ask the question and advocate for your child. As always, feel free to send questions to Finish Strong!

by Mary Jo Campbell Cambridge on February 12th, 2016

A frequent question that I receive from parents of young children pertains to cardiovascular fitness and the efficacy of long runs to accomplish this. The question is a simple one but the answer is a little complicated. I will do my best to K.I.S.S.
(Keep it simple, silly).

Children who are growing will have a 70-80% increase in aerobic fitness simply due to the growth and development of their heart, lungs and muscles. So without ever running around the block, on the track, or on the court, your child's cardiovascular (CV) fitness will improve naturally. I don't recommend that you and your child celebrate by sitting on the couch and eating Bon Bons but this is an important fact.

Pediatric exercise research is limited, but the results that do exist suggest that training at a higher percentage of your child's maximal heart rate (sprints) for short bursts is much more effective at increasing overall CV fitness than long, slow, sub-maximal runs. As long as the volume (amount) is monitored, the child has proper running technique and the is not having growing pains, this is the desirable way to train young athletes. Sport specific distances and time intervals that mimic game situations can achieve two goals at one time. The most enjoyable way for children to do sprints is through 'speed play'. Tag, relay races, and shuttle runs are all examples of games that accomplish this goal, encourage socialization and are fun!

When I train young athletes I try to use many different footwork drills and vary the time (10-30 sec) it takes to complete each. I then give them approximately 30 seconds of rest. This is not only sport specific but works with the short attention span most children have. These drills can be completed daily and are best early in the workout,  when the athlete is fresh. Not only is the child improving their CV health but they are improving their footwork which can be challenged as they grow.  Repeating drills and motor patterns help improve the central nervous system and the child's economy of movement.

Training children properly for sport takes a great deal of experience and knowledge. To find out if your trainer or strength coach is qualified you can check on

by Mary Jo Campbell Cambridge on February 1st, 2016

Strength and Conditioning for endurance events are possibly the most misunderstood concepts that I address here in Homer. There are more triathletes, marathoners and 'ultra' athletes here than I have encountered anywhere. The chore and discipline of spending enough hours training on a bike, on the road, and in the pool is difficult,  to say the least. Add the rigors of professional and family life and you get a schedule that requires more than 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week.

Rest, or recovery, is a vital aspect of training and is usually overlooked by the enthusiastic competitor. "More is better" is a common misconception and can lead to overuse, overtraining plateaus and injury.  To that I say, "more is just MORE, sometimes LESS is better!"
Recovery, in itself,  is a topic for a later blog. In the meantime, just be aware that the metabolic effects and cellular changes that occur due to physical training do not occur on the days that you train, but rather, the days that you rest. That being said, you need to build that piece of the puzzle into your training log.  You will also need to build a two week "unloading" or training lag directly before your event to allow you to peak and attain the best performance possible.  Without it, you risk wasting thousands of hours of training and preparation.

 You want to work smarter, not harder. Your time is valuable.  Depending on the length of time until you need to peak for your event, splitting your training into a morning and an evening session will help you to accomplish your goals.  This will allow for muscle glycogen recovery: "refilling the tank," work and family time. Too many endurance athletes feel that they must increase the miles that they are logging every week.(again, more is NOT better.) In reality, the smartest move is to increase the sessions spent in the gym. Time and time again, ATR athletes return from races sporting personal bests in their event.  The key to their improved effort was an increase in average power output throughout their race.  It is not the greatest power they can exert but how long that they can sustain it.

When training for endurance, we train movements, not muscles.  A functional training circuit which concentrates on multi-joint exercises that mimic similar movement patters will translate into a positive training effect. Lumbar stabilization exercises, squats, and core work; the foundation of all athletic movement, will translate to a better economy in running, swimming and biking mechanics.  With proper exercise selection and intensity, you increase average power output to improve race times and peak power for sprint portions of the race. This combined with valuable cardiovascular gains gives you MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK.  No matter how hard you train on the road or in the pool you will not reap strength and power gains from those workouts. However, when used with the correct training intervals, circuit training does cross over and improves cardiovascular endurance.

Afraid to take that step and mix things up? Consider this: One of Homer's finest endurance athletes, Martin Renner, attends three to four circuit training classes at ATR each week.  It translated to success last summer when he rode 400km in just 26 hours, to win the Fireweed 400,  a solo race across Alaska! 

Whether your goals are race oriented or just lifestyle oriented, I hope that these pearls of wisdom will help you "Finish Strong!"  For answers to specific training questions, feel free to email me at Better yet, register for a free class at and ask me in person! Whoop whoop!

by Mary Jo Campbell Cambridge on January 29th, 2016

Have you ever stood in the middle of a gym and been dumbfounded? I have, and I have a Master’s degree in Sports Medicine. Recently, I visited a giant, first-class facility that offered everything but group circuit training. I stood in the middle of dumbbells, power racks and cardio equipment, and said to myself, “What am I supposed to do now?” I figured out a small circuit for myself while others curiously looked on.
The fitness industry amasses billions annually offering new trends and gimmicks to change your body and life. 
The average consumer, pursuing the perfect body usually tries one or more diet or gadget and fails, often, worse off than when they started. Be honest, is the treadmill, bike or Bowflex in your garage or basement used for anything but a drying rack? Don’t feel bad. You are not alone. Well, you are alone… and that is the problem.
There are no short cuts to success, in anything. If it looks to good to be true, it probably is. 
You need to put the time and effort in to change your life. Whether you want to feel and look younger, be thinner or stronger, it takes good old fashioned WORK! The difficulty of that work is multiplied by 100 if you are alone in your efforts. Most of us are multi-taskers, by nature. With the strong temptations to do other things besides exercise, we are setting ourselves up for failure if we train alone.
At the Alaska Training Room, whether it is 6:30 am or 5:30 pm people stream in by the dozens to work out TOGETHER. They have established bonds with people who have a common goal. They are accountable to others because there is strength and energy in numbers. Success is still work, but with others, it is FUN. When was the last time you exercised with a video, by yourself and said, “Wow, that was so much fun!” 
Instead of heading to happy hour at night, there are three dozen folks who sweat, laugh, chat, and literally work their butts off while knowledgeable and experienced instructors supervise and guide the workout. Every burpee, every plank, is called by the coach.  The workout is changed weekly and designed with function in mind.
Knowledge, experience, function and fun. All of this matters.  Knowledge matters: creating a workout that is metabolically challenging, can be performed whether you are 8 or eighty, yet prevents injury, is an art. Only 30 years of experience in sports medicine can give you that. Experience matters: knowing when to push and when to modify, knowing how to cue when an exercise is not being performed correctly, is also an art. Fun and accountability: creating an environment that fosters camaraderie and acceptance reflects the coach’s openness and affection for people. At ATR all you have to do is show up! Like a scene from ‘Cheers’, ‘where everyone knows your name’ it is nice to feel a part of something strong and positive. You don’t have to think about or choose your workout, just move with the flow of the class and in 60 minutes you will be hooked.
Functional Circuit Training using High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), with an experienced and creative Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, is the most efficient way to train.  Improving your cardiovascular fitness, building lumbar and thoracic stability for posture and athletic strength. Developing core strength, power, agility and flexibility for the rigors of daily life and sport are all obtained by deliberate exercise selection and manipulating its intensity and volume.
Only a very experienced practitioner can mold that platform. What you receive in return are the side effects of vigorous training: increased lean muscle mass, decreased body fat, improved CV effects, sleep and moods improve through an increase in vitality. You leave feeling younger, happier and healthier. 
At ATR, Knowledge, experience and creativity are key. Maintaining low overhead by using practical and functional  equipment allows the owner, Mary Jo Cambridge, and her energetic and caring staff to provide Homer with the highest quality and best value in fitness. What are you waiting for?