Protein Powders: How do I buy a safe product? Which one is best?

When choosing a protein powder the choice can be quite difficult.  You see the list of ingredients and get overwhelmed. did the work for you.  They did a comprehensive study of over 675 products and 111 different brands while getting the advice of dietitians and fitness experts.  They considered the concerns of artificial sweeteners, illegal substances and food colorings.

And the winners are:  Click here and find out.


The sports nutrition industry has a history littered with lawsuits, misleading product labels, and hyperbolized products, especially when it comes to protein powder – which is a multi-billion dollar industry. Outrageous branding campaigns have been convincing people they need extra protein to build muscle since the ‘70s, and that perception is still going strong. Sales are up, spiked proteins are rampant, and the war for the best-tasting whey isolate continues.

We spent 180 hours researching the industry to discover what the frenzy was all about. During that time we built a list of 697 different flavors of protein powder, consulted with nationally renowned fitness and health experts, and investigated the nutritional pros and cons of 191 artificial sweeteners, food colorings, and illegal substances.  Continue Reading

Artificial ingredients are useless and can lower your overall health

The general consensus among online fitness and nutrition communities is that the artificial sweeteners and colorings used in protein powders are bad for you. We took our research a step further and asked over 4,000 registered dietitians for their opinions on the matter. Their response was unanimous (and much stronger): If possible, artificial sugars and colorings should be completely avoided. Not only are they unnecessary; they’re potentially dangerous. Continue Reading

Three Reasons to Join a Gym

Three Reasons to Join a Gym

Every once in awhile a person needs to take an inventory of the tools we have in life. Are we moving towards our goals? Do I have the right tools for the job? Are we using our tools to the best of our ability? We often think about our health in terms of work and home. But the common denominator here is our personal health. Am I healthy enough to perform where I work? Am I healthy enough to contribute to my family life? Maybe the answer is yes, maybe the answer is no, but either way we can always conclude: “I want to take my health to the next level.”

At Pinnacle Health + Fitness we opened our doors so people could pursue their health. We are always trying to improve our facilities and services to give members the tools they need to be successful.

Own your health

Workouts at home are hard to come by. I know that many of my clients are successful working out at home but most experience a significant drop off from their workouts at the gym. Own your health. Sign up for a membership and use it as a tool to pursue your health. For a reasonable monthly rate, becoming a member is a great investment. You can’t purchase all the equipment you want, but we can (and did!). title
Buying a membership gets you access to weights, cardio machines, and functional exercise equipment like medicine balls, kettle bells and TRX suspension straps. If you value your health, a gym membership makes a lot of sense. The next step is to design your own workout, or…

Be trained by the pros

It’s not that you can’t design your own workout. It’s just that you need a little push (sometimes a big push, right Mondays?). Most of my clients get in 3–5 workouts per week but they choose to have at least one of them designed and implemented by me. Personal trainers track your workouts and progress you to new challenges that are hard to do on your own. You could view a personal trainer as another tool to have in your back pocket to pursue your health.
personal training
If you look at any successful athlete (don’t fool yourself, you’re an athlete), they have a coach. From Jordan to Ironman the best in the world benefit when they have a coach, and you will, too. Having a coach allows for critical decision making and challenges that can be difficult when managed alone. Which brings us to…

Join a team

When you join a club you join a team. During your first workout at Pinnacle Health + Fitness, look closely at the other members. Many of them know each other well enough to share friendly greetings, both personally and as it relates to their workout. Join a teamJoining a club gets you on that team. It could also get you onto a group exercise team that will expect you to be at class. Or it could get you on a smaller team, one-on-one with a personal trainer. That’s my personal favorite! What about you? Are you ready to join the Pinnacle team?

Working with a Trainer made a difference

karlbarton5My name is Tracy Roth and I have a success story that I would like to share.  I have been working with Karl Barton for about two months.  In these past two months I have seen drastic changes in my over all mental and physical health.  Words alone cannot express how much Karl has done for me.  I have to say it took me a while to find the right fit.  I have had many experiences with trainers and none have been a success for me.  The first day I started working with Karl I knew it was the right.  What was immediately evident was that Karl really cares about his clients.  It is so easy to feel his passion. Some days I just don’t feel like coming to the gym, but Karl inspires me so much, I don’t want to miss.  Even if I am having a bad day it pays to be coached by him because I know when my workout is done I will feel great.    No matter where you are in your journey you will see results.  Maintaining has been difficult for me. Without Karl’s help it could not have been done.  Karl takes the time to listen to me. He will go above and beyond to listen and he cares what you have to say.  There have even been days where I have felt down and he has taken time out of his day to listen.

In working with Karl I have gained confidence in myself, which never has happened.  I would always tell Karl I can’t do this exercise but he got me to do it.  It has really helped me mentally as well as physically. Every time I leave Pinnacle I feel great about myself.


In two short months I have been able to do boot camps and INSANITY classes, which I was never able to do. I asked Karl to come up with things that he has noticed about my improvement. This is what he had to say:  “Endurance and upper body strength has increased. Your jumping ability both long and standing jumps has really improved. You are now willing to try new things like hand eye coordination and ladder jumps for stability and stamina.”  Without Karl’s help maintaining my weight would not happen.  I have always struggled with weight issues.


He even keeps me dedicated to my workouts when we are not training together.

The staff at Pinnacle is awesome.

Thank you Karl for all your support and help.  I would not be where I am in life if it wasn’t for you.

The Adventure of Something New

It’s safe to say that most of the members at Pinnacle Health + Fitness have established a routine. You show up to the gym at about the same time each day. Or you attend the same class (or four) each week. When you go upstairs, you gravitate to the same machine for your 3–5 minute warm-up or your 20 minutes of cardio. In the weight room, it’s either a chest and arms day or a back and legs workout. Routines are good. Exercise adherence is a difficult thing and as I look around the gym and talk to our members, I can see a dedication to health and fitness. But sometimes routine can get stale. Sometimes routine actually makes a person go backwards. You get bored. Maybe you even burn out. What’s a health enthusiast to do? How do you pursue your health when things don’t seem to be clicking or you just need a change?

“The year I learned to…”

  • + Last August Erica watched Ironman for the first time. She had never competed in a triathlon before, but she signed up and trained for Ironman. In August she finished 140.6 miles of Madison’s Ironman course. She learned how to Tri! (see what I did there?)
  • + In February 2013, Ken couldn’t swim two laps in the pool without stopping. After about six weeks laps by himself, the Masters swim coach invited him over for a workout. Four weeks later he was swimming 2,000 meters in the 45 minute class.
  • + Sarah has completed four half marathons. All of them were horrible experiences because she didn’t have a training plan and so she really didn’t have the miles to run well. This year, she signed up for her first half marathon training class. This year, she’ll learn how to train properly.

What’s next for you?

No matter where you are on your fitness journey, there’s always room to learn something new. Maybe you need to learn a new sport. Maybe you need to develop a new exercise program. The examples above might be a little extreme (especially the Ironman!). But one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health is to get outside your comfort zone and learn a new form of training. You’ll experience a little dip in performance. You’ll hit a few road bumps along the way. And you may realize you won’t do this type of training five years down the road. But when you get deep enough into your training that you can look back and see how far you’ve come, you’ll appreciate the challenge and you’ll embrace the journey of learning something new.

  • “This year I’ll learn to swim.”
  • “This year I’ll learn to play tennis.”
  • “This year I’ll learn a great workout on TRX and kettlebell.”Hans Schiefelbein PHF

What will you learn this year?

How can I help?

Email me and we will set up a time to discuss an action plan to get you there.

Hans Schiefelbein is a Master Trainer at Pinnacle Health + Fitness (Fitchburg). He has a Masters degree in kinesiology from the University of Wisconsin and is certified through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Strategies for Spring

Staying motivated when the wind is howling and the days are chilly…it is not an easy task. How do you overcome the weather?

Motivation lies within us. Our thoughts and daily actions can either have a positive or a negative influence on us. Our thoughts about exercise and the weather can play a big part in whether we get a workout in. Rev yourself up for your workouts! Find a new workout challenge, take a relaxation class to unwind, or join a small group. Try out the stretching and relaxation class on Thursdays at 7 in Fitchburg. You will find peace for your mind as you lengthen your muscles with gentle stretches.

                                                                        Woman stretching her leg.

Small group workouts can be a great way to work with others in order to accomplish your fitness goals.Maybe the small group setting isn’t the right setting for you. Contact me, Christi Otto, at: to learn more about individual training options.

 Identifying what motivates you and why you are exercising are very important. Use the upcoming indoor workout days to work towards your outdoor goals. Are you looking forward to gardening, biking, or hiking? Start today and strengthen your body in ways that will prepare you for the warm weather that is coming.

Write down two strength areas that you could improve now. Start today! Also, write down two reasons why you exercise. Not just to lose weight or tone, but what will working out help you do? Put these four things on your phone calendar as a daily reminder. Look at them every day when they pop up on your phone!

A daily gut check is a way that you can also motivate yourself and measure your progress. Place your index finger on your belly and inhale deeply so that it expands. As you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles and push your finger against your hard abdominal wall. Now pinch your index finger and thumb together. “You’re holding pure fat between your fingers,” says Tom Seabourne, Ph.D., author of Athletic Abs. Do this every day, 30 minutes before your workout, and you’ll find that you will rarely decide to skip it. See Men’s Health: “20 Ways To Stick To Your Workout,” for the full article.

Combining all of these strategies will get you through the cold, the wind, and the rain. Finding time for yourself to warm up your body and challenge yourself is the key to moving in the right direction. You need to start now! Have questions? Contact me at

The Foam Roller: Your New Best Friend!

The Foam Roller has many uses, but perhaps the most impressive is its ability to prevent injury and increase flexibility in those who suffer from tight or fatigued muscles. As a long-time fitness instructor who teaches more than several classes per week and enjoys running and strength training on her own time, I have found the foam roller to be an invaluable piece of equipment.    Like traditional stretching, the Foam Roller elongates muscles, but it does so by intensely “massaging” the muscles.  The massaging breaks up adhesions in your fascia (the tissue that surrounds your muscles), therefore increasing blood flow to tight areas, limiting soreness and increasing flexibility.

foam roller1foam calf

There are several different types of Foam Rollers available.  Each roller affects the muscles in a similar manner; however, the denser the roller or the deeper the ridges on the roller, the more intense the stretch will be.  If you are new to Foam Rolling, use a softer-based roller, so that you can roll over muscles without causing too much discomfort.  Once you have been rolling for a while, you can switch to a firmer roller.  The more the foam roller is used, the less discomfort you will experience.  When used correctly, the Foam Roller may be used on all parts of the body.

The Foam Roller should never be used as a means of rehabbing torn or injured muscles, but rather as a way of preventing tight muscles from injury.  Furthermore, it should not be used as a replacement for proper stretching, warm up or cool-down.  The best time to use a Foam Roller is after your workout during cool-down / stretch.   Adding in some Foam Roller time for period of 3-5 minutes (or more, if you exercise intensely) is recommended.   My favorite time to use a Foam Roller is after a long run or when my muscles are simply in need of a little extra TLC – in which case, I will roll at home at night while reading or watching TV, often for up to an hour.

                                                          foam quads

When used consistently and correctly, the Foam Roller can aid in muscle recovery, injury prevention and increased flexibility.  I would love to show you more about this amazing piece of equipment and anything else you would like to learn about!  Email me at  or read more about me on my web page. I would love to see you for a free one-on-one consultation.





Free Drugs

“Free Drugs!”
Ahem, now that I’ve got your attention …

We are in the middle of what is proving to be a long, tough and COLD winter It’s feeling like it’s going to last FOREVER.  We’ve done all we can to embrace it, but it’s getting old.  Are you feeling a bit down? Slightly depressed? Crabby? Unmotivated?  Well, I’ve got the drug (actually a chemical) just for you!  It’s FREE! And it’s already in your body!

So, what is it? 

Endorphins.  Yes, we’ve all heard of them. But what are they?  Endorphins are chemicals released in your body that, when locked into certain receptor sites, block the transmission of pain creating a euphoric feeling.  Endorphins act much like opiates.  There are over 20 different kinds of endorphins, one type being beta-endorphins shown to be stronger than morphine.  And, I want to stress once again, this is already produced and manufactured in YOUR OWN BODY! Wow!

So, how do I get me some of those endorphins?  There are several ways to aid your body in releasing this wonder drug/chemical.  Let me outline a few:

1.  Food – Hot or spicy foods create a burning or painful sensation, in which the body reacts by releasing endorphins, causing the pain to be offset by a euphoric feeling.  Sounds strange, but this may explain why spicy foods are so popular and addicting.

Image:Release Endorphins Step 5.jpg

2. Chocolate – No one has to tell me twice that it’s ok to eat chocolate.  Dark chocolate contains chemicals that promote the release of endorphins, promoting a sense of calm or well-being.  One or two small squares per week should suffice, so don’t go overboard. 

Image:Release Endorphins Step 3.jpg

3.  Sex – Yes, I said it.  Often given a low priority, sex is one of nature’s most de-stressing activities around.  It releases endorphins, and also burns calories.  Bonus!

4. Laughter – How awesome do you feel after a good belly laugh?  While laughter also helps reduce blood pressure and stress hormones, it also triggers the release of endorphins. 

 And finally ….

5. EXERCISE! – It’s no secret that physical activity stimulates endorphin production as well.  After working in the fitness industry for over 22 years, I see this played-out first hand every day.  Whether it’s taking a group exercise with friends, keeping the heart healthy on the cardio machines, increasing strength through weight training, or jumping in to the pool for an invigorating swim, I’m witness to endorphins being released everywhere, every day.  There is a direct link between happiness and exercise.  Whatever your workout, you will feel happier and healthier after a doing it.

So take time for yourself this winter and stay healthy and happy. I promise this cold winter will eventually end and Spring will arrive. But in the meantime, think ENDORPHINS, and release what nature has already provided you, from right within your very own body. Contact me for questions or to start an endorphin loaded exercise plan today.




Benefits of Water Exercise in Salt Water Pools

Whether your water workouts have your body horizontal as when you swim or your body vertical as with water fitness workouts like Aqua Boot Camp and Water Running the benefits are many. Before I get to the fitness benefits you should know about the advantages of training in the salt-water pools at Pinnacle.

Working out in a salt-water swimming pool is gentler on your eyes and less drying to your skin, along with having a silkier feel. The pools are naturally chlorinated by the salt-water system.  No more bleached swimsuits, yellow hair and strong chemical odors.

Water is about 800 times denser than air, so it provides about 12 times more resistance.  The moves you do in the pool can work your arms, legs, shoulders, and core. With water workouts you gain flexibility, balance as well as muscle symmetry because you are always work the opposing muscle immediately

Some other benefits:

  • Reduce stress on joints, bones, and muscles because of the buoyancy of water and option of flotation devices for those who can’t exercise comfortably on land
  • Minimizes risk of injury because water provides resistance in multiple directions, which helps build balance and muscle strength
  • Achieve muscle tone faster through the ability to work two opposing muscle groups with each rep by the resistance provided from the water during both the lengthening and shortening of the muscle belly
  • Increase your exercise workload and burn more calories because it takes more muscle energy to push your body through water than through air

Example Strength and Cardio Set:

Split-jump lunges with biceps curls

(Targets: biceps, Triceps, back, hips, glutes, quads)

With an aqua hand paddle in each hand, arms at your sides, step your right foot back into a lunge. Jump up to switch sides and do a biceps curl, keeping arms submerged. (You can alternate arms or curl both arms at the same time.) Continue for 60 seconds.

Athletes with injuries or people recovering from hip or knee replacements will benefit from our warm water pool. The hydrostatic pressure of the warm water decreases joint and soft tissue swelling that can result after injury or with arthritic conditions or disorders. Warm water also relaxes muscles and vasodilates vessels, increasing blood flood to injured areas, helping those with muscle spasms, back pain and fibromyalgia.

My name is Heidi Meyer-Spidell and I am the Aquatics director at Pinnacle. I am a Master Aquatic Trainer certified by the Aquatic Exercise Association, Midwest Aquatic Association, American Council on Exercise and the Arthritis Foundation.

Please click here for offers in our AQUATICS DEPARTMENT  or click here to learn more about me.

MAKE IT COUNT! By: Christi Otto

Everyday you wake up challenge yourself! List three goals you want to accomplish. These should be challenges you can achieve every day. For example: eat less sugar, take the stairs, and increase water intake. Do them!

Tape this to your steering wheel and on your bathroom mirror. You will see them every day. Every week or two make new challenges. Every week or two make new challenges. If you want to take on a weight loss challenge, discover the Thinner Winner at Pinnacle.

You need to be committed! A lot of fitness articles say you can achieve weight loss in 14 to 20 days. It takes more than that. Live in reality and you will not disappoint yourself! It is about inches on your waist, more energy, better sleep, more productivity, etc. Make conscious choices. Only you can change it. You are in control of your life, your health, your destiny. 


For the average person it takes over 60 days to develop a habit. When you are working out and eating better you are developing new habits. According to UCL News it takes 66 days to establish a new habit. The 21 day myth originally applied to plastic surgery patients.

Following plastic surgery it takes about 21 days for the average patient to get used to his new face. When an arm or leg is amputated the “phantom limb” persists for about 21 days”.

On that thought, have you ever logged your foods for 70 days in a row? Have you ever exercised for 70 days in a row? Get up and move!  If you did this, how much closer would you be to your ultimate goal?

I have challenged all of my clients to this. Let me tell you, it was not easy. It is hard. There were many days that quitting seemed easier. Last week I got an e-mail from one client saying: “This is too hard. I don’t think I will be able to lose the weight.” I e-mailed her back telling her she needs to make that effort today! I also sent her a motivational video and several short articles to keep her going. That is what it is all about! It is a constant battle. You need to learn how to combat your battles. SHE DID IT! Sometimes you just need a push. She lost 32lbs in the last four months and she is very proud of her success!

Success happens little by little, day after day. Another client got his wife in on it too. They have changed as a unit. They are closer and enjoy walking and cooking dinner together. It is no longer just about the weight. It is about the bond, the sharing, and the experience. Are you ready to be pushed for a 70 day challenge? Start new habits? Contact me: Christi Otto;

Your goals need to be on the front burner. Start now! It is going to take time. At times it is going to be hard to maintain. I know it can sometimes be embarrassing to be vulnerable but do it and you will amaze yourself.


By Group Exercise Director and Personal Trainer  Vikki Hettiger
By Group Exercise Director and Personal Trainer
Vikki Hettiger

I’ve been involved in the fitness industry for close to 20 years, first as a Group Exercise Instructor, later as a Personal Trainer.  In all my years of teaching classes and training clients, the most frequently-asked question I hear is “What exercises can I do to get rid of THIS?”  (now imagine the person grabbing onto their “love handles”, thighs or  triceps).   My  answer?

Spot reduction is one of the biggest fitness myths out there.  People often mistakenly believe that if you work a specific muscle group you will decrease the amount of fat in that area.  The reality?  Doing 200 crunches a day or holding planks forever will not automatically give you a six-pack!   There are other factors to consider, all of which go hand-in-hand in creating those lean, toned body parts you are dreaming of.Pinnacle-Blog

  1. Cardio.  Cardio exercise is crucial in maximizing overall fat loss.  You need the cardio to melt away the layer of fat that is covering up those muscles.  So go out for a run, take a Cycling class, hit the elliptical, swim laps, do Zumba…anything that will get your heart rate up and help you burn calories!
  2. Strength Training.  Weight training is the key to sculpting and strengthening our muscles from the inside, so that when fat loss does occur, our muscles look shapely and strong on the outside.  Aim to do some form of strength training 2-3 times per week.  Hire a Personal Trainer to help if you are not sure where to start.  Pinnacle also offers some fantastic classes like TRX,   Dynamic Strength and BodyPump, all of which can help shape and define those muscles.
  3. Eating Clean.   Go for fresh fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins.  Watch your carbohydrate consumption (don’t avoid them), but do stay away from processed foods whenever possible. Drink water.  If you need extra help with what to eat, seek out our registered dietian, Travis Stuntebeck, who can create a personalized plan just for YOU.

Keep in mind…fat loss is a very individual thing, and that you may lose fat in certain areas quicker than others.  Genetics and gender can each play a role in how or where fat-loss occurs.   It can be done!  I would love to help.  Email me at

For a complete list of cardio and strength classes, click here.