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    Advanced Wellness Blog

October 5, 2018

Playing The Transformation Game–Steps to Successful Transformations

By Leo Shveyd, Co-Owner of AW-Personalized Training & Sports Performance, San Francisco, CA

With more humans being exposed to thousands of images per day due to the digital age, many individuals seek a physical transformation to what they envision as their “ideal body”. In order to accomplish this goal, there are many factors that can be manipulated. The overwhelming goal to accomplish any transformation is to upregulate your body’s good chemistry (human growth hormone [HGH], testosterone, estrogen, etc.), while down-regulating negative hormonal responses (i.e. cortisol, etc.) that cause a prolonged inflammatory state. When we are young (18-25 years old), much of this good chemistry is manufactured by the body at peak levels. As we age, our body’s production levels decline; the result is an older, less trim physique. Therefore, much of the transformation success lies in making your body believe that it is young again; full of good chemistry. This can be accomplished via changes to your breathing, stress management strategy, strength and conditioning/training, rest and recovery (i.e. sleep), and nutrition.

Breathing & Stress

Utilizing an efficient breathing strategy (light, nose, belly breathing) is often overlooked in the transformation process. In instances of long-term stress, an inefficient breathing strategy will decrease CO2 levels and change the pH of the body. “One possible explanation for the relationship between [inefficient breathing] and weight gain is that in an effort to bring blood pH levels back to normal, the body craves processed and acid forming foods”, states Patrick McKeown in the book Oxygen Advantage. McKeown goes on to share that: “[t]he relationship between stress and increased food intake is well documented, with food often being a distraction for comfort to negate feelings of anger, loneliness, financial pressure or relationship issues.” Utilizing an efficient breathing strategy combined with an awareness of your breath is the most basic form of meditation. Meditation has been shown to reduce, and better manage, stress. Managing stress is a key component of most transformations that we have observed at AW-Personalized Training & Sports Performance (AW) over the years.

Strength & Conditioning/Training

While fitness may not be the most important component of a transformation process, it is the foundation of our program at AW. We have found that individuals that are committed to a three times per week strength and conditioning/training program, are well equipped to also add working on rest and recovery, as well as nutrition. The opposite is not true. In fact, we have found that clients that focus more on nutrition (and less on rest/recovery and training) early in process, tend to give up. Our advice: start with three strength and conditioning/training sessions per week and build off that! Movement (and training) is a “keystone” habit; a catalyst for many other healthy lifestyle choices.

Rest & Recovery

There are many benefits to good sleep, such as feeling more energized, being able to train with more intensity and recovering so you can train again sooner. Sleeping 7.5-8 hours per night will allow you to realize these benefits, in addition to helping increase HGH production (a hormone associated with lean muscle mass).

Nutrition & Hydration

Once you have established a consistent (three times per week minimum) training regimen, and are resting/recovering properly, you are ready for nutrition. Nutrition is the single most impactful component of the transformation process but will be difficult to sustain (see below) if focused on initially. At AW, we customize each client’s nutrition program. However, we see many clients who start our program that struggle with sufficient protein intake, especially early in the day. Therefore, we recommend trying to increase your protein intake, by eating protein with every meal, especially early in the day (breakfast and lunch). Increasing water intake is another great strategy and will keep you full longer (dehydration is often mistaken by your body as hunger).


In making this transformation, it is important to take steps that are sustainable so that the changes can be maintained long-term. Long-term sustainability is something we hear little about in the transformation world of shows like the “The Biggest Loser”. While the production goal of The Biggest Loser is to have the contestants lose weight as quickly as possible, that should not be your goal. Individuals that resort to extreme measures for weight-loss often find themselves in the same exact position, if not worse, once the extreme measures are lifted. Instead, your goal should be to pick strategies you can implement into your lifestyle going forward. Start with easier tasks first to help build momentum. Once you have incorporated a behavior into your lifestyle, add the next sustainable piece. Unfortunately, we have witnessed different approaches over the nearly two decades in this business. Too hard, too often, too stringent, etc., in our experience, is a road to an unsuccessful transformation. Moreover, this approach can prevent even the slightest results from being realized because the tax placed on the system is too great.

Extrinsic Motivation

Let’s face it: transformations are tough! They require a plan, dedication and are more likely successful with some form of extrinsic motivation. Having a goal, a coach, a training partner are all forms of extrinsic motivation. In the case of AW, we combine your goals, programming and coaching, along with an awesome training community, which help you stay on track during challenging times.

There you have it: simple, but not easy…no transformations are, as they come with obstacles, change and sacrifice. Yes, there will be challenges. You might experience pain, might be tempted to cheat on your nutrition plan, etc. The key is to not allow a one-time obstacle to derail your entire plan. If you are truly willing to own your potential, perhaps a sensible transformation plan is your first stop.

Wishing you lots of luck. Please let us know if we can be of help.

July 23, 2018

Feet, Shoes, Health & Performance

By Leo Shveyd, Co-Owner of AW-Personalized Training & Sports Performance, San Francisco, CA

The FEET, ah, the feet. For as long as humans have bipedaled the earth, the feet have served as the foundation of our bodies in locomotion (walking, running, etc.). They are designed to be very sensitive, with over 200,000 nerve-endings, the third most nerve endings of anywhere in the body. Simply put, your feet are made to feel; feel sharp objects, temperature (heat and cold), pain, the ground, feel everything.

Shoes are an incredible invention. They provide protection from extreme temperature and terrain, helping our bodies do more than we are capable of, especially when you combine shoes with optimally trained (strong and mobile) feet. Shoes are, by no means, a modern invention. Humans have made shoes from various materials for tens of thousands of years.

We have evolved to wear shoes that resemble those of our ancestors. However, some shoe in today’s world simply don’t. While in many instances health and performance are as intertwined as Siamese twins, there are scenarios where they diverge. For example, wearing thinner, more flexible shoes has health general health benefits and thus, having better adapted feet checks both wellness and performance boxes in most cases. Always remember your first ability as an athlete is your availability; and having strong feet helps. Nonetheless, there are instances where shoes with a thicker sole may actually allow you to perform better, depending on the activity. In basketball, having a thicker sole that allows you land on hard surfaces after jumping to extreme heights provides a safety net; another example may be in ultra-marathoning.

However, that same safety net can be a hindrance to your health if you live in basketball shoes or other thickly padded shoes all the time. Why, you ask?

The shoes of our ancestors had the following characteristics:

1. Sole:

a. Thin
b. Flat (zero heel-to-toe drop)
c. Flexible (all the way through; even in the mid-foot)

2. Covering (tops):

a. Flexible

3. Wide toe box (room for your toes to spread as your foot connects with the ground)

Hence, we have evolved to wear shoes more closely resembling the first image, preferably comfortable ones. Those who know me know that I am a believer in minimalist shoe wear (for the right person); of course, you could go barefoot. Your foot musculature needs to be trained (which doesn’t happen nearly well enough when you wear heavily padded shoes). Moreover, your feet provide a tremendous amount of feedback to your body and helps your over-all structure. You wouldn’t needle point with mitts on; likewise, you should train your feet with minimal disruption to the “feel” in your feet. The alternative is stiff, achy, weak feet and which can happens when you live in rigid, thickly-padded shoes. For most people, the key is to follow the parameters outlined above. One caveat to consider is there is an adaptation.  Here is a list of shoes that are worth investigating because they may meet the criteria (assuming they feel comfortable to you):

Men’s & Women’s







I hear some of you out there: “these shoes don’t look good”. Yep, I get it. Life is about trade-offs. Function may need to prevail over fashion if health and performance are your concerns.

As an aside, I have been working all summer to develop a rock shower mat that would act as a foot massager. Not only do the rocks massage your feet, they provide a grounding effect to your body, similar to electricity having negative charge.

The way I see it: people are busy; busy living their 21st century lives. Asking someone to go barefoot thru the woods just isn’t going to happen. Yet, we must address this problem (our shoe wear and lack of movement).

1. use bare feet when possible (especially at home or other safe environements),
2. wear minimalist shoes with the parameters outlined here as much as possible in daily life activities,
3. use thicker shoes if you have to due to health reasons (i.e. you have pain and you need the padding of a thicker shoe),
4. use thicker soled shoes for performance purposes (such as basketball or ultra-marathons)

** There is an adaptation period. Start with a 1-2 hour period and see how your feet feel. From there, gradually add time to activities of daily life. Lastly, add activities of higher intensities with short durations, progressing to longer ones.

I’ll let you know how my shower rock mat project turns out.

Shout out to coach Diana…who hates bare feet…yet has to put up with mine around AW.

***Disclaimer: What you just read presumes you have a minimum level of health and healthy feet; healthy enough to attempt going barefoot and wearing minimalist shoes in the appropriate situation. If you are not sure, ask a professional. The strategies discussed are not for everybody, while I believe they will help many.

Lets us know if you have any questions. As always, if we don’t know the answer, we’ll find you someone that does.

To you and BETTER!

July 18, 2018

AW Coach Spotlight–Meagan McGovern

You may or may not have met Coach Meagan. She’s a busy teacher and AW Coach!  Meagan was born and raised in San Francisco. She graduated from University of San Francisco and now teaches 5th grade at Sherman Elementary School.

Meagan is an excellent coach, paying close attention to detail, giving lots feedback, and keeping the energy high with singing and dancing!  Get to know her a little better below…

Coach Meagan’s Profile

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  I am 26 years old. I grew up in San Francisco, which is considered rare these days. I am going into my fourth year as a 5th Grade teacher at Sherman Elementary School. In my spare time, I love hanging out with my family (you can even catch my parents working at AW), friends, my boyfriend, Spencer, and exploring and traveling.

How did you get your start at AW? I got introduced to AW through Robbi and Leo. I used to babysit for their daughters and began doing some social media for them while I was getting my Master’s at USF. I used to be the type of person who would go to the gym, get on an elliptical for 30 minutes, and maybe do some light dumbbell lifts for my arms. Within the first few months of working out at AW, I saw a total difference in my body. I became stronger and even more toned because of the strength training and movements I was doing. Once I became familiar with the movements, I started coaching in 2014. I absolutely love it, and now both of my parents work out at AW!

How do teaching and coaching relate? Coaching and teaching go hand in hand. Personal trainers and strength coaches ARE educators. As educators, we know that everyone learns differently, and teachers should adjust their teaching to meet the needs of their students. Depending upon the movement, the client, and the current situation, there are many different types of cues and ways to teach the movement, and it is up to us as coaches to learn our clients and how they learn best. Also, just like teaching, each student or client comes with their own background, history, and experience. All of this plays a role in how we teach or coach our clients. I also love getting to know each person, learning about their families and background! That’s what makes this job so fun and rewarding.

What’s your favorite movement and why? I love KB Swings! Swings are a full-body movement, working everything from your core and shoulders to your quads, hamstrings, glutes and back. It also keeps your heart rate up.

What would you tell someone considering joining AW? AW will change you mentally and physically. Every workout is a challenge, but we meet you where you are, instead of the other way around. Not only are the workouts challenging, they are fun and rewarding. We have built a COMMUNITY who supports each other without judgement. We are a gym for every person who wants to Own Their Potential.

September 10, 2017

Road Map to Elite Level Performance

By Leo Shveyd, Co-Owner of AW-Personalized Training & Sports Performance, San Francisco, CA

About a year ago, we had the pleasure of working with Vincent “Tutu” Golson, a local college basketball player. When I met Tutu in the summer of 2016, he had been sidelined for 16 days with an MCL sprain, the second such injury he had sustained in less than 9 months. After training at AW-Personalized Training & Sports Performance for a little less than two weeks, Tutu was back on the basketball court. Shortly thereafter, I got a call from a local basketball coach, Carl Jacobs, wondering what it was that we were able to do to get Tutu available to play so quickly.  When I tried to explain to Coach Carl what we do for “ALL” our athletes, I found myself struggling. Ironically, what I realized was that many of the same principles that we apply to our clients everyday, were being done so virtually on auto-pilot and only realized by our clients. In order to better explain to Coach Carl, and others who are not familiar with AW’s methodology, I put together a diagram (see below) and means of application, so we could better educate folks on what we do at Advanced Wellness and how they be BETTER and “own their potential”.

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August 20, 2012

The Core of 2012

Composition, Function and Approach to Training!

By Leo Shveyd, CSCS Advanced Wellness in San Francisco, CA (with consultation from Brett Jones)

During the two-and-half decades that I have been involved in fitness, the definition of “the core” and consequently, core training has evolved. Part of the evolution is subjective (meaning I have learned more about the topic) and part is objective (as a profession there is more and better information about the subject area). With so many great minds in the rehab and fitness arena contributing daily in the information age, a good deal of terrific data exists about the “the core”. In this article, I will attempt to define what makes-up the core, its functions and suggest an approach to core training. 

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March 3, 2012

Elevating Your FMS: Combining Effectiveness and Efficiency

By Leo Shveyd, Advanced Wellness in San Francisco, CA

You are about to spend ten minutes (or perhaps less based on your efficiency) screening a new client. One wise person I know says “better is better”, while another says “better, faster, cheaper”. So how can you be better (meaning obtain better information), yet save yourself and your client valuable time? The purpose of this article is to examine this exact question and provide some insights.

If your client is twenty-five years or older, you can be fairly sure they are done growing. Prior to performing the Hurdle Step(HS) and In-Line Lunge(ILL), you must measure the tibia length (from the floor to the ischial tuberosity). The Shoulder Mobility (SM) test requires a hand length measurement (from the middle finger to the first crease on the wrist of the dominant hand). Once you have completed the measurements, write those numbers down. Since the numbers are unlikely to change, you will save yourself time by not having to re-measure should you need to retest down the road.

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January 17, 2012

Why We Use FMS

By Leo Shveyd, Advanced Wellness in San Francisco, CA

My wife Robbi and I own and operate Advanced Wellness, a fitness and wellness center in the heart of San Francisco, California. I was initially drawn to the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) in 2009 after Mel Young, a trusted San Francisco physical therapist showed me the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) book he received during his certification. I was so impressed by the material, its breadth, logic and how it was organized that I decided to research FMS. Ultimately, I became FMS certified. Two months after becoming level I certified, I completed the FMS level II.

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