Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sustain and Gain

When I first started training four years ago, I did it like I did everything else: I dove in head first without giving too much thought. Now, there’s something to be said for the “I’m just going to work my butt off” training, don’t get me wrong; albeit one major drawback: sustainability.

Here’s what I did: one year of two-a-days with a 4-6 mile run every morning, and a 2.5hr workout every night. End result? I ran my body into the ground. My body actually grew weaker. Yes, I was still losing weight; but my muscle mass was decreasing, my energy levels were extremely low, and I began to lose sleep from over-training.

Often times it’s easy to set goals which are realistic but seek to achieve those goals in an unrealistic or misinformed way. One of the major things I ran into time and time again in the boxing world was 2 groups of people: over-trainers and under-trainers. The question remained: what is the best way to sustain training for extended periods of time which doesn’t burn you out mentally and physically?

I recommend two things:

  1.    Efficiency- Dead time in the gym is the enemy. Why spend time over-socializing and continually cooling down/warming up because of off time between sets/exercises? I’m a huge fan of circuit training. It can be implemented for muscle gain, weight loss, and general fitness.  If your goal is 1 minute of rest on each muscle group implement a super set with a complimentary muscle group during the time you would normally rest. Circuit training will keep your heart rate up and cut into the wasted downtime. My workouts now last no more than an hour and I get better results than the 2.5 hr/night workouts I did previously.

Here’s more info on different type of supersets and their benefits: 

2. Periodization-  Sometimes athletes/clients I work with ask me: “How long can you push this hard and not quit?” or “Should each week get progressively harder to achieve results?” The answer lies in periodization. The basic concept of periodizing is:

“an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period. It is a way of alternating training to its peak during season. The aim of periodization is to introduce new movements as one progresses through the macrocycle to specify one's training right up until the start of the season.”

There are very specific periodized approaches for marathoners, triathletes, body builders, and various other sports. To generalize the approach I recommend cycling the intensity and style of your workouts. Not every week should be at the peak speed and intensity you can sustain for a full workout. Instead follow a peak and valley approach in which you have short, fast, high intensity training weeks and longer, slower workouts the following week.

Running is the perfect example: you aren’t going to run your record time every day, but you need to cycle your body through a series of runs both long and short, with and without intervals in order to prep yourself to peak. The same basic concept  of periodization can be applied towards weight training, weight loss, and various other sports.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Weekly Workout 2/27/13

Core! Use your core in nearly every exercise. When I work with fighters developing their core (more than just their abs) it helps them to take punches and gives more power on their punch. Runners, both distance and short length, become more efficient and shave times. Explosive movements and change of direction (which are all measures of athleticism) are also strongly tied to core. 

 Don’t believe me? Work your abs heavy and then run or lift; go play a game of basketball. You’ll notice movements you utilize your core that you had no idea. Long story short, you’ll notice most the exercises and workouts I suggest are total body and core centric.

Here’s what I have today:

Warm-up: 10 minutes of jogging or other cardio exercise. Some other good alternatives would include jumping rope and a row machine.

After your warm-up feel free to get a few minutes of dynamic stretching in before beginning the following circuit. Do the circuit as many times as you can for 25 minutes:

A.      (5) Prisoner Push-ups: Do a pushup, then when you return to the top, hold your plank and bring your right knee to your chest. Then switch and bring your left leg to your chest. So its push up knee to chest, knee to chest, push-up, knee, knee, pushup, etc.  Another way to think of this is a combination of a pushup and mountain climber into 1!
B.      (10) Jump Squats: Squat down and explode up as high as you can.
C.      (15) Russian Twists: Sit on your back and balance with legs off the ground. Clasp hands together and touch ground to your side then over to the other side.
D.      (5) Step Over Push-ups: Do a pushup, step over in a plank, Pushup, stepover, etc.
E.       (20) Mountain Climbers: In a plank bring one knee towards your chest and then alternate feet.
F.       (10) Dips: Find a bench or elevated surface and lower to the group keeping your legs straight out in front of you.

After your 25 mins, stretch for 3-7 minutes incorporating both static and dynamic stretching techniques.

Some of the new exercises not covered before:

Russian Twist

Step Over Pushup

Mountain Climber

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Eat Great....Even Late?

College eating was the best. As a Freshman, living in the dorms, there was “late night”. Late night was four times a week when they opened the cafeteria from 10:30pm to 12:00am. On the menu: omelets, pizza (with ranch of course), and hot wings. Oh, and if you are looking for dessert, we did of course have soft serve ice cream. It wasn’t a wonder when the “Freshman 15” (or 25 for me) came creeping up as the year progressed. In fact, late night runs to 24hr restaurants were a near daily occurrence.

So what’s the big deal? Why the weight? Well, it’s all about timing…and content. It not only matters what you eat, but when you eat it. I’ll get a chance to dig deeper into carbs and the glycemic index, meal by meal composition and amount, but the top offender these days is what people are eating once the sun goes down.
Here’s a real high level covered by the NY Times last year.
Here’s another good read on a late-eating study.
So what’s the deal?

It’s tough to get into the specifics without touching on a bit of biochemistry. In short, when you eat and then go straight to bed you are increasing your need for your metabolism to process calories and your metabolism switches speeds and processes as you go to bed.  Your brain function and the caloric needs of your body decrease at night, so adding un-needed calories, especially carbs, promotes fat storage. Late night eating is typically impulse or crave driven and is high fat/carb. So how do you fix your late night habits, especially if you are hungry?
1.       Eat your dinner early.  I have athletes who have trouble sleeping even though their late night eating is great. The general rule, eat the majority of your dinner as early as you can and then light snacks after.
2.       If you are within 2-3 hours of bed, cut the carbs. Carbs are easily converted to glycogen (used to power cells) for ready to use fuel. BUT, when your glycogen stores are full (because you aren’t burning as much fuel late at night) then additional carbs are converted to glycogen and then directly to fat.
3.       Water first.  If you are hungry right before bed first drink water. Studies show that we can at times we can be confused between hunger and thirst. The need to fulfill your thirst is generally a stronger urge.
4.       Fiber second. Fiber generally has no calories (which you don’t need anyways before bed) and can fill you. Try a salad with some light dressing.
5.       Fats third. If you are still hungry (and being hungry wakes you up like me) then have a small amount of healthy fats from unsaturated fats. Some examples, nuts and peanut butter…. in small amounts. Fats are slowly processed and a small amount will leave you feeling full longer.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Plyo's- Weekly Workout

We often talk about Plyometrics in fitness. In fact, they come up more and more as a recommended workout for athletes, weight loss, and general fitness. 


 So what is a plyo?
"Plyometrics -- also known as jump training -- is a training technique designed to increase muscular power and explosiveness." (For more information on their history and a few of their many benefits go to this webmd article)

One of the major pieces missing on the Webmd article are the weight loss benefits associated with plyometrics. When I work with clients and athletes it is easy to meld plyo's with interval training (like in my workout below). Interval training is directly associated with fat loss and increase of both stamina and short-burst strength. 

I think this article on livestrong does a great job describing the benefits and risks of plyo's:

To minimize the risk associated with a workout that incorporates fast-twitch/explosive movements remember to take a good 7-10 minutes of warm-up before jumping (quite literally) into these workouts. Avoid long periods of static stretching beforehand, and make sure your muscles are elastic (the warmer you are the more stretch in your muscles).

Here is my Plyocide workout for this week. Use it 1-2 times either in replacement of a cardio or lifting exercise. It also incorporates some core-work as well. Core is used for everything and even if it isn't your "ab day" you should have some core work daily.

Warm-up: 7-10 minutes of cardio at a moderate intensity.

Circuit 1 (Repeat 2-3 times)
15 Jump Squats*
10 1-Leg Push-ups
25 Traditional Situps*
10 Box-Jumps*

Circuit 2 (2-3 times)

20 Split Squat Jumps*
15 Lateral Jump-ups
25 Knee to Opposite Elbow (in a plank)*
10 Burpee Box Jumps

Cool down  and stretch 5-7 minutes (include your static stretching here)
Exercise Descriptions-


Single Leg Pushup

Box Jump

Split Leg Jumpsquat
Lateral Jump-ups
Knee to Elbow in a Plank

Burpee Box Jumps
* Denotes exercises which you can use a medicine ball to increase difficulty. Here are a few links if you don't have one: