5 traits for long term fitness success

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. –Sir Winston Churchill

We fail. We fall down and people laugh at us. And if someone has a video camera handy, these failures can end up on America’s Funniest Home videos, so we can all have a good laugh.

Who doesn’t love that show?

AFHV

What could possibility go wrong?

Fitness is a life long journey which is full of twists, turns, bumps, failures and victories. Fitness is definitely not about the fastest person to lose 20 pounds or winning some sort of twisted weight loss competition.

There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow but the payoffs for your quality of life are massive.  Having or developing a couple of the following traits will keep you on the fitness straight and narrow and your trek more enjoyable and worthwhile.

1. Set goals

If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit everything. With most things worthwhile, it helps to set goals. When motivation wanes, you’ll need goals to hang your hat on, or you’ll never get out of bed because hitting the snooze button is so much easier.

The process of setting goals is an entire post in itself. However, using the S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) goal setting method is quick, easy and a good place for you to start.

Then writing this down and keeping it someplace prominent will act as a great reminder on why you’re busting your butt. To give you an idea, I will use myself as an example.

Specific- I want to deadlift twice my bodyweight, that’s 360 pounds.

Measurable- I will record how much I lift each week to see if I’m making progress.

Achievable- Is my goal to hard or too easy? My current max is 315 pounds and a 45 pound increase is achievable.

Realistic- 45 pound increase isn’t a massive jump and by deadlifting twice per week, I plan to make this happen.

Time bound- I’ll test my 1 RM by December 31, 2016

Now it’s your turn.

2. Grit

grit

This world doesn’t owe you a thing. You come into this world with nothing and you’ll leave with nothing. What you do with your life in between is entirely up to you.

Whether you want to run a marathon, deadlift twice your body weight or even become a professional athlete, you’re going have to put in the hard, uncomfortable yards.

You’re going to face difficulties, you’re going to fail and you may even feel like quitting along the way. However, if you acknowledge this, you face these obstacles head on and you want it more than breathing itself, you’ll never fail.  That’s grit, baby.

3. Fun factor

Think back to your childhood when you ran, skipped, rode bikes and played all types of games with your friends. Take your time, I’ll wait.

Did this feel like exercise? Did this feel like torture by treadmill? Of course it didn’t because you were having too much fun to think about your sweat, elevated heart rate and calorie burn.

When movement is fun, you’re more likely to do it and when it feels like punishment, you don’t. Sounds simple doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

Inserting some “fun factor” into your regular routine like playing a sport, dancing or whatever interests you will make exercise more enjoyable. Life is already full of stuff that we have to do and exercise shouldn’t be one of those things.

4. Perspective

Life comes at you a million miles per hour and there will be plenty of excuses for you to stop making exercise a priority. However, I want you to remember that someone will always have it tougher than you.

That guy in the wheelchair who is paralyzed from the waist down would love to get up and go for a walk. Please keep that in mind when you come up with another excuse not to get up off your butt and move. Just strap on some shoes and go for a walk.

It’s that easy.

5. Consistency

There are going to be times when you’re either too busy, too tired, injured or when you just don’t give a crap about going to the gym. Exercise slips down on the list of priorities and the scale becomes your enemy.

Rather than going down this slippery slope just aim to do a little movement each day. All movement is good movement and it all counts. Exercise doesn’t always need to be formal or intense.

Strap on some shoes, catch up on housework, stretch or do something fun. Doing 10 minutes of movement has great health benefits for your body and state of mind. You do have 10 minutes right?

Wrapping up

 We all fall, but it’s not a matter of falling, it’s more a matter of you getting back up. Having one (or all 5) of the traits listed will ensure you’ll get back up and get back on a successful and enjoyable journey towards good health.

 

 

 

Variety is the spice of fitness

Going to the gym and doing the same old thing day in day out gets boring quickly. Then further down the track, it starts to get harder and harder to drag yourself out of bed each morning when the results that came so easily at the beginning have now stopped.

You may even think about cutting back or even quitting the gym all together.

i quit

Does any of this sound familiar?

The majority of your gym time should be spent performing fundamental human movements. These will get you strong and get you most of the results you desire. However, you also need a little wiggle room to spice up your exercise when you’ve either plateaued or gotten bored.

This is when variety is your best friend because this could be the difference between you quitting or smashing your goals.

Use the following exercises like chili pepper in a stew because you all know what happens when you put too much chili in.

1. Have a ball

 

Medicine balls are found at most gyms hidden in the corner, dirty and misused Gym goers usually use them for core work but the real magic starts when you throw those suckers and make noise.

med ball

Your pulse quickens, the sweat beads on your forehead and that bad mood that you came in with slowly disappears. That’s power training, baby. Power training develops a muscle/muscle group’s ability to contract at maximum force in minimal time.

For example, think of throwing a baseball at 100 mph or driving a ball 300 yards down the middle of the fairway.

And in elderly males, maximal anaerobic power has been reported to decline 8.3% per decade from age 20 to 70 (Bonnefoy et al. 1998). Which means you either use the power or lose it and I’d rather you use it.

Whether you’re a man or woman, grab a med ball and unleash your inner power with these exercises. After all, who doesn’t like playing ball?

Squat throw

 

Overhead throw

 

Med ball slam

 

Twist throw

 

2. Expand your toolbox

 

 When it comes to fixing a flat tire or needing a plumber to fix your toilet, certain tools work best. For example, you cannot use a plumbing snake to jack up your car. That’s just silly.

tool

However, when it comes to resistance training many different tools will do the same job. Take the rowing exercise, for example. You can do this with either a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, cable machine, resistance band or the TRX.

Changing the tools you use for certain exercises will provide a new stimulus to the body and a new challenge for your mind. Here are a few exercises to get your creative juices flowing.

It helps to think outside the dumbbell.

Single arm kettlebell floor press

 

The sled  (1.37 min mark is my favorite sled exercise)

 

The ladder

 

Battle ropes

 

3. Challenge yourself

 

You don’t have to go crazy and sign up for a Spartan race or a Tough Mudder but going outside your comfort zone, no matter how much you like your secure bubble, will help break the monotony of your fitness existence.

I like to challenge myself and my clients to do as many reps as possible in 30 seconds and try to beat it next time. For example

30 second bicep curl AMRAP

 

Overhead triceps ext. AMRAP

 

 

Squats

 

Go as fast as you can with good form, record your reps and beat it next time.

4. Partner games

 

 Numerous studies show that social support from a significant other or meaningful friend is highly associated with exercise adherence (Trost et al. 2002). Combine this with playing games and just imagine how much fun you’ll have.

Next time you’re bored or lacking motivation, enlist a friend and try these games. Who knows, you may even smile and exercise at same time.

 Balloon tennis (not just a kid’s game)

 

This is a great substitute for planks, pushups or shoulder work, and it’s simple and easy to play.

Set up– For your “net” you need three step up risers on either side, a body bar or some space, plus a blown-up balloon.

Rules (you can play fast and loose with these) – Imagine a straight line down from the edge of your risers. That is your boundary.

Now you and your partner assume a pushup position with feet wider than hip width apart and set up within arms distance from the net.

“Serve” the balloon over the net and bat it back and forth over the net until A) The balloon lands out or B) the balloon touches the ground or C) you or your opponent lose the plank position.

All the above results in point. First to 5 points wins.

Who doesn’t love balloons?

 Reaction ball squash

 

If you don’t have a reaction ball you can get one here.

This is great drill to get you moving in all directions quickly while improving your hand to eye coordination.  Play this on the squash or racquetball court.

Set up – The server serves from inside the service box while the receiver stands anywhere within his or her service half.

Rules – Once the ball has been thrown against the far wall and bounced once, it is fair game. If the ball is dropped, missed or has bounced twice, this results in:

  • If the server wins, he wins the point and the right to serve again.
  • If the receiver catches the ball, he wins the right to serve.
  • Only the server wins a point.

The first person to 10 points wins.

If you don’t have a squash/racquetball in your facility, you can do this instead.

 

 

Wrapping up

 

Use one or all of the drills described above to keep you fired up and on the fitness straight narrow. Your body and your results may depend on it.

 

 

No excuse training

Life is complicated, but your exercise shouldn’t be. I’m a big believer in keeping it simple.

Exercise usually gets pushed aside anytime your schedule gets out of control.

This is when you need to find some time. Exercise has numerous health benefits (which is another article in itself) including reducing your stress and keeping your waistline in check, which are kind of important.

Being a personal trainer I’ve heard every excuse under the sun when it comes to NOT exercising. The top excuses range from “I set my alarm for PM instead of AM,” or “The gym is too crowded” to the most popular “I have no time.”

excuses 2

Isn’t this the case for almost everything?

The state of your health and fitness doesn’t need excuses, it needs action.

Put these excuses to rest once and for all with this one piece program. This can be plugged in when you have no time to train, not a lot of space or limited access to equipment.

This means using just one piece of equipment for your whole training. This includes, but is not limited to, the use of dumbbells, barbells or resistance bands, which can be found in most gyms or most sporting goods stores.

The beauty of this program is that it doesn’t require a lot of space, and you’ll save time because the transition between exercises is quicker and easier when using just one piece of equipment.

This is the template you will follow

1A. Bilateral exercise (Squat/deadlift)

1B. Upper body pull exercise (Row)

1C. Core exercise for time

2A. Single leg exercise (Lunge, split squat or a deadlift)

2B. Upper body push (Chest or shoulder press)

2C. Core exercise for time

Repetition range

Use the following repetition ranges, dependent on your goals

  1. Strength 4-6 reps ( Heavy weight)
  2. Muscle/fat loss 8-12 reps ( moderate weight)
  3. Endurance/fat loss 12-15 reps (Moderate- Light-weight)

Use a weight that allows you to complete each repetition with good form.

Instructions

After you warm up, choose your one piece of equipment and repetition range.

Do exercises 1a through 1c one after the other with little rest in between. Repeat once or twice for a total of 2-3 rounds. Do the same with 2a through 2c. Do each core exercise for 30-60 seconds. Rest when needed between sets and circuits.

Including warm up this should take you no longer than 30-35 minutes.

 Training examples

I’m not going to leave you hanging — here are some examples of my one piece program. This also includes other exercises that can be inserted into this template.

Barbell

1A. Back squat

1B. Bent over row

1C. Rollout

2A. Split squat

2B. Push press

2C. Anti-rotation exercise

Other exercises that can be included are dead-lift, front squat, reverse lunges, Bulgarian split squats, push-ups, bench press, floor press, Romanian deadlift, one arm row and windshield wipers.

Dumbbell 

1A. Goblet squat

1B. One arm dumbbell row

1C. Plank with dumbbell transfer

2A. Goblet side lunge

2B One arm bench press

2C. Dumbbell twist

Other exercises that can be included are bent over row, push press, sumo squat, good morning, side plank,reverse lunges, single leg deadlifts, step ups, pullover, shoulder press, tripod row and straight arm crunch.

Resistance band 

Green band=easy. Red band= medium. Blue= hard. Black= hardest.

1A. Band squat

1B. Seated row

1C. Leg raises

2A. Split squat

2B. Tall kneeling shoulder press

2C. Leg lowering – 30 seconds on each leg

Other exercises that can be included are deadlift, push ups , bent over row, lawnmower row, reverse lunge, x-crossover, side bends ( do 30-45 sec each side) and side step squat (single leg).

Wrapping up

With a minimum of fuss, time and space you’ll get a great training anywhere, anytime and anyplace you choose.

Hopefully, you have now run out excuses. Please don’t find any others. Now, get after it and have fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practical tips for low back pain

Does back pain haunt you? If so, you’re not alone. Eighty percent of the population of the US, at some point in their lives, with suffer from chronic or acute low back pain.

That’s a frightening statistic. About 2% to 10% of people who experience low back pain develop chronic low back pain.

The first thing most people do when low back pain strikes is reach for the pain pills. Advil and other over-the-counter medications can have numerous side effects and will lose their effectiveness when used in the long term.

Instead, let’s use your own body to help heal your pain. Here is a list tried and true tricks that I’ve used throughout my years of suffering from LBP.

Morning stretch

Stand up straight and put the palms of your hands on your low back. Arch your whole back while feeling a stretch in your abdominals and shoulders. Return to starting position and relax.  Repeat this five times.

When you’re on your feet all day

Do the static back. Lie on your back, with both legs bent at right angles with your feet resting on a chair or couch. Rest your arms at shoulder level and let your low back settle in to the floor. Breathe into your belly letting your stomach rise and fall. Do this for five to ten minutes.

 

When you’re sitting down on it

Sit on your sit bones. To find your sit bones, feel with your hands underneath your bottom and find the two boney protrusions at the base of your pelvis. Once you have done that, rock your pelvis slightly forward to bring yourself into neutral spine. This helps reinforces good posture whenever you’re sitting down for long periods of time.

When you’ve feeling tight and achy

Stretch those hips. Get in a half-kneeling position, front ankle underneath your front knee and back knee underneath your back hip. Stand up nice and tall, engage your gluteus muscle on the back leg and feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Lean forward slightly and repeat on other side. Do two sets of 30 seconds.

 

When it’s bed time

Sleep on your back. This will improve your posture because your spine gets support from the bed, and it also puts your shoulders in a better position, helping to minimize your back pain.

Wrapping up

So next time your back is bothering you, refer to this list (which you are going to keep handy, right?) rather than reaching for the pain pills.  Oh, one last thing. Remember to sit up straight, stand tall and protect your back!

 

Out of shape? Start here

Okay, you’re at the gym. Today is the day you will start your exercise program. Your doctor told you to lose 50 pounds, so you’re here. But when you make your way up the stairs you notice your knee hurts, an old high school injury that occasionally flares up.

knee

You also notice you’re out of breath, because the last time you strapped on your running shoes President Bush was still in office. This is too much to handle, you tell yourself as you do an about-face and head down the stairs. But wait! Turn around! I have a solution.

out of shape

Sound familiar?

As a personal trainer, I have encountered this situation and many more. Knowing when to start working out after an injury, surgery or a period of inactivity is difficult.

However, it doesn’t have to be. With your determination and some professional expertise, you can overcome your limitations and take that important first step.

Let me share with you the stories of two people (names changed, of course) I’ve worked with who have overcome their physical limitations. Hopefully you’ll gain inspiration and motivation from them.

Mark, 63, came to me five weeks after his left leg was amputated below his knee. His right shoulder hurt. He was at least 40 pounds overweight. He was wheelchair bound, yet he still had goals. He wanted to strengthen the left leg for his prosthetic limb. He wanted to lose those 40 pounds. He wanted to take that important first step.

Where to start? Training was hard for Mark. He was in constant pain, and he had a hard time getting in and out of his wheelchair.

However, he preserved.

We worked on his hips by using a resistance bands, exercised his upper body by using gym machines and weighted medicine balls, and trained his core through him sitting on stability balls and bosu balls.

We worked around his limitations and with each step of his workout took him closer to his goals.

Mary-Ann, 43, was busy working mother of two who wanted to return to her former activity levels. She was a former high school athlete, however, and both her knee caps kept dislocating. Her paletta tendon (tendon that connects the quadriceps to the knee cap) was in the wrong place.

She had surgery on one and rehab on the other. Her limitations?   High impact activities like running, jumping and aerobics were out. In were low impact activities like kettlebell swings, spin bike, and the elliptical.

To prevent further dislocations, Mary Ann strengthened her quadriceps, which act as knee shock absorbers and her hamstrings which are the main knee stabilizers.

We supplemented this with balance and core training.  So far, she’s had no reoccurrences and is well on her way to regaining the activity level she sought.

What did these two people have that let them be successful? I call it DP2.

1.Determination

Both of these clients refused to allow their limitations to keep them from achieving their desired outcomes.

2. Perseverance

Both did the physical work required, despite the pain.

3. Dedication

Both set aside time in their busy lives to train, staying focused on their goals.

4. Professional Expertise

Both trusted me, their trainer, to know how to work around their limitations.

Along with finding your own DP2, there are other factors to consider when coming back from injury, according to Patrick Doyle, D.C., of Hill Country Spine and Sport.

“Flexibility is always the first step and should be continued even after full performance is returned to the area. 10 -15 minutes of stretching is a good rule of thumb,” Dr Doyle says.

He recommends “specific stretches for the injured area as shown by a rehab doctor or personal trainer.”

The pace of strength training should be given serious consideration, according to Dr Doyle.

“Building strength to pre-injury status should be performed in increments. Start with 3-5 sets of 15-20 repetitions, then progress by reducing sets as strength and range of motion returns to normal, working the injured area 3 times per week.’’

Are you ready to start getting a leg up on your limitations? Don’t let your uncertainty of what to do keep you from beginning. With all the endless fitness magazines, exercise programs, gimmicks, and TV programs like The Biggest Loser telling you how it’s done, it can be overwhelming.

If you don’t have a rehab doctor, find a personal trainer who can help you decide what you need to do. You don’t have to make a long-term commitment, but you will benefit from a knowledgeable trainer.

Wait, I can hear you now. I don’t really have a limitation, unless you count laziness. I just can’t seem to get started working out.

That’s okay. If you are just starting out after a period of inactivity, the trick is to keep it simple. Over complicating exercise is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, start simple with these following suggestions.

1In the gym- Start with fundamental human movements .

2. 30 Minutes per day minimum – This can also be done in smaller increments. For example 10 minutes 3 times a day will work.

3. No excuses – There are many great workouts and types of fitness equipment (you know, like the treadmill you use as a clothes horse) but most people don’t use them on a regular basis.

excuses

If he can, so can you.

So, walk the dog, go dancing or play with your children. What if your knee hurts? Grab a couple of canned vegetables and do bicep curls and shoulder presses. What if your shoulder hurts? Go for a walk. Eliminate the excuses and move.

4. No minimum pace requirements  The mental aspect is more important than the physical at the beginning. Keep it simple and keep yourself moving.

 What are you waiting for? Take that first step. Trust me, when you get that first leg up on your limitations, you’ll find that the rest of you will follow.

If you need further help, you can contact me here

 

 

6 must do moves

I’m a big believer in keeping exercise simple because the rest of your life is already complicated. With that in mind, every time you step inside a gym, you should be doing one or more of these six moves.

These will keep you strong and better able to withstand whatever life throws at you.  There’s nothing sexy or difficult about these moves and you probably already know what they are, you may just be avoiding them.

However, no matter what your health and fitness goals are, you’ll need to include these into your routine because

  • They will make you strong and stronger is always better
  • They will give you all the results you seek

Yes, you can still do your curls in front of the mirror but only if you grunt.

1. Squats

I‘m not a fan of squats and generally avoid them like the plague. With long legs and a short torso I’ve always found them very difficult because the weight (me) has to move through a large range of motion.

However, I bite the bullet because squats are a fundamental human movement that we perform every day, and they were programmed into our brains while safely in our mother’s womb. Have you ever seen a child squat?

Baby-squat

I rest my case

 

As we grow older and sit more and move less, we lose our ability to squat like a child. Rather than putting a barbell on your back and doing knee bends and complaining that squats hurt your knees, reawaken your squat ability with these exercises.

A. Bodyweight box squat

B.  Stability ball squat

 

If you feel comfortable with those and can knock out reps of 12-15 reps with good form, step up to the goblet squat. It may be the only squat exercise you’ll ever need.

C. Goblet squat

 

2. Groundwork

There’s more to groundwork than just lying on the ground and crunching like a mad man. Groundwork is how we learned to move as infants and returning to the floor can help you reactivate neglected movement patterns.

The ground provides us with stability, balance and feedback and is an ideal place to start you warm up before you crush the weights.  Incorporating some of the following moves may get you some strange looks but trust me, you’ll be the coolest person in the gym.

A. Deadbug

B. Rolling

C. Rocking

D. Crawling

 

3. Pushing

This move has also been installed into our hardware. This is why we know how to push ourselves away from the floor  when lying face down or push our siblings out of the way when they’re bothering us, without even batting an eyelid.

push ups 2

Don’t mess with Chuck

Pushing is a movement we do every day without even realizing it, so it makes sense to strengthen this movement in the gym so we can remain injury free and push aside anything that this world throws at us.

Try these pushing variations rather than bench pressing for a change.

A. OS push up

B. One arm wall push up

C. Overhead med ball throw

 

4. Pulling

When we were babies, we’d pull ourselves up on a stable object to a standing position in an attempt to walk while using the object for support. Did anybody teach us that? No, because this movement is already hotwired into our brains.

walking baby

I was just looking for an excuse to use a baby picture

Pulling something towards us is a natural movement that is often neglected in the gym. However, working those big strong muscles of the back will improve your posture, give you sexy shoulders and work also on the gun show.

Like you needed an excuse.

A. Cable single arm row

B. Tall kneeling lat pulldown

C. Bent over row

 

5. Hip hinging

Using the hips like they were intended to be used will make you a boss in the gym and your partner a happy person in the bedroom. Yes, the hips are that powerful. A lot of athletic movements on the sporting arena have hip hinging/hip extension as their base.

football

Ready to strike

Furthermore, incorrect use of the hips is one of the major causes of low back pain and hinging correctly will keep the back happy. It also helps you look great in your favorite pair of pants.

 

A. Hip hinge with stick

B. Wall hip hinge with stick

C. Dumbbell deadlift

 

6. Carries

Think about how many times per week you carry stuff around in your hands. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.  Twice, five, ten times?  Now doesn’t it make sense to train this ability in the gym to make your life easier?  I’d thought you’d see it my way. J

Carries will improve your grip, upper back, shoulders and leg strength. They are quite possibility the biggest bang for your buck exercise, providing numerous benefits.

But be warned, carries are simple but not easy.

A. Farmers carry

B. Suitcase carry

C. Overhead carry

 

Wrapping up

 Performing fundamental human movements will benefit you in and outside of the gym with increased strength and resilience. Exercise doesn’t need to be complicated, it just needs to be effective.

Need help with programming fundamental movements into your program? Contact me here with the subject line “programming.”

 

 

 

 

Why do you lift?

When I first saw this, I laughed so hard I nearly fell out of my chair.  I’ve been lifting for the better part of 25 years, and with skinny arms and legs I definitely don’t look like I lift.  If he questioned me, I would have to come clean.

However, here’s a better question. Why do you lift?

Ponder that for a moment.

Around 25 years ago, I was hanging out with my longtime friend Simon, shooting the breeze and talking smack when out of the clear blue sky he had a strange request.

“Lift up your shirt,” he demanded

“Why?” I asked.  The look he gave me suggested I do it or else, so I did.

“Mate, you really need to hit the gym,” he said.

He was right. I was 6’1 and weighed 145 pounds (66 kg) soaking wet. I had a concave chest, poor posture and almost no muscle tone. The very next day I joined a gym and started doing bicep curls.

bicep

(Curls are the go-to exercise for gym goers who have no idea what they’re doing)

When I first started pumping iron, vanity was my main motivator.  Being skinny and lacking a little self-confidence, I wasn’t a real hit with the ladies. I wanted some size, I wanted some action and the iron was going to help me get both.

And I’m sure if you asked most gym goers, vanity would be their number one reason for torturing themselves. However, since I’ve gotten older, balder and any looks I did possess have faded away, I decided that exercising just for vanity’s sake wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore.

Being a married middle-aged man with two young sons, I had to come up with some better reasons to get out of bed and lift. After some self-reflection, here’s what I came up with.

Being role model for my kids and clients

Being a father and personal trainer, I constantly strive set a good example for my kids and clients. Nobody wants to work with a trainer who looks out of shape.

Self-care

 Exercise is not meant to fix you. You’re already wonderfully made, but you were only given one body and you need to take care of it, as I do. Lifting weights plays an integral role in this.

Maintain my movement

When you’re a kid, running, jumping, hopping, skipping and playing is easy. When you get older, not so much. Staying strong and resilient becomes more important as we age. Plus, I still want to play and keep up with my boys.

After losing my hair…

I’ve never wanted to fit the stereotype of the married man who let himself go. I try to stay lean because being both bald and fat is unacceptable in my humble opinion.

I might not look like I lift but I have few good reasons for why I lift. What are yours?