Do You Even Healthy Recipe?

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Does eating these mean you’re healthy now? Lets not fool ourselves 🙂

Today, we have a great article by our coach Dan Zwirlein.  While healthy recipes can be great if used in the right manner, there are often many more important underlying things to take care of with people’s dietary habits.  Sure, you had a gluten free healthy cookie, but does that really matter when the rest of your diet and habits are under par?  Read on to find out!!

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The other day I was cooking dinner- I was making one of those meals in my “rotation”. You know, one of your go to meals that you eat all the time. I stopped to think if what I was making would constitute as a “healthy” recipe like those that are peddled all over the internet. You know, the ones on skinnymeals.com or whatever it is. I got really scared that it wasn’t, so naturally I came to the conclusion that, “wow I think healthy recipes are really stupid,” which is the general reaction that you get when you don’t understand something; however, as I was eating I thought some more about “what is a healthy recipe?” Does this mean its low calorie? Does it mean it contains vegetables? Does it mean paleo? Low carb? Gluten free? (People with celiac don’t get upset) I am still unsure and if I am unsure then certainly others are. This is a sign that it’s just making things unnecessarily more complicated.

Maybe it’s because I like to be a contrarian but I finally came to the conclusion that this whole healthy recipe sharing thing is kind of silly.
First, I think we can agree that there is no consensus on what is good or bad, healthy or unhealthy all of the time. Anything can be argued for in the right context, for the right person, at the right time, with the right goal.  Second, nothing is inherently good or bad for the reasons above, which I’ve talked about in previous posts.

Here is the issue:

When these recipes make the rounds, they most certainly are marketed towards people looking to lose weight. This isn’t the problem. I mean I love new recipes, they are like opening a new jar of protein and having the scoop sitting on top. The problem is that most people, specifically people whose goal is to lose weight, don’t need a “healthy” recipe, they need an entire diet overhaul. If getting recipes to people was the problem there wouldn’t be an obesity issue. The problem is people putting the cart before the horse, meaning most people need to establish habits and consistency first before they get worried about making the quinoa salad, the “no guilt” greek yogurt pie, or buying the gluten/guilt free cookies.

The problem is we have a limited amount of brain power and focus to allot to tasks over the course of the day so it makes no sense to me to use it for having to go to the store and pick out special ingredients because you want to try that new healthy dessert/salad/extra gluten free noodle bake when said person is completely missing the point, which is the fact that they need to establish good consistent habits. It’s trying to use tactics to solve a philosophical problem. It’s like stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. Yeah you used greek yogurt instead of sour cream but who cares if the rest of your diet sucks.

What should you do?
You should focus on establishing healthy habits and principles first like keeping portion sizes in check and getting protein and fruit/vegetables at every meal, drinking enough water, etc. By establishing habits first you do a few things: Get on track with a consistent diet ( i.e. eating a lot of the same things), you better understand how many calories you are actually eating and you establish a baseline to add foods to. If you develop these habits first and for a long period of time, (at least 6 months), then you can explore some recipes that might intrigue you. If your habits are in check, along with your portion sizes, you can also just enjoy foods that actually taste good without having to pretend that your quest bar, ”healthy” peanut butter, or frozen yogurt are worthy imitations. Sounds easy enough, sounds intuitive, sounds like common sense but why don’t people focus on habits? Because they take work, it’s boring, it’s not flashy. It’s easier to make some new fancy meals than to focus on behavior and consistency.

Take Home
People need to think does this meal/recipe fit with my energy balance (calorie intake)? Does it fit with in my macro nutrient goals (fat, protein, carbohydrate) for the day? Did I eat enough vegetables today? Did I drink enough water? Make it easier on yourself first before adding complexity, which means eating the same foods over and over again then getting fancy. Ask yourself these questions and then decide for yourself, do you even need to healthy recipe?

Amplify the Slow Twitch

rufp weights

When it comes to skeletal muscle, our bodies contain different types of muscle fibers.  Generally speaking, there are slow twitch and fast twitch fibers.  Slow twitch are more geared towards endurance and low force activities like a marathon run while fast twitch are more geared towards fast, high powered, high force and shorter duration activities like a sprint.  Different muscles throughout the body will generally be composed of more of one than the other.  Furthermore, different people will genetically have more of one than the other.

While fast twitch can technically be divided to multiple different subsets, the two main subsets agreed upon by most are type a and b; with type a known as fast twitch oxidative.  Fast twitch oxidative fibers have some good potential for good force and power output while still having the capability to assist with endurance activities.  Through specific training, we can manipulate them to develop their oxidative potential to a certain extent. (or manipulate them the other way if that is the goal).  By developing this oxidative potential in the weight room, these fibers can benefit an endurance athlete to a greater extent outside of the weight room.  In addition to this, while most endurance athletes seem to grasp the concept that slow twitch fibers are utilized heavily with their runs or their bike rides, many don’t realize that they can be developed and trained in the weight room.  How do we do this? The answer is Tempo Lifting.

While there is more than one way to do this, I will discuss a method we have been using with a former elite long track speed skater now turned competitive cyclist.  I took a lot of this specific programming idea from sports scientist legend Yuri Verkhoshansky and his “Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches” and adapted it how I needed to for the task at hand.

Using the Yoke Squat as our main exercise, we will do the following for the first and key part of the training session on one day in the current programming phase.

In 1 series, he’ll hit a set of 15 to 20 slow tempo squats (currently 3 seconds down and 3 seconds up) to tap into his slow twitch fibers and get some hypertrophy out of them, followed by a set of 20 to 25 explosive squats to tap into his fast twitch oxidative fibers in order to prepare his body for the pace changes that can occur in a race. This is done for 3 series in his current program.  There is 90 seconds rest between sets and 3 to 4 minutes rest between each series (of 2 sets).  The weight for the explosive set is lighter than the slow tempo set.

To hit the oxidative fibers, we need enough resistance to require the body to utilize the fast twitch fibers (need to tap into their larger motor neuron) but also enough time with that resistance to tap into the oxidative side of things.  The multiple series of the high reps with enough resistance and the explosive nature of the reps is a recipe to make this happen. So within these series we accomplish a few good things that are race specific:

1. We get some slow twitch hypertrophy (muscle growth) to help with their resiliance during the course of the race

2. We get some fast twitch oxidative development to help the slow twitch fibers on their journey and to help with the turbo boosters that will be needed at various points of the race

3. We train our bodies and muscle fibers to be more resiliant, stronger and more adapative to the tempo, intensity and pace changes that will inevitably occur through different stages of an actual race.

 

He follows this up with prowler pushes used in a similar manner.  Trip 1 is slower paced followed up immediately by Trip 2 at a sprint pace. This is done for 5 to 6 sets. This is then followed by different accessory exercises such as glute ham raises and static inverted row holds.

His other lifting day in the program is focused on max strength and speed strength, which are also very important to any endurance race enthusiast though also often overlooked.  He then has multiple bike days where we will develop specific energy systems and their subsets depending on the stage we are in leading up to the race.  We can cover more on these other qualities in another article.

The goals for this article are to make you aware that we can develop and train slow twitch and the oxidative capability of type a fast twitch fibers in the weight room to help performance in that next race.  Check out the videos below of Liam hitting his squat sets.

 

Tempo Squats

 

Explosive/Fast Twitch Oxidative Squats

 

Are you getting the most out of your race performance?  Train with a purpose!

Note:  It is essential that you have a decent strength training base built up before diving into something like this.  You should know how to squat with proper movement/form and should have a decent level of general strength built up.  Also, Liam is an elite athlete and can handle the workload and volume discussed.  Those at a lower training level might not need as much.  This is where the individual coaching comes into play 🙂

Interview on BalancedAmes

Check out Nick’s recent interview he did on BalancedAmes.com, a great blog about the body and life balance.  He covers multiple topics ranging from advice for beginning exercisers and females starting out with strength work  to his own weekly training plan. Give it a read HERE

Do You Really Need to Stretch? Part Three- Butchering edition

If you did not already read part one and two, do so before going through this post.  In part three, here are some stretches that are either done incorrectly (but can be done in a good way) or are just plain bad altogether.  Read on!

 

Hip flexor stretch:  While there is a correct way to do a version of this one and a time to do it, this way is definitely not correct.  By driving the hips so far forward and hyperextending the low back, you are simultaneously crushing the lumbar vertebrae and discs, and damaging the ligaments in the front of the hip.  Both things that you don’t want to do (trust me, you really don’t).  We want the pelvis and ribs to be stacked in good alignment with the thigh perpendicular to the floor.

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Better option:

Here is the correct way to do it if needed.  Though nowadays I often find that restoring proper breathing mechanics along with a little posterior tilt of the pelvis takes care of most of the tension that people have built up in their hip flexors, this can be beneficial to help get the glutes engaged along with some inhibition of the opposing hip flexors if they remain a problem.  Notice how the thigh is perpendicular to the floor and her ribs and pelvis are stacked now, compared to the faulty position above.  The glute on the down leg and the abs should both be engaged to assist with the stretch.

 

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Sit and reach stretch:  By letting the pelvis tilt and going into excessive lumbar flexion with tension, you are damaging the ligaments at the back of the pelvis and lower spine.  Instabilities in the lower back are not fun and you definitely don’t want to create them by doing this. There are some very effective drills that do promote a healthy lumbar flexion for those who are stuck in extension.

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Better option:

This 4 point breathing drill will give you the spine flexion that may be needed in a unharmful manner along with some good breathing to help calm down back tissues that have been stuck in extension.  It can also help relax the hamstrings if they have been tensioned up to a faulty pelvic position (as mentioned in part one and two).   Tuck the pelvis under (posteriorly tilt) and push away from the floor so that the back is rounded.  You should feel the abs engage.  Inhale through the nose and feel your back “expand” as you get air in.  Hold the position as you exhale through your mouth

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Hyperextension stretch:  Similar to the “hip flexor” stretch mentioned above, this stretch wreaks havoc on the lumbar spine.  Do I really need to explain after looking at this horrific picture?  Most people are stuck in extension to begin with and if for some reason they did need some, this is definitely not the way to do it.

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Better option:  Umm, just don’t do it 🙂

 

Seated Adductor stretch:  Your knee ligaments don’t like this one.  ‘Nuff said.

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Better option:

Should your adductor (s) need opening, use this adductor mobe stretch as its much safer on your knees and also has better effects through the hips.  Although, we usually use this as a dynamic mobilization, this position can be held for time as well.  Notice how her back is in a neutral position as she sits back into her hips with her right leg relaxed out to the side.

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Foot to head stretch:  Common theme: The passive structures of the low back do not like this.  I put this on here because I used to see people do this at a gym I used to work at and it drove me nuts.  If you are doing something similar as part of a backward roll drill, thats one thing but simply torquing yourself here is going to cause more problems than you want.

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Better option:  Try the 4 point breathing drill mentioned above if some restoration of spinal flexion is what you are after.

Avoid these body and ligament hating stretches and you will thank yourself.  If not today, maybe tomorrow or a few years down the road.  Train hard and train smart.  Hope you enjoyed the series.

 

-Nick

Do You Really Need to Stretch? Part Two

Today, we have part two of our stretching series.  If you didn’t already do so, please check out part one.  Enjoy!

Flexibility can be overrated

Obviously, having a healthy range of motion in different areas of the body is a good thing. But its just that: a healthy range of motion. Having too little OR too much can be problematic. Example: If I have 80 to 90 degrees of straight leg hip flexion, my range of motion is healthy. If I have 20 degrees, I should probably get some length there so I don’t kill myself when I take a step.  At the same time, if I have 160 degrees, I’m probably going to have some serious instabilities that are going to cause even worse problems. Excessive flexibility is usually not a good thing (instabilities that lead to pain, injuries, etc.) and instability is often harder to improve than stiffness or shortness.  Those in the excessive flexibility category need to develop STABILITY to help their performance and prevent injury, NOT more stretching.

What does static flexibility even mean?

On this same subject, just because I have a decent range of motion in a static posture does not mean that it will carry over to actual active activity. When I hold a static stretch passively, I am causing inhibition of the muscle I am stretching with no real activation of any opposing or synergistic muscle and have no stabilization or control requirements. When I move my body during physical activity, I need certain muscles to kick in and stabilize while certain muscles activate and others inhibit. If I don’t have development of this multi faceted control, all of the static flexibility in the world won’t matter. This is one reason why dynamic stretching is much more effective before activity and static stretching should be saved for post activity (IF needed). It is also a good reason why strength training with proper squatting, hinging, pushing, pulling and rotation movement actually builds healthy mobility throughout the body contrary to the old myth that it makes you “stiff.” As an example, if you are squatting with good technique, you are building mobility through the hips, ankles, knees and thoracic spine WHILE simultaneously developing great core stability, strength, positive neurological firing patterns and total body control. You are developing strength through motion while certain muscles stabilize, certain muscles move and certain muscles learn to relax. Call me crazy but developing adequate mobility with a functional exercise like a squat seems like a much more rational idea than laying on a floor holding a static stretch that might give me some range of motion in that one position but does none of the other oh so important things just mentioned. Simply statically stretching one muscle without doing something to develop control or activity with another corresponding muscle is just not going to help me in most cases, period.

Just like having strength with a lack of mobility is not usually good, having flexibility without stability, strength or control can be even worse. More flexibility is not always better. This can be relative. If you are a dancer, gymnast, figure skater, cheerleader, etc. then you are most definitely going to need more than the normal healthy range of motion for most areas of the body; however, this must also come with plenty of control and stability. If you are a sprinter or speed skater, your hamstrings and hip flexion might be a little “stiffer” than normal because you utilize the stretch reflex and the “springiness” that the stiffness gives you to make you faster. Bottom line is: Have healthy mobility with adequate stability and control; if your sport requires more or less, then address this accordingly.

 

What stretches are good if I actually need them?

If something truly needs to be stretched (and its not often), then do it and make sure you do it right.  Since most of you are going to stretch regardless of what you read, here are some that may actually be helpful for you.  For the pecs (all those desk workers out there), I like Dumbbell fly eqi’s. For the calves (all those high heel girls out there), I like a basic hanging calf stretch off of a step. For lats, I like overhead band traction.  For adductors (often the right) and left posterior hip (often the left), the Postural Restoration Institute has some nice stretches that are effective when needed. Do these for long durations along with good breathing to get the tissue to respond. Combine them with tissue therapy when needed to make it more effective and make sure you activate the appropriate muscle to help hold the new tissue length: strengthen the mid and low traps to help balance out the pecs, strengthen the anterior tibialis and extensors to balance out the calves and strengthen the low traps and possibly upper traps to balance out the lats. These are very basic and generalized examples and there is usually a lot more that will go into the specifics of what you need as an individual (i.e. left pec and right lat might be short on their respective sides so there will be some rotational and breathing components that will need to be addressed among other things) but at least start thinking along these lines.  Bottom line is: Don’t just stretch blindly; have a reason.

 

 

overhead band traction

Overhead band traction:

Keep back neutral, hinge down through hips and let arm move overhead while keeping some tension in the band (anchored to something above you).  Take deep breaths while you hold the position for 60 sec to 2 minutes +.  Do not force the arm higher than it can comfortably go.

db fly eqi

Db Fly EQI

This is an active yet static stretch. Your pecs are in a lengthened position but are still contracting while in that lengthened position since you are holding the weight of the dumbbells.  This causes the pecs to add sarcomeres (part of a muscle fiber) in that lengthened position which is very effective at lengthening these muscles and opening up closed down shoulder postures.

Build up from 20sec to up to 2 minutes and be sure not to go down too far

 

calf stretch

Calf Stretch-  Find a stair or step, stand on the ball of your foot and let your heel hang down until you feel a stretch in your calf.  Hold for 60 sec to 2 minutes plus.

All can be held for long durations once you are ready.

Think about it

Well that’s great Nick, but my Shape magazine and my elementary school gym teacher always made us stretch everything and its helped me a lot! How do you know its helped you a lot? Have you been tested or assessed? How do you know overstretching that left hammy didn’t contribute to your knee injury you suffered at age 13? How do you know you wouldn’t be stronger and move better if you did things differently? Just because someone once said stretching was the cool thing to do, everybody did it. Its kind of like the backwards food pyramid that recommends boatloads of breads and cereals every day and has probably contributed to many of the health problems that we have today. Don’t rely on conventional wisdom to take care of your body. Look at the facts, learn from those who are actually studying and working with this stuff and think for yourself. You just might improve your performance more than you think possible.

 

In an extra Part 3, we will show you some of the most common stretches that are performed, butchered and harmful.  Stay tuned!

Do You Really Need to Stretch? Part One

Today we have the first part of a three part article series about stretching from Nick.  Check it out!

cat stretch

 

In a world where research and tons of practical experience has made it pretty clear that static stretching is overrated and often overused, plenty of people still go about wasting their time with it. In certain specific situations, it can be warranted but it often is not and many times can cause more harm than good.  Stretch lovers start hating but at least read on and try to learn something 🙂  (Note: we are talking about static stretching; i.e. holding a stretch for time.  Dynamic/active stretching is great to build functional mobility and we will discuss it later)

When might you actually need it?

If muscle tissue is truly shortened, some long duration stretching or at least frequent stretching may be warranted. This is not as common as you might think and if it is the case, soft tissue manipulation is usually much more effective than static stretching alone. The typical, 30 second to 1 minute stretch is generally not going to do enough to change the situation of truly shortened tissue. What areas do I see that typically DO need this? The calves, the chest and the lats come to mind (generally speaking of course). Notice I didn’t say hamstrings or back, which happen to be two very overstretched places in the body. Furthermore, when we are talking about shortened tissue, fascia (webbing that holds our muscles, organs, etc. in place and gives our body functional connections from head to toe, front to back, side to side and everything in between) is pretty much guaranteed to be involved and fascia is going to need more than a typical static stretch to make it change. The areas that actually do need work will also often be asymmetrical (i.e. left pec and right lat are pretty common)

Feelings can be Deceiving

I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone say to me “My ____ feels tight.” That space is often filled in with hamstring or back. Because something “feels” tight, does not mean that it is actually short and in need of stretching. If my shoulders are rounded forward, my upper back tissue is going to be pulled “taut” because it is being overstretched all day from my faulty shoulder position. This does not in any way mean that it is short and in need of lengthening. If we open up the pec muscles in front of the shoulders and restore a better shoulder position, then the upper back tissues can relax since they are in a better resting position. If we stretch the upper back tissue because it “feels” tight, we make ourselves worse and irritate the tissues even more.

So what is really going on then if I do have one of these deceiving feelings? We have more than one possibility….

Positioning vs “Tight”

If my pelvis is tilted forward, my hamstrings are going to be put on stretch automatically because of the position that they are in. They are being pulled “taut” just like my upper back example above. If my pelvis is rotated one way, my outer hamstring on one side and inner hamstring on the other will be pulled abnormally and might feel “tight” again. Neither of these situations require stretching. Stretching will pull me farther into my faulty position and irritate the issues worse. They will be even “tighter.” Repositioning the pelvis to a better position will take the slack out of those hamstrings, put them in a better resting position and relieve the “tight” feeling. Now, on some occasions, people actually do have shortened hamstring muscles and they might actually need some legit stretching, tissue work, etc. but it is not the norm; at least in my experience.   Check out the video featured on this article for repositioning drill examples.  On a side note, tight could describe tissue that is lengthened or shortened, which are two very different situations that require very different plans.  Rather than using the word tight, it is much more reliable to use stiff/short (still different in their own rights) and stretched/lengthened.

Kinetic Chain Issue

Carrying things further and going back to the aforementioned fascia, there is a line of fascia that runs from the bottom of our feet all the way up the back side of the body to the top of the head, connecting our calves, hamstrings, back, posterior neck and everything in between into one long functional line. In Thomas Myers’ Anatomy Trains, this is known as the superficial back line. Sticking with our hamstrings example and looking at this line, if we have tension in our calves or the bottom of our feet, our hamstrings can also be pulled due to this fascial connection. In an example like this, we probably need to get our feet and/or calves freed up in order to get the hamstrings to release. There are many examples of these relationships in the body.  A neat trick:  take someone who can’t bend over and touch their toes with straight knees, have them roll a la crosse ball on the bottom of their foot for a minute or so and then have them bend over again.  Watch them bend farther without ever touching their hamstrings.

Neurological Issue (In all actuality, everything is)

Another source of stiffness is neurological. If I have an antagonistic or synergistic muscle that is not doing its job, then the muscle at hand can be overfired/overused by the brain (trying to use layman’s terms here), leading to a neurological “stiffness.” Staying with the hamstring example, if my synergistic glute muscles (they share function with the hamstrings) are not being fired or utilized appropriately, my brain will tap into my hamstrings excessively, causing them to be overactive. Again, stretching them will not help in this situation. Getting my brain to use my glutes correctly will help balance out the firing process, unlock the hamstrings and everybody will be happier. Its kind of like having a lazy member in your work group who doesn’t do their fair share with the project. When he/she doesn’t do their part, the other group members get upset. When one muscle doesn’t do its fair share, the other muscle or muscles get upset. There are tons of examples of this that happen in the body and ironically, the positioning issue mentioned above is usually related to these neurological firing patterns. Everything goes back to the brain.

Expanding on this point: Take someone who is stressed out, on edge, and is constantly in fight or flight mode.  Their muscle tone can be overactive all over just because they are stuck in a sympathetic fight or flight state and their body can’t relax.  Simply breathing properly (exhale!) and getting their system back towards a parasympathetic rest and relaxation state, can help calm down muscle tone and improve mobility and posture without touching or moving a single thing.  This can carry over to every other point made in this article.  Stretching and torquing on a system that is already on alert can pull it farther in that direction, which is not what we want.  Another neat trick:  take someone who can’t touch their toes like the example above, put them on their backs with their feet on the wall and have them inhale through their nose and exhale through their mouth into a balloon for 3 to 4 cycles of 4 breaths or so while getting air and movement into the front, sides and back of their trunk and chest.  Have them bend again and I betcha they get farther.  Simply calming the system down and releasing the “clenching” that is going on can improve motion instantly.

When I explain these things to some people, I often get the common argument “but it feels so good to stretch it.” Well, it must not feel good for very long and it must not be working because you are still sitting in my assessment room complaining about ongoing issues and pain. If stretching were the answer, you wouldn’t still be having the problem. (too blunt? 🙂 Get the correct muscles firing with the correct corresponding muscles inhibited in combination with restoring proper position, movement, breathing and nervous system state and the whole team will be much happier.

 

Stay tuned for part 2!

 

Bonus section:  Why shouldn’t you static stretch before physical activity (in most cases)?  Statically stretching a muscle causes it to inhibit or “turn off,” and also puts the muscle at a resting length that is less than optimal for contracting how we want it to for optimal performance.  We want to get our  muscles actively moving through controlled ranges of motion in order to appropriately prepare those muscles and our nervous system for the upcoming work.  Save the static stretching for later if it is truly needed.  More on this in part two.

Behavior Is King.

Today we have a special article from in-house Sports Nutritionist and Strength Coach, Alex Rosencutter, discussing how to simplify behavior change to meet your goals.  Take it away Alex.

Whether you were prepared for it or not, the New Year is here, and with that territory comes all of the newly dedicated New Years resolution fitness fanatics with the goals to look like 70’s Arnold or the latest Victoria Secret model.  That is until they don’t grow the gorgeous chin or lats of Arnold or the bodacious booty of the most recent Maxim cover girl within the first two weeks. 

Two Weeks? 

Your body is not a chia pet.

BEHAVIOR IS KING

The first thing that gives out on these people is their mindset, and that mindset is what drives an individual’s behavior.  The problem here is that most individuals do not have the mindset or behavior to even start the journey toward achieving their goals.  We all start with the end in sight and wanting to reach the mountain top overnight.  We all do things we know we shouldn’t do and we all know there are things we should do but justify not doing.  We have all decided to sleep a little later and skip breakfast to get to work on time.  We have all chosen to eat the scrumtrulassent (SNL reference) chocolate bar instead of the bowl of greens.  We have all chosen to skip a workout to go out with friends.

The one thing that any individual with six-pack abs or any person that steps on stage all have in common is the mindset to get them that lean body they want and need.  The more advanced your goals become, the more your behavior needs to advance.  Developing this behavior takes time and should be done in steps. 

MISCONCEPTIONS

1. No matter if you are just getting started or if you are a seasoned vet, people often develop the “I worked out today so I can have that cheesecake” mindset.  With this mindset, comes the misconception that with just a few tweaks to one’s exercise regimen and diet, 6-pack abs and a eye popping booty is sure to come.  This justifying gets individuals in trouble.

2. You have to make HUGE changes all at once to get to where you want.  WRONG.  Truth is, one change at a time will do much more for you in the long run versus trying to overwhelm yourself with the castle all at once.  Small steps will build the right mindset in the long run.

3. You must restrict and sacrifice the rest of your life.  Wrong again.  It is not about placing huge restrictions or sacrificing important parts of your life, it is about finding the right balance.

DO MORE OF THIS AND LESS OF THAT

In order to develop the right mindset to support our training and goals, we must make changes to our individual behavior.  This may mean waking up 1 hour earlier to fit in our workout for the day, eating more vegetables and less cookies, or drinking more water and less soda/alcohol.   Do more of this and less of that.

Results take time and hard work.  Ask anyone, Rome wasn’t built overnight.  Make one behavior change at a time and make up the right mindset to support your training and goals.  After all, if we want to reach the top of the mountain, we have to climb it first.

DEVELOPING YOUR BEHAVIOR
No, I am not talking about spanking yourself in the ass like your parents use to.  Or, perhaps I’m just crazy and none of you were even thinking that…awkward.  Follow the tips below to help yourself make small behavioral changes to your nutrition and training and get after your goals in the new year.

1. Focus on one change at a time and make it become habit.  It takes roughly 14-21 days to make something new become habit.  With this practice you’ll most likely just find it to become routine.

2. Drink more water and less soda and alcohol.

3. Practice eating slower and listening to your body.  It generally takes 15-20 minutes for the brain to signal satiety.  Therefore, the faster you eat, the more you will consume.  The slower you eat, the better chance you give your body to register the food intake while feeling more satisfied and consuming less.

4. Increase your training slowly.  Don’t go full blast if you’re just starting.  Start with 1-2 workouts/week, adjust your schedule accordingly, and build from there.

5. Eat 1-2 palm sized servings of protein with each meal.

6. Eat more vegetables than fruit and only eat processed carbs/desserts once every 1-2 weeks.

7. Balance out your omega-3 fatty acid intake with a high quality fish oil supplement.

8. Use a support system.  The more people you surround yourself with who have similar goals and lifestyle aspirations is beneficial to you.  Hanging out with the local Oscar in a trash can will only detriment your goals.  Those with similar goals will help keep you motivated and on track.

9. Focus on each of these tips one at a time for 14-21 days.

10. COME SEE US =)!!!

 

10 Things You Should be Doing to Improve Your Race Performance but Probably Aren’t

caitlin running

Running is an extremely popular form of exercise these days; however, not many people understand the effects that it has on their bodies or the prerequisites that are needed prior to engaging in this activity.  I always say you need to be in shape to run and not the other way around. If your goal is fat loss, then you are barking up the wrong tree as there are many more effective ways to train for fat loss than distance running.  If you are a competitive runner and just want to destroy competitors on race day or if you simply enjoy running, here are some things that can help you with your performance and keep you healthy.

 

1. Develop adequate muscular support.  Every time your foot strikes the ground while running, 5-7 times your bodyweight of force goes through your joints.  Without adequate support, injuries will come.  It is of utmost importance that you strength train appropriately if you run a lot of miles.  It will help with maintaining posture, staying erect, increased force production and speed, better movement control, better running economy and the list goes on.

Long distance activities release excess amounts of cortisol, which tends to promote muscle atrophy.  If you don’t build some muscle to balance out and assist all of the long duration activity, its not a matter of if but a matter of when an injury will occur, and your performance will not be what it could.

2.      Address muscular imbalances and movement faults. With repetitive activity such as that involved with endurance races, imbalances and patterns are bound to develop.  When muscles that work with one another are out of whack and/or movement along different joints is impaired, certain areas will become overloaded; leading to injury and decreased race times.   Movement faults and imbalances must be assessed and then addressed through appropriate exercises and tissue work to make sure that loads are distributed evenly among the kinetic chain.  A very common and often overlooked problem that I see is a lack of big toe extension on either one or both feet. When the big toe can’t extend far enough, push off stresses are overloaded in other areas of the foot and the rest of the way up the body.  It can have effects all the way up to the head. Muscles such as the adductor and flexor hallucis can often be released to help improve movement here along with some mobilization drills and retraining push off patterns with gait.

With an issue like pelvic and rib rotation, forces will not be distributed appropriately along the kinetic chain which means compensations, overload and injury will occur.  These are just a few issues out of many.

Be sure fundamental movement patterns and basic stability patterns can be performed effectively as well: squatting, hip hinging, half kneeling, quadruped, etc.  If you can’t control your body effectively in a quadruped position, I can guarantee its not going to be pretty when you are running on two feet.

3.      Address postural issues-  With impaired posture such as rounded shoulders or posteriorly tilted ribs, breathing will be less than efficient, which means your body has to work harder to deliver oxygen to your tissues; which means that you will not perform as well as you could.   Get the rib cage level (often tilted back excessively in many people), and breathing will be much more efficient which means that working tissues will have better oxygen supply, which means that fatigue will not set in as easy.  If there is any pelvic rotation or shifting in play, excessive energy will be wasted fighting the body wanting to rotate, which means you will fatigue easier than you really should. Postural issues such as this straight up make running gait less than efficient, which can lead to injuries and wasted energy with each step.

4.      Develop Max Strength- The nervous system must be trained to tap into a wider variety of muscle fibers and to do so more efficiently.  The more force you can put into the ground with each strike, the faster you will be.  The stronger you are, the easier your body has to work with each step.  Its like giving your body a bigger engine; a v8 vs a v4.  To do this, heavy weights must be lifted for multiple sets of 2-5 reps (specifics will depend on the athlete) in big bang exercises like squats, deadlifts, rows and presses.

5.      Develop Speed Strength- Training the nervous system to activate more fibers faster will make you faster and take time off of your race. This can be done with exercises such as speed squats and speed pulls,  for multiple sets of 2-10 reps.  For straight speed strength, the lower rep range will be used.  For speed strength endurance, the higher rep range will be used.  Unlike powerlifting speed work, where only the lower rep range for speed work is usually needed, endurance athletes will also need endurance speed work to be programmed in for optimal carryover to race performance.

6.      Perform Free Motion Functional Movements with Strength Training To train for performance, muscular coordination, balance, stabilization and movement patterns must all be addressed with exercise.  This means that squatting, pulling, pushing, rotation and locomotive variations all better be addressed within a runner’s strength training program.  (Unless you run while sitting down on a pad while the rest of your body is stabilized for you that is).

7.      Develop Other Energy  Systems-  Endurance activities primarily train aerobic endurance; however, all energy systems are active to some extent.  Developing anaerobic capacity, anaerobic power and aerobic power will assist the aerobic system and will make you faster, more durable and will give you that extra kick when you need it.   Anaerobic capacity can be trained by performing high intensity intervals with an activity such as a sprint for a long period of time.  This trains the body to buffer substances such as hydrogen ions more effectively and trains the body to perform at higher intensities for a longer duration of time without gassing out.  Rest periods will be long enough to allow the body to generate sufficient intensity but not long enough to develop full power, which is mentioned next.

Anaerobic power can be trained with a similar activity but with a longer rest period between rounds.  This trains the body to perform as fast and powerfully as possible while utilizing the fastest of the fast twitch muscle fibers.  Each individual round is more important here.

Training for aerobic power trains the heart to pump blood stronger with each beat and betters the aerobic system’s ability to work effectively (i.e. deliver oxygen) towards higher intensity ranges and heart rates.  Increasing the heart’s performance here will make aerobic endurance work feel like cake.  This is done with fairly high intensity activities with the heart rate towards the upper end of the aerobic range but below  anaerobic range. The intensity and heart rate is not quite as high as anaerobic work (which can get up to 180+) but it is significantly higher than typical aerobic endurance work (150-160+ vs. 120-140) and the work to rest ratio is generally 1-1 to 1-0.5.   Sprints, prowler work, sled work, jump rope, kettlebell drills and battle ropes are all good options to train these qualities.  I highly recommend checking out Ultimate MMA Conditioning by Joel Jameison and Block Periodization by Vladimir Issurin to learn more about specific energy system development.  Bill Hartman also has tons of great info on specific energy system development.  Priceless sources full of great information!

The amount of training that should be spent training these different qualities will vary by individual but in general you don’t need to spend more than 3 to 4 weeks at a time hitting anaerobic work.  Aerobic training can be done for longer time periods as there is more room for development and less negative stress on the body.

8.      Develop Fast Twitch Oxidative Fibers-  Your body has different muscle fiber types.  There are two fast twitch types.  Although primarily used for high intensity power movements,  one fast twitch type has quite the potential to assist with endurance, known as fast twitch oxidative fibers.  Developing these fibers can go a long way with assisting your performance.  These will be developed pretty well with anaerobic capacity and aerobic power training discussed above (there will usually be some overlap between training with these two qualities).  To develop these specific fibers, performing activity that is intense enough to activate the proper motor units must be done over and over again for long periods of time. A couple examples that I like to use include the following.  Prowler pushing with a decently heavy weight is done for ~8-10 second trips every 20 seconds for up to 20-25 minutes.  Squat variations in the 80% intensity range are done for 1-2 reps every 20-30 seconds for up to 20 minutes. This is brutally hard work but will pay off in huge dividends for any endurance athlete as developing the oxidative capacity of these fibers will give lots of assistance to the slow twitch fibers that are usually relied heavily upon during a race.

9.      Develop Slow Twitch Fibers-  These fibers are heavily relied upon with endurance activities.  Specifically training them in the weight room can make them stronger and help them to reach their full potential.  Many people don’t realize that these fibers can actually be developed outside of endurance activities.  A great way to do this is by using a fairly slow tempo with exercises.  Performing an exercise such as a row or squat with a 5 second eccentric and 5 second concentric phase and adding in pauses will train these fibers; thus, helping them to perform better when called upon in a race.

10.  Do Something Other than Your Usual Events-  If you do anything at all, at least perform some other form of training, as doing the same activity and nothing else will limit your progress.  Adaptation is one of the most basic laws of performance.  Your body will adapt to what you do.  If all you do is run, bike, etc. you will only improve so much.  Developing all of these other qualities will provide your body with the variation that it needs to improve and will give it the true help that it needs from all of the appropriate systems.

Remember, random training equals random results. Planning and programming training of these specific qualities at the right times of the training season can make or break your running performance.  Create your goal, develop a plan to reach it and work hard.  Want to run? Then do everything you can to run as effectively as possible.