Rise & Shine: Ways to Make Your Morning Great!

Let’s face it, mornings suck. But there are things that you can do to make it… suck less.

Last week I wrote about the importance of sleep, so what better way to follow it up than with a post about waking up?! Let’s face it, mornings suck. But there are things that you can do to make it… suck less. So take your hand off of the snooze button and listen up for some ways to make mornings less miserable!
Bright Idea
If you read last week’s post you know that bright lights at bed time are not a great idea. So being the smart individual that you are, you know that bright lights in the morning are a great idea! This is because light works as a signal for our natural circadian rhythm. So when the sun is up so are we and visa versa. That may be obvious, but light, even artificial sunlight, makes a huge positive impact to our mornings. Getting enough morning light can significantly enhance cognitive performance (1). Like to work out in the am? Well getting enough light can improve your ability exercise and improve reaction time (2). This means if you have a long commute it may be worth you while to invest in an artificial day light lamp. And I bet you didn’t know that along with diet, exercise, and sleep that light plays a huge role in obesity prevention (3)!
How Stimulating
Bright lights are great, but you can also make your mornings better by stimulating all of your sensesHearing – Most of us wake up to the sound of an alarm clock. But using your sense of hearing can, and should, involve other sources of sound. One great way to wake yourself up and start the day off right is through the use of positive affirmation. This means you literally say out loud “I’m going to have a good day.” Taking time to do this, as well as spending time focusing on yourself, is a great way to get the feel good hormones flowing early in the day. Smell – Wake up and smell the roses? Pshh. More like wake up and smell the bacon! Utilizing your sense of smell in the morning is an easy way to wake yourself up and make a positive ritual out of your day. Whether it’s having your coffee or tea pre-set to start around the time you wake up, using an invigorating soap first thing in the morning, or enjoying some bacon to start your day, waking up to smells can create a happy environment to start the day. Touch – A warm and cozy bed can be hard to break free from. So like tearing off the band aid, the best thing to do when you wake up is to break free of your bed! Rip the sheets off and stand up… it’s that simple. Taste – We will be looking at breakfast in depth later on, but for now what you need to know is that you can not go wrong with water in the morning. This is because we are constantly losing water and becoming dehydrated throughout the night. This can lead to a decrease in our immune response, poor cognitive ability, and bad breath (4,5)!!!
Not So Bright Idea
Okay so here’s where things get tricky. Breakfast is a very controversial area in general, but there are a few things that we do know. For instance, being hungry can decrease your decision making ability and make you a grumpy pants that no one wants to deal with (AKA hangry) due to the ghrelin hormone (6). So eat breakfast or else you will be known as the grump of the office! But what if you’re not hungry in the mornings? Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day? Well the answer to that question is not so simple, but here’s a quote that I think is good food for thought “if there is little or no appetite for breakfast this meal can be safely missed by those who are well nourished, including children, because this will not adversely affect performance (body energy reserves can be readily mobilized to fuel muscle and brain activity), but will likely help reduce excessive energy intake.” (7). So this means that for some, skipping breakfast may not be a bad idea if you’re trying to lose weight. However, other studies show that you MUST eat breakfast to lose weight (8)! In reality, meals, and their timing, are largely driven by culture. Have you ever stopped to think about why there is such a thing as “breakfast foods?” It’s mostly due to marketing. So if you’re looking to lose weight or gain muscle, the best thing to do is experiment on yourself. Pick a breakfast ritual and try it out for a month and see where it takes you. Personally, I eat 3 whole eggs (reduces ghrelin), 3 egg whites, and a hand full of home fries every morning. I chose this meal because it has plenty of protein, fat, and carbohydrates which helps to decrease my overall appetite throughout the day and decreases ghrelin (9). But most importantly I LIKE IT! So find out what works for you and make sure it’s what you enjoy. Because like so many other things in the health and fitness world, consistency reigns supreme.
1. Gabel, V., Maire, M., Reichert, C. F., Chellappa, S. L., Schmidt, C., Hommes, V.. . Viola, A. U. (2015). Dawn simulation light impacts on different cognitive domains under sleep restriction. Behavioural Brain Research, 281, 258-266. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2014.12.043
2. Thompson, A., Jones, H., Gregson, W., & Atkinson, G. (2014). Effects of dawn simulation on markers of sleep inertia and post-waking performance in humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 114(5), 1049-1056. doi:10.1007/s00421-014-2831-z
3. Partonen, T. (2014). Obesity = physical activity + dietary intake + sleep stages + light exposure. Annals of Medicine, 46(5), 245.
4. Hanstock, H. G., Diment, B. C., Bendell, K. H. F., Carswell, A., Fortes, M. B., Moore, J. P., & Walsh, N. P. (2014). Effect of exercise-induced dehydration and subsequent overnight fluid restriction on immunity at the ocular surface. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46(5)
5. Thornton, S. N., & Trabalon, M. (2012). Dehydration during sleep affects cognitive performance. Sleep Medicine, 13(1), 118; author reply 118. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2011.06.018
6. Rozita H Anderberg, Caroline Hansson, Maya Fenander, Jennifer E Richard, Suzanne L Dickson, Hans Nissbrandt, Filip Bergquist, Karolina P Skibicka. The Stomach-Derived Hormone Ghrelin Increases Impulsive Behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015; 41 (5): 1199 DOI: 10.1038/npp.2015.297
7. Peter J Rogers (2016). Breakfast: how important is it really?. Public Health Nutrition, 19, pp 1718-1719. doi:10.1017/S1368980015003705. 
8. Astbury, N. M., Taylor, M. A., & Macdonald, I. A. (2011). Breakfast consumption affects appetite, energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters. The Journal of Nutrition, 141(7), 1381-1389. doi:10.3945/jn.110.128645
9. Ratliff, J., Leite, J. O., de Ogburn, R., Puglisi, M. J., VanHeest, J., & Fernandez, M. L. (2010). Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutrition Research, 30(2), 96-103. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2010.01.002

Being a Protein Pro

Nutritional protein is a HUGE area of research and controversy, so here’s attempt to simplify things.

Today we are talking about protein! The only problem is that the topic of protein is a HUGE area of research. So I will attempt to simplify things as best as I can, but be sure to shoot me an email if you have any specific questions.
What is Protein
Protein consists of chemically bonded amino acids. Many things that we eat contain some form of amino acids ranging from animal products, to plants, and even insects. The ways that proteins are used in the body are far too complex for this post. Simply put, protein and amino acids are the building blocks of life.
Well What Does Protein Do For Me?
Most people are looking to do 2 things. Gain muscle, and lose fat. Well take a guess at what protein does? THAT’S RIGHT! From athletes to couch potatoes high protein diets can promote weight loss and lean mass gains/preservation. (Nerds like me can check out the science herehere, and here)
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
Aside from a few medical conditions, there really is no upper limit to the amount protein you can consume. I’m not saying you should go out and drink 5 protein shakes a day because you can. In fact there is a certain amount of protein that is just right for you. For most people 0.45-0.68g/lb body weight is a good starting point. If you’re looking to find out exactly how much is right for you, feel free to give me a buzz.
Where Should I Get My Protein?
For most people, I recommend getting your protein from your regular diet. However, for most people it is difficult to get enough protein by food alone. Additionally, those are vegan/vegetarian, athletes, and/or want to maximize muscle growth certainly will need supplemental protein intake (Nerd alert). I personally take at least one protein shake per day. I use, and recommend, the SRX brand that we sell at O2 fitness (see me for a 10% discount). However, it’s always important to make an educated decision when choosing you’re supplements. This is why I attached some additional information to this email about the SRX brand.
When Should I Get My Protein?
Morning, noon, and night. Continued consumption of protein increases muscle growth. For most people it’s more important to get enough total protein than it is to worry about when you get it. However, if you absolutely must know, I would suggest having a little protein and carbohydrate before and after a workout.
Bit of a long email today, but I hope you found it useful. For more information check out the well written, and brief, article by examine.com linked bellow. Of course you are always free to contact me if you have any questions about today’s topic!

How to Boost Your Health, Fitness, and Metabolism By Doing Nothing

The importance of sleep, what it can do for you, and a few tips on how to get more without hitting that snooze button.

Today’s post is all about the awesomeness of sleep! That magical time where you get to relax, dream, and recover from those stressful work days. But for many of us, it seems like there is simply not enough time in the day to fit sleep in! That’s why I wanted to go over the importance of sleep, what it can do for you, and a few tips on how to get more without hitting that snooze button.
The BasiczZzZzZ
Sleep is an entire field of scientific research and is not completely understood. So naturally I am going to do an awesome job briefly summing things up. In any case, sleep is regulated by two body systems: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. Sleep/wake homeostasis tells us that a need for sleep is building up and gets us feeling sleepy while also helping us maintain enough sleep throughout the night. It’s the mechanism used to balance sleep and wakefulness. Our circadian rhythm regulates the timing of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. It’s a pattern of being awake and asleep that we can regulate. If you have ever woken up early on the weekend even though you wanted to sleep in, it’s because of your circadian rhythm. While we sleep, our body goes trough a cycle every 90 minutes as a way to recover and repair itself. Most people need 7-8 hours of sleep per night to sufficiently recover, but everyone is different. Some individuals may only need 5 hours, where others may require more than 10.
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Sleep To Get Shredded!
Let’s dig into the fun stuff! Sleep is crucial for so many reasons, but trying to stay healthy, lose weight, and get in shape without it can be a nightmare! We know that without proper sleep we will be more susceptible to decreased glucose tolerance, illness, elevated cortisol concentrations, increased cholesterol, decrease in the satiety hormone leptin, increased the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, and increased hunger and appetite (1)! What’s also interesting is that you can have a decreased glucose tolerance, and be more susceptible to type 2 Diabetes, if you have too much sleep as well (2).
If you’re looking to lose weight, sleeping enough is a must. Not logging enough sleep can decrease your metabolism and give you the munchies (3,4). Getting quality sleep is also important for building muscle. This is because adequate sleep is needed to optimize your natural growth hormones (5). Not only that, but it can suck the life out of your gym performance by decreasing your motivation and efficiency of cognitive processes, increasing perceived effort, and limiting physiological recovery responses (6).
How to Get Better Sleep
By now you realize the you need to sleep a lot, but you also need to sleep well. Quality sleep is crucial for achieving the 90 minute cycle throughout the night. So here are a few tips on how to get more sleep and with greater quality. First up, avoid the booz. Alcohol can have a deleterious effect on sleep in many ways but a few highlights include making you go to the bathroom more, making you sweat, playing with your blood sugar, and decreasing the amount of REM you get. Next, get out of the bedroom. The bedroom is a place for maximizing mental and physical recovery, so using it as a work or play space throughout the day can actually decrease the amount of quality rest you get in there at night. Limit the amount of stimulants in your life including nutritional and environmental. This means cutting back on caffeine (especially after 4 pm), nicotine, computer, cell phone, T.V., and possibly using blackout curtains to block light that can keep your brain active. Finally, exercise is your friend! Resistance training is a great way to help you sleep. So for those of you who struggle to fall asleep, work out earlier in the morning, whereas those of you who struggle to stay asleep should try evening strength training sessions (7). When it comes to health and fitness, your immune system, and brain power sleep is paramount. So get some rest!
1. Tremblay, A., & Chaput, J.-P. (2010). Sleep and Metabolic Fitness. Sleep,33(7), 861.
2. Cappuccio, F. P., D’Elia, L., Strazzullo, P., & Miller, M. A. (2010). Quantity and quality of sleep and incidence of type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes Care, 33(2), 414-420. doi:10.2337/dc09-1124
3. S. Sharma., & M. Kavuru (2010). Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. Int J Endocrinol. Volume 2010, Article ID 270832, 12 pages doi:10.1155/2010/270832
4. Taheri, S. (2006). The link between short sleep duration and obesity: We should recommend more sleep to prevent obesity. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 91(11), 881-884. doi:10.1136/adc.2005.093013
5. Brandenberger, G., & Weibel, L. (2004). The 24‐h growth hormone rhythm in men: Sleep and circadian influences questioned. Journal of Sleep Research, 13(3), 251-255. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2004.00415.x
6. Marshall, G., Turner, A. (2016), The Importance of Sleep for Athletic Performance, Strength & Conditioning Journal 38(1),p 61–67
7. Alley, Jessica R (2015). “Effects of resistance exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure”. Journal of strength and conditioning research (1064-8011), 29 (5), p. 1378.

Too Much Healthy Junk Food

It’s way too easy to eat more than we should especially when things are labeled as “healthy.”

Today’s post is about eating too much healthy junk food. Just what the heck does that mean? Well to put it simply, it’s way too easy to eat more than we should. This is particularly true when things are labeled as “healthy.” A great example of this involves a conversation that my roommate Skiles and I had in college.
Me: Why are you putting so much fake butter on you toast?
Skiles: Because it says it’s heart healthy and I want a healthy heart!
Me: I think it says that because its not as bad for your heart as regular butter. Not because it will actually make your heart any healthier.
Skiles:…. Oh.
So what are you eating or over eating that are surprisingly unhealthy? Well a couple of great articles came out recently looking at that question, and I will hit a few of the best points.
You’re Nuts!
What do trail mix, peanut butter, and granola bars have in common? If you answered nuts, you’re right!!! (yes I know peanuts are legumes but that’s just too hard to make a pun out of). Nuts are fantastic because they have healthy fats, protein, fiber, and nutrients. But it can be wayyyy to easy to over eat these foods. The key here is moderation. Don’t shovel the trail mix or bar nuts in by the handful. Eating small amounts will fill you up if you give your brain just a little time to react.
Soft Served Saddle Bags
So here is a list of foods that we all buy with a smug grin on our face thinking we are making the healthy choice. When in reality we might as well be pouring sugar on our rice cakes: Granola, Sushi, Dried Fruit, Bagels, Energy Drinks, Yogurt, Canned Produce, Fruit Juice, Breakfast Cereal, Pasta, and Frozen Yogurt. What’s so wrong with these items is simply that for the most part they just don’t taste good to very many people. To make sure their items sell, many companies will pour on the yummy sugar while removing the yucky nutrients. What you should do with these items is look for both total and added sugars, as well as artificial sweeteners (which aren’t necessarily bad for you). If you see that there is more sugar or fat than you bargained for, then its a good guess that the manufacturer is more concerned with selling their product than with your health.
Hidden in Plain Sight
I freaking love Hummus, Green Bean Casserole, Veggie Burgers, Ranch Dressing, and Ice Cream (not mixed together of course). But the problem with these items is that the can come with a label like No Sugar Added, Fat Free, Organic, Heart Healthy, etc. Nothing wrong with these statements and when put together they make for a delicious and healthy adjective salad. But when seen alone on a label we all should be weary. Often time these buzz words are used to catch your attention. However, to make their foods taste good companies often need to rob Peter to pay Paul. Combat these buzz word buggers by checking the nutrition information and by using them in moderation (lord knows I love me some ranch!)
TO BE CLEAR, I’m am not saying any of the above foods are good or bad for you. But rather I am trying to open up your eyes to the world of “health” foods on today’s market. Usually your best bet is to buy your foods our of the produce section and dig in to grandmas recipe book. To sum it all up I would say that if it shouts “health” or “wellness” all over the label you should be skeptical. Just as importantly, if it tastes good you should probably indulge in moderation.
Wanna learn more? Check these articles out!
WARNING: Strong language
WARNING: Mild nonsense (i.e. toxins)

A Healthy Body Begins With Happy Feet

The foot and ankle complex provides a base of support for all of our upright movement, so why don’t more people do exercises to strengthen such an important part of their body?!?!

Today I wanted to address how your feet influence the movements of your entire body. Your feet play a critical role in many movements beyond just walking, running, and jumping. The foot and ankle complex (FAC) provides a base of support for all of our upright movement, and if the muscles within the FAC become imbalanced it can set off a chain of negative reactions. So why don’t more people do exercises to strengthen such an important part of their body?!?! Well, today I am going to lay out what what the FAC is good for, and how to best go about achieving arch strength and happy feet.
Inline image 1
FAC Facts and FAQs
The FAC is extremely complex because there are dozens of bones and hundreds of muscles, tendons, fascial components, and ligaments at play. All of these components come together within the FAC to provide stationary support while standing and dynamic spring while moving. So I will do my best to keep it simple, but please forgive me if my inner nerd comes out and I use too much technical jargon. When it comes to movement of the FAC, one major concern is the interaction between the arch of the foot and dorsiflexion of the foot (taking your foot off the gas motion). A lack of dorsiflexion in the ankle can be the caused by several factors, but frequently involves decreased strength of the tibialis anterior muscle (1). The decrease in shin muscle strength can then lead to flat feet, increased plantar flexion (pressing the foot down on the gas) during squatting motions and gait (walking). All in all, the arch can be placed under great amount of stress during the load acceptance phase of gate, if your foot is weak and there is limited dorsi flexion. That’s because during this phase of the walking/running cycle the shin and ankle muscles assist the arch in energy absorption (2). If the ankle is unable to properly dorsiflex, a huge amount of stress will be placed on the foots spring ligament, plantar fascia, and intrinsic muscles which can lower the arch. This lowered arch in turn causes tibial (shin) rotation, hip internal rotation, slight hip flexion, and hip adduction creating a valgus (knock knee) stress (3,4). So what does this mean for you? Well to sum it all up, when we don’t pay attention to the FAC we are more likely to have stiff hips, lower back paintight calves, weak feet, weak ankles, altered gait, plantar fasciitishallux valgus (a.k.a. bunions), patellofemoral pain, increased susceptibility to medial collateral ligament (MCL) injuries, and an increased likelihood of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
There are also some other surprising aspects of foot strength that I’m betting most of you didn’t even think about. Having proper FAC strength means you have developed some proprioception (foot eye coordination in this case). In turn, this means you know where your body is at in space. This is extremely important if you think about it because it’s the same as knowing where my fingers are as I type each letter of this post. I don’t need to look down for each letter, I just know how to move my hands. So, if you practice strengthening your FAC you will know where your lower body is during each step you take. This leads to better performance for athletesenhancements in the standing and walking positions, and the ever crucial prevention of falls for seniors (5).
Foot Fitness
So I’m going to start this section by being a negative Nancy. To have healthy feet you SHOULD NOT use arch supports or supportive shoes. No, this does not mean you should take out those stinky old things you have put in your shoes for years and start walking around. What I mean is that the arch support is to the feet, what the weight lifting belt is to the back. Yes they are both supportive, but if you don’t let those underlying muscles develop you will end up with some limp noodles for muscles. So instead of opting for the all or nothing path, star weaning yourself off of the arch support and into regular shoes. Or if you’re ready for it, start weaning yourself onto more minimalist shoes. It’s really all about a gradual progression into a more barefoot environment… unless your feet stink like mine ;). You wouldn’t go from lifting 10 lbs dumbbells to benching  225 lbs, so don’t jump too quickly on the minimalist bandwagon especially if you have high arches to begin with (6).  
Okay, I know that if you have read this far you might be a little frightened of your weak feet. But I promise you that you don’t have to do that much to whip them into shape! This is because even though you use them all day long, the interaction between your nerves and your muscles may be the real underlying issue. So to re-learn your own feet, there are a few simple steps you need to take. Use your time wisely by standing on one foot as often as you can. This can be done while you wash dishes, make phone calls, eat Ramen noodles, or other things that people who aren’t poor college students do. You can also practice flexing your toes while you’re sitting down. This can be done by simple scrunching your toes together while at your desk, or by picking up objects and putting them into a container while you’re seated (7). Additional exercises include standing on one foot, bunny hops, walk heel to toemedial (inside) calf raises, resisted ankle inversion exercises, single-leg kettlebell swap, foam rolling the biceps femoris (outside hamstring) and plantar fascia, and walking in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. Finally, you should take care of your hips. The interaction between the hips and the ankles goes both ways. So stiff hips can mean stiff ankles and visa versa.
1. Chizewski M., & Chiu L. Contribution of calcaneal and leg segment rotations to ankle joint dorsiflexion in a weight-bearing task. Gait & Posture, 3685-89. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.01.007
2. Spaich, E. G., Andersen, O. K., & Arendt-Nielsen, L. (2004). Tibialis Anterior and Soleus Withdrawal Reflexes Elicited by Electrical Stimulation of the Sole of the Foot during Gait. Neuromodulation, 7(2), 126-132. doi:10.1111/j.1094-7159.2004.04016.x
3. Hollman, J. H., Kolbeck, K. E., Hitchcock, J. L., Koverman, J. W., & Krause, D. A. (2006). Correlations Between Hip Strength and Static Foot and Knee Posture. Journal Of Sport Rehabilitation, 15(1), 12.
4. Simon, L., Christian, B., Peter, M., Richard, T., Roger, W., & Dylan, M. (n.d). The effect of anti-pronation foot orthoses on hip and knee kinematics and muscle activity during a functional step-up task in healthy individuals: A laboratory study. Clinical Biomechanics, doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2013.11.015
5. Hashimoto T, Sakuraba K. Strength Training for the Intrinsic Flexor Muscles of the Foot: Effects on Muscle Strength, the Foot Arch, and Dynamic Parameters Before and After the Training. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2014;26(3):373-376. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.373.
6. McKeon, P. O., Hertel, J., Bramble, D., & Davis, I. (2014). The foot core system: a new paradigm for understanding intrinsic foot muscle function. British journal of sports medicine, bjsports-2013.
7.Siddiqi A., Kumar D., Arjunan S. Age-related motor unit remodeling in the Tibialis Anterior Proceedings of the Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, EMBS, Volumes 2015-November, 4 November 2015, Pages 6090-6093

Making Cardio CVEasy

The benefits of increasing your CVE are too great to ignore so I wanted to share some thoughts on how to spice up your routine!

Today I’m talking cardio. More specifically I wanted to talk about cardiovascular endurance (CVE). This topic was spurred on by a meme that I saw earlier in the week essentially saying that people who only come to the gym to walk on the treadmill are wasting their time and money. To be clear, I think that cardio of any sort should be a part of a complete workout program and not the entirety of your gym experience. However, the benefits of increasing your CVE are too great to ignore so I wanted to share some thoughts on how to spice up your routine!
The First Step
The first thing you should do is assess where you are physically. This can be done several ways. You can see a fitness professional (like myself), you can track your workouts, you can take a ballpark guess, or you can just say “hey I’m a couch potato… I know exactly where I’m at physically” and go from there. What you will want to know overall is how to take your CVE to the next level without injuring yourself. Side note, the phrase “no pain no gain” is… dumb, silly, nonsense, asinine, dippy (I love my thesaurus).
Step Two
Assess what you need. That old pair of Chuck Tailors in the closet probably aren’t the best idea if you want to start a running program. So before you dust off the old bike, goggles, or roller blades on the way to a work out, make sure they are in good condition. Trust me when I say that investing $100 in your equipment is the BEST thing you can do for increasing your CVE. There’s nothing worse than a couple of forced weeks off due to injury.
Step Three
Look into activities that you already enjoy. There’s no reason to go running if you hate being on your feet. Make things easier on yourself by identifying things that you already kind of like doing and try them first. This will decrease the chances of you quitting early and increase the likelihood of you seeing actual gains. And always remember to gradually increase your workload. 
Step Four
Put one foot in front of the other (I love puns). You need to make it happen. Just knowing that 22 minutes of walking a day will decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer, and increase your overall longevity should be enough. But as a pragmatist I know that we all need help on days that we feel out of it. This is why I am such a fan of exercising in groups or with a partner to keep you accountable. 
Pro Tips
 – The fastest and easiest way to get in shape quick is high intensity interval training (HIIT). However, it is extremely difficult to do HIIT properly alone. There are definitely some great strategies to employ if you must do HIIT alone as your source of CVE training. You can also do a small group class like the awesome new GRIT classes that will be starting at the end of October (if you would like more information just let me know).
 – Not ready for HIIT? No problem! Running is a cheap and easy way to get increase your CVE. Check out this link for a fantastic review about everything you need to know to get started with running. While you’re at it you should also consider joining me at our Run Club every Saturday morning at 8am! (Note that we will be running an organized 5k as a group on 10/10/2015. Join by signing up here!!!)
 – Coming off of an injury and can’t do what you want? Check out this link for some ideas about how to modify your activities.
 – Never stop improving. Whether you’re just getting off of the couch and walking for 20m a day or starting a new butt kicking HIIT work out, it’s important to always strive to hit the next level. Even if it takes you years to get there, setting goals is an extremely important and effective way to stay in shape.  
 – Keep it all in perspective. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was this guy. We spend all of our lives getting to the point we currently are currently at. It take time to get in shape. So don’t reward yourself for exercising, and don’t expect immediate returns on your fitness investment. Stay the course and you will become an inspiration!

Weekly Workout Structure

Ways to structure your workout routine, variables to consider, and how to plan for those pesky, yet inevitable, life barriers.

While there may be more than one way to skin a cat, there are more than 1,000 ways to get in shape. No matter what your fitness goal is, there are loads of variables to take into account when we talk about exercise. So today I wanted to talk about ways to structure your workout routine, variables to consider, and how to plan for those pesky, yet inevitable, life barriers. For me, the crux of today’s topic really stems from a trip that I will be taking this week which will interrupt my regular exercise routine. I was briefly panicked by the thought of how much clothing I will need, the quality of the hotel gym, and planning around what I normally do. Then a sudden calm came over me as I realized that… it really doesn’t matter! Here’s why.
The Basics
For me, I want to train to be lean and have some muscular definition. Think Brad Pitt in fight club. So my exercise routine is intense, but not the best for maximizing muscle gain. Here’s my regular exercise routine; Monday – full body strength training barbell based exercises Tuesday– LISS training = running about 1 hour Wednesday – full body strength training dumbbell based exercises Thursday – HIIT I practice for the Grit class I teach as well as row/other high intensity stuff  Friday – full body strength training machine based exercises Saturday – Run club = 3 mile-ish run.
Does that mean your weeks worth of exercise should look like mine? NOPE! There are lots of reasons why not, but in short, I have worked up to this level of fitness and intensity. However, while you’re free to skin your fitness cat the way you like, all routines will in some way revolve around the FITT principle. FITT is an acronym standing for Frequency Intensity Time and Type. Each one of these components can be broken down into sub categories that would keep me at my computer for days. But instead of majoring in the minutia I will make sure go lay out the big rocks of each component.
Frequency is how often you perform the targeted health-related physical activity, and is by far the most crucial aspect of any workout routine. Consistency is king for all components of health. However, it is possible to over train so you need to find your own personal sweet spot. I will go over recommendations in detail in the “type” section, but what you need to know is that you should be doing some form of physical activity at least 5 days per week. 
Intensity is how hard you exercise during a physical activity period (measured in different ways, depending on the related health-related component). This component can not only make or break your chances of hitting your goals, but it can also make or break your body and mind. You need to record how intense your workouts are on some level. Whether it’s through writing down sets/reps/weight, heart rate, perceived excretion, mileage, or other forms of documentation. Because you can’t make adjustments without having some form of data on your own workouts.
Time is not only the length of the physical activity, but also the rest breaks. The former can be best described as time-under-tension (TUT)which refers to how long the muscle is under strain/resisting weight during each set (30s – 60s), duration of a stretch (30s > twice a week), or time spent doing aerobic activity (30m > per day). The latter is the amount of time recovering between set, between workouts, or between specific muscle groups. All of these factors can be manipulated for different goals but essentially if you want to get big and strong rest for 2-3m between sets. If you want to get lean, rest for only a few seconds.
Type or specificity, refers to the specific physical activity chosen to improve a component of health-related fitness. No matter what your goals are you should be training for strength (all muscle groups at least 2 x a week), aerobic fitness (2 hours and 30 minutes each week), and a form of balance and stability (daily). Throwing HIIT is a great idea because it will get you lean quickly and with shorter workout duration, but be careful. It’s easy to go overboard with HIIT and end up being “burned out” though over training or even hurting yourself.
Making Your Customized Exercise Program
To make your very own customized exercise program, you will need to start with a few basic self recognition tasks. Take a good look at your goals and ask yourself if what you need to work on. You may need to start with learning proper technique, asking your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for strenuous exercise, or maybe recognizing that you’re not working intensely enough. This step is best done with a fitness professional to guide you. However, if you feel you’re ready for some strength training (which most people don’t do even though they need it), here is a simple template to follow.
Because there are thousands of exercises to choose from, differentiating set and rep ranges, tempo selection, and dozens of other variable to choose from, I will just keep it simple. You want to focus on general body movements and place them in a sensible order to avoid injury and ensure progress. So here are the motions you want to consider and a few examples:
Upper Body Push – Barbell Press (Decline, Flat, Incline, Overhead) • Dumbbell Press (Decline, Flat, Incline, Overhead) • Single Arm/Alternating Press • Floor Press (Barbell or Dumbbells) • Pushup 
Upper Body Pull – Pullups/Chinups (weighted, bodyweight or assisted) • Lat Pulldown • Bent Over/Pendlay Row • Single-Arm Row (dumbbell or cable) • Chest-supported Row Note – I would advise choosing one vertical and one horizontal pull for the sake of evenly hitting all of your back muscles
Lower Body Push (Knees Bend) – Back/Front Squat • Safety/Cambered/Speciality Bar Squat (if your gym has these) • Box Squat • Paused Squat • Split Squat (Front or Rear Foot Elevated) • Walking Lunges • Leg Press/Hack Squat 
Lower Body Pull (Hips Extend) – Conventional and Sumo Deadlifts • Hip Thrust/Glute Bridge Variations • Single-Leg Deadlift/Romanian Deadlift • Two-Legged Romanian Deadlift • Reverse Lunge • Kettlebell Swing • Back Extension • Glute Ham Raise/Nordic Curls 
Beach Muscles – Upper Back Isolation (face pulls, pull-aparts, rear delt flys, YTWs) • Bicep/Tricep Isolation • Calf Isolation • Core/Abdominal Work
There are a few ways to structure your workout program based on how many times you plan on going to the gym. The most important part here is planning enough rest between each gym session. So if you plan to exercise on Monday Wednesday Friday like me, you can be confident there there is adequate recovery time in there. But if you’re going to strength train 4 days per week, well it will take some wise exercise choices. For the examples below, scattering in beach muscle exercises at your discretion is recommend to be done at the end of each workout. Leaving the gym with a good pump always feels awesome.
Upper Body Day  Push/Pull
Lower Body Day  Bend/Extend
Upper/Lower Day 1  Push/Extend
Upper/Lower Day 2  Pull/Bend
Lower Body Day 1  Extend
Upper Body Day 1  Push
Lower Body Day 2  Bend
Upper Body Day 2  Pull
Using a simple template to track your workouts is a great way to go. Simply write up your plan for the month, take it to the gym, and you’re on the way to muscle city. See below for an easy to use program design. You can use the exercise example seen above, but I encourage you to explore the gym and learn new exercises to love!

Day 1





Lower Body Push Variation 1



Pull Variation 1



Lower Body Pull Variation 2



Press Variation 2



Beach Movment



Day 2





Lower Body Pull Variation 1



Press Variation 1



Lower Body Push Variation 2



Pull Variation 2



Beach Movement



While there are a million different ways to go about exercise, there are also a million different excuses. Even if you’re busy, there will always time to exercise and improve your health. When you’re stressed it’s hard to breathe and your joints can feel stiff as a board, but there are ways to feel better and loosen up. If you feel the effects of jet lag and don’t feel like working out, there are ways around it. And even if you know you will struggle to find ways to complete your regular routine while on the road… well the occasional rest can do you right while you figure new ways to skin a cat 🙂

Take Control of you LBProbems

From young athletes, to chair bound adults, to golden year seniors, almost everyone will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. For this reason I decided to break down LBP into what it is and what to do about it!

Today I am talking about the dreaded lower back pain (LBP). From young athletes, to chair bound adults, to golden year seniors, almost everyone will experience lower back pain at some point in their life. For this reason I decided to break down LBP into what it is and what to do about it!
The Major Malfunctions
There are dozens of reasons why someone would have LBP. Even different illnesses can cause it. So to avoid writing a whole book I’m going to cover the biggies. 
In young athletes, the problem is often in the bones of the spine. In fact 47% will have a spondylolysis fracture with only 11% of LBP being caused by disc issue in this population. This differs from the adult population where 48% of LBP is disc related. So in young athletes the problem is often caused by repetitive extension and torsion of the spine, where as in adults the issue is typically due to sitting posture. Take a look at the picture bellow to see how changing your body position affects the load on you spine
Inline image 1
So clearly much of the problem has to do with… well… you! Do you sit too long? Do you sit with crap posture? Do you move well? All of these questions are important ones to ask yourself. But the good news is that you’re in control!
What To Do About It
Before I go into detail about exercises and stretches to help, I will tell you that you need to see a doctor if you experience any of the following issues:
Do you feel any tingling or numbness?
● Do you have any loss of sensation?
● Do you have any loss of motor control, such as an inability to raise your arm over your head?
● Do you have or have you ever had a loss of bowel or bladder function?
● Do you have severe immobility or an inability to walk?
Answered no to all of the above? wonderful, please read on at your leisure. In fact stand up, walk around, then sit back down and read on. Because Tip 1 is to start by sitting for no more than 30 minutes at a time. It’s the most simple and easiest way to help control that back pain. Now that you’re sitting Tip 2 is to now get into a proper sitting posture. So feet flat, chest up, core contracted, and eyes straight ahead. And finally Tip 3 breath from your belly. Not only will this help relieve stress (another cause of LBP) but it will engage that protective core musculature.
The Exercises
Here’s the problem with recommending exercises. Everyone has different needs!!!! Not everyone is going to be weak in the same areas. Not everyone is going to need stretching of the same muscles. For instance, if your back rounds out like a turtle when you sit down, you may need to stretch your hamstrings. However, if your back arches when you do a squat or sit down then that’s the opposite of what you want to do! So please come see me if you want some specifics on what to do to help correct your posture. In the meantime, you can try some of these exercises which are generally safe and effective for most people.
1. The Glute bridge. A simple and easy exercise that you can do anywhere. It activates the tooshie as well as the wonderful core muscles.

2. The hip flexor stretch. A wonderful pairing to the glute bridge is a stretch of the hip flexors. This stretch will allow the butts and guts do their jobs.

3. The plank. Abdominal bracing is all the rage this fall. So make the plank a part of your workout wardrobe.

4. Leg swings. This will help mobilize the hips so you can use your booty!

5. The fire hydrant. This exercise uses your mobilized hips to further strengthen them glutes.
When it comes to back health there is a lot to take into account.To be honest I have barely scratched the surface on this topic, but I feel like this post has gone on long enough as it is. So sit up straight, work on glute and core strength, and get out of that chair! 

There’s One Oar Two Benefits to This Exercise!

This piece of equipment is far too underutilized even though it has oodles of benefits for noodle arms (or nearly any other weak body parts).

Today’s post is all about the row machine! This piece of equipment is far too underutilized even though it has oodles of benefits for noodle arms (or nearly any other weak body parts). It gets you strong, utilizes the whole body, crushes calories, and best of all… you get to sit! So let’s dive into the wonders of rowing.

What Could Be Better?

There’s almost an innumerable amount of benefits to rowing. How could one machine be low impact, strengthening, and cardio all in one? Well, here’s how:

Rowing uses around 86% of the body’s muscles including the upper back, arms, legs, and, yes, even core, which means more calories burned, great heart health, and tremendous bang for your buck.

Depending on how you us it, you can develop power (short pieces), endurance (long pieces), and strength endurance (middle distance pieces).

It has great crossover effect, which means it can be used to develop aptitude in other exercises such as the squat, dead lift, or other weighted rowing motions.

Also, it’s super safe due to minimal impact loading, so it is safe for those with a history of ankle, knee, or hip injuries.


What to Know Before You Go Row

There are three key things to know about the row machine for those beginners out there. They are 1) the Damper setting 2) Flex Foot position, and 3) Performance Monitor adjustment. The damper setting affects wind resistance and subsequently the speed of the stroke: the lower the setting, the less wind resistance and faster the stroke. So basically, the harder you pull, the more resistance will be felt with each stroke – making the workout more challenging. Depending on your goal, you will need to play with different settings, record results and “tweak” as needed. The flex foot is where the feet are fixated, and it needs to be adjusted according to foot size. Just make sure that the anchor strap is secured directly over the ball of the foot for optimal performance. The performance monitor is an essential component to rowing and displays quantitative information for you to analyze the performance of each row. Key features include time, distance, speed as time per 500 meters, watts, and calories per hour. The time per 500 meters is my favorite to watch because it represents to a rower the same as what time per mile represents for a runner.


As with any other exercise, technique is crucial for attaining benefits and shunning away the bad stuff like injuries (just like Gryffindor’s sword). So here are the step by step instructions for a beginner.

1 – Turn the machine on, set resistance to low, secure your feet so they don’t move around as you slide, and grab the handle using an overhand grip, but don’t hold too tightly

2 – Pull the handle with you as you slide to the end of the machine. Your legs should be straight, but knees should still have a slight bend in them so they aren’t locked. Lean back slightly and pull your hands up to your chest, holding the handle so it is right below your pecs, with elbows pointing down against your sides.

Inline image 1

3 –  THE RECOVERY is when you start to come forward towards the starting position. To do this properly, move your arms out first, followed by your upper body. Your back should always stay straight, not slumped, with shoulders back and abs engaged as you follow through. As your arms extend out, your upper body position will go from slightly angled back to slightly angled forward.

Inline image 2

4 – THE CATCH is when you make your way back to the starting position. As your arms extend and body leans forward, slide your body forward on the seat by bending your legs. Once you are at the top of the machine, your arms will be fully extended and legs will be bent.

Inline image 3

5 – THE DRIVE is where the magic happens. This is where you push off with your feet first, so that your legs straighten, but your arms are still extended and your body is still slightly leaning forward working the leg and core muscles the most.

Inline image 4

6 – THE FINISH starts when your torso begins to lean back, followed quickly by your arms; as your upper body angles back, pull the handle and bend your arms so that the handle ends up back to touching the front of your chest, just like how you started.

Inline image 5


Here are a few things to look out for. DON’T grip the handle too hard; the power should be through your legs. Using too much force while pulling the cable can cause hand blisters as well as back problems. DON’T slump forward because the core muscles must act to keep the spine in neutral alignment so that power can be transferred from low to high and high to low through the kinetic chain. DON’T move your arms up and down as you row because raising and lowering of the handle during recovery is inefficient, involves more work and should be avoided for optimal rowing. DON’T push the seat away from the flywheel and then follow with the hands and torso. Instead, at the very beginning of the drive phase, make sure the seat and the handle move together for approximately ¼ of a slide, at which point the torso starts to hinge followed by the arm pull. DON’T lean back like you’re taking a nap in your car (or Fat Joe) because it increases the workload on the abdominals, slows pace and decreases overall performance. DON’T chicken wing by raising the elbows vertically at the finish of the stroke like you’re going to choke yourself with the bar.


Here’s the fun part… the workout options! There are a few basic options. I like to row for 10 minutes and see how far I get. You can do the reverse by seeing how long it takes you to get a certain distance (500m for beginners). I like to also use a Fartlek style of training where you go slow for one minute, medium pace for 45 seconds, and all out sprint for 15 seconds for 5-10 rounds. Once you have some experience under your belt, you can try an interval training plan such as this one, or place it strategically into a workout plan like this one. To sum it all up, rowing is a workout that you need to try. Once you master technique, you will be able to take on just about anything (except water)!

Speaking English Will Kill You!

With gobs of terrible information on the internet about “the perfect diet” I wanted today’s post to be about what a good diet looks like. Because there truly is no magic bullet, perfect diet, or one true way to eat.

Why speaking English will kill you according to research.
 The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
 The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
 The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
 The Italians drink excessive amounts of ride win and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
 The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
 Conclusion: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.
With gobs of terrible information on the internet about “the perfect diet” I wanted today’s post to be about what a good diet looks like. Because there truly is no magic bullet, perfect diet, or one true way to eat. There are, however, dozens of people who will tell you otherwise, and they are probably trying to sell you something. I think this point is exemplified by this quote“When we have millions of years of evolutionary history to guide our dietary decisions, the latest nutritional trends don’t really matter much.”
Personally I take issue with the extremists. Low carb, low fat, Keto, Paleo, and even intermittent fasting all come at a cost. Whether it be ill effects on your body, or going insane every time you see a piece of bread. So I will attempt to quickly take a look at a few trends, as well as what you should really do to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
High Fat/Paleo
So I think that the biggest trends lately have been towards area of high fat diets. From the absolutely ridiculousness of Bullet Proof Coffee to off base Paleo diet. The problem is that each of these examples are not backed by quality science. Bulletproof coffee does nothing more than add extra calories to your diet, but if you like the taste of adding butter to your cup of Joe (eww) then don’t let me stop you. I personally like Paleo because it encourages lots of fruits and vegetables. But any diet that says “you can’t have any of this or that” just sets you up for failure. Finally, high fat diets are not heart healthy. Fats are not the enemy by any means. But when we fail to moderate our fat intakes, our blood lipids (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, Apob, etc) can get out of control.
Killer Carbs
Similar to high fat diets, low carb diets are trendy. However, carbs are not the problem! In fact we generally need carbs toperform exercise and for optimal brain function. Time and time again the research has shown that it is total calorie intake, not the macro-nutrient composition, of a diet that matters. So why do people see success using low carb diets? Well it’s because they cut out hundreds of calories from their diet. But at what cost? How long can you go without eating a sandwich? What’s worse is that as soon as you go off of a low carb diet you will likely gain back a lot, if not more, weight. I’ll finish up by saying that CARBS DO NOT CAUSE ANY KINDS OF DISEASE!!! However, using a Keto diet may cause extreme fatigue, dizziness, headaches, changes in bowel regularity and consistency, shakiness, muscle cramping, disruptions in sleep, a temporary dip in thyroid hormones, and even an increase in kidney stone formation. Yikes!
What To Do
I don’t adhere to any specific diet and I don’t recommend any specific diet. Everyone’s life can be hectic, and a demanding diet regime can often just put too much on our plate to handle (pun intended). Instead, because I am a true believer in the KISS (keep it super simple) method, I like to use some simple guidelines when it comes to food.
1. Make small adjustments to include more plants
Fruits and vegies are packet with nutrients. By adding more of these into your diet you will feel fuller for longer. All you need to do is put an emphasis on minimally processed plant foods.
2. Embrace the bean
Although they are condemned by followers of Paleo, beans are freaking awesome. Why’s the magical fruit great? They’re cheap, they contain protein, minerals, and antioxidants, they may reduce our risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and they’re freaking delicious!
3. Don’t try to eat “perfectly.” Just do your best
You should feel guilty for doing bad things. Feeling guilty for something you ate should not be a thing. Don’t sweat the little stuff and you will sleep easy at night.
4. Eat for a reason
So what’s the driving factor behind your nutrition habits? Do you want to set an example for your kids? Support local farmers? Improve animal welfare? Eat foods with a lower environmental impact? Worry less about your health? Try answering these questions if you need help figuring it out.
“I’m the kind of person who ___________________.”
“And it’s important to me that __________________.”
“So I’d feel good about accomplishing ___________.”
5. Move away from all-or-nothing thinking
“I need to eat 6 vegan meals a day or else!” First of all, eating more frequently won’t boost your metabolism. Secondly, this will only make you feel bad if you have a piece of meat or miss a meal! Instead find what works for you, in your real and messy life, and give yourself credit for the good stuff you’re already doing.
I’ll wrap things up by saying health and happiness should not be mutually exclusive. They should intertwine. If you feel that one is getting in the way of the other, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate things. Of course I am always here to help you figure it it out 🙂