by kevin miller
If you were to ask most people what are some of the key factors that determine whether or not their body will respond to their particular type of training you will often get several answers. The majority of individuals would we say that you need to focus on the following:
- Strength training
- Aerobic training
- High intensity intervals
I am sure we could add a few more items to the list above but you get my point. I agree that the items that are mentioned above do play a pivotal role in your training as well as your ability to improve your health and transform your body.
However, one of the key areas that is often overlooked by most athletes as well as people looking for peak health is RECOVERY. Over the past couple of years there has been a greater emphasis among coaches to find the best recovery techniques for their athletes. For years athletes have implemented recovery techniques like cold plunges or contrast baths. Runners as well as multisport athletes have reaped the benefits of receiving post workout massages by skilled therapists.
In my opinion, having a strategy that addresses your recovery for every session is just as critical as the workout itself. When we are in the gym we are imposing a stress (i.e. weights, running, etc.) on our body in an effort to change the way we look or feel. Once we leave the gym or finish the workout we often neglect our recovery because “we have to get to work” or “I don’t have time to stretch because I need to get to a meeting”. All of us are guilty of this and at times it’s okay to allow this to happen however, if you really want to maximize your results it’s time to implement a recovery plan.
Here are a few of my favorite recovery strategies for both athletes as well as weekend warriors.
Post workout breathing: Instead of using every minute of your workout to spin on a bike or run that last interval cut your workout short by five minutes and perform 10-15 deep diaphragmatic breaths at the end of your workout. The goal here is to go from a sympathetic state (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state before you jump in your car to head home. By doing this simple task you will kick start your recovery process and allow your body to return to homeostasis.
Have a post workout drink/smoothie: This is a topic that continues to be debated by coaches and athletes. Does drinking a protein shake immediately after a workout speed up the recovery process? For me, I believe the benefits of having a quality protein and carbohydrate shake after a workout (10-20 minutes post workout) does have benefits in terms of carbohydrate recovery as well as hydration. I also believe it has psychological benefits as well. A simple way to implement this is to either make the smoothie the morning of the workout or make one the night before and freeze it if you prefer to have it cold. Either way the smoothie is a much better option than ice coffee and a muffin on the ride home.
Massages: I am big believer in manual therapy. If you listen to experts like Patrick Ward (www.optimumsportsperformance.com) he will tell you that tissue quality is critical to recovery and performance. If you have ever had a massage you know that there are several different kinds to choose from. For starters, I would recommend that you find a skilled manual therapist who can determine what state your nervous system is in (i.e. sympathetic or parasympathetic) and decide what type of treatment is best for you. Most professional athletes have the ability to get a massage 2-3 times per week. If you are on a budget, like most people, try and block out a massage once a month if possible. Another good option is to contact a local massage school and ask if their students have to do clinical hours. This option can be a great way to get a massage once a week.
Epsom salt baths: When I tell most adults about this the first thing they say is “My grandmother use to tell me to do this”. The reason your grandmom knew about this is because chances are she was a lot healthier than we are right now and she knew the benefits from a warm Epsom salt bath. The benefits we receive from this are an increase in magnesium (this is good since most of us are deficient) as well as a calming effect to our body. A great time to implement this strategy is before you plan to go to bed. This will help you relax and I can almost guarantee that you will have a great night’s sleep by implementing this simple strategy.
Mobility circuit: The majority of men reading this could benefit tremendously from this tip. Instead of heading to the gym and jumping on the treadmill for 45 minutes I want you to focus on a total body mobility program. Chances are if you sit all day at a desk you have back as well as neck pain. I can also guarantee that your hamstrings feel tight all the time. A good mobility circuit can take as little as 10-15 minutes. Here is a sample routine
Warm up with 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths (prone or supine)
- Ankle mobility (Wall ankle dorsiflexion)
- Hip mobility (Groiners)
- Shoulder mobility (Push up w/ T-spine rotation)
- Movement (Single leg A-skips)
Performing a good mobility circuit is a great way to speed up the recovery process as well as reduce DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness).
Meditation: If you had told me a couple of years ago that meditation could help you speed up your recovery I probably would have laughed at you. However, having done a better job of being open to new ideas and educating myself, I now believe that mediation can have a big impact on your ability to recover. Most of us are always on alert. Our minds are always racing from one idea to the next (myself included). In her book Mind Over Medicine, author Lissa Rankin M.D is quoted as saying “When our beliefs are hopeful and optimistic, the mind releases chemicals that put the body in a state of physiological rest, controlled primarily by the parasympathetic nervous system, and in this state of rest, the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms are free to get to work fixing what’s broken in the body”. If you speak to an expert on mediation I am sure that his/her idea of mediation may be different than mine. I am new to the process and like anything it takes time to master this type of treatment. What I would recommend is start with 1-2 minute segments both in the morning as well as the evening before bed. Do your best to focus on your breathing and try clear your head of any negative thoughts. At first this will be very hard to do but as you become more comfortable with your breathing you will start to see the benefits and you can than increase the time spent meditating. The best time in my opinion to do this is first thing in the morning before your day gets too hectic.
A final point to remember is that your body is very smart. It will adapt to the stress placed upon it. So, you need to switch up your recovery techniques every couple of weeks. If you get a massage every day using the same technique although it will feel good it may start to lose some of its benefits. I always recommend that you cycle through your favorite techniques every couple of weeks. I realize that some people will read this and say “Recovery is for wimps, all you need to do is work harder”. I honestly use to think that as well, however, trust me when I tell you that having that mindset was one of the worse decisions I ever made. Your body will eventually shut down and if this happens you may eventually find yourself in a deep hole and your chances of injury and illness skyrocket. Be smart with your training. A key phrase that I live by now is “Train hard when your body is ready and rest hard so you can reap the benefits of your hard work.”
“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/
When it comes to your training you should always be looking to finds ways to improve. Many of us who train have a tendency to get stuck in the same old routine. We do the same exercises day in and day out and wonder why we stop seeing results. This week I want to share with you TEN WAYS that you can improve your training.
1. GET TO SLEEP BY 10:30
When I ask most people when they fall asleep the majority of people respond by telling me they are unable to fall asleep before midnight. It’s very common for people to tell me that they are unable to fall asleep before 2 a.m. This is a growing problem for a lot of people today. Research has shown that when we sleep our body begins the process of repairing itself. If we are unable to get an adequate night’s sleep how can we expect to feel alert and energize for the next day?
2. FOCUS ON POST WORKOUT RECOVERY
One of the easiest ways in my opinion to improve your overall training as well as your body composition is to put an emphasis on your post workout nutrition. A simple way to make this a part of your training plan is to have a protein smoothie already made for when you finish your training session. You can either bring it with you to the gym (freeze it before you come) or have one made when you get home. Whatever you decide adding some protein, carbohydrates and fat to your post workout nutrition will give you a leg up on your competition. I would recommend that you try and drink your shake within 15-30 minutes of completing your workout.
3. GET A TRAINING PARTNER
Plain and simple, people train harder if they are working out with someone. Find someone (ideally a friend, coworker or neighbor) who is looking to get in shape and is willing to train with you. Talk about your goals together and make a commitment to train with one another a few days a week. By doing this you will feel a stronger commitment to your training and someone will hold you accountable to your program. Other options include hiring a personal trainer or working out with a small group (i.e. semi-private training)
4. ADD SOME WEIGHT TO THE BAR
If you are currently lifting weights than you are one step ahead of a lot of other people who are missing out on one of the best ways to change your body. However, I would be willing to bet that the majority of people who are lifting weights right now are happy with the weight they have on the bar. Instead of being satisfied with the weight on the bar, I challenge you to increase the weight on some of your big lifts (i.e. front squat, bench press, overhead press, etc.) by 5 lbs. this week. The following week shoot for 10 pounds. It goes without saying that you should always focus on good form, however, increasing the weight in small increments is a great way to add some strength as well as some muscle.
5. DO A PROPER WARM UP BEFORE EVERY TRAINING SESSION
I see it all the time. I watch people walk into the gym sit down on the peck deck machine or flat bench and start their chest workout. No warm up just straight into their routine. If there is one thing that I am adamant about it is making sure that all of my athletes and clients perform a proper warm up. The excuse that most people give is “I don’t have time”. I look at them and say a good warm-up can be completed in as little as 5 to 10 minutes if you do it correctly. The warm-up sets the tone for the training session. Ideally I like to see the following categories covered in a warm-up:
- Alignment (neutral pelvis)
- Proper breathing
- Foam rolling
6. ELIMINATE PROCESSED FOOD THIS WEEK
One of the easiest ways to feel better with in and out of the gym is to reduce the amount of processed food that you consume on a daily basis. I am going to challenge you this week to eliminate all processed food this week. I am willing to bet that if you do this you will see an increase in your overall energy as well as your ability to recover from one workout to another.
7. GO FOR A LONG WALK OUTSIDE
One of the best ways to relieve stress as well as improve your cardiac output is to go for a long brisk walk. Ditch the cell phone and headphones and get outside. The sun on your face as well as the fresh air will do wonders for your body.
8. MAKE A POWER SMOOTHIE
Most smoothies you buy at a smoothie store are loaded with sugar as well as fruit substitutes. Instead of wasting your money on high sugar/low protein smoothie try this recipe instead:
- ½ banana
- 1 cup of strawberries
- ¼ cup of beets
- ½ cup of kale
- ¼ cup of frozen mangos
- 1 tbsp. of melted coconut oil
- 1 tsp. of spirulina (This can be purchased at most health food stores)
- 5-6 ice cubes
- Blend for 30-45 seconds and drink up
9. FOCUS ON YOUR HEALTH RATHER THAN WEIGHT LOSS
This week put away the scale and focus on improving your health. Dropping 20 lbs. of weight does not automatically make you healthy. Instead, focus on habits that you can sustain. Examples include getting quality sleep, eating a balanced diet as well as finding ways to manage your stress.
10. TRAIN LIKE AN ATHLETE
All of us have an athletic side. As kids we use to run and jump; but as we grow older many of us have a tendency to lose our athleticism and ability to generate power. Training like an athlete will automatically increase your power. Here are three exercises that you can do to help you feel like an athlete:
1. Box jumps - Start with a very low box if you have never done this before land soft.
Video: Box jumps
2. Medicine ball throws - I always recommend that you start with a light (2-4 lbs.) medicine ball.
3. Transition runs -These runs are best done on a track or a turf field. Start slow and progress.
Video: Shuffle to sprint
If your results have stalled and you want to jumpstart your fitness this month, try adding some of these options to your training plan. You don’t need to all of these recommendations at once. Start slow and progress. Remember proper form and progressions are critical when it comes to your training.
“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog (http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc) on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health
Each year the number of female athletes who are participating in high school sports appears to be growing. With sports like soccer, basketball, field hockey, crew, lacrosse, track and softball, athletes are now given the chance to play their sport almost year round. For the past several years I have had the privilege of working with several female athletes and I think this trend towards females playing more sports is fantastic. However, one trend that I have seen with high school female athletes is the increase risk of injury. It’s very common for me to speak to a parent and have them tell me that their daughter has suffered one of the following injuries:
- Torn ACL
- Multiple stress fractures
- Torn rotator cuff
- Plantar fasciitis
- Hip/low back pain
The list above is just some of the more common injuries that I see with females. The truth is there is no way to prevent an injury. Injuries are a part of the game. However, I do believe that if athletes are trained properly they can greatly reduce their chance of injury. If you are a parent of a female athlete one question that I think you should ask yourself is “What steps can I take in order to reduce the chance of injury for my daughter."
Here are a few suggestions on how I believe you can reduce injuries in sports.
1. Stop playing year round: I understand that this may frustrate some parents and coaches but high school athletes need an off-season. I know there is a desire to increase your skill as an athlete, however, if you play the same sport for 11-12 months a year with a short break your chances of developing soft tissue injuries as well as muscle imbalances increases dramatically. I would recommend that 2-3 months out of each year females take a step back from their main sport and develop some new movement patterns. A question you have to ask yourself is if professional athletes have an off-season why don’t high school athletes have an off-season?
2. Improve your nutrition: It’s very rare that I work with a female athlete who is eating a well-balanced diet. Most females would benefit by simply adding more protein and fat to their meals as well as focusing on a quality post workout meal. A typical breakfast for a female athlete looks something like this: plain bagel & a glass of water or orange juice. A much better option would be the following: 2 eggs, banana and a glass of orange juice. Small changes in nutrition can have a dramatic effect on performance.
3. Learn how to decelerate: Most athletes have no problem running. Sure some kids are much more efficient at running than others, however, one area that needs to be addressed when training females is teaching them how to stop and control their body. This takes time. However, athletes who are stable and understand where their body is in space (proprioception) are less likely to suffer an injury than those who are unstable.
4. Improve your overall strength: One thing that I tell all of the female athletes that I work with is if you want to reduce your chances of getting hurt improve your overall strength. Most high school females have never touched a weight in their life and they are intimated by the thought of lifting weights. I can respect this but if taught correctly this can be a game changer for female athletes. An increase in strength will mean a more stable base of support which results in a more stable body. When a female athlete increases her strength so many positive things happen on the field or court. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Increase in speed and power.
- Improvement in their posture.
- Increase in their confidence.
- Increase in their bone strength.
Note: The off-season that I mention above is the PERFECT time to implement a proper strength training program. You don’t have to stop playing your sport completely in the offseason just reduce the volume and implement strength training 2-3x per week.
Here are a few exercise videos that if performed properly under the proper supervision can reduce the chance of injury. Please note that in each clip I show two exercises. The first exercise is the easier (regression) of the two. Please make sure that the first exercise is mastered before attempting the second exercise.
- Kneeling push to regular push up
- Body weight squat to box jump
- Band deadlift to KB deadlift
- Inverted reach to med ball reach
- Skate hop bounce to skate hop
As an athlete when you step on the field or court you can’t worry about getting hurt. However, you can do something about reducing your chances of getting hurt. I think it’s fantastic that female athletes are playing sports and doing things on the field /court that people never expected them to do. Just make sure that you have built a solid foundation and take a look at the big picture to see what areas you need to improve upon in order to stay on the field and play an entire season injury free.
A topic that has been debated over the years by both coaches and athletes is whether or not field and court athletes need to develop an aerobic base for their particular sport. When most people think of aerobic training the first thing that comes to their mind is long slow distance (LSD) running. The majority of field and court athletes that I have worked with despise this type of training (Unless you have a cross country runner that also happens to play field hockey). For most coaches and athletes this means running 4-6 miles at a slow pace. They believe that if they train slow they will be slow. On one hand I understand exactly what they mean. On the flip side after reading "Ultimate MMA Conditioning" by Joel Jamieson I developed a deeper understating of energy system training and in particular cardiac output training.
You may be saying to yourself I am sprinter why would I need to increase my cardiac output? All I need to do is sprint for 6-8 seconds, rest and then repeat it again 30-90 seconds later. The reality is your cardiac system is the "power plant of aerobic energy production" (Ultimate MMA Conditioning-Jamieson). The cardiac output method is a method that will improve the amount of blood that your heart can pump for each beat. As a field or court athlete this is critical to your ability to perform repeat sprints as well as have the endurance to play an entire game. A key component that I believe most athletes neglect is their ability to recover from a play or a sprint. In a perfect world I want a team full of athletes that can sprint, rest and repeat another sprint with the same intensity as the first sprint. By developing your aerobic system you will be able to perform more repeat sprints during a match or game.
In order to use the cardiac method you need to follow some guidelines in order to reap the benefits. Here is a list of what you need to follow in order to ensure that you’re training the right energy system.
- Maintain a constant heart rate in the 120-150 bpm (beats per minute) range.
- Each session should last 30-90 minutes.
- Start with 30 minutes and increase the volume each week.
- Start with two (2) sessions per week and increase to as many as three (3) sessions per week in the off-season.
- This type of training should be done in the off-season to help develop a solid foundation to build upon.
- If your resting heart rate is above 60 bpm you will benefit from 4-6 weeks of this type of training. You goal should be to have a resting heart rate of 55 or lower. If your resting heart rate is under 50 bpm than you can limit this type of training to 1-2x per week in the off-season and progress to more advanced styles of training.
I would highly recommend that you pick up a good heart rate monitor to use. You can purchase a good one for under $125 from a company like Polar (www.polarusa.com)
Note: These guidelines are from the book Ultimate MMA Conditioning (Joel Jamieson)
When most athletes hear about this type of training they instantly think they will be asked to run miles upon miles. While I personally like to run and I believe every field and court athlete should incorporate some type of longer running in the off-season, there may be some alternatives for athletes. The first type of training that comes to mind for me is circuit training.
The reality is a soccer player needs to train differently than a football player, however, if their goal is to develop their cardiac output in the off-season they could follow a similar plan for 2-3 days per week to develop an aerobic base. The great news for athletes about this style of training is that there is no need to log 45-90 minutes of LSD running. Instead you can set up circuits either in the weight room, outside on the track/field or at a park. You’re only limited by your imagination as long as the guidelines above are followed. Below I have put together a series of videos that can help you get a better understanding of some of the exercises that you can implement into your training program.
Video exercise clips:
Watch: Cardiac output intro
Watch: Cardiac output thunder bands
Watch: Cardiac output post workout
Click here if you want to buy thunder bands: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/
I personally think this style of training works best in conjunction with 2-3 days of strength training. Remember you are laying the foundation for future more advanced training methods. Without a solid foundation you are setting yourself up for potential injury and disappointment. When it comes to this type of training I personally like to use the following types of equipment.
- Body weight
- Jump rope
- Medicine balls
- Jungle gyms at a park
For additional information on cardiac output training I would recommend that you visit www.8weeksout.com
Good luck in your training.
“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: www.philly.com/philly/health/
When it comes to training, people like to debate about what is the best way to increase an athlete’s power and explosiveness. Some people believe Olympic lifting is the best tool to increase an athlete’s power output. Others believe CrossFit or kettlebell training are the most effective way at increasing an athlete’s power. We can argue this point all day long and the reality is I don’t believe that there is one single way to increase your power. However, I do believe that there is a very effective tool for athletes to use when it comes to increasing power output and that tool is a medicine ball.
Most coaches know that in order to increase power a lot of factors must go into the equation. Here are just a few of the things that we need to do in order to increase power output:
- Increase your force into the ground.
- Increase total body strength.
- Increase the speed of movement.
- Ensure proper alignment while we train.
- Focus on ways to properly decelerate our body.
- Maintain proper breathing patterns.
- The ability to stabilize under load.
As much as I like Olympic lifting and kettlebell training, I believe the best tool for teaching power output at the beginning of a training program is to use a medicine ball. A few reasons why I prefer to use a medicine ball at the beginning of an athlete’s training program are:
- For most people throwing an object comes natural.
- It’s fun. People like to throw things and this gives them the license to throw an object as hard as possible once they have good form.
- It’s safe. Instead of lifting a weight over your head with the fear of dropping it on your head a medicine ball is a great tool to teach the mechanics of several more advanced lifts.
- You can take the medicine ball anywhere and train on your own.
- With this one tool I can work on speed, power, deceleration, change of direction, endurance, proprioception and mobility.
These are just a few examples of why I like to use medicine balls in a training program. The reality is a number of elite athlete’s use these in their everyday training program. As I stated above, I use this at the beginning of a training program with new athletes, however, elite athletes use these daily for incredible results.
When it comes to training with medicine balls there are so many exercises to choose from. You are only limited by your imagination. Below are five exercise video clips that I have put together for you to review. As always ensure that you use proper form and start slow. If you have any pain (shoulder, back, etc.) back off of these exercises and consult with a medical professional.
Regardless of your sport medicine ball training is a fantastic way to increase your power. Athletes from every sport can benefit from the rotational power as well as well the increase in aerobic output that they will see from this type of training. If you have kids this is a great way to slowly introduce them to the world of training. I guarantee that if you start slow and use a very light medicine ball kids will enjoy this type of training. Adults, if you are looking to drop a few pounds or increase your running speed implement medicine ball training into your routine.
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.
Okay, it’s time for a fitness check-up. We are nearing the halfway mark of the summer and it’s time for all of us to be honest with ourselves in terms of our summer training. Over the past several weeks I have had the pleasure of sharing with you my philosophy when it comes to training. I have offered you a handful of tips that, if implemented, can improve your overall health. If you have been following the suggestions that I have been making I hope that you are starting to see the gains that you want. Whether your goal was to fit into a certain swimsuit, run a 5k or simply feel better I hope that you are happy with your results.
If, on the other hand, you have been delaying the start of your program I have good news for you. You still have time to make some dramatic changes to both your body and your mind. I understand that we have a tendency to be afraid and procrastinate the start of something new. So for those of you who are still on the fence as to whether or not you should take the plunge here are five tips that can improve your health as well as your athletic performance.
Tip No. 1: Eat a salad every day
A fantastic way to improve your overall digestion as well as increase the vitamins and minerals that you absorb is to eat a large salad every day. The great news about this is that it requires no cooking and is rather easy to make. Let’s face it most of us don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Try this salad out for size and see how you like it.
- 1-2 cups of mixed greens
- 1 avocado
- ¼ cup of red onion
- ¼ cup of cherry tomatoes
- ½ cup of macadamia nuts or almonds (raw)
- ¼ cup of cucumber
- ¼ cup of strawberries
- ¼ cup of red peppers
- ¼ cup of yellow peppers
- 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil (FYI, spend some extra money and get a high quality olive oil)
Note: If you like to cook add in some chicken, steak, etc. Also a key point to remember is that you should add some fat (i.e. olive oil, avocado, nuts, etc.) to your salad to allow the nutrients to absorb into your body
Tip No. 2. Cut back on your portion size
We live in a society where more is better. I love to eat and a pet peeve of mine is when I leave a restaurant and I am still hungry. However, some of us are simply eating too much food in one sitting. Next time you sit down to eat try implementing this strategy.
- Eat proteins, fats and carbohydrates at every meal. This will help control your blood sugar levels which will help to satisfy you.
- Slow down. Most of us inhale our food rather than chew our food. One of the hardest things our body has to do is digest food so why don’t we slow down and actually chew the food rather than shoveling it down.
- Your plate should have several different colors on it. Add vegetables to the mix in order to increase your fiber and nutrient content.
- After you finish your meal wait 15- 20 minutes before you go back for seconds. Most of us are walking back to the line while we are still eating food off of our plate. Relax, digest and then go back if you are still hungry.
Tip No. 3. Train hard then train easy then hard again.
Most people who start a training plan get very excited and they go to the gym and they do two hard workouts back to back. On the third day they go to get out of bed and they can’t walk. Instead of walking they shuffle and they find muscles they never knew that they had. Remember one workout does not get you in shape. You need to be consistent and listen to your body. I always recommend to most people that they follow a plan like this: Monday (Hard), Tuesday (Easy), Wednesday (Hard), Thursday (easy), Friday (off), Saturday (Hard), Sunday (off). By doing this you will allow your body time to recover and repair the damage that has been done.
Tip No. 4: Get your vitamin D levels checked
Dr. John Cannell states in his book that more than 75% of all Americans are deficient in Vitamin D (FYI, Vitamin D is actually a hormone not a vitamin). As an athlete if you have sufficient Vitamin D in your body this is what you can expect per Dr. John Cannell's book: "Athlete’s Edge: Faster, Quicker, Stronger with Vitamin D."
- Reduce chance of stress fractures
- Increase in speed, strength, endurance and power
- Reduction in body fat
- Increase in your recovery time
- Plus much, much more
If you are going to get a test I would recommend that you speak with your doctor or visit www.leg.org (Life Extension). It’s very important that you get the correct form of Vitamin D checked 25(OH)D. In terms of vitamin D levels, Dr. Cannell recommends that you maintain a level of 50ng/ml. Dr. Michael Smith of Life Extension recommends that you maintain a level closer to 80 ng/ml per. Research is still being done but one thing that we do know is that lower Vitamin D levels are associated with an increase risk in several internal cancers. The good news is that if you are low, the supplement for Vitamin D is rather inexpensive and easy to take.
Tip No. 5: Body weight training
When all else fails it’s hard to beat body weight workouts. The reason being is because it requires little to no equipment and the return that you see in your body is impressive. I will always recommend that people lift weights but 20-30 days of nothing but body weight work can be a great place to start for people looking to jumpstart their fitness program. Start the with the basics (push-ups, squats, sprints, rolling patterns and band assisted pull-ups).
As I stated in the beginning of this post, we are nearing the half-way point of the summer. Don’t delay the start of your training program. Get started today and start feeling great! If you have been training for the past six weeks, congratulations.
Now keep it going!!!
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.
Unfortunately, as a society the overall health and wellness of many Americans is headed down a dangerous road. By the year 2030 over 50 percent of the population is expected to be obese. With illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome on the rise I can’t help but be concerned about the health and future of our kids. While reading the book "The Real Truth About Sugar," author Samantha Quinn states that children as young as six months old are already obese. How is this possible? She states that some infant formulas are as much as 10.5 percent sugar as well as 43.2 percent corn syrup solids (similar to a can of soda). The reality is that if we don’t pay closer attention to what we consume on a daily basis we may be putting ourselves and our children at risk for certain health issues.
The good news is that we can have an immediate impact on the health and well-being of our children if we “lead by example”. Many of the illnesses that plague us today can be reversed if we acknowledge the problem and face the facts. Let’s face it even though our kids might think that their parents are not cool they look up to us. They trust us and as much as they may “fight” us they want us to lead them in the right direction in terms of optimal health. As a parent, I understand the challenges that parents face when it comes to teaching our children how to live a healthy lifestyle. It is our responsibility to ensure that we give them every opportunity to thrive both physically and emotionally.
This week I want to share with you five ways that you can immediately improve the overall health and wellness of both you and your children.
Tip No. 1: Play with your kids 20 minutes a day: It may appear to be rather easy but all of us (myself included) get busy and sometimes spending time with our kids gets pushed to the side. Between work and parental responsibilities the day goes by rather fast. Make it a point to put away your cell phone and head outside and MOVE. If you have little kids play tag. If your kids are older play “hoops”, soccer or simply have a catch with them. If your kids don’t like sports go for a walk or ride a bike. The goal is to increase your heart rate as well as spend time with your kids.
Tip No, 2: Eliminate soft drinks, fruit juices and most sports drinks: The majority of these drinks are filled with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Although we don’t know the immediate impact it has on our health, there is compelling evidence that consistent consumption of these drinks leads to obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and leptin resistance to name a few (FYI, Leptin is the hormone that tells us when we are full). Since HFCS has been created there has been a dramatic rise in a number of diseases and illness in adults as well as kids.
Tip No. 3: Take them food shopping: A great way to introduce kids to a healthier lifestyle is to take them food shopping. Whether you go to a farmers’ market or head to your local grocery store, introducing kids to food shopping gives them a greater respect of where their food comes from. Teach them that the perimeter of the store is where you find the healthier options (i.e. fruits, meats, dairy and veggies). Let your children see your food bill so they have a respect for how much it costs to provide nutritious meals for your family.
Tip No. 4: Exercise during TV commercials: As a kid I loved to watch TV. Sure I played lots of sports and was active after school, however, I enjoyed TV just like everyone else. Try implementing this game with your kids. Next time you sit down to watch TV pick two body weight exercises that you can do during the commercials. Make it a game. Keep track of the number of “reps” that you do during the commercial. The best exercises to do for this game would be the following:
- Push ups
- Plank for time
- Body weight squats
- Couch push-ups (This is a great progression if you are unable to do a regular push up. Simply put your hands on the end of the couch and perform a push up.)
Tip No. 5: Get outside and run sprints: Kids love to sprint. They don’t want jog. They don’t want to do “tempo runs”. They want to sprint and play tag. Think about it for a second. Kids have figured out the best way to do “intervals”. They run for 5-10 seconds and then they walk. They repeat this for a long time whenever they are at the park or on the playground. Why not do this at home with them and make a game of it. As adults I think we need to “play” more. We need to think back to when a lot of us were in good shape and it often revolves around games. Pick 1-2 days per week and instead of doing a class at the gym play a game with your kids (i.e. touch football, run the bases - do kids even know how to play this?, walk to a park and play hoops).
As parents it’s our responsibility to educate our kids on the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle. Times have changed. We all know that kids as well as adults have more distractions which could have a negative impact on our health. The good news is that by taking some small steps you can dramatically improve the health of both yourself and your family. The benefits from the suggestions listed above are many but most importantly you are teaching your kids the importance of health and exercise while at the same time spending valuable time with them.
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave a message in the comments below.
This past May over 38,000 people ran the Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run, held every year in Philadelphia. The number of people who begin a running program is increasing every year. As the number of participants increases so do the number of injuries. I want to start by saying that I am a runner. I enjoy lacing up a pair of sneakers and running on a trail just like all of the other runners in Philly. I have suffered my fair share of injuries over the years and I have made every mistake you can make when it comes to training (ie. overtraining, running while in a lot of pain, neglecting my strength training, etc.) I know how a lot of you feel and I am here to share some tips that I believe will help you run faster and stay healthier.
One of the main reasons I believe more and more people are starting to run is because it is easy to get started. By no means am I saying that it’s easy to run but rather all you need is a pair of sneakers and some running shorts. The problem that I see is that most people are running in pain and have no idea where to start in terms of their training. If you talk to any experienced runner I am sure that he/she will have several suggestions on what a “newbie” should do to decrease their chance of injury while improving their fitness.
This week I would like to offer five (5) tips on how to improve your 5k speed and reduce your chances of sustaining an injury. The reason I picked the 5k is because it is a great place to start if you are planning to run longer races in the future. Also, whether or not you are a first time runner or an experienced marathoner your goal should be to run FAST. I know what some of you are saying right now “I just want to run and enjoy my slow jog”. Good for you that’s great but if you can run FASTER you will spend less time pounding your joints and may decrease your chance of injury. Heck you may even win an age group award!
So if you are a runner (or any athlete for that matter) who is looking to improve their speed here are five tips along with some videos for you to enjoy.
Tip No. 1. Use a heart rate monitor: One of the best tools you can use to help you increase your 5k speed is a heart rate monitor. A good monitor will cost between $100-$200 dollars. I think it’s the perfect piece of equipment to use when you are doing track workouts or intervals. The main reason I recommend a heart monitor is to track how well you are recovering both during and after a training session.
Here is a video to show you how to use a monitor: Heart rate training tips for athletes
Tip No. 2. Improve your alignment: Let’s face it, running beats you up. Nobody said it was going to be easy. What if I told you that you could reduce your chance of injury if you did some rather simple self-corrective exercises each day to help you improve your alignment as well as your speed? Would you listen? Would you actually do them? Chances are you are starting your workout in poor alignment. If you have access to a good chiropractor or manual therapist then that is fantastic. However, you must be able to fix yourself. The exercises I am talking about were developed by the Postural Restoration Institute. I was fortunate to take one of their courses last November and it has had a big effect on how I feel. The biggest impact it has had on me is my breathing mechanics as well as my pelvic alignment. I am planning to do a whole blog on this topic but for now I would recommend that you head over to posturalrestoration.com and check out their site. Also, there are several therapists/coaches in this area who are trained in their philosophy. I can tell you first hand that if you have hip or back pain you should look into their corrective exercises.
Tip No. 3. Improve your single leg strength: Whenever I assess a new athlete (runner or field/court athlete) one of the first things I do is look at their single leg strength. The majority of the time there is instability in one or both legs. If you want to increase your 5k time I would recommend that you start to implement some single leg strength training into your routine.
Click here to watch a video: Single leg runners: 5k
Tip No. 4. Strengthen your posterior chain (aka your backside): If you want to be able to have a “kick” at the finish line you had better be able to turn on your “Go” muscles. A lot of runners have strong quads and good looking abs but lack the strength in their hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Watch this video to learn how to do a simple yet effective exercise for your “Go” muscles.
Video: Deadlift for runners
Link to buy bands: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/
Tip No. 5. Build real upper body strength: If you want to increase your speed one thing you need to increase your power and strength. Most people who run do some “core work” and may do some strength training 1-2 times per week but have you ever really tried to do a perfect push up? Have you ever set a goal of achieving 100 push-ups in 4 minutes? If not, now is the time to start. If you are a beginner start slow and see how many you can do in 1 minute with perfect form of course. You can rest anytime you want. I guarantee that if you start to do push-ups correctly (3-4 x per week) you will see your 5k time drop.
Video: Push-ups for runners 5 k
Whether you are a new runner or an experienced runner your goal should be to run as fast as possible. Everyone can get faster. Implement some of these tips into your program and I believe you will see your times drop.
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.
For this week’s post I want to talk briefly about nutrition and more specifically “healthy snacks."
A question that I am often asked by people looking to improve their body composition as well as their energy levels is “what type of healthy snacks can I eat if I want to look and feel better." Before we get started I want to stress that I am not a nutritionist. The nutritional tips that I provide are based off of my own experience as well as books that I have read. If you want to talk to an expert in the field I would recommend that you head over to precisionnutrition.com and speak with John Berardi and his staff.
Most people love to snack. Whether it’s reaching for a bag of chips at a game or heading to the vending machine while at work. The key when it comes to choosing “healthy snacks” is to try and eat unprocessed food whenever possible. One thing that you have to remember is that most food companies include ingredients into their snacks that don’t fill you up but rather keep you coming back for more. Instead of truly satisfying your hunger they may cause a quick spike in your blood sugar that may provide short term relief but after about an hour you are reaching for your third bag of chips.
When it comes to choosing “healthier” snacks I think it is important to take the following things into consideration.
- Eat snacks that have a balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. If you eat snacks that only have carbohydrates you will be in search for more food in about an hour when your blood sugar drops again.
- Plan ahead. By this I mean look at your day and if you are going to be on the run all day in between meetings and your car have snacks that can be eaten quickly and that provide quality nutrition. A great choice here is a homemade trail mix.
- Stay away from the vending machine. These foods are filled with sugar and additives that your body simply does not need. If you want something sweet than make some homemade chocolate covered cashews, almonds or macadamia nuts.
- Avoid fat free products. We have been told by so many people in the media that we should eat low fat or fat free products. Next time you reach for a fat free granola bar take a close look at the ingredients and I guarantee the product is filled with sugar, food additives as well as a host of ingredients that are not good for you. Remember this, fat is not the problem eating a whole bag of chips or sitting at your desk for 8 hours without moving is the problem. Add some good fat (i.e. olive oil, coconut oil, raw butter, nuts) to your daily nutrition plan.
- Eat foods that will eventually go bad. The candy bar in the vending machine although it tastes good could probably stay in there for over a year. Instead eat foods that after a period of time will spoil. This is a sign that you are eating real food and not something that was made in a lab.
Here are five snack options for you to add to your nutrition. The snacks made below are simple to make provide a good balance of vitamins and minerals.
1. Homemade trail mix: Instead of spending money on a bag of premade trail mix try this simple combination instead. Mix all of the combinations below in a zip lock bag and carry it with you to work (or leave it in your car if you drive a lot).
- ¼ cup of raisins
- ¼ cup of macadamia nuts
- ¼ cup of raw almonds
- ¼ cup of tart cherries
2. Greek yogurt (Try and eat vanilla if possible. The “fruit” flavors have added sugar that you may want to avoid if you are concerned about weight gain or are a diabetic)
Add 1-2 servings of vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries or blueberries. If you want to add a crunch to the mix add in some organic granola.
3. Power smoothie
- ¼ cup of orange juice (optional)
- ¼ cup of water (Use more if you skip the orange juice)
- 1 banana
- 1 tsp. of melted coconut oil
- 5-6 strawberries
- 1 handful of frozen mango
- 1 scoop of a high quality whey protein (I prefer Whey Natural USA which is grass fed)
- 1 handful of kale (optional)
- Handful of goji berries (soak these for 15 minutes in water before placing them in the blender)
- 1 tsp. of spirulina (Optional. Spirulina will turn the smoothie green. It is a rich plant protein that offers a host of health benefits (i.e. B-vitamins, iron,magnesium,etc.). This may not be for everyone but if you are looking to add vitamins to a snack mix in a small amount to your smoothie and give it a shot.
- Blend for 45-60 seconds to make sure everything is chopped up.
4. Dark chocolate covered raw cashews w/ sea salt and cacao.
- In a pot mix in ½ cup of dark chocolate as well as a small handful of organic cacao.
- Melt the chocolate very slowly and add in the raw cashews (1/2 cup).
- Cover the cashews with chocolate and place them on a plate and put them in the fridge for 1 hour to allow the chocolate to harden.
- Sprinkle sea salt on the chocolate and place it in the fridge.
Note, when doctors tell you that chocolate is good for you they are not talking about candy bars they are talking about cacao. It is considered a super food and is very high in antioxidants.
5. Frozen banana with milk (I prefer raw milk but if you do not like the taste use regular milk)
- Peel a banana and place it in a freezer bag for 4-5 hours or until it is frozen.
- Take 1 cup of milk and pour it in the blender.
- Next add the banana and some cinnamon or dark chocolate (optional) to the mix.
- Blend on high until it is thick and creamy (FYI, don’t add to much milk you want it to be think like a milk shake).
- If you are someone who needs to eat a bowl of ice cream each night try this a few nights a week instead of the ice cream.
Here is a Bonus snack for you. Homemade avocado dip
- 2 ripe avocados
- ½ lemon squeezed
- ¼ cup of a red onion chopped
- ½ ripe tomato chopped
- Handful of cilantro leaves chopped
- Sea salt to taste
Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and place this in the fridge for 30 minutes. Add the sea salt to taste. Chop everything up (Make sure the avocado is ripe) and eat with some chips or fresh veggies or add this to a chicken sandwich.
When it comes to snacking it’s really important that you enjoy what you eat. By no means am I telling you to stop eating some of your favorite snacks. I think pretzels and ice cream and candy bars are delicious. However, if you put a little effort into preparing some “healthier” alternatives you can still enjoy the taste of the food and reduce the amount of processed foods that you consume. Remember, food should be something that we enjoy and eat because we are hungry if you are an emotional eater you need to find ways to reduce the temptation to snack all day long on empty calories.
As always if you have questions or comments please send them my way and I will do my best to answer them.
Thank you and have a great day!
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.
This week I am going to talk briefly about one of my favorite exercises for both upper body strength and power development. The exercise I am talking about is the pull-up. When I ask most people to do a pull-up their immediate response goes something like this “I can’t do pull-ups. I have not done any pull-ups since eighth grade gym class”. Most people give up before they ever try doing a single repetition.
The truth is pull-ups are hard to do, however, when done properly they are one of the best exercises for both power and upper body strength.
Here are 5 reasons why I love to do pull-ups:
- They can help improve your posture: Why is this? Because most people sit all day at a desk or sit for long periods of time driving. Pull-ups with good form will force you to put yourself in a better position which in turn can improve your posture. When we sit all day we “turn off” certain muscles. Pull-ups will force you to work on some of your stabilizer muscles in your back and shoulder which in turn can improve your posture when working properly.
- You can do them anywhere: As you will see in the attached video you do not have to belong to a gym in order to do pull-ups. If you live near a park head over to the jungle gym and get started.
- They can help to build big strong shoulders: Instead of doing side dumbbell raises pick up some resistance bands and build some strong shoulders.
- They can help you get faster: Most people don’t believe me when I tell them this however next time you watch elite runners run a 100 meter dash take a look at their upper body and tell me if you think they do pull-ups? You won’t see any skinny sprinters running sub 10 seconds. The reason they can help improve your speed is because your “lat” muscles connect into your glute muscles which as we know are your “speed” muscles. A strong back equals fast sprinters.
- They help build strong arms: Let’s face it, who wants to have skinny arms? Pull ups are a great way to increase both the size and the strength of your arms. With beach season upon us I am sure most people are looking to gain some muscle in their arms. With proper nutrition added into the mix you will see an increase in the size of your arms.
Before you tell me that you are unable to do any pull-ups I want you to watch the video link below. Everyone can start to do pull-ups today. All you need to do is follow the proper progressions in the video if you want to benefit from one of the best exercises for your body.
Check out this video link: Band pull-ups
Purchase bands here: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave them in the comments below.