kevin miller

07 July 11:15 am

In less than eight weeks high school athletes will be gearing up for their fall season. Athlete’s ranging from football players to field hockey players are getting ready for the 2014 fall season.  If you drive past most high schools you will see teams practicing on the fields that surround their campus. Football players are lifting weights in the weight room. Soccer players are running intervals on the track in an effort to build their endurance. Coaches are doing their best to bring their teams together so when preseason officially kids off in early August their kids have already developed a solid base of strength, fitness and team unity.

Below I want to share with you FIVE tips for high school athletes when it comes to your preseason summer training.

Tip No. 1: GET A TRAINING PARTNER

Let’s face it, when it comes to training it’s always better to train with a partner. When you get tired he/she will be there to help you finish the last set even when you want to give up. When it comes to getting a training partner it’s important that he/she understand your goals and that both of you are on the same page. The two of you need to hold each other accountable for your actions. Finding a good training partner can be the difference between JV and Varsity.

Tip No. 2: MASTER THE BASICS

When it comes to working with high school athletes I want to make sure that all of them (both male and female) can do the following:

  • Squat  (Front squat)
  • Hinge (Deadlift)
  • Push  (Push up)
  • Pull (Pull up)
  • Crawl (Bear Crawl)
  • Roll (Forward, back and to the side)
  • Sprint (100% effort with good form)
  • Stop (Land from a jump)
  • Breathe (Relaxed with full exhalation)

If you can master the basic movement patterns listed above you will have developed a solid foundation for you to build upon. If all you do is bench press and curl you run the risk of getting hurt.

Tip No. 3: TRAIN IN WARM/HOT WEATHER

If all of your training is taking place in a nice comfortable gym with air conditioning and music you will have a rude awakening when camp starts.  I am not recommending that you do all of your training at the hottest part of the day just get outside and get use to the warm weather. It takes time for your body to get use to the heat.  I would recommend that you do both early morning training as well as mid-day training. Keep the sessions rather short. The goal is to get your body use to training in the warmer weather so on the first day of camp you are not struggling with the heat and humidity.

Tip No. 4: TRAIN FOR YOUR FITNESS TEST

Most high school athletes are required to complete some sort of fitness test. Below are some common tests for high school athletes

  • One (1) mile run
  • Repeat 110’s on a track
  • Bench press max
  • Pull up max number of repetitions
  • 300 yard shuttle runs

Make sure that you understand exactly what is expected of you on day one of fitness testing. Over the summer set a baseline for the tests and over the course of the summer repeat the test several times to see if you are making progress.

Here is an example. If you have to run 1 mile on day one of camp I would recommend that you test yourself 8-10 weeks out and then every 10-12 days test yourself in the mile to see if you are making progress towards your goal.

Tip No. 5: DIAL IN YOUR NUTRTION AND HYDRATION

Nothing can shut down an athlete quicker than poor nutrition and hydration. It’s critical that high school athlete’s take the next 6-8 weeks to understand exactly what their body needs to function at a high level. Some athletes do well on a high carbohydrate diet. Others do well on a lower carb diet with a medium mix of fats and proteins. Everyone is different. Now, is the time to experiment and make good decisions.  I always recommend REAL food for my athlete’s. Start with vegetables, fruits, lean meats, quality fats and water.

Preseason camp is an exciting time for high school athletes. I wish all of you the best and good luck with your training.

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

03 June 12:09 pm

Summer is finally upon us and people have started to head to the shore for some much needed rest and relaxation.  If you are someone who exercises on a regular basis it may seem like your training will have to take a back seat for the time that you are at the beach.  I personally love to exercise at the beach.  If you want to mix up your training and incorporate some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into your routine you have come to the right place. The beach in my opinion is one of the best places to train.

Before we get started, let my briefly explain what I am talking about when we talk about HIIT. For years athletes and weekend warrior have been incorporating HIIT into their routines. Here is just one example: If you played high school football, I am sure that you ran hill sprints.  Well, this is a form of HIIT training. This type of training has become very popular over the past few years but don’t let people fool you, this training is nothing new. What is new is that people are now starting to realize some of the cardiac and skeletal benefits as well as adaptations that can happen when someone implements a safe and progressive HIIT program.

HIIT training is basically short, intense training intervals where your body works at a very high intensity for a specific time and then allows for adequate recovery period.  After a certain time you then repeat the exercise for a certain number of sets and repetitions.

So why is HIIT training beneficial for people instead of long slow training? Here are a few key points that I learned from reading Ben Greenfields book "Beyond Training":

  • Helps to optimize your heart’s capacity to send blood to your muscles.
  • Helps you to go harder and longer in your endurance events when you implement a safe protocol.
  • You can increase your metabolic efficiency and improve your fat burning qualities in less time than you can with long aerobic sessions.

HIIT training is just one form of training. A key point to ask yourself is what are your goals? If you are planning to do triathlons/longer running races than you will still need to incorporate long aerobic sessions into your training (FYI, there are benefits as well to aerobic training). If your goal is simply fat loss than implementing HIIT training into your routine a couple times per week may increase your benefits.

 
  • When I recommend HIIT training I always recommend the following:
  • Wear a heart rate monitor. The interval session should be based off of your recovery. If your heart rate gets to 180 bpm (beats per minute) wait until your heart rate comes back down to 120-130 bpm before you repeat the cycle. I use a Polar heart rate monitor for my training.
  • If you are beginner ALWAYS allow for added recovery. If you work hard for 20 seconds REST for as long as it takes for you to be able to catch your breath and feel comfortable. Going to hard early on in your training is not the goal. The goals are consistency and results over time.
  • Allow 72 hours between training sessions. The days in between are a great time to incorporate some strength training as well as longer aerobic sessions to increase blood flow and improve cardiac function.
  • If you are an advanced athlete, I still recommend wearing a heart rate monitor.
  • Finally the goal is NOT to get your heart rate as HIGH as possible but rather work to a point where it may be tough to have a conversation and then back off. Be smart and as always LISTEN to your body.

Here are five ways you can HIIT the beach this summer.

Please note before you ever start a HIIT program make sure that you have medical clearance and then you ALWAYS warm up properly. Use your heart rate monitor (120-130 bpm) or the talk test to determine your recovery time. Talk test is when you can have a conversation with someone before going again.

Workout No. 1: Deep sand shuttle runs

  • Set up 2 cones 25-50 yards apart
  • Run from one cone to the next approximately 80-90% effort.  Depending on your fitness level you can run for 25-100 yds. Rest and repeat. 
  • Sets: 8-12 rounds depending on your fitness levels
  • You can run barefoot or with shoes. If you have never run barefoot I would recommend starting with shoes.

Workout No. 2: Kettlebell deadlifts and shuttle runs

  • Grab a kettlebell that you can safely deadlift. If you do not know how to deadlift and hinge than work with a coach who can teach you the proper way to deadlift.
  • Set up two (2) cones 25-50 yds. apart
  • Work set:  Five (5) deadlifts + shuttle run. Rest and repeat
  • Sets: 6-10 rounds depending on your fitness levels

Note: if you are experienced with kettlebells you can substitute swings for deadlifts (both are great exercises when done properly).

Workout No. 3: Body weight squats + Pushups + Striders

  • Set up two (2) cones 25 yards apart.
  • Work set: 10 squats + 5-10 pushups (you can do kneeling pushups if you are unable to do regular pushups) + 25 yd. run. Walk back to the start and repeat when you feel recovered
  • Sets: 6-12

Workout No. 4: Medicine ball routine

Grab a medicine ball that weighs 4-10 lbs. Also, everyone should have a medicine ball for training. It’s one of the best tools you can use.

Work Set:

  • Five (5) squats with medicine ball
  • 10 ax chops with the medicine ball (five right/five left). The ball comes diagonally across your body.
  • One (1) medicine ball chest throw (two hands and throw as far as possible)
  • One (1) run for 10-25 yds.
  • Walk back to the start
  • Sets 6-12 rounds

Workout No. 5: Band training on the beach

This is one of the best ways to train on the beach. If you don’t have bands click this link to purchase. https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

Attached 1-2 bands to a lifeguard stand (Black or purple bands are great to start with)

Work Set:

  • Eight (8) chest rows (2 hands into your chest)
  • Eight (8) chest presses (hands shoulder width apart as you press out)
  • Five (5) lateral squats per side (step in the band and step right 5x and then left 5x)
  • 20 yd. bear crawl (butt down and back flat; go slow and breathe as you do this)
  • Walk back to the start
  • Sets 5-8 rounds

These are just five examples of how you can HIIT the beach. As always, train smart, monitor your performance and have fun. Good luck!

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

10 April 9:49 am

If you were to walk into any gym you would see people of all shapes and sizes exercising. You may see the guy in the corner finishing up a set of “ABS” and then lifting up his shirt to see if he now has developed a six pack. You may see the business man texting on his phone as he spins aimlessly on a bike. The point that I want to stress is that everyone has their own way of training which is fine but I would like to share with you five habits of successful exercise.

1. Exercise must be mindful

In her book "Deep Nutrition," Dr. Catherine Shanahan, M.D. talks about the benefits of mindful exercise for fat loss. Let  me ask you a question, do you have a plan every time you go into the  gym or do you just “wing it” and go through the same routine day in and day out?  Do you zone out on the bike while watching Judge Judy? Your mind needs to play a key role in your training. Here is one way you can do this. This week either train outside or try something totally new to stimulate a new response for your body.

2. Monitor your progress

If you are a runner do you track your distance? If your goal is fat loss are you tracking your RECOVERY between intervals? My point is you need to monitor your results. For less than $100 you can purchase a very good heart rate monitor. Instead of just saying “I feel better” let's track some numbers to show the real benefits of your hard work. If we start to measure something we can then improve on our results.

3. Have the END in mind

What is your goal? What are you trying to obtain? Is it fat loss your after or is your goal to do ten pull ups? Having the end in mind BEFORE your start is a powerful motivator for people.

4. Everything Matters

Congratulations on having just finished a 45 minute spin class at 6 am. Good for you. However if you go home and eat all processed food, drink energy drinks and caffeine all day and stay up past midnight playing Candy Crush  you will see no benefits from the spin class. We all know that sleep, hydration, nutrition and happiness all play a key role in our health but how many of us are giving our bodies what it actually needs. Contrary to what most people think over the course of the day the “little things” really matter in the end.

5. Time Management

We are all pressed for time these days. Some people are fortunate and they may have 60-75 minutes per day to train. Others like me have a smaller window where we need to manage our day to ensure that we get in a training session. When I go to the gym I see so many people wasting time. They may do a set and then for the next three minutes complain about how the sauna is broken again for the third time  this month or you have the group of ladies who argue about one person taking "their spin bike."

Give me a break. Next time you train have a plan and get after it. I'm not saying you can't say hello to people but your time is precious. Get in, get out and get on with your day!

Remember you can start to build good healthy habits and monitor your progress you will start to see some nice gains in how you look, feel and perform.

Good luck!

Have a question for Union fitness coach Kevin Miller? Leave a comment below. 

19 February 1:11 pm

This week I want mix it up a little and instead of focusing on one topic I want to write a post about ten (10) quick fitness tips. I hope that one of these tips will help you reach your fitness and health goals in 2014.

1. When it comes to warming up most athletes would rather skip the warm up and get right into their training. I understand that things like foam rolling and dynamic movements are not the most exciting drills, however, I believe a proper warm up sets the tone for training. I truly believe spending 15-20 minutes at the start of every session on soft tissue and range of motion drills/movement patterns is important to your long term health.

2. Running wind sprints/gassers at the end of training is NOT speed training. Doing these types of runs has its place when it comes to training.  However, if your goal is speed training you need to do your speed work at the beginning of your training session when your central nervous system is alert and fresh. Also, the time spent doing speed training should be short with a long recovery between each run.

3. High school female athletes would all benefit from incorporating strength training into their routine. Simple total body movements like kettlebell deadlifts, band assisted pull-ups and one-arm rows would go a long ways towards improving their strength and performance. In my experience, female athletes who can demonstrate adequate levels of strength both perform better on the field/court and have a lesser chance of injury.

4. If you have chronically tight hamstrings find someone who can teach you how to reposition your pelvis and breath more efficiently instead of just lying on your back and cranking in your hamstrings. You will be amazed how simple solutions can affect how your hamstrings feel. I would recommend that you seek out the expertise of someone who has taken a course by the Postural Restoration Institute.

5. Instead of following the latest diet fad in an effort to lose fat listen to your body and find out what works for you. Eat real food, make small changes that can eventually become habits and finally look at your health as a long term plan not a quick fix.

6. Going for a walk outside is a great way to reduce your stress and improve your health.

7. If you want abs I would recommend that you look for them in the kitchen not at the seated crunch machine. Clean up your nutrition and implement strength training into your routine and you may find your abs by summer.

8. The majority of runners would benefit greatly by implementing both power and strength training into their program. I believe by cutting back on mileage and implementing a good strength training program runners can reduce their chance of injuries.

9. Learn to decelerate properly if you want to excel on a field or court. Athletes that can decelerate and then accelerate can change the game.

10. Stand in front of a mirror and the muscles that you can’t see (i.e. glutes, hamstrings, upper back) are the ones that you most likely need to spend more time training. The muscles in the front are your “show muscles” and the muscles in the back are your “go” muscles. Make sure that you have a good balance between the two if you want to have a balanced program.

Hopefully you can benefit from a few of these tips. Good luck with your training!

Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog: philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

06 February 10:43 am

When the alarm clock goes off in the morning do you automatically think about the 10 things you need to do before lunch? Do you lay in bed stressing about what you should do first? If you are like most people (which includes me) you have a lot going on. With all of these responsibilities comes added stress. With added stress comes inflammation in your body. Some stress when managed properly (i.e. exercise) can be very beneficial to your overall health. However, when we have added stress (i.e. work, financial, relationship, etc.) this can wreak havoc on the way we feel. Below are some tips to help you manage your stress.

1. Write down your must do list before you go to bed

Instead of saying you have a lot to do today sit down and write on a piece of paper or on your computer five things that you must do tomorrow. By writing this down the night before you can have an outline of what you really want to accomplish for each day.  As you accomplish each task cross it off and move on to the next item on the list. If you get done all five feel free to add one to two more items to the list. The simple act of writing this list will give you structure

2. Learn to breathe properly

After you wake up and have your coffee or smoothie take five minutes and take some deep diaphragmatic breaths.  The reason I recommend people incorporate breathing into their daily routine early in the day is because it allows you to relax and focus on what is happening with your body. It also gives you a chance to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system which helps promote recovery. In my experience it is a great way to start your day.

3. Exercise regularly

Most people who exercise on a regular basis feel better. One thing we need to keep in mind is that exercise is a form of stress. However, when people listen to their body and establish and follow a plan exercise can be a great way to relieve stress. Here are three (3) ways to incorporate exercise into your life.

  • Walk: Go for a long walk outside. Instead of walking on the treadmill at the gym get outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. This simple tip can help relieve stress in people.
  • Strength Train: Set aside 30-45 minutes 3-4 times per week to incorporate some strength training into your routine. When people lift weights properly they feel better after a training session. Keep the volume low/medium but the intensity high.
  • Yoga: Set aside two (2) days per week to do either a group yoga class or an in home program. I personally do not do a lot of yoga however, I know several people who truly believe in the health benefits of incorporating yoga into their weekly routine.

Here is an extra tip when exercising. Wear a heart rate monitor to see how your body is responding to your training. This is a great tool to use to see the changes that are taking place while you train.

4. What you think matters

The only thing that we have control over is our thoughts. If we have a tendency to think negative than this will affect how we feel. This is easier said than done and it is something I need to work on.  The next time you start to stress over something that you are thinking about stop for a minute and take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths and see how you feel.  I don’t expect you to have positive thoughts all day long but do your best to be aware of your thoughts and how they may negatively affect you.

Stress is something that all of us have. Some stress can be positive and how we think about stress is critical to how it affects our body. The next time you feel overwhelmed take a step back and try to incorporate some of the tips mentioned above.

Good luck!

“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

22 January 2:08 pm

So you finally did it?  You have been on the fence about giving up gluten for a few months but today is the day that you have marked on your calendar as Day #1 to go gluten free. Maybe you decided to give it up for medical reasons and you think this will improve your overall health. If that is the case, I wish you the best of luck. Maybe you just wanted a change and your coach/trainer or coworkers are all talking about the benefits they have seen from giving up gluten. Either way you have decided to throw out all of your bread and pasta and have embarked on a new lifestyle.

  • Click the graphic to the right and sign up for Kevin Miller's Philly.com chat on Jan. 29! 

Before I share some tips with you, the reason I am writing this is because I decided to give this a shot. I read the book "Wheat Belly" by Dr. William Davis and I understand the potential risks to gluten. I have also read books by Robb Wolff "Paleo Solution" as well as Dr. Loren Cordain "Paleo Answer" on the potential dangerous of gluten for some people.  I wanted to try this nutritional change because I wanted to see for myself how I felt after eliminating gluten for a period of time.  I would like to make it very clear that I am NOT a nutritionist. Everyone responds differently from nutrition so what may bother one person may not affect someone else. The tips and suggestions listed below are nothing more than observations that I made while trying this new routine. 

Remember, if you have a specific medical condition you need to speak to an expert and decide if a change like this is good for you.

So what exactly is gluten anyway? It is the naturally occurring proteins in wheat, barley and rye. It helps the elasticity of the dough in breads, baked good and several processed foods.  When you walk down the aisles of most food stores you can bet that the majority of products contain gluten. It is even in products like soy sauce as well as salad dressing.  If you are planning to make this change your normal food shopping routine is about to change as well.

Being from Philadelphia I love bread. Everyone knows that the roll makes the sandwich. So going gluten free for me is tough. I love to eat sandwiches as well as several other products that contain wheat (i.e. cereals, pizza, pasta). I understand that there are gluten free breads and pizza but let’s not kid ourselves, I have yet to find a really good gluten free roll or pizza. I decided to do this more as an elimination diet to see if I have any food sensitivities. My plan was to eliminate gluten for a period of time (15-30 days) and then reintroduce it back into my daily routine and see if I have any effects like the following:

  • Digestion discomfort
  • Brain fog
  • Increase joint pain
  • Slower recovery from training

To gauge my recovery, I used Heart Rate Variability each morning to see how my body responded to the change. This is a simple test that tracks my “readiness” to train and gives a quick snapshot of my central nervous system. Each morning I would track my heart rate to see how it would fluctuate over this trial period. The product that I used was from Bioforce HRV.

Here are five (5) tips that I believe you need to know if you decide to give this a shot.

1. You have to like to cook

If you are someone who likes to go out to eat 2-4 times per week I don’t think this diet is for you. Why, because gluten is found in so many foods and sauces that going out is going to be both expensive and very hard to go gluten free.  Sure, you can eat gluten free products but in my opinion it’s very hard to eat out a few days a week and improve your health.  You have to learn to cook basic meals if you plan to make this switch.  Keep things simple. Learn to make 8-10 basic meals ranging from eggs in the morning to simple dinners with a lot of vegetables, proteins and quality carbohydrates.

2. You have to plan ahead

If you work in an office you will have to wake up early and make your lunch for the day. You will also need to make breakfast and have some healthy snacks during the day. You can kiss your bagel with fat free cream cheese goodbye. Planning is critical if you expect to follow this lifestyle change.  I would make sure that you always have some snack options with you when your foods cravings hit because trust me those cravings will hit you hard around days 1-3. Examples may include homemade trail mix (raw nuts/seeds/dried fruit) or energy bars that you either made or purchased.

3. I hope you like salads

At least 4-5 times per week you will most likely be eating a salad with a lot of vegetables and protein (chicken, fish, steak, nuts, etc.). Bread contains gluten so unless it is gluten free bread you will be giving up the delicious rolls that Philadelphia has to offer. This will be one of the hardest changes for you.  Salads are great so make sure that you load them up with several kinds of vegetables and mixed greens as well as quality sources of protein and fat to get the nutritional benefits of eating salad.

4. You will be eating more fat

When you give up grains you need to make up the calories somewhere. You can only eat so much protein and fiber. What worked well for me is an increase in fat. The proper fats when eaten at the right time can really improve your health and make you feel comfortably full.  Examples include the following:

  • Avocados
  • Coconut milk
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Raw nuts (macadamia, pumpkin seeds, walnuts)
  • Lean high quality meats.

5. Your energy will probably drop the first few days.

Most of us eat far too many processed carbohydrates. Our blood sugar is always up and down. We feel good after a bagel and coffee and then 1-2 hours later we crash and reach for a bag of Cheetos.  When you give up grains you will most likely feel sluggish days 1-3. By day four I felt really good. I believe my body started to work more efficiently (I still ate carbohydrates) and began to utilize fat as an energy source along with quality carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, plantains, berries).

The reason I wrote this post is because I think some people just jump right into a total overhaul of their nutrition without understanding some very important details. Some people eat a bagel two days into going gluten free and then get frustrated and then give up and go back to their old routines. You need to understand that going gluten free takes some work in the beginning and changing old habits can be very hard. Give yourself a break and don’t be so hard on yourself. Tell a friend you are doing this because you will need the support when those cravings hit.

Sure you can just buy all gluten free products but honestly, I don’t think that is the way to go. The reason being most of those products are very expensive and I think some of them offer little nutritional value over products that contain wheat. I personally like to cook so for me this was an easier switch but I will tell you that it can be difficult.

I only tried this for 15 days. So by now means was this long experiment.  Over the course of this short period I felt really good and did see an improvement in my digestion, energy, as well as my heart rate variability scores. I also felt that my sleep improved due to these changes.  I decided to reintroduce gluten in the form of pizza and I did not have any effects in how I felt. So the good news is that I do not think I have sensitivity to gluten.

In the future I am not going to give up gluten forever. If I want a sandwich I will eat bread. If I want a slice of pizza I will eat one. I will limit my exposure because I honestly did feel better without gluten over this short period of time.  Was it the gluten? I can’t say I am 100% sure but I really did not change anything else in my routine. I still did the same exercises and kept the rest of my day the same for the most part.

If you decide to give this a shot I would recommend reading any book from Sarah Fragoso. She is an expert in the area and has several cookbooks that can help guide you along the way.  Right now when you go food shopping most foods stores have one aisle dedicated to gluten free products. I believe in the near future you will see more and more products becoming gluten free. Is this a fad or is it real? Honestly, I am not sure. I do believe after reading a few books on the topic that medically there can be benefits from eliminating it from your diet.

What I tell the athletes and other clients that I work with is to give it a shot and decide how you feel. Nobody knows your body like you do.

As I stated before, as long as you do not have any medical issues what’s the harm in giving this a shot?  You may surprise yourself and your performance on the field or in the weight room may just improve.

Good luck with whatever nutrition plan you follow in 2014.

“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/philly/health

 

06 January 1:15 pm

You just finished a great workout at the gym.  As you finish up your last “rep” you feel so good about yourself. You made it to the gym today and everything felt great. You were able to keep up with the rest of the group with the workout and you can’t wait to get back to the gym tomorrow. You have decided that this is the year that you are going to fit into your “skinny jeans” or compete in your first adventure race. You have taken the steps that are necessary to get you off to a good start. You have joined the gym and have told all of your friends that this year you are going to improve your lifestyle and change your “bad” habits.  As you drive home you start to think about what you are going to eat for dinner. As you head into your house you open the fridge you notice that all you have is a bottle of hot sauce, a pizza box with two pieces of pizza left over from the weekend and three bottles of sugar filled sports drinks.

Does this sound familiar? I think it is pretty common for people to neglect their nutrition plan when they start a new training program. You have good intentions but you have no idea where to start in terms of your diet. Knowing where and how to start can be confusing. One day you hear from a coworker that you must follow Paleo. The next day your girlfriend/boyfriend says that you need to become a Vegan. You get my point. It can be frustrating to say the least. I am going to make this very simple for you.

Here are TEN (10) foods that you should always have on hand just in case you come home and you need to make a quick nutritious meal.

Because we all know that your nutrition plays a pivotal role in your progress towards a healthier life.

1. Avocado

These should be in every house unless of course you are allergic to them. Why, because they are packed with vitamins and nutrients and can be eaten with breakfast, lunch or dinner.  As we continue to learn fat is vital for optimal health and avocados are at the top of the list in my opinion. Add them to a smoothie or simple eat them solo in order to reap the benefits of this fantastic food.

2. Meat (beef or chicken)

I am not going to get into the difference between corn fed and grass-fed beef in this blog. When I talk about beef however, I am talking about the BEST beef that you can afford. I always recommend grass-fed from a farmer/butcher (I personally do not like store brand grass-fed). Meat offers several nutritional benefits (protein, omega 3 fats, B vitamins, etc.) that are hard to beat.

3. Kale

Kale is packed with Vitamins A and C and offers several   benefits to people who consume it on a daily basis. Personally I like to throw kale in a morning smoothie with coconut oil and some fruit because I do not like the bitter taste of kale. With that being said it offers a host of benefits that I recommend you look into. If possible I would always recommend that you buy organic kale.

4. Coconut oil

Coconut oil has been called by many a true “superfood”.  It can have a positive effect on brain function as well as weight loss.  It’s a medium chain fat that when taken before a workout can provide a tremendous boost of energy.  Also, it is great to cook with since it can be heated to a high temperature. 

5. Frozen berries (raspberry/blueberry)

If you like to make smoothie than berries (frozen or regular) are a must. Berries are high in antioxidants and vitamins. They also taste great so make it a point to add these to your plan. If you have frozen blueberries, leave them out and let them defrost for 15-20 minutes to get added nutritional value when thawed out.

6. Sweet potatoes

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap by many people over the past year. If you are looking for a great way to fuel up after a workout add in a sweet potato with your meal.  It will slowly raise your insulin while providing nutritional value. They also provide B6 as well as Vitamin C as well as a host of additional nutrients.

7. Eggs (organic or free range)

Eggs provide 13 essential vitamins. Most people throw away the best part, the yolk. If you want to get lean and feel energized start to add eggs to your weekly plan.

8. Macadamia nuts

When you need a quick snack these work great. They provide Vitamin A, iron as well as zinc and magnesium. They are also easy to digest so they make the perfect snack or an addition to a salad or meal.

9. Kefir

I started to implement Kefir into my plan this last year and I love the way I feel after eating this fermented dairy. It helps strengthen the immune system and is a great way to add probiotics to your diet. Make sure that you purchase this from a trusted source and I would recommend that you buy this from a farmer or a reputable health food store. Most store brands have added sugar that you could do without. It’s a great addition to a post workout or breakfast smoothie.

10. Mixed green salad (organic preferred)

A fantastic way for you to eat some raw food is to make a salad every day. It’s simple. Add some mixed greens, peppers, avocado, cucumbers and olive oil. Make sure that when you eat your salad you stay away from fat free dressings. You want the fat because many of the vitamins are fat soluble so this helps with the absorption of these nutrients.

There you have it, ten foods that should ALWAYS be in your house. In a pinch you can make a great meal with these foods. Good luck with your new plan for 2014!

“Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog (link: 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/ 

27 November 6:22 pm

With the holiday season right around the corner many of us are going to indulge in foods that we know may add a few extra pounds to our waistline. The holidays are about family, friends and food.  Most people will tell themselves that they will start their training program AFTER the holidays.  I love to eat around the holidays and I think you should enjoy every appetizer, meal and pie that is served during the holidays.  With all of this extra food it’s hard to maintain your weight. Today I am going to share with you one tip that I believe can help you enjoy a second serving of turkey with some apple pie without having to break out a pair of sweatpants (although a pair of Philadelphia Union sweatpants would be a good idea for dinner).

The tip for today is how to make a healthy and delicious smoothie.

Most people love smoothies. There is no reason not to love them. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and if prepared properly can provide you with enough energy to keep you running for hours. The problem that I see is that some people don’t include the proper ingredients to make a healthy and powerful smoothie.  I have seen people add fruit juice as well as liquid syrups to their smoothie. Although this may taste good it’s far from healthy.

A simple and effective way to manage your weight and increase your daily dose of vitamins is to start your day off with a Power Smoothie. Below are three of my favorite recipes when it comes to increasing your energy and jumpstarting your brain.

Fruit and veggie smoothie

  • 1-2  cup of water  
  • ½ cup of blueberries
  • ½ cup of red raspberries
  • ¼ cup of strawberries
  • 1 handful of organic kale
  • 4-5 slices of cucumber
  • 1 tsp. of melted coconut oil (Make sure you melt the oil and pour it in slow to the blender as it is mixing. If not the oil will clump together)
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • Blend everything together for 30-45 seconds and enjoy.

Green fruit smoothie

  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 1 avocado (peeled)
  • ½ cup of spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • Blend everything together for 30-45 seconds and enjoy.

Super power smoothie

  • 2  cups of water
  • ½ cup of blueberries
  • ¼  cup of red raspberries
  • ¼ cup of strawberries
  • 3-4 beets from a can (Add in some juice for some extra energy)
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1-2 tsp. of chia seeds
  • 1 handful of organic kale
  • 4-5 slices of cucumber
  • 1 scoop of vanilla whey (grass fed preferred) protein.
  • 1 tsp. of melted coconut oil (Make sure you melt the oil and pour it in slow to the blender as it is mixing. If not the oil will clump together

Bonus: Thanksgiving smoothie

  • 1 cup of almond or coconut milk (you can use regular milk if you prefer)
  • ¼ cup of canned pumpkin
  • 1 banana (I prefer adding a frozen banana. It blends better and makes it thicker)
  • 1 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. of nutmeg
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • Blend everything together for 30-45 seconds and enjoy

When you are making your smoothie there are so many ways to mix and match fruits and vegetables. However, I would like to point out some key things to remember when you make your smoothies.

Use a good blender. You don’t need to spend $500, however, get yourself a good blender that can crush and chop your food.

Berries, bananas and tropical fruits (mangoes) work the best in smoothies.

Spinach, kale, avocados and cucumbers are great additions to your smoothie.

Mix in a good Whey Protein (I prefer Grass fed) after you blend the smoothie in the mixer. Don’t put the powder in the blender.  If you don’t have protein powder you can still benefit from the fruit, vegetables and healthy fats in the smoothie.

When making fruit and vegetable smoothies I would recommend that you add fat to the smoothie. I personally like coconut oil (melted), olive oil or flaxseed oil.  This will help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

For an added benefit mix in some chia seeds for an extra dose of Omega 3’s.

Drink one of these smoothies every day (preferably in the morning) for the next seven days and tell me how you feel. I am willing to bet that you will see an increase in energy and your waistline will stay in check.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Congratulations to Lew Fiordimondo who won a FREE fitness and nutrition consultation with Philadelphia Union's fitness coach, Kevin Miller courtesy of 6ABC!  

“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/Health

05 November 12:22 pm

In a few weeks thousands of people will participate in the Philadelphia Marathon. Runners from all over the U.S. will head to starting line on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to test their endurance, mental capacity as well as their will power. For months these people have been logging long hours in an effort to reach their goal of crossing the finish line. For some runners their goal will be to finish. For others they may be aiming for the coveted entrance time for the Boston Marathon. Whatever their personal goal is the race is ultimately decided by their preparation and mindfulness. Before they embark on the 26.2 mile journey I would like to share some tips for them to help them along the way. Below are 26.2 things you should do before the gun goes off. These tips are in no particular order. 

No. 1:  Get a massage before race day.

No. 2: Make sure you know exactly what you want to eat the morning of the race. DO NOT try any new foods the morning of the big race.

No. 3: Recruit friends and family to watch you along the route. A great place for them to cheer you on is when you are coming out of Manyunk.  Why?  Because after Manyunk it gets pretty quiet for a few miles. This is where you will need some help.

No. 4: In your mind break the race up into three (3) parts. Part 1 is the first 10 miles (start slow, don’t get caught up in the excitement). Part 2 is the second 10 miles (remember to hydrate as needed, enjoy the fans along the route) and part 3 is the final push the last 6.2 miles (dig deep, the finish is near).

No. 5: Take a few days off to allow your body to rest up. Don’t push yourself to hard leading up to the race. Most of the hard work has been done!

No. 6: Give your friends your bib number so they can track you (via text alerts) during the race.

No. 7: Have your name somewhere on your chest or back so anyone can cheer you on. This will help a lot around mile 22.

No. 8: Make sure your nutrition plan the week leading up to the race is good.  

No. 9: Bring extra toilet paper with you to the race.

No. 10: Have a heavy sweatshirt and sweatpants the morning of the race. Be prepared to donate them about 15 minutes before the race starts.

No. 11: Bring peppermint tums for you in case your stomach gets upset.

No. 12: Use body glide between your thighs and on your chest as well as those "hard to reach places." This tip alone will save you pain both during and after the race.

No. 13: Make sure you TAPER the week of the race. Maintain some high intensity very short runs but dramatically reduce the volume of your training.

No. 14: If you struggle with sleep have a plan in place and work on your sleep hygiene.  Magnesium is a great supplement to help you calm down before bed.

No. 15: Get a really good pair of socks for the race. Good socks can make a big difference.

No. 16: Buy a nice light coolmax hat/headband and gloves for the race.

No. 17: Make sure you are hydrated going into the race. Balance your hydration between water and a high quality sports drink.

No. 18: Look at the route map before the race. Know that there is a decent hill between mile 9 and 10 (right after the Philadelphia Zoo).

No. 19: Arrange a place for you to meet your family after the race.

No. 20: Run with a pace group if you are running for time and have a specific goal in mind.

No. 21: Go to the expo early and take in the atmosphere.

No. 22: At the expo once you get your race bag check to make sure that you have the correct bib number.

No. 23: Wake up about three hours before the start of the race and eat your normal breakfast.

No. 24: The meal the night before is very important. Eat a good balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates.

No. 25: Cut your toe nails a little lower than normal.

No. 26: Make arrangements to have some alone time after the race when you get home (especially if you have kids). Block off 3-4 hours to nap and start the recovery process.

No. 26.2: Before the race starts take a few deep breaths and know that you have prepared yourself to have a great run.  Realize that you are doing something pretty amazing and you should be proud that you have made it to the starting line!

Good luck to all the runners! Have a great race!

“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 www.philly.com/philly/health

14 October 4:11 pm

Have you ever been to a high school game, whether it was on a field or on a court, and watched an athlete run past the rest of the players and make them all look like they were standing still? If you are a parent or a coach of a field or court athlete I am sure that you have witnessed a few athletes make it look easy when it comes to running. The ability to accelerate and change direction is one of the most sought after traits that all athletes (male and female) are looking for. Millions of dollars are spent every year by parents trying to have their son or daughter “improve their first step” and become faster.  As a coach I have stopped counting how many times I have had parents tell me that they want me to help them improve their child’s “first step."  

In all due respect, I understand what they are talking about however, speed development goes way beyond improving their first step.

In this article, I would like to share some tips that I have been able to learn over the past several years by some of the top coaches when it comes to speed and power development for both court and field athletes.  Charlie Francis is considered by many as one of the best coaches in the world when it comes to developing athletes for improvements in their speed and power. Although he spent the majority of his time training track and field athletes I believe his philosophy on training can have a profound effect on high school athletes looking to improve their overall speed and acceleration. In his book, The Charlie Francis Training System, he states the following “sprint training should underline the initial and long term development of virtually every athlete.  The truly great team players are able to accelerate explosively both in defensive and offensive maneuvers."

If you were to have a conversation with a track and field coach as well as a football coach you would get several opinions on how to develop speed. The great thing about coaching is that everyone has their own philosophy and ways to train their athletes. For the purpose of this article I am going to focus on the court and field athlete.  Below are some of the key points that I feel must be addressed if your goal is to develop the following:

  • Linear speed
  • Transitional speed
  • Power
  • The ability to decelerate and accelerate

Tip No. 1  What is your starting point?

In a perfect world every high school athlete would first have an assessment or screen from a qualified coach. The reason this is important is before you start a training program you should establish a baseline to know where you are and where you want to go. I would recommend that you seek out the advice of someone who can perform the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) or Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) assessment   on you so that you can determine what exercises may cause problems down the road and provide a road map for your success.  

Tip No. 2  Develop your aerobic system

When most athletes or coaches hear aerobic system they think of skinny marathon runners logging 40-50 miles a week.  As a coach, I don’t want my high school athletes pounding the pavement in an effort to “build their base”.  If you have ever read anything from Joel Jamieson (www.8weeksout.com) he recommends that instead of running for 30-60 minutes, athletes incorporate some circuit training into their off-season program to build the overall capacity and strength of their heart. The best way to do this is to wear a heart rate monitor and stay in the 120-150 bpm (beat per minute) range. By doing this early in the off-season athlete’s will have a better chance to perform “repeat sprints” during their season. As I stated earlier, I am not talking about track and field but rather the ability for an athlete to perform multiple sprints during a game.  Here is an example of one type of circuit you could do with your athletes (Note, make sure they have perfect form when lifting weights and jumping):

Tip No. 3  Master body weight strength

When you sprint you have to be able to demonstrate good posture (i.e. relaxed shoulders, high hips, and proper hip extension).  The majority of high school athletes that I work with do not have the proper strength to hold themselves in an upright posture. Here are a few exercises that they must master before heading over to the squat rack.

Videos:

Tip No. 4  Hit the weights

When done properly, strength training can have a dramatic effect on your speed and your ability to change direction. One of the key factors in speed development is the ability to put force into the ground. One of the best ways to do this is by implementing a total body strength training program that teaches safe and effective progressions. In my opinion strength training is underrated when it comes to developing an explosive athlete.  Charlie Francis defines agility as “a form of special strength in combination of body awareness." Here are a few exercises that I would include in a speed training program.

Videos:

Tip No. 5  Implement transitional speed and power exercises

Court and field athletes hardly ever run in a straight line. They must learn how to stop, change direction and accelerate. Keep the volume of these movements low but the intensity high. Here are a few examples.

Videos:

Note that one of my favorite speed training exercises is hill sprints. Keep it simple when doing hills. Find a good hill and sprint up for 20-30 seconds and then walk back slow. Repeat for 8-20 reps depending on how you feel for that particular day.

Tip No. 6  Don’t confuse speed training with conditioning

This is a common mistake among coaches. I admit that I have made this mistake in the past. So many coaches say that they want to make their athlete’s faster, however, instead of working on short bursts of speed they think by doing gassers their kids will get faster. There is a time and place various type of conditioning methods however 300 yard shuttle runs is not speed training. In order to develop speed athletes must be alert and fresh. Their CNS (Central Nervous System) must be firing on all cylinders. True speed training will take between 15-20 minutes of work. Also you must allow for a FULL recovery between sets. I would recommend that the volume of running be kept between 400- 500 yds. of speed work. An example could be a workout that looks like this:

  • Warm-up and form running drills: 15-20 minutes
  • Low level plyometric work: 8-10 minutes w/ full recovery
  • Sprints: 3 x 10 yds, 3 x 20 yds, 10 x 30 yd. fly in sprints
  • Strength Training work: 30 minutes
  • Cool down and go home

Tip No. 7  Adequate flexibility

When it comes to flexibility I am not talking about the ability to sit down and touch your toes. The flexibility that I am interested in involves your ankles, knee, hips and shoulders. A great time to work on mobility is during the warm-up portion of an athlete’s training.  Here are two exercises that you can implement today to improve your speed.

Videos:

The tips and suggestions above are by no means a complete guide to speed training. Several factors go into the ability to run fast, jump high and change direction all while not breaking stride.  However if you implement some of the suggestions above and follow the proper progressions I am confident that you will improve your speed on both the field as well as the court. Good luck!

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