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25 March 2:55 pm

All of us are pressed for time. Between work, family, social obligations and finding time for ourselves it’s hard to find the time to fit in a good workout. I get asked this question a lot. “How long do I need to train in order to see some benefits”. That is a tough question to answer without knowing the person and having a good understating of their goals as well as their current level of fitness. With that being said, I want to share with you three of my “go to workouts” when I am pressed for time.

Workout No. 1: Hill Repeats

When I think of hill repeats I think of Walter Payton wearing a “Roos” headband crushing hills while other guys are lagging behind sucking wind. Athletes have been running hills for years but it’s that image in my head that motivates me to get out and run up and down a hill.  Hill running is a great way to get ready for speed training and harder workouts that will happen down the road. It’s a great way to “strength train” your legs without the weights. Here is one workout you can try. Ideally you would run on a soft surface but if you are unable to find a gradual soft hill you can run these on the street.

Week 1: 5 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 60 seconds)

Week 2: 6 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 50 seconds)

Week 3: 7 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 45 seconds)

Week 4: 8 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 35 seconds)

Week 5: Omit. No hill running this week.

Note: Start with a gradual hill with a slight incline. If you are a beginner do not go and find the steepest hill in the neighborhood. Find a gradual climb and start with five (5) runs and progress to eight (8) over a four (4) week period. As you get stronger increase the work time until you reach 45-60 seconds.

Workout No. 2: Kettlebell circuit

Just for the record I am "not a kettlebell guy." I am not certified by any organization however, I really enjoy using kettlebells with the athletes and clients that I work with. It’s simply one of the many “tools” that I have in my toolbox to help people obtain the results that they are looking for. I think with the proper coaching they can add tremendous value to your training program. Please note that I would recommend that you work with a qualified coach who can assess/screen you and can teach you the basics of how to use kettlebells. Like all strength training exercises start light and perfect your form before progressing to heavier weight.

Set the timer for 10 minutes and perform the following circuit. Rest as much as you need to in order to maintain good form.

1. Kettlebell swings: five (5) reps

In order to do a proper swing you must learn how to hinge at your hips. The mistake most people make is that they squat instead of hinge. Let your legs do the work and guide the “bell” with your arms.

2. Kettlebell goblet squat: five (5) reps

Hold the kettlebell close to your body and squat as deep as you comfortable can. Push the knees out, keep your chin tucked and stand tall at the finish of the movement. Don’t allow the weight to drift to far from your body.

3. Push ups: ten (10) reps

Maintain a flat back, elbows in and push away at the finish. If you are unable to do a full push up than drop to your knees and perform a modified version.

Rest for 15-30 seconds depending on your fitness level. Repeat for 10 minutes. At the end of ten minutes  record the amount of the completed rounds and the weight lifted.

Workout No. 3: Head to the park

If you don’t belong to a gym however you want to challenge yourself head to your local park and give this circuit a try.

  • Monkey bar pull ups: 5 reps
  • Body Weight squats: 10 reps
  • Resistance band 2 hand presses: 5 reps
  • Single leg squats to a park bench: 5 reps/side
  • Bear crawl for distance (30 yds)
  • Rest and repeat for time (10-20 minutes)

If you do this workout people will look at you funny and some people will ask you what you are doing. My response is normally “I am training”. The next question is normally “How are you exercising without any equipment” to which I respond “ I have all the equipment I need at a park. It’s one of the best places to train”.

It goes without saying. Before you do any workouts you need to warm up properly. For some people that may be 5-10 minutes. For others like me I need 10-15 minutes to get moving. The key point to remember is when you are pressed for time there are several  ways that  you can train. You just need to make health a priority and stop making excuses!

Train hard and train smart!

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: Philly.com/Health

 

 

21 February 10:03 am

Hey fans!

We would like to announce the launch of the official Philadelphia Union Store Twitter account @PhilaUnionShop!  Follow us for all of the latest product information, sales, and store happenings.

We want to bring a new level of access for our fans.  Connecting with our fans and providing them with information and special offers is important to us, and we hope that through the driving force in social media that is Twitter we can make that happen.

Have the inside track to the newest offerings from the Philadelphia Union. Find out what some of your favorite players are wearing and buying for their friends and family.  

Also, we will offer exclusive contests and discounts available only through Twitter.

To kick things off, want to know all about the new home kit that will be unveiled at the Union's "Meet the Team" event on March 4? Before you head to Dave and Busters on Columbus Blvd. for the festivities kicking off at 6 p.m., join the crew here @PhilaUnionShop  at noon for a one-hour take over of the Union's Twitter account (@PhilaUnion) to talk all things pertaining to the jersey (and more) and check out a bit more of a sneak peek before the full unveiling later that night. Kick off MLS' annual Jersey Week with us. Have a question about the kit? Submit it during the takeover with the hashtag #JerseyWeek.

Again, we hope @PhilaUnionShop becomes your home for all the latest on not just Union gear, but the lifestyle of our players, staff and supporters like you.

Cheers,

From the crew behind @PhilaUnionShop

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

 

16 September 3:22 pm

Have you ever suffered a serious knee injury? If so, what steps are you currently taking to ensure that you reduce your chances of hurting that same knee again? The unfortunate part of training and competing in sports is that injuries are a part of the game. Even athletes with the best training program suffer season ending injuries..  A hot topic over the past few years has been knee injuries and in particular ACL injuries. This year alone it’s estimated that 100,000 people will suffer an ACL tear with 30,000 of these people being high school athletes. We often hear how females are six to eight times more likely to suffer an ACL injury when compared to male athletes. Having worked with several high school female athletes,  I definitely agree that they are at a higher risk due to their lack of stability as well as their overall strength when compared to male athletes. However, I think everyone should make it a point to implement their own program to ensure that they REDUCE their chances of suffering a knee injury.

I stress the word reduce because often time’s coaches and trainers tell players that they need to implement an ACL prevention program. Personally I don’t like to use that phrase because unfortunately there is no way that you can prevent an injury but you can greatly reduce the chances of suffering a season ending ACL injury with a solid training program. I believe Coach Mike Boyle said it best when he said that ACL reduction is simply “good training”. By this what I believe he meant was that a solid year round program is the best medicine for reducing your chances of injury.

When it comes to reducing your chances of suffering an ACL injury here are a few key points that I believe need to be addressed in a solid training program.  The tips and videos below do not cover everything when it comes to ACL reduction but if you follow some of these tips you will see good results in your training and more importantly your performance on the field, court or track.

1. Get an assessment from a qualified coach

I would recommend before you start a training program that you get an assessment to see if there are any exercises that you should not be doing. There are many assessments to choose from. Here are a couple that I recommend that you check out:

FMS (Functional Movement Screen)

PRI (Postural Restoration Institute)

If you live near Sewell, New Jersey I would check out endeavorfit.com for your assessment.  Kevin Neeld and his staff are excellent when it comes to doing assessments.

2. Start every training program with a good warm-up

A solid warm up should include the following:

Do your best to train in a neutral (pelvis) state. I learned these exercises from PRI (posturalrestorationinstitute.com). 

Foam Rolling and movement

Mobility work for your ankles, hips and shoulder

Linear and lateral movements that progressively get faster as you progress the warm-up.

Anterior core training

A good warm-up could be accomplished in as little as eight to ten minutes if done properly. What I tell the athletes and weekend warriors that I work with is that this part of the program sets the stage for the training session. If you have been sitting at a desk all day long and then drive to the gym and jump into a “metabolic class/workout” without a proper warm-up you’re asking for trouble. Spend ten minutes warming up to reduce your chances of suffering a knee injury.

3.  Learn to land and decelerate properly.

Most non-contact knee injuries happen when we stop rather than when we “take off” (Here is a video of a high school girl jumping at her assessment. Watch as she lands and notice her lack of stability as well as her shin angle when landing (Poor landing mechanics-knee).  Before you start any advanced plyometric drills (i.e. repeat box jumps, single leg hurdle hips) I would recommend that you learn to land and stop properly.  Here are three exercises that I teach early on in a training program.

It is very important that you learn to absorb force when jumping and landing. The coaching cues that I use for line hops and box jumps are “land soft” and “stick the landing”.

4.  Improve your overall strength

Most people would see tremendous benefits in their performance by simply implementing weights/bands into their program. I hear it all the time from athletes as well as weekend warriors the reasons why they can’t implement strength training into their program. Excuses like “it makes me sore” or “I don’t have the time because I am playing five travel games this weekend (that’s a problem in of itself and I will talk about in a future blog). I’m sorry I am not buying any of these excuses. Strength training for the average person who is looking to get strong and reduce their chances of knee injuries does not need to be complicated. A solid strength program will include single leg training as well as bilateral lower body movements and upper body movements. For someone looking to start a strength training program here are a few exercises that would lay the foundation for a balanced and strong body.

Knee injuries can change your career in an instant. Even if you have no intentions of ever playing a sport again I would highly recommend that you implement some of the strategies mentioned above. If you are a high school coach or athlete I want to challenge you to take a look at your current training program and see if there are any “holes” in your system.  A key point to remember is that you have to go through the proper exercise progressions when training. Personally, I am always looking for ways to make my programs better for the athlete’s that I work with. I know I can improve and most good coaches are always looking to get better results for their clients.  I challenge you to take your training to the next level and give yourself the best chance to stay injury free.

Good luck!

12 August 2:01 pm

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.

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.

Good luck.

05 August 1:48 pm

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 ladders/med ball

Watch: Cardiac output thunder bands

WatchCardiac output ropes/bench/squats

Watch: Cardiac output bench jumps/swings

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.

  • Sleds
  • Ropes
  • Bands
  • Body weight
  • Jump rope
  • Medicine balls
  • Kettlebells
  • 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/

08 July 1:14 pm

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.

13 May 11:15 am

 

When it comes to training one of the hardest things for people to decide on is what exercises should they include in their program. For example, if you do a search on the internet for exercises for fat loss you will come across thousands of videos. Some of these coaches may guarantee that if you do their program you will see results over night, while others may stress the importance of starting with the basics and progressing to more advanced exercises. This week I have put together ten exercises that depending on your fitness level you can start today.

I have broken down the exercises into two categories for you to choose from.

Group one is for beginners. It’s very common for people to be confused as to where to start when it comes to strength training. The five beginner exercises that I have included will ensure that you are working on a solid foundation for you to build upon. The key to performing these exercises is to start slow and always focus on proper form. As a coach I always stress the importance of mastering the basics so if you are new to training start with the beginner series.

The second set of exercises (group 2) is geared more towards intermediate lifters. These five exercises are perfect if you have built a solid foundation and have already mastered the five beginner exercises. These exercises can help improve your overall power, endurance, speed, strength and mobility. As I stated above, it’s critical that you use perfect form when performing these exercises and if you experience any pain you should stop immediately.

Before I share these videos in order for you to view each one you must click on the link and you will be taken to a separate webpage. It’s there where you can view each clip. Underneath each exercise I have included a coaching cue that will help you when you perform the exercise.  These are the same cues that I give to the athletes that I work with.

Let’s get started!

Five Beginner Exercises

1.       Push up (regular)

Coaching cue: Maintain a flat back, chin tucked and keep your elbows in.

2.       Front plank

Coaching cue: Maintain a flat back, squeeze your glutes and the weight is on your forearms not your elbows.

3.       Bilateral hip hinge w/ PVC

Coaching cue:  Place the PVC so it is in contact with your head, upper back and lower back as you “hinge” at your hips. Do not round your back.

Note: This looks like a simple exercise but most people are unable to do this exercise correctly. If you are able to learn this movement properly this will open up so many opportunities in terms of strength training.

4.       Body weight squat

Coaching cue: Drive your knees out, sit your hips back, chest up and chin tucked. Also, brace your abdominals as you lower down and exhale at the top while you squeeze your glutes at the top.

5.       Supine glute bridge two legs

Coaching cue: Drive your heels through the ground as you rise up and squeeze your glutes.

Note: If you have a job where you sit most of the day this should be an exercise that you do daily. This exercise will build a strong foundation for future exercises.

Five Intermediate Exercises

1.       Stability ball roll outs

Coaching cue: Lead with your hips and keep your back flat.

2.       Trap bar deadlift (side view)

Coaching cue: Keep your chin tucked and drive with your legs as you stand up.

3.       One arm split stance DB row

Coaching cue: Keep your feet pointed straight ahead and your back flat.

4.       KB goblet squat

Coaching cue: Push your knees out, brace your abdominals and keep your chest up.

5.       KB Swing-Countdown (10-2-10)

Coaching cue: Hinge at your hips, keep your chin tucked and drive with your hips.

Note: If you are new to kettle bells than start slow wit this one. Instead of 10 reps start with five.  This is a lot harder than it looks. Do not let your back round during this movement.

When it comes to training, there are hundreds of exercises to choose from. There are several great coaches who are getting fantastic results with their athletes and clients. The ten exercises should be used as a guideline to help you get started.  Remember achieving optimal health is a way of life. Listen to your body and be smart with your training.

Good luck!

Have a question for strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave question in the comments portion below.

15 April 11:32 am

 

As a society, we want information fast.  Given all the technology at our fingertips we expect to see instant results. When it comes to your health and fitness I’m sorry to say that it takes time to see results. A good hard workout does not get you in great shape. What gets you in “shape” is a well thought out program and plan done consistently over time. With that being said there are some ways you can help jump start you fitness plan.

Below are five things that you can do this week that will get you headed in the right direction and improve the way you feel.

1. Get quality sleep:  I tell people all the time one of the best things that you can do for your health as well as your body composition is to get quality sleep. What does this mean? Get into a routine where from Sunday until Thursday night you fall asleep every night around the same time. Why is this important? Because when we sleep our body produces growth hormone, which allows us to recover and repair damage that we have done. Over time the better sleep patterns we have the better our body will be able to recover. I would recommend that you strive for 7-8 hours each night.

2. Get some vitamin D: In the book "Athletes Faster, Quicker, Stronger with Vitamin D" the author John Cannell states, “As things stand today, more than three-fourths of all Americans are vitamin D-deficient”.  The reason that having adequate levels of vitamin D is important is that it has been shown to reduce your chances of getting certain cancers, reduces stress fractures and may increase your reaction time.  An interesting fact stated in his book says that 90 percent of vitamin D comes from the sun. Now, I know people are going to say that the sun “causes cancer”.  I’m not ready to say that we should not use sun-screen, however, I believe that 10-15 minutes of daily exposure to sun is very beneficial to our body. If you are afraid of exposure to the sun then I would recommend a good quality supplement because if you think you are getting your vitamin D from the milk you drink, think again. Dr. Loren Cordain author of the book The Paleo Answer states that you would need to drink about twenty (20) eight ounce glasses of fortified milk each day to meet the daily requirement of vitamin D (2000 IU’s).

3. Lift weights:  What’s wrong with being strong? For some reason a lot of people just want to ‘tone’ their muscles. Okay, so you want to tone but you don’t want to get strong? Are you afraid of getting too big and too fast from lifting? I’m sorry to tell you that if you are afraid of getting ‘big and bulky’ from lifting it simply will not happen (Most of us who train regularly wish it were that easy). What will happen by starting a lifting program is that you will increase lean muscle mass, improve bone density, as well as rev up your metabolism.  Implementing compound movements (i.e. front squats, deadlifts, kettlebell movements as well as body weight movements) will leave you feeling refreshed and stronger. So, my advice to you is to hit the weights. However, like anything follow the proper progressions and start slow.

4. Shop the perimeter of the store: When you walk into a food store do you feel overwhelmed? Do you look around and say to yourself where do I start? Here is a tip that I am sure that you have heard. If you spend 90 percent of the time on the outside of the store in the produce, fish, meat and dairy sections you will be well on your way to feeling better. Here is where we find fresh foods that are loaded with vitamins and minerals.  At the checkout counter you should be walking to your car with more clear bags than boxes. Whenever possible purchase the best food that you can afford. If that means organic and grass fed, then fantastic. If you are on a tight budget then look for the freshest food that you can afford.

5. Improve your breathing patterns: As we get older we tend to lose our mobility. We often feel tight and stiff from sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours. If you have a job that requires you to spend 3-4 hours at a time in a car, I would be willing to bet that you have back and/or neck pain. Would you believe me if I told you that by improving the way you breath, you could potentially reduce your pain and increase your mobility? I was very fortunate to take a course by the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) last November at Endeavor Sports Performance and one of the big take home messages from the course was that by implementing diaphragmatic breathing patterns you may be able to increase your mobility, reduce stress and potentially reduce pain. Up until that seminar I always knew that breathing when you run or lift weights was important, but I never realized how big of an effect that diaphragmatic breathing can have on an athlete or a person in pain.  A simple drill to do each day is to take in 10 deep breaths. Inhale through your nose (your belly and sides should expand) and then exhale through your mouth. Try doing this after a workout to speed up your recovery process.

The five items listed above if implemented correctly can kick start your training program. Remember, one workout does not get you in shape. Optimal health is about being consistent with good habits as well as having a balanced plan in place.

Have a question for strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller? Leave a message in the comments below.

 

08 April 10:47 am

 

I would like to welcome you to my first blog post for the Philadelphia Union. Over the course of the season I will be providing a series of tips, videos and articles that will hopefully help you improve your overall health and lifestyle. As the strength and conditioning coach for the team one of my roles is to assist the other members of the technical staff in ensuring that the players are fully prepared for game day. Each week I offer players tips on nutrition and recovery as well as oversee their strength and fitness program with the other members of the staff.

My hope for this blog is to be able to provide to you practical tips that you can implement if you chose to into your routine.

Before I share my first post I want to talk briefly about my philosophy. When it comes to having a healthy lifestyle I think this means different things for different people. For me I like to focus on the following areas:

  • Ability to manage stress
  • Being happy with what you do on a daily basis at work.
  • Having a balanced nutrition plan in place.
  • Having a vision for what you want to accomplish.
  • Being consistent with an exercise program.

We could talk all day about what “being healthy” means but for me it has nothing to do with just being “thin or eating organic food”. Yes, nutrition and body composition play a role in your overall health however there is much more to it than that. When it comes down to it I believe in order to improve your overall health you need to be consistent with your day to day choices and you need to be really good at the basics. I’m sorry to tell you but there are no “quick fixes”. Just like sports, it takes time to develop good habits. Over time you will see changes that will hopefully improve how you feel and your outlook on life. Hopefully over the course of the 2013 season I can share some insight for you that can help you achieve a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.

For the first post I want to talk briefly about setting performance goals. This time of the year it’s really hard to get motivated to get to the gym and train or go outside for a walk. The weather is colder than normal and your motivation levels are probably pretty low. The summer is still a few months away so it’s hard to motivate yourself to get to the gym. If this describes how you are currently feeling I may have a solution for you. One of the best ways to get motivated to change is to set a performance goal for you to achieve over the next 1-2 months. People talk about goals all the time but rarely do most of us ever achieve them.

For example, people will say “I want to lose 20 lbs.” but after three weeks they get really tired of eating salads (FYI, this is not how you lose weight, more on this later). Other people say I want to run a 10k but after they develop shin splints they stop (We’ll talk more about running in the future and how to avoid this). Either way we have good goals in mind but 9 out of 10 times we fail. I’m guilty of this as well. So, how can you ensure that you will obtain your goal that you have set forth? You need to write it down today and set a performance goal. It needs to be something that you can MEASURE.

Here are three examples you can use:

1. My goal is to run an 8-minute mile pace at Broad St this year: This is a great goal if you are running the race. Ok, you now have something you can measure.  You know exactly how fast you have to run. In order to accomplish this you will need to do speed work and time yourself. There are several ways to do this you just need to make this a priority. Get out on the track, time yourself and see where you are TODAY and where you need to be on race day.

2. My goal is to take 10,000 steps each day: In order to improve your health you don’t have to run. By simply walking and moving you can improve your health. All you have to do is TRACK your progress. There are several devices that you can purchase that can track the number of steps that you take each day. If you sit at a desk for eight hours each day there is a good chance that you have low back pain and may have put on a few pounds. Get up and move. Have a goal of 10,000 steps each day.

3. My goal is to be able to do one pull-up. This sounds pretty simple right? For a pro athlete, yes it’s rather easy however for the majority of people it’s a very challenging task. I am not talking about using the pulley system at your gym to help you accomplish this goal. I am talking about 1 full hanging overhand pull-up. If you currently can’t do this than this could be a great goal for you to try and obtain. Take the next month and train towards this goal. I guarantee that if you can go from zero pull-ups to one pull-up over the course of the month you will feel much stronger at the end of the month. Again, we can measure progress for this goal.

These are just three examples of what you can do. In the end if you want to change the way you look and feel about yourself you have to set goals. I believe setting performance goals is a much better way to improve your overall health than by just saying “I want to in shape”.  Start today, right down one performance goal and don’t make any excuses. You’re the only one who really knows what you want so get started today.

Have a question for strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller? Leave a message in the comments below.