Goal Oriented

30 September 4:08 pm

Athletes know that in order to play at their highest level they need to focus on nutrition, strength training, speed, skill, and staying healthy. An often overlooked part of an athlete’s ability to play at their peak level is sleep quality.  About a month ago I was working with a female athlete and I could tell right away that something was not right. I asked her what time she went to sleep the night before and she replied "3 a.m., that is about the time I go to sleep every night."  Keep in mind, the workout we were doing was at 9 a.m. the next day. So, at best, she got 5 to 5 ½ hours of sleep the night before.

Let me start by asking a few questions:

  • Are you able to wake up every morning without an alarm clock?
  • Do you get outside every day for at least 30 minutes?
  • Do you feel more alert in the evening in comparison to how you feel in the morning?

Athletes and weekend warriors are spending millions of dollars every year on supplements to improve their performance to gain the competitive edge that they are looking for. As a coach I support the use of some approved supplements however, one of the best things you can do for your health and performance is free and most of us don’t take advantage of it.

As a coach, it is my job to constantly monitor how the athletes I work with are feeling. On a daily basis I will talk to them about their sleep patterns. I will often ask questions like:

  • What time did you fall asleep last night?
  • What was the quality of your sleep like?
  • How did you feel when you woke up today?

According to Dan Pardi, who is the CEO and founder of Dan’s Plan (www.dansplan.com), people who are not getting adequate sleep are in perpetual jet lag. Reaction times as well as body composition are directly linked to the quality and the amount of sleep that we get in a daily basis.  As an athlete, reaction time and body composition are extremely important to your game day performance. If either of these two things are off your performance is going to suffer.

A comment that I often hear from people is “I can’t fall asleep before midnight” or “I wake up every night at 3 a.m. and can’t fall back to sleep." If this is happening to you then your athletic performance as well as how you function the next day is going to suffer.

Our body cares about one thing and that is survival. If we develop poor sleep habits our body will slow down and conserve energy. Fat stores in our body will increase making it harder to lose body fat. Our metabolic system will slow down in order to meet the lack of sleep demands. Our bodies will age faster and our sympathetic nervous system will start to increase which will have a hormonal effect on our body that we do not want.

The good news is that we can reverse all of the negative effects of poor sleep with some simple changes to our lifestyle.  With the addition of technology our minds are always on alert and our circadian rhythm is out of balance. People are glued to their phones as well as their computers. By doing this we may be contributing to an unhealthy lifestyle.

 Here are 15 simple solutions to improving your sleep patterns

1. The amount of light we get every day from the sun has a dramatic effect on your sleep. Make it a point to get outside for at least 30 minutes every day. First thing in the morning when the sun comes up get outside for a couple of minutes and let the sun hit your face. This will start your circadian rhythm.

2. Reduce the amount of caffeine you consume after 2 p.m.

3. Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink daily.

4. Instead of staying up late to watch TV, tape the show or watch online. With things like Netflix there is no reason to stay up late to watch a show.

5. Exercise during the day and if possible exercise outside.

6. As the day goes on reduce the amount of time that you spend in from of a computer screen. The light from the screen tells the brain that you should be awake so reduce the amount of time in front of the screen.

7. When you go to bed don’t bring your computer or cell phone into bed with you. This will stimulate a response in your brain and will throw of your timing.

8. Take a warm shower or bath before bed. Also, if you add Epson salt to the water this will have a calming effect on your body due to the addition of magnesium.

9. Make the room as dark as possible.

10. Turn off as many electronics as possible near your bed. According to Dan Pardi light can penetrate our eyelids which reduces melatonin (Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland and controls the quality of your sleep).

11. Change the light on your computer. As the day goes on there are programs that can dim the screen to match the time of the day.

12. Make it a point to spend seven to eight hours in bed.  If you have to wake up at 6 a.m. than you need to be in bed by 10 p.m.

13. Eat your last big meal approximately three hours before you plan to go to sleep. Growth hormone is released in the evening and if your digestion has to work overtime this may affect the quality of your sleep.

14. Make your room as cool as possible. This time of year [Fall] is fantastic sleeping weather. Keep the room around 65 degrees.

15. As you get closer to bedtime start to dim the lights. Instead of leaving all of your lights on at 7 p.m. start to turn off certain lights and dim others.

Athletes need to make fast decisions. If their ability to “think fast and react” is compromised their performance will suffer. I’m sorry to say that I think sleep habits for people will continue to suffer and people will continue to lower their immune system. If you want to stay ahead of the game and improve your performance you have a choice and the simple solution is to improve your sleep quality.

For additional information on improving your sleep I would recommend that you read experts like Dan Pardi and Brian St. Pierre.

“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 

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!

04 September 6:43 am

I recently gave a survey to clients that I have trained in the past asking them what are some of the biggest challenges they face when it comes to sticking to a training plan. The number one reason why people fail to stick to a plan, according to this survey, was their inability to find the time to exercise. After reviewing the results I can’t say that I was surprised. Our lives are busy. Between parenthood, work, school, social obligations as well as the stressors of daily life it can be difficult to find the time to fit in training.

This week I would like to share with you one of my favorite ways to train if you are pressed for time. This type of training is fantastic for both athletes as well as people looking to lose some fat. The type of training I am talking about is resistance band training. I was introduced to this type of training a few years ago from Dave Schmitz of Resistancebandtraining.com  

As a parent of three children I have limited time to train so I was looking for some new ideas when it came to my own training. I enjoy lifting weights as well as running but I was looking for something that could offer both the benefits of strength training as well as provide a metabolic training effect for me.  That is when I came across some videos showing the benefits of resistance band training. After watching several videos from Dave I decided to purchase my own set of bands to give this type of workout a try.

After a couple of workouts I was instantly drawn to this type of training. I immediately saw the endless ways that you could incorporate resistance band training into your own program. I also began to feel more athletic with this type of training.  The bands that I was using are not your ordinary bands that you see at the gym with plastic handles and thin tubing. These bands are of the highest quality and they offer a training effect that, if you have never used them, will challenge even the best of athletes.

After using the bands for a few weeks I realized that this type of training offers the following benefits. Click the link below to watch the videos for each exercise:

1. The benefits of strength training without having to go to the gym every day.

2. The ability to train at your house, track or park.

Video: Band assisted push up

3. You can perform multi joint strength training movements with just one band.

Video: Band squat and row

4.  Fantastic tool for total body power training.

Video: Band front squat

5. Bands offer several ways to incorporate metabolic training into your program.

Video: Band Mt Climber

6. Easy on the joints.

7. Instead of sitting down on a piece of equipment you can perform exercises while standing which will force you to learn to stabilize and move more efficiently.

Video: Band chest press (split stance)

8. A wonderful tool to teach young kids (as well as adults) to learn to decelerate and then accelerate properly.

Video: Band lateral step and decelerate

9. Offers the best way to do pull-ups if you are unable to currently do pull-ups. Video link:

Video: Band pull ups

10. Tremendous tool to use if you need to work on your mobility and flexibility.

Video: Band single leg lowering

Resistance band training offers so many benefits to both athletes as well as weekend warriors. However, like any form of training it’s a “tool in your tool box”. I still love lifting weight as well as doing other types of training but bands offer a nice change of pace. If you are pressed for time adding resistance bands into your training can offer some unique challenges to your training. If you are just getting started I would recommend that your start off with the single band training package that will provide you with four bands for $52.00 (Click here to purchase the bands: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/).

Good luck with your training and if you have any questions or comments feel free to send me an e-mail at kmiller@philadelphiaunion.com

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

27 August 9:36 am

If you were to ask most people what are some of the key factors that determine whether or not their body will respond to their particular type of training you will often get several answers. The majority of individuals would we say that you need to focus on the following:

  • Strength training
  • Mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Aerobic training
  • Nutrition
  • High intensity intervals
  • Supplements

I am sure we could add a few more items to the list above but you get my point. I agree that the items that are mentioned above do play a pivotal role in your training as well as your ability to improve your health and transform your body.

However, one of the key areas that is often overlooked by most athletes as well as people looking for peak health is RECOVERY. Over the past couple of years there has been a greater emphasis among coaches to find the best recovery techniques for their athletes.  For years athletes have implemented recovery techniques like cold plunges or contrast baths. Runners as well as multisport athletes have reaped the benefits of receiving post workout massages by skilled therapists.

In my opinion, having a strategy that addresses your recovery for every session is just as critical as the workout itself.  When we are in the gym we are imposing a stress (i.e. weights, running, etc.) on our body in an effort to change the way we look or feel. Once we leave the gym or finish the workout we often neglect our recovery because “we have to get to work” or “I don’t have time to stretch because I need to get to a meeting”.  All of us are guilty of this and at times it’s okay to allow this to happen however, if you really want to maximize your results it’s time to implement a recovery plan.

Here are a few of my favorite recovery strategies for both athletes as well as weekend warriors.

Post workout breathing: Instead of using every minute of your workout to spin on a bike or run that last interval cut your workout short by five minutes and perform 10-15 deep diaphragmatic breaths at the end of your workout. The goal here is to go from a sympathetic state (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state before you jump in your car to head home. By doing this simple task you will kick start your recovery process and allow your body to return to homeostasis.

Video: Supine breathing /alligator breaths

Have a post workout drink/smoothie: This is a topic that continues to be debated by coaches and athletes. Does drinking a protein shake immediately after a workout speed up the recovery process? For me, I believe the benefits of having a quality protein and carbohydrate shake after a workout (10-20 minutes post workout) does have benefits in terms of carbohydrate recovery as well as hydration. I also believe it has psychological benefits as well. A simple way to implement this is to either make the smoothie the morning of the workout or make one the night before and freeze it if you prefer to have it cold. Either way the smoothie is a much better option than ice coffee and a muffin on the ride home.

Massages: I am big believer in manual therapy. If you listen to experts like Patrick Ward (www.optimumsportsperformance.com) he will tell you that tissue quality is critical to recovery and performance. If you have ever had a massage you know that there are several different kinds to choose from. For starters, I would recommend that you find a skilled manual therapist who can determine what state your nervous system is in (i.e. sympathetic or parasympathetic) and decide what type of treatment is best for you.  Most professional athletes have the ability to get a massage 2-3 times per week. If you are on a budget, like most people, try and block out a massage once a month if possible. Another good option is to contact a local massage school and ask if their students have to do clinical hours. This option can be a great way to get a massage once a week.

Epsom salt baths: When I tell most adults about this the first thing they say is “My grandmother use to tell me to do this”. The reason your grandmom knew about this is because chances are she was a lot healthier than we are right now and she knew the benefits from a warm Epsom salt bath. The benefits we receive from this are an increase in magnesium (this is good since most of us are deficient) as well as a calming effect to our body. A great time to implement this strategy is before you plan to go to bed. This will help you relax and I can almost guarantee that you will have a great night’s sleep by implementing this simple strategy.

Mobility circuit: The majority of men reading this could benefit tremendously from this tip. Instead of heading to the gym and jumping on the treadmill for 45 minutes I want you to focus on a total body mobility program. Chances are if you sit all day at a desk you have back as well as neck pain. I can also guarantee that your hamstrings feel tight all the time. A good mobility circuit can take as little as 10-15 minutes. Here is a sample routine

Warm up with 10 deep diaphragmatic breaths (prone or supine)

Performing a good mobility circuit is a great way to speed up the recovery process as well as reduce DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness).

Meditation: If you had told me a couple of years ago that meditation could help you speed up your recovery I probably would have laughed at you. However, having done a better job of being open to new ideas and educating myself, I now believe that mediation can have a big impact on your ability to recover. Most of us are always on alert. Our minds are always racing from one idea to the next (myself included). In her book Mind Over Medicine, author Lissa Rankin M.D is quoted as saying “When our beliefs are hopeful and optimistic, the mind releases chemicals that put the body in a state of physiological rest, controlled primarily by the parasympathetic nervous system, and in this state of rest, the body’s natural self-repair mechanisms are free to get to work fixing what’s broken in the body”.  If you speak to an expert on mediation I am sure that his/her idea of mediation may be different than mine. I am new to the process and like anything it takes time to master this type of treatment. What I would recommend is start with 1-2 minute segments both in the morning as well as the evening before bed. Do your best to focus on your breathing and try clear your head of any negative thoughts. At first this will be very hard to do but as you become more comfortable with your breathing you will start to see the benefits and you can than increase the time spent meditating.  The best time in my opinion to do this is first thing in the morning before your day gets too hectic.

A final point to remember is that your body is very smart. It will adapt to the stress placed upon it. So, you need to switch up your recovery techniques every couple of weeks. If you get a massage every day using the same technique although it will feel good it may start to lose some of its benefits. I always recommend that you cycle through your favorite techniques every couple of weeksI realize that some people will read this and say “Recovery is for wimps, all you need to do is work harder”.  I honestly use to think that as well, however, trust me when I tell you that having that mindset was one of the worse decisions I ever made. Your body will eventually shut down and if this happens you may eventually find yourself in a deep hole and your chances of injury and illness skyrocket. Be smart with your training. A key phrase that I live by now is “Train hard when your body is ready and rest hard so you can reap the benefits of your hard work.”

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: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/

19 August 12:39 pm

When it comes to your training you should always be looking to finds ways to improve.  Many of us who train have a tendency to get stuck in the same old routine. We do the same exercises day in and day out and wonder why we stop seeing results. This week I want to share with you TEN WAYS that you can improve your training.

1. GET TO SLEEP BY 10:30

When I ask most people when they fall asleep the majority of people respond by telling me they are unable to fall asleep before midnight.  It’s very common for people to tell me that they are unable to fall asleep before 2 a.m. This is a growing problem for a lot of people today. Research has shown that when we sleep our body begins the process of repairing itself. If we are unable to get an adequate night’s sleep how can we expect to feel alert and energize for the next day?

2. FOCUS ON POST WORKOUT RECOVERY

One of the easiest ways in my opinion to improve your overall training as well as your body composition is to put an emphasis on your post workout nutrition. A simple way to make this a part of your training plan is to have a protein smoothie already made for when you finish your training session. You can either bring it with you to the gym (freeze it before you come) or have one made when you get home. Whatever you decide adding some protein, carbohydrates and fat to your post workout nutrition will give you a leg up on your competition. I would recommend that you try and drink your shake within 15-30 minutes of completing your workout.

3. GET A TRAINING PARTNER

Plain and simple, people train harder if they are working out with someone.  Find someone (ideally a friend, coworker or neighbor) who is looking to get in shape and is willing to train with you. Talk about your goals together and make a commitment to train with one another a few days a week. By doing this you will feel a stronger commitment to your training and someone will hold you accountable to your program. Other options include hiring a personal trainer or working out with a small group (i.e. semi-private training)

4. ADD SOME WEIGHT TO THE BAR

If you are currently lifting weights than you are one step ahead of a lot of other people who are missing out on one of the best ways to change your body.  However, I would be willing to bet that the majority of people who are lifting weights right now are happy with the weight they have on the bar. Instead of being satisfied with the weight on the bar, I challenge you to increase the weight on some of your big lifts (i.e. front squat, bench press, overhead press, etc.) by 5 lbs. this week. The following week shoot for 10 pounds. It goes without saying that you should always focus on good form, however, increasing the weight in small increments is a great way to add some strength as well as some muscle.

5. DO A PROPER WARM UP BEFORE EVERY TRAINING SESSION

I see it all the time. I watch people walk into the gym sit down on the peck deck machine  or flat bench and start their chest workout. No warm up just straight into their routine. If there is one thing that I am adamant about it is making sure that all of my athletes and clients perform a proper warm up. The excuse that most people give is “I don’t have time”. I look at them and say a good warm-up can be completed in as little as 5 to 10 minutes if you do it correctly. The warm-up sets the tone for the training session. Ideally I like to see the following categories covered in a warm-up:

  • Alignment (neutral pelvis)
  • Proper breathing

Video: Supine breathing /alligator breaths

  • Foam rolling
  • Movement

 6. ELIMINATE PROCESSED FOOD THIS WEEK

One of the easiest ways to feel better with in and out of the gym is to reduce the amount of processed food that you consume on a daily basis. I am going to challenge you this week to eliminate all processed food this week. I am willing to bet that if you do this you will see an increase in your overall energy as well as your ability to recover from one workout to another.

7. GO FOR A LONG WALK OUTSIDE

One of the best ways to relieve stress as well as improve your cardiac output is to go for a long brisk walk. Ditch the cell phone and headphones and get outside. The sun on your face as well as the fresh air will do wonders for your body.

8. MAKE A POWER SMOOTHIE

Most smoothies you buy at a smoothie store are loaded with sugar as well as fruit substitutes. Instead of wasting your money on high sugar/low protein smoothie try this recipe instead:

  • ½  banana
  • 1 cup of strawberries
  • ¼ cup of beets
  • ½ cup of kale
  • ¼ cup of frozen mangos
  • 1 tbsp. of melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. of spirulina (This can be purchased at most health food stores)
  • 5-6 ice cubes
  • Blend for 30-45 seconds and drink up

9. FOCUS ON YOUR HEALTH RATHER THAN WEIGHT LOSS

This week put away the scale and focus on improving your health.  Dropping 20 lbs. of weight does not automatically make you healthy.  Instead, focus on habits that you can sustain. Examples include getting quality sleep, eating a balanced diet as well as finding ways to manage your stress.

10. TRAIN LIKE AN ATHLETE

All of us have an athletic side. As kids we use to run and jump; but as we grow older many of us have a tendency to lose our athleticism and ability to generate power.  Training like an athlete will automatically increase your power. Here are three exercises that you can do to help you feel like an athlete:

1. Box jumps - Start with a very low box if you have never done this before land soft.

Video: Box jumps

2. Medicine ball throws - I always recommend that you start with a light (2-4 lbs.) medicine ball.

Video: Lateral lunge to shotput-tutorial

3.  Transition runs -These runs are best done on a track or a turf field.  Start slow and progress.

Video: Shuffle to sprint

If your results have stalled and you want to jumpstart your fitness this month, try adding some of these options to your training plan. You don’t need to all of these recommendations at once. Start slow and progress. Remember proper form and progressions are critical when it comes to your training.

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

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/

22 July 11:35 am

When it comes to training, people like to debate about what is the best way to increase an athlete’s power and explosiveness. Some people believe Olympic lifting is the best tool to increase an athlete’s power output. Others believe CrossFit or kettlebell training are the most effective way at increasing an athlete’s power. We can argue this point all day long and the reality is I don’t believe that there is one single way to increase your power. However, I do believe that there is a very effective tool for athletes to use when it comes to increasing power output and that tool is a medicine ball.

Most coaches know that in order to increase power a lot of factors must go into the equation. Here are just a few of the things that we need to do in order to increase power output:

  • Increase your force into the ground.
  • Increase total body strength.
  • Increase the speed of movement.
  • Ensure proper alignment while we train.
  • Focus on ways to properly decelerate our body.
  • Maintain proper breathing patterns.
  • The ability to stabilize under load.

As much as I like Olympic lifting and kettlebell training, I believe the best tool for teaching power output  at the beginning of a training program is to use a medicine ball. A few reasons why I prefer to use a medicine ball at the beginning of an athlete’s training program are:

  • For most people throwing an object comes natural.
  • It’s fun. People like to throw things and this gives them the license to throw an object as hard as possible once they have good form.
  • It’s safe. Instead of lifting a weight over your head with the fear of dropping it on your head a medicine ball is a great tool to teach the mechanics of several more advanced lifts.
  • You can take the medicine ball anywhere and train on your own.
  • With this one tool I can work on speed, power, deceleration, change of direction, endurance, proprioception and mobility.

These are just a few examples of why I like to use medicine balls in a training program. The reality is a number of elite athlete’s use these in their everyday training program. As I stated above, I use this at the beginning of a training program with new athletes, however, elite athletes use these daily for incredible results.

When it comes to training with medicine balls there are so many exercises to choose from. You are only limited by your imagination. Below are five exercise video clips that I have put together for you to review. As always ensure that you use proper form and start slow. If you have any pain (shoulder, back, etc.) back off of these exercises and consult with a medical professional.

Medicine ball introduction

Medicine ball squat to overhead throw-tutorial

Lateral lunge to shotput-tutorial

Skate hop continous w/ medicine ball throw-tutorial

Crow hop w/ med ball throw-tutorial

Regardless of your sport medicine ball training is a fantastic way to increase your power. Athletes from every sport can benefit from the rotational power as well as well the increase in aerobic output that they will see from this type of training. If you have kids this is a great way to slowly introduce them to the world of training. I guarantee that if you start slow and use a very light medicine ball kids will enjoy this type of training. Adults, if you are looking to drop a few pounds or increase your running speed implement medicine ball training into your routine.

Enjoy!

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

15 July 4:38 pm

Okay, it’s time for a fitness check-up. We are nearing the halfway mark of the summer and it’s time for all of us to be honest with ourselves in terms of our summer training. Over the past several weeks I have had the pleasure of sharing with you my philosophy when it comes to training. I have offered you a handful of tips that, if implemented, can improve your overall health.  If you have been following the suggestions that I have been making I hope that you are starting to see the gains that you want. Whether your goal was to fit into a certain swimsuit, run a 5k or simply feel better I hope that you are happy with your results.

If, on the other hand, you have been delaying the start of your program I have good news for you. You still have time to make some dramatic changes to both your body and your mind. I understand that we have a tendency to be afraid and procrastinate the start of something new. So for those of you who are still on the fence as to whether or not you should take the plunge here are five tips that can improve your health as well as your athletic performance.

Tip No. 1: Eat a salad every day

A fantastic way to improve your overall digestion as well as increase the vitamins and minerals that you absorb is to eat a large salad every day. The great news about this is that it requires no cooking and is rather easy to make. Let’s face it most of us don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Try this salad out for size and see how you like it.

  • 1-2 cups of mixed greens
  • 1 avocado
  • ¼ cup of red onion
  • ¼ cup of cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup of macadamia nuts or almonds (raw)
  • ¼  cup of cucumber
  • ¼ cup of strawberries
  • ¼ cup of red peppers
  • ¼ cup of yellow peppers
  • 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil (FYI, spend some extra money and get a high quality olive oil)

Note: If you like to cook add in some chicken, steak, etc. Also a key point to remember is that you should add some fat (i.e. olive oil, avocado, nuts, etc.)  to your salad to allow the nutrients to absorb into your body

Tip No. 2. Cut back on your portion size

We live in a society where more is better. I love to eat and a pet peeve of mine is when I leave a restaurant and I am still hungry. However, some of us are simply eating too much food in one sitting. Next time you sit down to eat try implementing this strategy.

  • Eat proteins, fats and carbohydrates at every meal. This will help control your blood sugar levels which will help to satisfy you.
  • Slow down. Most of us inhale our food rather than chew our food. One of the hardest things our body has to do is digest food so why don’t we slow down and actually chew the food rather than shoveling it down.
  • Your plate should have several different colors on it. Add vegetables to the mix in order to increase your fiber and nutrient content.
  • After you finish your meal wait 15- 20 minutes before you go back for seconds. Most of us are walking back to the line while we are still eating food off of our plate. Relax, digest and then go back if you are still hungry.

Tip No. 3. Train hard then train easy then hard again.

Most people who start a training plan get very excited and they go to the gym and they do two hard workouts back to back. On the third day they go to get out of bed and they can’t walk. Instead of walking they shuffle and they find muscles they never knew that they had. Remember one workout does not get you in shape. You need to be consistent and listen to your body. I always recommend to most people that they follow a plan like this: Monday (Hard), Tuesday (Easy), Wednesday (Hard), Thursday (easy), Friday (off), Saturday (Hard), Sunday (off). By doing this you will allow your body time to recover and repair the damage that has been done.

Tip No. 4: Get your vitamin D levels checked

Dr. John Cannell states in his book that more than 75% of all Americans are deficient in Vitamin D (FYI, Vitamin D is actually a hormone not a vitamin). As an athlete if you have sufficient Vitamin D in your body this is what you can expect per Dr. John Cannell's book: "Athlete’s Edge: Faster, Quicker, Stronger with Vitamin D."

  • Reduce chance of stress fractures
  • Increase in speed, strength, endurance and power
  • Reduction in body fat
  • Increase in your recovery time
  • Plus much, much more

If you are going to get a test I would recommend that you speak with your doctor or visit www.leg.org  (Life Extension). It’s very important that you get the correct form of Vitamin D checked 25(OH)D. In terms of vitamin D levels, Dr. Cannell recommends that you maintain a level of 50ng/ml. Dr. Michael Smith of Life Extension recommends that you maintain a level closer to 80 ng/ml per. Research is still being done but one thing that we do know is that lower Vitamin D levels are associated with an increase risk in several internal cancers. The good news is that if you are low, the supplement for Vitamin D is rather inexpensive and easy to take.

Tip No. 5: Body weight training

When all else fails it’s hard to beat body weight workouts. The reason being is because it requires little to no equipment and the return that you see in your body is impressive. I will always recommend that people lift weights but 20-30 days of nothing but body weight work can be a great place to start for people looking to jumpstart their fitness program. Start the with the basics (push-ups, squats, sprints, rolling patterns and band assisted pull-ups).

As I stated in the beginning of this post, we are nearing the half-way point of the summer. Don’t delay the start of your training program.  Get started today and start feeling great! If you have been training for the past six weeks, congratulations.

Now keep it going!!!

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

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.