Goal Oriented

01 July 11:54 am

This past May over 38,000 people ran the Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run, held every year in Philadelphia. The number of people who begin a running program is increasing every year. As the number of participants increases so do the number of injuries. I want to start by saying that I am a runner. I enjoy lacing up a pair of sneakers and running on a trail just like all of the other runners in Philly. I have suffered my fair share of injuries over the years and I have made every mistake you can make when it comes to training (ie. overtraining, running while in a lot of pain, neglecting my strength training, etc.) I know how a lot of you feel and I am here to share some tips that I believe will help you run faster and stay healthier.

One of the main reasons I believe more and more people are starting to run is because it is easy to get started. By no means am I saying that it’s easy to run but rather all you need is a pair of sneakers and some running shorts. The problem that I see is that most people are running in pain and have no idea where to start in terms of their training. If you talk to any experienced runner I am sure that he/she will have several suggestions on what a “newbie” should do to decrease their chance of injury while improving their fitness.

This week I would like to offer five (5) tips on how to improve your 5k speed and reduce your chances of sustaining an injury. The reason I picked the 5k is because it is a great place to start if you are planning to run longer races in the future. Also, whether or not you are a first time runner or an experienced marathoner your goal should be to run FAST. I know what some of you are saying right now “I just want to run and enjoy my slow jog”. Good for you that’s great but if you can run FASTER you will spend less time pounding your joints and may decrease your chance of injury. Heck you may even win an age group award!

So if you are a runner (or any athlete for that matter) who is looking to improve their speed here are five tips along with some videos for you to enjoy.

Tip No. 1. Use a heart rate monitor: One of the best tools you can use to help you increase your 5k speed is a heart rate monitor. A good monitor will cost between $100-$200 dollars. I think it’s the perfect piece of equipment to use when you are doing track workouts or intervals. The main reason I recommend a heart monitor is to track how well you are recovering both during and after a training session.

Here is a video to show you how to use a monitor: Heart rate training tips for athletes

Tip No. 2. Improve your alignment: Let’s face it, running beats you up. Nobody said it was going to be easy. What if I told you that you could reduce your chance of injury if you did some rather simple self-corrective exercises each day to help you improve your alignment as well as your speed?  Would you listen? Would you actually do them? Chances are you are starting your workout in poor alignment. If you have access to a good chiropractor or manual therapist then that is fantastic. However, you must be able to fix yourself. The exercises I am talking about were developed by the Postural Restoration Institute. I was fortunate to take one of their courses last November and it has had a big effect on how I feel. The biggest impact it has had on me is my breathing mechanics as well as my pelvic alignment. I am planning to do a whole blog on this topic but for now I would recommend that you head over to posturalrestoration.com and check out their site. Also, there are several therapists/coaches in this area who are trained in their philosophy. I can tell you first hand that if you have hip or back pain you should look into their corrective exercises.

Tip No. 3. Improve your single leg strength: Whenever I assess a new athlete (runner or field/court athlete) one of the first things I do is look at their single leg strength. The majority of the time there is instability in one or both legs. If you want to increase your 5k time I would recommend that you start to implement some single leg strength training into your routine. 

Click here to watch a video: Single leg runners: 5k

Tip No. 4. Strengthen your posterior chain (aka your backside):  If you want to be able to have a “kick” at the finish line you had better be able to turn on your “Go” muscles. A lot of runners have strong quads and good looking abs but lack the strength in their hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Watch this video to learn how to do a simple yet effective exercise for your “Go” muscles.

Video: Deadlift for runners

Link to buy bandshttps://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

Tip No. 5. Build real upper body strength: If you want to increase your speed one thing you need to increase your power and strength. Most people who run do some “core work” and may do some strength training 1-2 times per week but have you ever really tried to do a perfect push up? Have you ever set a goal of achieving 100 push-ups in 4 minutes? If not, now is the time to start. If you are a beginner start slow and see how many you can do in 1 minute with perfect form of course. You can rest anytime you want. I guarantee that if you start to do push-ups correctly (3-4 x per week) you will see your 5k time drop.

Video: Push-ups for runners 5 k

Whether you are a new runner or an experienced runner your goal should be to run as fast as possible. Everyone can get faster. Implement some of these tips into your program and I believe you will see your times drop.

Good luck!

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

24 June 5:05 pm

For this week’s post I want to talk briefly about nutrition and more specifically “healthy snacks."

A question that I am often  asked by people looking to improve their body composition as well as their energy levels is “what type of healthy snacks can I eat if I want to look and feel better." Before we get started I want to stress that I am not a nutritionist. The nutritional tips that I provide are based off of my own experience as well as books that I have read.  If you want to talk to an expert in the field I would recommend that you head over to precisionnutrition.com and speak with John Berardi and his staff.

Most people love to snack. Whether it’s reaching for a bag of chips at a game or heading to the vending machine while at work. The key when it comes to choosing “healthy snacks” is to try and eat unprocessed food whenever possible. One thing that you have to remember is that most food companies include ingredients into their snacks that don’t fill you up but rather keep you coming back for more. Instead of truly satisfying your hunger they may cause a quick spike in your blood sugar that may provide short term relief but after about an hour you are reaching for your third bag of chips.

When it comes to choosing “healthier” snacks I think it is important to take the following things into consideration.

  • Eat snacks that have a balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. If you eat snacks that only have carbohydrates you will be in search for more food in about an hour when your blood sugar drops again.
  • Plan ahead. By this I mean look at your day and if you are going to be on the run all day in between meetings and your car have snacks that can be eaten quickly and that provide quality nutrition. A great choice here is a homemade trail mix.
  • Stay away from the vending machine. These foods are filled with sugar and additives that your body simply does not need. If you want something sweet than make some homemade chocolate covered cashews, almonds or macadamia nuts.
  • Avoid fat free products. We have been told by so many people in the media that we should eat low fat or fat free products. Next time you reach for a fat free granola bar take a close look at the ingredients and I guarantee the product is filled with sugar, food additives as well as a host of ingredients that are not good for you. Remember this, fat is not the problem eating a whole bag of chips or sitting at your desk for 8 hours without moving is the problem. Add some good fat (i.e. olive oil, coconut oil, raw butter, nuts) to your daily nutrition plan.  
  • Eat foods that will eventually go bad. The candy bar in the vending machine although it tastes good could probably stay in there for over a year. Instead eat foods that after a period of time will spoil. This is a sign that you are eating real food and not something that was made in a lab.

Here are five snack options for you to add to your nutrition. The snacks made below are simple to make provide a good balance of vitamins and minerals.

1. Homemade trail mix: Instead of spending money on a bag of premade trail mix try this simple combination instead. Mix all of the combinations below in a zip lock bag and carry it with you to work (or leave it in your car if you drive a lot).

  • ¼ cup of raisins
  • ¼ cup of macadamia nuts
  • ¼ cup of raw almonds
  • ¼ cup of tart cherries

2. Greek yogurt (Try and eat vanilla if possible. The “fruit” flavors have added sugar that you may want to avoid if you are concerned about weight gain or are a diabetic)

Add 1-2 servings of vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries or blueberries. If you want to add a crunch to the mix add in some organic granola.

3.  Power smoothie

  • ¼ cup of orange juice (optional)
  • ¼ cup of water (Use more if you skip the orange juice)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp. of melted coconut oil
  • 5-6 strawberries
  • 1 handful of frozen mango
  • 1 scoop of a high quality whey protein (I prefer Whey Natural USA which is grass fed)
  • 1 handful of kale (optional)
  • Handful of goji berries (soak these for 15 minutes in water before placing them in the blender)
  • 1 tsp. of spirulina (Optional. Spirulina will turn the smoothie green. It is a rich plant protein that offers a host of health benefits (i.e. B-vitamins, iron,magnesium,etc.). This may not be for everyone but if you are looking to add vitamins to a snack mix in a small amount to your smoothie and give it a shot.
  • Blend for 45-60 seconds to make sure everything is chopped up.

4. Dark chocolate covered raw cashews w/ sea salt and cacao.

  • In a pot mix in ½ cup of dark chocolate as well as a small handful of organic cacao.
  • Melt the chocolate very slowly and add in the raw cashews (1/2 cup).
  • Cover the cashews with chocolate and place them on a plate and put them in the fridge for 1 hour to allow the chocolate to harden.
  • Sprinkle sea salt on the chocolate and place it in the fridge.

Note, when doctors tell you that chocolate is good for you they are not talking about candy bars they are talking about cacao. It is considered a super food and is very high in antioxidants.

5. Frozen banana with milk (I prefer raw milk but if you do not like the taste use regular milk)

  • Peel a banana and place it in a freezer bag for 4-5 hours or until it is frozen.
  • Take 1 cup of milk and pour it in the blender. 
  • Next add the banana and some cinnamon or dark chocolate (optional) to the mix.
  • Blend on high until it is thick and creamy (FYI, don’t add to much milk you want it to be think like a milk shake).
  • If you are someone who needs to eat a bowl of ice cream each night try this a few nights a week instead of the ice cream.

Here is a Bonus snack for you. Homemade avocado dip

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • ½ lemon squeezed
  • ¼ cup of a red onion chopped
  • ½ ripe tomato chopped
  • Handful of cilantro leaves chopped
  • Sea salt to taste

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and place this in the fridge for 30 minutes. Add the sea salt to taste. Chop everything up (Make sure the avocado is ripe) and eat with some chips or fresh veggies or add this to a chicken sandwich.

When it comes to snacking it’s really important that you enjoy what you eat. By no means am I telling you to stop eating some of your favorite snacks. I think pretzels and ice cream and candy bars are delicious. However, if you put a little effort into preparing some “healthier” alternatives you can still enjoy the taste of the food and reduce the amount of processed foods that you consume. Remember, food should be something that we enjoy and eat because we are hungry if you are an emotional eater you need to find ways to reduce the temptation to snack all day long on empty calories.

As always if you have questions or comments please send them my way and I will do my best to answer them.

Thank you and have a great day!

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

 

17 June 10:09 am

This week I am going to talk briefly about one of my favorite exercises for both upper body strength and power development. The exercise I am talking about is the pull-up. When I ask most people to do a pull-up their immediate response goes something like this “I can’t do pull-ups. I have not done any pull-ups since eighth grade gym class”. Most people give up before they ever try doing a single repetition.

The truth is pull-ups are hard to do, however, when done properly they are one of the best exercises for both power and upper body strength.

Here are 5 reasons why I love to do pull-ups:

  • They can help improve your posture: Why is this? Because most people sit all day at a desk or sit for long periods of time driving. Pull-ups with good form will force you to put yourself in a better position which in turn can improve your posture. When we sit all day we “turn off” certain muscles. Pull-ups will force you to work on some of your stabilizer muscles in your back and shoulder which in turn can improve your posture when working properly.
  • You can do them anywhere: As you will see in the attached video you do not have to belong to a gym in order to do pull-ups. If you live near a park head over to the jungle gym and get started.
  • They can help to build big strong shoulders: Instead of doing side dumbbell raises pick up some resistance bands and build some strong shoulders.
  • They can help you get faster:  Most people don’t believe me when I tell them this however next time you watch elite runners run a 100 meter dash take a look at their upper body and tell me if you think they do pull-ups? You won’t see any skinny sprinters running sub 10 seconds. The reason they can help improve your speed is because your “lat” muscles connect into your glute muscles which as we know are your “speed” muscles. A strong back equals fast sprinters.
  • They help build strong arms: Let’s face it, who wants to have skinny arms? Pull ups are a great way to increase both the size and the strength of your arms. With beach season upon us I am sure most people are looking to gain some muscle in their arms. With proper nutrition added into the mix you will see an increase in the size of your arms.

Before you tell me that you are unable to do any pull-ups I want you to watch the video link below. Everyone can start to do pull-ups today. All you need to do is follow the proper progressions in the video if you want to benefit from one of the best exercises for your body.

Check out this video link: Band pull-ups

Purchase bands here: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

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

 

10 June 11:15 am

Last week I was asked by someone “what is my favorite core exercise”. This is a question that I am asked probably 3-4 times per week by various people.  Over the past few years the topic of “core” training has been thrown around by doctors, coaches, therapists and weekend warriors. If you were to ask ten fitness professionals what their definition of core training was I guarantee that you would get ten different answers. The fact that people are talking about topics like this is actually good in my opinion. More people need to educate themselves on what they can do to improve their overall health and fitness.  The problem with a question like this is that some trainers will offer up exercises, that in my opinion, could potentially do more harm than good.

Before I share with you some video clips that I have put together I want to offer up five of my LEAST favorite core exercises.   What we all need to remember is that there is no perfect program. However, there are some exercises that could dramatically increase your chance of injury.

Here are five common core exercises that I believe you should avoid:

1. Regular crunches: I will do a full blog post in the near future as to why I dislike this exercise. I would not waste your time doing one regular crunch where you simply pull on your neck let alone multiple repetitions that a lot of people do at the end of their workout. This exercise could lead to back pain as well as neck pain due to the repetitive flexion that you go through while doing this movement.

2. Partner leg throw downs:  This is a popular exercise with a lot of boot camp instructors. I think the last time I did this was JV football (5th-6th grade) because we lost a game. The only thing this will get you is a sore back.

3. Seated crunch machine: This machine is a waste of space. Think about it for a second, I am going to sit down, lock my hips down and flex my spine over and over. This may be the worse piece of equipment in most commercial gyms. Please stop doing this.

4. Russian twists with a medicine ball: I’ll admit a mistake when I make one. I used to do this exercise a couple of times a week. The problem with this exercise is that most people get all of their movement from their back (Fyi, you do not want to do this, you want to get movement from your thoracic spine and hips. Fyi, your thoracic spine is the middle to upper portion of your back) and they end up twisting back and forth. This could set you up for an injury down the road. If done properly there may be a place for a rotation exercise similar to this however, the traditional Russian twist is not on my list of safe core exercises anymore.

5. Stability ball crunches:  I actually like using the stability ball for some exercises but not for a crunch. A friend of mine e-mailed a video the other day of a guy who did six minutes straight of crunches on a stability ball. Now, I don’t mind reverse crunches (I’ll share a video in the future) however, lying on this ball while pulling your neck over and over looks painful to me and not the least bit athletic. This has neck injury written all over it.

Below is an introductory video where I talk briefly about core training followed by three separate videos that cover a few of my favorite core exercises.

Please keep in mind that these are only a few exercises that you can choose from. As I stated above there is no perfect program. As a coach I try and learn something new every day. As an athlete, coach or someone simply looking to stay fit you owe it to yourself to educate yourself on various training topics so you can achieve optimal health and performance.

As always, if you have questions please feel free to contact me.

Thank you, 

Kevin Miller

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

03 June 12:34 pm

Yesterday I sat in the Toronto airport for over ten hours due to several flight delays. As I sat there I thought about what I wanted to write about this week and how I could tie my long delay and fitness together. What I came up with was five reasons why people continue to delay starting their fitness program. As I have stated in the past, fitness is different for everyone however, I want to provide solutions for people who continue to delay the start of their training program.

Reason No. 1: I don’t have time to get to the gym

This is one of the main complaints I hear from people. I understand and respect that you have a busy schedule but who says that you have to go to the gym. Here is workout that you can do at home with nothing more than your body weight:

A1) Body weight squats: Body weight squat

A2) Push up-ups: Push up (regular)

Start a timer and do 10 reps of squats followed by 10 push-ups. Rest 30 seconds and repeat this for 5-10 rounds. Every workout does not need to be long. At times I recommend short and intense training sessions over long low intensity sessions.

Reason No. 2: I don’t want to lift weights.

If you have never lifted weights before I can understand how you may be hesitant, however, aside from proper nutrition, lifting weights is one of the best ways to change your overall body composition. Instead of weights start by using resistance bands. Bands are a great way to increase your strength as well as improve your overall stability. Here's a good link to buy bands: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

Video: Total body band circuit (tutorial)

Reason No. 3: I’m hurt so I can’t exercise

If you're injured you must see a doctor however, unless you are in a full body cast I don’t see any reason why you cannot train. Here is an example that I will use. Let’s pretend that you have an injured right bicep. Assuming that you still have two legs and your left arm is okay I can think of plenty of exercises for you to do with. In fact, research has shown that if you train the uninjured arm with an exercise (i.e. single arm bench press) that your injured arm will benefit as well. Don’t use the excuse that you are injured. There is always something that you can improve upon (i.e. breathing patterns, rolling patterns, mobility, etc.)

Video: 1 arm DB bench press (neutral grip)

Reason No. 4: I’m too old to start a program.

To be honest when I hear this statement from people I just roll my eyes. Are you really ready to just give up?  Who says you are too old? Your doctor? Your spouse? Please, give me a break. I have seen people in their 80’s do the Ironman Triathlon so don’t give me the excuse that you are too old. Here is an exercise (Plank) that you can start doing today in order to see some strength gains.

Video: Plank w/ pvc

Reason No. 5: I don’t want to hurt myself

For many people this is a big concern. They are afraid that if they start a training program they will end up hurting themselves. I can see how this would be a concern for many people. The truth is there is always a risk when it comes to training and with the way most people have become sedentary the risk is high. However, if you follow the proper progressions and work with a qualified coach your chances of hurting yourself go down dramatically. For people just starting a training program I would recommend the following steps.

  • Get medical clearance from your doctor. Hire a qualified coach that can provide either an assessment or a screen. I personally recommend that you work with a coach who is familiar with the   Functional Movement Screen before you pick up a weight.  I would also seek out the expertise of someone who is familiar with the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI). The purpose of a screen is simply to “red flag” any movements that MAY be potentially dangerous.
  • Buy a heart rate monitor.
  • Track your heart rate variability (HRV) with Bioforce HRV. This piece of equipment alone can dramatically reduce your chance of injury. To find out more about this product go to www.8weeksout.com.

After 10+ hours I knew I would eventually get home but the wait was tough to handle. Don’t delay in starting your road to optimal health. Trust me, you will eventually reach your goals, however, you must take the first step forward.

Good luck!

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

27 May 9:19 am

 

This weekend is the unofficial start of summer. Families have packed their bags and have headed out of town in an effort to get away for some R&R. Some people like to get away and take a complete break from their training program. If that’s you, then enjoy the down time. For me, when I travel I like to stay active and train a few days because I find enjoyment in getting in a workout while on vacation. One thing to remember is that this is a great time to reduce your training volume and implement some new workouts. Here are five ways that you can stay fit while on vacation at the beach and still enjoy plenty of time with your family.

Tip No. 1: Train early in the morning

For me one of the best times to get in a workout at the shore is first thing in the morning. I don’t mean you need to wake up at 5 a.m. but rather head out around 7 a.m. for a quick 30-45 minute workout on the beach. Don’t worry you won’t be alone. You will see plenty of other people running on the beach and riding bikes on the boardwalk. The goal here is to enjoy the sunrise and let the stress from work melt away.  When you head back to your house at 7:45 a.m. you’re ready to start the day knowing you got in a good training session.

Tip No. 2: Go for a long walk on the beach

It’s okay if you slow down on vacation. Actually I recommend that you take a step back from some of your normal routines. If you take a spin class 3-4 times per week this week, put your spandex away and go for a long walk right by the waters edge. As you walk, focus on your breathing and enjoy the feeling of the sand between your toes. The benefits of walking in my opinion are underrated. For most people who sit at a desk all week long walking may be the best medicine you can take for your back pain.

Tip No. 3: Get in some band training

A fantastic piece of training equipment for you to use while at the beach is a resistance band. When most people thing of band training they think of doing mindless rotator cuff exercises. When done properly resistance band training is a tremendous way to implement strength training as well as cardio training at the same time.

Here is a sample workout: Red Band circuit

If you want to purchase resistance bands here's a good link where you can buy them.

Tip No. 4: Do some sprints on the beach

Remember when you were young and you would get to the beach and just play in the sand. You would run around with absolutely no worries. You would run back and forth from the water to your towel with buckets of water to fill the hole that your mom or dad just finished digging. For some reason as we get older we stop sprinting. I know what some of you are about to say “I can’t sprint anymore, I am too old”. I am not saying that you need to sprint 200 yards. Instead keep your workout short and up the intensity. Try doing this workout on the beach instead of running for two hours on the pavement.

Sprint Workout

  • 10 minute warm-up (Breathing drills, dynamic stretching, striders)
  • 10 x 30 yard sprints with a walk back to the start (If you want to make it really hard run in the deep sand).
  • Finish with 50 push-ups.

I guarantee that you will finish this workout feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. Remember you’re on vacation. Keep the workout short and intense.

Tip No. 5 Rent a kayak

A fantastic workout is kayaking. I am the furthest thing from an expert when it comes to this type of training however, the few times that I have used one of these I was able to get in a good workout in less than 30 minutes. This is a great way to get some upper body training as well as some core work. Just remember to wear a life jacket.

Well, there you have it. Five ways to train at the beach this summer. I’ll be sure to send some video clips when I head to the beach this summer so you can get an idea of how to implement some of these ideas into your program.

Enjoy the beach

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

20 May 3:02 pm

 

When I work with someone for the first time whether it is an athlete or someone looking to change their body composition one of the first things that I ask them for is a food log. The reason I do this is because I want to see what they are eating on a daily basis. We all know that athletes have different nutritional requirements than someone who sits at a desk all day long.  When I ask people for a three-day log it normally looks something like this:

Breakfast: Bagel with coffee or a bowl of cereal.

Lunch: Soup and salad or a sandwich from the cafeteria with a bag of chips and a fountain soda or  an energy drink

Snack: Diet coke and a pack of crackers from the vending machine or an energy bar.

Dinner: Chicken, rice and some green beans or eating out at a restaurant.

Snack: Bowl of ice cream.

If you quickly glance at the items listed above I would say this is a typical day for many of us. If you are an athlete and this is what you are eating on a daily basis I can guarantee you that you are missing out on some performance gains on the field or court due to your lack of nutrients.

I understand that we are all pressed for time and nutrition gets put on the backburner.  However, I truly believe that if you are skipping meals and not making food a priority, your performance will suffer and your changes of getting injured will increase. 

One of the most common things I hear from athletes is “I don’t have time to cook”.  In my opinion, if you make your nutrition a priority you will be surprised at the quality of food you can make with very little preparation. 

Here are five ways you can improve the quality of the foods that you eat:

  • Go shopping on Sunday and Wednesday.
  • Make a list of what you need to buy at the store.
  • Buy fresh local food whenever possible.
  • Buy the best food that you can afford.
  • Purchase a good cookbook that has simple recipes.

I understand that for some people the kitchen can be intimidating. Here are five (5) meals that you can make in less than 30 minutes.

 

Meal No. 1

Breakfast: Eggs with spinach, onions, hot sauce, avocado, red peppers, mushrooms

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

 

 

Meal No. 2

Lunch: Grilled chicken with red peppers, red onion, garlic, pico de galo, spinach on ciabatta bread with chips and pico de gallo.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 5- 10 minutes

 

 

 

Meal No. 3

Snack: Homemade energy bars –

Dark chocolate, sea salt, raisins, protein powder (vanilla), organic dates, almonds and peanut butter

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: None

(Note, you need to put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to get the chocolate to harden)

 

 

Meal No. 4

Dinner: Broiled Salmon with roasted peppers and zucchini and a side salad (onion, tomatoes, walnuts)

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes for fish and peppers

 

 

 

Meal No. 5:

Snack before bed: Protein Shake – Vanilla Whey plus strawberries, banana, kale, coconut oil and ice

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Blend: 30 seconds

Have a question for strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller? Leave a reply in the comment portion 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.

06 May 11:09 am

 

With Memorial Day right around the corner people are hitting the gym and pounding the pavement in a latch ditch effort to look and feel good on the beach or at the pool. We often see magazines that say you can get “ripped with only 15 minutes of training”. I’m sorry to disappoint you but I think you need to do a little more than that to make the gains that you want.  The good news is that you can definitely see some good results by setting aside 3-4 days per week for the next four weeks.

Here are five training tips for you to help you look better at the beach this summer:

Tip No. 1: Hit the weights

If you really want to change the way that your body looks you need to implement some strength training into your program. The good news is that if you are a beginner you only need to do a handful of exercises in order to see a change in your physique.  The key to strength training for a beginner is to start with the basics. Pick five to six total body exercises and perform these movements 3x per week for the next four (4) weeks.  In order to help shed some extra body fat  I would recommend the following movements:

  • Lower body: Box Squat  
  • Lower body: Step ups
  • Upper body: One-arm dumbbell row
  • Upper body : Dumbbell overhead press
  • Abdominals: Plank

Tip No. 2: Implement some speed training

Most people jog when they run. There is nothing wrong with jogging however, a great way to jumpstart your fitness and change your body is to ditch the high volume running for a while and instead implement some speed work into your routine. Why is this good for athletes? For one, you will increase your intensity which is always a good thing if you are looking for changes in your body. Also, speed work can be performed in less than 30 minutes. I don’t know about you but if I can cut my training volume down by 20-30 percent and see some nice gains I am going to do it.  Here is a workout that you can do on a track or treadmill (FYI, I always recommend a track over a treadmill). Workout: 10 minute warm-up, 5x200 meter runs  (75-80 percent effort) with a full recovery (2-3 minutes) in between each run.

Tip No. 3:  Train the muscles you can’t see

People tend to focus on the front side of their body when it comes to training. If you really want to change the way you look, focus on the backside of your body (i.e. glutes, hamstrings, upper back). It’s great if you have a six pack of ABS but what if your butt is as flat as pancake? Trust me when I tell you that when you focus more on the backside of your body the front side will also see some nice gains. Two exercises you need to implement this month are pull ups and deadlifts.

Tip No. 4:  Focus on recovery

It’s great if you can train hard but can you recover from the workout? Can you come back and do it again the next day? Remember one workout does not get you in shape. Your muscles and your body need good food in order for it to grow and repair the damage that you have done to it. Here is a good post workout shake: ½ cup of OJ, 1 banana, ½ cup of strawberries, 1 tbsp. of melted coconut oil, 1 scoop of grass fed whey protein (vanilla) and a handful of ice cups. Mix this up and drink after your workout.

Tip No. 5: Get your sleep

One of the best ways to change your body is to get quality sleep each and every night. If you are someone who has a little extra weight around their midsection make sleep a priority for the next 30 days. I guarantee the combination of strength training (3x per week), good nutrition and adequate amounts of sleep will change your body. Strive for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Remember the key to training is consistency and planning. Sit down this week and decide what days you will strength train and what days you will do your “cardio”. Often times less volume and higher intensity is more when it comes to going to the gym. Next week I am planning to provide to you exercise video clips that will show you some of the best exercises for you to implement into your training plan.

Have a great week!

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

 

29 April 11:47 am

 

On Sunday, May 5 over 40,000 runners will take part in the largest 10-mile road race in the United States, the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. For many this race kicks off the running season.  For the past several months both professional and amateur runners have been preparing for this day. The elite male runners will cross the line in under 45 minutes. The females will finish around 50 minutes.  For many of the runners their only goal on Sunday is to cross the finish line. Whatever your personal goal is for this race it’s important to make sure that in the final week of preparation that you take some steps to help you finish the race strong. During the final week you can’t really improve your fitness however, you can hurt your chances of having a great race if you don’t plan properly.   Below are 10 tips that can help you feel great at the finish line so that you can celebrate with your friends and family.

Tip No. 1: Taper

Your hard work is done. You have logged the miles and your body is ready to run fast on Sunday. During the final week of your training it’s important that you reduce your volume of training anywhere from 50-60 percent. However, you want to maintain your intensity of the sessions. During the last week you need to maintain a level of training volume that is low enough to allow for the body to eliminate fatigue and recover , but high enough that the body ‘s fitness during this period stabilizes.

Your goal this week is to think quality over quantity when it comes to running.  Set up the week to make sure that you take two days off (I would recommend Wednesday and Friday off) and allow your body to rest.

Tip No. 2: Get to bed early this week

Recovery is critical for runners. If you fail to get adequate sleep this week you may hurt your chances of having a great race. Your body needs a chance to rest and recover from all of the miles that you have logged in preparation for the 10 miler. I understand that it’s natural to have pre-race jitters (that’s a good thing). However, make sure that all week long you do your best to get a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  When we sleep our body repairs the damage that we have done to it so make sure that you make sleep a priority this week.

Tip No. 3: Stick to your plan

Every experienced runner knows that on race day you never try something new. It’s easy to head to the race expo and get caught up in all of the new gadgets and energy drinks. A big mistake that people make is to try something new on race day. Stick to your plan. Eat the same foods you have eaten during your training. Don’t buy new sneakers at the expo and run in them the next day. Have a plan and stick to it.

Tip No. 4: Start slow, finish fast

For many runners this is where they make a mistake. As you stand at the start line you are excited, you have tons of energy and you’re ready to run a PR (personal record). The gun goes off and after 3-4 minutes when the large crowd actually lets you start to run, you feel the need to try and make up time and run faster than normal. Don’t do it, ease into the race and allow your body time to warm-up. It’s always better to start slow and finish fast. Save a little gas in the tank for the final mile and finish strong.

Tip No. 5: Get to the race early

The Blue Cross Broad Street Run has over 40,000 runners signed up for this race. With a race like this you want to make sure that you allow plenty of time to get to the start line. Expect delays waiting for the subway system because the cars fill up quickly! Don’t think you can cut it close and arrive at the start line on time. Give yourself plenty of time to get to North Philadelphia for the start. The last thing your body needs is added stress. Wake up early and have a plan to arrive at the start at least 45 minutes early.

Tip No. 6: Carbo Load

If you ask any experienced runner they will tell you that you need to “carbo” load for a big race in order to have enough fuel to get you to the finish line. I agree that you should increase your carbohydrate intake in the final 2-3 days before the race. However, don’t carbo load all week long or you may feel sluggish by the end of week.  Instead what I would recommend is that you reduce the amount of carbohydrates early in the week (i.e. Monday-Wednesday).  During this time increase both your protein and fat intake (Example, instead of a plain bagel for breakfast eat a 2 egg omelet with peppers and spinach with an avocado and some strawberries). You can still eat carbohydrates just cut back a little. On Thursday gradually increase the amount of quality carbohydrates that you eat from REAL food. Try and avoid processed food during this time. The majority of your carbohydrates should come from sweet potatoes, fruits, vegetables as well as some grains (i.e. pasta, rice, etc.). During this time do not eliminate proteins and fat. Simply increase the consumption of quality carbohydrates.

Tip No. 7: Have a test run with your clothes

Pick a day during the week and go for a 10-15 minute run in the same clothes that you will wear on race day. Make sure that they fit comfortably. After the run, wash them and pack them away for the race. It’s really important to feel good in the clothes that you will run in so don’t overlook this simple strategy.

Tip #8: Have throw away clothes

If this is your first big race expect to see a lot of clothes on the side of the road as you start. The clothes that you see are “throw away clothes” that the runners have donated to charity. You have no idea what the weather is going to be like on race day so it’s important that you dress warm and have clothes to strip away at the start. I would recommend an old sweatshirt as well as an old pair of sweat pants. About ten minutes before the gun goes off strip down to your race gear and get moving.

Tip No. 9: Bring toilet paper and wipes

At the start of the race people get nervous. When we get nervous we often have to go the bathroom. Do you think there is enough toilet paper for 40,000 people? My guess is no, so why not pack your own and be prepared.

Tip No. 10: Hydrate

As an athlete you know that you need to properly hydrate in order to have your body work both efficiently and at its peak. The mistake that people often make is that they simply drink water to hydrate. Don’t get me wrong, water should always make up the majority of your hydration, however, you need to mix in some other options in order to have the proper balance of electrolytes. My recommendations in addition to water are the following: 

  • Coconut water 
  • Nuun
  • Adding sea salt to drinks
  • Adding sea salt to your diet in the days leading up to the race.

If you have done the necessary work up to this point you are ready to have a great race. If this is your first Blue Cross Broad Street run just go out and have fun. Have a goal in mind but the real goal should be to finish strong. I believe if you implement some of these tips into your current regimen you’ll see an improvement in your overall time. I wish you the best in the race and finish strong!

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