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.
- Introduction: Blog Intro
- Anterior core: Anterior core
- Lateral core: Lateral core
- Rotation core: Rotation
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.
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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/
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.)
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.
Have a question for Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.
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.
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Coaching cue: Lead with your hips and keep your back flat.
Coaching cue: Keep your chin tucked and drive with your legs as you stand up.
Coaching cue: Keep your feet pointed straight ahead and your back flat.
Coaching cue: Push your knees out, brace your abdominals and keep your chest up.
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.
Have a question for strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave question in the comments portion below.
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.
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
- 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.
It’s race day, the alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m. and you jump out of bed. Today is the day that all of your hard work is going to pay off. Although you were unable to get a good night sleep last night, you feel energized because today you are one of the select few who get the opportunity to run the Boston Marathon. For the past six months this race has been at the center point of your life. You have sacrificed a lot to get to this point but it’s worth it because as a runner this is your chance to stand side-by-side with the some of the best runners in the world.
As you await the start of the race in Hopkinton you are filled with so many emotions. On the one hand, you are nervous and you ask yourself, “Should I be here with all of these great runners?” On the other hand, you say to yourself, “I deserve to be here, today is going to be a great day.” Because once I cross the line, I will forever be known as a Boston Marathon finisher.”
As the gun goes off, you race down the hill with 35,000 runners, all of whom have the same goal, which is to “just get to Boylston Street.” As you go through the towns, you are greeted by cheering fans who offer you high fives and drinks. You are greeted by signs that make you both laugh (Kiss me, I’m gluten free) and cry (26.2 miles for the kids from Sandy Hook). Over the course of the next 26.2 miles, you have a roller coaster of emotions, but that is to be expected because nobody said this would be easy.
As you arrive at Boston College, the crowds begin to grow and the course becomes more challenging. You attack Heartbreak Hill with everything you have and the cheers and college kids help you get the top. As you approach the city, you see the Citgo sign and you know that you are getting close to your destination - Boylston Street - it’s there where the final 200 yards will be easy.
As you make the climb to Boylston Street, all that remains is a sharp left turn and 200-300 yards to one of the best moments in all of sports: the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This is the easiest part of the race for the runners. They know that this is where their family and friends have been all day for a glimpse of greatness.
This is where, as I ran with my wife last Monday, everything changed for so many people.
My wife, Mary Jo, crossed the finish line approximately 30 minutes prior to the bombing that we all witnessed on television last week. She is one of the lucky ones able to experience one of the greatest finish lines in all of sports. She was lucky and I thank God that she was lucky. As we all know, so many others were not as lucky as Mary Jo.
As we stood in our hotel room and watched what was happening approximately a quarter of mile away, our hearts were filled with such sadness for the victims of this tragic act. How could this be? Thirty minutes ago, I was running down Boylston with my wife ready to celebrate all of her hard work and dedication. In a moment’s notice, tragedy struck so many people and changed a city forever.
As we watched the news unfold, I looked down at my phone and I had over fifty text messages from friends and relatives. People wanted to know if we were okay. It was amazing to me that so many people dropped everything and reached out to me to make sure that Mary Jo was OK.
Over the course of the next day, we see several people showing incredible love and support to the runners. My wife spoke to a girl who had not finished the race; however, she was given a medal by a stranger who had crossed the line before the bomb. He simply walked up to the girl and, without hesitation, gave her his medal because he realized she did not get a chance to finish. Runners are an interesting group of people. We are known for having some pretty strange habits and tendencies (i.e. We consider GU food). I am a runner and I can attest to this. However, one thing that I have witnessed firsthand over the years is that runners are good people. We support each other during the race and shake hands at the finish. We stop if a runner is hurt, even if we are having the race of our life.
What makes the Boston Marathon the greatest running race in the world is that everyone who lines up in Hopkinton realizes that the people next to you have made the same sacrifices as you (months of training, stricter diet, long runs in the rain, snow and 20 degree weather), and with that comes respect and admiration. You see runners helping one another at the end of the race, cheering each other on to continue, some arm and arm holding one another up as their tired legs are cramping all having the same idea… “We finish and we finish together.”
We all witnessed the amazing courage of so many people last Monday. In an instant, spectators ran and helped total strangers just so they would not have to suffer alone. As I stood on the street in Boston last Monday, so many emotions were running through my head but I kept coming back to the innocent people who, on a picture perfect day, thought they would be hugging someone at the finish line and instead were hanging on to their life. Having three kids of my own, I was numb to the fact of what could have been.
Too often we get caught up in the little things in life. One of the keys to having optimal health is knowing that people genuinely care about you. I hope that everyone who reads this has a network of friends like my wife and I because I realized last Monday that when you’re scared, you need to have people who you can turn to for help.
For the people who lost loved ones, I can’t imagine what you are feeling. However, I hope that you realize that you are not alone and that the running community will always be there to support you.
Have a question for strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller? Leave a message in the comments below.
As a society, we want information fast. Given all the technology at our fingertips we expect to see instant results. When it comes to your health and fitness I’m sorry to say that it takes time to see results. A good hard workout does not get you in great shape. What gets you in “shape” is a well thought out program and plan done consistently over time. With that being said there are some ways you can help jump start you fitness plan.
Below are five things that you can do this week that will get you headed in the right direction and improve the way you feel.
1. Get quality sleep: I tell people all the time one of the best things that you can do for your health as well as your body composition is to get quality sleep. What does this mean? Get into a routine where from Sunday until Thursday night you fall asleep every night around the same time. Why is this important? Because when we sleep our body produces growth hormone, which allows us to recover and repair damage that we have done. Over time the better sleep patterns we have the better our body will be able to recover. I would recommend that you strive for 7-8 hours each night.
2. Get some vitamin D: In the book "Athletes Faster, Quicker, Stronger with Vitamin D" the author John Cannell states, “As things stand today, more than three-fourths of all Americans are vitamin D-deficient”. The reason that having adequate levels of vitamin D is important is that it has been shown to reduce your chances of getting certain cancers, reduces stress fractures and may increase your reaction time. An interesting fact stated in his book says that 90 percent of vitamin D comes from the sun. Now, I know people are going to say that the sun “causes cancer”. I’m not ready to say that we should not use sun-screen, however, I believe that 10-15 minutes of daily exposure to sun is very beneficial to our body. If you are afraid of exposure to the sun then I would recommend a good quality supplement because if you think you are getting your vitamin D from the milk you drink, think again. Dr. Loren Cordain author of the book The Paleo Answer states that you would need to drink about twenty (20) eight ounce glasses of fortified milk each day to meet the daily requirement of vitamin D (2000 IU’s).
3. Lift weights: What’s wrong with being strong? For some reason a lot of people just want to ‘tone’ their muscles. Okay, so you want to tone but you don’t want to get strong? Are you afraid of getting too big and too fast from lifting? I’m sorry to tell you that if you are afraid of getting ‘big and bulky’ from lifting it simply will not happen (Most of us who train regularly wish it were that easy). What will happen by starting a lifting program is that you will increase lean muscle mass, improve bone density, as well as rev up your metabolism. Implementing compound movements (i.e. front squats, deadlifts, kettlebell movements as well as body weight movements) will leave you feeling refreshed and stronger. So, my advice to you is to hit the weights. However, like anything follow the proper progressions and start slow.
4. Shop the perimeter of the store: When you walk into a food store do you feel overwhelmed? Do you look around and say to yourself where do I start? Here is a tip that I am sure that you have heard. If you spend 90 percent of the time on the outside of the store in the produce, fish, meat and dairy sections you will be well on your way to feeling better. Here is where we find fresh foods that are loaded with vitamins and minerals. At the checkout counter you should be walking to your car with more clear bags than boxes. Whenever possible purchase the best food that you can afford. If that means organic and grass fed, then fantastic. If you are on a tight budget then look for the freshest food that you can afford.
5. Improve your breathing patterns: As we get older we tend to lose our mobility. We often feel tight and stiff from sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours. If you have a job that requires you to spend 3-4 hours at a time in a car, I would be willing to bet that you have back and/or neck pain. Would you believe me if I told you that by improving the way you breath, you could potentially reduce your pain and increase your mobility? I was very fortunate to take a course by the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) last November at Endeavor Sports Performance and one of the big take home messages from the course was that by implementing diaphragmatic breathing patterns you may be able to increase your mobility, reduce stress and potentially reduce pain. Up until that seminar I always knew that breathing when you run or lift weights was important, but I never realized how big of an effect that diaphragmatic breathing can have on an athlete or a person in pain. A simple drill to do each day is to take in 10 deep breaths. Inhale through your nose (your belly and sides should expand) and then exhale through your mouth. Try doing this after a workout to speed up your recovery process.
The five items listed above if implemented correctly can kick start your training program. Remember, one workout does not get you in shape. Optimal health is about being consistent with good habits as well as having a balanced plan in place.
Have a question for strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller? Leave a message in the comments below.
I would like to welcome you to my first blog post for the Philadelphia Union. Over the course of the season I will be providing a series of tips, videos and articles that will hopefully help you improve your overall health and lifestyle. As the strength and conditioning coach for the team one of my roles is to assist the other members of the technical staff in ensuring that the players are fully prepared for game day. Each week I offer players tips on nutrition and recovery as well as oversee their strength and fitness program with the other members of the staff.
My hope for this blog is to be able to provide to you practical tips that you can implement if you chose to into your routine.
Before I share my first post I want to talk briefly about my philosophy. When it comes to having a healthy lifestyle I think this means different things for different people. For me I like to focus on the following areas:
- Ability to manage stress
- Being happy with what you do on a daily basis at work.
- Having a balanced nutrition plan in place.
- Having a vision for what you want to accomplish.
- Being consistent with an exercise program.
We could talk all day about what “being healthy” means but for me it has nothing to do with just being “thin or eating organic food”. Yes, nutrition and body composition play a role in your overall health however there is much more to it than that. When it comes down to it I believe in order to improve your overall health you need to be consistent with your day to day choices and you need to be really good at the basics. I’m sorry to tell you but there are no “quick fixes”. Just like sports, it takes time to develop good habits. Over time you will see changes that will hopefully improve how you feel and your outlook on life. Hopefully over the course of the 2013 season I can share some insight for you that can help you achieve a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.
For the first post I want to talk briefly about setting performance goals. This time of the year it’s really hard to get motivated to get to the gym and train or go outside for a walk. The weather is colder than normal and your motivation levels are probably pretty low. The summer is still a few months away so it’s hard to motivate yourself to get to the gym. If this describes how you are currently feeling I may have a solution for you. One of the best ways to get motivated to change is to set a performance goal for you to achieve over the next 1-2 months. People talk about goals all the time but rarely do most of us ever achieve them.
For example, people will say “I want to lose 20 lbs.” but after three weeks they get really tired of eating salads (FYI, this is not how you lose weight, more on this later). Other people say I want to run a 10k but after they develop shin splints they stop (We’ll talk more about running in the future and how to avoid this). Either way we have good goals in mind but 9 out of 10 times we fail. I’m guilty of this as well. So, how can you ensure that you will obtain your goal that you have set forth? You need to write it down today and set a performance goal. It needs to be something that you can MEASURE.
Here are three examples you can use:
1. My goal is to run an 8-minute mile pace at Broad St this year: This is a great goal if you are running the race. Ok, you now have something you can measure. You know exactly how fast you have to run. In order to accomplish this you will need to do speed work and time yourself. There are several ways to do this you just need to make this a priority. Get out on the track, time yourself and see where you are TODAY and where you need to be on race day.
2. My goal is to take 10,000 steps each day: In order to improve your health you don’t have to run. By simply walking and moving you can improve your health. All you have to do is TRACK your progress. There are several devices that you can purchase that can track the number of steps that you take each day. If you sit at a desk for eight hours each day there is a good chance that you have low back pain and may have put on a few pounds. Get up and move. Have a goal of 10,000 steps each day.
3. My goal is to be able to do one pull-up. This sounds pretty simple right? For a pro athlete, yes it’s rather easy however for the majority of people it’s a very challenging task. I am not talking about using the pulley system at your gym to help you accomplish this goal. I am talking about 1 full hanging overhand pull-up. If you currently can’t do this than this could be a great goal for you to try and obtain. Take the next month and train towards this goal. I guarantee that if you can go from zero pull-ups to one pull-up over the course of the month you will feel much stronger at the end of the month. Again, we can measure progress for this goal.
These are just three examples of what you can do. In the end if you want to change the way you look and feel about yourself you have to set goals. I believe setting performance goals is a much better way to improve your overall health than by just saying “I want to in shape”. Start today, right down one performance goal and don’t make any excuses. You’re the only one who really knows what you want so get started today.
Have a question for strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller? Leave a message in the comments below.