Blog

15 July 4:38 pm

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

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

Tip No. 1: Eat a salad every day

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

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

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

Tip No. 2. Cut back on your portion size

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

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

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

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

Tip No. 4: Get your vitamin D levels checked

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

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

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

Tip No. 5: Body weight training

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

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

Now keep it going!!!

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

08 July 1:14 pm

Unfortunately, as a society the overall health and wellness of many Americans is headed down a dangerous road. By the year 2030 over 50 percent of the population is expected to be obese. With illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome on the rise I can’t help but be concerned about the health and future of our kids. While reading the book "The Real Truth About Sugar," author Samantha Quinn states that children as young as six months old are already obese. How is this possible? She states that some infant formulas are as much as 10.5 percent sugar as well as 43.2 percent corn syrup solids (similar to a can of soda). The reality is that if we don’t pay closer attention to what we consume on a daily basis we may be putting ourselves and our children at risk for certain health issues.

The good news is that we can have an immediate impact on the health and well-being of our children if we “lead by example”. Many of the illnesses that plague us today can be reversed if we acknowledge the problem and face the facts.  Let’s face it even though our kids might think that their parents are not cool they look up to us. They trust us and as much as they may “fight” us they want us to lead them in the right direction in terms of optimal health. As a parent, I understand the challenges that parents face when it comes to teaching our children how to live a healthy lifestyle. It is our responsibility to ensure that we give them every opportunity to thrive both physically and emotionally.

This week I want to share with you five ways that you can immediately improve the overall health and wellness of both you and your children.

Tip  No. 1:  Play with your kids 20 minutes a day: It may appear to be rather easy but all of us (myself included) get busy and sometimes spending time with our kids gets pushed to the side. Between work and parental responsibilities the day goes by rather fast. Make it a point to put away your cell phone and head outside and MOVE. If you have little kids play tag. If your kids are older play “hoops”, soccer or simply have a catch with them.  If your kids don’t like sports go for a walk or ride a bike. The goal is to increase your heart rate as well as spend time with your kids.

Tip  No, 2: Eliminate soft drinks, fruit juices and most sports drinks: The majority of these drinks are filled with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Although we don’t know the immediate impact it has on our health, there is compelling evidence that consistent consumption of these drinks leads to obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and leptin resistance to name a few (FYI, Leptin is the hormone that tells us when we are full). Since HFCS has been created there has been a dramatic rise in a number of diseases and illness in adults as well as kids.

Tip No. 3: Take them food shopping: A great way to introduce kids to a healthier lifestyle is to take them food shopping. Whether you go to a farmers’ market or head to your local grocery store, introducing kids to food shopping gives them a greater respect of where their food comes from. Teach them that the perimeter of the store is where you find the healthier options (i.e. fruits, meats, dairy and veggies). Let your children see your food bill so they have a respect for how much it costs to provide nutritious meals for your family.

Tip No. 4: Exercise during TV commercials: As a kid I loved to watch TV. Sure I played lots of sports and was active after school, however, I enjoyed TV just like everyone else. Try implementing this game with your kids. Next time you sit down to watch TV pick two body weight exercises that you can do during the commercials. Make it a game. Keep track of the number of “reps” that you do during the commercial. The best exercises to do for this game would be the following:

  • Push ups
  • Plank for time
  • Body weight squats
  • Couch push-ups (This is a great progression if you are unable to do a regular push up. Simply put your hands on the end of the couch and perform a push up.)

Tip No. 5: Get outside and run sprints: Kids love to sprint. They don’t want jog. They don’t want to do “tempo runs”. They want to sprint and play tag. Think about it for a second. Kids have figured out the best way to do “intervals”. They run for 5-10 seconds and then they walk. They repeat this for a long time whenever they are at the park or on the playground. Why not do this at home with them and make a game of it. As adults I think we need to “play” more. We need to think back to when a lot of us were in good shape and it often revolves around games. Pick 1-2 days per week and instead of doing a class at the gym play a game with your kids (i.e. touch football, run the bases - do kids even know how to play this?, walk to a park and play hoops).

As parents it’s our responsibility to educate our kids on the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle. Times have changed. We all know that kids as well as adults have more distractions which could have a negative impact on our health. The good news is that by taking some small steps you can dramatically improve the health of both yourself and your family. The benefits from the suggestions listed above are many but most importantly you are teaching your kids the importance of health and exercise while at the same time spending valuable time with them.

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

02 July 3:40 pm

After a heavy loss against the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy, 4-1, we needed a quick turnaround at home against Chicago Fire.  Three minutes into the game, I took a corner kick, the ball got back to me and on my first touch I crossed it back in the box.  Jack Mc headed it in the goal and we led 1-0 early in the game and it was the final result. This was my fourth assist of the year. It felt good to get a win at home and have a clean sheet before having to road trip in Canada. First stop was at the Eastern conference leader Montreal.

This game was crazy, we lost, 5-3. We made many mistakes in the game but we never gave up and tried to come back on the scoreboard. I scored my 2nd goal of this season, and it was the goal that brought us back to 4-3 and gave us some hope to tie the game in the last five minutes. It came from a Sheanon Williams long throw, as I was waiting on the top of the box. The ball came right at me on my chest, I brought it down on the ground with my right foot and quickly took a shot with my left foot before the defender could block me. I was very pleased with my goal because I did everything right in the execution technically. And it was a long time since my first goal in the opening game so it felt really good.

The week after we flew to Toronto, I don’t have much to say about this game. I played as a forward but it was a very frustrating game for me because I didn't touch the ball much and at the end I was not really happy with my performance and I think the team overall felt the same way. We tied the game 1–1 in the last minute on a goal by guess who? Jack Mc again. It was his 10th goal of the season. Now it was time to come back home and host the Columbus Crew.

We were very motivated to get three points for the game before having a little break. We played an amazing first half with three goals and that ended up being the final score, 3-0. We definitely needed a win like that at home for our fans and for our confidence. It showed us that our team is capable of that type of performance. In this game I got credited for two assists. The first one came from one of my corner kicks and Sheanon Williams scored his first goal of the season with an acrobatic finish.

The second began with great pressure from our forwards, I anticipated the pass to the left back and stole the ball from him. I pushed forward with the ball, entered the box on the right side and saw Conor Casey making a run into the first post. He did a great finish with a diving header. I started this game as a right midfielder and I think that I played my best game of the season so far and I hope there are more to come. 
 

Thank you for your support, I'll talk to you soon.
 

Merci beaucoup!!!

Sébastien Le Toux, No. 11

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.

30 May 12:12 pm

We finished the month of April with two away games.

The first was in Washington, D.C. and we won 3-2 against D.C. United. I didn't play this game - I was on the bench but I didn't come in. I was happy about the win but a little bit disappointed to not play in the game. The week after, we played New England and we lost 2-0. I was on the bench again for the start of this game, but played the last 30 minutes. However I was not able to help my team win this game.

We came back home at the beginning of May and played against Seattle. Seattle was my first team in America. I spent three years there (two in USL, one in MLS). It's always nice to play your old team and see familiar faces, especially when you had good memories with this club. Unfortunately I was on the bench again and came in the game for the last five minutes. We tied 2-2 with two goals in one minute by Danny Cruz. After this game, we knew that we had a big week coming with three games.

So after losing points at home against Seattle, we needed a win in Chicago. The score was 0-0 when I came in with 30 min left. I played as a right midfielder, and at the 75th minute, Antoine Hoppenot won a free kick in the midfield, very close to where I was. At this moment, I looked up and saw Jack making eye contact with me and I knew he wanted the ball played behind the center defender. I decided to play the free kick quickly because their defense was sleeping and Jack made a good run behind them.

With a little bit of luck, I played the perfect ball and it went in Jack's steps and he did the rest. We won this game 1-0 and it felt good for me to play a part in creating the winning goal. I was hoping that this good performance would get me back in the starting lineup, which it did. Although the loss against LA Galaxy was disappointing, it has added even more fuel to the fire to win the upcoming games. Hopefully by the time you read this blog, we'll have ended this month on a high note.

That's it for this month, I will talk to you again soon.

Merci beaucoup !!

Sebastien Le Toux 

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.