Goal Oriented

10 April 9:49 am

If you were to walk into any gym you would see people of all shapes and sizes exercising. You may see the guy in the corner finishing up a set of “ABS” and then lifting up his shirt to see if he now has developed a six pack. You may see the business man texting on his phone as he spins aimlessly on a bike. The point that I want to stress is that everyone has their own way of training which is fine but I would like to share with you five habits of successful exercise.

1. Exercise must be mindful

In her book "Deep Nutrition," Dr. Catherine Shanahan, M.D. talks about the benefits of mindful exercise for fat loss. Let  me ask you a question, do you have a plan every time you go into the  gym or do you just “wing it” and go through the same routine day in and day out?  Do you zone out on the bike while watching Judge Judy? Your mind needs to play a key role in your training. Here is one way you can do this. This week either train outside or try something totally new to stimulate a new response for your body.

2. Monitor your progress

If you are a runner do you track your distance? If your goal is fat loss are you tracking your RECOVERY between intervals? My point is you need to monitor your results. For less than $100 you can purchase a very good heart rate monitor. Instead of just saying “I feel better” let's track some numbers to show the real benefits of your hard work. If we start to measure something we can then improve on our results.

3. Have the END in mind

What is your goal? What are you trying to obtain? Is it fat loss your after or is your goal to do ten pull ups? Having the end in mind BEFORE your start is a powerful motivator for people.

4. Everything Matters

Congratulations on having just finished a 45 minute spin class at 6 am. Good for you. However if you go home and eat all processed food, drink energy drinks and caffeine all day and stay up past midnight playing Candy Crush  you will see no benefits from the spin class. We all know that sleep, hydration, nutrition and happiness all play a key role in our health but how many of us are giving our bodies what it actually needs. Contrary to what most people think over the course of the day the “little things” really matter in the end.

5. Time Management

We are all pressed for time these days. Some people are fortunate and they may have 60-75 minutes per day to train. Others like me have a smaller window where we need to manage our day to ensure that we get in a training session. When I go to the gym I see so many people wasting time. They may do a set and then for the next three minutes complain about how the sauna is broken again for the third time  this month or you have the group of ladies who argue about one person taking "their spin bike."

Give me a break. Next time you train have a plan and get after it. I'm not saying you can't say hello to people but your time is precious. Get in, get out and get on with your day!

Remember you can start to build good healthy habits and monitor your progress you will start to see some nice gains in how you look, feel and perform.

Good luck!

Have a question for Union fitness coach Kevin Miller? Leave a comment below. 

25 March 2:55 pm

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

Workout No. 1: Hill Repeats

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

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

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

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

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

Week 5: Omit. No hill running this week.

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

Workout No. 2: Kettlebell circuit

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

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

1. Kettlebell swings: five (5) reps

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

2. Kettlebell goblet squat: five (5) reps

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

3. Push ups: ten (10) reps

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

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

Workout No. 3: Head to the park

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

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

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

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

Train hard and train smart!

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

 

 

10 March 4:41 pm

In preparation for a Major League Soccer season, a lot of time and consideration goes into what the players need to play at such a high level each and every week.  As fans you see the finished product but as coaches we have to assemble a plan that gives our players the best chance for success.  During the preseason we have several things we want to work, some of the key areas that we focus on are the following:

  • Building a strong aerobic base and alactic energy system
  • Improving movement quality off the ball
  • Building a strong base of strength
  • Implementing a solid nutrition program
  • Focusing on acceleration and deceleration (both with and without the ball)
  • Implementing a recovery plan
  • Stress and fatigue management
  • Assessment and movement screening for each player

It’s naïve to think that every player is going to arrive in camp in great shape. One of the great things about preseason training is that you get to spend quality time (5-6 weeks) on the road with the players and find out what they excel at and what areas they may need to improve upon. Every athlete I have ever come in contact can improve in at least 1-2 areas.  As the fitness coach it’s my responsibility to work with the coaching and medical staff to try to identify what areas may be lacking and develop a   plan to ensure that every player is progressing towards the end goal which is the chance to play at a high level each and every week.

Below are five (5) key fitness/training related areas that we focus on during the preseason:

1. Individual screening, assessments and testing for each player

One of the first things we do is look at each player individually and screen them.  It is my job along with the medical staff to screen each player so we can assemble an individual plan for the guys. To accomplish this we came up with the following plan:

Functional Movement Screen

This is a seven point screen that was created by Gray Cook and Lee Burton. This has been around since 1998 and is currently being utilized by thousands of coaches across the world. The goal is to look at fundamental movement patterns to identify what areas players may be deficient in and to identify any major asymmetries that may exist. It’s simply a screen to try and identify any limitations in movement that may cause an injury down the road.

Additional Screening/Assessments

  • Breathing patterns
  • Pelvic alignment
  • Omega wave testing: This provides detailed information on players cardiac, metabolic and central nervous system readiness.

Speed

  • 10 meter and 30 meter sprint times

Power

  • Vertical Jump testing
  • Transition speed: Change of direction drill (30 yd. test to assess transition/change of direction speed)

Aerobic system

  • Beep Test

Upper Body Test

  • Pull-ups
  • Lower body assessment: single leg squat test

2. Developing the aerobic and alactic system

During the course of the game certain players can run as much as 6-7 miles. In order to be able to sustain this kind of effort a strong aerobic base needs to be in place to play at this level.  In order to progress the players each week we attempted to develop their aerobic system by incorporating as much movement with the ball as possible. We did not go out and run at a steady state for 60-75 minutes but rather the technical staff did an excellent job of incorporating as much work with the ball as possible.  Players really like this because they are working on their skill with the ball while at the same time we are building their aerobic base. We have to remember we are training soccer players not cross country runners.

An efficient aerobic system is critical for the success of our players.  To accomplish this we monitored the players by watching their heart rate as well as their recovery between movements and drills. An addition to making sure that the players have a strong aerobic base it’s critical that we make speed (alactic system) a priority in the training. A strong aerobic system will help the alactic (speed) system work efficiently.  In order to do this, players need to be alert and fatigue needs to be low to improve speed.  All of our speed work is done in the beginning of the training session after our movement prep and before fatigue may set in. Intensity is high (runs of 10-30 yards) and recovery is long (1-2 minutes) when we try and improve a players speed. As the season progresses we will increase the distance of the run (30-60 yards) and manipulate the recovery times to get the adaptations that we are looking for.  

When it comes to speed players will run faster without the ball than with the ball so implement speed training early in the session without the ball to ensure that players are running at top speeds.

3. Build a solid base of strength

As a strength coach I am always looking to make our players stronger.  I believe it’s one area that is often overlooked with soccer players.  During preseason there is so much to accomplish in a short time that strength training can sometimes be pushed to the side. I am very fortunate to have a coaching staff that understands the role that strength training plays in the development of our players. With that being said we try to focus on BASIC movement patterns that would allow our players to build a solid foundation for the season that we can build upon.  Below are some of the basic movement patterns that we try to focus on during preseason.

Single leg strength

  • Body weight squats to a bench
  • Hip hinge pattern (deadlifts, reaches)
  • Rear foot squats
  • Hip extension patterns

Squatting patterns

  • Goblet squats
  • Front squats
  • Pulling patterns

Pull-ups

  • DB rows
  • Band rows
  • Pushing
  • Several variations of push ups
  • DB bench press variations
  • Overhead pressing

Lunges

  • Reverse
  • Lateral
  • Core

Anterior core training: Roll outs

  • Turkish Get Ups (Starting with the lowest progression and advancing)
  • Rolling/Crawling
  • Supine (lying on your back) to prone (stomach) to quadruped (all fours)

Note: We do not perform any crunches with the players.

Deceleration

  • Jumping
  • Linear/lateral

4. Nutrition and Hydration

At the end of the day nutrition and the quality of food that our athletes consume plays a critical role in how they will recover and perform on the field. I truly believe that if you have two athletes with the same skill and aerobic system the one with the better nutrition will outperform the other athlete on the field.

I try and keep it very simple for the players when it comes to nutrition. Everyone is different and my goal is to provide simple yet effective recommendations based off of what I have been able to learn from experts in the field of nutrition. Experts worth reading, in my opinion, include Robb Wolf, John Berardi, Brian St. Pierre and Catherine Shanahan to name a few.

  • Eat real unprocessed food as much as possible
  • Learn to cook simple nutritious meals
  • Consume quality meats, fats and carbohydrates on a daily basis
  • Buy local food whenever possible
  • Make hydration a priority by limiting the amount of sport drinks and energy drinks
  • On a daily basis consume 5-6 servings of vegetables and fruits.

Always have good healthy snack options with you for when you get hungry. This can be as easy as having a bag of homemade trail mix with you in case you get hungry.

5. Recovery

At the end of the day training is easy. I don’t mean it is easy to train for 2-3 hours each day but rather when we train we cause a disruption on our body that signals a response. It’s that response that helps us grow and adapt. If we want to reap the benefits of a particular training session we MUST develop a good recovery plan for our players.  As I have stated above everyone is different and some players respond to one recovery method while another player may not respond to that particular stimulus. To keep things simple we try and provide a few options to the players.  Here is a short list of some of the strategies that we implement with the players:

  • Massage
  • Post workout nutrition
  • Chiropractor treatments
  • Breathing techniques
  • Quality sleep every night
  • Contrasts in water
  • Foam rolling/stretching

The MLS season is very long and demanding. Injuries can‘t be prevented but we can reduce a player’s chance of getting hurt.  As the fitness coach my number one goal is to do everything possible to keep the players healthy and provide to them the necessary tools that can keep them on the field. I truly believe what the players do off of the field is just as important as what they do on the field.  If you are a coach at the high school or club level don’t try and implement all of the strategies above right away. Educate yourself on a few of the tips listed above and read as much as possible from experts in their field. The more we can educate our players the better off they will be when it comes time to play the game.

 Good luck with your training!

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

19 February 1:11 pm

This week I want mix it up a little and instead of focusing on one topic I want to write a post about ten (10) quick fitness tips. I hope that one of these tips will help you reach your fitness and health goals in 2014.

1. When it comes to warming up most athletes would rather skip the warm up and get right into their training. I understand that things like foam rolling and dynamic movements are not the most exciting drills, however, I believe a proper warm up sets the tone for training. I truly believe spending 15-20 minutes at the start of every session on soft tissue and range of motion drills/movement patterns is important to your long term health.

2. Running wind sprints/gassers at the end of training is NOT speed training. Doing these types of runs has its place when it comes to training.  However, if your goal is speed training you need to do your speed work at the beginning of your training session when your central nervous system is alert and fresh. Also, the time spent doing speed training should be short with a long recovery between each run.

3. High school female athletes would all benefit from incorporating strength training into their routine. Simple total body movements like kettlebell deadlifts, band assisted pull-ups and one-arm rows would go a long ways towards improving their strength and performance. In my experience, female athletes who can demonstrate adequate levels of strength both perform better on the field/court and have a lesser chance of injury.

4. If you have chronically tight hamstrings find someone who can teach you how to reposition your pelvis and breath more efficiently instead of just lying on your back and cranking in your hamstrings. You will be amazed how simple solutions can affect how your hamstrings feel. I would recommend that you seek out the expertise of someone who has taken a course by the Postural Restoration Institute.

5. Instead of following the latest diet fad in an effort to lose fat listen to your body and find out what works for you. Eat real food, make small changes that can eventually become habits and finally look at your health as a long term plan not a quick fix.

6. Going for a walk outside is a great way to reduce your stress and improve your health.

7. If you want abs I would recommend that you look for them in the kitchen not at the seated crunch machine. Clean up your nutrition and implement strength training into your routine and you may find your abs by summer.

8. The majority of runners would benefit greatly by implementing both power and strength training into their program. I believe by cutting back on mileage and implementing a good strength training program runners can reduce their chance of injuries.

9. Learn to decelerate properly if you want to excel on a field or court. Athletes that can decelerate and then accelerate can change the game.

10. Stand in front of a mirror and the muscles that you can’t see (i.e. glutes, hamstrings, upper back) are the ones that you most likely need to spend more time training. The muscles in the front are your “show muscles” and the muscles in the back are your “go” muscles. Make sure that you have a good balance between the two if you want to have a balanced program.

Hopefully you can benefit from a few of these tips. Good luck with your training!

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

06 February 10:43 am

When the alarm clock goes off in the morning do you automatically think about the 10 things you need to do before lunch? Do you lay in bed stressing about what you should do first? If you are like most people (which includes me) you have a lot going on. With all of these responsibilities comes added stress. With added stress comes inflammation in your body. Some stress when managed properly (i.e. exercise) can be very beneficial to your overall health. However, when we have added stress (i.e. work, financial, relationship, etc.) this can wreak havoc on the way we feel. Below are some tips to help you manage your stress.

1. Write down your must do list before you go to bed

Instead of saying you have a lot to do today sit down and write on a piece of paper or on your computer five things that you must do tomorrow. By writing this down the night before you can have an outline of what you really want to accomplish for each day.  As you accomplish each task cross it off and move on to the next item on the list. If you get done all five feel free to add one to two more items to the list. The simple act of writing this list will give you structure

2. Learn to breathe properly

After you wake up and have your coffee or smoothie take five minutes and take some deep diaphragmatic breaths.  The reason I recommend people incorporate breathing into their daily routine early in the day is because it allows you to relax and focus on what is happening with your body. It also gives you a chance to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system which helps promote recovery. In my experience it is a great way to start your day.

3. Exercise regularly

Most people who exercise on a regular basis feel better. One thing we need to keep in mind is that exercise is a form of stress. However, when people listen to their body and establish and follow a plan exercise can be a great way to relieve stress. Here are three (3) ways to incorporate exercise into your life.

  • Walk: Go for a long walk outside. Instead of walking on the treadmill at the gym get outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. This simple tip can help relieve stress in people.
  • Strength Train: Set aside 30-45 minutes 3-4 times per week to incorporate some strength training into your routine. When people lift weights properly they feel better after a training session. Keep the volume low/medium but the intensity high.
  • Yoga: Set aside two (2) days per week to do either a group yoga class or an in home program. I personally do not do a lot of yoga however, I know several people who truly believe in the health benefits of incorporating yoga into their weekly routine.

Here is an extra tip when exercising. Wear a heart rate monitor to see how your body is responding to your training. This is a great tool to use to see the changes that are taking place while you train.

4. What you think matters

The only thing that we have control over is our thoughts. If we have a tendency to think negative than this will affect how we feel. This is easier said than done and it is something I need to work on.  The next time you start to stress over something that you are thinking about stop for a minute and take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths and see how you feel.  I don’t expect you to have positive thoughts all day long but do your best to be aware of your thoughts and how they may negatively affect you.

Stress is something that all of us have. Some stress can be positive and how we think about stress is critical to how it affects our body. The next time you feel overwhelmed take a step back and try to incorporate some of the tips mentioned above.

Good luck!

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

22 January 2:08 pm

So you finally did it?  You have been on the fence about giving up gluten for a few months but today is the day that you have marked on your calendar as Day #1 to go gluten free. Maybe you decided to give it up for medical reasons and you think this will improve your overall health. If that is the case, I wish you the best of luck. Maybe you just wanted a change and your coach/trainer or coworkers are all talking about the benefits they have seen from giving up gluten. Either way you have decided to throw out all of your bread and pasta and have embarked on a new lifestyle.

  • Click the graphic to the right and sign up for Kevin Miller's Philly.com chat on Jan. 29! 

Before I share some tips with you, the reason I am writing this is because I decided to give this a shot. I read the book "Wheat Belly" by Dr. William Davis and I understand the potential risks to gluten. I have also read books by Robb Wolff "Paleo Solution" as well as Dr. Loren Cordain "Paleo Answer" on the potential dangerous of gluten for some people.  I wanted to try this nutritional change because I wanted to see for myself how I felt after eliminating gluten for a period of time.  I would like to make it very clear that I am NOT a nutritionist. Everyone responds differently from nutrition so what may bother one person may not affect someone else. The tips and suggestions listed below are nothing more than observations that I made while trying this new routine. 

Remember, if you have a specific medical condition you need to speak to an expert and decide if a change like this is good for you.

So what exactly is gluten anyway? It is the naturally occurring proteins in wheat, barley and rye. It helps the elasticity of the dough in breads, baked good and several processed foods.  When you walk down the aisles of most food stores you can bet that the majority of products contain gluten. It is even in products like soy sauce as well as salad dressing.  If you are planning to make this change your normal food shopping routine is about to change as well.

Being from Philadelphia I love bread. Everyone knows that the roll makes the sandwich. So going gluten free for me is tough. I love to eat sandwiches as well as several other products that contain wheat (i.e. cereals, pizza, pasta). I understand that there are gluten free breads and pizza but let’s not kid ourselves, I have yet to find a really good gluten free roll or pizza. I decided to do this more as an elimination diet to see if I have any food sensitivities. My plan was to eliminate gluten for a period of time (15-30 days) and then reintroduce it back into my daily routine and see if I have any effects like the following:

  • Digestion discomfort
  • Brain fog
  • Increase joint pain
  • Slower recovery from training

To gauge my recovery, I used Heart Rate Variability each morning to see how my body responded to the change. This is a simple test that tracks my “readiness” to train and gives a quick snapshot of my central nervous system. Each morning I would track my heart rate to see how it would fluctuate over this trial period. The product that I used was from Bioforce HRV.

Here are five (5) tips that I believe you need to know if you decide to give this a shot.

1. You have to like to cook

If you are someone who likes to go out to eat 2-4 times per week I don’t think this diet is for you. Why, because gluten is found in so many foods and sauces that going out is going to be both expensive and very hard to go gluten free.  Sure, you can eat gluten free products but in my opinion it’s very hard to eat out a few days a week and improve your health.  You have to learn to cook basic meals if you plan to make this switch.  Keep things simple. Learn to make 8-10 basic meals ranging from eggs in the morning to simple dinners with a lot of vegetables, proteins and quality carbohydrates.

2. You have to plan ahead

If you work in an office you will have to wake up early and make your lunch for the day. You will also need to make breakfast and have some healthy snacks during the day. You can kiss your bagel with fat free cream cheese goodbye. Planning is critical if you expect to follow this lifestyle change.  I would make sure that you always have some snack options with you when your foods cravings hit because trust me those cravings will hit you hard around days 1-3. Examples may include homemade trail mix (raw nuts/seeds/dried fruit) or energy bars that you either made or purchased.

3. I hope you like salads

At least 4-5 times per week you will most likely be eating a salad with a lot of vegetables and protein (chicken, fish, steak, nuts, etc.). Bread contains gluten so unless it is gluten free bread you will be giving up the delicious rolls that Philadelphia has to offer. This will be one of the hardest changes for you.  Salads are great so make sure that you load them up with several kinds of vegetables and mixed greens as well as quality sources of protein and fat to get the nutritional benefits of eating salad.

4. You will be eating more fat

When you give up grains you need to make up the calories somewhere. You can only eat so much protein and fiber. What worked well for me is an increase in fat. The proper fats when eaten at the right time can really improve your health and make you feel comfortably full.  Examples include the following:

  • Avocados
  • Coconut milk
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Raw nuts (macadamia, pumpkin seeds, walnuts)
  • Lean high quality meats.

5. Your energy will probably drop the first few days.

Most of us eat far too many processed carbohydrates. Our blood sugar is always up and down. We feel good after a bagel and coffee and then 1-2 hours later we crash and reach for a bag of Cheetos.  When you give up grains you will most likely feel sluggish days 1-3. By day four I felt really good. I believe my body started to work more efficiently (I still ate carbohydrates) and began to utilize fat as an energy source along with quality carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, plantains, berries).

The reason I wrote this post is because I think some people just jump right into a total overhaul of their nutrition without understanding some very important details. Some people eat a bagel two days into going gluten free and then get frustrated and then give up and go back to their old routines. You need to understand that going gluten free takes some work in the beginning and changing old habits can be very hard. Give yourself a break and don’t be so hard on yourself. Tell a friend you are doing this because you will need the support when those cravings hit.

Sure you can just buy all gluten free products but honestly, I don’t think that is the way to go. The reason being most of those products are very expensive and I think some of them offer little nutritional value over products that contain wheat. I personally like to cook so for me this was an easier switch but I will tell you that it can be difficult.

I only tried this for 15 days. So by now means was this long experiment.  Over the course of this short period I felt really good and did see an improvement in my digestion, energy, as well as my heart rate variability scores. I also felt that my sleep improved due to these changes.  I decided to reintroduce gluten in the form of pizza and I did not have any effects in how I felt. So the good news is that I do not think I have sensitivity to gluten.

In the future I am not going to give up gluten forever. If I want a sandwich I will eat bread. If I want a slice of pizza I will eat one. I will limit my exposure because I honestly did feel better without gluten over this short period of time.  Was it the gluten? I can’t say I am 100% sure but I really did not change anything else in my routine. I still did the same exercises and kept the rest of my day the same for the most part.

If you decide to give this a shot I would recommend reading any book from Sarah Fragoso. She is an expert in the area and has several cookbooks that can help guide you along the way.  Right now when you go food shopping most foods stores have one aisle dedicated to gluten free products. I believe in the near future you will see more and more products becoming gluten free. Is this a fad or is it real? Honestly, I am not sure. I do believe after reading a few books on the topic that medically there can be benefits from eliminating it from your diet.

What I tell the athletes and other clients that I work with is to give it a shot and decide how you feel. Nobody knows your body like you do.

As I stated before, as long as you do not have any medical issues what’s the harm in giving this a shot?  You may surprise yourself and your performance on the field or in the weight room may just improve.

Good luck with whatever nutrition plan you follow in 2014.

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

 

06 January 1:15 pm

You just finished a great workout at the gym.  As you finish up your last “rep” you feel so good about yourself. You made it to the gym today and everything felt great. You were able to keep up with the rest of the group with the workout and you can’t wait to get back to the gym tomorrow. You have decided that this is the year that you are going to fit into your “skinny jeans” or compete in your first adventure race. You have taken the steps that are necessary to get you off to a good start. You have joined the gym and have told all of your friends that this year you are going to improve your lifestyle and change your “bad” habits.  As you drive home you start to think about what you are going to eat for dinner. As you head into your house you open the fridge you notice that all you have is a bottle of hot sauce, a pizza box with two pieces of pizza left over from the weekend and three bottles of sugar filled sports drinks.

Does this sound familiar? I think it is pretty common for people to neglect their nutrition plan when they start a new training program. You have good intentions but you have no idea where to start in terms of your diet. Knowing where and how to start can be confusing. One day you hear from a coworker that you must follow Paleo. The next day your girlfriend/boyfriend says that you need to become a Vegan. You get my point. It can be frustrating to say the least. I am going to make this very simple for you.

Here are TEN (10) foods that you should always have on hand just in case you come home and you need to make a quick nutritious meal.

Because we all know that your nutrition plays a pivotal role in your progress towards a healthier life.

1. Avocado

These should be in every house unless of course you are allergic to them. Why, because they are packed with vitamins and nutrients and can be eaten with breakfast, lunch or dinner.  As we continue to learn fat is vital for optimal health and avocados are at the top of the list in my opinion. Add them to a smoothie or simple eat them solo in order to reap the benefits of this fantastic food.

2. Meat (beef or chicken)

I am not going to get into the difference between corn fed and grass-fed beef in this blog. When I talk about beef however, I am talking about the BEST beef that you can afford. I always recommend grass-fed from a farmer/butcher (I personally do not like store brand grass-fed). Meat offers several nutritional benefits (protein, omega 3 fats, B vitamins, etc.) that are hard to beat.

3. Kale

Kale is packed with Vitamins A and C and offers several   benefits to people who consume it on a daily basis. Personally I like to throw kale in a morning smoothie with coconut oil and some fruit because I do not like the bitter taste of kale. With that being said it offers a host of benefits that I recommend you look into. If possible I would always recommend that you buy organic kale.

4. Coconut oil

Coconut oil has been called by many a true “superfood”.  It can have a positive effect on brain function as well as weight loss.  It’s a medium chain fat that when taken before a workout can provide a tremendous boost of energy.  Also, it is great to cook with since it can be heated to a high temperature. 

5. Frozen berries (raspberry/blueberry)

If you like to make smoothie than berries (frozen or regular) are a must. Berries are high in antioxidants and vitamins. They also taste great so make it a point to add these to your plan. If you have frozen blueberries, leave them out and let them defrost for 15-20 minutes to get added nutritional value when thawed out.

6. Sweet potatoes

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap by many people over the past year. If you are looking for a great way to fuel up after a workout add in a sweet potato with your meal.  It will slowly raise your insulin while providing nutritional value. They also provide B6 as well as Vitamin C as well as a host of additional nutrients.

7. Eggs (organic or free range)

Eggs provide 13 essential vitamins. Most people throw away the best part, the yolk. If you want to get lean and feel energized start to add eggs to your weekly plan.

8. Macadamia nuts

When you need a quick snack these work great. They provide Vitamin A, iron as well as zinc and magnesium. They are also easy to digest so they make the perfect snack or an addition to a salad or meal.

9. Kefir

I started to implement Kefir into my plan this last year and I love the way I feel after eating this fermented dairy. It helps strengthen the immune system and is a great way to add probiotics to your diet. Make sure that you purchase this from a trusted source and I would recommend that you buy this from a farmer or a reputable health food store. Most store brands have added sugar that you could do without. It’s a great addition to a post workout or breakfast smoothie.

10. Mixed green salad (organic preferred)

A fantastic way for you to eat some raw food is to make a salad every day. It’s simple. Add some mixed greens, peppers, avocado, cucumbers and olive oil. Make sure that when you eat your salad you stay away from fat free dressings. You want the fat because many of the vitamins are fat soluble so this helps with the absorption of these nutrients.

There you have it, ten foods that should ALWAYS be in your house. In a pinch you can make a great meal with these foods. Good luck with your new plan for 2014!

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

27 November 6:22 pm

With the holiday season right around the corner many of us are going to indulge in foods that we know may add a few extra pounds to our waistline. The holidays are about family, friends and food.  Most people will tell themselves that they will start their training program AFTER the holidays.  I love to eat around the holidays and I think you should enjoy every appetizer, meal and pie that is served during the holidays.  With all of this extra food it’s hard to maintain your weight. Today I am going to share with you one tip that I believe can help you enjoy a second serving of turkey with some apple pie without having to break out a pair of sweatpants (although a pair of Philadelphia Union sweatpants would be a good idea for dinner).

The tip for today is how to make a healthy and delicious smoothie.

Most people love smoothies. There is no reason not to love them. They are packed with vitamins and minerals and if prepared properly can provide you with enough energy to keep you running for hours. The problem that I see is that some people don’t include the proper ingredients to make a healthy and powerful smoothie.  I have seen people add fruit juice as well as liquid syrups to their smoothie. Although this may taste good it’s far from healthy.

A simple and effective way to manage your weight and increase your daily dose of vitamins is to start your day off with a Power Smoothie. Below are three of my favorite recipes when it comes to increasing your energy and jumpstarting your brain.

Fruit and veggie smoothie

  • 1-2  cup of water  
  • ½ cup of blueberries
  • ½ cup of red raspberries
  • ¼ cup of strawberries
  • 1 handful of organic kale
  • 4-5 slices of cucumber
  • 1 tsp. of melted coconut oil (Make sure you melt the oil and pour it in slow to the blender as it is mixing. If not the oil will clump together)
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • Blend everything together for 30-45 seconds and enjoy.

Green fruit smoothie

  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 1 avocado (peeled)
  • ½ cup of spinach
  • 1 banana
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • Blend everything together for 30-45 seconds and enjoy.

Super power smoothie

  • 2  cups of water
  • ½ cup of blueberries
  • ¼  cup of red raspberries
  • ¼ cup of strawberries
  • 3-4 beets from a can (Add in some juice for some extra energy)
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1-2 tsp. of chia seeds
  • 1 handful of organic kale
  • 4-5 slices of cucumber
  • 1 scoop of vanilla whey (grass fed preferred) protein.
  • 1 tsp. of melted coconut oil (Make sure you melt the oil and pour it in slow to the blender as it is mixing. If not the oil will clump together

Bonus: Thanksgiving smoothie

  • 1 cup of almond or coconut milk (you can use regular milk if you prefer)
  • ¼ cup of canned pumpkin
  • 1 banana (I prefer adding a frozen banana. It blends better and makes it thicker)
  • 1 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. of nutmeg
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • Blend everything together for 30-45 seconds and enjoy

When you are making your smoothie there are so many ways to mix and match fruits and vegetables. However, I would like to point out some key things to remember when you make your smoothies.

Use a good blender. You don’t need to spend $500, however, get yourself a good blender that can crush and chop your food.

Berries, bananas and tropical fruits (mangoes) work the best in smoothies.

Spinach, kale, avocados and cucumbers are great additions to your smoothie.

Mix in a good Whey Protein (I prefer Grass fed) after you blend the smoothie in the mixer. Don’t put the powder in the blender.  If you don’t have protein powder you can still benefit from the fruit, vegetables and healthy fats in the smoothie.

When making fruit and vegetable smoothies I would recommend that you add fat to the smoothie. I personally like coconut oil (melted), olive oil or flaxseed oil.  This will help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

For an added benefit mix in some chia seeds for an extra dose of Omega 3’s.

Drink one of these smoothies every day (preferably in the morning) for the next seven days and tell me how you feel. I am willing to bet that you will see an increase in energy and your waistline will stay in check.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Congratulations to Lew Fiordimondo who won a FREE fitness and nutrition consultation with Philadelphia Union's fitness coach, Kevin Miller courtesy of 6ABC!  

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

05 November 12:22 pm

In a few weeks thousands of people will participate in the Philadelphia Marathon. Runners from all over the U.S. will head to starting line on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to test their endurance, mental capacity as well as their will power. For months these people have been logging long hours in an effort to reach their goal of crossing the finish line. For some runners their goal will be to finish. For others they may be aiming for the coveted entrance time for the Boston Marathon. Whatever their personal goal is the race is ultimately decided by their preparation and mindfulness. Before they embark on the 26.2 mile journey I would like to share some tips for them to help them along the way. Below are 26.2 things you should do before the gun goes off. These tips are in no particular order. 

No. 1:  Get a massage before race day.

No. 2: Make sure you know exactly what you want to eat the morning of the race. DO NOT try any new foods the morning of the big race.

No. 3: Recruit friends and family to watch you along the route. A great place for them to cheer you on is when you are coming out of Manyunk.  Why?  Because after Manyunk it gets pretty quiet for a few miles. This is where you will need some help.

No. 4: In your mind break the race up into three (3) parts. Part 1 is the first 10 miles (start slow, don’t get caught up in the excitement). Part 2 is the second 10 miles (remember to hydrate as needed, enjoy the fans along the route) and part 3 is the final push the last 6.2 miles (dig deep, the finish is near).

No. 5: Take a few days off to allow your body to rest up. Don’t push yourself to hard leading up to the race. Most of the hard work has been done!

No. 6: Give your friends your bib number so they can track you (via text alerts) during the race.

No. 7: Have your name somewhere on your chest or back so anyone can cheer you on. This will help a lot around mile 22.

No. 8: Make sure your nutrition plan the week leading up to the race is good.  

No. 9: Bring extra toilet paper with you to the race.

No. 10: Have a heavy sweatshirt and sweatpants the morning of the race. Be prepared to donate them about 15 minutes before the race starts.

No. 11: Bring peppermint tums for you in case your stomach gets upset.

No. 12: Use body glide between your thighs and on your chest as well as those "hard to reach places." This tip alone will save you pain both during and after the race.

No. 13: Make sure you TAPER the week of the race. Maintain some high intensity very short runs but dramatically reduce the volume of your training.

No. 14: If you struggle with sleep have a plan in place and work on your sleep hygiene.  Magnesium is a great supplement to help you calm down before bed.

No. 15: Get a really good pair of socks for the race. Good socks can make a big difference.

No. 16: Buy a nice light coolmax hat/headband and gloves for the race.

No. 17: Make sure you are hydrated going into the race. Balance your hydration between water and a high quality sports drink.

No. 18: Look at the route map before the race. Know that there is a decent hill between mile 9 and 10 (right after the Philadelphia Zoo).

No. 19: Arrange a place for you to meet your family after the race.

No. 20: Run with a pace group if you are running for time and have a specific goal in mind.

No. 21: Go to the expo early and take in the atmosphere.

No. 22: At the expo once you get your race bag check to make sure that you have the correct bib number.

No. 23: Wake up about three hours before the start of the race and eat your normal breakfast.

No. 24: The meal the night before is very important. Eat a good balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates.

No. 25: Cut your toe nails a little lower than normal.

No. 26: Make arrangements to have some alone time after the race when you get home (especially if you have kids). Block off 3-4 hours to nap and start the recovery process.

No. 26.2: Before the race starts take a few deep breaths and know that you have prepared yourself to have a great run.  Realize that you are doing something pretty amazing and you should be proud that you have made it to the starting line!

Good luck to all the runners! Have a great race!

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

14 October 4:11 pm

Have you ever been to a high school game, whether it was on a field or on a court, and watched an athlete run past the rest of the players and make them all look like they were standing still? If you are a parent or a coach of a field or court athlete I am sure that you have witnessed a few athletes make it look easy when it comes to running. The ability to accelerate and change direction is one of the most sought after traits that all athletes (male and female) are looking for. Millions of dollars are spent every year by parents trying to have their son or daughter “improve their first step” and become faster.  As a coach I have stopped counting how many times I have had parents tell me that they want me to help them improve their child’s “first step."  

In all due respect, I understand what they are talking about however, speed development goes way beyond improving their first step.

In this article, I would like to share some tips that I have been able to learn over the past several years by some of the top coaches when it comes to speed and power development for both court and field athletes.  Charlie Francis is considered by many as one of the best coaches in the world when it comes to developing athletes for improvements in their speed and power. Although he spent the majority of his time training track and field athletes I believe his philosophy on training can have a profound effect on high school athletes looking to improve their overall speed and acceleration. In his book, The Charlie Francis Training System, he states the following “sprint training should underline the initial and long term development of virtually every athlete.  The truly great team players are able to accelerate explosively both in defensive and offensive maneuvers."

If you were to have a conversation with a track and field coach as well as a football coach you would get several opinions on how to develop speed. The great thing about coaching is that everyone has their own philosophy and ways to train their athletes. For the purpose of this article I am going to focus on the court and field athlete.  Below are some of the key points that I feel must be addressed if your goal is to develop the following:

  • Linear speed
  • Transitional speed
  • Power
  • The ability to decelerate and accelerate

Tip No. 1  What is your starting point?

In a perfect world every high school athlete would first have an assessment or screen from a qualified coach. The reason this is important is before you start a training program you should establish a baseline to know where you are and where you want to go. I would recommend that you seek out the advice of someone who can perform the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) or Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) assessment   on you so that you can determine what exercises may cause problems down the road and provide a road map for your success.  

Tip No. 2  Develop your aerobic system

When most athletes or coaches hear aerobic system they think of skinny marathon runners logging 40-50 miles a week.  As a coach, I don’t want my high school athletes pounding the pavement in an effort to “build their base”.  If you have ever read anything from Joel Jamieson (www.8weeksout.com) he recommends that instead of running for 30-60 minutes, athletes incorporate some circuit training into their off-season program to build the overall capacity and strength of their heart. The best way to do this is to wear a heart rate monitor and stay in the 120-150 bpm (beat per minute) range. By doing this early in the off-season athlete’s will have a better chance to perform “repeat sprints” during their season. As I stated earlier, I am not talking about track and field but rather the ability for an athlete to perform multiple sprints during a game.  Here is an example of one type of circuit you could do with your athletes (Note, make sure they have perfect form when lifting weights and jumping):

Tip No. 3  Master body weight strength

When you sprint you have to be able to demonstrate good posture (i.e. relaxed shoulders, high hips, and proper hip extension).  The majority of high school athletes that I work with do not have the proper strength to hold themselves in an upright posture. Here are a few exercises that they must master before heading over to the squat rack.

Videos:

Tip No. 4  Hit the weights

When done properly, strength training can have a dramatic effect on your speed and your ability to change direction. One of the key factors in speed development is the ability to put force into the ground. One of the best ways to do this is by implementing a total body strength training program that teaches safe and effective progressions. In my opinion strength training is underrated when it comes to developing an explosive athlete.  Charlie Francis defines agility as “a form of special strength in combination of body awareness." Here are a few exercises that I would include in a speed training program.

Videos:

Tip No. 5  Implement transitional speed and power exercises

Court and field athletes hardly ever run in a straight line. They must learn how to stop, change direction and accelerate. Keep the volume of these movements low but the intensity high. Here are a few examples.

Videos:

Note that one of my favorite speed training exercises is hill sprints. Keep it simple when doing hills. Find a good hill and sprint up for 20-30 seconds and then walk back slow. Repeat for 8-20 reps depending on how you feel for that particular day.

Tip No. 6  Don’t confuse speed training with conditioning

This is a common mistake among coaches. I admit that I have made this mistake in the past. So many coaches say that they want to make their athlete’s faster, however, instead of working on short bursts of speed they think by doing gassers their kids will get faster. There is a time and place various type of conditioning methods however 300 yard shuttle runs is not speed training. In order to develop speed athletes must be alert and fresh. Their CNS (Central Nervous System) must be firing on all cylinders. True speed training will take between 15-20 minutes of work. Also you must allow for a FULL recovery between sets. I would recommend that the volume of running be kept between 400- 500 yds. of speed work. An example could be a workout that looks like this:

  • Warm-up and form running drills: 15-20 minutes
  • Low level plyometric work: 8-10 minutes w/ full recovery
  • Sprints: 3 x 10 yds, 3 x 20 yds, 10 x 30 yd. fly in sprints
  • Strength Training work: 30 minutes
  • Cool down and go home

Tip No. 7  Adequate flexibility

When it comes to flexibility I am not talking about the ability to sit down and touch your toes. The flexibility that I am interested in involves your ankles, knee, hips and shoulders. A great time to work on mobility is during the warm-up portion of an athlete’s training.  Here are two exercises that you can implement today to improve your speed.

Videos:

The tips and suggestions above are by no means a complete guide to speed training. Several factors go into the ability to run fast, jump high and change direction all while not breaking stride.  However if you implement some of the suggestions above and follow the proper progressions I am confident that you will improve your speed on both the field as well as the court. Good luck!

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