Goal Oriented

06 October 10:01 am

We all know the feeling.

The alarm clock goes off and we hit snooze. After 3-4 rounds of pressing reset on the clock we know that we need to wake up and start the day. We stumble out of bed and begin our day. Depending on your situation you may have kids that you need to get ready for school which always adds stress to your morning routine. If you don’t have kids you may have a few extra minutes that allow you time to get a fresh cup of coffee and start your day.

Whatever your situation, I believe your morning ritual is such a key factor in how your day goes. I admit I’m guilty of coming downstairs and reaching for my cell phone. I know that it’s not the best thing for me since it will most likely initiate a stress response and that is not an ideal to start the day.

Below are five (5) ways you can start your day that can have a positive impact on your health:

1. Take ten deep breaths before you jump out of bed. Many of us wake up worrying about what we need to do for the day. By taking ten deep breaths this allows you to tap into your parasympathetic system (rest and digest) which is a good way to start your day.

2. Before you reach for the coffee grab a large glass of fresh water. By adding some sea salt and lemon this will kick start your hydration for the day.

3. Get in a quick workout. If you are short on time, here is a circuit workout (videos included) that you can do with only one kettlebell or one dumbbell.  Set a timer for 15-20  minutes and rest as much as you need to. Warm up with some foam rolling for five minutes and add in some mobility work (i.e. ankle mobility, hip mobility, thoracic spine mobility as well as 10 body weight squats and 10 push-ups). Keep this workout short and as always focus on good form.

One important note: Do not do this work out without FIRST warming up.

  • A1. Kettlebell swing:  six (6) reps (Note, if you do not know how to do a proper deadlift do not do a kettlebell swing. First learn how to do a deadlift and hinge at your hips.)
  • Video: Kettlebell swing
  • A2. Kettlebell goblet split squat: six (6) reps/side
  • Video: Split squat- Goblet
  • A3.  Kneeling kettlebell lift: six (6) per side
  • Video: Kneeling kettlebell lift
  • A4. Kettlebell single leg RDL- six (6) reps per side
  • Video: Single leg RDL
  • A5.  Turkish get up: 3 reps/side
  • Video: Turkish get up
  • Rest 60 seconds and repeat

4. Eat some fat and protein with a small amount of carbohydrates. By doing this early in the day it will allow you to experience the following:

a. Steady sugar levels

b. Satiety. You will feel comfortably full as you start your day. It won’t be a feeling of being bloated but rather a feeling of being satisfied as you start your day.

Here are two options for you:

Two (2) eggs (organic if possible), cooked in grass-fed butter with red peppers and some cheese mixed in.  Add in a side of strawberries.

A smoothie with Hemp or whey protein, spinach (leafy), frozen raspberries and coconut oil (melted). Add in some ice and blend it up.

5. Mix in some Yoga. The morning is a great time to clear your mind and by adding in a 5-10 minute routine it can help you later in the day.

Please keep in mind that you don’t have to do all five of these things listed above. Pick one of these tips and implement them into your routine. Over time develop your own routine that will allow you to have a minimum of twenty minutes each morning for yourself.  I know this will seem impossible for some but if you look at your schedule I am sure that you can carve out time for yourself. That may mean that you need to go to bed earlier or put down your cell phone. Your morning ritual is a key player in your health and well being.

Good luck with your training!

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

09 September 2:06 pm

Think of your body like a car. If you put cheap gas in your vehicle there is a good chance that your automobile will run slow and may even break down. I use this analogy with the athletes I work with because I think it gives them a clear image of what can happen when you put poor fuel into an engine. I look at our body like an engine. If we feed it the essential nutrients and minerals that we need, we give ourselves the best chance to run efficiently as well as reduce the chance of injury. Below are some tips that may help you when it comes to your nutrition.

Water is essential to recovery, performance and life. It’s essential if you want to reach peak performance so drink up! The quality of your water is important as well.  A brand that I like to drink is called Gerolsteiner (Mineral water).

When you go food shopping you should spend the majority of your money on products that are located on the perimeter of the store.

Stay away from the middle isles as much as possible. On the outside you will find products like vegetables, meats, fruit, dairy, eggs, etc. On the inside you will find processed foods that your body does not need.

Eat vegetables with every meal. An easy way to do this is to add vegetables such as zucchini, tomatoes, kale and broccoli to your meals. If you eat eggs in the morning mix in some peppers and make an omelet or put kale into a smoothie. Have a salad at lunch time and fill it with the vegetables of your choice. There are so many ways that you can mix in some vegetables to your daily routine.

Choose the highest quality foods that you can afford. I never tell anyone that they need to eat organic food. Eat what you can afford and always look for fresh food when shopping.

When frying certain foods cook mostly with coconut oil and grassfed butter. Avoid cooking at too high of a temperature if possible. High temperatures can cause foods to oxidize which could cause problems for your body.

Eggs are a great way to start the day. The yolk has the majority of the health benefits that our body needs. Don’t make the mistake of just eating egg whites. Eat the whole egg.

Consume foods that improve your digestion. My top three are the following:

  • Grassfed yogurt (avoid the high sugar and low/no fat varieties)
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir

Fermented foods are very good for your digestion.

Avoid processed carbohydrates as much as possible.  Good carbohydrate choices would be green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, berries, pumpkin, plantains, white rice and fruit in moderation. The ability to control your blood sugar levels is very important when it comes to metabolic function.

Plan your meals and think ahead. Always have a snack with you in case you get hungry at work or before a training session. A good example would be a handful of macademia nuts or a homemade energy bar.

Use sea salt daily. If you have a medical issue please consult with a doctor on how much salt you can add to your meals. Sea salt has several minerals that are often depleted in regular table salt.

Learn how to make healthy smoothies.  These are great for breakfast or for a post workout meal.  Here is a simple yet effective smoothie for a post workout meal. Most store brand smoothies are filled with sugar and low quality protein powders.

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 handful of green leafy spinach (washed)
  • ½ cup of frozen raspberries
  • A large handful of ice cubes
  • 1 tbsp. of melted coconut oil (mix this in when the blender is running)

Mix this up for 30 seconds and pour it into a glass. The key is a lot of ice and mix until smooth and creamy.

Eat red meat, chicken, pork and lamb in moderation along with fish (sardines, wild salmon).

Fats (both saturated and monosaturated) are critical to your overall health. My favorite ways to add fat to my diet are the following:

  • Grassfed butter
  • Eggs (cage free)
  • Raw milk (Note, you need to be very careful where you get your raw milk. Only get it from a trusted source.)
  • Macademia nuts as well as other nuts and seeds
  • Avocados
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Chia seeds

Avoid fat free foods since most of the time they are filled with sugar as well as other processed foods.

Eliminate or greatly reduce soda intake.

Learn to read food labels. Manufactures have several different names for sugar. Learn how to distinguish what is healthy and what may be a poor choice for your body (i.e. high fructose corn syrup should eliminated from your diet)

Take fish oil daily (Omega 3 fatty acids that have been shown to have benefits for your heart as well as benefits for your joints).

I would recommend that you seek out the advice from experts and get the highest quality fish oil you can find.

If you want to perform like high level athletes it all starts with your nutrition. The key to your success is to plan ahead and keep things simple. Learn the basics and your body will reap the benefits.

Good luck!

21 August 11:31 am

“I don’t have a gym membership...”

“My gym doesn’t have kettlebells...”

“I can’t do a pull-up, I am so weak...”

“I do 200 crunches a night but I don’t have any abs...” (FYI, stop wasting your time with crunches)

“I don’t want to lock into a six month membership so I am not going to lift weights...”

Over the years, I have heard so many excuses from people when it comes to training. I understand exactly how hard it can be to find both the TIME and the MONEY to train. I have good news for those of you who want to maybe learn some new exercises without having to join a gym.

My solution to those of you who are on a budget and who are unable to afford a gym membership is to train outside at a park.

Here are five (5) reasons I love to train outside.

1. It’s free.

2. Most people don’t get enough sun so training outside is a great way to increase your Vitamin D levels.  Believe it or not, most people are deficient in Vitamin D.

3. It’s fun. It makes you feel like a kid again.

4. Fresh air. How many times have you gone into a gym and the first thing you smell is something nasty coming off of the person on the elliptical? It looks like they have been on it for 2 hours cranking away with sweat pouring down their face. Don’t get me wrong I love to train hard and work up a sweat but if you have ever belonged to a gym you know exactly what I am talking about.

5. I sleep better at night. If I get fresh air and sunlight early in the day it helps with my sleep cycle.

Now, I still love to train at a gym 1-2 days a week but I think training outside is a great way to mix up your routine. The good news is what I am about to show you involves a small investment on your part. I have included five videos for you to watch. In each video I show a short clip of four exercises that you can include in your routine. The good news is that all you need is the following:

Kettlebells

I would recommend that you go to a fitness equipment store or go online and purchase a kettlebell. Your best bet is to find a local store so you can save on shipping. However, the equipment from Perform Better (performbetter.com) is high quality. I would recommend that you start with two kettlebells. One light one (15-20 lbs.)  and one heavier one (40-60 lbs.). Over time if you can afford it add higher weights to your “at home gym”.

Resistance bands

Here is a link to buy bands. Bands should be a part of everyone’s training program.  I have been using these bands for years. Link: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

Abdominal wheel

I made my own for $15-$20 from Home Depot material. You can purchase a good one on line or at a local sporting goods store. Cost is approximately $15-$20.

Click the video below to watch a demonstration as well as some cues for doing each exercise. As always, start slow and if you have any pain than you need to stop. For the Turkish Get Up I would recommend that you start with body weight and keep the reps low. Finally, when it comes to kettlebells it’s worth it for you to work with a person who is certified in how to use kettlebells properly.

Here is a sample circuit that you can implement into your workouts.

Warm up (Always warm up properly before training)

A1) Kettlebell deadlift: four (4) sets of six (6) reps

A2) Band pull-ups: four (4) sets of AMGRAP (as many good reps as possible)

A3) Ab wheel rollout: 4 sets of 8 reps

Note: In the video I go very close to the ground. Beginners only need to go half way down. If you have ANY back pain or hip pain in this movement stop right away.

A4) Turkish get up: 4 sets of 3 reps per side.

Cool down

I hope you enjoyed the videos and make it a priority to get outside and do some training.

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

23 July 4:42 pm

As a coach I have heard all of the excuses as to why people can’t commit to a training program. I understand that everyone is overbooked and has very hectic lives but when it comes to our health we need to find the time.  Here are some of the more common responses I hear from people as to why they are unable to start a program and improve their health and fitness.

  • I don’t belong to a gym.
  • At the end of the day the last thing I feel like doing is exercising.
  • It costs too much to eat healthy.
  • I use to be in good shape back in high school but now I don’t really have any reason to exercise.
  • I have kids and I just can’t find the time to exercise.
  • I am too old.
  • I don’t want to get big and bulky so why should I lift weights.

Blah, blah, blah!!!! Now that you are done making these excuses I am going to share with you TEN ways that you can improve your health in less than TEN minutes a day by implementing some of these ideas into your routine. Now, these tips are not going to get you in shape to do an Ironman, however, they will get you headed down the path towards feeling better and hopefully convince you that you do not need to spend hours upon hours exercising to see gains in your overall health.

Are you ready? Here we go.

1. Have a morning ritual

When you pop out of bed tomorrow instead of reaching for your cell phone to “update your status” take ten minutes for yourself. By simply talking ten minutes it can have a big impact on how your day goes.  Instead of reaching for your phone that will most likely stress you out and raise your cortisol levels, here is what you can do:

Get a big glass of water with lemon (good for digestion)

Walk outside barefoot and get some sunlight (it helps set your circadian rhythm which is critical to your sleep cycle)

Meditate for 5 minutes and take some deep diaphragmatic breaths.

2. Go for a walk without your cell phone

Walking is so good for you. It can improve your mobility, posture as well as strengthen your heart. However, when I see someone walking with their cell phone I can’t help but think that they are not moving efficiently. Unless it’s an emergency put the phone down and WALK. Move your arms with a purpose. Don’t just “simply fall forward”. Pick up your feet, move your arms and clear your head for 10 minutes and watch what happens to your attitude as well as your energy.

3. Do ten (10) minutes of pull ups

Pull-ups are so good for you. They can improve your posture as well as your grip strength. They can develop a strong back and improve your speed when you run. Here is how you can do it: Find a pull-up bar and set a timer. Do as many as you can in ten minutes. If you can’t do any than use a resistance band (buy them here with this link: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm).  Rest whenever you need  to rest. Record your number and do this for eight (8) weeks and see how much you improve from week to week.

4. Run hill sprints

Hill sprints are great way to build strength and endurance. Plus, it’s a safe way to run when it comes to hamstring pulls and other soft tissue injuries. Find a hill that takes anywhere from 10-30 seconds to run up. Walk back down and repeat.

5. Bear Crawl

If you want one exercise that can improve mobility, stability, flexibility, strength, gait as well as your endurance than head out to a park or field and do some bear crawls. Simply get down on all fours and crawl. I would recommend that you crawl for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. Do this 10 for a great workout.

6. Resistance Band Training

If you don’t belong to a gym resistance band training is the perfect option for you. Simply purchase a set of bands (red, black or purple) and head to a park or your own backyard. Set the timer and try these 3 exercises.

  • Band chest press: 10 reps
  • Band rows: 10 reps
  • Band resistance runs: 15 seconds

Rest for 30 seconds and repeat.

7. Yoga

I have only done yoga a handful of times, however, I always feel better at the end of the session than I did at the beginning.  A great way to add this to your routine is to take a class with an instructor and implement some of the movements into your own routine. Yoga can be a great way to relive stress as well as improve mobility.  Men, especially, can really benefit from adding yoga to their routine.

8.  Walk barefoot on the grass

Over the past couple of years the topic of “earthing” has become more and more popular. A simple way to “ground” yourself is to walk barefoot on the grass either first thing in the morning (wet grass is best) or any time of day. It can help with jetlag, sleep disturbances, recovery as well as muscle aches and pains. Give it a shot.  All of you have to do is walk or sit on the grass or sand (the beach is a great place to do this. Think about it, don’t you always feel better on the beach?)

9. Play with your dog

When it comes to having a dog there are so many benefits. One of the best things that you can do for both your dog and yourself is to play in the backyard or park. Dogs love to run short sprints and then relax (sounds like the perfect interval to me). Get outside, run with the dog and then relax. Do this for 10 minutes and you will have worked on your speed, mobility, and agility.

10. Walk with a loved one

I don’t think I need to explain this but I will. All of us are so busy (myself included) and we need to stop and spend time with our loved ones. A simple 10 minute walk can have tremendous health benefits for you. Put the cell phone away, hold hands (you will get some great hormone benefits by holding hands by releasing Oxytocin) and walk and talk.

Well, there you have it. Ten ways in ten minutes to improve your health. Nowhere on this list do you see anything about a gym membership or boot camp instructors screaming at you. Get outside today and implement these tips and watch your health improve.

Good luck!

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

07 July 11:15 am

In less than eight weeks high school athletes will be gearing up for their fall season. Athlete’s ranging from football players to field hockey players are getting ready for the 2014 fall season.  If you drive past most high schools you will see teams practicing on the fields that surround their campus. Football players are lifting weights in the weight room. Soccer players are running intervals on the track in an effort to build their endurance. Coaches are doing their best to bring their teams together so when preseason officially kids off in early August their kids have already developed a solid base of strength, fitness and team unity.

Below I want to share with you FIVE tips for high school athletes when it comes to your preseason summer training.

Tip No. 1: GET A TRAINING PARTNER

Let’s face it, when it comes to training it’s always better to train with a partner. When you get tired he/she will be there to help you finish the last set even when you want to give up. When it comes to getting a training partner it’s important that he/she understand your goals and that both of you are on the same page. The two of you need to hold each other accountable for your actions. Finding a good training partner can be the difference between JV and Varsity.

Tip No. 2: MASTER THE BASICS

When it comes to working with high school athletes I want to make sure that all of them (both male and female) can do the following:

  • Squat  (Front squat)
  • Hinge (Deadlift)
  • Push  (Push up)
  • Pull (Pull up)
  • Crawl (Bear Crawl)
  • Roll (Forward, back and to the side)
  • Sprint (100% effort with good form)
  • Stop (Land from a jump)
  • Breathe (Relaxed with full exhalation)

If you can master the basic movement patterns listed above you will have developed a solid foundation for you to build upon. If all you do is bench press and curl you run the risk of getting hurt.

Tip No. 3: TRAIN IN WARM/HOT WEATHER

If all of your training is taking place in a nice comfortable gym with air conditioning and music you will have a rude awakening when camp starts.  I am not recommending that you do all of your training at the hottest part of the day just get outside and get use to the warm weather. It takes time for your body to get use to the heat.  I would recommend that you do both early morning training as well as mid-day training. Keep the sessions rather short. The goal is to get your body use to training in the warmer weather so on the first day of camp you are not struggling with the heat and humidity.

Tip No. 4: TRAIN FOR YOUR FITNESS TEST

Most high school athletes are required to complete some sort of fitness test. Below are some common tests for high school athletes

  • One (1) mile run
  • Repeat 110’s on a track
  • Bench press max
  • Pull up max number of repetitions
  • 300 yard shuttle runs

Make sure that you understand exactly what is expected of you on day one of fitness testing. Over the summer set a baseline for the tests and over the course of the summer repeat the test several times to see if you are making progress.

Here is an example. If you have to run 1 mile on day one of camp I would recommend that you test yourself 8-10 weeks out and then every 10-12 days test yourself in the mile to see if you are making progress towards your goal.

Tip No. 5: DIAL IN YOUR NUTRTION AND HYDRATION

Nothing can shut down an athlete quicker than poor nutrition and hydration. It’s critical that high school athlete’s take the next 6-8 weeks to understand exactly what their body needs to function at a high level. Some athletes do well on a high carbohydrate diet. Others do well on a lower carb diet with a medium mix of fats and proteins. Everyone is different. Now, is the time to experiment and make good decisions.  I always recommend REAL food for my athlete’s. Start with vegetables, fruits, lean meats, quality fats and water.

Preseason camp is an exciting time for high school athletes. I wish all of you the best and good luck with your training.

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

03 June 12:09 pm

Summer is finally upon us and people have started to head to the shore for some much needed rest and relaxation.  If you are someone who exercises on a regular basis it may seem like your training will have to take a back seat for the time that you are at the beach.  I personally love to exercise at the beach.  If you want to mix up your training and incorporate some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into your routine you have come to the right place. The beach in my opinion is one of the best places to train.

Before we get started, let my briefly explain what I am talking about when we talk about HIIT. For years athletes and weekend warrior have been incorporating HIIT into their routines. Here is just one example: If you played high school football, I am sure that you ran hill sprints.  Well, this is a form of HIIT training. This type of training has become very popular over the past few years but don’t let people fool you, this training is nothing new. What is new is that people are now starting to realize some of the cardiac and skeletal benefits as well as adaptations that can happen when someone implements a safe and progressive HIIT program.

HIIT training is basically short, intense training intervals where your body works at a very high intensity for a specific time and then allows for adequate recovery period.  After a certain time you then repeat the exercise for a certain number of sets and repetitions.

So why is HIIT training beneficial for people instead of long slow training? Here are a few key points that I learned from reading Ben Greenfields book "Beyond Training":

  • Helps to optimize your heart’s capacity to send blood to your muscles.
  • Helps you to go harder and longer in your endurance events when you implement a safe protocol.
  • You can increase your metabolic efficiency and improve your fat burning qualities in less time than you can with long aerobic sessions.

HIIT training is just one form of training. A key point to ask yourself is what are your goals? If you are planning to do triathlons/longer running races than you will still need to incorporate long aerobic sessions into your training (FYI, there are benefits as well to aerobic training). If your goal is simply fat loss than implementing HIIT training into your routine a couple times per week may increase your benefits.

 
  • When I recommend HIIT training I always recommend the following:
  • Wear a heart rate monitor. The interval session should be based off of your recovery. If your heart rate gets to 180 bpm (beats per minute) wait until your heart rate comes back down to 120-130 bpm before you repeat the cycle. I use a Polar heart rate monitor for my training.
  • If you are beginner ALWAYS allow for added recovery. If you work hard for 20 seconds REST for as long as it takes for you to be able to catch your breath and feel comfortable. Going to hard early on in your training is not the goal. The goals are consistency and results over time.
  • Allow 72 hours between training sessions. The days in between are a great time to incorporate some strength training as well as longer aerobic sessions to increase blood flow and improve cardiac function.
  • If you are an advanced athlete, I still recommend wearing a heart rate monitor.
  • Finally the goal is NOT to get your heart rate as HIGH as possible but rather work to a point where it may be tough to have a conversation and then back off. Be smart and as always LISTEN to your body.

Here are five ways you can HIIT the beach this summer.

Please note before you ever start a HIIT program make sure that you have medical clearance and then you ALWAYS warm up properly. Use your heart rate monitor (120-130 bpm) or the talk test to determine your recovery time. Talk test is when you can have a conversation with someone before going again.

Workout No. 1: Deep sand shuttle runs

  • Set up 2 cones 25-50 yards apart
  • Run from one cone to the next approximately 80-90% effort.  Depending on your fitness level you can run for 25-100 yds. Rest and repeat. 
  • Sets: 8-12 rounds depending on your fitness levels
  • You can run barefoot or with shoes. If you have never run barefoot I would recommend starting with shoes.

Workout No. 2: Kettlebell deadlifts and shuttle runs

  • Grab a kettlebell that you can safely deadlift. If you do not know how to deadlift and hinge than work with a coach who can teach you the proper way to deadlift.
  • Set up two (2) cones 25-50 yds. apart
  • Work set:  Five (5) deadlifts + shuttle run. Rest and repeat
  • Sets: 6-10 rounds depending on your fitness levels

Note: if you are experienced with kettlebells you can substitute swings for deadlifts (both are great exercises when done properly).

Workout No. 3: Body weight squats + Pushups + Striders

  • Set up two (2) cones 25 yards apart.
  • Work set: 10 squats + 5-10 pushups (you can do kneeling pushups if you are unable to do regular pushups) + 25 yd. run. Walk back to the start and repeat when you feel recovered
  • Sets: 6-12

Workout No. 4: Medicine ball routine

Grab a medicine ball that weighs 4-10 lbs. Also, everyone should have a medicine ball for training. It’s one of the best tools you can use.

Work Set:

  • Five (5) squats with medicine ball
  • 10 ax chops with the medicine ball (five right/five left). The ball comes diagonally across your body.
  • One (1) medicine ball chest throw (two hands and throw as far as possible)
  • One (1) run for 10-25 yds.
  • Walk back to the start
  • Sets 6-12 rounds

Workout No. 5: Band training on the beach

This is one of the best ways to train on the beach. If you don’t have bands click this link to purchase. https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

Attached 1-2 bands to a lifeguard stand (Black or purple bands are great to start with)

Work Set:

  • Eight (8) chest rows (2 hands into your chest)
  • Eight (8) chest presses (hands shoulder width apart as you press out)
  • Five (5) lateral squats per side (step in the band and step right 5x and then left 5x)
  • 20 yd. bear crawl (butt down and back flat; go slow and breathe as you do this)
  • Walk back to the start
  • Sets 5-8 rounds

These are just five examples of how you can HIIT the beach. As always, train smart, monitor your performance and have fun. Good luck!

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

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