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12 August 2:01 pm

Each year the number of female athletes who are participating in high school sports appears to be growing. With sports like soccer, basketball, field hockey, crew, lacrosse, track and softball, athletes are now given the chance to play their sport almost year round.  For the past several years I have had the privilege of working with several female athletes and I think this trend towards females playing more sports is fantastic.  However, one trend that I have seen with high school female athletes is the increase risk of injury. It’s very common for me to speak to a parent and have them tell me that their daughter has suffered one of the following injuries:

  • Torn ACL
  • Multiple stress fractures
  • Torn rotator cuff
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Hip/low back pain

The list above is just some of the more common injuries that I see with females. The truth is there is no way to prevent an injury. Injuries are a part of the game. However, I do believe that if athletes are trained properly they can greatly reduce their chance of injury.  If you are a parent of a female athlete one question that I think you should ask yourself is “What steps can I take in order to reduce the chance of injury for my daughter."

Here are a few suggestions on how I believe you can reduce injuries in sports.

1. Stop playing year round: I understand that this may frustrate some parents and coaches but high school athletes need an off-season.  I know there is a desire to increase your skill as an athlete, however, if you play the same sport for 11-12 months a year with a short break your chances of developing soft tissue injuries as well as muscle imbalances increases dramatically.  I would recommend that 2-3 months out of each year females take a step back from their main sport and develop some new movement patterns. A question you have to ask yourself is if professional athletes have an off-season why don’t high school athletes have an off-season?

2. Improve your nutrition: It’s very rare that I work with a female athlete who is eating a well-balanced diet. Most females would benefit by simply adding more protein and fat to their meals as well as focusing on a quality post workout meal.  A typical breakfast for a female athlete looks something like this: plain bagel & a glass of water or orange juice. A much better option would be the following: 2 eggs, banana and a glass of orange juice. Small changes in nutrition can have a dramatic effect on performance.

3. Learn how to decelerate: Most athletes have no problem running. Sure some kids are much more efficient at running than others, however, one area that needs to be addressed when training females is teaching them how to stop and control their body. This takes time.  However, athletes who are stable and understand where their body is in space (proprioception) are less likely to suffer an injury than those who are unstable.

4. Improve your overall strength: One thing that I tell all of the female athletes that I work with is if you want to reduce your chances of getting hurt improve your overall strength. Most high school females have never touched a weight in their life and they are intimated by the thought of lifting weights. I can respect this but if taught correctly this can be a game changer for female athletes.  An increase in strength will mean a more stable base of support which results in a more stable body. When a female athlete increases her strength so many positive things happen on the field or court. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Increase in speed and power.
  • Improvement in their posture.
  • Increase in their confidence. 
  • Increase in their bone strength.

Note: The off-season that I mention above is the PERFECT time to implement a proper strength training program. You don’t have to stop playing your sport completely in the offseason just reduce the volume and implement strength training 2-3x per week.

Here are a few exercise videos that if performed properly under the proper supervision can reduce the chance of injury. Please note that in each clip I show two exercises. The first exercise is the easier (regression) of the two. Please make sure that the first exercise is mastered before attempting the second exercise.

As an athlete when you step on the field or court you can’t worry about getting hurt. However, you can do something about reducing your chances of getting hurt. I think it’s fantastic that female athletes are playing sports and doing things on the field /court that people never expected them to do. Just make sure that you have built a solid foundation and take a look at the big picture to see what areas you need to improve upon in order to stay on the field and play an entire season injury free.

Good luck.

05 August 1:48 pm

A topic that has been debated over the years by both coaches and athletes is whether or not field and court athletes need to develop an aerobic base for their particular sport. When most people think of aerobic training the first thing that comes to their mind is long slow distance (LSD) running. The majority of field and court athletes that I have worked with despise this type of training (Unless you have a cross country runner that also happens to play field hockey). For most coaches and athletes this means running 4-6 miles at a slow pace.  They believe that if they train slow they will be slow. On one hand I understand exactly what they mean. On the flip side after reading "Ultimate MMA Conditioning" by Joel Jamieson I developed a deeper understating of energy system training and in particular cardiac output training.

 You may be saying to yourself I am sprinter why would I need to increase my cardiac output? All I need to do is sprint for 6-8 seconds, rest and then repeat it again 30-90 seconds later. The reality is your cardiac system is the "power plant of aerobic energy production" (Ultimate MMA Conditioning-Jamieson). The cardiac output method is a method that will improve the amount of blood that your heart can pump for each beat. As a field or court athlete this is critical to your ability to perform repeat sprints as well as have the endurance to play an entire game. A key component that I believe most athletes neglect is their ability to recover from a play or a sprint. In a perfect world I want a team full of athletes that can sprint, rest and repeat another sprint with the same intensity as the first sprint. By developing your aerobic system you will be able to perform more repeat sprints during a match or game.

In order to use the cardiac method you need to follow some guidelines in order to reap the benefits.  Here is a list of what you need to follow in order to ensure that you’re training the right energy system.

  • Maintain a constant heart rate in the 120-150 bpm (beats per minute) range.
  • Each session should last 30-90 minutes.
  • Start with 30 minutes and increase the volume each week.
  • Start with two (2) sessions per week and increase to as many as three (3) sessions per week in the off-season.
  • This type of training should be done in the off-season to help develop a solid foundation to build upon.
  • If your resting heart rate is above 60 bpm you will benefit from 4-6 weeks of this type of training. You goal should be to have a resting heart rate of 55 or lower. If your resting heart rate is under 50 bpm than you can limit this type of training to 1-2x per week in the off-season and progress to more advanced styles of training.

I would highly recommend that you pick up a good heart rate monitor to use. You can purchase a good one for under $125 from a company like Polar (www.polarusa.com)

Note: These guidelines are from the book Ultimate MMA Conditioning (Joel Jamieson)

When most athletes hear about this type of training they instantly think they will be asked to run miles upon miles.  While I personally like to run and I believe every field and court athlete should incorporate some type of longer running in the off-season, there may be some alternatives for athletes. The first type of training that comes to mind for me is circuit training.

The reality is a soccer player needs to train differently than a football player, however, if their goal is to develop their cardiac output in the off-season they could follow a similar plan for 2-3 days per week to develop an aerobic base. The great news for athletes about this style of training is that there is no need to log 45-90 minutes of LSD running. Instead you can set up circuits either in the weight room, outside on the track/field or at a park. You’re only limited by your imagination as long as the guidelines above are followed. Below I have put together a series of videos that can help you get a better understanding of some of the exercises that you can implement into your  training program.

Video exercise clips:

Watch: Cardiac output intro

Watch: Cardiac output ladders/med ball

Watch: Cardiac output thunder bands

WatchCardiac output ropes/bench/squats

Watch: Cardiac output bench jumps/swings

Watch: Cardiac output post workout

Click here if you want to buy thunder bands: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

I personally think this style of training works best in conjunction with 2-3 days of strength training. Remember you are laying the foundation for future more advanced training methods. Without a solid foundation you are setting yourself up for potential injury and disappointment. When it comes to this type of training I personally like to use the following types of equipment.

  • Sleds
  • Ropes
  • Bands
  • Body weight
  • Jump rope
  • Medicine balls
  • Kettlebells
  • Jungle gyms at a park

 For additional information on cardiac output training I would recommend that you visit www.8weeksout.com

Good luck in 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: www.philly.com/philly/health/

02 August 11:46 am

Coming back well rested from a few days off, we had an important game to play against the NY Red Bulls. Not only are they in our conference, but by far our biggest rival.  In the first half, we attacked very well, with a goal scored early on by Conner Casey.  About 30 minutes into the first half, the Red Bulls were given a red card for a bad tackle on Danny Cruz. This gave us an advantage playing 11v10 for the rest of the game.  After halftime, big man Conor Casey scored his second goal of the game putting us up 2-0. Nearing the end of the game, the other Frenchie, Antoine Hoppenot, scored our third goal  – making the score, 3-0.  I was very happy to be able to give the assist on Antoine’s goal. On this play, Antoine passed me the ball at the midfield line.  Seeing no one attacking me, I decided to dribble towards the goal at a fast pace. When I arrived inside of the box, the Red Bull defense was sprinting back to cover their goal. I saw Antoine coming into the top of the box to my side, giving me a chance to play the ball back to him for a perfect shot into the goal.

Next up was FC Dallas, home again at PPL Park. This game was not going to be an easy task with FC Dallas leading the Western MLS Conference.  The score was 1-1 at halftime with our first goal being scored by Amobi Okugo off a long throw from Sheanon Williams. The last five minutes of the second half were very exciting with us taking the lead back with a goal from Aaron Wheeler. This was Aaron’s first ever MLS goal!  We thought we had handled the most difficult part by taking back the lead, but FC Dallas came back to score the equalizer in 97th minute of extra time. Even ending with a tie, this result felt like a loss for the team.

Our road trip over the Independence Day holiday was going to be tough one. With games at Real Salt Lake and in Houston, we had our work cut out for us.   First up was Real Salt Lake. The coaching staff gave us great direction for this game to produce a positive result and I think we responded very well. I scored the first goal of the game in the 13th minute, giving us momentum early on. This is my third goal of the year with the assist from Conor Casey. I have to give lots of credit to Conor for this goal because he set it up so perfectly - my only job was to be ready to call for the ball at the right moment.

And then the 97th minute arrived again...Real Salt Lake was credited with a PK from a hand-ball inside of the box. They scored, making the final result of the game 2-2. I really felt that we were going to have a win that night, but it did not happen for us.  We had to rebound very quickly after the game at Real Salt Lake to focus on our upcoming game 3 days later in Houston.

Back home! Next up was Chivas USA. We needed a win to get back on track after our disappointing road trip. In this game, the rain wouldn’t let up, which became a big factor in play.  At half-time, Chivas was winning with a score of 1-0, which surprised all of us – but showed us that we needed to step it up as a team. In the locker room, we reunited as a team and told ourselves that we needed more on offense to be able to win this game. And that’s exactly what we did.  Attacking in the second half, Michael Farfan played it short to me off of a corner kick. I crossed the ball into the box, Conner Casey headed toward the goal, and Brian Carroll came in to finish it off.  Our second goal came off of an indirect free kick inside the box of Chivas. I set the ball up and passed the ball back to Michael Farfan, and he shot it right above the defenders standing on the line. We took the lead 2-0. This was my ninth assist of the season and brought me back to tops in the league for assists – pretty cool!

It felt great to get another win at PPL Park in front of our amazing fans who came out in torrential downpours and crazy wind. We need and want to continue on this path to clench our spot in the play offs this fall.  I will keep you posted on our journey in my next blog entry!

Talk to you all soon!

Merci Beaucoup,

Sebastien Le Toux, No. 11

29 July 11:39 am

For the majority of high school athletes who are playing a fall sport, summer camp officially starts in two weeks. I can think back to when I was in high school and this was a very exciting time for athletes. If you are a freshman you have no idea what to expect as you make the jump to high school sports; if you are going to be a senior you have a very good idea of what your coach will expect from you on day one of camp. With that being said, in order to ensure that you are ready for “two-a-day” practices, I would like to share some tips that may make the transition smoother from summer vacation to practice.

I understand that teams have been “training” for most of the summer. Some kids have been participating in voluntary practices as well as team “speed camps”.  If you have been training all summer then the transition to mandatory summer camp will be easier. However, even the best athletes still need to plan for day one of summer camp.

Here are some training tips that may help you stay healthy as well as get the attention of the coaching staff:

Tip No. 1. Plan out the next two weeks: Look at the calendar and even if you are on vacation you still need to train as well as rest. Most teams will start their workouts on Monday, August 12. Take a look at what you have planned and set up a schedule that has you training every other day. There is no need to train every day before camp. However, I would recommend that you spend this time on conditioning as well some extra skill work for your sport.

Tip No. 2. Test yourself before camp: Most high school coaches require that their athletes complete some type of conditioning test. Some teams require their athletes to run 1 mile in under 7 minutes. Other coaches set up a series of tests to complete (i.e. shuttle runs, vertical jump, lifting test). Whatever test you are expected to perform do test this BEFORE day one of camp. I would recommend that you test yourself this week to see how you do. Be honest with yourself. If you are required to run a 7 minute mile and you test out by running 7:20 per mile than you know exactly where you stand and what you need to do in order to pass the test. Don’t let the first day of camp be the first time you do the required testing.

Tip No. 3. Train the appropriate energy systems for your sport: If you are a soccer player focus on repeat sprints as well as shuttle runs. Assuming you have developed a good aerobic base (i.e. endurance) this is a good time to focus on speed work as well as some lactic capacity (i.e. 1-2 minute high intensity runs w/ 60-90 seconds of rest). If you are a football player focus on repeat sprints. An example would be to head to the track or field and after a good warm-up complete the following workout.

  • Set(s) of 15 x 25 yd. sprints with 45 seconds rest in between. Each run is done at 100 percent effort.
  • Rest five (5) minutes.
  • Set(s)10 x 20 yd. runs with 45 seconds rest in between. Each run is done at 100 percent effort.
  • Cool down

Note: Feel free to add in a change of direction (i.e. agility/transition) run for either of these options. Here is an example of a transition run: Lateral crossover continuous and sprint

This is the time to focus more on specific energy needs rather than general physical training.

Tip No. 4: Wake up early and train: The majority of high school athletes I speak to tell me that their training camps will be held in the morning (7 or 8 a.m.) If this is the case then you need to make sure that you start to wake up early and train at this time. If you have been sleeping in every day this summer until 10 a.m. you will have a rude awakening on day one of preseason camp. I would recommend that you do the following assuming you start camp at 7:00 a.m.:

6:00 a.m.- Wake-up

6:10 a.m.- Big glass of water with a light breakfast (I would recommend that you add some seal salt to a drink if possible)

6:20 a.m.- Pack up some water along with a sports drink and head out to the track, field or beach (wherever you will do your training)

6:30 a.m.- Start your warm-up routine: Dynamic warm-up

6:50 a.m.- Start the main portion of your workout

7:45 a.m.- Head home and eat a good breakfast

Tip No. 5: Have a nutrition and hydration plan for camp. Most sports will require that the kids train twice per day. Some coaches will allow their athletes to go home between sessions. Other coaches require that the kids stay at school all day for the workouts. Whatever the case may be have nutrition and hydration plan in place.

List of foods & drink I would bring to training in a container/bag:

  • Two (2) bananas
  • Watermelon/blueberries
  • Strawberries/cantaloupe/pineapple
  • Protein shake (freeze it the night before)
  • Grilled chicken sandwich if you have to stay between sessions. Add sea salt to the sandwich.
  • Two (2) large water bottles
  • Bag of regular potato chips (eat a handful if you have lost a lot of sweat during the workout. A handful is okay at this time)

Note: You don’t need to bring all of this food however, I would recommend that you have a lunch bag and have several options to choose from especially fruits as well as some protein.

Tip No. 6: Buy a foam roller. I can guarantee that after the first session kids will be sore. They will complain of their hamstrings, quads and adductors being sore. Several kids will develop shin splints after the first week. Although this is not as good as a manual therapist, I would recommend that you purchase a foam roller. The foam roller that I like is called the GRID. Ideally this would be used both before as well as after the workout. If you do not want to take the roller with you to training then at the very least I would get up a little earlier and do this before you leave the house as well as when you get home. It’s also great to do before you go to bed to help alleviate some muscle soreness. Spend 5-10 minutes each time you use the foam roller and make sure that you are breathing properly (diaphragmatic) as you do this. Here is one movement that you do with the foam roller. Make sure that when you do this particular movement that you do not place the foam roller on your low back. Stay in the middle to upper portion of your back.

Video: Foam roller T-spine extension

One final point I want to make is that during these final two weeks I want you to enjoy some time away from your sport. You absolutely need to train during this time, however, keep the sessions short and allow a day in between for recovery. By now you should be in good shape. Use this time to implement some high intensity work as well as some vacation time with your family and friends. The key thing to remember is that on day one you want to make a good impression to your coaching staff so take the necessary steps to ensure that you leave a positive impression.

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: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/

22 July 11:35 am

When it comes to training, people like to debate about what is the best way to increase an athlete’s power and explosiveness. Some people believe Olympic lifting is the best tool to increase an athlete’s power output. Others believe CrossFit or kettlebell training are the most effective way at increasing an athlete’s power. We can argue this point all day long and the reality is I don’t believe that there is one single way to increase your power. However, I do believe that there is a very effective tool for athletes to use when it comes to increasing power output and that tool is a medicine ball.

Most coaches know that in order to increase power a lot of factors must go into the equation. Here are just a few of the things that we need to do in order to increase power output:

  • Increase your force into the ground.
  • Increase total body strength.
  • Increase the speed of movement.
  • Ensure proper alignment while we train.
  • Focus on ways to properly decelerate our body.
  • Maintain proper breathing patterns.
  • The ability to stabilize under load.

As much as I like Olympic lifting and kettlebell training, I believe the best tool for teaching power output  at the beginning of a training program is to use a medicine ball. A few reasons why I prefer to use a medicine ball at the beginning of an athlete’s training program are:

  • For most people throwing an object comes natural.
  • It’s fun. People like to throw things and this gives them the license to throw an object as hard as possible once they have good form.
  • It’s safe. Instead of lifting a weight over your head with the fear of dropping it on your head a medicine ball is a great tool to teach the mechanics of several more advanced lifts.
  • You can take the medicine ball anywhere and train on your own.
  • With this one tool I can work on speed, power, deceleration, change of direction, endurance, proprioception and mobility.

These are just a few examples of why I like to use medicine balls in a training program. The reality is a number of elite athlete’s use these in their everyday training program. As I stated above, I use this at the beginning of a training program with new athletes, however, elite athletes use these daily for incredible results.

When it comes to training with medicine balls there are so many exercises to choose from. You are only limited by your imagination. Below are five exercise video clips that I have put together for you to review. As always ensure that you use proper form and start slow. If you have any pain (shoulder, back, etc.) back off of these exercises and consult with a medical professional.

Medicine ball introduction

Medicine ball squat to overhead throw-tutorial

Lateral lunge to shotput-tutorial

Skate hop continous w/ medicine ball throw-tutorial

Crow hop w/ med ball throw-tutorial

Regardless of your sport medicine ball training is a fantastic way to increase your power. Athletes from every sport can benefit from the rotational power as well as well the increase in aerobic output that they will see from this type of training. If you have kids this is a great way to slowly introduce them to the world of training. I guarantee that if you start slow and use a very light medicine ball kids will enjoy this type of training. Adults, if you are looking to drop a few pounds or increase your running speed implement medicine ball training into your routine.

Enjoy!

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

15 July 4:38 pm

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

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

Tip No. 1: Eat a salad every day

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

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

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

Tip No. 2. Cut back on your portion size

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

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

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

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

Tip No. 4: Get your vitamin D levels checked

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

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

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

Tip No. 5: Body weight training

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

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

Now keep it going!!!

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

08 July 1:14 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02 July 3:40 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merci beaucoup!!!

Sébastien Le Toux, No. 11

01 July 11:54 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video: Deadlift for runners

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

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

Video: Push-ups for runners 5 k

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

Good luck!

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

24 June 5:05 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.  Power smoothie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a Bonus snack for you. Homemade avocado dip

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

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

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

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

Thank you and have a great day!

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