Monthly Archives: December 2011

REAL resolutions!

Considering 2011 is a few days from being just a memory, I feel obligated to discuss the dreaded topic of “New Year’s Resolutions”. What kills me is that a lot of people’s resolutions are the same: “lose weight” “get fit” “work out more” “eat less” etc.  In my opinion, these are all just wishes.  There is no constructive analysis of where you are, where you want to be, and, most importantly, how you’re going to get from A to B. There is also no basis in reality.  What exactly does eat less mean?  Can you really eliminate ALL CARBS for the WHOLE year? (no. you cannot. and if you try, you’re just going to be mean and cranky. stop it.)

Even the most dedicated gym rats (myself included) did not just wake up one morning at 6am and decide that we were going to do this every day, 3 hours a day, for the rest of forever.  It was a slow process, usually prompted by another goal/reason and then became a lifestyle.  That’s the key: it was a PROCESS.  Things don’t happen overnight, and sometimes you have to be satisfied with small gains before you can reach your ultimate destination.  You’ll see, too, that even when you reach your supposed “goal” – you’ll find something else to strive for – it really never stops.  But people get caught up in doing too much too fast, and it gets overwhelming.

 

http://www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com - hilarious blog - check it out.

 

SO, instead of harping on what we all do wrong, I’m going to offer some tips for successful goals to getting fit & fierce in the new year.

1. Make a tangible performance goal. What does this mean? For example: maybe your broad goal is to get in shape, or lose a few pounds, but you don’t really have a way to measure progress outside of a scale.  Instead, focus on something performance related and commit to it: sign up for your first 5k run/walk, triathlon, half marathon, or whatever your level might be, and commit to training for it a few times a week.  For the endurance activities, figure out your mile pace (either walking or running) and try to improve it throughout your training, and set a goal for your finish line time. You’ll be amazed how committed you’ll be to achieving this goal, and as an added benefit, you’ll see the results in the mirror.  For my weight lifting buddies, and gosh I hope there are some of you out there – same rules apply.  If you’re new to training, make it your goal to dominate technique, practice, and then challenge yourself to hit new personal records. Maybe you’ve never done a pull up before, maybe you want to be able to do 10 pull ups, maybe you want to increase your squat whatever it is – pick something that you want to improve, and go after it.  Just “getting stronger” isn’t going to cut it – focus on something and practice it.

2. Don’t try to overhaul your diet overnight – eliminate slowly. When it comes to eating, our bodies get used to what we put into it, and slowly weaning yourself off of certain things yields more longterm success than quitting “cold turkey”.  Think of it like a smoking addiction: not many people are successful by just waking up one morning and never smoking ever again.  Processed foods/sugars/caffeine work the same way – you have to gradually wean yourself off them and it is a PROCESS.  So what does this mean?  Instead of starting 2012 eating nothing but seaweed and egg whites (I think I just vommed a little), try a more realistic approach.  Pick something in your diet you know is your problem area (soda tends to be mine) – and try to replace it as often as you can. If you have more than 1 a day, try to lower that number. Even replacing just ONE regular soda a day with water reduces your caloric intake by ~200 cals.  That can add up to 1400 a week if you eliminate one soda every day! Crazy.

3. CHILL out – stress causes our cortisol levels (a steroid hormone) to rise incredibly, which will spike blood sugar & suppress the immune system.  AKA: promote fat storage and elevate your chances of getting sick. Dagger! While sleeping your life away is NOT an option, there’s a one-two punch that can really jumpstart your metabolism – friends! Instead of meeting friends for dinner, drinks, movies, or other sedentary activities, make an effort to combine fitness & fun.  Go for walks, go to the gym together, sign up for a spin class, play a sport, etc.  Not only will it hold you accountable because it’s not just for you, it’s a great way to catch up with friends while keeping your cortisol levels in check. Convince your happy hour crowd to convert to kickboxing – you won’t regret it.

 

My goals for 2012 are mainly coaching related.  The high school lacrosse season starts in a month and performance-wise, I want a winning record and to take district.  I am also making it my own goal to make sure to give each player one SPECIFIC skill or aspect of their game to work on throughout the season.  Something performance related that, by the end, we can measure and see improvement.

For my own training, I’m focusing on being able to complete a muscle-up.  It is the most bad ass upper body exercise out there and I’m going to nail it. I also really want to stop dying when I do 120’s – my goal is to be able to do 10 more consistently before the world ends 😉

What are some of your goals? Do you have other suggestions for making 2012 the best year ever? hit me up!

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Movements You’re Not Doing (But Should Be)

Everyone check out this great (quick) post from Julia Ladewski, a program director at one of the Parisi Speed Schools.  It’s an awesome list of 9 basic movements that young athletes need to master – especially if they plan on playing sports in college.

These movements that Julia talks about, plus some others that I’d probably throw in (lateral movements, plank variations, and some single leg work) are imperative for all athletes, regardless of level.  They train neuromuscular coordination, iron out the imbalances and essentially get the body prepared for whatever demand is going to be placed on it – whether that’s in the weight room or on the field.  The greater the ability to recruit the proper muscles – IN THE PROPER PATTERN – the less the risk of injury.  The FASTER you can recruit these muscles – in the proper pattern – the better athlete you’ll be.  See the trend here?

What really gets me is that we have to teach people- especially kids- how to do basic movements like these.  Really, jumping rope? And the hip hinge? Why am I showing you how to sit back without completely losing your junk?  I’ll save that rant for another day, I promise.  But it is definitely an issue that coaches and trainers need to be aware of – with all age groups.  I’ve even had to revert back to simple variations for my high schoolers that play multiple sports!

This type of training isn’t even exclusive to athletes.  As someone wisely pointed out in the comment section of Julia’s post (and no it wasn’t me) – this should really be changed to movements necessary for ANY “able bodied person”.  Sadly, we tend to ignore this type of training across the board for a ton of reasons – it isn’t as beast mode as ripping some iron off the floor, and it isn’t as convenient to accomplish in most gyms.  But guess what?  Those are stupid excuses. Using the dynamics & agility drills as my main focus, I maintain that running line drills (A skips, B skips, lateral movements, skipping, etc) shouldn’t be stopped once you quit playing sports – and should be incorporated even if you’ve never played them. A few of my wonderful classmates illustrated this point beautifully earlier this semester.  While all of them are athletic and know a thing or two about strength, they looked like a complete train wreck when trying to run through some of these drills.  It wasn’t because they were out of shape – it was because neurologically they weren’t prepared for those kinds of movements.  They hadn’t done them in years, and were all uncoordinated at first.  It was embarrassing.  How are these lean people unable to control their own bodies? Thankfully, after a few attempts, they started to get back into the groove because the system recognized the pattern.

But think about it – when was the last time you went out to a field/track to do some lateral shuffles?  When was the last time you jumped rope? Do I even want to ask when you last sprinted….? (probably not).  I’m not blaming anyone really, because commercial gyms don’t make these activities very convenient, but I’m the BIGGEST fan of incorporating these types of things into training. I train like an athlete so I can retain the benefits of being an athlete – the speed, the power, the fitness, and just general awesomeness for as long as possible.  Use it or lose it.  It is not a cliché – its just how the body operates.

Everyone that knows me is probably shaking their heads because they know I’m crazy about dynamics & sprinting.  My athletes understand why they need it, because they see the direct carryover in what they do on the field.  Other people? Much harder to win over.  Yet I can’t tell you how many people come up to me in shambles all like “My ankle is all screwed up cuz I rolled it playing basketball the other day” or “I think I pulled something in my back when I threw a Frisbee to my dog” or “I don’t even KNOW what I did, but how do I stretch my hip flexor?”  Poor neuromuscular coordination, poor posture, and muscular imbalances leave a real soft foundation for those random spurts of power production.  There is no reason to be surprised, then, that something is “out of whack” if you don’t prepare your body for that movement.

SO the take home message: stop crying, start sprinting.  Haha, no, not quite, but DO train more athletically.  It doesn’t mean you need to train as intensely or as frequently as an athlete, but throwing in some of these simple movements can go a long way.  If you prepare your central nervous system to handle more dynamic tasks, you’ll be less likely to end up a hot mess after that random game of flag football, or your Frisbee field day with Fido.

Need more examples/Not sure how to incorporate into your training? Leave a comment.

“…Personal Trainer” Part 3

The final installment! Make sure you check out parts 1 & 2!

We’ve all probably had to work with a physical therapist at some point in our lives.  When it comes to recovering from an injury, prepping for surgery, and/or recovering from surgery, it is almost guaranteed that you’ll spend time doing PT.  They are specifically trained to deal with injuries, and to help a patient go from a lack of competence to functionality.  A few things stand in the way of this becoming a “perfect” solution, including stubborn insurance policies and old protocols, but for the most part, I’m a big believer in this profession. Injuries happen, even to the most conditioned athletes who follow the best strength programs, and when they do, a competent physical therapist is often the one to get a sidelined kid back to the weight room.  Notice, I didn’t say back to the field.  And herein lies the dilemma: When does the SC coach step aside and let a PT handle the athlete? When does a PT step aside and let the strength coach take over?  Are PTs qualified to do both?

This is going to be the BEST example I can give, ready? The physical therapist / strength coach relationship is like gay marriage in this country: recognized by a few states, criticized in others, a hot topic for the whole nation and misunderstood by just about everyone.

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The marriage between a PT & a strength coach needs to be recognized by the fitness industry as a whole because it is IMPERATIVE that these two entities work together and stop trying to do each other’s jobs.  Physical therapists – you’re awesome.  You make my life easier because if a kid does get injured, you’re the one that has to deal with it, and do the boring stuff for me. Is it extremely important? YES – I just don’t have the patience for it.  You get them back to function, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.  Once the kid surpasses their PT tenure, it is time for me to take over and get them stronger & back into “game shape”.  I won’t try to diagnose injuries, and you won’t try to teach them how to Olympic lift, deal?

In some cases, PT’s will do outside work above and beyond their formal education.  They will have weight room/coaching experience and have their CSCS (or some other combination of obnoxious letters) entitling them to train clients as well. Is this possible? Definitely, depending on the circumstances.  If a PT typically only works with athletes, then it makes sense to be able to fill in the gaps in training before sending the kid back to their coach. I still believe in sending them back to a strength coach for evaluation, however, simply because it is impossible to be everything to everyone.  You’ve heard of getting a second opinion from a doctor, right? Well, why not have a second opinion about an athlete’s recoverability before they hit the field too soon and end up sidelined again? It just makes sense.  In an ideal world, there will be an in-house strength coach in most PT clinics, or a few coaches in the network, to avoid this kind of “crossover” effect.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where people are annoying, physical therapists are afraid of lifting weights, and strength coaches are just big dumb jocks.  JK – but really. The thing I’m most jealous about when it comes to the PT profession is how regulated their standards are.  They have to go to grad school, they HAVE to pass boards, and they have to be licensed.  It is all so strict – and yet, they are dealing with patients that are ALREADY injured.  Why is it that the coaches, trainers, and other clowns that come in contact with perfectly healthy people aren’t forced to go through the same training?  The risk is so much higher – but there’s no regulation. Does this make any sense?? (everyone shout NO). SMH. I wouldn’t mind being forced to go through all of that, simply because I love what I do. I’m already putting myself through standards that aren’t necessary because I feel like it’s the way it SHOULD be done – and I want others to follow my example. Don’t settle for mediocrity EVER.

That’s it for my time on the soapbox.  I hope this has shed some light on the fitness industry for those that aren’t really familiar.  So the next time someone asks me what I want to do, I’m just going to pick them up, press them over my head, and say: “Teach athletes how to do THIS”

#Beast

“….Personal Trainer” Part 2

I’ve already covered personal trainers – and a lot of us (both SC coaches and physical therapists) have certifications and experience with this kind of occupation.  It is a great stepping stone – a way to work on your coaching, network with a wide variety of clients, learn from experience and even figure out which type of client (athletes, elderly, weekend warriors, etc) that you fit the best with.  Some personal trainers, like I’ve alluded to before, are very successful and go on to own their own businesses.  They’re extremely competent and know what they’re doing, so I’m not trying to “diss” them….only some of them…most of them…. okay, I hate everyone.

There are plenty of strength coaches that want to increase their market value that will take on extra general fitness clients on the side – and are awesome at it.  It’s just unfortunate that the good, the bad and the ugly are all mixed under one label – and I’m sure the successful ones agree with me.  Its kind of like how, at the end of the day, the general family practioner and the orthopedic surgeon are both known as “doctors” – there are KEY differences, obviously, but they’re sort of the same “job”.  If you’re the surgeon, it gets annoying.  Make sense? Moving on….

Earlier, you had powerlifters and/or ex-football players/coaches that just started training everyone like football players.  This makes no sense and makes me want to dropkick a child. (Not really, I’m nice, but oh my gosh it drives me crazy). The “good ol’ boy” system where you return to your alma mater because you really don’t know much outside of football and then you start training everyone the way you were trained  [i.e. having football players run 2 miles just because they had a coach back in the day that made them do it]. This = stupidity. Then, probably by accident, it was discovered that this stuff actually doesn’t work, and there has to be an alternative. BAM – new age strength coaches.

Now there’s a new breed out there that is eventually going to take over the industry [if I have any say about it, 😉 – and I’m a loud Italian, so you better believe I’ll be heard].  Their focus/specialty is performance training- kind of like how the doctor specializes in orthopedics – and sometimes, they even narrow it down to a specific sport or age group [again, using my doctor example, like the way a surgeon will be an expert at the knee or shoulder].

So what’s the major difference between a personal trainer and a strength coach [besides the exponential degree of awesomeness?]

Performance coaching is like tuning an instrument.  You have the pieces, and you know exactly what the thing is supposed to sound like, so you make sure you focus on the variables that will get the instrument to perform optimally.  It is more structured than the protocol for someone trying simply to lose weight – that’s all about getting someone to move in any capacity to burn the max amount of calories that they can.  This is more about assessing the athlete: fixing the imbalances, recognizing the demands of the sport in question, understanding the cycles [in-season, out of season, recovery, etc] and being very astute about technique. Your job is to keep your athlete healthy and in the game, while hopefully increasing or maintaining a high level of performance.  Now more than ever, with a better understanding of how training helps athletes, these coaches are imperative to help an athlete go from ‘good’ to ‘great’.

Of course, there are different schools of thought and approaches even among the best coaches, but I’m just talking about the profession as a whole.  These coaches are more focused on certain goals, and tend to know more about functionality, biomechanics, kinesiology and anatomy – AND HOW TO APPLY IT – than even some of the best doctors.  The most profound studies in exercise physiology don’t hold a candle to the things that go on in the weight room because sometimes, those are all just theories.  We know what ‘SHOULD’ happen, but the human body is so intricate that sometimes things happen that defy explanation. That’s why I chose this route – I’m more a fan of reality than theory – but that’s just me.

(Check out Eric Cressey’s 2 part series on Exercise Phys degrees HERE – he makes some great points beyond the scope of this post that people might find interesting).

But for the record, I’m one of the biggest advocates of coupling formal education with valuable EXPERIENCE. Mentorships, internships, assistant coaching, volunteering – they are all integral components for success.  They won’t pay, but the return is huge.  I’ve learned so much by being thrown into situations and having to put my knowledge into practice – and you know what? Sometimes, it didn’t always work, and that’s how I got better, and still improve every day.  A piece of paper doesn’t ensure that someone is a good coach – there are clearly other variables that go into it.  Some of the best strength coaches around don’t have a degree in the field, or one at all, and yet still know how to get after it because they hustle, respect the people ahead of them, and learn from doing. That’s true in a lot of professions.  I’m just happy that there is starting to become a definite recognition nowadays as to how important this position is in athletics, and how amazingly smart some of these coaches are.

Last but certainly not least, we will cover the physical therapists – Part 3 comin up!

“So that’s like…a personal trainer, right?” [Part 1]

Despite being one of the biggest facebook/twitter/social media creeps on the planet, there’s nothing quite like coming home after being away for so long and getting to catch up with family and friends.  Its what makes the holidays so awesome, and I always enjoy the opportunity to just kick back and take time off.

That being said, there is always that moment in the conversation where someone comes up to you and goes, “so, how is school going? What are you there for again? What are you planning to do after?”…and I just shake my head.  There is no way anybody outside of the fitness industry can understand the hierarchy of certain positions, nor do they appreciate the differences in skill set needed for certain professions.  I don’t expect them to, either – but when everyone responds with, “Oh, so you want to be like… a personal trainer, right?” I get all hulked out and want to scream ITS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT.

SO, for my completely biased (but completely true) account of the fitness industry, you’ve come to the right place.

In the field of kinesiology/exercise physiology, strength & conditioning, etc, the term “personal trainer” is kind of like saying to a teacher, “oh, so you’re basically a babysitter.”  You don’t need a degree to babysit.  You don’t even really need a certification – maybe just something that says you know CPR in case the kid chokes on a hotdog.  Even then, that’s not always required.  Teenagers can babysit for extra cash because it is convenient and requires very low levels of competency.  They think, “hey, I like kids, and I can pretty much just hang out and get paid for it! Sweet!” Same thing goes for personal trainers. A lot of them are just like, “I love the gym and I’m always there, I might as well get paid for it!” – and it’s easy to do.  There are a million certifications out there – most just requiring a membership fee, a few [easy] exam questions, and bam – certified. (Fun Fact: to make a point, a well known coach signed up online for PT certification course and was able to get his dog certified as a trainer. THAT’S why the term is such a joke).

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t some awesome trainers out there, because there are, but how do you really know the difference between competent and cyber dog status? Here are some KEY tips to look for when seeking out a personal trainer:

  1. Look for some type of exercise degree. Does this guarantee they know something about programming? No. BUT, it does convey some kind of competency in terms of body mechanics, metabolism, anatomy, kinesiology and just generally how the body should work. It also shows they have more of an interest in the field than a mere 2-day certification course. Kinesiology, exercise physiology, sports science, and even athletic training are just a few examples.
  2. If they offer to write up a diet plan for you, RUN. Unless they are a registered dietician, this is not only beyond the scope of their skill set, but it is ILLEGAL. Yes, you can SUE a personal trainer for writing you a step-by-step dietary eating plan.  This includes prescribing supplements.  They can suggest a supplement to you, but they absolutely cannot write you a recommendation of “x grams/per day, 5 x a day” for example.  If they don’t know this, and they’re providing this service, they don’t know what they’re doing.
  3. Look at their certifications closely.  NASM, ACSM, NSCA and NCSF are some of the gold-standard certifications.  Does this guarantee they are competent beyond the scope of these certifications? No. But some training is better than others, and in this case, these are the ones you want to see.  Also, do a little research on your own to find out what kind of certification YOU think is best for YOUR goals.
  4. Do you feel comfortable? This might seem like a ridiculous thing to ask, but if you’re constantly being forced into signing contracts, or you’re being pushed into services you’re really not feeling, stop! You have the power, and you should find a trainer that is willing to sit down and talk with you about YOUR goals – not shove a pre-meditated sales pitch at you in order to get you to spend more money.  Unfortunately, it is a business, and a lot of trainers are just chasing paper.  In some jobs, that’s okay, but you have to remember that this is your BODY you’re talking about – you only get one, and you want to make sure you take care of it.  After all, that’s why you’re seeking the services of a qualified professional, right?

Those are just 4 of the most important tips I can think of when judging if a trainer knows their stuff. There are a million more and I’d be happy to divulge – just leave a comment if you’re interested.  But the real point of this post is to differentiate between strength & conditioning coaches, personal trainers, and physical therapists. There is such a gray area even WITHIN the field that I understand why people outside of it don’t understand. (I still judge you though). In part 2 of these posts, I’m going to cover this in more detail. Stay tuned! 😉

First post!

I’m a huge fan of reading blogs – particularly to keep up with current trends in strength & conditioning and to get some new ideas for exercises – either for my own training, or to use with my team.  I’ve been toying with the idea of doing my own blog for months now & I’ve finally decided to take the plunge. Bear with me – I’m still learning the ropes of this whole platform, and I’m not really creative with images [graphic designers or people that are crafty – hit me up ;)] but I thought this would be an awesome way to share information, post advice/tips and just set the record straight on some complicated topics.  The fitness world is a tricky place, but it really doesn’t have to be. I’m a big fan of keeping it simple and doing everything with a purpose.

Currently, I have one more semester left of grad school at the University of Miami, and I’m also embarking on my first year as a head coach for a high school varsity girl’s lacrosse team. Prior to that, I coached middle school lacrosse, did personal training in a commercial gym here in Miami, interned at a D1 college, ran the club lacrosse team at UM, and came back from 2 significant knee injuries. Strength is what keeps me going, and my goal is simple – save the world one workout at a time.

Hopefully some of my UM buddies will help me make this blog something fierce – they are all awesome and have a lot to offer in terms of their knowledge and skill set. Plus they’re some of the funniest people I know. Strength, swag and sarcasm – killer combo 😉

Anyway, until next time….!