Correctly assess then slowly progress your movements

Keep the goal the goal

The goal here is simple. I want to get you off the couch, get you back into fitness and get you feeling athletic again. So in order to do that, you have to be consistent and you have to be determined. My job in the initial stages with you or any other athlete I work with is to start you on the right path. Sure, you’ve probably worked out before. But this time I want to actually learn and understand the “why” and “how” so that you can continue your progress for as long as you want. That’s what this is about. No quick fix diet, no magic exercise.

When you first start out with this journey to being athletic again, I want you to understand that we need to make the correct assessments before we do anything else. You have to really know, not guess, where you are physically and mentally today. Acknowledging the fact that, mentally, you don’t know if you can commit to eating healthy long-term is a good thing. It’s great to know this in advance, because now we can build in short-term goals and milestones that will help you avoid pitfalls along the way. If you tell yourself “I will just get a gym membership and go right into back squatting 225 lbs. like I used to” you are putting yourself at higher risk to not reach your goal long-term. So, we need to correctly assess and then slowly progress.

Mentioning the back squat, it’s important to note that I think it’s an excellent exercise. In fact, it’s one of the best exercises out there because it can create strength, help lose body fat, and improve core strength all at the same time. There’s only a few exercises I can count on one hand that can provide that. But with all this said, is it right for most of you right now? Probably not. The right question is not if we should or shouldn’t, but how do we get from where we are now to being able to do a heavy back squats and receive those benefits.

It’s all about the planning

As a strength and conditioning coach, I have to constantly assess my athletes to know all kinds of information like the way that they move and what they are able to handle in each training session. Once I have this information, I choose which exercise fits best with the given info and then adjust accordingly. For example, a simple exercise progression should start with the most basic variation someone is capable of doing correctly and then get more complicated (with either loading or reps/sets) as you progress. Start out with a bodyweight movement and then assess yourself. If you are proficient at this and meet all the requirements, progress to the next step.

Different ways to progress any movement pattern

Once you become more comfortable with something like a bodyweight lunge, squat or pushup you can start to challenge yourself by adding weight or increasing the sets and reps. Changing foot position is also another way to increase the level of difficulty. Going from a bodyweight squat to more complex movements would include things like reverse lunges, split squats or even rear foot elevated squats. A pushup would be progressed by adding a weighted vest, elevating your feet, or widening your hand position. As mentioned before, you can always add more sets or reps to the movement as a means to increase too.

Here is a simple progression of the squat movement starting from body weight progressing all the way to full barbell back squats. Understand first where you fit along this spectrum and then follow the progression.

Below is an illustration of how to progress a squatting variation:

Bodyweight Squat

Goblet Squat

Split Squat

Rear foot elevated squat

 

Typically, most clients or athletes that have gone through the process and reached this point can begin to work into learning the back and front squat with a barbell. I prefer to teach this movement with box squatting first to build confidence and allow for more ways to cue the movement. After I see proficiency with the box squat and have continued to build strength and stability with the previously mentioned movements, I will add load to the bar and progress them on the barbell movements.

Box Squat

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Back Squat/Front Squat

 

So, you see that this is a simple way to illustrate how important it is to start at the right point and slowly build movement patterns with milestones and checkpoints. Instead of jumping right into the most complex movement, you are setting yourself up for long-term success by mastering the basics. The squat is an excellent way to build the athletic qualities that we desire. Just because we can’t jump right into the most complex step doesn’t mean we can’t a) perform a squatting variation and make gains in strength and power and b) work to eventually back/front squatting under heavy weights.

Take home points:

  • The squat pattern is an excellent way to build strength and power in the lower body as well as increase speed and jump height.
  • Making a correct assessment before jumping into a workout program will help set you up for long-term success. Short-term, overnight improvements like rapid weight loss is not going to be what we want.
  • There are proper progressions to follow for the squat, hinge, pressing and rowing patterns that will help us take a slow and steady approach to reaching our goals.
  • Assess, evaluate, and make a plan. If you can’t do something now, make a plan to get there in a time frame.

If this article has helped you, like and share so that it can help someone else.

Follow @AthleticAgain for daily workouts and more information.

Nutrition tip of the week: Which diet is best for you?

This is a fairly common question I get from athletes, especially those that are interested in learning more about nutrition and fitness. It’s a good question because it shows that you are taking steps to improve yourself. But, I’m afraid you won’t leave after reading this with a clear cut diet choice hand picked for you. Instead, I want to give you a breakdown of what your diet SHOULD include to help you avoid the overwhelming feeling when trying to pick from the hundreds of acronymed fad diets.

First, it’s important if you don’t already know what macronutrients are that you get that down. Carbs, fats, proteins, done. You’ve undoubtedly heard something about one of these if not all. It’s also possible with all the marketing and information out there that you have a negative feeling towards one of them. My best and most valuable piece of info in this blog is this…Stop. Stop feeling like carbs are the enemy and fat makes you fat. This is key. I’ve had to put this fire out more times than I can count. I don’t blame anyone for thinking this either, because marketing and television has blasted this out so consistently that it’s become a fact for some people without even knowing why. I’m glad if you’re reading this because it means that you get to read something different or at least reinforce good principles.

Important things to include in your diet

I think it’s silly seeing an entirely carb deficient diet because carbs play such a pivotal role in the way our body functions. We didn’t choose for our body to need carbs the way that it does, but carbs are our preferred source of energy. Fats also plays a huge role in things like brain function, absorption of vitamins and even is an energy source (although not as efficient as carbs are). If your diet tells you that you don’t need either one, ditch that diet like a hot burrito.

burrito

That brings us to protein, ah protein you sweet macronutrient you. No diet ever leaves you behind. Protein is like the favorite child that can do no wrong and I’ll bet fat and carbs don’t like protein very much. But, hey, that’s macros.

Protein is extremely useful for recovering from tough workouts and building muscle. If you’re on track to being athletic again, you’re going to need lots of protein. You don’t necessarily need to run out and grab a huge tub of choc-o-protein. There are plenty of ways to get protein in your diet as long as the specific diet you want to follow isn’t a “meatless” type of methodology. If it is, you are going to have to come up with some creative ways to add protein that won’t really be as easy for the body to absorb.

So, what you are really clicked this post for has come. Let’s breakdown some of the more popular diets and then see which one includes the three important macros most efficiently.

caveman

The Paleo Diet

This one is a big one. Very popular diet and only gaining steam. It’s seemingly synonymous with CrossFit too, which doesn’t hurt them considering CrossFit has really continued to grow despite it’s critics. The Paleo Diet is based on eating like the cavemen in the paleolithic era, so you’re basically following the diet of Fred Flintstone and friends. You should know ahead of time following this diet means no processed foods and no dairy, whole grains, salt, or potato. This is a high protein, low carb diet that really is based around meat and veggies with very little carb involved. As we talked about before, carbs are important and need to be involved in your diet. I think one good thing about the Paleo diet is that it emphasizes getting good sources of protein and including lots of vegetables, which I’m definitely going to agree with. However, for our purposes of trying to be more athletic we need to have the energy to perform. That means having the preferred fuel source of the body and not restricting them so much that we are constantly fatigued. Some athletic folks, like CrossFitters, choose to follow this diet about 80% of the time and allow for more flexibility the other 20%. I think the diet itself has some positives, but overall it’s not something you can go all-in on.

The Ketogenic Diet

The keto diet has grown popular, mainly from the daytime television circuit hosting advocates of this diet to kick off the new year. But, it’s important you know the ketogenic part stands for the state of ketosis.

Ke-what?

Ketosis is a state where you restrict carb intake to a point where your blood glucose drops. The body then does what it needs to and increases a specific hormone that eventually breaks down your fat into something called ketones. Those ketones can be used for energy, but only if the body goes through an adaptation process. It’s important to note that, again, while ketones may provide some energy they are not providing near as much as carbs would. Also, you really want to watch out that you don’t get into something called “ketoacidosis”. In the initial stages of a workout program when you are still doing low level activity it could be effective in providing some rapid weight loss. But, the uncomfortable feeling while you go into a state of ketosis can be uncomfortable and make you a pretty grumpy person to be around. This diet can also be tough because the carb restriction means your calories need to come from protein and fat. Most people starting a fad diet are doing it to lose fat and therefore have a big issue having so many calories come from fat. Rapid weight loss isn’t always good, if it means putting yourself in a really uncomfortable situation for periods of time. It may be a bio hack type of diet, but I don’t recommend doing this right now in the process.

Intermittent Fasting (5:2 Diet)

Surprisingly, this is the diet I’m asked about both. More specifically, a diet that uses the idea of IF called the “5:2 diet”. This is actually one of the most consistently used methods of dieting by athletes because the schedule of non-eating windows vs eating windows just fits their schedule. Definitely not a general statement towards all athletes, but some of the ones that I work with. Fasting is not necessarily something new, some religious holidays require a fast. But, this is the first diet that I’ve listed that focuses on WHEN to eat instead of WHAT to eat.

Intermittent fasting boils down to eating during windows of times and then not eating at all for long stretches of time. The 5:2 diet mentioned earlier is basically going 2 days with a severe calorie restriction (500 for women, 600 for men) followed by 5 days with no restriction at all. The obvious issue with not eating much for 2 days is that beginners searching for help from diets won’t have much discipline to start with and be more prone to overeat on the other 5 days. This is a diet that could definitely set people up for a rebound of weight gain after a few pounds are lost.

After listing a few of the popular fad diets, I hope the main points that really stick with you is the importance that all three macros have in your diet. Each one has a place and a role in the way your body functions. If a diet tells you that you need to restrict one completely, leave that book on the shelf. Instead, combining some thoughts from several diets could end up giving you a more balanced approach. Eating less processed foods, avoiding sugar, and including lots of veggies are excellent tips. Trying to avoid eating really late at night and occasionally restricting calories for short periods of times can have benefits for more disciplined people. Either way, it’s important to educate yourself on what each diet is really asking of you and how much commitment it will take to follow long-term. Athletes needs a good balance to be able to perform at a high level, plain and simple.

Take home points:

  • Carbs, Fats, and Proteins all play an integral role in your body and your ability to perform athletic things. Avoid diets that tell you to avoid one altogether.
  • Fad diets that make you restrict calories to very low levels may work initially, but are probably setting you up to regain the weight later on.
  • A short-term, fast weight loss program is probably not going to help you be athletic again in the long-term because it’s not helping you build better habits.
  • Focusing on principles rather than methods will always win out. If you can follow a few key principles, it’s easier to pick and choose a few methods that work instead of picking a specific all or nothing type of diet.
  • Good nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple and make things easy on yourself. Exercise, make smart choices, avoid fast food and processed junk!

 

If this has been helpful to you, please leave a comment below or share to help someone else. Also, if you want daily workouts to help you reach your goals follow @AthleticAgain on Instagram or @AthletesAgain on twitter.

Improve and prepare for a better workout

You’ve had a long day of work and have more stuff to do when you get home. So, when you finally do make it into the gym, you hop straight into your workout only to realize how sore your shoulder is mid-set of a bench press. You decide to lift a little lighter because of the shoulder and end up missing out on some valuable time to make #gainz.

What step did you miss? Was there something you could’ve done to avoid this?

The answer is yes.

Planning out a detailed warm-up to get the body prepared to train is one of the most important things strength professionals do with their athletes. Everyday professional and collegiate level athletes meet before their practices to perform a team warmup that includes two portions. Sure, strength and power are the goals. But if your body isn’t ready to go then you may end up training at a lower level and slowing your progress down the road.

IMG_1270
A daily routine of most professional athletes starts with a specific warm-up period to prepare the body for activity. Your workouts should follow this same idea.

You should have two stages to your warm-up:

1-General warmup- This includes things that increase your heart rate and body temperature focusing on getting the entire body moving. Ex. Treadmill jog, elliptical, rowing machine, seated bike, or jump rope

2- Specific warmup- This differs from general because it’s going to be exercises tailored to your specific needs. You are now trying to prime areas of the body that need hinder your workout or could use mobilization drills to allow for better movement. Ex. Someone with limited hip range of motion would have 2-3 exercises that help to open the hips and help to transition into the training portion smoothly. It’s a very important point in your training where you’re focusing on things that could hold you back and limit your quality of work.

 

Improve and Prepare

Instead of the term “warm-up”, let’s say “improvement”or “preparation” periods. Many people hear the term “warm-up” and associate it with something closer to Richard Simmons on an aerobic step or jogging a lap around a track. Instead, let’s change our view to making it a specific period of growth that can immediately make an impact on your day. Imagine cleaning up your hip pain before you do a lower body workout and leaving the gym feeling like you did something positive for your body. Instead, you skip the prep period and end up limping out of the gym because the workout made your sore hip even worse.

We have to place emphasis on prepping the body because of the information it gives us about your readiness to work. For example, in the scenario from our introduction we mentioned a common situation in which a person coming in to workout rushes into their workout and notices a cranky feeling in the shoulder while bench pressing. A properly planned prep period could have brought to light that the shoulder feels a little stiffer than usual. This would warrant a few specific exercises tailored to improve range of motion in the shoulder joint before the workout even begins. This person can now go into bench pressing with a better joint environment and train at a greater intensity = steady progress.

Biofeedback: Your body trying to tell you something

Rushing into your workouts leads to more harm than good. You can knock your workout out as fast as you want, but chances are your joints will not appreciate it later on. The prep period is not only a good time to improve on specific things, but also a way to listen to the feedback your body is giving. It’s very possible that you didn’t even realize you hip was so restricted and is limiting your squat movement. By doing a few hip focused drills before you go into it, you are doing a daily routine check-up of your body before you ask it to perform. Imagine if your car was making a funny clunking sound as you drove it to work and you realize you haven’t taken it to be serviced in 2 years. You have to realize that the 5-10 minutes before your workout can and should be used to look under the hood and keep your body running right.

This is also one of the few times where you are going to isolate the body into parts instead of as a complete system or movement. Overall, we want to train and teach the body to work as a whole instead of one muscle group independently. The only group this wouldn’t apply to are bodybuildings that are competing. You can use this time to isolate an area (like the ankle) and work specifically on the area to measure improvements in movement and range of motion. However, at the end of your prep, you should have a way to test a movement that includes the joint that you worked on to see if that work really helped or not. To read more about why we need to work the body as a system, click here for a previous post explaining it more in depth.

To sum all of this information up and give actionable steps that you can take with you:

  • A warm-up should include a general portion for 5 minutes and a specific portion for 5-10 minutes that focuses on improving joint mobility that may limit your training or need extra TLC.
  • You need to view the warm-up as time to listen to the feedback your body gives and use that feedback to make improvements.
  • In order to make sure your specific drills are making an impact on your movement, make sure you have ways to do before and after testing (i.e. body weight squat before and after working on ankle mobility).
  • TAKE HOME: Before your next workout, spend 5 minutes getting your heart rate up with cardio and 5 minutes figuring out what joint (whether it’s shoulder, hip, ankle, wrist, elbow) needs more attention and is giving you issues so you can plan on how to make an improvement.

If these articles have benefitted you, please share or like to help this reach more people.

Follow @AthleticAgain on Instagram for daily workouts and videos of me showing you to how to make easy, healthy meals.

Follow @AthleticAgain on Twitter for updates and news on what’s next.

Until next time.

 

 

 

 

Nutrition tip of the week: Raindrops, droptops, crock pots

It’s Friday so that means it’s time for the nutrition tip of the week, just in time to stop you from making too many bad decisions this weekend.

One thing I can tell you from my experiences in fitness and performance is that a huge glaring weakness for most is cooking. This is especially true for males, and even more of an issue for males who are busy and out of shape.

Sometimes this can be helped if they are lucky enough to meet someone who is a great cook. It’s an added bonus if the person they meet is actively pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

That means they are:

  1. Going to consistently put better quality food on your plate and more often than not you are going to eat it.
  2. Going to remind you that you shouldn’t have that dessert or extra serving of fries because you had it recently.
  3. Probably going to hint the hard truth that you probably should be working out and trying to be healthier so you can longer.

As much as it might bug you to have someone reminding you about the milkshake you had two days ago or that you need to eat more vegetables, it’s definitely a benefit. You should be thanking those people, even though you don’t want to.

What I want to do in this nutrition tip of the week is unleash the secret weapon for everyone that requires little time for prep and allows you to continue your daily routine without much cooking at all.

Enter the crock pot

crockpot

A man’s best cooking tool, besides the good ol’ grill out back.

This is such an important tool in the kitchen for anyone with a resolution this year because it allows you to set it and forget it. Have important stuff to do for a few hours and don’t have time to stare at your chicken while it sizzles? Great. Just buy all your ingredients, chuck it in the crock pot, and turn it on “low and slow” mode for some seriously awesome food that you’ve made yourself. Being athletic again means working out and eating better. Things like protein (chicken/fish/turkey, sometimes beef), carbs (oatmeal/potatoes/rice), and vegetables (peppers, green leafy ones, carrots). A secondary benefit to this is when you throw in these ingredients together the flavors mix giving a cool taste, especially if you have a few great spices that help to add variety.

Template to a great crock pot meal

I’d like to hand out recipes of specific meals, but we’ll save that for another video down the road. Instead, I want to give you a template that allows for all kinds of options and combinations. Part of learning to cook is the experimenting. So, following a sort of guide to what needs to be in your meals will allow you to buy different foods and chuck them in.

  • Start with your protein- Lean meats will be your best bet here. Working out will cause a breakdown of muscle and recovering properly requires good sources of protein to rebuild back stronger. Choose fresh versions over processed, pre-prepared versions. Great options will be fresh ground turkey, fresh chicken breasts or tenderloin, or fresh options of fish like grouper or salmon.
  • Next comes your carbs- Carbs are topics of debate constantly, especially in the fitness world. Do we eat them or do we not? My answer is absolutely we do. Carbs are preferred sources of energy for the body, debate me if you want but my body is happier when I have healthy carb sources included in my diet. It will take a little preparation if you choose a potato here if you prefer skinned potatoes, but not longer than 5 minutes. Sweet potatoes seem to be everyone’s preference over the white potato, which has gained a bad rep somehow. Sweet potatoes are great, but white potatoes are too. Another great way to use the crock pot is to steam rice. Just throw in the rice, water, and a little bit of sea salt and bam.
  • Now come the dreaded vegetables that are too easy to forget. But don’t. We need all the things they provide while we recover from the physical work we put in. Please don’t throw in shredded lettuce and tell me you have veggies in your crock pot. Peppers, carrots, asparagus, or green beans would count. This step might require a pre-wash of your food and chopping up into smaller pieces. Also, fresh veggies over non.
  • Last, and most important, my favorite seasoning. I prefer and always recommend Mrs. Dash’s variety of seasonings. Mrs. Dash is a salt substitute type of seasoning and has tons of different types allowing for variety in your food. I have tried a lot of these and find them very enjoyable especially because eating healthy has a reputation of getting boring. It doesn’t need to be!

I hope that this template can help the next time you go to cook a meal. You can do extra research on different crock pot meals and see which ones sound interesting. I recommend thinking about what style of cuisine you typically gravitate towards and begin your search there. For example, my wife and I love eating Asian style cuisine. So, a healthier version of orange chicken and rice is what I would begin searching for.

Always remember that when you are on your way to being athletic again, there isn’t one standard boring way to get there. Many people have searched for an answer to a question you have and with the way the Internet has developed, it’s not so hard to find.

 

If this article helped you, please like and share so that other people trying to get back into fitness can find an easy way to prep their meals and save some money. Also, check out my instagram @AthleticAgain for daily workouts and goals to get you back to being your athletic self again.

Are you further away from your goals then you think?

In every type of change we make, we must first reflect on the where we truly are. We have to really know where we are in order to find out where to go from there. One of the worst ways to start a transformation or positive change is to lie to the person in the mirror.

In my experience, something very common among men that have fallen out of fitness is  having a hard time admitting how far they really are from their best shape. It IS very easy to say, “I was one of the strongest guys in my high school, I just need to get back in the gym a few weeks and I’ll be better”. It’s NOT very easy to say, “I was one of the strongest guys in high school and now I might be one of the weaker guys at the local gym”. But, making a change isn’t easy. So we need to pick the uphill road that would give us the better view once we reach it.

Now, I’m sure that a lot of former athletes really aren’t that far out of shape. But being in that position puts you at an even tougher spot. Because you feel like you aren’t really that out of shape, you may lack the urgency necessary to get back to being athletic. You may be able to talk yourself into eating a little worse or doing a little less each day because you don’t think you are out of shape.

But let’s think about what that mindset does?

Say you get a job that makes you wake up an hour earlier than your previous job did. Your few first days would be rough, showing a constant grumpy expression before noon and desperately wanting a nap in the afternoon. But, over time, the waking up part becomes routine. However, if you only have to wake up early twice per month those two days would feel much like that first day of work. Because you haven’t built a routine your body would not make the proper adjustments needed. I use this analogy to point out that if you keep yourself in limbo between really out of shape and great shape you’re going to keep feeling that unwillingness to drive to the gym or start your workout because it hasn’t been made a routine yet.

The importance of building a routine

A very important part to point out is the amount of work it takes to actually maintain a level of athleticism. Research has shown that missing up to two weeks of workouts in a row can bring even trained individuals to back to the level they were at before starting a training program. A lot of professional athletes I work with don’t even know this information and tend to take more than two weeks off before they start training again in the off-season. What this means is that if I start a training program for one month and then take off two weeks straight, I will be shifting my strength levels back down closer to where they were when I first started the training program. This is like running up a hill halfway and then sliding down again only to try to climb the hill again later. I want you climb the hill once and enjoy the view at the top!

So here are a few actionable plans to make sure you check yourself throughout the process:

  • Start by really reflecting on where you are to establish a starting point
  • Then, using this starting point make an accurate, realistic goal of where you want to go and what you want to do at the end of 2018
  • Build a routine by following workouts everyday, like the ones you can find posted on Instagram daily @AthleticAgain.
  • Stick with a routine and climb the hill once, avoiding the halfway up halfway down pattern.

Nutrition tip of the week

Nutrition is a topic that makes most people getting back into fitness cringe. So I’ll keep it quick.

“I know what you mean, I’ve tried eating healthy and had grilled chicken and broccoli for a whole month. I stopped because I just couldn’t keep eating that stuff, it was so bland”.

That’s an actual quote from a client I’ve had in the past. And actually, it’s probably something a lot of you were thinking if not tried already. I will drill the point home with every post and every chance I get. You want to make small, slow adjustments that will allow you to make a long lasting change and be consistent until December. This applies to both training your body and the things you eat or drink. Most people do a good job in January at putting forth some kind of effort physically. It’s typically nutrition that is slows us down and steers us off the path. We force ourself to chew up tasteless food because we think it’s helping us to get healthy again. I literally just saw a pizza chain is doing 50% off online orders for the next few weeks, if you force yourself to eat plain grilled chicken you will be getting a hot and ready by the end of the weekend. Now, if you just read that and thought, “Man, I am going to have to check that pizza deal out”, we have work to do. And if you read that and thought, “I’m crushing pizza tonight”, we may need to push the panic button.

I want to keep this short and sweet because the word “nutrition” already makes people’s eyes glazed over. And we want to avoid glazed things at all costs for the time being right? My quick and easy tip to improve your daily/weekly routine a little bit and give you the most bang for your buck is simple.

TIP- ****Add avocados to your routine****

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, avocados have become a huge thing. Actually, avocados have become so popular that even people living under rocks might have started eating them.

But what’s all the fuss really about?

There’s a good chance that you’ve been eating avocado and not even really looked into the benefits. The common response I get when I ask people why they include it in their diet is because it’s a “healthy fat”. Well, that part is true. And fat is a very necessary part our diet that we can’t afford to leave out, even when your trying to lose weight. But let’s take a deeper look at all the positives to throwing a little avo’ on your next sammy or salad.

avocado

Avocados include:

  • 20 different vitamins and minerals
  • Have more potassium than bananas (Fun fact)
  • Lots of fibers (very important thing to look for in your food)
  • Can lower cholesterol
  • Loaded with Antioxidants
  • Help reduce symptoms of arthritis

Another cool fact plays off the fact that avocados help you absorb your nutrients from plant based foods better. It helps that most of the time avocados are put into your salad, making you absorb the greens even better. Pretty long list of reasons why you should start adding it asap.

Final thought

We’re trying to make small, incremental changes that we can easily insert into the routine we already have in place. I’m not asking you to stop everything, I’m asking you to add some physical activity and now throw avocados. So try to grab a few avocados the next time you head to the grocery store (make sure they are ripe) and enjoy. There are many ways to enjoy whether it’s on a sandwich, salad, or even making homemade guac.

#nutrition #beinganathlete #athlete #grindtimeContinue reading “Nutrition tip of the week”

The journey to being athletic again

New year’s day came and went. And as January 2nd came and went, so did a lot of naive naive resolutions that started with “I’m not going to….”.

new years drunk

The awesome energy that a new year brings allows us to make plans to be better. It gives us an opportunity to look at past failures and tell ourselves that this year is going to be the year. But let’s be honest, most of the previous years started out with that energy too. And the previous years ended up like they did. It’s not until around March when reality sets in and our willingness to stay the path gets challenged. The struggle to make the “new you” merge into life as you know means that other things will have to take a backseat. The point where most fail is the moment when you have a choice to make. You can either give in and do what you always do or decide to make the time to be different.

Becoming an athlete again, developing athletic qualities like you once possessed, takes time and patience. I say this is the perfect year for you to take a step towards feeling great again. But just because it takes time doesn’t mean great things can’t happen in a short time with some hard work. You can get back to running for the first time in years, get back to lifting the same weight you lifted when you were a football player in high school, or feel energy at 4pm again like you did when you were younger. It’s important you know that the right mentality is brick by brick, step by step building a foundation that is going be long lasting. It’s time to get back to being the athlete you were and still can be. Which foundation do you to want to build your body on?

**Long-term mindset**

Imagine how much progress you will make by December, not how much weight you can lose by Spring Break.

Mapping it out

First things first, you need to get moving again. Trying to go out and run a mile three times a week starting in January is a great way to be googling “how to not make my knees hurt so much” by Valentine’s Day. Start slow and remember, brick by brick. We are building a sturdy house not a shaky building on stilts. Being realistic in what we choose is what is going to make the difference. What’s different from when you were younger and were at your peak athleticism? Marriage, kids, important job, other responsibilities? These are all important things that definitely take up most of your day. This leaves you with limited time and makes it even more important we map this out to maximize efficiency.  Not to mention, those other responsibilities take energy away from your workouts, so we need to be honest when we evaluate. Now we can get realistic idea of what we’re capable of doing right out of the gate. If you take an honest look and find out you actually only have 15 minutes to exercise right now, that’s great. Now we know and we can begin to plan out how to get the most out of that 15 minutes. If you have more, that’s great too.

time

Next, once you know HOW much time you have you have find out WHERE it fits.  Convenience is such a huge factor in this stage of the process. Most former athletes I’ve had consultations with say that the biggest reason they haven’t been exercising is that they don’t have time. But when I drew it out on paper for them and really broke it down, there was always a window of time they didn’t realize they had. Some people also make the mistake of trying to cram a workout into their busiest time of the day and set themselves up for a very distracted training session. What you need is a window of time solely dedicated to improving yourself physically and mentally. So find out how much time you have and then pick the best place to fit that time in your busy schedule. Nobody said it’s easy, but it’s time to do it in order to make that change.

The workouts

It’s funny when I say this, but actually, the workouts are the easy part. No, I’m definitely not saying squats, lunges, pushups, running, or any exercise is easy. But I’m saying if you carve out the time and have the will to change, the physical demands of a workout are not so hard to put up with. All you have to do is show up and do it. I’m here to provide you with the information and education to make it as simple as following what’s on paper. One of the easiest ways to hinder your progress is to show up to the gym with no plan. You end up doing an exercise out of boredom and not because it’s the best thing for your goals. I am going to take care of the program, you just bring the effort and discipline to follow it. I really just want to help you get back to when you felt great and had the ability to do all sorts of stuff. Remember when you could play pickup basketball for 10 games straight without thinking about your swollen knee cap? Or not worry about waking up the next day without being able to walk? The goal of Athletes Again is to help return you to a level of health and fitness that brings energy to your job, your family, and your life. Imagine if when the clock hits 5pm and your headed home from work you still have energy?

As I mentioned before, workouts that follow the foundation-building approach are going to help more in the long run. I’m not going to let you start out of the gate with complex exercises at heavy loads just because it makes your ego feel good. It’s important we take one step forward each day with our work and not one step forward, two steps back. We do that by sticking to the plan and keeping our feet moving. The last thing we need now is you jumping into some workout you saw on Instagram that blew out your back and gave you another reason to stop trying to get back in shape. If you want to do that, google your local fitness center or CrossFit and good luck to you and your spinal discs. I promise you can get back to doing box jumps, olympic lifts, and sprinting. But if I gave you a baseball right now and said to throw it to me I guarantee you wouldn’t crow hop and throw it as hard as your body could possibly throw it on your first try. And you shouldn’t treat this process like that either. It can definitely be humbling, especially if you were at a very high level before and at a very low level now. Exercises that weren’t very tough for you at age 20 can kick your butt at 35 when you haven’t be doing much. You have to be able to be honest with yourself at where you are right now.

Time to get started

This is going to be a place that you can go to find this information. I am going to hold you accountable to make a change. It’s going to take you avoiding some things in your life that you have built a routine around. If you have a Wednesday “ice cream night” with your family, you’re either going to have to stop going or make a healthier choice like frozen yogurt. It’s all about making better choices. Trying to stop everything that might be unhealthy in your life at once is a great way to fail. Slowly adjusting or trying to make a better choice (like yogurt over ice cream) is going to be much more manageable. If you drink 6 beers with your buddies every Friday, start to scale that back to 2-3 instead of telling your friends you’ve changed your life and can’t see them ever again. You need friends as support, so pushing them aside just because you are trying to be healthier may actually be more unhealthy and less helpful. This is especially true if they are supportive of you making a change. The one exception to this, obviously, is if they aren’t supportive and are keeping you from getting better. If you want this to be a success, it’s important to have people around you that want to be successful and want you to succeed too.

So 2018 is here. It’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be worth it. Make time, plan ahead, and let’s get you back to doing things you didn’t think you could do anymore. You’ll be running, jumping, and skipping again before you know it.

 

 

Striving for better

After a long hiatus, I wanted to return to writing on this site to express some opinions I have. Gaining experience over the last few years, I have been enlightened in many ways to the development of athletes. There are so many great people involved in sports and many of them are young athletes striving to be better. I think sometimes fans overlook how great it is to see someone who came from high school and rose all the way to the highest level in their career regardless of how well they perform at that highest level.

Sharing a quote from Kobe Bryant, who recently had not one but two jerseys retired in the Staples Center rafters, said a quote that will probably stick with me forever. He said, “Those times when you get up early and you work hard. Those times you stay up late and you work hard. Those times when you don’t feel like working. You’re too tired. You don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway… That is actually the dream.”

Full Story here: http://www.slamonline.com/media/slam-tv/kobe-bryant-speech-jersey-retirement-ceremony/#sL4VzupRlqQHjgh1.97

This rings so true to all the athletes that ever pushed themselves to not just start, but dominate the game they played. You think that you are putting in those extra hours to score a few more points or tally a few more strikeouts. In reality, we do it because that is what we love to do. I think we all are guilty of looking ahead at what we can become when really the time we are spending getting better is the times we will remember the most. The blood, sweat and tears we put in striving to get better are the actual dream.

After taking a few years to really digest my thoughts, I have come to realize that there is some innate thing in people that separates them. You can say that parenting or life experiences through puberty helps to develop certain qualities, but it just seems to me that some people have the special gene and some don’t. Now, when I say “special gene” I am not referring to the person who can dunk at age 12 or the 15 year old pitcher that can throw 92 mph. I am talking about the people who show up early and stay late because they want to get a few extra shots up. The kids who are still playing when the sun goes down and will probably be lacing up their shoes when the sun rises. This is what they do because they strive to be better. I think if anything my experiences the last few years have shown me that no matter what sport you are in or what career field you have decided to go into there is a mentality that needs to be present in order to be successful. Take life by the reins and strive to be better. If we are in accounting, be the absolute best in your branch for the next 24 hours. If you are a car salesman, outsell everyone for the next week. Small goals and baby steps lead to building consistency and greater things down the road. If you can do it for one week, you can find the strength to persevere for a month. Build on what you can do today as if it’s a snowball rolling down a mountain.

You will pick up steam, you will pick up more snow, and your success will become a huge monstrous boulder barreling down a hill.

Let’s get better

CR

#Strength #Speed #Strength&Conditioning #Fitness

Modes of recovery for the minor league baseball player

Picture the walk back to the clubhouse after you’ve just finished a 4 game road series that included a late night extra inning marathon. The team is tired, the bullpen was maxed out, and nobody is looking forward to the five-hour bus ride back home. While you’re packing up your stuff and grabbing a bite to eat, you start wondering what is the best time to lift the starting pitcher from tonight. It will have to be late enough in the morning to give him time to sleep, but early enough to him the most possible rest time until his bullpen the next day. When you finally decide and give the news to the starter, who is completely gassed from working 6+ innings, you get a mixture of understanding and reluctance with a groan. The life of a minor league baseball player is rough, as we all know, but we have a job to do and it’s now our duty to prepare them to be ready to perform again in 5 days.

baseball

We have various methods to optimize performance for each player on our roster. Whether it’s conditioning, lifting weights, nutritional guidance, or flexibility/mobility drills, we implement everything we can to help the individual needs of our athletes. We focus so much of our time in strength & conditioning on learning to turn on and activate the body. Great coaches are those that can get athletes to increase their rate of force development, produce larger power outputs, and improve neural drive. But, this is minor league baseball. Programming for baseball sports, in my short time in this field, is much more frustrating than other sports. During such a grueling schedule, all kinds of things that pop up out of nowhere.

Many times I’ve had the “perfect program|” or the “ideal schedule” written down only to run into a problem that changes everything by the time the actual workout takes place. It’s important to keep in mind that the pitcher lifting tomorrow is about to hop on a bus and sleep in a terrible postural position for several hours. The chances you are going to have much effect on his rate of force development tomorrow are about as good as the chances of sleeping comfortably on that bus. One of most important things in becoming a better athlete aside from lifting and running is rest and recovery. Since the only opportunity for that pitcher is being on a cramped bus all night, maybe we need to add in more modes of recovery to account for a lack of quality sleep.

An angle we tend to miss

After a broad analysis of what a professional baseball player does in a single day, you see that it includes not only time spent on the diamond, but also time is spent on a bus, at their apartment, and in the clubhouse. When you add up all of the time that is spent off the diamond versus time between the white lines, it’s hard not to notice that a baseball player spends a great deal of time inactive. Now, it’s easy to think that because of this amount of inactivity, these athletes spend most of their day relaxing. But as anyone who has worked in this game knows, the amount of stress involved with this lifestyle can be tremendous. Contracts, homesickness, injuries, bad performance, an argument with a teammate, or relationship problems can be stressful all on their own. Some of these players are dealing with more than one of those things at a time and still have months to go before they can go home.

While I have shown earlier that the amount of physical stress is relatively low compared to other professional athletes, I want to illustrate the amount of mental stress that exists within professional baseball. It is because of this extremely high level of psychological stress that I suggest that we focus our efforts towards improving and implementing more stress reduction/relaxation techniques into our programming.

The current emphasis in our strength & conditioning tends to center on getting the athlete’s muscle fiber to fire fast, to improve ”activation”, or “turn on” or produce action. Yet, when you look at baseball, only the pitcher performs a significantly high volume of firing and activation in one night. By no means am I undervaluing a baseball player’s improvement in power or force producing characteristics. I believe that by improving speed of movement and force capability is the number one goal when training someone in a power based sport. My goal is simply create awareness and dig deeper using what we see everyday to point out that it’s possible we might be missing out on doing more.

As July rolls around, what once was a clubhouse full of energy can dead silent regardless of your win-loss record. You can have a pep talk everyday to improve morale, yet still your team will be worn out. The day in and day out grind that is baseball

A quick look at the nervous system

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) can be useful in helping us get on the same page before we go further. Most, if not all strength/performance coaches should be well aware of the ANS and therefore this review will be very brief. The autonomic nervous system can be divided into 2 sections, the parasympathetic (PNS) and the sympathetic (SNS). The parasympathetic side deals with things like digestion and reducing your heart rate following activity, while the sympathetic will be responsible for activities that require athletic movements such as sprinting to first and swinging at a pitch. In other words, the parasympathetic is on full blast when you plop down on the couch after a huge dinner and the sympathetic side is reduced whereas the sympathetic is on full blast when someone is running away from a dangerous situation while the parasympathetic effect would be withdrawn.

We can assume that the high level athletes on our roster have learned to express the sympathetic side effectively. However, we can’t assume that with all of the stressors involved in a professional athlete’s life that they are very effective at tapping in the parasympathetic side effectively. Sleep quality is very low in minor league baseball due to sleeping on air mattresses cramped with 4 other teammates in an apartment in an effort to save money. Stressful situations like unsuccessfully trying to go to sleep on a leaky mattress can cause the sympathetic side to be increased in a situation where it should be dominated by the parasympathetic. Overall, it can be a autonomic roller coaster full of up’s and down’s typically dominated by a highly sympathetic state.

Physical therapist and author of “Supple Leopard”, Kelly Starrett, has said in several interviews that a major issue among people is the ability to activate and “turn on” the sympathetic system in combination with an inability to turn it off and allow the parasympathetic system to take over. One key factor causing this is a stressful lifestyle. A stressful lifestyle can be anything from a trader on Wall Street to a barista at Starbucks. It’s very difficult to simply define and label exactly what stress is. To paraphrase a professor I had in college, the term stress is so easily misunderstood because it is so simply and falsely accepted. People think of stress and associate it with as one specific form. However, stress can come in both physical and mental forms. For example, if your shortstop is running to first to beat a throw, he is experiencing physical stress on his body. But if he is hitless in his last twelve at bats, he might also be experiencing mental stress from the pressures to break his slump. Both forms are still stressful to the body regardless of which type, but it’s important to know that the impact from non-physical stressors can still wreak havoc.

In the book “Why zebra’s don’t get ulcers”, author Robert Spolasky, mentions that a specific hormonal response, often referred to as the automatic stress response, can be activated even if the brain just thinks of something stressful. That means that the shift to sympathetic dominance can happen not only from physical activity on the field or in the weight room, but also from a player just thinking about striking out his next at bat in a close game.

Now, most of us in this line of work have already come to understand most of this, but I wanted to preface those points to briefly illustrate my purpose of this article. In professional baseball, with the lifestyle that it creates, we need to focus more attention on teaching players how reduce stress rather than creating more. There are so many stressors involved already that it becomes a fine line on where to implement our own things. It’s possible that by adding in things to help shift the athletes into a parasympathetic state during some parts of the day, we could be helping reduce secondary effects of stress like lowered immunity and fatigue. I’ve found that many athletes, including myself, find it much harder to get into a relaxed state. I’ve also found that people in that category need to be taught how to relax rather than being told to simply relax.

Teaching an athlete to relax quicker can help to balance the work we already do that is mainly focused on sympathetic activity. An outside perspective from people might view baseball as much less physically demanding than other sports, such as basketball or American football. But a common fan can’t see behind the scenes in the clubhouse or at the hotel. Rarely do people in the stands understand how much time and effort is put into the nine inning show they are watching.

Young players with a dream making barely enough to get by, travel hours on buses, only to wake up the next day to perform again for your viewing pleasure for 6 consecutive months with only a few days off. Even as the Strength & Conditioning Coach you feel the mental stress of the schedule and lifestyle. I find myself completely zapped of energy at the end of the day even when physically I wasn’t very active that day. It’s hard to ignore the fact that most of the stressors in this sport are mental and can still affect the body just as much as a physical stressor can. Things like lowered immune function and sleep deprivation can be extremely detrimental to players when combined with the daily schedule they have. I believe that we can implement strategies to reduce the amount of stress by planning things that will put the athlete into a more parasympathetic state and avoiding shifting the players in sympathetic states too often. The sympathetic system is extremely useful for this sport. But it’s possible to teach the athletes how to achieve allostatic balance and when to use which.

Locked and loaded: A recipe for injury

I love getting time off to spend time with family and enjoy the holidays. The time away from the gym and the computer gives me better perspective to approach what I do. One thing that stuck in my head as I was thinking about how much I enjoyed the holidays was the phrase, “locked and loaded”. This phrase basis for what I’m going to start the new year off.

“Locked and loaded” is never something you want to associate with lifting. However, with a large percentage of Americans sitting in a chair all day, that is exactly what people are getting. Sitting wreaks havoc on your body causing problems such as decreasing your metabolism, tightening your hips, bad posture, and even poor blood circulation. Sitting has been linked to an increase in cardiovascular diseases, colon and breast cancers, and disc damage in the back.  When you take all that into account and think of how busy your gym is after work, you will realize there is a large group of people primed for injury. How long does a middle school or high school kid have to sit in their desk each day for how many months straight? How long have you spent at your desk today? This week? This month?

office desk

Sitting for long periods of time can give wreck your posture causing more trips to the chiropractor. It can weaken your core musculature and cause your shoulders to roll forward. The position you are forced into can temporarily shorten your hip flexors, or worse cause a permanent change in length. Take all that to a gym after work and perform compound lifts and it won’t be long before something in your body gives. Most of your time in the gym needs to be dedicated to lifting with free weights versus machines, but in order to do that we need proper technique. Loading a lift you cannot do correctly is only a recipe for disaster. A spine that is not stable, with no flexibility or strength to stand on cannot support a heavy loaded exercise for long.

rocks

Imagine playing Jenga and the middle of the stack is barely holding on because of all the pieces you’ve taken out. Then, picture placing a flat palm on the top of that stack and pushing straight down into the table. What do you think will happen? Jenga. Now imagine that scenario happening to your one and only spine. If that doesn’t make you want to improve, you are a difficult person to motivate.

jenga

The spine can withstand a lot of force, but after some time one of the segments can become vulnerable to injury.  Whether it’s an injury to a disc in the spine or cartilage in the joint withering away, the damage can become irreversible. And while joints can be surgically dealt with for a pretty penny, cartilage cannot grow back. All this is not to scare you away from exercising, it is informing you how to take your long workday and still perform effectively in the gym.

I’m not a “corrective exercise first” type of a guy, but in this case, you should approach lifting carefully spending time focused on unlocking the body and freeing up more range of motion. Just think if you can’t squat your body weight correctly without your upper back rounding, it’s probably best to work on correcting your movement pattern first. The goals we always want to strive for are having a good range of motion, solid technique, and performing the most efficient and productive exercises to get results. Exercises like deadlift and squat variations have so many advantages over machines, but in order to perform them we need our body to be unlocked.

Trainer’s Tip: Use a very good 5-10 minute warm-up as soon as you get to the gym that incorporates all kinds of different movements and be aware of any tightness or restrictions that point towards issues you might have. In order to prevent acquiring stiffness and back aches throughout the day, there are things you can do to be proactive while at work.

Try these 3 ideas throughout your workday in order to prevent a locked and loaded scenario:

1) Get up to walk around every 30 minutes

-Being the weird person at work that always is walking around the office is manageable as long as you get work done. I think you would have more energy in the day and a better creative mind if you stayed active anyway.

2) Sit on an exercise ball instead of an office chair

-Looks and feels weird, but will hopefully keep your core activated more than the chair. Also, without the back of a chair you should be forced to sit upright. You might get some laughs from coworkers, but you can laugh to yourself that they are spending hundreds of dollars at the chiropractor.

3) Stretch in the morning for 20 mins and then again at night for 20 mins

-This is the most ambitious idea of the the three. It seems easy enough, but I promise you that it is difficult to set aside this time when life gets busy. It is so important if you have a desk job to stay stretching for multiple reasons, but it is mandatory.

But you’re not done yet!

Once you have successfully freed up range of motion you should begin building a solid foundation in the gym. Loose hips and more energy should be poured into a quality exercise program that will only further your physical wellness. This can include building a strong midsection that will help you sit upright throughout the day. It is essential that you learn some type of squatting movement that will not only improve your body composition, but aid in building the proper muscles for sitting.

Take home point:

If you have a job in which you are forced to sit for long period of time, it is very important you take measures to prevent bad posture and muscle tissue restrictions. Start stretching more often and working on bodyweight/corrective exercises during workouts to teach the body to move correctly. Take measures at work during the day to limit the problems that come along with hours of sitting in the office. Use a warm-up before you start exercising in the gym after work that will make you aware of tightness before you actually start the workout. Always keep an eye on your range of motion and tissue quality during strength training to make sure you don’t revert back to where you were before.

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