***NOTICE - My blog has moved. You can continue to find my blog postings over at www.tylerrobbinsfitness.com ***

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Defeat Your Cravings!

Well, the holidays are almost over, and although many of you probably tried your best to be "good" and not indulge too much, I am sure we all had a few extra snacks while celebrating the holidays with our friends and family.

It is inevitable for anyone to start feeling sluggish and/or crummy after the holidays are over for a number of reasons, including paying off those credit cards, but to also start looking towards the new year and possible "New Year's Resolutions!"

Two of the big issues with eating junk food for an extended period of time is that not only do you begin to feel crummy (from sugar-crashing), but you also tend to get terrible cravings in the wake of your new healthy eating plan. Not to fear, however, as I am here with a few tips to help you shut your cravings up and help you start the year off on the right foot!

Think Short-Term

One of the main reasons many diets and lifestyle changes fail for so many individuals is because they set their goals too high, or too far into the future. For example, someone may say, "I am not going to eat any junk food for 6 months!" When they suddenly come across that piece of chocolate cake for dessert, one little "slip-up" seems like such a small ripple over a 6-month period.

Instead, try and set short little goals for yourself to start out with and plan on expanding them later as you accomplish them. For example, say, "I plan on giving up all sweets for the rest of this week." Once you get to the end of the week and realize that you are still alive, you can then start formulating your next goal.

Keep a Food Journal

Start writing down how you feel each day once you start changing your diet, such as your mood, body aches/pains, etc. You may soon realize how much better you feel just from changing what you eat. You will also realize that the saying, "you are what you eat" really does carry some meaning.

I remember when I used to eat junk all the time, I used to get canker sores in my mouth and heartburn quite regularly. Now that I have cut a lot of the junk out of my diet, I can't remember the last time I got a canker sore, and heartburn only arises on very rare occasions!

One Little slip-up...

So your friend just had their 20th/30th/40th/etc. birthday party and you had a few pieces of cake and a few too many cocktails, so what, move on! One bad meal/snack is not going to totally derail your results. Having said that, do not for a second think that you are fooling anyone (yourself included) if you think you can "reward" yourself every few days for eating healthy.

If you have a cheat meal/snack, make sure you follow that up with at least 9 healthy meals/snacks to counteract your bad behavior. Tony Horton uses an system that I really like called the 90/10 plan. He says that 90% of the time he eats healthy, the other 10% of the time, he allows a little cheat. If you are eating wholesome, healthy foods 90% of time, trust me, that 10% will hardly even seem like a blip on the radar.

Find Your Motivation

If you plan on dieting and exercising so that you can look good in a bathing suit on the beach, guess what? That is never going to last! You need to discover a true motivation inside of yourself that allows you to push through and stick with your goals no matter what.

If you are married and have kids, use them as your motivation. Maybe you want to stay youthful and healthy so you can play with your kids and spend many active years together with them. If you are still young and single, remember that what you do now lays a healthy foundation for the rest of your life. Either way, find something that has actual meaning to you, and use that to keep you going!


You have probably heard of this one before, but I will say it again. When you roll out of bed in the morning, your body is essentially running on an empty tank. If you skip breakfast, by the time you reach mid-morning or lunch time, your brain and body are absolutely screaming for something to eat which usually clogs your judgement as you reach for something calorie-dense.

I know a lot of nutritionists advocate breakfast, which works for a lot of people to help start the day off right, but I know that it is not for everyone (myself included). If you are absolutely dead-set against breakfast, at least do me a favor and try and make sure you are eating something every couple of hours throughout the day. The more you stay on top of your own hunger, the less-likely you are to reach for something unhealthy. Have healthy snacks nearby all day such as fruit, nuts, etc.

Clean Out Your Cupboards

I like to live by the adage that if something isn't in my house, I am not going to eat it. Quite often I get cravings for things late at night. At that point, I have a few options (assuming the stores are still open), I can either drive to go and get something unhealthy to cram into my stomach, or I can just make due and find something healthier to eat in my fridge. 99% of the time, I end up staying home because that is much more appealing to me than to head out.

When you are at the grocery store, stay away from the junk. That way, if its not in the house when you are craving it, chances are, you won't go out at that time to get it!

Here's to a healthy and happy 2012!

-Tyler Robbins

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Definitive Guide to Creatine

Quite often I receive questions regarding creatine supplementation and its uses. Hopefully this blog can once and for all help those who are looking to use this supplement.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally-synthesized compound found in the human body. 98% of creatine is found in skeletal muscles in either its free form (40%) or its phosphorylated form, also known as phosphocreatine (60%). Creatine is synthesized primarily in our livers, but can also be made in both the kidneys and pancreas. Although 98% of creatine is stored in skeletal muscles, small traces may also be found in the heart, brain, and testes (in males). Creatine can be found in abundant quantities in both meat and fish, although for highly active individuals, supplementation may be the only way to properly maintain optimal creatine levels.

Creatine and Exercise

Many of you may already know that the main "currency" of energy in the human body comes from a compound known as Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP). ATP produces energy to working parts of the body by breaking the bond and releasing one of its phosphates (phosphorylation) causing ATP to become ADP (Adenosine Di-Phosphate). In order for an ADP to "re-load" and become useful again, it must rephosphorylate, or add a phosphate group back onto its structure becoming ATP again.

ATP is especially important in actions that are short, but intense in nature, such as resistance training or high-velocity sprinting. As an individual performs a high-intensity exercise, their ATP stores are used up rapidly, increasing concentrations of ADP. This is where the creatine phosphate (CP) comes into play. Stores of CP in the cells can then help rephosphorylate ADP back into ATP, allowing them to provide more energy for the working cells.

Breakdown occurs when the CP stores become depleted, therefore slowing or completely inhibiting an individual's ability to perform highly-intense exercise. A full-out sprint for example can deplete CP stores by as much as 80% within 30 seconds!

Creatine Supplementation

Creatine supplementation has become one of the most widely-used and studied supplements in the world. Research has shown that a proper creatine supplementation schedule can increase skeletal muscle concentration by 20%, although this certainly is not a case of "more is better". Many individuals may feel that if taking a regular dose of creatine can help, then taking twice as much will cause twice the strength gains. This does not appear to be the case, however, as your muscles will hit a saturation point where they will simply not retain any more creatine.

Creatine Dosing

So what is the proper way to supplement? Typical regimens include a "loading phase" which consists of 20-25g daily for 5 days, or 0.3g/kg of body mass. The loading phase is generally broken down into 3 or 4 smaller doses to increase the likelihood of saturation. For example, 20g broken up into 4 doses of 5g each. After the initial loading phase, a "maintenance dose" of 2g/day is sufficient to keep skeletal muscle cell creatine levels topped-up.

A "loading phase" is not necessarily vital, although it will take an individual a longer period of time to reach maximal saturation levels by not loading. Some athletes may have some light stomach upset from creatine supplementation, so avoiding a loading phase is better in that case.

Ergogenic Benefits

Studies completed on creatine supplementation have been fairly consistent in showcasing quite significant strength increases. For beginner or novice resistance-trained athletes, creatine can help build confidence and early strength gains that will help the individual meet some of their desired strength goals. For the more experienced weightlifter, creatine can also help prevent the early onset of fatigue while also enhancing recovery, both of which are desired in any resistance-trained athlete.

How Long Should I Supplement?

It appears as though creatine is more effective as a training supplement rather than a performance enhancer. Doses taken for single workouts will help an individual train harder during that workout, but creatine should be taken over a specific period of time in order to maximize its benefits.

Most studies I have read about have said that creatine supplementation should be used for at least 4-6 weeks in order to see desired results.

Should Creatine Be Cycled?

There does not appear to be any long-term health risks associated with chronic creatine usage, although an individual may want to "cycle" creatine to prevent supplement plateau. What this means is that your body will eventually reach its "saturation maximum", whereas your muscles cannot absorb any more creatine. I have read many sources and can recommend about a 6-week cycle "on" creatine, then 4 weeks "off". 

When Should I Take Creatine?

Many individuals feel that creatine is a performance enhancer and should therefore be taken before exercise, which is simply not the case. Keep in mind that creatine should be treated as a supplement so it should therefore be taken following an intense workout.

Intense exercise increases anabolic hormones in the body, which can therefore create a greater demand for nutrition and supplementation within the muscle cells. Creatine should be taken immediately following an intense workout with a beverage containing both carbohydrates and protein to maximize its effectiveness.

What Should I Take Creatine with?

Many people will try and tell you that grape juice is the best thing to take your creatine with. Truth is, any beverage or meal that is sugary (carbs) will do the trick. I actually like to mix my creatine with chocolate milk following a workout because of its concentrations of both carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates cause an insulin response in the body, which can therefore increase your muscle's affinity to absorb protein and creatine into their cells.

Does Caffeine Decrease Creatine Absorption?

There is a rumor/myth that states that the acidity of caffeine, or more specifically, coffee, can degrade creatine and decrease its effectiveness. Truth is, no matter what beverage you mix your creatine in, the pH level of your digestive system is far lower than anything you may drink so there is no truth to this. In fact, early studies of creatine were ingested by using coffee and tea transports, with studied effectiveness!  


Creatine seems to have been viewed in a bad light within the last few years, although time and time again, research studies have been unable to find any concrete data that suggests creatine usage is bad for you, even with long-term use (10-12 weeks). A study was even completed by using 26 competitive athletes who supplemented with creatine for 4 straight years with only occasional gastrointenstinal upset during the loading phase. Some others have suggested that creatine may be bad for individuals' kidneys due to the increased nitrogen content in the blood, but again, no conclusive data has proven this.

One side-effect, that may either be desired or not is weight gain caused by creatine supplementation. An increase in creatine content in muscles is thought to enhance the intracellular osmotic gradient. This may sound like mumbo-jumbo, but what this means is that the body's lean-mass tissues (muscles) retain more water. Again, for those individuals training for specific power or strength sports may welcome weight-gain with open arms, but not all athletes may want to gain weight as it could potentially decrease their skill-specific performance.

What Form of Creatine is the "Best"?

Due to its immense popularity, there are many different types, forms, shapes and colors of creatine on the market. It now can be found in liquid, bar, inject-able, tablet, capsule, and powder form. Not only that, but companies may even brand their form of creatine as being "better absorbed" or "fast-acting" in order to get you to purchase their product. Often times, however, these "gimmicky" forms of creatine come with a higher price tag. At the end of the day, there is no scientific evidence that says one form of creatine is more efficient or "better" for you than good old creatine monohydrate.

Sales people in supplement shops may try and "up-sell" you to a more expensive form of creatine, but I am telling you right now, you are better off just buying plain-and-simple creatine monohydrate in powder form. All that I ask is that you research the manufacturer(s) you are purchasing from to ensure that they have a good reputation and well-standing manufacturing processes.

-Tyler Robbins

Thursday, December 22, 2011

8 Tips to Survive the Holidays

Well, it's that time of year again, I can't believe how fast 2011 has come and gone. End of year festivities are a great time for everyone to get together with friends and family to celebrate, regardless of your race, gender, religion, etc.

At this time of year, with all of the holiday get-togethers, parties, lunches, dinners, etc. many people tend to want to "indulge" a little more than they usually do. First of all, let me say that I also like to enjoy some holidays treats here and there, but don't ever try and lie to yourself and say that this is the only time of year that you get to "cheat" on your diets, as many of us have little cheats throughout the year.

Regardless of all that, I have detailed a list below of some tips and tricks that I use to try and limit my holiday splurging. Hopefully you can take at least one, if not a few of this tips and use them while you are enjoying this holiday season.

Alternate With Water

Many people like to kick back and enjoy a holiday cocktail. Whatever your beverage of choice may be, try and alternate your drinks with a glass of water. How does this work? Well, lets say you get to a party and crack open a nice cold beer. Sounds good doesn't it? Well, nobody should avoid this treat, just don't go overboard. Not only that, after you finish your beer, go have a quick glass of water before you reach for a second beer. If your holiday party ends up going late into the night, not only will the water in between each drink help with your hangover the next day, but hopefully it will help your belly fill up a bit faster and will prevent you from drinking too much.

Eat Before You Go

Let's face it, you will be pretty hard-pressed to find yourself at a party that doesn't have trays full of "indulgences". In today's society, those who host parties know that they won't be much of a host if they didn't offer tasty, delicious, (albeit, unhealthy), foods. Now we could argue that this is the way society has shaped us, but that can be for another discussion. You just know there are going to be treats at that party you are going to, and that's fine. Try this; before you go, make sure you enjoy a healthy, belly-filling snack/meal at home. Aim for things packed with fiber, protein, or healthy fats to shove down your throat before you walk out your door. This way, your stomach should be feeling nice and full before you reach the party so that you are not wanting to absolutely pig out when you reach your destination.

Be That Guy/Girl

When you are speaking with the party host, ask if you can bring something with you to the party. If they insist you don't bring anything, refer to the previous tip to fill-up on healthy snacks before you leave the house. If, however, they ask you to bring some snacks, offer to bring a veggie tray. Yes, when you arrive, I am sure you will probably get some comments from somebody that wants to know who the lame one was who brought the "rabbit food". Again, due to societal pressures, most people know that vegetables tend to not go over as well as "pigs in blankets" so you are bound to receive a wise-crack from someone. By being that person to bring veggies gives you a perfect opportunity to snack on something healthy while at the party. Not only that, if you alternate something healthy with something not-so-healthy, you also avoid the risk of filling up on something that really isn't all that good for you!

No Need to Fill Your Plate

We all see it, dinner is set, all of the guests sit at the table, then the madness ensues. People pile food onto every square inch of their plate. Then, when they run out of room on their plate, there is only one place to go, and that's up, so they pile food on top of their other food. That's enough right? Wrong, then they pour nice, fatty gravy over everything so that they have one heaping mound of crap. Why not try this; aim to put food on your plate in proper proportions for your body size and type (refer to your daily calorie expenditure) and aim to have lots of your plate still visible by the end. Not only that, but why not try and limit your gravy coverage. I never understood the need to cover everything with gravy, then it all tastes the same. Instead, use gravy sparingly here and there, and enjoy all of the flavors of your meal!

Eat Slowly

This is not a race. Chances are, you may be seeing certain family and/or friends that you may not have seen all year, so why not enjoy their company. Eat slowly, enjoy conversation with those around you and just generally enjoy the holidays. There is no need to have someone cook the holiday feast all day for it to be over your lips and in your gut within 5 minutes, so slow down! This allows you to enjoy the tastes and flavors of the meal as well as help you consume much less.

Stay Away From "Seconds"

Or for that matter, thirds! If you followed the previous tip, you should be nice and full by the time you are done eating. If you did eat a bit too fast, try and avoid seconds for a while. It tends to take about 20 minutes for the message to go from your stomach to your brain to tell it that you are sufficiently full, so don't go rushing to grab a second helping. Instead, refer to the points below.

Absolutely Try Your Best to Avoid Dessert

Again, I think because of the way our society has shaped, we seem to think it is a great idea to follow a tremendously high-calorie meal with something even more calorie-dense. If at all costs, try and avoid dessert. If you absolutely must, take at least a half of a serving compared to everyone else around you, as chances are, they are taking more than enough for themselves.

Go For a Walk

 This is when its great to have a dog, as you can use him/her as an reason to excuse yourself from the dinner table to take Rex for a walk outside. Even if you don't have a dog, I still recommend a fairly brisk walk. No, it certainly won't be enough to "burn off" all of those calories you just took in, despite what Uncle Joe may think, but it certainly won't hurt. Plus, it carries with it a number of other benefits. Remember the point I made earlier about it taking 20 minutes for the signal to go from your stomach to your brain that you are full? A walk is a perfect opportunity to get outside and walk around the block while that signal gets sent. If you get back from the walk and truly are still hungry (I will be very surprised if you are), then go grab a small slice of apple pie. Plus, its nice to go for a walk to "let some steam off"...if ya know what I mean!

As I said before, the holidays can be a great time of year to indulge a little bit and enjoy ringing in the New Year, but just don't let things get out of hand!

-Tyler Robbins

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Post-Partum Weight Loss

I apologize for not posting last week, but I have had a whirlwind couple of weeks. First of all, I would like to let everyone know that I received my exam results from the NSCA the other day and I have officially passed my Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam. What does this mean? Well, I am much more qualified to train collegiate and professional-level athletes now, but that also means that I am much more qualified than most to help everyday folks reach their health and fitness goals by providing information and resources to inspire and encourage healthy lives. If you ever have a question regarding health and fitness, please do not hesitate to contact me!

The other big piece of news that I would like to share is the birth of my first born. My wife gave birth to our son (Evan) on December 6th. Both mom and Evan (and dad) are doing great! In the interest of this news, I will share some tips and information for moms out there that wish to lose their pregnancy weight.

Set Your Goals

Be reasonable here, too. There is nothing worse than setting goals that are too lofty for yourself, only to get overwhelmed and discouraged causing you to quit. Obviously give yourself some time to rest, relax and heal after the birth of your baby as your body will need it. Speak with your doctor about this as well and you can discuss with them what you, and they, feel is an appropriate time to start exercising again.

Most women should be able to resume daily walks days after their pregnancy if they had a vaginal birth. If you have had a C-Section, your road to recovery will be a bit longer, but again, I suggest speaking with your doctor regarding this.

My wife has already decided that she will resume exercise at the start of January. This way, she allows herself some time to rest and relax over the holidays before easing back into a workout routine. For the first few weeks, she will exercise about 3 times a week and then begin to transition into 4 to 5 days a week while also increasing intensity.


Consume foods that are high in protein like meat, fish, and eggs. High-protein sources give you that satiated feeling (feeling 'full') for a longer period of time and also contain higher levels of vitamin B12 which gives you a nice energy boost. Higher energy levels and feeling hungry less means you will, in the long run, consume less calories and burn more by watching your newborn.


My wife and I discussed our fitness plans long before our baby arrived. My wife knows that I like to have my workout done and out of the way in the morning before I go to work. On the flip side of that, my wife has expressed interest in also exercising, so I will help out by watching the baby if she needs to exercise in the evening.

I understand that not everyone may have schedules like ours where they can call in a spouse to babysit for them, but speak with relatives or friends that live near-by that could pop over to your house and watch the little one for an hour while mom exercises.

Fight Stress

The act of giving birth, along with daily activities caring for a newborn can cause great amounts of internal stress within the body. Heightened stress levels can lead to unwanted weight gain. You can combat this with some alone time (refer to "Teamwork" above) or time for some meditation. Exercise also works well to fight stress and consuming foods high in anti-oxidants such as green tea, berries, and other fruits and vegetables can go a long way!

Be Flexible

Yes, body flexibility is important, but that is not what I am referring to here. I am talking about schedule flexibility. Some new moms get hung-up on the idea that they need to exercise 60 mins a day to lose those baby pounds fast. This simply is not the case, nor is it practical. You are now not only looking after yourself, but your little one as well. If you have such a hectic schedule and only have 15-20mins to exercise, perfect! In the end, I always tell people that doing something is always better than doing nothing!

Don't Get Attached to Your Numbers

Immediately following your pregnancy, you will drop a lot of weight rather quickly. The birthing fluids, retained water, as well as the baby itself will cause you to feel like you are on top of the world in your weight loss. This will slow but do not get discouraged. You must keep a positive outlook and understand that the journey back to your pre-pregnancy body is not going to happen overnight and that positive attitude should help you immensely!

Drink Your Water!

Pregnant women retain water during pregnancy. I know it sounds backwards, but to remove said retained water, you should drink...lots of water! It will help your bodily fluid levels stabilize, not to mention it helps in milk production if you decide to breastfeed.


Speak with your doctor about any supplements you are safe to take, but listed below are the vitamins that you should be consuming, as well as a list of ways to get these naturally.

Vitamin A - lost through breastfeeding, consume spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and kale.
Vitamin C - also lost through breastfeeding, consume red peppers, oranges, broccoli
Vitamin D - stored in our fat cells and made naturally in our bodies from sunlight, can be tough to get during the winter months. This is also a tough vitamin to get enough from dietary sources so speak with your doctor about taking a supplement for this one.
Vitamin E - helps with circulation, found in nuts, seeds and eggs.
Potassium - helps lower blood pressure, found in bananas.

-Tyler Robbins

Thursday, December 1, 2011

No Time to Exercise?

Interesting article I read the other day from CBC News. Now this study was completed on Canadians, but I am sure the findings can relate to many other countries as well. I will take a few snippets from the article, but you can also read the full thing here.

The main focus this article takes is the fact that people feel that they simply do not have time to exercise or make healthy food options. It says;

Nearly half of respondents in the online survey of 2,160 Canadian adults conducted in October used time as an excuse for being unhealthy:
  • 44% of respondents said they had no time for regular physical activity.
  • 41% said healthy meals take too long to prepare.
  • More than half (51%) said fast food outlets don't have enough healthy choices.
  • And almost a third (31%) said the time they would like to spend being active they instead spend commuting.
 What I find to be most disconcerting about this study however, is the fact that people seem to know what they need to eat and do with their lifestyles, but the simply choose not to for other reasons. I have personally seen this in the past with family members and others I know who will make time out of their day to go to work, get a tune-up for their car, play the latest video game, catch their favorite tv show, etc. but don't seem to find any time for exercise. Is is truly because they do not have time, or simply because they do not want to exercise? More and more I realize that it is the latter, especially with this stat from the same article:

The foundation says that Canadians who believe there isn't enough time to live healthy are wrong. While acknowledging the time crunch in people's lives, a foundation news release notes that Statistics Canada has said 29 per cent of Canadians over 20 spend two hours a day or more watching television, and 15 per cent spend at least 1.5 hours a day of their leisure time on computers.

Dr. Beth Abramson (from the article) who is a cardiologist and a spokesperson for the Canadian Heart and Stroke foundation states in the article that heart disease and stroke can be decreased by 40% if people make lifestyle changes.

I have personally read many studies lately that has shown that as little as 20 minutes of intense physical activity a day can drastically improve the quality and length of life in many individuals. Combine that with healthier food options and you can make drastic changes in the way you act, feel and live. Why not turn off the tv/computer/distraction 20 minutes earlier each night, get up that much earlier and get a workout in?

-Tyler Robbins

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Better Health Without Medication

There's no denying the fact that we live in a lazy society. Most people would rather see quick results with little to no effort or change to their comfortable lifestyle as possible. This can also be called complacency. Companies like to exploit or take advantage of these types of personalities with promises of "lose 10 inches in 10 days" or "lose 10 pounds and still eat the foods that you love!"

The pharmaceutical industry can be one of the biggest players in this type of game. Sure, medical science and breakthroughs have helped people live long, healthy lives with the help of medicines and treatments created by these large corporations, and this is one of the key things they like to bank on. Too many people have fallen into the scary category of "I'll just take a pill for that" mentality.

The economy is driven by "supply vs. demand", so I am not blaming big pharma entirely for this complacency in the public, but they certainly have a hand in helping people think a certain way. The notion that prescriptions and medicines are inevitable as you age is not true for everybody, but somehow this 'trick' has been played and that is how many people feel.

Let's not forget that pharmaceutical companies are big, large, corporations that make gobs of cash off of helping people. However, let us not confuse the fact that although big pharma may wish to help people, they also spend millions of dollars on research and development so you can bet that they will be wanting to recover those costs, and then some, by selling their product to you!

Every 'drug' that comes out on the market is treated like any innovation by having a patent applied to it. This allows a company to control the "ingredients" to that drug for a certain period of time. One small problem, from the point of view of the company, is that the patent timer starts ticking once the molecule or specific ingredients are concocted.

Why is this important? Well, once the patent for a drug expires, those "ingredients" are then fair game for other companies to create their own version of the drug. One of the biggest examples of this came recently when pharmaceutical company Pfizer's patent ran out on the drug Lipitor. So why then did sales from Lipitor skyrocket days before the patent ran out? (Article Here)

From the first day a patent is registered for drug, the timer is ticking for that company to make as much money as possible before time runs out on their patent and other companies have the rights to release their own "versions". At this point in time, you can believe what you will and think whichever way you would like, but I would bet to say that companies are going to do their best to get their product out to as many consumers as possible before that time runs out.

The problem with this, is that in many cases, there is not enough time to conduct long-term studies on their medications. You can speak to your doctor or pharmacist regarding this, or just pay attention to the commercials for medications on tv, and you will understand that every single drug that you put into your body will cause some sort of side effect, or create the potential for something negative to happen. By being prescribed a medication, your doctor is willing to allow the positives from the drug outweigh the negatives. Plain and simple, there are inherent risks with any drug put into your body.

So where does that bring us? Well, time and time again, we are given this list of (natural) factors that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle while staying drug free. Sure, there are other issues at play here, such as being more genetically prone to something or being dealt a bad hand of cards. But for the most part, everyone can at least benefit from the factors listed below.

1. Stop Smoking - I am always just absolutely dumbfounded by the amount of people that I still see smoking. I have tried to come to a conclusion as to why people smoke and can only come up with 2 scenarios. One, you are young and figure that smoking won't effect you until you are "older". Or two, you are willing to run the risks. Without a doubt, smoking cigarettes can and is one of the worst things you can voluntarily do to your body, hands down, so stop now if you still smoke!

2. Eat Plant Sterols - Plant sterols (found in vegetables) are a great way to lower your cholesterol naturally. Many companies are now putting plant sterols in things like margarine as well, which works great, but vegetables are still your best bet as you reap the other rewards associated with them as well. If you do buy products with plant sterols in them, look for products that have been enriched naturally with either avacado or sunflower oil.

3. Mini Trees - Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage. Those veggies that look like little trees are also a great way to lower cholesterol naturally. Stock up!

4. Olive Oil - Yet another way to lower cholesterol, switch to using olive oil over other cooking oils for not only cooking but baking as well. Oliver oil is a great way to lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol while maintaining high HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

5. Limit Meat and Dairy - Red meat and dairy sources have lots of fat in them (good and bad for you) but they can also be full of cholesterol. So if you are fighting high cholesterol levels as it is, try and cut back on your red meat and dairy consumption.

6. Fish Oil - So you are cutting back on meat and dairy, now what do you eat? Sub in some fish to your diet. DHA and EPA are tremendously healthy fatty acids found in fish that help combat high cholesterol. If you don't feel like eating fish all the time or can't stomach the taste, look into a good supplement instead!

7. Fiber - Soluble and insoluble fibers both play vital parts in our digestive systems as well as the rest of our bodies. Insoluble forms can come from things such as whole grains, vegetables, etc. Soluble fibers can be found in legumes (lentils, beans, etc.).

8. Exercise - The mother of them all! Regular, intense bouts of exercise time and time again have been proven to help and improve the lives of all walks of life at all ages. Get moving!

-Tyler Robbins

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching was first developed to help rehabilitate patients by relaxing muscles with increased tone or activity. These principles can be applied to any individual, however, and although it is generally recommended to perform these techniques with a partner, using tools such as stretching bands or belts can help stretch certain body parts while still maintaining PNF stretch techniques.

PNF stretching may be superior to other stretch techniques because it facilitates muscular inhibition by using both passive and active movements (concentric and isometric) and muscle actions. The biggest downfall of these stretch techniques however, is that many body parts require a partner to help achieve PNF stretching, and they must be done with correct form and technique in order to work properly.

There are 3 main types of PNF stretches that I have detailed below. In each technique, the first phase incorporates a passive pre-stretch that lasts 10 seconds. The initial pre-stretch is then followed by a 2nd and 3rd phase which varies by technique.


Following the initial 10-second pre-stretch, a force is applied to the muscle in question while the individual being stretching "holds" the stretch isometrically. The "push" that is causing the isometric hold should be resisted against by engaging the muscle in question. The hold is held isometrically for 6 seconds and then relaxes. The last passive stretch is then held for 30 seconds and should be of greater magnitude due to the "autogenic inhibition" caused by the isometric active stretch.


Following the initial 10-second pre-stretch, and similar to the "hold-relax" technique, a force is applied in an attempt to stretch the muscle in question. In the hold-relax technique, the individual is instructed to not let the body part move and simply hold the muscle isometrically while resisting the force. In the contract-relax technique, however, the individual should actually complete range of motion, concentric contraction and then relax. A passive stretch of greater magnitude can then be performed for 30 seconds.

Hold-Relax with Agonist Contraction

This technique is performed exactly the same as the hold-relax technique in the first 2 phases, except in the 3rd phase, not only is the muscle in question being passively stretched, but there is an agonist contraction. For example, if the hamstrings were being stretched, then during phase 3, the quadriceps would contract to further accentuate the passive stretch.

-Tyler Robbins

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Types of Injuries, Healing Phases and Treatment Goals

In the fitness industry, injuries can mainly be broken down into two categories; macrotraumas and microtraumas. Macrotrauma is a specific, sudden injury to a bodily tissue. Macrotrauma injuries to bones can result in fractures or contusions. When they occur to joints, they can be classified as either a complete dislocation (complete displacement of the joint surfaces) or a subluxation (partial displacement of the joint surfaces). Microtraumas occurring to ligaments are sprains classified in degree stages (1, 2, 3) where first degree is a partial tear without joint instability, second degree is also a partial tear but with minor joint instability, and third degree is a complete tear with full joint instability. Injuries affecting tendons are classified similar to bones as contusions or strains based on where the injury takes place.

When looking at muscle strains, they are also classified by degrees. A first degree muscle strain is a partial tear of the muscle fibers where the individual can make a strong contraction, but pain is present. Second degree strains also involve partial tears, but the individual can only complete weak, painful contractions. Third degree strains involve a complete tear of the muscle fibers with a very weak and very painful muscle contraction.

Microtraumas, on the other hand, result from overuse injuries caused by abnormal stress repeated to bodily tissues over extended periods of time. Microtraumas can happen due to a number of reasons including poor program design, bad training surfaces, incorrect form, insufficient motor control, decreased flexibility, predisposition, etc.

Inflammation Phase

This is the initial phase experienced during an injury. Inflammatory responses cause the injured area to become red and swollen, and cause a hypoxic environment which leads to cell death and increased blood flow to the injured area. Edema occurs which is an escape of fluid into surrounding tissues. The point of this is to inhibit range of motion to the body part to help prevent further injury. Inflammation phase usually lasts 2-3 days.

Treatment Goals - The main focus here, since the inflammation phase occurs immediately after an injury, should be to prevent further injury. This should involve immediately ceasing any movement to the injured body part and removing any external hazards that could cause further injury. Once this has been completed, new tissue needs to begin to form to repair the damaged area which can be achieved by resting, icing the area, compression and elevation.

Repair Phase

As the inflammatory phase ends, tissue repair begins. New and identical tissue is produced to replace the tissues that were damaged, as well as scar tissue forms. This phase may begin as soon as 2 days after an injury but could last up to 2 months!

Treatment Goals - Collagen fibers form at the injury site to provide framework and therefore support to the injured area. By avoiding any movement or resistance to the area can cause further atrophy (decay) to the injury and surrounding tissues. On the other hand, you obviously do not want to stress the injury to the point where further injury can happen or the recovery process is slowed. There should be a happy medium where light activity to the body part or joint occurs to promote strength and stability but to also increase blood flow to the area to warrant proper recovery.

Remodeling Phase

This is where the tissues that formed during the repair phase strengthen and prepare to return to pre-injury state. Collagen fibers decrease in production so that the proper tissues can grow and replace the injured ones.

Treatment Goals - Optimizing tissue function and full range of motion should be the primary goal of this final stage. Individuals at this stage can often be tempted to do "too much, too soon", but they should be constantly reminded to not push themselves too far and to increase resistance gradually.

-Tyler Robbins

Monday, November 14, 2011

Applying Sport Seasons to Periodization

Periodization, when applied to athletes, needs to be structured around sport or competition season. An entire year or macrocycle can be broken down into mesocycles of postseason, off-season, preseason, and in-season. In order to prevent training staleness as well as maximize results, each season mesocycle should include variety and different training modes.


Simply enough, this mesocycle is in place to allow either active, or complete rest for the athlete since they just came off of a long competition season.


This largely consists of preparatory training and can last for several weeks. If an athlete's off-season lasts for a long period of time (16-24 weeks) there may even be time for 2 cycles of the three main macrocycles; hypertrophy/endurance, basic strength, strength/power.


This mesocycle contains the late stages of the preparatory period and transitions the athlete into competition-mode. This is the essential transition from strength/conditioning training into sport-specific training.


This is where scheduling may need to get creative in order to schedule mesocycles or microcycles around competitions, tournaments, or the most important games/events.

-Tyler Robbins

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Strength and Conditioning Tips

I have compiled a helpful list of training tips below that I am sure everyone can learn something from, enjoy!

Training Time

This tip is actually a twofer (broken into 2 parts). Men and women alike are always asking when the best time of the day is to work out, so that is why this is broken into two. For men (generalizing here), they want to know when the best time of day is to work out to grow big, strong muscles. Many people will tell you that working out in the afternoon or evening is the best time for muscle growth for a number of reasons, but simply is not true. The Journal for Strength and Conditioning Research has said that consistency is the key here. If you only have time to hit the weights in the morning, do that! The study showed that men made equal strength gains regardless of what time of day they worked out.

Similarly, women (again, generalizing) want to know when the best time of day is to exercise to burn fat. Again, consistency is the key. There are pros and cons to exercising either morning or night. For example, exercising in the morning can rev your metabolism for the rest of the day, whereas exercising in the evening has the potential to burn more calories as your body's metabolism is potentially at its highest. As I have said before, doing something is always better than doing nothing, so if you only have time in the morning to exercise, do that! I personally exercise in the morning because that's what fits my schedule, but if it doesn't suit you, then fine!

Pack on the Protein

I see this one time and time again. People think that in order to grow big, strong muscles, they need to cram as much protein into each meal as possible. Studies have shown that eating 30 grams of protein in a meal yields the same benefits of eating 90 grams does. This is a perfect example of "more isn't necessarily better". Instead, you should aim to have protein in small doses throughout the day. Keep one thing in mind, however. Protein seems to have this aura attached to it now that it is this wonderful "weight-loss" food. Protein still has calories, and ingesting too much protein can still result in unwanted body fat if unused, so make sure your diet is properly proportioned. Not only that, but if all you are doing is eating protein all day, you will likely be missing out on important vitamins and nutrients that can only be found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables!

Muscle Loss

For the longest time, there was this belief that as people age, their muscle tissue decreases. This is in fact true, but this is a sort of chicken-and-egg problem. Does your muscle tissue disappear because you age, or because you stop using your muscles as you age? Studies are now showing that it is in fact possible to continue muscle growth with strength improvements later in life. Yes, men have lowered testosterone as they age, but there is more to it than that. Once you hit the age of 65, sure, you may not be making major muscle gains, but you can still use resistance training to reduce the loss of muscle. Not only that, men and women can greatly benefit from resistance training throughout life to help strengthen bones, muscles and connective tissues!

Do It For Your Brain

Sure, many people like to exercise to try and look a certain way. Unfortunately, many personal trainers will market these types of things to you as well. I have a swift kick of reality for you though. Unless you have tremendous genetics, or photoshop (or a combination of the two), you are never going to look like some of those models or Hollywood celebrities. Not only that, but chasing "the perfect image" will only end in disappointment and despair. Instead, you should exercise to feel better about yourself in your own skin, not to mention the mental and body benefits that comes along with it. Think of how great you feel after a good workout. Wouldn't that be great to bottle that up and take a swig of that every day for the rest of your life?

Go Fast and then Go Home

I probably sound like a broken record here, but unfortunately some people just don't get it. I see and get asked by people all the time why they are not getting/seeing results from working out an hour or more at a time. I then see them slowing jogging on a treadmill or elliptical. Instead, why not try HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and cut your workout times in half? Chronic cardio should only be used if you are training for...wait for it...a cardio event such as a marathon or triathlon, etc. Instead, most people can get into their gym, exercise using HIIT principles for 20-30mins and then be done with an even better workout than something that takes twice the time.

A study done by McMaster University in Hamilton found that men who performed sprint interval training for a total of 2.5 hours (including recovery) over the course of 2 weeks has the same results as the group who performed endurance training for a total of 10.5 hours over the same time period. Yes, its alright to go back and read that again. 1/5th of the time for the same results! Another study following a group of 15 women found that high-intensity exercise (40 to 45 minutes approximately four times weekly at a mean HR of 163 bpm) reduced body fat by about 5 percent over the course of 15 weeks versus a virtually unchanged percentage in the group that performed exercise at a lower heart rate (132 beats per minute).

-Tyler Robbins

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Traditional periodization models are broken down into cycles. Macrocycles are the largest and usually involve an entire sport year, but can last up to 4 years for an Olympic athlete for example. Macrocycles are made up of 2 or more mesocycles which can last anywhere from several weeks to several months. Going further beyond that, mesocycles are broken up into microcycles which are usually a week long but can be as long as 4 weeks each.

To properly train any athlete, a well-structured training program will consist of both sport-specific training as well as strength and conditioning training. The emphasis placed on either training modality is entirely based on where the individual stands in not only their sport season, but also in their physical conditioning. Periodization involves shifting from non-sport specific training (strength and conditioning), that is of high volume and low intensity to low volume, high intensity sport-specific activities. This shift will occur over a period of many weeks to prevent overtraining and optimize performance.

The following image will detail the periodization periods

Preparatory Period

The preparatory period is the longest period and usually occurs at the time of year furthest from time of competition. This is the time for the athlete to establish a base level of fitness in order to build and grow from there. Slow, long distance running, light plyometrics, low resistance, high-repetition resistance training is all needed and utilized to begin conditioning.

When the preparatory period first begins and the training loads are high (long distance running/swimming, high repetition resistance training), the strength and conditioning sessions take a longer period of time, which leads to fatigued athletes that have little time for sport-specific training. As the preparatory period nears the end, the microcycles begin to change to lower the work volume, increase intensity (resistance loads), and increase sport-specific training.

The goals early on in the preparatory period should be to improve muscular endurance and hypertrophy. This goal is in place to increase the efficiency and size of the muscles so that they can then be honed and trained later. To train your muscles for endurance and hypertrophy, the individual should aim for 50-75% of their 1 rep maximum (1RM) which should result in a 10-20 repetition range. The hypertrophy/endurance phase should last anywhere between 1-6 weeks and then a low-intensity recovery week before transitioning into a basic strength phase.

Now that the individual has increased their muscular size and efficiency, the basic strength phase is designed to do just what it says and improve the overall strength of said muscles. The basic strength phase involves high intensity (80-90% 1RM) and moderate volume of 3-5 sets of 4-8 repetitions.

After the basic strength phase, the athlete can then transition into the strength/power phase. This is where high loads and low volumes are introduced to maximize the explosiveness and power in the muscles. The strength/power phase involves high intensity (75-95% 1RM) and low volume of 3-5 sets of 2-5 repetitions.

First Transition Period

A very short period, the transition period is designed to allow the body to heal and recover with one week of lower intensity, lower volume, or a combination of the two to prepare the athlete for the competition period.

Competition Period

Competition periods can last for a week to several weeks, although most athletes have a sport or competition season that can last for many months. During this time, the goal of the individual is to maintain their current strength and conditioning levels by continuing to train with high intensities, but greatly reduced volumes. Especially important during this time is that the sport-specific skills are honed and trained in order to "cash-in" on the training that has been completed in the preparatory period.

Another main goal of the athlete is to ensure that their strength and conditioning peaks during competition so that they maximize the return from the efforts they have put into their training up until this point.

Second Transition Period (Active Rest)

During this period, the goal of the athlete is to allow their bodies to rest and recover from a lengthy "peak" period during their competition season. Various light to moderate activities can be practiced as long as the body is not stressed or strained too hard. It is entirely possible for the individual to not have any resistance training at all.

-Tyler Robbins

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Periodization and Responses to Training Stress

Originally introduced by Russian physiologist Leo Matveyev, periodization is a concept to help prevent individuals from experiencing slower results, plateauing results, or even reversing results which can lead to injury. Periodization has recently been publicized quite a lot with the term "muscle confusion".

Strength and conditioning programs can bring about significant strength gains, but adaptations to any program is inevitable, so periodization is the concept used to help design and schedule a program that will continue to elicit physical growth and changes.

Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye has since attempted to explain the benefits of periodization by using the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) which can be seen below.

When the body experiences a new stress, or a stress that is greater than what is previously experienced, the body enters an alarm or shock phase. During this phase, which may last as long as a few days to a few weeks, the muscles will become tender and sore and the individual will even experience a drop in performance.

During the next phase, also known as the resistance phase, the body begins the process of recovery and repair. During the stress or alarm phase, the body is broken down and therefore must be repaired, that is where the resistance phase comes in. The body recognizes that the stress that was placed on the body needs to be reversed, and then some, so it rebuilds its tissues to be stronger than it was before. This is known as "supercompensation".

If, however, the same stresses are placed on the body for an extended period of time, an exhaustion phase could be reached. This is where the individual may see a return of some of the symptoms experienced in the alarm phase; soreness, fatigue, etc. There is also the potential for staleness, overtraining, and other maladaptations to occur. Not only can a stale exercise program cause overtraining but lack of sleep, poor diet, and excess mental stress can also lead to these conditions.

-Tyler Robbins

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Motivation - Ways to Out-Wit Your Excuses

Human beings are creatures of habit. We generally all fall into our daily routines. We wake up, shower, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch tv, go to bed, sleep, repeat. Most people get into routines that are so set in stone that they don't even remember what they did or ate the previous day, also known as "auto-pilot". Why not make exercise a part of this daily routine, similar to what I do. I exercise 6 days a week, and include my workouts in my daily routine so that I am now on such a routine schedule, that if I miss my workout, the rest of my day is "off".

The disadvantage to this, is that people make excuses to skip their workout(s). One missed day becomes two, then two becomes ten, and so on. As soon as you break that momentum, the train is derailed and it is much harder to get back on the tracks than it is to stay on the tracks I promise you that!

I remember when I make the decision and commitment to change my lifestyle a few years ago now, those first few days, weeks, and months were tough. I really struggled with maintaining momentum and keeping myself motivated, but now that I have included exercise as part of my daily routine, there is no turning back. Below is a list of common excuses people make, and a counter-argument that I hope you can use the next time you feel like giving yourself one of these lame excuses. 

"I have no time."

Trust me, I understand. Today's society moves at a faster pace than ever before. Some people have kids, others work 3 jobs. Some people have 14-hour work days. The problem I have with these scenarios is when I hear people say, "I just don't have time to work out" followed by, "Hey, did you catch American Idol last night..." Let me make one thing clear. Just as going to work/school/etc. to pay the bills, get an education, etc. Exercise should be part of your full-time job. If you have time to sit down and watch tv, you definitely have time to exercise! If you are one of those people that really do have busy lives, don't watch any tv because of your long days. Fine, but you can still do your best to squeeze in 20 mins of exercise a day which is the daily recommended exercise that can improve your mind and body immensely!

"American Idol comes on as I leave."

Similar to the point above, some people use an excuse such as their favorite tv program to skip their workout. Everyone needs some down time every day for entertainment, etc. as that is what can help you smile, laugh, and relax after a long day. Again, I get it! However, just because your program runs from 7-8pm does not mean that you need to watch it at that time. The holidays are coming up, tell your friends/family that you wish to invest in a DVR (digital video recorder) so that you can record your shows and watch them later. A bonus to that, is after you are done your workout, you can watch your program even faster as you can then fast-forward through the commercials!

"I need my sleep."

I try to create my exercise schedule at least a month in advance. For the most part, I know what my work/personal schedule is like, so I can fit exercise in accordingly. 99 times out of 100, I am exercising first thing in the morning so that I can get my workout done and out of the way so that I can focus on the rest of the day. If you stay up late at night, flick the tv or computer off and go to bed an hour earlier so that you can get up earlier and do a workout then. I know, I know, those first few weeks waking up when it's still dark out can be tough, but stick with it, you may even grow to enjoy it, I have!

"Gyms are too expensive."

You have options. If a gym is too expensive, look into home workout videos. If workout videos are still too expensive, use the power of the internet to come up with your own workouts you can do at home for free. You will honestly be amazed at how many top-notch workouts you can do with little to no equipment. Again, the holidays are coming, so ask your family/friends to buy you some workout gear like resistance bands or dumbbells.

"Eating healthy and exercising doesn't fit my budget."

I hear this one quite often as well, and it just floors me every time. Similar to the previous point, people neglect their health based on monetary problems. Again, I understand that some people are worse-off than others, struggling to pay the bills, etc. You do have options to stay fit and active for very cheap. But please do not tell me that you just spent "x" number of dollars on your new flat-screen but can't afford healthier food options or exercise equipment. Get your priorities in check!

"I'm bored with my workout."

Shake things up! No, I don't mean go buy a shake weight. I mean shake up the order and design of your workout. Instead of doing bench press, try pushups. Have an all legs day? Change it up for a total-body workout, etc. There are limitless combinations of exercises and workouts that one can do to keep things fresh.

"I never see results."

Every person who begins to exercise and change their lifestyle should set goals for themselves, but make it realistic and worthy of your time. What I mean by this is that most people aim to exercise and eat healthy so that they can hit the beach in their new swimsuit to strut around and impress other people. I have a piece of harsh reality for you...most people do not care what you look like! Instead, you should exercise and change your diet so that you feel better and are healthier so that you can enjoy life. Sure, looking "better" (I use that term loosely) will more than likely come as you get healthier, but focus on other things such as body fat percentage, resting heart rate, healthy blood pressure, etc. If you aren't making any progress at all, refer to the previous point, as you probably need to shake things up. Why continue down a path that clearly is not working for your situation. Maybe you need someone to help you re-design a workout plan or study your diet plan for you. Either way, there are tools and resources available to help you.

"Four weeks and no change!"

I will be perfectly honest with you here. Most people don't see a lot of change in the first few weeks of exercising. This is due to many reasons including your body being in shock due to its new routine. Sure, you may feel better and may even lose a few pounds, but you may not look any different. Remember to stick with it as your body is still improving in ways that you may not be able to see. Your circulation should be improving, your bones are strengthening, your joints and ligaments are getting stronger, your muscles are becoming more efficient, etc. All of these first steps in an exercise program will lay the foundation to improving your body further as you continue down this road.

"I have no energy."

Eat! One of those most common issues that cause burn-out in people is that they are not eating enough. Sure, you may think that starving yourself while exercising is the way to go to lose those pounds quickly, but remember that your body needs fuel to burn off the "goo". The trick here is to eat nutrient-dense foods that get the most out of each calorie so that you can keep your calories low while maintaining high energy levels. Fruits and vegetables anyone?

"My body needs time to recover."

Yes, you need time to recover after every workout. What that means is that if you worked your chest on Monday, don't work your chest again until at least Wednesday or Thursday. That doesn't mean your legs are broken though! Alternate muscle groups throughout the week so that you can stay active while not over-working your muscles. If you are absolutely sore, do some really light cardio like an exercise bike with the lowest resistance. By getting your blood moving, you are already helping your body remove all of that broken-down and damaged tissue in you muscles that is causing the soreness.

"I hate working out alone."

Go to the gym at times of the day when they are most active. Generally early morning and prime-time are the best through the week as "regulars" go either before or after their work day. Fitness classes are also a great way to get more of a "team atmosphere" where everyone is working hard and struggling together. Just don't let others be a distraction causing you to take too long of breaks.

-Tyler Robbins

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Special Issues Related to Aerobic Endurance Training

There are other factors and variables at-play for an athlete who is actively training for endurance sports. These factors are listed below and should also be considered in aerobic endurance program design.


There are many research studies that show the immense benefits to cross-training. Cross-training is essentially using other forms of physical activity to maintain or improve performance. Cross-training can be used to increase exercise economy in such cases like using weighted squats for runners to increase muscle strength. It can also be used to minimize the effects of certain training stresses. An example of this would be a runner using cycling maintain or improve his/her VO2 Max yet not have the physical impact on the body tissues from running.


When an athlete ceases to train, especially in aerobic endurance training, the gains that have been attained from training can be lost very quickly. Cross-training can only slow this process slightly, so in order to slow or stop the loss of training benefits, an athlete should continue to train by modes discussed in a previous blog.


Tapering has been show to be an effective way for aerobic athletes to reach their peak potential for a competition. The goal of tapering is to greatly reduce training duration and intensity for a set period of time before competition while greatly focusing attention on the individual's diet and lifestyle habits to increase their performance on race day. The idea is to allow the body to heal, recover and hydrate in order to 100% for competition.

Resistance Training

Similar to cross-training, resistance training can have many benefits for aerobic endurance athletes. Benefits include faster recovery from injuries, prevention of overuse injuries, and reduction of muscle imbalances.

-Tyler Robbins

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Application of Aerobic Program Design to Training Seasons

Athletes who participate in a specific sport generally have seasons. In order to train for a specific season, an athlete's periodizational training should be structured to ensure that they "peak" at the most advantageous time; when their season starts! Below is a list of how training cycles are broken up for an aerobic athlete.

Off-Season (Base Training)

Generally after an athlete completes their sport season, they take a short amount of time off from any training before they get back into their training regimen. Off-season can therefore be considered the starting point and should be used to create a base-level of aerobic conditioning.


Preseason, or towards the end of the off-season, is the second cycle. This is when the intensity and duration for an athlete are greatly increased. It is at this point that any strengths and/or weaknesses should be addressed to hone any specific training modes that need extra or less attention.

In-Season (Competition)

Here is where any weaknesses would continue to be worked on from the preseason training during "practice" sessions. Duration and intensity should be greatly reduced in the interest of the athlete so that they are rested and recovered for their competition days.

Postseason (Active Rest)

This cycle is intended to just keep a fairly consistent level of aerobic conditioning, but to allow time for rest and recovery. The duration and intensity of the training sessions should definitely be "throttled-back" during this time to not only allow the body to heal, but to also allow the athlete to mentally relax to prevent cases of "burn out".

-Tyler Robbins

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Types of Aerobic Endurance Training Programs

When training for an aerobic endurance event, it is important to add variety to your training. Not only does variety prevent training from getting stale, but it is also crucial to allow multiple energy systems to be trained and optimized to increase performance.

Long, Slow Distance Training (LSD)

Long, slow distance training is when an individual trains at 70% VO2 Max or 80% of max heart rate (MHR). The allotted time for LSD training should be anywhere from 30 mins to 2 hours which can be the same distance or more distance than the event being trained for. This is also known as "conversation training" as the individual should be able to carry on a fairly easy conversation without feeling like they are gasping for air.

The benefits gained from LSD training are generally aerobic in nature. What this means is that an individual becomes more efficient at removing lactate, increases mitochondrial energy production and oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle, as well as become more efficient at using body fat stores as a fuel source. The increase in efficiency of using fat stores as a fuel source also spares muscle glycogen stores for more intense bouts of energy such as a hill sprint or end-of-race sprint.

Pace/Tempo Training

Pace/Tempo training is at or exceeds an intensity that will be used in a race competition. This type of training is also known as "threshold training" as it is intended to push an individual to their lactate threshold (LT) throughout their entire session. Pace/Tempo training can either be steady or intermittent. In other words, either an entire 20-30 minute session is geared towards pushing the LT or shorter bouts or intervals can be used to push the LT.

The goal with Pace/Tempo training is to increase the efficiency of both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems to improve overall stamina and performance.

Interval Training

Intervals involve intense exercise that is close to an individual's VO2 Max that can last anywhere from 30 secs/interval to 5 minutes. Any intervals that last in the 3-5min range should have equal rest periods (1:1), also known as a work to rest ratio. Interval training is intended to increase an athlete's VO2 Max as well as anaerobic metabolism.

Repetition Training

Similar to interval training, "REPS" are conducted at intensities greater than VO2 Max in work to rest ratios of 1:5. REPS work intervals should be in the 30-90 second time range, but due to their immense metabolic strain on the body, that is why longer rest periods need to be followed. The benefits here include faster speeds and enhanced exercise economy. This is the type of training an individual should use in order to improve their final leg of a race.

Fartlek Training

This is essentially a combination of all of the different types of training modes listed above. The idea here is to remove monotony associated with regular training, as well as creating race-like variables into a training session that would mimic the conditions found in a race such as hills, sprints, etc.

-Tyler Robbins

Friday, October 28, 2011

Designing an Aerobic Endurance Program

Designing an aerobic endurance training program is similar to designing other fitness programs for any individual. We can break down training criteria into different subcategories that can be focused on. For example, an aerobic training program should include the following variables: Exercise Mode, Training Frequency, Training Intensity, Exercise Duration, and Exercise Progression.

As with any training program, however, the program should be structured to the individual's needs. For example, one person may have a history of cycling, so their form or exercise economy does not need as much training. They may have been sedentary for months or years though, so more emphasis should be placed on aerobic conditioning.

On the other hand, an individual may be very active with a wide variety of exercises but does not have a lot of experience running, and they wish to run their first marathon. In this case, not as much attention would need to be placed on their conditioning like the example above, but more time and emphasis placed on their running form and efficiency.

Exercise Mode

Exercise mode refers to the specific activities an individual must train in to become better at their desired sport or event. Obviously, if one is to become a better runner, swimmer or cyclist, they would need to practice their desired event as that would be the ideal specificity training.

Having said that, there are numerous research studies that have been done showing the positive effect cross training can have on any athletic event. Cross training should try and involve as many of the desired body parts as possible though. For example, it would not be as effective for an athlete who is training for a cycling event to spend a lot of time on the bench press.

Training Frequency

Training frequency refers to the number of training sessions an individual would have in a set period of time (usually a week). Many different variables can factor into planning an individual's training frequency such as their current fitness level as the less trained an individual is, the more recovery days they would require.

Sport season also influences the training frequency. A seasoned cyclist for example who is participating in an upcoming event may taper their number of training sessions per week.

As with any training program, recovery days are just as important, if not more important than the working days. On recovery days, it is important for one to refuel their nutrient and hydration levels in order for their bodily systems and tissues to repair and recover. Studies have also shown an increase in performance after a rest or recovery period of a day or a few days, which is not all that surprising.

Training Intensity

For the most part, the longer a training session is, the less-intense it is and vice-versa. Our muscles consist of a combination of type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers. Type 1 fibers are more fatigue-resistant because their primary energy source is derived from aerobic metabolism, although they cannot create as much power as type 2 fibers can.

Type 2 muscle fibers are more intended for power and speed, although they do so by producing energy by means of anaerobic metabolism. As the intensity of any activity increases, the body begins to transition from mostly type 1 fiber recruitment to type 2, although this is never a black and white transition, there is always some time with overlap.

By training both of these muscle fibers and their subsequent energy systems by using aerobic exercise, you are able to increase the fatigue-resistance of the type 2 fibers by training them to be more aerobically efficient. By doing so, you improve your overall aerobic performance.

The trick to aerobic training is to not train too intensely because a training session would be cut too short, but to also not push the envelope too far, so to speak, as you would not be improving the efficiency of your energy systems.

To date, there are a few different techniques that an individual can use in order to monitor their level of effort that I have listed below.

Heart Rate

One of the most widely-used methods of monitoring exertion due to its close relation to oxygen consumption. Most individuals have used methods of calculating a heart rate zone based on their theoretical max heart rate (%MHR). This can be done by subtracting your age from 220 and then multiplying it by a certain percentage or percentages to get a range.

For example, for myself, since I am 26 years old, my %MHR would be:

220 - 26 = 194

85% x 194 = 165

Another heart rate calculation that is also widely-used due to its close proximity to %VO2Max is the Karvonen Method. This is done by first calculating your age-predicted max heart rate (220-age). You then subtract your resting heart rate from this number to get your heart rate reserve (HRR). You then take your HRR and multiply it by your desired exercise intensity and finally add your resting heart rate. Written out, for myself who wants to work at 85% intensity looks like this:

220 - 26 = 194

HRR = 194 - 52 (resting heart rate) = 142

85% intensity = (142 x 0.85) + 52 = 173 beats/minute

Exercise Duration

Exercise duration simply refers to the amount of time an exercise session lasts. As mentioned previously, the more intense an individual works, the shorter the duration will be.

For example, exercise that is conducted at an intensity above maximal lactate steady state (approx. 85% VO2 Max) will have a short duration of 20-30 mins. On the other hand, exercise that stays at a steady 70% of VO2 Max can last for an hour or more.

Exercise Progression

As with any type of physical training, aerobic exercise must also follow a progressive overload training style in order to continually challenge and therefore improve the body's performance.

Typically, exercise frequency, intensity, or duration or a combination of all three should be increased from week to week during a training block. Having said that, none of those three categories should be increased by more than 10% at any given time.

Once an individual has reached a sort of upper limit for a certain variable, you can then use the other 2 variables to continue progression. For example, if an individual only have 60 mins on any given day to train, they start at 30 mins of running, 4 days a week, with a 10% training increase each week, they will eventually reach their maximum of 60 mins sessions in a few weeks. You can then "cap" each session at 60 mins, but continue progression by increasing intensity.

-Tyler Robbins

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quality of Life

My wife recently saw an article online that she sent to me, which I found to be a pretty good read. It wasn't anything groundbreaking or monumental in its thinking, assuming you have a head on your shoulders, but its premise, delivered by a certain individual, may raise a few eyebrows.

Dr. Clyde Yancy from Northwestern University, who is a past president of the American Heart Association, recently gave a keynote address at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver. He detailed 7 key steps that everyone should follow in order to have, now get this, a 90% chance of living to 90 or even 100 years old!

Get active:
Physical inactivity can cost you four years, while doubling your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Know and control your cholesterol levels: Almost 40 per cent of Canadians have high cholesterol, also a risk for heart disease and stroke.
Follow a healthy diet: Half of Canadians don’t meet the healthy eating standard.
Know your blood pressure: Preventative monitoring of this so-called “silent killer” can reduce your risk of stroke by up to 40 per cent and heart attack by as much as 25 per cent.
Maintain a healthy weight: As much as another four years are lost to the 60 per cent of Canadians who are obese or overweight.
Manage diabetes: Diabetes, expected to afflict 2.4 million Canadians by 2016, is a cause of stroke, heart disease and other potentially fatal illnesses.
Be tobacco free: Self-explanatory. Quitting smoking, to say nothing of never starting, immediately reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.

For my international readers, yes, he was addressing a Canadian crowd, so many of these stats apply to Canadians, but I am sure they relate to many countries as well. The main points of this article I want to focus in on is the likelihood that you will reach a certain age.

Life expectancy in many countries continues to climb. This can be due to many factors such as medical breakthroughs and advancements, pharmaceuticals, as well as our understanding of the human body. There are certain factors that can lead to premature death that for the most case are out of our control such as accident or illness, but for the most part, human beings have a high likelihood of living very long lives now compared to previous generations.

I am by no means disagreeing with Dr. Yancy here on his list, but there are few things that I find surprising. First of all, he lists the fact that exercise, or rather a lack-of exercise, can reduce your life by only 4 years. I feel as though many people may read this and think, "Oh, 4 years isn't so bad, I would rather sit on my butt and watch tv than to exercise. Besides its only 4 years!" Secondly, and on a similar note, he claims that being obese or overweight can shave yet another 4 years off your life. Once again, there may be individuals reading this thinking that 4 years is well worth it as long as they can continue to eat their snack cakes and Mickey-D's.

The reason why I bring these 2 points up, is the fact that, sure, Dr. Yancy details how you can live longer, but he fails to mention the quality of life that can be lived by following these 7 steps. Relating back to the fact that medical advancements are continually extending our life-spans, I believe many people feel as though there will always be that magic pill or surgery that will "keep them going".

I, myself, as well as many of you out there may have experienced, or will experience in your lifetime the declining quality of life some people experience as they age. I currently work for a pharmacy that services long-term care facilities. I have been in these "homes" and have seen the lives that these individuals have to lead. Sure, you may think, "That's what happens when you get old", or "I don't have to worry about that for a while!" Let me just say that I have seen individuals aged anywhere from their 50's to their 100's in these facilities.

The point I am trying to make is that aging is mandatory, but "getting old" is (for the most part) optional. By trying to lead as healthy of a lifestyle as possible, and following Dr. Yancy's 7 steps here, you can not only lengthen your life, but you can improve the quality of life that you lead as well. Sure, you may live to be 100 years old, but if spending the last 40 years of that life in a wheel chair or struggling with aches and pains, what type of life are you actually living. Now is the time, while you still can, to lay the foundation of a healthy lifestyle by consistently exercising, and consuming a healthy diet so that you will see 100 with a smile on your face!

-Tyler Robbins

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Aerobic Endurance Performance Factors

There are three main categories that I will discuss below that should be factored into a successful aerobic endurance training program. Aerobic endurance events, whether they involve running, swimming, cycling or a combination of the three, have a fixed distance that the participants attempt to complete in as little time as possible. Training at any capacity can help better an endurance athlete's time, but a properly structured program can yield even better results and can prevent over-training and even injury!

Maximal Aerobic Power

Also known as VO2 Max, there is a strong correlation between an endurance athlete and their VO2 Max level. In basic terms, an individual who has high VO2 Max level can continue to meet the majority of their energy demands through aerobic metabolism. In other words, as the energy demands increase with time throughout an aerobic endurance event, a high VO2 can relate to increased performance for longer periods of time.

Athletes with a high VO2 Max generally have high endurance performance, although there are other factors that can be just as, if not more important such as a high lactate threshold, good exercise economy, and a high ability to use fat as a fuel source.

Lactate Threshold

As the body pushes into higher heart rate zones, and therefore transfers from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism, the body must clear away lactate from its muscles. The body eventually reaches a point in which it cannot clear lactate away as fast or faster than it is being produced. This is when you get that burning sensation in your muscles and extreme fatigue which is known as the lactate threshold. Aerobic endurance athletes with similar VO2 Maxes can have differences in performance based on their lactate thresholds.

Lactate thresholds can be trained and therefore improved which can improve aerobic endurance athlete performance. Aerobic athletes should therefore train various energy systems of their bodies in order to increase overall performance.

Exercise Economy
Exercise economy can be defined as the amount of energy expended by an individual performing a specific task or action. Certain factors such as technique or body composition can effect exercise economy. A good example of how technique effects exercise economy would be high-level distance runners tend to have shorter strides with faster stride frequency compared to more amateur runners. An example of body composition factors would be high-level cyclists. Those that are lighter in weight and have low body fat percentages can maximize their muscular efficiency versus those that are carrying extra weight on their bikes and can therefore decrease performance.

-Tyler Robbins

Monday, October 24, 2011

Speed and Agility Program Design

In order to design and plan a speed and agility training program, many variables need to be addressed on many different levels. The variables are:

Exercise interval - duration (time) or distance

Exercise order - sequence in which a set of reps is executed

Exercise relief - work to rest ratio

Frequency - number of training sessions in a given time period

Intensity - effort at which each repetition is completed

Relief or recovery interval - rest period between reps and sets

Repetition - movement technique

Series - group of sets and recovery intervals

Set - group of reps and relief intervals

Volume - amount of work (reps x sets) completed during a specific training session

Short-Term Planning

Fatigue is a natural occurring process of the human body that can effect performance long before complete failure happens. Individuals should use speed-endurance training to help train multiple metabolic systems in order to improve fatigue-resistance. As the body becomes better at being fatigue-resistant, special speed and agility skills can therefore be performed with greater efficiency.

By using short, intense, exercise, an individual can target phosphagen energy systems and improve their recovery. Phophasgen systems are used in virtually all athletic movements as they are vital to explosive actions and movements. These types of short, intense efforts should be completed early on in a workout before other fatiguing exercises.

Medium-Term Planning

Proper planning and design needs to be implemented into medium-term exercise program design. Research has shown that recovery efforts or growth from one form of exercise can inhibit or hinder the recovery of another form of exercise.

Long-Term Planning

As an athlete progresses through their training program, the speed or effectiveness of their progression may alter the direction of their future training.

-Tyler Robbins

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Methods of Developing Speed & Agility

Primary Method

Many skill-specific activities should be started slow so that proper mechanics can be learned. Once the proper mechanics begin to take hold, then an individual can increase speed to that, or exceeding that, of game speed.

Some mechanics we take for granted and may learn on our own throughout life, such as running or throwing a ball. Unfortunately, there may be flaws with the technique since some individuals may not have be given proper coaching on the specialized technique. In this case, proper technique can be introduced to the individual to help perfect form.

Secondary Methods

Secondary methods involve sprint resistance and sprint assistance:

Sprint Resistance - Also known as an overload effect, the idea is to use resistance in some form to improve explosive strength and stride length. Examples of resistance that can be applied in such a situation would be gravity (running up a grade like stairs or a slope) or such apparatus such as parachutes or weighted vests.

Sprint Assistance - By using assistance techniques such as running downhill or a high-speed towing apparatus, the aim is to maintain proper running form but increase stride frequency.

Tertiary Methods

Tertiary methods are broken down into mobility, strength and speed-endurance categories:

Mobility - Athletic tasks require specific ranges of motion (ROM). If an individual does not use their full mobility at a certain joint or limb, they can impact performance or even increase their likelihood of injury. For example, someone who is running, if there is not enough mobility at the hip joint, there could too much braking effect caused by the foot strike on the ground. Proper stretching and flexibility should be used by all to maintain proper range of motion.

Strength - In order for individuals to improve their speed and agility, their resistance training program should include explosive, quick movements. This does not necessarily mean that only light weights with high velocity should be used. Resistance training that targets a wide range of muscular fiber types should be employed.

Speed-Endurance - To train for speed-endurance events, athletes must use a wide variety of training styles including short-duration intense training as well as long-duration, less-intense exercises.

-Tyler Robbins

Liquid Calories

Last Thursday's blog I discussed calories, and more importantly, how calories are digested and used in the body. When it comes down to it, all of us need calories to survive as they are the "energy currency" in our bodies to allow us to do stuff. Calories allow energy actions in our bodies to be performed such as thinking, breathing, pumping blood, digesting food, walking, etc.

The problem most people run into is that they ingest too many calories, which are then stored as body fat as an evolutionary "backup plan". You see, our ancestors didn't always have a KFC sitting on the nearby corner, so they actually had times of famine. Our bodies store adipose (fat) tissue for when we are in need of energy when those hunting and gathering times aren't so good.

People have to ingest calories in order to survive. Foods tend to contain other things in them such as nutrients that make them ideal for our calorie consumption. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats are all nutrient dense. What this means, is that healthy foods give you the most "bang for your buck". You want to aim to get as many nutrients and vitamins in your body through natural sources as possible, while keeping your calorie count low, in order to maximize your metabolism and keep your weight down, while maintaining good health.

Liquid calories can therefore be a major pitfall for a lot of the population. Virtually all sources of beverages that people consume (other than water) have high calorie counts, with very little nutrient payoff. Take sodas for example, most of these beverages can contain anywhere from 8-10 teaspoons of sugar....per can! Visually picture yourself scooping 10 teaspoons of sugar into a can, then filling the rest with water. There doesn't leave much room for water, let alone any vitamins or nutrients.

Believe it or not, sodas can actually play a part in a person's diet, that is if they are a highly active person. Take, for example, a marathon runner. If they were to drink a can of soda before a race, that sugar would be digested and burned off in no time from their high activity level. Most people, however, sit down and enjoy a can with a high-calorie meal while watching tv. Those calories coming from the sugar in the soda are either used right away for high-energy activity (which they aren't) or are packed away for future use (aka, body fat).

Alright, fine, let's give up soda. Many people have taken this pledge (including myself) to give up soft drinks, so now what? I find milk to be a good alternative, but watch your nutritional labels. Milk is high-calorie because it contains fat and protein as well as natural and added sugars. You may be surprised at how much sugar is in your glass of milk. Look at the sugar count per cup (250mL), in grams, of milk, and you may be surprised how much is actually in there. Not only that, as you get closer to skim milk, or in other words, less fat, companies add in even more sugar in order to make sure the taste stands up. I personally like to enjoy either 1 or 2% milk in moderation as milk can provide a lot of vitamins and nutrients such as calcium!

Alright, so milk is a nice substitute for soda, but keep it in moderation. How about fruit juices then? Many companies are jumping on this bandwagon so to speak as they are finding the need to produce what the public is asking for. I will just come out and say it, fruit juices can be just as bad, if not worse than sodas. They can be very high in sugar with potentially little to no nutrients left. The act of processing fruit juices to get the product to your grocery shelf can remove many of the nutritional benefits of the product, not to mention the removal of fiber, which is helpful in slowing the digestion of eating fruit whole. Try and stick to real fruit juices that have no added sugars, and often times, you can "cut" the juice by filling half a glass of juice with the other half water and still enjoy the flavor, minus all of those extra calories.

Coffee is actually zero-calorie. There are numerous health benefits to drinking coffee that have been reported in the recent past. Let's face it, coffee is one of the most widely-consumed beverages in human history, so it is no surprise that it is also one of the most widely-researched (pros and cons). I could write an entire blog on coffee consumption, which I can in the future, but for now, you can make your own conclusions on this. Chances are, if you are currently a coffee consumer, I may not change your mind either way, and vice versa. Just keep this in mind, coffee can suddenly become very high-calorie by adding too much cream, sugar, or flavored coffees to the mix. If you can handle black coffee, that is the best, but I understand some people like to add some sugar and (I recommend) milk to help the taste, so 1 or 2 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee in the morning will not make or break your diet assuming you are ingesting a well-rounded diet throughout the day.

Alcohols, like soda, are nutritional bombs. Just to give you an idea of calorie breakdowns, and where our dietary energy comes from; fats are 9 calories/gram, proteins and carbohydrates are 4 calories/gram, and alcohol is 7 calories/gram. Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are generally packaged with nutrients and dietary benefits when they are consumed, whereas alcohol is essentially useless in the body and is just used as energy. Yes, like coffee, there have been many studies done on alcohol trying to prove or disprove its need in the human diet. I will say that there appears to be some health benefits to having a drink now and then to help relax, and lower blood pressure, but many people do not stick to their daily recommended intake. Not only is alcohol itself high-calorie, but most people do not drink alcohol on its own, they mix it with sodas or drink it as beer or wine, which can all heighten those calorie counts.

I find it so discouraging to see some people that are trying so hard to exercise and eat somewhat respectively, but then literally pour away their potential health benefits and gains by consuming large quantities of calories through needless liquid sources. The human body has evolved to feel "full" from eating solid foods. We do not get that same response from drinking our calories, which I think plays a part in the consumption of large numbers of calories being consumed. If people were to make a switch to drinking just water, milk (in moderation), and tea (zero-cal green teas, etc.), they could literally cut hundreds of calories out of their diets every day which that switch alone can account to pounds lost over months and years!

-Tyler Robbins