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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 70 - Motivation Saturday

No, I do not work for Saucony. I am not trying to peddle their products (especially considering I now run "barefoot"). I just like the video...

"Maybe strong is just what you have left, when you've used up all your weak!"

Quote of the day:
"Success is the good fortune that comes from aspiration, desperation, perspiration and inspiration."
~ Evan Esar

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 69 - Shoe Selection for Insanity Asylum

Would recommend the Vibram Five Fingers for Asylum workouts or am I better off with running shoes?

I wouldn't use running shoes for Asylum as running shoes are primarily designed for forward movement only. Cross training shoes have lateral support for doing agility training like what you would find in Asylum.

Having said all of that, I have used Vibrams for the Asylum workouts and have been fine with them. First of all, you need to be used to Vibrams. I wouldn't go buy a pair, slap them on right away and jump right into Asylum. Secondly, you will still want a fairly padded floor, especially for routines like Vertical Plyo since you do quite a bit of jumping.

So, short answer: Cross training, court shoes, or basketball shoes if you want to use shoes, and only use Vibrams if you have experience with them and are experienced at exercising "barefoot". Hope that helps.

Quote of the day:
"Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice."
-Wayne Dyer

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Day 68 - Pullups/Lat Pulldown Hand Positions

I'd like to hear more about how exactly a lat pull down tracking behind the head strains the shoulder.

Cable Lat Pulldowns can be a great alternative to pullups. For individuals who have access to that piece of equipment can greatly benefit from a lat pulldown tower, especially if they cannot do full pullups yet. Having said that, I think you should stay away from pulling the bar down behind your head - keep the bar in front of your face, coming down to your chest.

Most people do not have the required shoulder flexibility to do a posterior lat pulldown correctly. This, in turn, can lead to bad form and increased potential for injury (shoulder impingement) because the upper arms (humerus bones) are not really designed to track that far behind your body.

If anyone is promoting the use of a posterior cable pulldown, then they must be doing it because they believe that there is either more muscle being activated or you can 'attack' a muscle in your back in a better way...both cases are untrue. In fact, studies have shown that an anterior cable pulldown or pullup activates far more muscle out of the lats, and if you wish to train some of the other muscles in the back that assist in shoulder blade adduction (rhomboids) or humerus adduction (teres major), then you can try changing hand grips, as long as you still maintain the proper transit of the bar in front of your face.

Can a posterior pulldown be done correctly? Sure. But in my opinion, the cons outweigh the risks, and you can achieve far better muscle activation and strength from other forms and keeping things much safer.

I have found a study that was done on varying hand grips on the lat pulldown machine. Here is their "Practical Applications" portion of the paper.

Short forms:
LD = Latissimus Dorsi
WGA = Wide Grip Anterior
WGP = Wide Grip Posterior
PM = Pectoralis Major
CG = Close Grip

Because the primary purpose of the lat pull-down exercise is the development of increased strength during shoulder adduction, it is of great importance to prescribe the handgrip position that elicits the most activity from the muscle primarily involved with this downward movement, namely the LD. The results of this study indicate that the wide grip hand position with the bar pulled anteriorly to the chest (WGA) recruits more motor units, and therefore requires more work from the LD than any of the other conditions tested. Therefore, this handgrip position should be used to provide a greatest amount stimulus and a greater development of the LD than other handgrip positions. This finding may be especially important because it brings into question the necessity to use the WGP position, which has been cited as a condition that increases the potential for injury to both the gleno-humeral joint and cervical spine.

Quote of the day:
"Do not let it be your aim to be something, but to be someone."
~ Victor Hugo

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 67 - Work Around An Injury

For us active folks, injuries happen. You can take steps to try and reduce your risk of injury, but chances are, you are going to run into some sort of injury at some point in your life, especially the more active you are. Injuries can occur due to negligence or just out of bad luck. The poor fella in the picture above is obviously having a stroke of bad luck...

Hopefully you can be fit and healthy enough that you can bounce back from an injury rather quickly, but they can definitely still happen. At this point, while reading this blog, you may even disagree with me, but consider the fact that Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a type of injury as well!

Rather than just giving up and allowing the injury to win by not doing a workout at all, fight back and work around your injury. Did you pull a muscle in your shoulder? Work your legs by doing a complete legs routine or cardio machine. Hurt your leg while on a run yesterday? Do some upper body strength training or upper body cardio. Just be careful to choose activities that will not exacerbate your problem.

The benefits to staying active include the fact that an increased blood flow will help with the rehabilitation process. Also, if you are as 'addicted' to staying fit as I, and many of you are, staying active will keep your mind from thinking your are just giving in.

Quote of the day:

"Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil."

~ J. Paul Getty

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 66 - Overcoming Disadvantages

Everybody is different. There is no disputing that fact. We all think differently, act differently, and for the purpose of this blog, look and perform differently. Just as everyone has different shaped noses, ears, eyes, etc., we also have different ratios and proportions of our limbs and various body parts.

There is a saying that goes, "To be a good athlete, you should choose your parents wisely!" Although your body makeup may be advantageous in one area of performance, you may lack in others. Because of this, nearly everyone has their own individual strengths and weaknesses.

Just because you have an area of training that you may be weaker or stronger at, does not meant that you should avoid training in that area because it is either too 'hard' or too 'easy'. You are only good at things that you do often, so if you wish to improve in a specific area, you need to practice and work at it. Unfortunately, your body type may prevent you from being 'great' at something you struggle with, but hopefully some of the tips below can help you at least get 'better' at your weaknesses.

Long Arms

Remember when you were little, learning all about "simple machines" in school? Things like levers, ramps, pulleys, etc.? Well, your body uses the principles of simple machines (mostly levers) to help overcome discrepancies in resistance. In more basic terms, your body uses levers to help you lift things.
Unfortunately, when it comes to strength training, the longer your limbs are, the further the muscle has to 'travel' or contract to overcome the joint angle, therefore increasing the amount of force needed. In other words, guys with longer limbs oftentimes have a tougher time with heavier weights. Taller guys, or guys that have longer limbs may get discouraged at the gym with something like a bench press for example.

The bench press is often thought of as the pinnacle or holy grail of tests of a man's (or woman's) strength. Truth is, gentlemen (or ladies) with shorter arms, experience less strain on their shoulder joints and can actually use their shorter limbs to their advantage.

The bright side here is that even though longer arms may not be able to produce as much force (comparing similar body sizes) as someone with shorter arms, longer arms or limbs tend to be able to move at a faster speed.

So, to overcome shortcomings on a bench press for example, trade in the heavy resistance for speed training instead. Try either doing as many pushups in 30 seconds, for example, or lay on your back and "press" or throw a medicine ball straight up in the air as if you are making a chest pass in basketball.

Small Hands

Folks with shorter limbs may also be blessed with small hands. So, although they may be able to produce greater forces, their weak link may be their grip strength, due to the small hands and shorter fingers.

One way to increase grip strength is to do Farmer's Walks. Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and walk around until you are at the point where you are about to drop the weights. Set them down, gently, rest for a few minutes and then do 2 more sets.

Another way to improve grip strength would be to do pullups/chinups, or if you can't do those, then simply just hang from a pullup bar until you can't take any more, for 3 sets total. To increase the effectiveness of this exercise even further, try rolling up a towel and wrapping it around the bar. Use 1 towel per hand or 1 towel for both hands, whichever you prefer.

Long Legs

Similar to having long arms (see above), long legged folks may also experience difficulties with exercises like a heavy back squat. If you experience difficulty or discomfort during any type of exercise, switch things up to something that is more favorable for your long legs.

For example, try using Step-Up Lunges. Grab a pair of dumbbells, and step up onto a sturdy platform. If you step-up with your left leg (only left leg in contact with platform), as you step up, raise your right knee to your chest, and then place your right leg back onto the ground first. Do 8-10 reps per leg.

This exercise allows you to activate more muscle over a (potentially) greater range of motion without needing as heavy of resistance to do so. This also places the resistance in a different position to help relieve some strain from your lower back.

Quote of the day:
"It is not enough to take steps which may some day lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 65 - Tyler's Book Club: Born to Run

Just over a week ago I finished reading Born to Run, written by Christopher McDougall. Here is the book synopsis:

An epic adventure that began with one simple question: Why does my foot hurt? Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

Whether you consider yourself a 'runner' or not, I feel anyone who is interested in physical fitness can take something from this book. As the synopsis explains, Christopher McDougall (author) re-lives the story of his own personal journey as a recreational athlete.

Along the way, he tells stories about ultramarathon runners and their truly remarkable abilities to withstand some of the craziest endurance races completed by mankind.

The heart of the story revolves around the Tarahumara, a primitive tribe in Mexico who seemingly hold all of the secrets to how humans have evolved into a species able to withstand such bouts of endurance. The only problem is, our society and 'advancements' have muddied the waters and have actually made us more prone to injury rather than preventing them.

Whether you believe the discussions within this book or not, the science and evidence presented are pretty remarkable and startling to think about. Humans have evolved through trial and error and natural selection for millions of years to nearly perfect our physiological structure. Even though we have had mother nature on our side, a couple decade's worth of research believes that they have the 'fix' for our shortcomings.

As I said, whether you consider yourself a 'runner' or not, this book is a tremendous reminder for us all that we should stop trying to complicate things and just get back to the basics. Our bodies are designed to move in specific ways, and move a lot, yet we seem to want to change both of those facts.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I do not consider myself a serious 'runner' either, but couldn't help but feel motivated to get out and go for a run in my Vibram Five Fingers. The only thing stopping me from going running is that I could not put this book down!

Quote of the day:
"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams."
~John Barrymore

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 64 - Diet vs. Exercise: And the Winner Is....

Just in case you have missed it, I have been comparing diet vs. exercise in various topics to determine which one, once and for all, is better for total-body health. You can review the past posts here:

Part 1: Weight Loss
Part 2: Increase Energy Levels
Part 3: Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Part 4: Prevent Diabetes
Part 5: Improve Mood
Part 6: Injury Prevention
Part 7: Cancer Prevention

So without further ado, I declare the winner between diet and exercise, as the be-all, end-all to lifelong health and fitness to be...

Diet AND Exercise - it's a tie!

Come on now, you didn't actually think I was going to pick one over the other did you? That would be like asking a parent to choose their favorite child!

Both diet and exercise each have their pros and cons, but combined, they play a tremendously important role in maintaining a healthy weight, keeping steady energy levels, improving overall mood, improved sleeping, preventing illness, etc. The list could go on and on!

Keep in mind that there is no magic solution to getting fit, feeling great, and looking a certain way. It requires a life-long dedication to not only consuming healthy and nutrient-rich foods, but also moving your butt and challenging your body in various ways.

Don't think of the word 'diet' as a short-term fix to get your ass into a pair of jeans to impress someone who frankly could probably care less. Think of it as a long-term change to improve yourself and live a healthy lifestyle.

Don't think of 'exercise' as a monotonous tool - that you hate with everything that makes you who you are - that will allow you to eat whatever you want and will help you shed pounds. Exercise is not that thing you turn to once every year to try and make yourself look good in that bathing suit, again, to try and impress people who probably don't give a sh*t.

Healthy eating and an active lifestyle is the only way you can change your body and your mind for the better to help you feel better and age as pain-free and illness-free as you possibly can. The only person who can make that commitment is you!

Quote of the day:
"Success is something you attract by the person you become."
~ Jim Rohn

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 63 - Motivation Saturday

Fighting a head cold but still made it out for my run this morning. This video definitely exemplifies how I was feeling this morning!

Quote of the day:
"It is surmounting difficulties that makes heroes."
~ Louis Pasture

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 62 - Diet vs. Exercise Part 7: Cancer Prevention

There are plenty of research studies hypothesizing that consuming a mostly plant-based diet has been shown to be a major deterrent for cancer, studies also show that regular exercise strengthens this fact even more.

There are other categories at play here, such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding cigarettes, limiting alcohol, etc. Truth of the matter is, Cancer can happen to anyone at any time, and is a scary disease!

Having said that, leading as healthy a life as possible has been shown to greatly reduce your risk of cancer substantially. I would like to quote Henry S. Lodge from the book Younger Next Year:

Some 70 percent of premature death and aging is lifestyle-related. Heart attacks, strokes, the common cancers, diabetes, most falls, fractures, and serious injuries, and many more illnesses are primarily caused by the way we live. If we had the will to do it, we could eliminate more than half of all disease in men and women over fifty. Not delay it, eliminate it.

Diet and exercise are both important here, I call this one a tie!

Winner: Tie

Quote of the day:
"Life's problems wouldn't be called "hurdles" if there wasn't a way to get over them."
-Author Unknown

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 61 - Diet vs. Exercise Part 6: Injury Prevention

The United States has one of the highest dairy consumption rates per capita amongst many countries in the world yet their rates of osteoporosis are also rising.

Now common belief would tell you that, "You are what you eat" and if you wish to increase your bone density, then you should increase dietary calcium and vitamin D (also magnesium, etc.) in order to build bone tissue.

Turns out, your diet can only get you so far here. There is more evidence coming out today that is exploring the fact that you can take in tons of calcium and nutrients to make your body somewhat look good, but your body still survives by the "use it or lose it" mantra.

Exercise, and especially resistance training, puts a lot of stress and strain on not only your muscles, but your bones as well. Your body is a fighter in that regard because when it sees a challenge, it attacks it head-on by strengthening your bones, ligaments and muscles so that they can withstand these forces.

The more exercise and tensile strength we put our bodies under, the stronger they become and less prone to injuries caused by neglect!

Winner: Exercise

Quote of the day:
"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
~ T. S. Eliot

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 60 - Diet vs. Exercise Part 5: Improve Mood

Similar to the "Energy" category from before, there is nothing like exercise to boost your mood with that flood of hormones that are released from exercise.

Think of it this way, exercise is so good for you that your brain wants to thank your muscles for doing such a good job, so they release these hormones and make you feel great!

Also, more and more studies have shown that exercise is a great tool to curb the symptoms of depression.

Some people may feel that food is the way to improve their mood, as everyone has those "feel good" foods or drinks that they turn to in times of stress or depressed feelings. However, similar to alcohol, foods and beverages only cause temporary spikes of euphoria, often times causing 'crashes' later on. (Hangover anyone?)

Exercise is a much more sustainable way to improve your mood over the long term. Not only that, but you are doing something good for your body, improving your tissues, and burning calories, rather than cramming in unneeded calories that will just add inches to your waistline.

Winner: Exercise

Quote of the day:
"Energy and persistence conquer all things."
~ Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 59 - Diet vs. Exercise Part 4: Diabetes

This category will be a shock to many of you. You automatically assume that diet is the winner here correct? Well, not exactly.

Diet goes a long way here, as you should limit your consumption of certain foods (sugary garbage), but if you train your body to be a well-oiled machine, then dietary choices will not seem as drastic any more.

I don't want to blur the lines here, however. Diet plays a large part in weight gain and glucose insensitivity which can lead to conditions like diabetes, but exercise and keeping a healthy, fit body, can go a long way to preventing this disease. I am not advocating a diet rich in high-sugary, high-calorie foods, but a healthy, active body uses and distributes carbohydrates much more efficiently.

Carbohydrates must play a role in our diets. Our bodies need them for energy, and our brains need them to function. The problem most folks run into is that they consume FAR too many carbs than what their body needs on a daily basis. If, however, you get your butt up and off the couch and get active, the amount of carbs (healthy carb options) you ingest is less important.

Overweight individuals are at a higher risk for diabetes (refer to Part 1), but healthy active muscles gobble up glucose out of the blood for energy like it's their job! Routine exercise goes a long way to stabilizing your blood sugar levels so even if you do go for that dessert treat every so often, you are mostly covered.

If we were discussing this category from a flipped perspective, then I would say that diet is much more important in managing diabetes, but I feel that exercise is actually more important in the role of helping to prevent this condition.
Winner: Exercise 

Quote of the day:
"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal."
-Henry Ford

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 58 - Diet vs. Exercise Part 3: Reduce Heart Disease Risk


Many people will say, "Exercise is good for your heart!" The more correct phrase would be, "Exercise is good for your cardiovascular system". You know, your internal plumbing. 

Things like high cholesterol, high sodium, high fat, high sugary diets can cause 'clogs' in your internal plumbing that can lead to a myriad of diseases such as (but not limited to) heart disease and stroke.

Truth is, your heart is a very powerful and efficient pump. Having said that, your heart muscle is like any other muscle in your body, it needs fuel to keep pumping. Poor lifestyle and diet choices can increase the risk of blockages in your 'plumbing' that can lead to your heart not receiving enough fuel, and therefore stop pumping!

Exercise essentially 'flushes' things out with such positive effects as lowering your blood pressure and resting heart rates. What exercise does is keeps your arteries and veins soft and pliable so that blood can pass through them with ease.

Having said that, consuming a healthy diet rich in healthy fatty acids like Omega-3's, whole grain carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables, can reduce your heart disease risk big time. I call this one a tie!
Winner: Tie

Quote of the day:
"Success is a journey, not a destination."
~Ben Sweetland

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 57 - Fitness vs. Training

Some of you may be wondering why I have such a silly title to this blog. Aren't these two the same thing? No, they are not, and I plan on explaining why I feel this way.

Anybody who exercises or stays fit with physical activity is doing 'fitness'. Fitness is usually (not always) geared towards feeling better, looking better, being healthier, etc. It is the main category of physical fitness that most people fall into.

The one downside to fitness - in my opinion - is that it is less goal-oriented and focused as 'Training' is. Allow me to explain.

I use physical fitness all the time! I enjoy staying active, lifting weights, doing cardiovascular exercise, going for walks, going for hikes, playing with my nieces, etc. The times of the year when I am focusing more on 'Fitness' and less on 'Training' is fine, but I am often not as concerned with any specific goal.

Sure, as I said before, some people may use physical activity to try and change the way they look or how they feel and just overall get 'in shape', but it is the times of year when I start to 'Train' when I feel fully alive.

Training is used for those times when you are specifically asking of extreme demands out of your body to improve for a certain competition or sport. Athletes know all about training. It is used to improve skills, or performance so that you can become better at something.

So how is this different than overall fitness? Growing up, I was always active with sports such as competitive hockey and soccer. Training wasn't necessarily something I thought about as much as I do now, simply because I participated in events for fun, but looking back on how I acted/felt, I can see now how truly different things were.

I find my entire mood changes when I am training for performance. I begin to get that 'hunger' or 'drive' during my training sessions to push myself that much further. To push my body to the brink of what it is capable of doing, and then wake up the very next morning and be ready to do it all over again with the same desire.

You do not necessarily have to be training for a sport or competition to get these feelings, however, but I find it certainly helps. Knowing that every action or exercise I do is moving me closer to my goal is an invigorating experience.

Over the past several weeks of my Warrior Training, I have been using physical fitness to get in overall shape. Sure, I was training towards a specific goal, but I was further from my goal dates, so my training was more about getting in overall great shape to lead up to my performance training.

That takes me to today. Day 1 of my Performance Phase was this morning and man oh man did I feel alive! I know that I have less than 5 weeks now until my first competition that I am training for (Warrior Dash) so I could definitely feel my attitude and energy levels pick up a notch or two!

As I said, you do not necessarily need a specific event or competition to train for. But I highly recommend spending a few weeks, maybe a couple times a year, focusing on one specific goal, and attacking that son of a bitch. It is a truly amazing feeling!

Quote of the day:
"A successful man continues to look for work after he has found a job."
~ Author Unknown

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day 56 - Motivation Saturday

Well, this man has been in the news quite a bit throughout his life. It is unfortunate, however, that he has been in the news as much as he has lately for other reasons. I do not wish to start a political or moral argument here, but just keep in mind that this man is one of the greatest athletes of all time, and certainly one of the greatest comeback-stories of all time...

Quote of the day:
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. That surrender, even the smallest act of giving up, stays with me. So when I feel like quitting, I ask myself, which would I rather live with?”
~Lance Armstrong

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 55 - Diet vs. Exercise Part 2: Increase Energy Levels


Despite what some "energy drink" advertisers may try and tell you, there is nothing like exercise to get your blood flowing. Exercise (intensely) does a tremendous job at increasing circulation to all corners of your body. When you are at rest, blood can end up 'pooling' in areas of your body that are not being used as much.

As soon as you get your body moving, your heart rate up, and the blood pumping through your veins, you actually force the pooling blood out of the far nooks and crannies of your body which increases what is known as your 'venous return'. With a greater return of blood back to the heart, the more red blood cells are available to transport oxygen and wake you up.

Not only that, but an intense workout causes a massive flood of "feel-good" hormones throughout your body that not only lift your mood, but also give you a boost of energy. Sure, some foods can give you a quick boost of similar hormones, but they are generally short-lived and can even cause dips in the opposite direction. Sound familiar; "Eat because you're unhappy, unhappy because of what you ate?"

There are plenty of people who feel that their low energy levels can be fixed by certain foods, beverages, or pills. In actuality, however, consistent exercise will help alleviate dips in energy levels over longer periods of time and help maintain higher energy levels.

Having said that, a healthy diet full of nutrient-rich foods also goes a long way to giving you sustained energy levels, but exercise takes you to the next level!
Winner: Exercise

Quote of the day:
"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Day 54 - Diet vs. Exercise Part 1: Weight Loss

Part 1 of a multi-part series discussing once and for all what is better for you - a healthy diet, or exercise. In this first part, I will discuss what is better for weight loss.

Plain and simple, it is MUCH easier to cut 500 calories out of your diet than it is to burn at the gym. To give you an example, many of you could go for a fairly intense run on a treadmill for 20-30 mins. and only burn a few hundred calories. However, by ordering from the lunch menu at the restaurant and skipping dessert could easily drop those unneeded calories.

A well-structured exercise program can do wonders to also help you lose weight, but by strictly focusing on the numbers, an individual can more efficiently cut calories faster and (arguably) easier than the time and effort needed to work calories off your body.

Diet and exercise are extremely effective of keeping weight off, but diet wins here for dropping weight to begin with.

Winner: Diet

Quote of the day:
"Those that can push themselves further once the effort gets difficult are the ones who will win!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Day 53 - Warrior Training End of Phase 2

Due to my left elbow injury, I have decided to shut down Phase 2 a week early and reschedule my training leading up to Warrior Dash.

I made some great gains during Phase 2, and hit some personal bests on some of these strength routines. I am looking forward to getting into Phase 3 and maximizing my performance.

Quote of the day:
"Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever."
-Lance Armstrong

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Day 52 - Warrior Training Revised: Part 3

I guess I just felt like making these revisions to my training into a trilogy in honor of The Dark Knight Rises. No, actually, I seem to have picked up an injury along the way, so I will be altering my schedule (yet again). The injury I have picked up is in my left elbow. I am not sure if it is tendonitis or some other similar injury, but I have a bit of inflammation and it gets sore/achy whenever I do an exercise where my triceps are involved (pushups/extensions/etc.).

So, I am giving my upper body a rest for the rest of this week, and then I will jump right into my "Performance Phase" or Phase 3 starting this upcoming Sunday (June 17th). The benefits to this schedule change is that I am giving myself over a week of extra time in my Performance Phase, which will allow me to be on top of my game for Warrior Dash. Not only that, but I have been able to add in a few more distance runs to improve my endurance as well which should translate well come race time.

For the rest of this week I plan on doing some more running in my Vibram Five Fingers to get used to running in them, as well as some stretching and recovery stretch work with foam rolling. I am only skipping out on one week of my "Strength Phase" but to be honest, after coming off of my previous Mass Phase, as well as the other total-body conditioning and strength work that I have been doing, I have hit a lot of personal bests for resistance and reps during this strength phase, so I know my body is strong and ready to take the next step.

The idea of performance training is to take strong muscles to the next level. 

What does this mean? 

Muscles go through adaptation when you resistance train, and although they have been trained to be stronger, I must now train them to be explosive, powerful, and more efficient. 

How will this help my performance at events like Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder?

Since both of these events involve running, and other total-body movements, the more powerful and efficient you make your muscles, the less effort they must exert to perform tasks. What I mean by this is that when my muscles become 'springier' (more plyometric in nature), things like running, for example, become less strenuous, which can improve my running economy, and therefore have greater endurance.

The schedule is below. Keep in mind that when I have "Run Training" listed, that will be running intervals for set periods of time near my house. There is a high school nearby that has a track with some great hills for sprints. The Warrior Dash is being held at a ski resort, and remember from last year how much my hill sprinting lacked at the time.

Also, when you see "LSD", I am not referring to running while spaced-out on some hallucinogen, I am referring to "Long, Slow, Distance" which is a distance run, not necessarily for speed, but to improve my aerobic energy systems and increase my distance endurance. This, coupled with my interval runs will allow me to hone both types of energy systems which will translate into better race performance.

The schedule:

17 - P.A.P. Lower
18 - AM: P.A.P. Upper   PM: Hockey
19 - Yoga/Recovery
20 - P.A.P. Lower
21 - P.A.P. Upper   PM: Run Training (20 mins)
22 - Yoga/Recovery
23 - 5.5km Run

24 - P.A.P. Lower
25 - AM: P.A.P. Upper   PM: Hockey
26 - Yoga/Recovery
27 - P.A.P. Lower
28 - P.A.P. Upper   PM: Run Training (25 mins)
29 - Yoga/Recovery
30 - 8km Run (LSD)


1 - P.A.P. Lower
2 - AM: P.A.P. Upper   PM: Run Training (30 mins)
3 - Yoga/Recovery
4 - P.A.P. Lower
5 - P.A.P. Upper   PM: Run Training (35 mins)
6 - Yoga/Recovery
7 - 8km Run (LSD)

8 - P.A.P. Lower
9 - AM: P.A.P. Upper   PM: Hockey
10 - Yoga/Recovery
11 - P.A.P. Lower
12 - P.A.P. Upper   PM: Run Training (40 mins)
13 - Yoga/Recovery
14 - 5.5km Run

15 - Yoga/Recovery
16 - AM: 5.5km Run   PM: Hockey
17 - Yoga/Recovery
18 - Light Run
19 - Yoga/Recovery
20 - Yoga/Recovery
21 - Warrior Dash

My bridge program between Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder will remain the same, you can view it here.

Quote of the day:
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
-Thomas Edison

Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 51 - The Ongoing Battle with Liquid Calories...

Not sure if you folks have seen this or not, but USA Today sat down for an interview with Katie Bayne, who is the president of sparkling beverages at Coca-Cola. I will post the interview below, with some of my thoughts added in.

Q: If Mayor Bloomberg were sitting across from you, what would you say to him?

A: I'd say, Mayor, we believe you're absolutely right. Obesity is a critical health challenge facing our nation. But singling out single brands or foods is not going to help the situation. Working together in a partnership will.

Me: To be honest, this interview actually starts on the right foot. Bayne is correct in saying that obesity is a much larger issue than finger-pointing just 1 product.

Q: Is there any merit to limits being placed on the size of sugary drinks folks can buy?

A: Sugary drinks can be a part of any diet as long as your calories in balance with the calories out. Our responsibility is to provide drink in all the sizes that consumers might need.

Me: This is where things start getting a bit off track. Bayne wrongfully comments that, "as long as your calories in balance with the calories out", then everything will be ok. I would like to ask her if she truly believes in that statement. Does she truly believe that the nutritional value of say 100 calories worth of Coke is the same as 100 calories of broccoli? Food is more than just calories, it is meant to be nutrition and fueling for your body, and although sugar does play a part in fueling our bodies, the levels of sugar found in soft drinks goes well beyond what most people ever need...let's move on.

Q: Is anyone at Coca-Cola trying to figure out a way to get sugar out of all drinks?

A: There is a large portion of the population that relies on the carbohydrates and energy in our regular beverages. When my son gets home from school, he needs a pick-up with calories and great taste.

Me: Way back when, beverages like Coke used to be an "energy drink". Remember, when folks had busy lives, farming, construction work, or whatever else that may entail? Unfortunately, soft drinks of all sorts, shapes and sizes have made their way into people's every day lives as just a regular beverage...or in this case, according to Bayne, a "pick-up with calories and great taste". I am never one to want to tell someone else how they should or shouldn't raise their children, but what is wrong with your son having an apple as a "pick-up with calories and great taste"?

Q: But critics call soft drinks "empty" calories.

A: A calorie is a calorie. What our drinks offer is hydration. That's essential to the human body. We offer great taste and benefits whether it's an uplift or carbohydrates or energy. We don't believe in empty calories. We believe in hydration.

Me: You are absolutely right, the body needs hydration...from water. I think if people started drinking more water and less liquid junk, then maybe water wouldn't taste as 'boring' as some people think it does now. As for the empty calories comment, as far as I'm concerned, and backed-up by Wikipedia, here is a definition of what "empty calories" means:
"Empty calories, in casual dietary terminology, are a measurement of the energy present in high-energy foods with poor nutritional profiles, with most of the energy typically coming from processed carbohydrates, fats, or ethanol. Also known as a discretionary calorie, an "empty calorie" has the same energy content as any other calorie but lacks many accompanying nutrients such as vitamins, dietary minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, or dietary fiber. Although carbohydrates, fats and water are also nutrients, they are typically ignored for this analysis, with the exception of essential fatty acids."

That sounds like the EXACT definition of soft drinks to me...but it couldn't be since Coca-Cola doesn't believe in "empty calories".

Q: Because sugary drinks have been linked with obesity, some suggest soft-drink makers place "warning" labels on cans and bottles.

A: There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity. If you look at the data, you can see that during the same period obesity was rising, sugar intake from beverages was decreasing. Between 1999 and 2010, sugars from soda consumption decreased by 39%, but the percentage of obese children increased by 7%, and 13% for adults.

Me: To be honest, I will actually have to somewhat agree with Bayne on this one. Similar to the very first answer she gave, it is extremely difficult to point a finger at any single culprit in the rising obesity epidemic. Dietary studies are very hard to complete and make reliable because there are literally an infinite number of variables involved in studying one's diet.

The only way to truly prove/disprove any food or drink as being part of an illness is to hire a large group of study participants and have them eat/drink 1 product for weeks/months/years at a time. Not only that, but they would all have to live the same lifestyle, exercise the exact same amount, live in the same climate, etc., etc., etc. Since eliminating so many variables is not logistically possible, we have to base our knowledge on generalized research and studies that try and find overall trends.

Having said that, there have been trends that find those who consume not only sugary drinks, but also artificially-sweetened beverages, have higher risks for obesity and the gambit of disease that is associated with it.

Q: Shouldn't teens drink less cola and more milk and water?A: Teens should get a healthy diet through food and beverage choices throughout the day.

Me: Absolutely. But teens are not the only ones who Bayne's advice should be targeted towards. Every individual should aim to make as many healthy choices in their day to day lives. Choosing water over sugary beverages is always the better choice!

Q: How much Coke should a kid drink a day?A: We don't make recommendations on what kids should drink. But a 12-ounce can of Coke has 140 calories, the same as a lunch-box-size bag of pretzels.

Me: Here we go with the discussion of calories again, not only that, but Bayne lets on like a bag of pretzels is a healthy snack, ha! Anyways, regardless of calories, a 12-ounce can of Coke not only has 140 calories, but it also has 39g of sugar, which is just short of 10 teaspoons of sugar. Would you put 10 teaspoons of sugar in a lunch-box-size bag of pretzels and ship that off in your child's lunchbox as well?

Q: What sugary drink limits do you place on your kids?

A: My job as a parent is to guide them through the day to make the best choices. If my son has lacrosse practice for three hours, we go straight to McDonald's and buy a 32-ounce Powerade.

Me: I could be WAY off here, but I played a lot of sports growing up. I played a a fairly high-level of competitive hockey and soccer, and even went on to play Division II soccer at University. I can't ever remember a time when we had practice that would last more than 90 minutes. The odd time I could see our practices maybe reaching 2 hours, but that was the absolute most.

I am not calling this woman a liar, but 3 hours seems pretty extreme to me. Having said that, if her son actually is practicing for 3 hours, you know what? A Powerade is perfect for him. I still don't really understand why she had to throw in the McDonald's name there. Name-dropping at its finest I guess...
Q: What do you drink daily?

A: I might have a mini Diet Coke while cooking breakfast for my family. After the kids leave for school, I go for a run and then have a Powerade Zero. At work I may have a Diet Coke in the morning and in the afternoon, Gold Peak Tea. In the middle of the afternoon, I may have an 8-ounce Coke. I'd rather have that than a candy bar or cookie for a pick-me-up.

Me: More name-dropping (or should I say brand-dropping), but that isn't all that surprising. What is surprising here is the amount of crap this lady ingests...Maybe if she didn't have so much sugar in the morning, she wouldn't need even more sugar in the afternoon to balance-out her expected sugar-crash.

Q: What do you say to those who believe that sugar — particularly in soft drinks — works on the brain like an addictive substance?

A: There is no scientific evidence.

Me: Has this woman ever heard of Google?


I could keep going too...

Q: Critics say Coke is pushing sugary drinks in China and India and will cause obesity there just like here.

A: Every person in those countries is different and should be able to choose what's right for them.

Me: ....speechless

Anyways, this interview, as expected, is full of PR-type responses. Take from it what you will. Excuse me, I am going to get a glass of water and some fruit for a mid-morning pick-up.

Quote of the day:
"The surest way not to fail is to determine to succeed."
~Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Day 50 - Build Muscle, Lower Body Fat

I have a question about weight loss and muscle gain. I want to increase muscle mass, therefore I have to take in more calories. But if I do that won’t it just turn to fat? How does the body know to build muscle instead of storing the extra calories as fat? Am I missing something? Can I gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?

Ah yes, the million dollar question for a lot of guys. I know a lot of guys (and gals) who wish to put on some muscle mass while cutting body fat at the same time. This can be an extremely difficult task to do, but it is possible.

First of all, let's assess the need to put on mass. From an athlete's perspective, some folks have the misconception that bigger muscles mean stronger muscles, which is not always true. Athletes who compete in events that require speed and agility, for example, should train their muscles to be strong and powerful, but do not necessarily want to add any weight to their frames as that could potentially slow their speed. Soccer players are a prime example of this. Soccer players need to be strong and powerful for fast acceleration and dynamic changes in direction, but unnecessary weight could slow them down.

On the other hand, an athlete like a football player (lineman for example) may want to put on mass to not only become stronger and more powerful, but the mass will also make them more difficult to push around.

In this case, however, I believe the individual asking this question wishes to put on a bit of muscle mass for cosmetic reasons, which is fine, as this is one of the most common questions I receive.

There are a number of factors involved in performance and body composition, but for the most part, your diet regulates how you look. Again, this is a pretty broad statement, as the types of exercises you perform as well as your genetics play a big part in how you look.

So what do you eat to put on mass? Well, to put on any type of mass, you need to eat...a lot. Again, I am generalizing here, but for the most part, your calories in must be more than your calories out in order to gain weight. If you are a young male (or female) who has an extremely fast metabolism, this can be a tricky task, but it is doable, you just need to keep feeding yourself every few hours.

How does the body know to build muscle instead of storing the extra calories as fat?

This is the trickiest part of the equation, because let's face it, anyone can gain weight by eating a lot of crap. What most people intend to do is build lean mass, aka muscle.
Any tissue in the body that is being structured requires the building blocks to do so. This is where protein, or more specifically amino acids, come into play. There are a wide variety of studies that have been done on just how much protein should be in one's diet in order to build muscle.

Some folks think more is better, but remember that protein is still a macronutrient, which means too much is still just extra calories, and therefore if unused will be stored in the body as fat. I personally like to aim for the 1g/pound of body mass rule. I usually sit around 176/177lbs, so I try and aim for at least 170-180g of protein a day.

Even with all of this discussion on diet, one fact still remains - you need the proper stimulation for tissue growth. What I mean by this, is that in order to build muscle, you need to resistance train. Not only that, but you need to lift heavy things. Resistance training causes damages to your muscle fibers which, in turn, cause stimulation for growth.

Essentially all types of resistance training causes at least some sort of stimulation for muscular growth, but in order to maximize your potential for growth, you should lift very heavy things. When you lift heavy, your body produces more testosterone, which in turn, causes a chain reaction of processes that stimulate muscular growth.

The nice part about this, is that the more muscle mass your body has, the more calories it burns at any given time. The more calories being burned at any time can translate into lower percentages of body fat.

Other resources to help with this topic can be found on my blog:

Quote of the day:
"One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes."
~Benjamin Disraeli

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Day 49 - Motivation Saturday

For those of you who haven't seen this, you can always work around an injury...

Quote of the day:
"Failures do what is tension relieving, while winners do what is goal achieving."
~Dennis Waitley

Friday, June 8, 2012

Day 48 - Insanity Asylum Preparation

I am a week away from starting Insanity Asylum; any suggestions on what I can I can do during my week prior to starting Asylum? Any suggestions would help, thanks!

Good luck with Asylum, it is a very intense program! A couple things you can do to prepare yourself:

1. Preview the workouts. Some of them require a fair bit of floor space due to the nature of the agility ladder, so make sure you have enough room at home.

2. Practice with the jump rope. It is not essential to be great at it to start, as the speed rope is only used here and there, but the better you are with it, the more you will get out of a couple of the workouts.

3. Practice with the agility ladder. I forget which disc, but one of the workouts has a bonus feature on it that Shaun T takes you through some practice drills so you can familiarize yourself with using the agility ladder.

4. Take the Asylum Fit Test

5. As for workouts themselves, I would just do some light cardio and yoga/recovery/stretching to allow your body to adapt and recover from any previous activity that you have been engaged in so that you will be ready for Asylum.

Good luck, let me know if you have any further questions

Quote of the day:
"If you're doing your best, you won't have any time to worry about failure."
~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Day 47 - Pullup Question

I started doing pullups 2 years ago with a doorway pull bar. After 1.5 rounds my numbers went way up with short stroke pulls as I was too tall for the bar. I switched to a permanent bar bolted above the doorway. I am 6'2" and I have to reach to grab the bar so each rep is from a full hang. My numbers went down as expected as i did full range pulls. Over a few rounds with the higher bar the numbers came back up but many times I would toe tap between reps. Now I'm trying to eliminate or at least reduce the toe tapping between reps. I try and push 10-12 reps, then a very quick toe touch to reposition my hands and another 4-6 reps, with another quick toe touch, 2-4 more. When I get wasted I then will do a toe touch to hammer out 2-3 more to reach my goal. How should pulls be done, and is there a standard that says pull reps should be continuous, no touching throughout?

If anything, I would RECOMMEND a foot touch on the floor between reps, that ensures that you are getting full range of motion. My pullup bar is mounted to my basement ceiling so it is right about the perfect height for me now.

I will fully admit that I used to cheat with my pullups and only come down about 80% of the way to the floor, but now I force myself to get a toe tap on each rep to get full range of motion. Sure, my reps dropped initially as well, but they will climb again as you get stronger.

I would say a quick rest between reps is fine, as long as you remember a few things:

1 - Don't spend any more than maybe about 1/2-1 second on the ground between each rep. You may have 1 mid-set break that may last a few seconds, but try and keep somewhat of a consistent pace.

2 - Even when you touch the floor and take a quick rest, try and keep your hands on the bar and your arms/lats engaged. They don't need to be fully flexed, but not relaxing either. This increases what is known as your 'time under tension', keeping the muscle fibers engaged. By keeping your muscles under tension, you create a situation where they have a better chance for muscular growth (size and strength). 

3 - Try and keep your concentric (upward movement) and eccentric (downward movement) motion as fluid as possible. When knowing that your feet are coming down to contact the floor, the tendency is to let yourself 'fall' from the bar, rather than lowering yourself. Remember that the downward motion, and therefore controlling your body while lowering it, is just as important as the upward motion.

I also recommend keeping 'kipping' to a minimum as well. Kipping is when you use other movements with your body to propel your momentum and body weight off the ground, helping you get your chin over the pullup bar.

The problem I have with kipping is that it not only removes a lot of the force needed to complete an actual pullup, but every has different body mechanics, including kipping, so not everyone is going to kip the same way. Because of this, some individuals may end up creating muscular imbalances due to improper form that can lead to injury down the road.

Unfortunately, some other 'organizations' promote kipping, for reasons I will not understand...

Quote of the day:
"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor."
~Truman Capote