Use What You Got

My daughter Hartley pushing an ab wheel while wearing a mini band as a belt

My daughter Hartley pushing an ab wheel while wearing a mini band as a belt

 

If you are remotely into fitness, which assuming most of you who read this blog are, then chances are you have some old exercise equipment lying around your house.  It may be buried in the basement, in the back of your closet, somewhere in your garage or perhaps it is used as the world’s most expensive clothes hanger.   Whatever the case may be, take inventory of what you have and what you have available to you and chances are you do not have to go very far to get in a great workout.  Maybe you have an old jump rope somewhere, a pull up bar, a few sets of old dumbbells, a mini trampoline, a pogo stick, an ab cruncher, an old treadmill or Aerodyne bike(like my dad has) or even a thigh master, whatever it is gather it together and see what you can use to get some work done.  Sometimes the biggest limit to our workouts is imagination.  If we could find ways to use what we have then we would all get great workouts in all the time and would not be stressed for time.  My workouts consist of about 20 minutes in my back yard using the limited amount of equipment I have.

Now, I am a trainer and I have collected a few items over the years but mostly the things I believe are extremely valuable, universal and ideal.  My list of equipment consists of:

  • 35lb Kettlebell
  • 53lb Kettlebell
  • 5 lb dumbbells
  • 8lb dumbbells
  • Green, Red and Blue Mini Bands
  • Orange JC Band
  • Yellow JC Band
  • Ab Wheel
  • Ab Wheel for your feet
  • Jump Rope
  • TRX
  • Rings
  • 12lb Body Bar
  • Push Up Bars

Like I said before, we should also use whatever we have in our surrounding areas and environments.  You live close to a park or big hill? Great, think about ways to incorporate those into your workouts.  Parks are great for monkey bars, pull ups, swings and even just a bench or picnic table.  And don’t even get me started on the benefits of hill sprints, yes they are hard and yes they punishing but my God are they good for you and worth it.  Have stairs at home?  What about some step ups or push ups or bear crawls up and down your steps.  I am fortunate enough to live right around the corner from a park and I am always messing around at it when playing with my kids.  I probably bang out at least 30 or so pull ups every time I am there.  Fitness and exercise can be right under your nose if we just open our eyes to see what is available.  Don’t be afraid of looking foolish or silly or what others may think of you.  Just move your body the best you can because our body is by far the best machine ever created.

Here is a list of things around me I use in my workouts as well:

  • 2 foot high log stumps
  • Mini tramp
  • Pogo Stick
  • Golf Club
  • Grass
  • Longboard Skateboard

My workouts currently are in a maintenance phase.  I am trying to maintain what I have and continue being as fit and active as I can.  I do not have access to a gym and I do not like to do heavy lifting in the summer time anyways, so my workouts are mostly body weight, circuit style training.  My circuits consists of:

  • Jumps on the log, step ups on the log, squat rows with the band, push ups off the push up bars and recover with jumps on the mini trampoline for about a minute
  • Kettlebell swings, kettlebell squats, squat push with the band, lunge stance alternating pulls with band, side lunges, band rotations and recover with chipping 10 golf balls
  • 1 leg jumps on the logs, 1 arm band punch, 1 arm band row, alternating hand kettlebell swings, lunge jumps, burpees and finish with mountain climbers

Generally I try to never repeat the same circuit or exercise and always keep my body moving.  If I did push ups last time, I may do push ups with rotation the next time.  If I did double arm row one time, I will do alternating the next, if I did squat push then I will do lunge push.  Variety makes a world of difference on even the simplest exercises.  Finding ways to mix it up and keep it fresh makes the workout go by faster and is more enjoyable because you are not dreading the same circuit again and again.

Take inventory of what you have around and find creative ways to incorporate them into a workout, chances are you have more than you need right at your disposal.

“If you give a half assed effort, half the time, you end with a quarter of the results.”

 

 

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My Fitness Journey

My fitness journey starts at an early age for me, as early as 5 years old. I started racing big wheels at my local BMX track on Saturday nights. Probably not so much racing as just coasting down the starting hill but needless to say it was fun, active and my first taste of competition. I continued racing BMX on and off for most of my childhood going all the way up to about age 15. I grew up a very active young boy with so much energy and a love for being outside and moving my body. I have a fond memory of always jumping off of everything I could, steps, curbs, chairs, table and couches. As a matter of fact, my dad has a great story of catching me in the act jumping off the bathroom vanity into the bathtub butt naked when I was like 7 or 8. I remember riding my bike a lot around the neighborhood, skateboarding, playing flag football in the street, tee ball in the backyard, jumping on our trampoline and roller-skating. My brothers and I would frequently visit the local park with bike riding trails and jumps and a basketball hoop. Around 4th grade is when I found my first love of sports and that would be basketball. I was very fortunate to have parents who were very supportive of every sport I had an interest in. No matter what I was interested in they helped either build, make or buy something to make us better and be more successful at that sport. Case in point, my parents used their tax return to build a ¾ scale half-basketball court in my backyard complete with a painted key and 3-point line. My dad even installed floodlights on the back of the house so we could play at night. Many, many hours were spent shooting around and many, many 2 on 2 games had been played on that court. It was probably one of the best investments they had ever made.

Growing up in Phoenix, AZ, it goes without saying it was hot in the summer time and with it being so hot that means cooling off in the pool. I was a pool rat every summer, spending lots of my time swimming around, playing and eventually gravitating toward the sport of diving. My grandparents had a pool with a diving board and spending long summer days there it had me hooked at an early age.   It wasn’t until I started going to our local pool that my love for diving skyrocketed. I joined the recreation team and I could not get enough pool time. Often times, diving practice would be from 10-12 and then the pool would open to the public at 12. We would stay there until about 1-130, get our hand stamped on the way out (so we didn’t have to pay to get back in) and then come back from 7-10 at night. We would continue this routine 7 days a week for 3 full summers. One of the great things about the sport of diving for me was the constant progression and everyday trying something new, different and challenging myself. Learning new dives and finding out what I was capable of was my ultimate satisfaction.

Around the time I entered high school is when I really started taking an interest in physical fitness. After mandatory PE my freshman year, I elected to take Systematic Conditioning or Systos as we liked to call it, for the next 3 years. Systos was basically just a weight training class for the full hour taught by our swim coach. It was where I learned the importance of hard work, lifting heavy and getting the most out of your workout. I remember it being quite hard and tough on most days and leaving the class pretty deflated and sore but I knew it was good. I would love to say we took the time to learn all the big lifts properly and we learned correct form and all the different movement patterns but however that was not the case. Yes we squatted and cleaned with weight belts on and yes we did bench press every other day and yes we even did the outlawed leg press. I do remember doing a lot of cleans and not really knowing what they were good for but I knew they were just hard. I remember the great feeling of graduating from 25lbs on each side to the 45 lbs on each side. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, the difference in size between the 25’s and 45’s is probably around 3-4 inches, which means that is 3-4 inches less you have to go down to pick up the bar. It makes a world of difference, just ask any experienced lifter. I remember benching regularly and it was the classic old school workout that if you were to bench press 250 lbs, your sets would be 8, 6, 4, 2, 1 with the 1 rep being around 240-250 and ending with a drop burn out set of 8. We also did some great stuff like box jumps, back squats and heavy jump rope. I remember being captivated by the work you put in and also watching the amount of weight you lifted keep increasing. I am not going to lie, as a high schooler, I was pretty vain and I also loved they way I looked. You had to look good for all the girls, right? I knew weight training was great for me but I never made the connection between weight training and performance back then. Now that I look back on it, it helped me tremendously on the diving board by giving me more strength and power and also keeping me injury free.

After accepting a diving scholarship to the University of Toledo, we were required to lift 2 days a week as a part of our training for the week. Practice was every day from 2-5 with weights after practice on Mondays and Wednesdays. The weight training sessions were hard, really hard. The strength coach had this philosophy of doing only one set of a huge circuit until failure. His belief was to get us strong but also keep us injury free. All we used was the Hammer Strength equipment and you went down the line performing a huge circuit, leg press, leg curl, leg extension, high pull, low pull, chest press and shoulder press. All of your weights and reps were recorded and your weights were pre-set. Your goal was to get 12 reps on every lift but a lot of the times you did not succeed. The weight was really heavy and was designed for you to fail. Sometimes you would only get 9 or 10 depending on your energy that day. If you did make your 12 reps you had to keep going until you failed which was usually around 13 or 14 anyway. That first semester I was so spent after our weight sessions I usually had to go lie down in my dorm room for a little bit. Not good. I remember a couple of times doing some really killer workout complexes in which I nearly passed out. One of them was alternating sets of 1-minute pull-ups followed by 1 minute of dips. Brutal. If you could no longer do a pull up or dip, you were required to hop up and slowly lower yourself down concentrating on the eccentric. One workout I remember distinctly was pushing a 2 x 4 down the Astroturf and back for time. I remember thinking this can’t be that hard and I would finish it no problem. Well let me tell you something, a piece of wood + Astroturf + friction = legs smoked. I remember pushing the board for the full 100 yards on the way down no problem and then coming back it got kind of hairy. I did 30 yards, then 20, then 10, 10, 10, 10, 5, 5 and died. I believe this workout was given for their pure enjoyment.

When I graduated from college I moved back home and took my first personal training job at Bally Total Fitness. I would say I was an okay trainer with a good knowledge of the important exercises to do but I was also more so a machine trainer. It wasn’t for long though. One of my fellow co-workers introduced me to a book that changed my whole outlook and philosophy on training. The book was called Core Performance by Mark Verstegan and it was life changing. Never before had I seen or read anything on the different ways to move your body like I did in this book. There was so much great stuff in it like side lunging, one leg reaching, overhead squatting, lunge and twisting, step and stretch, inch worms, chops, lifts, step ups, bridging, marching bridging and making letters with your arms. I loved all of it and kept doing all the movement prep exercises at my home and loved how much better I felt and how much my body felt more alive. I started transitioning my clients from machine-based exercises to more of this new multi-directional, functional style training and they got great results.   They may have not liked it too much because it was hard, but it was good for them and they were feeling a difference.

Shortly afterwards, I moved to California with my girlfriend and now wife and took a job at a local gym in Corona Del Mar called Shape-Up Fitness. It was there at Shape-Up I was introduced to a whole other side of fitness, the functional fitness genre. I never had any experience with any resistant band work and was required to study multiple DVD’s. I was fascinated and hooked with all this influx of new material and ways to move the body. I loved all the combination exercises you could do with the bands like: punches, alternating pulls, squat push, squat pull, skiers and rotations. I was also fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by my work to attend a Functional Movement Screen (FMS) seminar where I learned how to screen my clients for movement pattern deficiencies. The FMS is a very useful screen to see how my clients move and corrective exercises to give them to get them to move better. I finally felt like I was evolving as a trainer and was finding great ways to move my clients and get them great results. I must say I am extremely grateful to have been surrounded by great trainers who made me step up and get on the same level as them and trainers who encouraged learning and staying current in the fitness world. We attended many seminars every year to further enhance our knowledge of training, learn new exercises and get fired up for training again and again.

A little while later, I became certified on a great piece of equipment called the TRX. The TRX is hands down one of the best exercise tools ever created. It is portable, easy to use, multi-directional and all body weight specific. With it being a suspension trainer, it can provide an unbelievable amount of resistance and make classic exercises that much harder. Just going through and completing the certification was a killer. I remember the instructor basically going through the whole manual with us and making us perform every single exercise in it for what seemed like an extensive amount of time. We were all extremely sore and tired after that certification for a couple of days but we knew it was great because we knew how much better our clients and we would get. Around this time is when I became good friends with a fellow trainer named Kyle from Bare5 and we went on another fitness journey together. Kyle introduced me onto another life changing book called The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. It was from The Primal Blueprint that we learned not only about nutrition by more so the importance of getting outside, connecting with the earth, sprinting, walking, lifting heavy and playing. We felt some of these elements were missing from our everyday lives and it was important to incorporate them back into your routine. Often times we would be seen playing Frisbee outside together on a grass field with no shoes on and shirts off or monkeying around on the playground or climbing trees or just shooting basketball. Whatever it may be, we knew it was important to get outside and move our bodies however and whenever we could. I learned that as much as gyms are great, you often times can get an even better workout outside. Some of my greatest and most enjoyable workouts have been outside playing around on monkey bars or just finding a tree to do different exercises on. I love just going with the flow, doing what comes naturally to me and not worrying about numbers, reps or sets and enjoying the movement.

My fitness journey spans over a time period of 20 years and I have learned an incredible amount. I am grateful for every book I was introduced to, all the like- minded people I became friends with, all the presenters at the seminars I attend and all of the certifications I acquired. I have definitely learned a lot and look forward continuing to learn and grow as a person and as a trainer.

Throughout my fitness journey the most important things I learned are: strength is important, move often, move well, use your body weight, get outside, go barefoot, play often, forget what others may think, enjoy the process and have fun. Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Have a wonderful day, now get out there and move.

My Favorite Exercises

When it comes to exercise, we all have exercises which we love to do and perform almost every time we hit the gym.  It may be push ups, pull ups, leg press, the weighted ab machine, calf raises or broom twists, whatever it may be, we all perform the exercises we like and enjoy.  One of the harmful aspects of always performing the exercises we love and enjoy is that we are not getting the benefit from all of the exercises we are not doing.  We cannot get any better and get the results we are after if we keep doing the same thing over and over again.  We all know the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” In order to get to the next level, we all must do the exercises we hate, do them often and make our weaknesses our strengths.  There is a reason why we hate these exercises whether it may be they hurt, we are not good at them or they are just not fun.

It is time to change things up a bit and think about starting out your workout sessions with those dreaded exercises in which you loath doing.  Try doing them when you are fresh and full of energy and then you can get to all of those exercises you love to do afterwards.  I am not a big fan of Turkish Get Ups but I usually try to get a set or two in with my warm up.  Why?  Because I know they are good for me, I know they are hard to do and I know they are one heckuva way to warm up the body.  Now for me, there is a difference between exercises in which I like and exercises in which I can not do.  I can not perform certain exercise because they cause me physical harm.  I love barbell bench press, barbell cleans and dips but I have learned to not do them anymore because they hurt my shoulder.  I hate to say this but, as I have gotten older (ahem) I have learned to eliminate these exercises from my training program to continue the longevity of my training career.  If you have exercises such as these, then it might be time to think about retiring them and moving on to something more effective.

I want to share with you a list of all my favorite exercises in which I perform on a regular basis.  A lot of them may be performed only one time for the warm up but every one of these exercises I am going to list I believe are important and valuable to any training program.  To make things easier I am going to break it up into categories.  Look over the lists and see how many exercises match up to yours

Body Weight

  • Bridge
  • Marching Bridge
  • Bird Dog
  • Plank
  • Side Plank
  • Overhead Squat
  • Single Leg Squat
  • Side Lunge
  • Curtsy Lunge
  • Split Squat
  • 1 Leg Reach
  • T’s, Y’s, L’s, W’s
  • Push Up
  • Pull Up
  • Inverted Pull Up
  • Handstand
  • 1 Leg Step Up
  • Jump Rope
  • Skipping
  • Side Shuffle
  • Carioca
  • High Knees
  • Butt Kickers

This is pretty much my warm up.

Medicine Ball

  • Ball Slams
  • Ball Chest Press
  • Side Lateral Toss
  • Front Lateral Toss
  • Overhead Toss
  • Back Lunge and Twist
  • Woodchops

Kettlebell

  • Turkish Get Ups
  • Goblet Squat
  • Swings
  • 1 Arm Swings
  • 1 Arm Snatch
  • Deadlift
  • Farmers Carry
  • Waiters Carry
  • Suitcase Carry
  • Single Arm Split Squat
  • Single Arm Squat
  • Single Arm Shoulder Press
  • Cleans
  • Single Leg Deadlift
  • Sumo Squat
  • 1 Arm Row

Barbell

  • Back Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Shoulder Press
  • Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

Dumbbells

  • Chest Press
  • Incline Press
  • Single Arm Chest Press
  • 1 Arm Row
  • 1 Arm Overhead Press
  • Double Arm Squat Curl Press
  • Renegade Row
  • 1 Arm Snatch

Bands

  • Squat Press
  • Squat Row
  • Split Stance Alternating Presses
  • Split Stance Alternating Rows
  • Lunge and Press

Cable Pulley

  • Squat Stance Chops (High to Low)
  • Split Stance Chops
  • Squat Stance Lifts (Low to High)
  • Split Stance Lifts
  • Split Stance 1 Arm Punch
  • Split Stance 1 Arm Row

Well that pretty much raps it up for me and most of the exercises I try to perform regularly.  I know it may seem like a long and detailed list, which it is, but I would say I perform almost all of these exercises within the week and not all in one day.  For me, it all depends on my mood, my energy and what I am feeling for the day.  If I feel great, full of energy and fired up, I generally warm up  and get after it with a lot of body weight high explosive type exercises.  Lots of high heart rate stuff, medicine ball training and sprints.  Other days I may feel like toning it down a bit and working on some core essential moves like the body weight stuff, some band exercises and my chops and lifts with the cable stations.  Then sometimes I feel like just loading the body and getting my lift on with some barbell work, dumbbells and kettlebells.  I keep it short, sweet and heavy mainly sticking with either a 3 x 5 or 5 x 5 reps and set range.  Think about your program and what you can do to improve it, make it more effective and reach the results you are after.

Remember the warm up is important and your warm up should be your workout and your workout should be the warm up.

 

Eating Out Paleo

As many of you know already, I am a hardcore paleo eater.  I absolutely love it and I think it is simple, effective and the only things our bodies should be eating.  We all should be eating as naturally as we can with as much nourishing fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, eggs and seeds as we can.  It is not only good for our health and energy but it also gives us all the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that our bodies need.  Eating paleo is also great for diabetes, weight loss, inflammation and reducing many other nagging or debilitating diseases that may hamper ones health.  I really do believe it is the healthiest and best way to eat for almost everyone.  As long as you are eating the right things it is difficult to overeat, like I always say “fuel up on as many vegetables as you want.”  Protein is important and should be eaten with every meal and while you are at it so should vegetables.  Protein and vegetables should be the staples for almost every meal with everything else like fruit, nuts or fats, and dairy should be complementary.  However, as much as I love eating this way, I do know that we (myself included) are all human and are faced with challenging eating circumstances whether it be a luncheon, a business dinner, strapped for time running the kids between school, practice or whatever or you just do not feel like cooking.  I get it, I have been there and go through these dilemmas at least once a week just like you.

My goal today is to help you with a tutorial on what you should eat and should not eat at the different restaurant cuisines you end up dining at.  When I dine out, I do live a little and let them cook the food in whatever it is they cook it with.  I am not a special case who says, no butter, hold the salt and use fresh oil please.  I let the flavoring and cooking slide but I also do make the best healthiest choices I can make.  I will do my best to cover all the ones I can think of, so lets get started.

Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese

Most of these are heavily influenced with rice and vegetables which is A-okay in my book.  Yes, technically rice is not paleo but it is also non-inflammatory and so it doesn’t cause much havoc on your system like bread or pasta which is good.  You won’t walk away feeling carbohydrate bloated like after a heavy pasta meal.  However, if it is weight loss you are after try to  reduce the amount of rice due to the calories.  Aim for an entrée with as much vegetables as you can.  Avoid anything and everything that is fried whether it be the chicken in your entrée, the egg rolls or the wontons.  Generally the soups and salads are great and healthy for you and will fill you up.  My favorites are spring rolls, kung pao chicken and vegetables, beef and broccoli and Mongolian beef.

 

Japanese/Sushi

Probably my most favorite cuisine but it comes at a price because it is quite costly.  I love sushi and wish I could eat it more often like a couple of times a week.  I feel we could all benefit from eating more fish and sushi definitely checks off that box with all the different assortments of fresh fish we can consume.  With the exception of the fried shrimp or any roll that is a “crunch” roll, than sushi is pretty much fair game.  Go for the sashimi platter if you can or a sashimi salad.  The sushi assortment is always great and a surprise because you never know exactly what you are going to get.  Stay away from the real heavy baked rolls or the ones that are covered in heavy sauces as well.  Edamame is a great appetizer and so are the shoshito peppers.  I generally go for edamame, the peppers, a couple of rolls and either the sashimi or sushi sampler.

Italian

Here is where it starts to get tricky and pretty deadly.  I can not stand Italian and my wife loves it.  What’s not to love though right? Pastas, bread and heavy sauces all add up to disaster in your system.  There are ways to order around at an Italian place without just having a salad, although that is never a bad option.  Your best options are to avoid the bread they give you as an appetizer (a lot harder to say than to do, even for me), maybe order a side of meatballs, check out some soups they may have and try to find an entrée that has no pasta in it.  I usually can find some sort of chicken and vegetable or fish entrée that suits me pretty nicely.  I know it is going to be drowning in sauces, butter and salt and I am okay with that.  I try to enjoy some aspects of eating out without being the picky eater.  When it comes down to pizza, a staple food we all indulge on and enjoy, there are several options to help with your dietary needs.  First, the thinner the crust the better so thin crust will be less carbs than thick crust which is better but can be deadly because you end up eating more slices so be careful.  Second, opt for as much vegetables and lean meat as you can so you can fill up more on nutritious and filling vegetables.  Third, try to limit yourself to only a couple of slices like maybe 2 or 3 because I have found it is easy to overeat, especially with pizza and lastly, skip the crust, it will save you calories.  As much as you can please try to avoid the heavy sauced dishes like fettuccine alfredo.  Your body and your waist line will thank you for it.

Mexican

Growing up in Arizona I would have to say Mexican is my most favorite cuisine there is.  I love the spices, the cheese, the grease, the chips and salsa, the beers and margaritas and all of the other greatness which goes along with it.  Unfortunately, it is not paleo friendly. At all.  There is cheese and rice, and corn chips and flour tortillas and corn tortillas and grease and fried goodness and lots of other bad stuff.  It is hard to eat paleo with Mexican food right from the start of walking in the door.  You and I both know it is almost impossible to resist the chips and salsa they put in front of you as you are reading the menu.  After several chips, I need to put out the flames of the salsa and quickly need a cold beer.  I slug half of that down before I am ready to order and quickly need another one as I wait for my food to arrive as I continue to munch on chips.  Bad news for me for sure.  It is a weakness of mine I have to admit which more than likely does not bode well for you either.  Let’s start look into some of the positives like: salsa.  Great for you, nothing but vegetables and spices and completely natural.  Good.  Guacamole, a great healthy fat, good for you and pairs nicely with your chips and meal.  When eating Mexican, I generally go for a side of guacamole and either pick between two tacos (usually chicken and shrimp) or the fajitas.  The fajitas are always great because it is like making your own taco but I skip the flour tortillas and just eat the meat and vegetables with a fork.  Top it with some salsa and guac and I am a happy guy.  I may have a bite or two of the rice and beans but I hardly ever eat all of it.  That usually goes to my kids, they love rice.

American

Oh American, saving the best/worst for last.  Here is where all the not so good foods originate from.  American food is responsible for such things as hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken wings, chicken fingers, nachos, french fries, onion rings, jalapeno poppers and everything else that is breaded and/or deep-fried.  We love to eat and eat things that are tasty, salty, sweet, crunchy and deep-fried which is not necessarily the best for our health.  We emphasize on huge portions with meat being the main source and vegetables and starchy foods as sides.  We enjoy too many high calorie drinks filled with sugar and other unnatural ingredients like sodas, juices and coffees.  There is hope and ways to eat around all of the bad stuff without just eating salads all the time.  Starting with salads, it is always a great option to choose from when eating out.  Try to eliminate any salad that may have fried foods in it like breaded chicken and avoid croutons and anything processed or crunchy.  Do not go for a caesar salad because the dressing is mixed in with it and you can not control it.  Always go for dressing on the side and just dip your fork into before every bite and you have dressing with every bite.  If choosing to eat a hamburger, most places now-a-days allow you to eat it protein style or lettuce wrapped.  If you do choose to go with bread, at least take the top bun off and save yourself some calories.  If and whenever you can it is better to eat just the meat and avoid the bread at all costs.  Try to choose better sides like fruit, tomato slices, a side salad, coleslaw or cottage cheese instead of the usual fries or onion rings.  Be wary of foods that are covered in sauces like barbecue or dressings because they are usually filled lots of calories, sugar and not natural ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.  Again, the goal is always to have protein and vegetables with every meal and to eat the bad stuff in moderation.

I hope this help give some insight on what to eat and what not to eat when you choose to dine out.  The healthier you choose to eat, the more you will crave healthier foods and the more energy you will have.  Strive for eating foods that are good, natural and healthy for you and it will pay dividends for you health in the long run.

 

Workout Montage

A short video of things I have been working on, new toys I have been playing with and different fun ways to move my body.  I am shifting my concentration from heavy lifting to more body weight, gymnastic and kettlebell training.  Enjoy

Almond Joy

Every so often for this blog, I get emailed about writing up on a specific topic for health and most of the time (unfortunately) I graciously decline due time constraints or the topic does not really interest me.  However recently, an email came through about writing on all the health benefits and different ways to use almonds and almond products.  After thinking about it, I said yes because of all the different ways we use almonds in my house alone.

Almonds, just like almost every other nut, are a great snack packed with a lot of punch.  Almonds are a great source of fat, protein, fiber and vitamin E and are delicious and can be easily stored anywhere.  I feel nuts in general get a bad wrap because of the high fat content and most of us are led to believe that high fat is bad and fat is what makes you fat.    Yes they are high in fat but it also a good fat which will help us feel fuller, gives us more energy and helps with the dreaded sugar crash which happens after eating a high sugar processed snack.  Almonds help maintain your blood sugar, are a great source of protein and help lower your cholesterol.  They really are a great snack which can be taken anywhere and eaten almost anytime whether it be at the office or traveling in your car.  I get a lot of my calories from fat and probably eat around 2 to 3 generous handfuls of nuts almost every day.  I am not worried about the fat content or the calories and you should not be as well.  I would rather you all eat a couple of handfuls of nuts to fill you up so you are not still hungry and then resort to making bad choices later.  I would rather you eat more of the stuff that is good for you then a little of the stuff that is bad for you.  Just like I tell my training clients ” eat as much vegetables as you want, fill up on them.”  Its okay to snack on them a couple of times a day and also to incorporate them into your meals as well.

There are different ways to use almonds and the byproducts of almonds as well such as almond flour, almond meal, almond butter and almond milk.  My wife has adopted into my paleo eating lifestyle and has found great ways to use almond meal and almond flour for lots of tasty, healthy treats.  Almond flour pancakes are fantastic, primal fudge is amazing and paleo breakfast bread is very delicious as well.  My most favorite way of enjoying almonds comes in the form of almond butter.  Before I moved, I use to eat about a jar a week of this nutritious and delicious butter.  I would eat it with almost anything and found it rather enjoyable.  I would eat it with fruit such as a banana or apple, I would put in on my almond pancakes, I would eat it with some greek yogurt and I would put in with my smoothies I would make as well.  I could not and can not get enough of it and I have gotten so use to it I don’t miss the taste of regular peanut butter.  One of the greatest things about almond butter is if you find a good one, is the ingredient list: almonds and salt.  Thats it and thats all it should say.  If you were to look at the back of a jar of Skippy or Jiff you will find sugar and hydrogenated oils which are not only bad for you but just aren’t natural.  Almond butter wins hands down for its naturalness alone.  Another way we use almonds in this house is with almond milk for my kids.  I read something a long time ago that has stuck with me ever since and its that we are the only species who drinks milk from another species.  Think about it, why do we drink cows milk?  Milk is only used to help provide nutrients and calories to the infants to grow until they are capable of finding and eating on their own.  It should be the same for our children as well.  In order to give my kids some extra healthy calories I turn to almond milk and they love it.  We use a lot of almond and almond products in our house and I think most of us should look into it as well.

Almonds are definitely a healthier option to choose from, are energy dense and packed with lots of good nutrients that will help fight hunger craves and lead us to making great decisions throughout our day.  Here is some more information on these great little brown orbs:

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For more information on all your nut needs check out nuts.com.  Thanks and have a wonderful almond filled day.

Build Your Foundation

When building a house, one of the first and most important steps is building a strong and almost indestructible base.  The foundation of the house needs to be strong, reliable and handle the load and structure of the rest of the house.  Without a strong foundation the house would be sagging in some areas, breaking off in other areas or possibly crumpling under the heavy load of the house.  Your body is your house and your legs are your foundation.  Your legs are probably the most important and under-worked body part of your body which is unfortunate because the legs set up the rest of the body for a wonderfully powerful and strong foundation.  I understand, nobody really likes to work legs.  It is hard, very tiring, pretty exhausting and leads to people walking funny down stairs and getting in and out of chairs.  Our legs need to be our foundation for our bodies and I would suggest starting with them first every time you train.  I have been in this industry long enough to know how some of the workout schedules go, especially more so since moving out here to South Carolina.  Let me break it down for you and see if you fall into this kind of split: Monday- Chest and triceps, Tuesday- Back and biceps, Wednesday- shoulders and abs, Thursday- legs? No I think going out sounds better, so Friday- legs?  No, still hurting from going out on Thursday, I will get it next.  The next week comes and they fall into the same rotation.  The reasons why I don’t like this kind of program is because for any of you who know me, know I love full body workouts.  You should workout your whole body every time and then take a day off to rest.  We are not body builders so we do not need to isolate body parts on specific days.  If you do full body workout then you will burn more calories, lower your body fat percentage, increase your metabolic rate and hopefully shred some fat and get stronger and leaner in the process.  Maybe your workout routine is a little different and maybe some of you like to do a upper body lower body split which is fine.  Just make sure when you lift your legs, you to start with a big compound lift like a squat or a deadlift.

How we start our fitness programs dictate how successful we are and what we want to get out of it.  Start with your legs every time you workout.  I always attack my legs on the days I work out.  I go after them and make them pay the price because I know that it is good for me and know it will translate over to everything else I want to do.  Our legs are our powerhouse and we need to work them as best as we can.  Not only do I want strong legs for activities of daily life, like hiking, playing with my kids, carrying groceries, flying up the stairs and jumping around but I also want strong powerful legs because I know it is great for my golf game.  I want to hit the ball longer and farther and one of the best ways to do that is to have strong powerful hips.  After your warm up, pick a compound movement like front squat, deadlift, kettlebell swings or back squat and perform anywhere between 3 – 5 sets.  Some of the rep ranges I have been playing around with lately is 5 sets of 5 reps.  5 x 5 is great for gaining pure strength which each set going a little bit heavier and I also like to do 3 sets of 8.  Generally, I start with my main lift and perform just that until it is done and then I move on to some mini circuits where I incorporate an upper body lift and a lower body lift.  It is also good to start with your legs because you are fresh and full of energy because we all know how hard it is to squat or deadlift well when you are tired or are running run low on energy.

Build your foundation and make it strong, tough and powerful.  Start with your legs and and you will see great gains in your strength, your physique and your performance.  Have a wonderful foundation building day.sq