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What a Private Sector Strength Coach Learned His First Year Training High School Football

Fall 2016 was my first year as a high school strength coach for Pope John High School in northern New Jersey. I have worked in the private sector for my entire career as a strength coach, but I learned there are huge differences between doing the same job in each world.

Like anyone entering a new position, there is a learning curve and I already have ideas for how I am going to do things differently next year based on my first year’s experience.

 

  1. Coaching a Team In-season Requires More Perspective

Coming from the private sector I mostly saw athletes in the off-season which meant my main focus was making improvement and gains in the athletes. My number one question that I would ask myself would be, “Did my athletes get stronger, faster, and will it carry over to a better season?”

 

Being with a team for an entire season is a totally different animal. In a sport like football the athletes take such a beating. I found myself constantly adjusting workouts to the individual athlete or having to switch on the fly because the athletes basically told me I literally can’t do that today. As a coach there is a fine line between knowing what is best and just being stubborn. At times I might have been a little bit stubborn and asked them to do things that they were not capable of. However, as the season went on I now realize that I need to listen to the athletes more about their level of fatigue. I find myself playing physical therapist quite a bit even though that is not my role. Luckily I also work in an incredible facility that hosts some great PT’s that I have learned a lot from. Precision Sports Performance in East Hanover is partnered with Provere physical therapy.

 

This year we took a handful of our athletes to the Precision facility the day after games for a recovery workout and treatment. The athletes who attended have raved about how much better they feel after a recovery session. This is quite a contrast to how I train athletes in their offseason when strength and speed improvements is the number one agenda.

 

  1. Modifying My Program as the Season Wears On

 

After the first few games I pushed them quite a bit. Now that we are down to the last few games and approaching playoff time it is mostly about keeping them healthy. We do a lot of mobility, some light running, lots of stretching and foam rolling, and light body weight work at low volume.

To be completely honest, I am really looking forward to being able to work with the team this off-season and to really dig in and start from scratch. Being a coach is always about learning and adapting. If you stop learning and are stuck in your ways the game will pass you by. Before I can get to the off-season we have a state championship to win!

 

  1. Adjusting My Coaching Style to the Team Setting

 

There is a big difference between working with 5 athletes at a time and 30 at a time. You have to really command attention and get your point across quickly. I learned that I can’t spend too much time talking because there will always be a few who lose focus. Instead I make a few key teaching points and then walk around and help individuals. Another big difference between the private sector and working with a team is that on a team you have a lot of different personalities. Some are workers and you need to talk to them about rest and recovery. Others need a kick in the butt to push him or her harder. I found that I don’t have a lot of time for individual coaching so I quickly need to find the pulse of the team and act accordingly.

 

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The rise of boutique fitness classes and gym culture.

As a CSCS I am good at what I do which is prepare athletes for their sports. I know what progressions need to happen for youth athletes and I know what programs need to be implemented for older athletes.   That doesn’t mean that I am not still learning and implemented new principles as situations arise. It also doesn’t mean that I am not open to new ideas and suggestions. As a fitness enthusiast I have run several marathons, half marathons, obstacle races, and the like. I have done kickboxing, yoga, and boot camp classes. I currently do CrossFit and enjoy it quite a bit. I love the fact that there are so many classes for fitness enthusiasts such as myself to choose from.  However, as a strength and conditioning specialist all of these specialty classes that keep popping up create mixed messages for athletes.   Sometimes the messages come from YouTube and social media where everybody is an expert. Sometimes the athlete’s parents go to a class and love it so they influence their children to attend. We happen to live in an area where there are lots of high process fitness optons. Things like Barre Mathod, Bari, Soul Cycle, CrossFit, SLT, OrangeTherory, Pilates, PowerFlow Yoga,, and the list goes on and on. I am not saying these are not great classes for general fitness. I am saying that they are not for athletes. Athletes need to train for a purpose with a specific goal in mind. Most often that goal is a combination of strength and/ or speed. Strength and Speed are the two most important factors in determining overall athleticism. At Inception not only will they get the program in place to help them reach their goals they will also get a program that reduces injuries. If an athlete is not on the field then nothing else matters and with the rise of year round sports injures happen at a higher and higher rate among youth athletes.   There are things that can be implemented to help reduce that risk. I incorporate ACL tear reduction drills as part of my warm up for all my athletes.   When baseball players come in I always work on arm care. The shoulder is such a complicated joint that you need to give it specific attention in order to reduce the chances of an injury. The one thing that the entire specialty classes have in common is they are group classes. When you have a group setting you automatically will not get the attention you need because everyone in the class is doing the same thing. It doesn’t matter if you are a baseball player, a soccer player, or someone coming off an injury. If you are an athlete it is in your best interest to find a qualified CSCS to work with to get better for your sport and not just rely on general fitness classes or personal trainers.

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Strength and Conditioning Thoughts

Olympic lifts are a highly technical movement and a lot of athletes use them to develop power We know that Olympic lifting develops that power in a vertical plane but are they really the end all be all for power development for athletes?   I can find you a lot of really good athletes who are division one athletes and even professional athletes who either have never done Olympic lifting like hang cleans or snatches or they’re not very good at them. There are 6’8″ basketball players at the University of Kentucky who if you watch them do a hang clean it looks really ugly.  At the same time you take a 5’9″ compact kid who played Division III football and he’s placing in the CrossFit games and competing in Olympic competitions. The second guy is a really good weightlifter the first guy is a really good athlete. So what does that tell us? That tells us that Olympic lifting and power development is a means to an end for athletes and not the ends to the mean. Olympic weightlifters who compete that is the end product.  Someone who plays basketball, football, soccer, or baseball yes we want to get them more powerful but are we going to sacrifice important time in the gym to teach the highly technical skills that the Olympic lifts require.  Some coaches will tell you that completing an Olympic lift is not that important for an athlete. So what are we trying to get out of our Olympic lifts? We’re trying to get to that triple extension position of the ankles knees and hips. So that being said all we really have to do is get to that High pull where the bar reaches your sternum before dropping under the bar. The catch is not as important to me when I’m working with athletes.  If an athlete can complete the clean yes that’s great! We’re  going to work on that but if they’re not there yet I’m not going to spend weeks or months working in the catch.  When they get to the triple extension position that’s enough for most athletes. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating bad form. I will still stress back tight, hamstrings engaged, straight bar path and all the things that are required in a good Olympic lift. I have just found that the drop under the bar and the catch are the most difficult for a lot of people so I will not spend weeks and months drilling technique. There is some benefit in completing the Olympic lift mostly in deceleration and controlling the bar as it comes down to and you drop under it but it’s not nearly as important as that triple extension position. I would say 90% of the work is done once you get that bar up to about your sternum as far as an athlete is concerned. Remember this is a means to an end. We are training football players, basketball players, soccer players baseball players.  We’re not training Olympic lifters so if their technique is not 100% spot on as long they’re not going to hurt themselves and they are getting power development that is all we want.  Strength coaches don’t always want to hear this but our best athletes in the gym are often not our best athletes on the field.  Our job is not to create the best workout warrior but to aid the athletic process and keep the athlete on the field.

When training an athlete we try to develop the complete athlete so we work on speed. we work on injury prevention. we work on stabilization, we work on mobilization. All of  these things are important factors so do we have that much time to really go over fine-tuning the clean and power clean positions? Probably not. There’s a lot more better use of our time. So we create programs for the athlete keeping that in mind.  Remember a means to an end and not the other way around. Olympic lifts are important and we do use them but as a part of the whole overall program.

When you’re working with mostly high school and college kids their schedules are really tight. High School kids have practice they have homework they go to school all day. You don’t have a lot of time so what gives you the most bang for your buck? When working with college kids the NCAA restricts hours that the strength coach can put in with the kids so that becomes an issue as well if you are working in the university setting.  A factor in a private setting is money.  Athletes pay per session so they’re not going to come in five days a week most of the time. They’re playing in the off-season and playing in the summer so if they’re playing games two or three times a week plus they go to practice then they have to show up for the weight room there probably only with you two times or three times a week maybe four depending on the time time of year. Keeping that in mind we don’t have time to develop the weight room skills. The more important skill work has to be done within their sport working on becoming a better baseball player, fine tuning their swing and things like that. I would rather put a kid through a one hour hard workout where the kid works really hard then sit there and have them work on skills of a hang clean.  It is just more effective because you have so little time and you really have to give them a good work out that’s going to number one keep them injury free and number two improve performance.

I’ve seen trainers that can dissect anatomy, they can tell you what energy systems are being used, and they can write a program that looks like a work of art. I’ve also seen other trainers who don’t have an exercise science degree really can’t tell you why they’re doing something but their athletes keep coming back because they feel motivated, they feel inspired, they get a good workout, and they know that what they’re doing is working.  Sometimes coaches can really outsmart themselves they try to be too precise they try to get every athlete to be a carbon copy mold of the ideal standard. The reality is there is no ideal standard. Every athlete moves differently every athlete has different body types, different injuries, different pasts that are going to affect their movement patterns.

I try to learn every day. This field is always changing. As a coach if you stop learning then you are doing yourself and your athletes a disservice. Sometimes I look at my programs and wonder what was I thinking but then I remember when all else fails give the athlete a tough workout and motivate them and they’ll come back for more.
Joe Lopez CSCS

Strength Coaches vs. Personal Trainers

I have been in both industries.  I have worked with clients whose goals were to look good, lose weight, drop body fat and I have also worked with athletes looking for performance on the field.  I can honestly say that I feel like strength coaches can venture into the personal training world a lot easier than personal trainers can work as strength coaches.  I feel like it is a totally different work environment.  Strength coaches have a lot more to focus on.  They have to make sure they periodize properly as well as provide adequate recovery.  They also have to think about which exercise that particular athlete should not do based on his or her sport or body type.  They also have to think about what position the athlete plays within a sport.  A Football lineman is going to train a lot differently than a wide receiver.  So experience, education, and science play a large part in what a strength coach does.  While being a personal trainer has it’s own unique set of demands as well.  I have worked with a lot of clients with mobility issues.  These issues force you to be part physical therapist before you can begin a weight loss or a fat loss program. When you get someone who is not in very good shape the reality is anything they do will work in the beginning.  It is after that initial plate where the hard stuff begins.  Each field does have it’s own unique set of demands however, I feel that if you can train athletes you can also train general fitness.  In fact, I often used athletic protocols with my general fitness people and they saw great results.

In the past I have written about the dirty little secret of the fitness industry.  https://jerseystrong.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/why-certifications-matter/   There are so many different “certifications” out there.  Some are take home that you can send in and as long as you pay the money you are a certified personal trainer.  The industry is filled with personal trainers who don’t know and don’t use one shred of scientific evidence in their programming.   Another thing to be aware of is trainers who are more focused on being celebrity trainers than trainers who are celebrities.  Obviously we have to be market ourselves and drive business but as Martin Rooney said when I met him last year.  “The moment my career changed was when I realized that I was training athletes and that I wasn’t the athlete.”  If your trainer is more focused on his or her own success than yours you should get a new trainer.

As a strength coach I read everything and anything on the subject.  I attend conferences and clinics.  Not only do I read what my colleagues put on Twitter and their own personal blogs but as a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association I read the journals every month.  Yes people there are scientific published journals from actual research that we as strength coaches are supposed to use in our programming.  Now, some of what we do is art and not science and some is based on things like the athlete’s training age and even the space and equipment available.  That being said, if your trainer is not keeping up with up educating themselves then they are doing you a disservice.

Another difference between a personal trainer and a strength coach is the ideal body that the client is after.  As a personal trainer everyone who stepped in my door said the same things.  I want to lose weight.  I want to drop body fat.  I want to get ripped.  Or for the ladies I want to get toned and not be too big.  (More on how much I hate that later)  There is no such thing as toned ladies.  For the athlete the body ideal is often very different.  For one it depends on what sport and what position your play.  To go back to the same example I gave before a Lineman in football will have a very different body type than a wide receiver.  A lineman might aspire to become as strong as possible and not care about storing body fat as long as he can still move quickly.  The wide receiver on the other hand will need to focus on top speed, acceleration, and the ability to jump to get a ball at its highest point.  I have never once talked to my athletes about defined abs or quad separation.  If you as an athlete go to a trainer who is focused on any of those things walk away immediately.  Athletes are not bodybuilders.  An athlete should never aspire to be shredded.  Instead, the programing should be focused on performance only.  Often with this approach the athlete will get the body he or she wants or more importantly needs for their sport.

Of course I am a little biased but I believe that the National Strength and Conditioning Association is the cream of the crop when it comes to strength and conditioning and personal training.  The CSCS is the certification standard in the NCAA.  You will not find a college strength and conditioning coach without one.  Also, there is the NSCA-CPT for general fitness population which is also a great choice. Go to NSCA.com to find a qualified coach in your area.

Spartan Race

Many of you know that I started doing Crossfit almost two years ago now and I love it.  It’s totally addicting and fun and it pushed me to where I would never quite be able to push myself on my own.  Some of you might also now that I have run three marathons.  Baltimore 2012, New York 2013 and 2014.  Well if you’ve never heard of a Spartan race it kind of marries those two passions of mine.  It is a race but it is much more than a race.  It involves treacherous obstacles that challenges you physically, mentally, and spiritually. If Crossfit is the sport of fitness than a Spartan Race is it’s proving grounds.  Yes Crossfit has the Crossfit games but that is the elite of the elite.  Anyone can sign up for a Spartan Race and really see what you are made of.  From the average Joe to Navy Seals there is a Spartan Race for you.  In Fact, I will be doing my first Spartan Race Super in two weeks at Mountain Creek, NJ  Look for more  to come when I recap that event in two weeks.  Back to the Spartan Racing series.

The Spartan race was voted the # 1 obstacle race by Outside magazine. In a Spartan Race you can expect running, rope climbs, crawling, tire flips, mud, ponds, mud, hills, scaling walls ala Ninja Warrior, mud, carrying sandbags, mud, inverted wall climbs, barbed wire, fire,mud, and just general cool shit.  It’s an adult playground to say the least.  For some people this sounds like hell on earth but for people like me this sounds like a day full of fun.  Where else can you challenge yourself to these extremes and put yourself in real world situations at the same time creating a bond with a group of friends that will last a lifetime.  There is a saying that those who suffer together bond together. CrossFit does that for a lot of people and so does the Spartan Race.   Get out of the gym and complete a Spartan Race with your buddies.  Right now on the Sparta Race website they are offering a 15% discount with the code LABORDAY.  If this video doesn’t get you inspired I don’t know what will.

 

Spartan race is also trying to promote a few upcoming events.  First is the Spartan Race world championships which take place in Killington Vermont on September 20th.  This will air on NBC Sports.  Look on your channel guide to find an airtime near you.  This is the extreme version of what you and your buddies will be doing but many of the same obstacles but done at a ridiculous pace and with more severe consequences.  If you want to see some of the world’s most well rounded athletes doing crazy stunts while tackling a 14 mile course with elevations of 12,000 feet then tune in.

unnamed_1 World-Championship-A-Frame

 

The other cool thing that Spartan Race is trying to do is a Spartan cruise.  If you’re like me and fitness is your passion and your lifestyle than maybe you would want to go on a fitness based vacation.  This cruise leaves out of Miami and you will most certainly have the experience of a lifetime.  Anyone who is interested in the cruise can fill out the form below and you will be entered into a raffle for a free cruise with airfare included courtesy of Jerseystrong and Spartan Race.  http://bit.ly/spartancruisegiveaway

 

 

My Top 10 posts of 2012

These are the articles that received the most views in 2012.  I always love getting feedback and seeing the number of  views  for my articles so keep it coming in 2013.  This year I had people from all over the country contact me about my articles. I am always humbled and honored that people take the time to search me out for advice about health and fitness.  JerseyStrong was viewed in 60 countries worldwide.  In the month of December my articles for Stack Media made me one of the top 10 most viewed on the platform.  I sincerely hope everyone has a HEALTHY and happy new year!

1.  Product review of the Nike Plus Sport Watch

2.  High School Strength Coach.  Necessity or Luxury?

3.  How to Gain 4 pounds of muscle in 10 days.

4.  How to Warm Up Like the Pros.

5.  2012 ING NYC Marathon.

6.  Things I eat.

7.  3 Step Approach Guaranteed to Build and Protect Shoulder Muscles.

8.  The Ripped Lower Ab workout. 

9.  What an Amateur Runner Thinks during a 20 Mile Training Run.  Warning.  Explicit Language.

10.  How Long can you build muscle.

Of course there are other articles that were not the most viewed out there in cyber land but I think you should still check them out.

Hurricane Sandy and the NYC Marathon:  A Runner’s Viewpoint.

I was also featured in Men’s Health Magazine this past year so this article was probably the most viewed overall because it reached millions of people worldwide via Men’s Health Magazine.  I included the link in my blog post.  If you haven’t seen it yet check it out.  Image

Random thoughts from a weight loss journey.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately about the problem of belly fat versus fat that is collected in other areas of the body.  Belly fat is a more serious indicator of a potential health problem down the road.   Heart disease and stroke being the number one risk from fat around the abdomen.  The U.S. Army has even included waist circumference as a measure to predict healthy potential soldiers.  The used to use BMI and body fat percentage solely.

Now, how do you specifically target belly fat.  The standard answer that a lot of personal trainers will give you is that you can’t spot reduce fat.  For example, if you have fat around your bicep than doing curls will not get rid of bicep fat.  But, there is some good news for people who worry about this excess fat around the abdomen.  If you read my blog you know that I am a runner.  I am running the ING NYC Marathon this fall.  I have also said that distance running is not a way to reduce body fat.  Instead to reduce body fat high intensity sprints and power exercise such as full body olympic movements will help torch body fat.  Well here is where it gets complicated.  A recent Duke University study focused on cardio endurance training vs high intensity resistance training and their responses to visceral belly fat in particular.  Visceral fat is the fat that sits deeper in your belly.  It surrounds your organs and is much tougher to get rid of than subcutanous fat which is more superficial and lies just under your skin.  The Duke study found that endurance training actually helped get rid of the visceral fat more so than high intensity training.  This is why you can sometimes see a runner who has a very “skinny frame” with a higher body fat percentage.  If you look at them in a sweater you might say they are really skinny.  However, if you asked them to take their shirt off you might see some belly fat.  However, because their belly fat is that subcutaneous fat they are not at risk for heart disease etc.  Now. think of the olympic weightlifter with a huge belly.  This guy is powerful but he has the classic “beer belly” look.  He is at risk for a heart attack much more than the runner.

So, what does this mean for you.  If long term health is your goal.  I would try to amp up your cardio.  When I began running I could barely run a mile.  It’s just classic overload principal.  Start slowly and add on a little at a time.  Maybe add 10% a week at the most.  When you first start don’t worry about distance just run for a time.  Say 10 minutes at first.  Then the next week 11 minutes.  A good way to keep you motivated would be to sign up for a 5K or a 10K a few months down the road.  These races are everywhere and they are a lot of fun with other people running alongside you.  If you currently work out 4 days a week then maybe do 2 cardio days and 2 weight training days.  When I was 290 pounds I went to the gym 6 days a week and lifted weights.  I could bench press 340 pounds.    But to work on that overall health and reduce fat you need to focus on diet and add cardio.  Keep in mind however that I didn’t start running until after I lost 60 pounds or so.  Diet is the key to all of this.

Lastly, but probably the most important is diet.  When you are lifting weights you need protein to repair muscle tissue.  However, if you trying to lose weight then you have to worry about total calories.  I always say get to your ideal weight first then worry about shaping your body the way you want it.  I use a smart phone app.  There are a bunch out there.  Loseit, MYFitnessPal, or FatSecret are all good.  MyFitnessPal is my favorite.  If you don’t have a smart phone they also have a website.  Most people will tell you that eating at home is the best way to control weight because you can control the food that you prepare.  However, with these calories trackers you can look up the calories in a menu item at say subway or Dunkin Donuts and make better choices.

This may sound obvious  but many yo-yo dieters just don’t do this.  EAT FOODS YOU LIKE!  If you are chewing carrot sticks and you just hate them then how long do you think you are going to do that?  Find lower calorie options that you actually like to eat.  I can’t answer this for you but there has to be something out there that you enjoy that is not 1000 calories.  If you don’t do this then your diet will be temporary.  You want this to be a permanent change in the way you eat and not a diet.

Cheat Days are a must.  There are things that everyone loves that they just can’t have when restricting calories.  My cheat day is usually Saturday night and sometimes Sunday if I am training for a race.  I will usually have a few beers and dessert on Saturday nights along with dinner.

Don’t diet at special events.  Christmas is not a time to worry about your weight.  If you start to live this way you will always be aware of calories and what the calorie count is.  It will always be in the back of your head.  If you feel that you have control over your diet then go ahead because you can always get back to your routine.

It takes 14 days to create a habit.  I would recommend that when you start this new lifestyle that you are extremely strict for 2 weeks.  No cheat days for at least 2 weeks.  Your body will adjust and you won’t feel as hungry after two weeks.

Eat to not be hungry.  Don’t eat until you are full.  Think about this.  I am a foodie.  I love food but biologically we eat because we need energy.  Our bodies signal hunger.  Once that signal ends than we no longer need to eat.

Eat when your hungry.  If you are hungry Eat!  Usually just a small amount of food will actually end your hunger.

Successful dieters are boring.  They tend to eat the same things over and over again.  Because they know that it is something they like and they know the calories.  It makes it easy and convenient.

Finally, crate your own Eat This not That.  Men’s health popular program that lets you make small changes to your diet that will save you calories each time.  This was probably my number one weapon for weight loss.  For example,  I stop at Dunkin Donuts everyday after work.  I used to get an Iced Coffee and a muffin.  I go from work as a school teacher right to my personal trainer job and needed something to hold me over until dinner.  After learning that a muffin at Dunkin Donuts has 600 calories and a chocolate glazed donut has only 350. I switched to a donut.  How many weight loss guys will tell you to eat donuts!?  But I just saved myself 250 calories a day 5 days a week.  In three weeks if I did nothing else I would lose a pound right there.  After a few months of ordering glazed donuts I also like egg sandwiches.  The Ham, Egg, and Cheese, on an english muffin is 290 calories.  Bam!  I just saved 60 more calories a day.  3 months later they have an egg white flatbread turkey sausage sandwich.  That is 210 calories.  It is basically the same size and it fills me up just as much.  I just saved 80 more calories a day.  From my original muffin I am down 390 calories a day every day of the week.  My original daily snack when I started going to Dunkin Donuts was an iced coffee with cream and sugar and a muffin.  700 calories.  Now I get am Iced Coffee with Skim Milk and splenda and a bacon, egg, and cheese wrap.  for 215 calories.  I did not make all of these changes at once.  That is the key.  I changed one thing and when I got used to it I then changed another thing.  Think about your daily habits and how you can make small changes one at a time.

Coffee with no cream

No cheese on a sandwich.  (would you really miss it)  that’s 150 calories.

Mustard instead of Mayo

Diet soda instead of regular soda

Brown rice instead of white rice.

Weight watcher’s bread vs your regular bread.

Lite beer instead of regular beer.  etc

Find which swaps work best for you and remember choose one thing at a time.  All of these swaps for me took place over the course of several years.  If you tried it all at once then you would miss it too much because you are too close to your old habits.  Start with one swap and then let it become a habit.

Diet, Diet, Diet

I was at a wedding last night and in the middle of the dessert my father in law asked how much I was going to run the next day to burn all this off.  If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.  To lose weight or to stay thin you can’t rely on exercise.  The answer is diet alone.  Exercise is great for your heart and great for your muscle tone and great for strengthening ligaments and bones.  But weight loss is about what you eat.  If you have watched shows like “The Biggest Loser” on NBC you would think that these people just burn those calories off by working out.   They do reach a higher “burn” than most people could because they are on the show full time and not leading a normal life with work and family obligations.  However, what the show doesn’t show is what the contestants are eating.  I am sure that is a major focus of the show but it’s not exactly made for television entertainment to watch people eat their 1700 calories a day.

Italian Wedding Desserts

I did run today.  I ran 6.25 miles.  The run which lasted 53 minutes and 21 seconds caused me to burn 893 calories.  Any self respecting Italian wedding will take you over 900 calories easily.  So what does this tell us?  Either most people need to start running 15 plus miles on a daily basis or that the food is key to weight loss.  I always tell my clients to focus on the food and after they get to their desired weight they can begin to focus on shaping their bodies with exercise.  Lucky for me I am at a good weight and I can afford a cheat day.  But, if you’re trying to lose weight then remember you can’t just burn it off in the morning.  Everything you put in your body counts including drinks.  But that’s a story for another day.

2012 ING NYC Marathon

I ran the Baltimore Marathon just this past October so I wasn’t planning on entering another marathon so quickly.  I was going to focus on strength training and some shorter races.  My plan was a Warrior Dash in July, the Men’s health Urbanathalon in October, and maybe a few 5k’s sprinkled in.  However, when I watched the NYC Marathon last year it was pretty amazing.  So, I started doing some research online and finding out a lot about it.  Apparently they are making it harder and harder to get in.  Here are your options to be one of the 40,000 + runners.

Here is how you can apply for next year’s race.

Join a ING NYC Marathon pre-approved fundraising team.  I looked up Livestrong which sponsors a team.  I would need to raise 15,000 dollars for their charity to get in the race.  Although it’s a great cause I have 2 jobs so that wasn’t happening.

Get a professional exemption.  I don’t think my 3:57 time at Baltimore is quite up to par for “Pro” status.

Qualify by completing another approved race leading up to the ING NYC Marathon.  Ok, let’s look up the qualifying times.  New York Half Marathon for my age group.  1 hour and 23 minutes.  Yea not gonna happen.

Lastly you could enter your name in the lottery.  According to the website depending on how many applicants you have between a 6% and a 12% chance of getting accepted.  They do have a rule that if you get denied through the lottery for 3 consecutive years than you gain automatic enrollment the following year.    I decided I might as well pay the 7 bucks and enter my name and maybe 3 years from now I can do my next marathon.  (I recently found out that they are getting rid of the 3 year rule but I didn’t know at the time.)

I play the lottery pool at work all the time and have yet to win that lottery but somehow I won this lottery.  With about an 8% chance I am now running the 2012 ING NYC Marathon on November 4th.  Oh boy now I have to get my mind right to train all over again.  Here are my initial thoughts.

I never really stopped running after my last marathon.  I continued with my normal routine of trail running in the fall / winter and road running when the weather gets nice again in the spring.  NJ typically has bad winters with lots of snow for at least 2 months and I hate running on a treadmill so I usually take at least 2 months off during that time.  This year that never happened so I have been running non stop.  So, to avoid burnout and overtraining I am going to keep running until about June 10th and then take 2 straight weeks off.  During this time my wife and I are going on a vacation so that will work out perfectly anyway.

I still have that Warrior Dash in July but I had to postpone the Urbanatahalon because it is just too close to the marathon date.   In the mean time I am focusing more on speed training.  My runs are anywhere from 3-7 miles but I am trying to increase my pace to about 7 minutes a mile.  I am experimenting with lighter sneakers (Brooks PureFlow) but I don’t want to overdue it because I don’t want an injury.  I am not a typical 120 pounds marathoner.  I weigh about 190 pounds depending on the week.  I am also experimenting with a weighted vest for my shorter runs.  The Nike Sparq weighs about 12 pounds and I have been wearing it on shorter runs of 3 miles or less.  The last thing I have been doing is more fartlek type runs which I tend to neglect when my miles get longer and longer.

Once July hits I will start my official marathon training.  Last time I used Runners World Smart coach app on my phone which worked out great.  I did modify it slightly and I probably will again because I am in a running club that runs out of LifeTime gym in Florham Park.  So on those days I will just do whatever run is on the run coordinator’s schedule.  I enjoy having the appointment of meeting with the group at a certain time.  It keeps me motivated during the hot summer months.  The basic routine of the Smart Coach is 2 weeks of increasing mileage with one week of decreasing.  The beginning of the week are the shorter runs with speed work built in.  The weekend runs are the longest.  During training I will run 4 times a week until the mileage gets up past 12 then I will cut it down to 3 times a week.  I also intend to strength train all throughout the marathon training but less reps and no more than 70% of my 1RM.

With about 3 weeks to go before race day I intend to stop lifting legs all together and with 2 weeks to go I will taper my runs to keep the legs fresh for race day.

It’s always bough to set goals for a marathon because so many things can come into play or go wrong but as of right now I would like to finish around 3 hours and 50 minutes and set a new PR for that distance.  My goals os to be consistent all throughout the race and not have any outlier miles mixed in.  If you read my blog on the Baltimore Marathon I had that one mile which was over a 12 minute pace right as I crested the hill on mile 21 that really bothered me.  Image

So, ready or not I am running the 2012 ING NYC Marathon with about 43,000 other people.  As I get closer to race day I will let everyone know what I am wearing so you can play where’s Waldo on TV.

Spring break and weight loss

Being a teacher has many benefits.  One of the biggest is the vacation time.  This past week was our spring break.  The weather has been beautiful here in New Jersey.  Spring has definitely started early and it even looks like summer isn’t far behind.  Lots of people are going to start a last ditch effort to lose some weight in the next few months before the summer hits.  For those people I want to share my spring break as an example of how to lose weight and also what not to do.

In my ten days off I gained 4 pounds.  I worked out even more than I normally do when I am at work.  Here was my workout schedule:

Friday – lifted chest and triceps for 1 hour and 15 minutes

Saturday – ran 7 miles

Sunday – off Easter

Monday – ran 4 miles and lifted back and biceps for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Tuesday – ran 2 miles with a weighted vest.  Lifted abs and legs for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Wednesday – Spin class for 1 hour.  Lifted abs and arms for 1 hour.

Thursday – Olympic lifts and functional movements for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Friday – Off day

Saturday – Lifted Total body for 1 hour and 30 minutes

Sunday – Ran 5 miles fartlek.

According to my Nike Fuel I burned 14, 781 calories from April 9th to April 15th.  In comparison the previous week I burned 13,620 calories.  I was more active in my week off than I was in my “typical” week.  So how did I gain 4 pounds?

Diet Diet Diet.

If you follow my blog you know how I talk about how important diet is.  I am sure not many people workout like I do.  I have the luxury of being a physical education teacher and a personal trainer.  I have easy access to gyms at all times.  In a typical week I am pretty busy and go right from school to the gym to working out.  I often don’t get home or sit down until 8 p.m.  On spring break I was home more often.  Sitting around the house leads to boredom snacking.  I definitely indulged a little more than I normally do.  The excess calories led to 4 pounds and it doesn’t matter how many weights I lifted or how many miles I ran.

Anytime you see or read something saying that lifting a certain way or doing this workout will result in weight loss I am here to tell you that will never happen.  I am living proof.  Not just for my ten days of spring break but for years.  When I was 285 pounds I went to the gym 6 days a week without question or without excuses.  I didn’t run like I do now because my 285 pound frame couldn’t support running.  That would be an injury waiting to happen.  I was however, very strong.  I could bench press 345 pounds but I was very overweight.

If you want to get toned, see your abs, lose weight, get ripped, get shredded and or any of these things you need to get your diet in order.  Doing ab exercises all day long by the thousands will not help you see your abs any better.  It will strengthen your ab muscles but unless you have a low percentage of body fat you not see them because of the layer of fat above the muscles.

So, if you want to lose weight for summer focus on your diet first and foremost.  Then once you reach your target weight try to build muscle.

Now go eat some lean protein and I have to try and lose those 4 pounds.