Here are my top 100 Diet and Nutrition Tips. Some are thing you should never eat like fried foods and bagels. Some are my top supplements for a healthy lifestyle like fish oil. Some are things you should add to your diet like spicy foods and sweet potatoes. Some are just general tips for weight maintenance and metabolism like get 8 hours of sleep a night. How many of my top 100 do you currently follow? Let me know in the comments.
For my next few articles I am using guest bloggers. Some will be from the health field and others from different types of fields. I hope to allow a few others
to write about their particular expertise. If anyone has interest in writing for Jerseystrong please contact me with suggestions.
My first guest blogger is Melanie Bowen. Melanie Joined the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance in 2011 as an awareness advocate for natural health and cancer cure initiatives. You will often find her highlighting the great benefits of alternative nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those diagnosed with cancer or other serious illness. Melanie also assists in social media outreach in her efforts to spread awareness. In her spare time, you can find Melanie trying new vegan recipes, on her yoga mat, or spending time with her family.
You Can Still Be Physically Active With Cancer!
Did you know that there is evidence that exercise can have a positive impact on recovery and survival? It does! People with mesothelioma, breast cancer and other types of cancer have reported more energy, a better quality of life, and a better sense of self-worth. People who exercise are more likely to survive longer and heal faster from surgery. If you want to know more about how exercise can help you, here are some tips!
1. Cancer Patients Who Exercise Have Better Outcomes
Sedentary peers simply do not have the same outcomes that people who exercise regularly do. Cancer patients who exercise at least once per week have a better chance to recover than those who don’t exercise at all. When women are using chemotherapy, they can prevent weight gain that is typically associated with the treatment. Obesity contributes to diabetes and heart disease, which can both lead to complications and make it more difficult to recover from cancer.
People who engage in weight-bearing exercise will increase bone density and lose six percent less than people who don’t. This will reduce the likelihood that you will break a bone if you fall from fainting, for example. Cancer patients should ensure that all aspects of their health are at their best to accelerate healing rates.
2. Aerobic Exercise Alleviates Symptoms
Patients undergoing radiation therapy may typically experience anemia, depression, and fatigue. Anemia is a condition that is difficult to balance, too much exercise can cause a patient to pass out and too little exercise can reduce the number of red blood cells produced. Studies by the American Cancer Society concluded that a single exercise session could help patients maintain red blood cell levels.
Participate in exercises like walking, water aerobics, step aerobics, jogging, and swimming to help the body to heal. Keep in mind that weights and stretching are also useful in recovery from cancer. Weight-bearing exercises can rebuild any muscle strength that is lost after surgery. Stretching can help to improve flexibility and range of motion, both important factors in cancer recovery as well.
Incorporate Physical Fitness Into Your Recovery
Don’t forget to incorporate physical fitness into your recovery program. This will help you recover faster from cancer and treatments. Most people find it difficult to exercise initially, but they do have more success as their exercise program progresses. Talk to your doctor today to develop the right plan and get moving!
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.
I love trail running with my dog Wrigley. It is a great alternative to a road run which I do the rest of the year. It is also a great alternative to the gym. A trail run works different muscles than a typical road run. It provides a cross training benefit which can help keep you healthy instead of injury prone during a long running season. When you hit the trails you are probably going to run at a slower pace than you would for a flat road run. I typically run about 8 minutes a mile comfortably on the road. On the trails that number can be anywhere from 10 minutes a mile or slower. But because of the terrain you certainly don’t feel like you are taking it easy. The major difference is your focus. On a road run I can often wear headphones and just kind of zone out. On the trails, you have to keep your eyes on the next step because of the tree roots, rocks, mud, or whatever other terrain can cause you to shift gears. Mentally, you really have to concentrate on a trail run. Sometimes on a downhill part its almost as if you are running put putting on the brakes at the same time. You will have to lead with your heals in short choppy steps in order to prevent sliding down the hill on your backside. If you can you should invest in a pair of trail running sneakers. I use the Brooks Cascadia Cascadia 6. Trail running shoes have a gritty sole that grips when you hit the trails on uncertain surfaces. The bottoms of the shoes are not flat like road running shoes. They also a bit heavier and sturdier than my road running shoes. Just by switching sneakers once a week on a run that provides a great benefit to you feet and lower legs. It will prevent stress fractures and overtraining injuries.
Wrigley is an American Bulldog. They are sensitive to heat because of their pushed in noses. For her, I can’t bring her on a run unless it’s under about 58 degrees. My trail running season usually starts about November 1st. Once snow hits the trails and it is cold enough to stay then I am usually done for the winter because the snow leaves the trails too dangerous and too hard to stay on track. In a typical year I trail run from November 1st until about Christmas. Maybe I will get 8 weeks. This winter has been so mild that I might get an entire season out of it. In North Jersey we haven’t had any snow at all. It’s been amazing for my trail runs. Wrigley is a great running partner because she keeps me motivated. She knows when the weekend is here because we sleep in a little longer. When Saturday and Sunday morning comes and I walk downstairs in my running gear she gets pretty excited. When the hat and the gloves go on then she gets really excited. If I run out of the house without her she gets hysterical. Wrigley had two knee surgeries in 10 months. It is somewhat common for the breed type. So last year she was not cleared to run. After a slow rehab of just walking and then walking on hills she was finally cleared to return to running after about 9 months. It was a half mile at first but this year I have done as much as 7 miles with her. Generally we stay between 3 and 5 miles. When we first started running I used to run her off leash. We never had any problems and she would never run away or anything but I didn’t want to take a chance with her maybe running into another dog or a wild animal. I recently found a leash that the human wears like a belt and it attaches to the dog’s collar with a bungee cord that provides a little stretch. It also has a “fanny pack” that I wear under my shirt. (Don’t worry). The brand name is OllyDog and you can get it at REI. It comes in super handy because I can carry treats for Wrigley which she is thankful and I can carry my phone for which my wife is thankful.
In this area we have quite a few trails options. I love Lewis Morris Park in
Morristown. http://www.morrisparks.net/aspparks/lmmain.asp. It has several trails ranging from short to as much as 7 miles that loop around in circles. If you live in Morris County go to MorrisParks.net. If you are not local to NJ and you happen to have an IPhone. Try this app by Nortface. Trailhead. It can help you find a local trail anywhere by you. So next time you want to go for a run find a trail. It will be a whole new experience and if you have a four legged friend bring her along too. It’s a great bonding experience and it will keep you both physically healthy and mentally sharp.
Where do I begin? 10 years ago I was finished with my athletic career. Due to a torn ligament in my elbow my baseball playing career had ended. I lifted weights but I was no longer competitive. I was really strong but I had poor diet habits. It took nearly 6 years as I continued to gain weight. 4 years ago I was 100 pounds heavier than I was in this picture.
I always tell people that I did not lose weight because of running. I started running because I lost weight. It started with just a mile on the treadmill. Then a year later I signed up for a half marathon in Jersey City. Now three years after I started running I ran my first Marathon.
The weekend started with the long drive down to Baltimore. We hit some miserable traffic and it took close to five hours. I was not too happy picking up my race bib above. The expo was at the convention center. It was pretty cool. There was a ton of running gear which I browsed through. The only thing I actually picked up were a few gu energy gels that came in handy during the race. I had originally planned to carry 4. However, I decided to bring 6 just in case and I am glad I made that last minute switch.
The night before we went to La Scala for a pasta dinner so I could get my carbs in before the race. I started eating more carbs 3 days before the race but this would be my last chance. The meal was very good. We headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep. All I kept thinking of was the Seinfeld episode where the marathoner missed the Olympic trails because his alarm clock malfunctioned. “Was it the Snooze?’ No the am/pm!”
Race morning I woke up at 6 a.m. Alarm worked great (Thank you IPhone) although I am not sure if I really even needed one. I stuck with my plan of not eating before the race. I had a cup of coffee and plenty of water. I followed through just as I had planned it in my mind. I bundled up to face the cold weather and headed down towards Camden Yards. The hotel was just a block away which was perfect. I tried to stay warm. I had a long sleeve tight fitting north face, gloves that came in my gift bag, and a nice winter hat to keep my hands and head warm. I wore my typical Road ID tag and my Nike plus wrist band. I wore under armor shorts and t shirt which I love running in because of their ability to keep dry. I wore my Brooks ghost 4 running shoes.
When the confetti dropped and the gun sounded I started gingerly into my run. as I crossed the starting line I hit the button on my Nike sensor and waved goodbye to my family. I knew Miles 1-4 would be up hill from the elevation charts but to be honest it was a breeze. At that point I was fresh and still energized from the crowd and the race atmosphere. Great, I have to pee really badly. I saw a porta potty but there was a line. This is a race! I am not waiting in line to go to the bathroom. Plus at this point I was recalling what I said to my friends at work. I will not walk. If I walk I might as well stop. They though I should walk through the aid stations or at a few strategic points to conserve energy. I disagreed. Just before the race I read Dolphin Dan’s tweet. “Good luck to JoeLopez55 in the Baltimore Marathon today. #nowalking. I kept that promise at mile 3.5 or so I saw guys and girls using some well positioned trees. I ran off the road and used the trees and ran back onto course. It might have cost me 30 seconds or so but I didn’t walk and I felt much better. As we approached the Maryland zoo I was cruising. There was a downhill section that I felt like I was just flying through. I guess there were animals and stuff but I wasn’t really paying attention. I think I saw a penguin in a cage but I am not too sure. There were plenty of water stations along the route and I had my gu energy gels which I planned to take one every 4 miles. I stuck with water only. I didn’t want to do anything different than on my training runs.
The crowds were great. There were sections of local schools handing out swedish fish and cheering for the runners. There were very few spots where it was quiet. Several people held signs and others stuck their hands out to high five. Even the cops offered their support. Before I knew it was at mile 9 back near the inner harbor and looking for my family. The way the course was set up we decided they could see me at mile 9 and again at mile 13 both near the same location. I had a feeling that I might have missed them AT mile 9 but I kept looking. It was hard because there were big crowds at these points. I ran that first 9 faster than I told them I would. I guess I didn’t anticipate the perfect weather and the quickness that I ran the hills of 1-4.
At Mile 11 we go to the Under Armor Headquarters. It was a non de-script set of brick buildings with a huge sign telling you that you were there. They were promoting their newest running shoe. If we didn’t hit traffic on the way down I was planning on going to the Under Armor Block party where they were giving away free stuff for trying out the sneakers. I wear almost everything else Under Armor but I have always worn Brooks running shoes. There was a guy on the bullhorn encouraging runners and talking about how good we all looked in our Under Armor gear. They also had music blasting throughout the Under Armor Campus. When we made the turn back towards the inner harbor I knew I would see my family at mile 13 because they should have gotten a text when I crossed mile 9 because of the chip tracker I was wearing in my bib. I felt great. The first 13.1 I clocked at 1:56. I saw my family and it was a good feeling to see them along the route. I also got there just in time to see the start of the Half Marathon. This is always a cool site because the Half has a lot more runners than the full. Somewhere near 12,000 runners were starting just as I passed by. The merge was a little slow. Last year I was a half marathoner and I thought it was no problem but I guess seeing it from the other side was a little different. After doing 13 plus miles you don’t want to bob and weave to pass slower moving people but I guess it makes for the atmosphere of the race. From this point on it was definitely a lot more crowded. I did enjoy passing half marathoners at the end of the race and then having them see the words “full” on my back. I know that would bother me if I was running a half.
I was preparing for my 15-21 from the beginning. I ran hill repeats all summer with the Lifetime Running Club. However, I do have to say making miles 15-21 on a marathon all uphill is just cruel. I actually ran these miles quite well keeping my pace. I was determined not to let that hill beat me. However, Mile 22 I just was worn out. I slowed to a 12:38 pace for this Mile. The hill got to me. That one Mile was the only outlier in the entire race. I am still bothered by that one mile. What if I stayed on pace the whole time? In fact here are my splits.
Mile 1: 9:25
Mile 2: 8:25
Mile 3: 9:01
Mile 4: 7:53
Mile 5: 8:26
Mile 6: 8:26
Mile 7: 7:41
Mile 8: 8:25
Mile 9: 9:01
Mile 10: 10:10
Mile 11: 8:25
Mile 12: 8:26
Mile 13: 9:25
Mile 14: 8:25
Mile 15: 8:26
Mile 16: 9:26
Mile 17: 9:26
Mile 18: 8:26
Mile 19: 10:06
Mile 20: 8:25
Mile 21: 9:26
Mile 22: 12:38?????
Mile 23: 10:57
Mile 24: 8:55
Mile 25: 8:25
Mile 26: 9:23
After that it was just few more miles to go. I took two miles to recover and then for the the last 3 miles I returned to my normal pace.
When I saw Camden Yards I knew we were close. In that last stretch you run through the area behind the ballpark between the stands and the warehouse. The sides are filled with people. I heard Ann screaming my name. “You’re doing great! Almost finished.” After that I turned the corner and saw M & T Bank stadium and the finish line. When I crossed I felt so relieved. I bent over and felt my hamstrings tighten up and then I checked my watch. The clock had me at under 4 so I knew I broke 4 hours. To be honest I would have been happy with anything under 4:10. After getting my medal and eating and drinking. I just had to sit down and contemplate what I just did. 26.2 miles. I felt drained a little emotional. I couldn’t wait to see m family but I couldn’t move. I just wanted to sit there and enjoy the sun. When I found Ann and I my family I was still a little shaken but I was so happy. This was one of the best days of my life. They say when you finish your first marathon you have either one of two reactions. Wow, I will never do that again or that was awesome I can’t wait to try it again. I am not ruling out another one. I think this just motivates me to do more. The rest of the weekend we had great meals. I had plenty of drinks and dessert. The next mornings breakfast at Blue Moon Cafe was incredible! I highly recommend the Gingerbread pancakes if you are in Baltimore. The weekend as a whole was a success. I can’t be more proud and I might even take my dog Wrigley on a trail run this weekend to celebrate! Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way. Thanks for all the facebook messages and comments. Of course thanks to my wife Ann who the last few months have been planned around my weekend runs. Baltimore Marathon. Mission accomplished 3:57.04. I still am mad about that one 12:38 mile though!
So for those of you who spoke with or read my blog last week know I was supposed to make my last long run of 21 miles before tapering. However, I melted in the humidity and died out at 17.5. I went to facebook, twitter, and my running friends for advice on whether I should attempt to get 20 or just begin my taper three weeks out like my original plan called for. Every single person I talked said to just forget about and stick with my original plan and start the taper. For someone reasons I just couldn’t imagine showing up on October 15th and attempting to run 8 more miles than I have ever run in my life. Keep in mind this is my first marathon. I have never ran more than 18 miles at a time before. If this was my 3rd marathon I would have tapered. So despite the advice I ran 3 miles earlier in the week and then went out for 21 today. Fortunately it was much cooler today and it actually felt like fall. I ran a blistering pace (for me) of 3 hours and 7 minutes. If I run this pace on Marathon day I will be ecstatic.
The Good. I wore exactly what I plan on wearing for the marathon. Same shirt, shorts, socks, and sneakers. I wanted to see if there were any unforeseen issues. Maybe the socks shift out of place and cause blisters or maybe my shirt is too loose and causes chafing. Luckily, everything felt great. So let’s analyze what I did so hopefully I can recreate it. First of all I the weather. I can’t control what the weather is on October 15th but certainly that was a big factor. 58 degrees with little humidity and partly cloudy vs 83 degrees with 93% humidity. The second is I actually had pasta the night before. It was my mom’s birthday so we went out for dinner. I had penne all vodka with grilled chicken. I have no idea if this played a factor or not but guess what? I plan on having pasta the night before the big day. I also had two beers and an Irish Coffee. Coincidence? Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game of his entire major league Hall of Fame baseball career. Who am I to argue? Third thing is I ate nothing before I ran. I woke up and had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water. Last week I tried t eat and my stomach was not agreeing. I started to cramp up and feel side stitches most o the way. I did take 3 Gu packs with me and had those every 5 miles. They are 100 calories of high carb and sugar which can replenish glycogen stores that are lost on the run. On race day I will probably use 4 of them. I also tried to drink 6 ounces of water every three miles. I have tried gatorade or vitamin water before but again it doesn’t agree with my stomach. Maybe I will switch to gatorade late in the race when I am on the home stretch but I plan on mostly drinking water.
The Bad. I had a pretty bad foot pain. Just under my big toe on my right foot I had an excruciating pain. When I am running on flat ground moving straight ahead I was fine. Any pronation at all because of an uneven surface was really painful. The streets of Morristown are crowded and if I had to side step a person or a garbage can or any lateral movement was really painful. I am hoping it is just a bone bruise from just the wear and tear of 350 miles of road running. If that is the case I am hopeful that the next two weeks of tapering will help heal that up. Worst case scenario I guess is a stress fracture but I am not there yet I don’t think.
The Inspirational: My wife Ann ran her first ever 5k on Saturday. After weeks of training she ran and completed her 5k and even reached her goal time. In fact, when I was debating whether or not I would ever attempt a full marathon she was the one who made me a deal. She said if I ran a marathon she would run a 5k. I created a workout plan for her and she followed it perfectly. Despite having a pretty nasty cough that popped up the week of the race she battled and reached her goal. I am so proud of her and she did an amazing job.
Now its time to taper. All the hard work in mostly done and I feel ready. This coming week I have two runs of 4 miles with speed work and 8 miles with a hill or two. Then I have a massage scheduled on Saturday which I am very much looking forward to. It is a 90 minute “extreme sports massage” at Bliss in Hoboken. Then after that we are in race week. 2 miles flat and 5 miles flat at an easy comfortable pace during the week. I took of work on the Friday before so I can head down to Baltimore and relax. I have to pick up the race packet and my free under armor T shirt at the Health expo. Then I can walk around a little and see what the expo has to offer. Then Friday night I plan on getting some pasta and a good night’s sleep before race day. Hopefully I can finish the race and hopefully the weather cooperates. Stay tuned foe race day updates. Baltimore running festival. October 15th. Here I come.
Tomorrow is the first day for teachers to report to school. I was asked by my department head to give a quick presentation on core training for students. There will be elementary teachers as well as the High School physical education teachers present. Here is what I came up with. I plan on handing this out and doing active demonstrations.
Core Training for physical education classes.
Perhaps you have heard of Core training but are not completely sure what it means. Maybe you heard it in a magazine or you heard it in a gym. Maybe some of your students use the term very loosely.
Before we learn what is “the core” let’s learn what it is not. Core is not a newer term for abs. While your students may use core and abs interchangeably they are not the same thing. The core is made up of a group of muscles that all work together to stabilize your body during movement. They allow for a seamless transition between your upper to lower body. The Core muscles are generally located in the middle of your body and mostly acting on your spine to help brace your body in an upright position. (Think good posture).
These muscles consist of:
Scapula movers ( group of muscles) to a lesser extent.
Hamstrings to a lesser extent
Traditional ab exercises involve the movement and contraction of the abdominal muscles by flexing and extending the lumbar spine to create tension. Think of a good old-fashioned sit up or crunch. While this might develop your “six pack abs” It leaves out most of those other muscles we just mentioned. Also, the lumbar spine is not meant to have a great deal of flexion and extension. This promotes a kyphotic spine position. Unless you want to look like Quasimodo then this is a bad thing.
A good portion of a core training program involves not mobility but stability. The ability of the core muscles to stabilize when gravity, our own movement, or external forces attempt to create imbalances. Think about a defensive lineman in football being blocked. While he is pushing and grabbing with his hands and arms it is really his hips, glutes, and abs which need to brace to prevent being pushed backwards. There is no abdominal contraction but instead a bracing of the transverse abdominal that initiates the athletic movement. In core training resisting force is equally as important as creating it.
How does core training help the non athlete or average person? Well all of those core muscles create a tight brace for you lower back. Think of an old-time corset. A strong core helps with posture which can prevent lower back pain and injuries. It can also help you with balance and coordination. This can come in handy whether you are swinging a golf club or you are doing chores around the house.
Core work for older kids: 7th – 12th grade
Some examples of exercises that work the core without any equipment:
Hands and toes
Forearms and toes
Incline or Decline
1 arm or leg on knees or toes
Single leg w/ isometric hold
Equipment that could be used for station work:
For younger kids: 2nd to 8th grade
Some tips to tell if a child has poor core strength:
1. poor posture in class
2. shifts in seat excessively
3. would rather lie down to watch TV then sit up
4. leans on hands a lot. (head or arms)
5. falls often. (balance issues)
Have kids walk on a line or tape. Heel to toe.. You can increase the difficulty by having them balance a bean bag on their head. You can also make the line curve rather then be straight. For added difficulty you can add more obstacles with instructions while still balancing a bean bag on their head. (Bend over and touch a cone) at certain points on the rope.
Crab walk races:
Chair Leg lifts:
Have students lift both legs and eventually legs and arms and perform a static hold. For added difficulty straighten arms and legs. Concentrate on staying “tall”
Single Leg balance:
Partner planks: 2 person or 4 person
Partner push ups: 2 person or 4 person
Try to engage kids to compete and make games / races wherever possible.
I have officially signed up for my first full marathon. I will be running the Baltimore Under Armor Running Festival full marathon on October 15th. After running the half marathon in Baltimore last year I noticed the losers that were in the line for their free half marathon T- shirt and said then that I needed to kick it up a notch. Just kidding…. (sort of). Actually the real reason that I am running the Baltimore marathon and not something more local is because of the free T-shirt. Being sponsored by Under Armor this race gives you by far the best T-Shirt for a race. I am aware that I can buy an Under Armor T-shirt anywhere and not have to run 26.2 miles but I would do most anything for free apparel. Actually the real reason I am running is simply because it is something I have always wanted to do. Not many people can say they have run a marathon in their lives. I believe it is something like 1% of the world’s population. This post was just to announce that I will be running the marathon in October. However, you can expect more posts to follow discussing my training and my progress. It has already started but I just signed up for the marathon earlier this week. I feel like I am in tremendous shape right now and I feel real strong so far. I do have a few thoughts right off the bat. Number one I ran the Baltimore half in 1 hour and 56 minutes. I am hoping for a 4:07 or better but since it is my first marathon my real goal is just to finish. My other goal is to not slouch off on my strength training while training for the race. In the past while training for races I have had a hard time keeping up with my regular lifting routines. Particular lifting legs. If you read my previous post “King of all exercises” you know that I have started to develop a passion for my lower body routine and I would like to keep that up. I am certainly looking forward to the upcoming months leading up to my first marathon. I will keep you up to date with my routines, successes, and failures leading up to the big day.
I read an article yesterday that discussed more people being obese than ever before. This seems like something we hear all the time in the News. My problem wasn’t the premise of the article. I know that Americans are heavier than ever. I also know that diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are at an all-time high. My problem was the fact that they had a picture of a young boy doing squats. After I read the article I saw that their main point was that the average BMI of Americans has increased by 3 pts in the last 15 years. Fpr those of you who do not know BMI is a formula that basically takes into account height and weight. It does not consider bone density, body-fat percentage, or Vo2 max as health indicators. Let me give you an example of how this can be a faulty way of determining healthy weight. Adrian Peterson, the all-pro running back from the Minnesota Vikings is 6 feet 1 inch and 217 pounds. Which put his BMI at what is considered overweight. He is in fact a small NFL running back. In doing a quick google search I fond that average NFL running back in 5’11 215. This puts the average NFL running back at a BMI that is in the obese category. How many of us would consider and NFL runing back obese? NFL running backs are the prime example of speed , power, and explosiveness. More Americans have gym memberships than at any other time in history. People lift weights which increases muscle size and bone density which can prevent osteoporosis. People don’t smoke or drink nearly as much as they did in the 1960’s and 70’s.
2. Old school coaches
Being a coach I have spoken with a lot of coaches in various sports. I am always amazed that in 2011 I hear them say things like this:
Lifting too much will make players inflexible.
Do you think he gets hurt because he lifts weights
How is lifting going to help him hit a baseball
I don’t want him to be too tight and hurt his performance.
I can go on and on and on. Most older coaches come from a time when some of these things were believed to be true. To date there has never been a study that has concluded that lifting weights decreases flexibility or hinders performance in any way. If lifting weights would hurt baseball players than why did the “steroid era” come with such an explosion of offense. It even came with middle relievers throwing 95 mph. If you look at the game now those guys have dissipated. While they were doing it illegally the point remains the same. Lifting weight can help you in every athletic endeavor. Distance runners lift weights for a kick at the end of a race. That was unheard of many years ago.
One of the biggest events of the year is the NFL combine. I constantly hear people talking about what a waste of time it is. While it is very true that if a player can’t play in the game a coach probably wouldn’t draft him. However, how would you find the diamond in the rough. The guys who played at a lower level school but never got the chance to compete against the best. The combine evens the playing field. Stopwatches become our judges. There is a test for quickness, agility, strength, and explosiveness. If an athlete simply doesn’t measure up then how can he compete on a field. The coaches who don’t like the combine remind of the baseball coaches and scouts who want to rely on their own two eyes even when all the saber-metrics and statisticians disagree.
4. strength and flexibility.
One is not the enemy of the other. The two can go hand in hand. Movement prep is a term used by several strength and conditioning coaches for teaching the athlete to take their body through a full range of motion. Many strength coaches use movement prep instead of an old fashioned stretch to warm the body before competition. Many trainers also use a style of training called functional. Functional training means simply training movements rather than individual muscles. The athlete is coached to move a certain way which is more of a real world type of movement rather than completely isolating a specific muscle such as the bicep by doing a curl.
I wonder when we as trainer’s will stop fighting this battle of mis-information. Many people just don’t get it but there is a science to it. The science is there but it is also ever changing as new studies are done. If human’s are evolving then we need to change with the times. Being a member of the NSCA I get access to the largest database of studies regarding physical activity in the country. The NSCA is the National Strength and Conditioning Association. It is the official and only fitness trainer certification used by Major League Baseball. One of the great tools I have found for being healthy and training properly is Twitter. There are so many people and organizations that promote fitness on Twitter. Try following some of them and find the ones you like. I promise they will inspire you and give you credible information that you can use in your everyday life. Some of my favorite are MensHealth, Runners World, Erik Cressey, and of course myself. JoeLopez55@twitter.com. So in conclusion, our ever changing bodies need to be trained to adapt to modern times. But most importantly our mindsets need to change. And stop using BMI!
The single best athletic activity that athletes can do is yoga. Athletes put their bodies through grueling tough stress on a daily basis. Often they are doing the same movements over and over again. Imagine a baseball player who swings from the right hand side. He can develop an imbalance in his obliques, hip flexors, and lateral rotators of the hip. The largest and most often used of these is gluteus maximus. Sticking with the baseball theme, have you ever noticed that baseball players only run in one direction? Tightness in the hips can lead to not being able to change directions as quickly. A tight hipped athlete is a slow athlete. When you study any sport you will find areas where overuse injuries hinder athletic performance.
Yoga can also be used as part of a strength program. Especially for the older athlete who has spent many years developing their base with lifting weights. There is only so many times you can keep increasing the weights before something has to give. Take a look at my last post, “Mr. Universe doesn’t have a Jump shot”, to find out how I feel about single joint exercises and athletic performance. Anyone who has held a warrior 1 or a chair pose for a minute can tell you how tough yoga can be on your legs for muscular endurance and strength. One of the NBA greats Kareem Abdul Jabaar started doing yoga way before it was trendy in the 1970’s. He only played NBA basketball at 7 Feet tall until he was 42 years old. He ended his career as the NBA’s all time leading scorer. Another more current NBA player is also a big fan of yoga for his workouts. Baron Davis of the Clippers is also a big fan of yoga. In 2007 Men’s Health magazine voted him as having the best body in professional sports. He has started kind of a trend among other NBA players by bringing in his personal coach Kent Katich to help his teammates understand the benefits.
A lot of times when someone brings up yoga the immediate response is not good. Men overall and athletes tend to think of yoga as not being too manly. Kent Katich has countered this with blaring hip hop music during his yoga sessions with the NBA’s Clippers. He also doesn’t refer to poses as their traditional yoga names such as fish pose and Crow pose. He instead just told the players how to place their bodies in the positions. Bend forward and touch your toes sounds better than swan dive to professional athletes.
Another person I am a big fan of is Mark Vergesten of Core Performance powered by Athletic Performance in Arizona. Mark is the director of player performance for the NFL player’s association. He has helped countless athletes get combine ready at his facility. His website has a section called Movement Prep. If you look at all of the videos you would realize they are all yoga poses. Taking your body through it’s full and natural range of motion will help stretch and lengthen tight tight areas that are in need of a makeover. Movement prep shows your body how it should be able to move. Most often for people who have never done it they quickly realize that their bodies don’t move that way. Competitive athletes should wonder why and try to fix these postural alignments. Once again for whatever reason the word yoga can bring about fear and hatred at the same time. Movement prep sounds more scientific. Athletes don’t have a problem doing movement prep.
A lot of people work out constantly. What makes some of them elite athletes and others just a step slower to react in athletic situations? Posture may be a key factor. Your body was designed a certain way. Throughout our lives this posture breaks down over time. Every day life can lead to a hunched and rounded upper body. It also can lead to a pelvis tilt which can be caused by tight hamstrings and can lead to lower back pain. In the time I have been sitting here typing this article I am hunched forward with my shoulders rounded toward the computer and an unnatural curve in my lower back. Many people spend their lives at desks writing or typing on a computer. Imagine what this does to our bodies. People who drive for a living and spend hours in a car often have short and tight hip flexors. This inhibits the ability of the glutes to fire properly which can stretch the lower back to a point of chronic pain. Athletes break down their bodies even more by their performance but everyday people also have postural issues as well. If you have pain in your lower back or you have limited movement in your shoulders behind your head you need to try yoga. Most elite athletes have their shoulders drawn back and a nice natural S curve in the spine. This represents a balanced athlete whose body is in it’s natural state and ready to perform. Our ancestors were hunters. They needed to run to get food to feed their families. When we bring our bodies back to that of our natural ancestors we can best perform. Yoga is something that every person should try and especially athletes should do on a regular basis.