Blog Archives

5 Reasons I Like Training Guys Better Than Girls:

Guys are not afraid to “bulk up” With female athletes there is often a selling job that I have to give. “Lifting heavy weights will not make you bulky. In fact, if you are stronger you will become faster and leaner.” Even after explaining that there is a lot of give and take with female athletes. Guys generally don’t have a problem being told to get to the squat rack and lift heavy.

Guys usually have at least attempted to lift before coming to me. Even if their form is not great or they have no clue how to write a workout program if someone comes to me that has already been training for some time it makes my job easier. At that point we just need to tweak a few things and make some minor adjustments.

More guys think they have a chance at playing in college or professionally. Even though the percentages are stacked against them guys often grow up dreaming of playing basketball at Duke or playing football for the Giants. If they have that in them they also have it in them to work for it and do what is necessary.

Guys can survive on less.If I have a male client and all we have to work with is a giant rock, a large tire, and dirty kettlebell in a non air-conditioned hot and sweaty gym they generally will be fine with it. As long as they get results and there are no girls around.

 Guys have the pure ability to throw around bigger weights.Sometimes it’s just fun to lift big weights. Enough said

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Trail Running

photo by Ann Lopez

photo by Ann Lopez

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.

photo by Ann Lopez

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.

photo by Ann Lopez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

photo by Ann Lopez

Why certifications matter

There are a lot of options out there for people who want to bring their fitness to the next level.  There are personal trainers, strength coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, and even speed coaches.  One of the things about all of these options that a lot of people don’t know is there are literally hundreds of certifications that will give these coaches their license to train you.  Most of these certifications require you to do nothing more than pay a fee and they will send you a take home test with the text book.  Once you pass the easiest test in the world you are a certified personal trainer.  I would say that most personal trainers at one time had a certification.  However, most of them are not current.  They expire from year to year so if a trainer doesn’t want renew by taking continuing education credits then the certification will expire.  Why does that matter to you?  Well the fitness industry is always changing.  There is new science and research all the time which should change the way a trainer approaches his or her clients.  If a trainer is not staying current with their certification then they are probably using out of date procedures and potentially putting your health at risk.  Or at the very least putting your progress at risk.

The first thing you should do when you sign up with a trainer is to ask the gym do they require their trainers to be certified.  A little known dirty little secret in the fitness world is most “trainers” have no such type of current certification.  A gym who employs trainers should pay for their continuing education credits or at the very least check annually.  It is kind of don’t ask don’t tell because the gym owners don’t want to pay the extra money and neither do a lot of trainers.  The general public has no idea what the “good” personal trainer certifications are versus the “bad” ones.  So in most trainers’ eyes why should they be certified.  I wouldn’t even take the trainer’s word for it.  I would actually ask to see the sheet of paper that says they are certified.  If you are paying good money you want every reassurance that your money is being spent on a quality professional who is dedicated to the study of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and the exercise sciences.

Now that you know about the dirty little secret that is rampant in the fitness industry you should be aware of which certifications to look for.  These certifications are strenuous in nature and the exams are taken across the country at independent sites without the use of any study aids.  Some of them have a prerequisite of a Bachelor or Science in a health science related field.  Basically you need four years of undergraduate education to even take the test.

1.  NSCA  The National Strength and Conditioning Association has two distinctions.  CSCS for training  athletes and the NSCA – CPT for training the general population.

2.  ACE  American Council on Exercise.

3.  ACSM.  American Academy of Sports Medicine.

4.  NASM.  National Academy of Sports Medicine.

5.  CI  Cooper Institute.

Keep in mind even if your trainer says that they are certified in one of these categories, don’t hesitate to ask them to see the certification card.  While it is impressive that they at one point passed these test and became certified they still should be staying up to date with their research.

Major League baseball recently mandated that all of their minor league strength coaches be certified CSCS and RSCC.  No doubt this is to attempt to eliminate some of the shady characters who lurked around their clubhouses during the “steroid era.”  Most of the Universities have full time strength and conditioning coaches for their athletic programs.  The CSCS distinction is one of the largest governing bodies to certify these coaches.  If a coach has two years working with and designing programs for athletic teams then he or she can earn the distinction of RSCC.  There are also separate distinctions for ten years of staying current in that distinction and twenty.  The trickle down effect has brought strength and conditioning to the High School level.  During these years it is probably even more important to have a quality certified trainer working with these kids.  Unfortunately, many High Schools just have a weight room supervisor or a member of the coaching staff supervising.  If you suspect this is the case then you might be better off finding a facility near you that specializes in athletic performance.  These facilities have popped up all throughout the country.  Just make sure you ask to see that certification before signing up.

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Baltimore Marathon

Number 2126.

25,000 runners came to Baltimore to compete in the Under Armor Running Festival.

My wife Ann and I pose for a picture neat the starting line.

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

Finish: 3:57.04

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!

Ann wishes me luck as I leave for my spot in the masses.

After the race I wore my medal proud.

2011 Baltimore Under Armor Marathon

This is the free Under Armor long sleeve shirt given to all marathon runners.

Ann, Krissy, and I talking about the day's events.

MLB and steroids. (why I know fans don’t care)

I am a baseball fan. I love the Yankees. I play fantasy baseball. I even played in college. I couldn’t get enough of Derek Jeter and his 3000th hit. This is a guy who played in the “steroid era.” He played in a time where it seems like every team had a .340 hitter with 40 HR’s. If you look at baseball now that seems crazy. Numbers are way down from where they were in Jeter’s prime. This only makes me respect what he did even more. While in this day and age you can never be certain, I assume that Derek was never a steroid guy. He went about his business getting his 200 hits every year while playing a demanding shortstop position. He never tried to be something he was not. He played the game with humility because he knew that this time would come. He no longer is a .300 hitter. Not even close really. He plays a good shortstop but not a great one. He hits into more double plays than he used to but it’s not because he doesn’t run every ball out. He runs hard and keeps his head down as if he was a rookie trying to make the club. Years from now I am not sure how fans will perceive Mr. Jeter. Perhaps they will look at other guys who played in his era and just see them as the better ballplayers. Guys like Manny Ramirez who while supremely talented cheated the game for what it was worth and made millions doing it.
The average fan does not care about steroids. The average fan just wants to be entertained. Who cares what these guys do to their bodies.
I know someone who works as a personal trainer. He was convicted for selling steroids. His name was dragged through the mud in the local papers. Yet he remains as busy as ever. Clients line up to receive his services. It’s shocking to me but that just reinforces the idea that people will take any shortcut necessary. The average fan doesn’t care about steroids. While this trainer remains as busy as ever. I can only continue to keep my head down and run out every ball as if trying to make the club. Maybe one day I will get my 3000th hit.
The steroid era may be over but the effects are still there. People want instant and unrealistic results. There is no secret to a better body. It is just a little hard work and a lot of patience. Over time if you know you put in the work then you can be self satisfied at the results. Knowing who you are and not trying to be something you are not is very rewarding. The goal for every person in fitness should be to become the best version of themselves. Maybe the average fan doesn’t appreciate Derek Jeter but I do. Over the next few seasons as the NY fans and media talk about him making big money with little results remember that we will never see a lesser version of Derek. He is always giving is his best self. If everyone lived their lives in a similar fashion then the world would be a better place.

The Biggest Loser

The Biggest Loser has been one of the best television shows for close to five years now. I have to admit that I am a fan of the show. I have watched it from the beginning. To see people lose literally hundreds of pounds in the few months they have can be inspiring. However, it is important to know a few behind the scene items about the show. Number one keep in mind that the contestants don’t have to get up and go to work. They are able to spend as much as 6 hours a day working out. I don’t know about you but that isn’t possible in my day to day life. Many of the contestants have put some weight on after they have left the show simply because they cannot keep up that workout pace. I have a lot of respect for the trainers on the show. I follow Bob Harper and Jillian on Twitter. I like both of their individual styles. However, if I had access to my clients for six hours at time I could get a lot done as well.
The second thing about the show is the unrealistic diet restrictions. On one of the episodes a few weeks ago they had a dry erase board with the contestants menu for the day written on it. It listed them as consuming 1300 calories for the day. This is an extremely low amount. My belief is that a person who is moderately active can lose weight with taking in as much 2000 calories a day. While this method may not bring about 15 pound weight loss weeks it is a more possible long term solution. I just feel like at 1300 calories eventually this will lead to a major breakdown. The body needs food to help the metabolism stay active. Smaller and more frequent meals will help achieve this goal. A general rule of thumb is two pounds per week is a good pace except for extreme cases. Keep track of your diet on a web site like www.fatsecret.com.
One of the most important things you can do if you are just getting started on the weight loss path is find a local trainer. Yes The “celebrity” trainers who charge upwards of 500 dollars an hour sounds great and they have impressive resumes. However, at the end of the day most trainer’s have the same set of tools at their disposal. Just make sure that they have up to date certifications and you can get a reference. Any good trainer will be able get you going in the right direction. If you have never stepped foot in a gym and just need a little guidance I would highly recommend that you find a trainer. After a few months you can cut down on your sessions with the trainer and use your new found knowledge on your own. A good trainer should not only take you through a workout but give you the tools to eventually succeed on your own. Hopefully one day you can become the Biggest Loser.

Mr. Universe doesn’t have a jump shot

Ever wonder why bodybuilders are never known for being great athletes? It’s because there is a difference in lifting for maximum definition and training for functional fitness. Sometimes athletes get so obsessed with their bodies looking good in the mirror they forget that rarely in sports and in life do muscles fire singularly. Not only do our muscles often work in groups but there is a thin layer of connective tissue called fascia. If you have ever cut into a piece of chicken just beneath the skin you may have seen this fascia. Until recently most scientists thought it was just another layer of gook that really served no major purpose when it comes to human performance and movement. In fact this connective tissue is interwoven throughout every major muscle in your body. It also helps connect each individual muscle fiber into bundles. It helps connect tendon to bone and bone to muscle. In fact the fascia is made of the same material as your skin and skeleton. It is just a different structure. Think ice to water. A study in 2008 found that the tissue even had conductive properties. When a trainer talks about muscles “firing” this fascia allows that to happen. This stuff almost wraps our bodies into one unit. Thus the reasons our bodies work as a unit instead of as individual muscles designed to flex and extend. Our bodies instead have what trainers refer to as a kinetic chain. For example, when a runner is having IT Band issues weak glutes are often the culprit. The glutes or in many runners cases the prirformis is a muscle running diagonally in the hip to but region. When this gets tight from running it can effect the IT Band and cause pain there. When the IT Band becomes inflamed the knee can start to hurt. So, if our bodies break down and feel pain as an overall unit then shouldn’t we train our bodies as an overall unit? Our bodies don’t recognize muscles, they recognize movement. Find a trainer who specializes in functional training and movement prep. Other than myself of course, I am a big fan of Core Performance. It is a website dedicated to athletic movement. It’s founder Mark Verstegen trains countless professional athletes for their sports and for combines and professional workouts. I would recommend the section called Movement Prep. It is a modern day version of stretching. A type of warmup that is designed to wake up the body’s fascia and release the tensions built up by the sport itself. If you are new to this I would recommend finding a trainer to help you execute these properly.

Hello world!

This is my new health and fitness blog. I hope you enjoy it and can learn something from it.  I want to share my experiences with you.  Let me be the test dummy and you can reap the benefits.