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Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

Mike Tyson once said this and believe it or not it makes a lot of sense. A reporter asked him about the fighter who he just knocked out and his reported game-plan to keep Tyson from getting inside so he could use his famous uppercut. As a runner training for a race you try to make a plan but over the course of training you have to expect to get punched in the face a time or two. I am following a workout I downloaded from runnersworld’s smart coach. They ask for a previous race time, how hard do you want to train, and when you want to do your long runs. Then they spit out a program for you. Actually I should say I am sort of following the runnersworld program. At Lifetime fitness in Florham Park they have a running club. I decided to give it a try way back in June. So I have been joining the running club twice a week and then doing the long sunday run that runnersworld gives me. I plan to do this until I have to go back to work. Although the run club meets at 6 a.m. it is still not early enough for when I go back to work as a teacher. I feel that isn’t really a problem because by then my runs will be much longer and it would be tough to run 3 times a week with a run of 12 miles or more on the weekend. The running club has been great for a number of reasons. First of all with the summer heat it is nice to get going at 6 a.m. This is something I would never do on my own. Also, in the past I have never really done anything other than run for distance. The run club has been incorporating a track sprint workout as well as hill repeats into my repertoire. It is definitely motivating and humbling to run with others twice a week.
This past week’s workout looked something like this:
Monday: Chest and triceps
Tuesday: 7 miles including:
2 200’s
2 400’s
2 800’s
2 1200’s
Abs
Wednesday: Back and Biceps
Thursday: 6 miles with 7 Hill repeats of about 1 minute each
Legs and Shoulders
Friday: Spin class
Saturday Rest day
Sunday: 9 miles easy pace
Like I said this is my general plan for the rest of the summer until I can no longer attend the run club during the week. Then I plan on downgrading my runs to twice a week to accommodate the longer runs to prepare for the marathon. I did get a minor blister on my toe that I was worried about on Sunday night. I took care of it and took every precaution I could. I was able to do the run club this morning. I was worried that this was going to be my first punch in the face but I was able to slip this one. So far the legs feel sore but overall I am pretty positive. No knockout blows just yet and I am on track for October 15th!

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King of all exercises.

The dead-lift is the ultimate exercise for total body development. For years I avoided the dead-lift like it was the plague. I would do legs maybe once a week if I was in the mood. When I did lift my legs it was usually leg extensions, curls, calf raises, and if I was feeling crazy I would occasionally do squats. I think most people who lift weights on a regular basis probably feel the same way. In fact, a lot of my clients when asked to perform dead-lifts would rather go for a nice easy 8 mile run. The complete newbies who have never seen a dead-lift before think to themselves, “will this hurt my back.”
I recently began coming back to the dead-lift because I had a change in my mindset. I had always thought of the dead-lift as a knee dominant exercise that targeted the quads. As soon as I mentally made the switch and figured out that it was a hip dominant exercise that focused on the glutes I was hooked. The basis of all athletic movement is the glutes. Your glutes have to fire to push off while sprinting or to drive a golf ball 250 yards. The gutes are part of the “core” that everyone talks about. The core is not just your abs but your entire midsection, front and backside. All of the muscles that act on the spine to provide a basis for movement. When I was dead-lifting years ago I wasn’t doing them incorrectly. I just didn’t quite know how to complete the exercise. On the top of a well executed dead-lift you should squeeze your gutes. This is one of the keys that helps protect the lower back.
Another thing I have been doing recently is wearing my vibram five finger shoes on my leg days. The barefoot feel really gives the dead-lift an added dimension. Instead of your sneakers you can really feel your feet pushing into the ground evenly and forcefully. This recruits more muscle fibers and allows you to strengthen all of the muscles along your entire backside. The dead-lift doesn’t just work your glutes. It incorporates your fascia throughout your lower back which helps your entire back side feel like one unit. When you are in the top position you even use your scapula to pull down and engage the rotator cuff muscles and the lats.
Pound for pound there is no exercise that incorporates as many muscle fibers as the dead-lift. The more muscle fibers that are recruited to work the more energy your body will need. The dead-lift is great for people who want to add muscle and lose body fat. All athletes need to incorporate the dead-lift into their routine. However, it is not just an exercise for athletes. Any person who is interested in physical fitness and their appearance could greatly benefit from dead-lifting more frequently.

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.

Some people just don’t get it

1. BMI
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.

3. Combines.
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.

5. Conclusion
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!

How I became a runner. (sort of)

Beginning running is very hard. I always tell people that I am not a runner. I just pretend to be one. I am a firm believer that runners are born and not necessarily made. I lost 85 pounds and then I started running. Because I run a lot now people assume that I did that by running. In fact, I was never much of a runner. In High School I played three sports but why would I run if I wasn’t going after a ball or trying to score? I am now convinced that runners run because of their bodies, they don’t get their bodies because they run. An elite male runner is maybe 150 pounds at the most. I am still around 200 pounds depending on the day. I have wide shoulders and I lift weights a lot. For me to get down to that weight would be very hard. I have run two half marathon’s and am contemplating running a full this year.
When I first decided to try running I remember having trouble completing two miles. This was after I lost 85 pounds. I was a 12 letter varsity athlete in High School. I played college baseball. It took me 3 months of running once a week to get my calves not to severely cramp up. I needed some motivation. Men’s Health Magazine is one of my favorites. If you follow my twitter twitter.com/JoeLopez55 you know that I often retweet posts from Men’s Health. At the time I saw an event called the Urbanathalon. It was a ten mile race with obstacles such as cabs, building stairs, and even rope climbs. I was pumped for this event. It was a perfect combination of strength and running. It sounded a lot cooler than just running a marathon. Not knowing a lot of about these events I decided not to sign up until I was sure I could complete the event and not embarrass myself. A funny thing happened along the way. I got pretty good at running. I was following a 3 day a week training program which I did my long runs on the weekends. About two months before the event I was up to about 6 miles so I decided to sign up for the event. I logged online and saw that the race was sold out. I had no idea that there was a maximum number of people for the event. All my work didn’t go to waste. I found a half marathon in Jersey City one week after the original date for the Urbanathalon. I signed up immediately for the Newport half marathon and two months later in a steady rain I completed my first ever race in 2 hours 3 minutes and 54 seconds. A half marathon for those of you who don’t know is 13.1 miles. It was a lot of fun with a good crowd. The finish line had lots of free giveaways with food and drinks for the runners. I was hooked. Some races have themes and people wear costumes. Some races have bands along the way and free beer which is always a good thing. Some have whole weekends dedicated to the event. You can explore new cities and give yourself an excuse to get out of town for the weekend. The dinner the night of the race is always the best. After Baltimore my wife and I went to a Spanish Tapas restaurant and the Sangria was flowing. On top of me being a fitness fanatic I am also a bit of a foodie. Although I painstakingly watch my diet I like to indulge on a nice dinner on a special occasion. Finishing a race is always a special occasion. Signing up for a race even if it is a one miler or a 5k can give you the motivation you need to get started. Find a race near you by going to Runnersworld.com or Active.com. While I still don’t consider myself a runner, I like competing against myself. I like going for a nice long run on a beautiful spring day. How often do you get time to yourself? Nothing to do but focus on your breathing and get in the rhythm of your own thoughts. If you have tried running in the past and have failed try again. Remember my first try at it. Months and Months of sore calves and hurting feet. Go one step at a time. Take it slow. I would start with just one run a week. Your body will tell you what you need. I promise if you give it a shot you can learn to love it like I do. As you get better and your confidence grows you will begin to realize that the journey to the race is what makes you stronger. The race itself is just time to have fun and relax. So find a race near you and sign up. Maybe I will see you at my next race. Maybe I can finally do that urbanathalon.

Fage Fage Fage

Not sure what this is?  Well first of all it’s pronounced Fa -Yay.  It’s an incredible Greek yogurt that you can most likely find in your grocery store.  It has turned into my go to snack.  It has a rich and creamy texture to it.  Although it comes it many flavors I  choose the plain 0%. You will save about 40 calories per serving compared to the 2%.  They also have flavors but why not add in fresh natural toppings of your own.  I have mixed in honey, sugar free jelly, and fresh fruit such as blueberries and raspberries.  Really whatever you feel like is a good idea.  You can get a large container but I recommend the individual ones. They are 6 ounces.   It is a predetermined amount for your snack.  This eliminates mindless snacking.  This way you know exactly how much you are going to eat.  That is a good tip for snacking in general.  For example, don’t eat out of a large container.  Instead take out your pre-planned amount and put it into a smaller serving bowl.  You will be less likely to go back when the bag has already been put away.  The individual size Fage  0% plain has 90 calories.  It also packs a full 15 grams of protein to only 7 grams of sugar.  The protein will help you feel fuller longer.  Add in a tablespoon of organic honey and about 10 blueberries and you are looking at 150 calories.  Not bad for a night time snack.

How to keep a Food Diary (most of the time)

One of the best ways I have kept my weight off is to keep a food diary. There are a ton of websites that help you keep track of your diet. The one that I use is called FatSecret. It can be found online at http://www.FatSecret.com. It also has an app for blackberry which I use whenever I eat out. When I first lost weight.  I didn’t count calories. I used to listen to others who would meticulously discuss calories and weight watchers points. I would wonder why would you go through the trouble. It seemed like such a hassle. I basically just focused on portion control and trying to limit sugars and carbohydrates. If you ask anyone who has ever lost weight they will say the hardest thing is keeping it off. The world is filled with people who have continuously lost and gained weight many times over.  The yo-yo dieters as the media calls them.

One of my biggest secrets was FatSecret. I like the site because it has chain restaurants such as Dunkin Donuts where I often stop for my coffee and an egg sandwich. It also has popular supermarket brands that are easily search able. Of course, if you cook at home you can add individual ingredients. The site lets you create a profile and then based on your activity level it spits out a recommended caloric intake. You can choose whether you want to maintain, gain, or lose weight. As if anyone over the age of 25 wants to gain weight, it still has this feature if you want it. Then as you enter your food it can break them into proteins, carbs, fats, or whatever else that you want to track.

When you are working out your body needs carbs for fuel. When dieting I try to eat as few carbs as possible, especially unrefined carbs such as bread and pasta. There are good carbs however. Obviously fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health. In order to build muscle you should try to eat one gram of protein per two pounds of body weight. For a 200 pound man like myself I try to consume 100 grams of protein daily. I still try to limit sugar filled foods by saving desserts for special occasions only.

No matter which website you use, keeping track of your diet on a site such as FatSecret can and will help you make informed decisions about your diet.