Coming Back from Injury

Everyone at some point will experience some type of injury. It happens. If you don’t, you are probably living like bubble boy. download

So I wanted to share something that happened 5 weeks ago. I had a little spill while mountain biking, I mean I wasn’t even doing something that cool. I dismounted from my bike after I realized I wasn’t going to make it up a rock ledge. I landed awkwardly and injured my knee. I had all sorts of thoughts racing through my head, like: my wife is going to kill me, how am I going to work, and am I going to make it back to the car without a being carried out by EMS? With a lot of help from my friends, I made it to my car and drove myself to urgent care.

Fast-forward after a couple appointments and a MRI, I just had a non-displaced fracture in my tibia at the knee and my ligaments and meniscus were fine! The happiest I’ve ever been to break a bone.  I could walk short distances, but not do any squats or lunges or ballistic movements. So my favorite activities like biking, golf, and hiking were out for the time being.

While I was down, but not completely out, I had to focus on what I could still do instead of what I could not. I still had an upper body, left leg, and core to strength train.

For my lower body, I just did things like single leg squats (in the video above), and single leg stiff-leg deadlifts with my left leg only. Studies show that there is some cross benefit to the affected limb when training only the non-affected side. I stayed consistent with this for the last 5 weeks. I felt better (duh!) when I worked out, and it helped keep my mind right as I patiently waited to get cleared by the doctor.

With my nutrition, I had to be a little more careful. I was no longer mountain biking 2-3 days per week, so I had to cut back on how much I was eating. When you are used to burning 500-1000 kcal per ride, you get a little more wiggle room in your diet. I’ll be honest, on occasion I eat pizza and ice cream, and drink beer (maybe not all at the same time, but I am a real person). When I wanted ice cream, I went for lower calorie options like Greek yogurt with blueberries and some dark chocolate sea salt granola I found at the store.

It was hard to not get bored or impatient with my down time healing. I had to keep a positive attitude and remind myself that this will pass and I’ll be good to go soon enough. I know myself and if I don’t eat right or exercise, I am not always pleasant to be around, so I had to keep going instead of feeling sorry for myself.

Sleep was another big thing I focused more on. I didn’t nail it all the time (I like to stay up and watch the birds on the bat if the game is close), but I know better and that my body needs enough sleep to work better and to heal. I have a bedtime alarm and tried to not blow it off so that I got about 7 hours of sleep instead of 6.

Once I was cleared to return back to full activity, it was hard not to dive in head first and start where I left off. I had 5 weeks of not doing anything with my right leg besides some hip work with bands and walking (around the house and while working). It doesn’t take long for muscle to atrophy. My right thigh at the mid-thigh measurement is 1/2″ smaller than my left now (and my goal is not weight loss).

I started mountain biking again, and my aerobic endurance took a hit. I was gassed faster than normal keeping up with the fast guys in my riding group.

My first weight training session since I was cleared was tough. Before I got hurt, I was doing rear foot elevated split squats with 70 lb dumbbells for sets of 8 reps. Now I am doing regular split squats with 30 lbs in each hand  for sets of 10 and my right quad burned like crazy!

Just a side note about detraining (quitting exercise), the effects are dependent on your age, fitness level, how long you have been exercising, and the type of exercise you do. If you are a higher level exerciser and have been at it for a long time, you will bounce back more quickly than a novice exerciser. Novice exercisers may lose all of their gains with a couple months off. Aerobic fitness tends to take a bigger hit than strength too.

So for now, I have to just keep going, and gradually get back to where I was. It won’t happen overnight, I have to keep consistent with the process and not lose sight of where I want to be. I’m very grateful that I didn’t end up in a worse situation! I know I’ll be back to 100% strength in no time and crushing personal bests on mountain bike trails soon enough.

So to sum up that ramble, if you face some downtime due to injury or illness, focus on these things:

  • Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t.
  • Keep a positive attitude, it could always be worse.
  • Adjust what you need to (i.e. food intake).
  • Stick to what is in your control (sleep, which is part of recovery).
  • Keep your expectations realistic, you will need to slowly build back up when you’re ready.

Here’s a little humor for you, my friends had a moment of silence for my knee a few weeks later where it happened. I have great friends!IMG_52311



Sabotaging Yourself

Do you ever get in a great workout, sweat your butt off, and then you tell yourself that you burned a bunch of calories so you deserve that Ben and Jerry’s ice cream??? Maybe before that, you had a burger and fries too? I guarantee you just ate more calories than you burned. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes we set out with great intentions, we exercise and eat right, but make poor decisions that get in our way towards progress.

The other day, I went for mountain bike ride on a trail I had never ridden before in St. James, MO. It was a very rugged, 17 miles in the Missouri summer heat and humidity. I sweated so much that I could wring out my shorts at the end of the ride! You would think I burned a gazillion calories and that I could eat whatever I wanted.

The truth is, looking at the data from my ride, I only burned 741 calories (this is from my


heart rate monitor, synced with my GPS), that was with 2.5 hours of riding.  So 2.5 hours of intense mountain biking only burned 75% of that pint of Ben and Jerry’s…

So my point is, don’t get into this mindset that if you workout, you deserve to eat whatever you want. You can usually find a way in your head to justify eating anything you want. You simply cannot out-train a bad diet. It always breaks down to calories in vs. calories out.

If you are looking to improve your body composition, you must practice habits and skills that lead to solid nutritional habits. That’s not to say you can never have ice cream again, all or nothing never works, but that’s a whole different subject.

Getting Back on Track

This past weekend, I traveled down to Bentonville, AR for a guys weekend of mountain biking.

I cut lose from my normal diet (gasp), and I’m ok with it! When we weren’t riding bikes, I ate pizza and a side salad at the Pedaler’s Pub, ice cream at the Walmart Museum (yes, there’s a museum dedicated to the history of Walmart, with an old school soda fountain at the end of it), fried catfish tacos at Flying Fish, BBQ at Sassy’s, and few beers and a free whiskey in there (the bartender poured too many for another group).

That might be a little far off from my normal diet, but not one time did I feel overly full where I regretted it. In fact, I encourage you to do the same (although if your vacation isn’t as active as mine, you might want to tone it down a notch or two).  Did I eat crappy breakfasts before riding, no. My snacks were all Cliff Bars on the trail too. So I wasn’t completely off the deep end. You can still practice solid habits of eating slowly, and stopping at 80% full. Even when you go on vacation, you can still enjoy yourself and have a healthy lifestyle.

So how did Monday go? It went great! I had healthy options planned out and ready to eat. I got back on track and even got in a lifting session.

My final thought: have fun on vacation, but don’t let the fun derail all of your progress. Get the train back moving as soon as you can!

Lift Weights and Lose Fat!?!

I often get resistance, pun intended, when I talk about resistance training (also known as weight training) for losing fat. There are a lot of people that believe you should only do cardio to lose fat. That simply is not true. I am going to summarize a few studies that have been published over the years to prove my point.

Here’s a little background first. As people age, generally they lose muscle mass, lose strength, increase fat mass, and their overall metabolism slows down. This is mostly due to being less active than when they were younger. Resistance training can slow this process down or keep you feeling younger, much longer.


Ryan, A. S., Pratley, R. E., Elahi, D., & Goldberg, A. P. (1995). Resistive training increases fat-free mass and maintains RMR despite weight loss in postmenopausal women. Journal of Applied Physiology,79(3), 818-823. doi:10.1152/jappl.1995.79.3.818

In this study, the subject group was healthy, untrained, postmenopausal women. They were divided into resistance training (RT) alone and resistance training with weight loss (RTWL) groups. After 16 weeks of resistance training, both groups increased fat free mass (muscle), increased strength, and an increase in resting metabolic rate (RMR). The RTWL group that had also saw a decrease in fat mass and body fat percentage. The conclusion was that resistance training is a valuable component to weight management in postmenopausal women.


Treuth, M. S., Ryan, A. S., Pratley, R. E., Rubin, M. A., Miller, J. P., Nicklas, B. J., . . . Hurley, B. F. (1994). Effects of strength training on total and regional body composition in older men. Journal of Applied Physiology,77(2), 614-620. doi:10.1152/jappl.1994.77.2.614

This study looked at 16 weeks of resistance training with healthy, untrained older men (60+). The men were divided into 2 groups: a control group that did nothing, and a group that did resistance training. The RT group saw decreases in fat mass, increases in muscle mass, and increases in strength.


Demling, R. H., & Desanti, L. (2000). Effect of a Hypocaloric Diet, Increased Protein Intake and Resistance Training on Lean Mass Gains and Fat Mass Loss in Overweight Police Officers. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism,44(1), 21-29. doi:10.1159/000012817

Another study looking at police officers, divided them into 3 groups:

  • 12 weeks RT, hypocaloric diet (80% of needs)
  • 12 weeks RT, hypocaloric diet + high protein using casein protein supplement
  • 12 weeks RT, hypocaloric diet + high protein using why protein supplement

All 3 groups lost fat mass. The 2 groups with high protein diets were the only ones to see increases in strength and lean mass (muscle mass gain). This would suggest that strength training while restricting calorie intake will preserve the muscle mass you have, but you will not see any gains in strength or lean mass. If you increase your protein intake while restricting calories, you can still gain muscle, lose fat, and increase strength.


My 2 cents:

In order to be successful at changing your body, you need to change your diet and do resistance training. You must increase your protein intake either through the foods you eat or supplementing.

Notice how none of these studies mentioned cardio? Yeah, you don’t have to go for a run to look and feel better. In fact, doing cardio for hours may negate any progress in attempts to gain muscle and strength. Look at long distance runners, they have some muscle, but they are very thin and lightweight. Their training primarily focuses on type 1 (slow twitch) muscles. These muscles don’t get very big, they don’t produce as much force but are more resistant to fatigue. Long duration, moderate intensity cardio can burn more calories per workout, but does not burn more calories after the workout is over.

Resistance training trains your type 2 (fast twitch) muscles. These muscles produce more force and are capable of getting bigger in size compared to type 1.  This will increase your resting metabolic rate, giving you more wiggle room in your diet and sets you up for better long term success. Resistance training also causes small trauma to your muscles, and your body has to spend calories while you rest to repair and grow bigger muscles. You can do cardio that trains your type 2 muscle fibers, that would fall under interval training. Interval training raises your metabolism for hours after you are done, depending on how intense it was. Click here for more info on that.

Some sports would fall under interval training: soccer, football, mountain biking (climb up the hill, bomb down the hill), basketball, lacrosse, hockey. You can also do it by alternating intense work, followed by periods of moderate to light work on an exercise bike, treadmill, or rower for example.

Snyder, Ka, Je Donnelly, Dj Jabobsen, G. Hertner, and Jm Jakicic. “The Effects of Long-term, Moderate Intensity, Intermittent Exercise on Aerobic Capacity, Body Composition, Blood Lipids, Insulin and Glucose in Overweight Females.” International Journal of Obesity 21.12 (1997): 1180-189. Print.

In this study, moderately obese women were instructed to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio for 5 days per week, for 32 weeks. The group data at the end of 32 WEEKS showed no statistically significant changes for aerobic capacity, body composition, weight, insulin, glucose, or lipid profile. Wouldn’t you be frustrated if you committed to do something for 32 weeks and it didn’t work for losing body fat? I would be pretty bummed. In the above mentioned resistance training studies, statistically significant improvements were seen in body fat, lean mass, and strength in half the time.

Irving, Brian A., Christopher K. Davis, David W. Brock, Judy Y. Weltman, Damon Swift, Eugene J. Barrett, Glenn A. Gaesser, and Arthur Weltman. “Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 40.11 (2008): 1863-872. Print.

In this study, middle-aged, obese women with metabolic syndrome were divided into 3 groups: a control group that maintained their current physical activity levels, a low intensity exercise group, and a high intensity exercise group. There was no diet intervention. After 16 weeks, only the high intensity group had statistically significant changes in abdominal subcutaneous (under the skin) fat and visceral (around the internal organs) fat.

So basically, if you want to transform your body, do resistance training, interval training, and change your diet.



How to Train Around Low Back Pain

I see a client as our session is about to start, they tell me they drove 500 miles in the last 2 days while working their sales job and that their low back is stiff. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that. If you have low back pain, you’re definitely not alone. It’s estimated that 80% of the population will experience low back pain at some point. There are loads of statistics about LBP, you can read them here at the ACA’s (American Chiropractic Association) website.

Now what do you do if you are experiencing LBP? That answer depends and should be determined by a doctor or chiropractor, but for the occasional minor LBP, you can usually train around the pain as long as there isn’t something major going on. In my 10 years of experience training people, I’ve found 3 exercises that people usually can do without any discomfort at all while experiencing minor low back pain.

***Of course I am not suggesting this as treatment for any injury, and if you have a hunch that you have something not so minor going on, use common sense and get it checked out!***

  1.  Bird Dog

The setup starts with your knees and hands. Your hands should be shoulder width apart, directly under your shoulders. Your knees should be hip width apart, and directly under your hips. Reach with your arm and opposite leg, as if reaching for opposite walls of the room. Don’t try to go high with your arm or leg, the goal is to minimize any shift from a neutral spine. Another mistake I see is people will just hang on their shoulder that is connected to the ground, make sure to push up through that shoulder. Try holding each rep for 5 seconds. Do 5 reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.


2. Modified Side Plank

The setup for this one starts with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Your bottom knee should be bent to 90 degrees, then you will execute the exercise by pressing into the ground, holding firm at the shoulder. Don’t just hang on your shoulder. The rest of your body should be a straight line from your ears, shoulders, hips, and knees. Try holding for 15 seconds. If you can do 30 seconds or more, try a side plank from the feet instead of with a knee down. You should feel every muscle along your side from your shoulder to your hip. If you want to take it a step further, take a big inhale, then try exhaling for 10 seconds.


3. Glute Bridge

The general setup is to lay on your back with your knees bent. Then brace your core / draw-in your belly button without changing the shape of your low back, and press your hips up as high as you can without hyperextending from the low back. You want full range of motion from just hip extension. There is some variation to this one for some people to feel it right. You may try moving your feel closer to your hips, further from your hips, wide stance, or narrow stance, some people feel it better if they pull their toes up and only push with their heels. Everyone’s hips are not the same, so you might have to experiment. The key is GLUTE bridge. If you don’t feel it in your glutes, you’re doing it wrong. Try holding each rep for 5 seconds at the top, try 5-10 reps.


Try these out, let me know what you think!

Grilled Chicken Tenders

Who doesn’t love a good chicken tender??? Although they are a good source of protein, they come with extra calories because they are fried in oil. Not so good for your waistline. If you are open to a healthier alternative, keep reading.

What you’ll need:

  • small bowl
  • fork
  • dinner plate
  • 1-2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins
  • 2 eggs
  •  “George Foremang Grill” or knockoff
  • Italian breadcrumbs


Plug in your grill to heat it up. While it’s heating, take a fork and whip 2 eggs in the small bowl. Spread a layer of bread crumbs on a plate. Dip your tenderloins in the eggs, then roll on the bread crumbs to evenly coat. Do this to all of your chicken. Place 4-5 tenderloins on your grill at a time. Cook until they aren’t pink in the middle. Make as many as you want. You can cook a big batch and eat the leftovers later. To reheat without being soggy, preheat your oven to 350, then place the chicken tenders on a baking sheet lined with foil (nobody likes to do dishes). Bake for 10 minutes and you’re good to go!


Pumpkin Pie Super Shake

With the arrival of the fall weather, pumpkin flavored everything is now available. There was a time when I liked pumpkin spice lattes, until I learned more about nutrition… and that they could be 700 calories.  On top of that, I noticed that when I had them, I would get an upset stomach. So now avoid them. You ever notice certain foods just don’t get along with you, but you like them anyway? That’s another topic, but to get my pumpkin fix other than pumpkin pie or beer, here is a recipe I made this morning in the form of a super shake.

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree – not pumpkin pie mix (1 fist)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/8 cup walnuts (1 thumb)
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein of your choice (I suggest one that has at least 20g of protein per serving and not much sugar or fat)
  • 1/2 banana (cupped hand)
  • pumpkin pie spice to taste
  • 4-6 ice cubes

I use the fist, cupped hand, and thumb in reference to the hand method for portion control. You can learn more about that here:

Take all ingredients in a magic bullet type blender, turn it on. Once it’s smoothly blended, enjoy!


Estimated nutrition facts:

371 calories, 15g fat, 29g protein, 30g carbohydrate (15g sugar)

So as you can see, this has calories equivalent to a small meal, so this is not a “free” meal in your daily routine. Think of this as a meal replacement. This is great if you want something different for breakfast or if you’re crunched for time.

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the Precision Nutrition “super shake” template. I followed that template to make this shake. You can find that here:

If you are interested in more nutrition knowledge, I now offer nutrition coaching. I am Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified.


No Effort Is Too Small

We often get in a mindset that if we can’t do it perfectly, then why do it at all? Nothing could be further from the truth. Pretty much doing ANYTHING is better than nothing when it comes to getting more fit, losing fat, getting stronger, etc.

Let’s use the example of my lunch time walk with my wife and dog today. Using a Garmin vivofit (basically a fancy pedometer), at the start of my walk I had 3,258 steps for the day and burned 1179 calories (resting metabolic rate + activities for the day so far). At the end of the 35 minute walk, I had a total of 6,421 steps and 1,347 calories. So that walk added 3,163 steps and 168 calories to my day.

If all I did was walk 35 minutes a day at a leisurely pace, I would lose a pound every 20 days. That would be 18.25 lbs a year! That’s no small number. Now those numbers would be different for you unless you’re a 210 lb dude, but I think you get the picture.

The moral of the story is tell the perfectionist in your head to be quiet and just do something.




Deadlifts…. Everyone can do them.

When people hear the name “deadlift”, they have one of two reactions: you either get excited like me, or you are intimidated because you think it means that you are going to do this:

Eddie Hall is a beast, Eddie also has trouble putting on his own shoes. I watched a documentary on him. His wife seemed to be a good sport about helping him with it.

Now if you have the second reaction (intimidated), don’t be. You don’t have to do them for a world record. Deadlifts are great for everyone. I often find that people with a bad knee that can’t squat without pain, can deadlift. When taught how to get into proper position, breathe correctly, and engage your core, I’ve had success with getting people with low back pain to deadlift (assuming they don’t have something serious going on). They can be done with Kettlebells, Barbells, and Trap Bars; there is a way that everyone can do them.

The deadlift is categorized as a hip hinge movement. It places the load on your hamstrings and glutes. There isn’t much change in the angle of your knee compared to a squat. After learning correct deadlift form and doing it for weeks, I’ve even seen women in their 60s with bad knees transition into squats, and then split squats. Strong hips help your knees from caving inward, providing better alignment of your knee with your foot when you squat or lunge. Working the hamstrings gives better balance of your muscles around your knee, making it more stable, and those cranky knees might just feel better (assuming no major underlying orthopedic condition like a shredded up meniscus).

How do you start? The kettlebell deadlift. It places the load directly under your center of gravity (good for those with low back pain), they don’t have to be very heavy (although there are very large Kettlebells), and they are the same height off the ground as a barbell. You can do the “normal version” where you bend your knees some, or the Romanian Deadlift (RDL) aka Stiff-Legged Deadlift with this.

Another variation:

With a barbell, you can also do the traditional deadlift.

But not everyone will have the same hip mobility to do so. If you cannot achieve a neutral spine at the bottom position, you may be better suited for one of these alternatives.

Semi-Sumo Deadlift. Placing your feet out wider, just a foot width each way might just be the trick (you have to move your grip to inside your stance). Some people can achieve more hip flexion out a little wider due to the orientation of their hip socket on their pelvis.

If you still have a hard time, I have had success with taller individuals using the trap bar, if you flip the bar so the grips are high, you can get more leverage because you don’t have to bend down as low. I’ve also had success with this for those with back pain for the leverage reason and because they can get the load through their center of gravity because they step inside the bar.

Did I mention that deadlifts can make you really strong???







Got Time for Breakfast???

The answer is, you do. Everyone can find 10 more minutes.

I often hear from clients that it’s hard to make a balanced breakfast in the morning. I just wanted to prove that it doesn’t take much time, and can taste really good too! Here is one of my go to meals in the morning.

Poached eggs, whole grain toast with butter and honey, and berries.


First step, oil your pan with canola oil or olive oil. Turn on the heat!


Crack some eggs. Remember the hand method, one palm-sized serving for women (~2 eggs), 2 palm-sized servings for men (~4 eggs)


Cover the eggs after you add whatever you want to them i.e. hot sauce or pepper. While you do this, put your bread in the toaster. The hand method for carbs is one cupped handful for women, 2 for men. I figure that 1 slice of bread is a 1 serving. This is just a starting point, obviously don’t overeat if you’re too full with 1 slice.


Once your eggs are cooked, toast is done (with a little butter and honey), add some berries (1 fist), and you’re done!

Oh, and by the way, it only took me 8:55 to make it all including heating up my pan. So my point is, everyone can squeeze in 10 extra minutes to make a good breakfast. No excuses, this was done at 5am!