A Glimpse of What I do

When I tell people that I do mobile personal training and group training, I often get responses like, “What do you do with your clients, P90X, Zumba?”  I’ve never done Zumba, and never do I plan to.  P90X, I don’t know anybody that actually completed the whole program, I think those DVDs are collecting more dust than burning calories. I also get questions like, “Do you just have like 5 lb dumbbells and some bands?” Whether they are kidding or not, I think it’s important that I make it clear what I actually do with my clients.

What I do is integrative fitness programs. We do core work, strength work, conditioning, mobility work, and explosiveness.  Each client’s program is personalized to their goals, needs, and abilities. “Computer guy” and an “athlete/meathead” will have different needs based on posture. A dad in his 30s who plays recreational men’s hockey will have different goals from a retired mom in her 60s. I’ve trained people to get ready for the police academy and state trooper school, high school athletics, recreational athletes, and of course the average Joe and Jane for losing body fat and gaining lean muscle.  Here is a glimpse of some of my favorite exercises I do with my clients (and myself).  Don’t mind my training space; I work out in my unfinished basement. Someday it will look better and be my man cave…

Sandbag Hang Clean

DB Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS)

3 Point DB Row

2 DB Single Leg RDL

Single Arm DB Bench

Ab Wheel Roll Out

Battle Ropes

So as you can see, I can do exercises that you would do at a gym, in the convenience of your own home.  You can progress to heavier and heavier weights, my dumbbells go up to 18 times heavier than 5 lbs.  On a RFESS, that could be 180lbs, on one leg.  That would be about equivalent to a 360lb back squat (another topic called the bilateral deficit).

Recap: Complete Shoulder and Hip Training Workshop

A few weekends ago, I went to a workshop in St. Louis that was put on by Dean Somerset and Tony Gentilcore.  Now I don’t expect you to know who they are unless you are in the fitness industry, but they are each kind of a big deal. Tony is cofounder of Cressey Sports Performance in Boston, MA. They are a big deal in the baseball community, training several professionals in the MLB.  Who better to learn about the shoulder from than people who train elite pitchers?  Dean is based out of Edmonton Canada, and is a great resource for hips and core. We spent a whole day on the shoulders with Tony, then another day on hips with Dean.  Here are a few take home points that will change what I am doing with my clients:

  1. I learned how to better assess someone’s shoulders and hips. These assessments alone can help dictate program design.
  2. Breathing drills are not hokey. I witnessed with my own eyes how you could get more mobility or range of motion in someone’s shoulders or hips without even stretching. Breathing can help reset your posture and activate your core.  I’ve tried this with a few clients that have shoulder pain, and it made it better!
  3. I got great information on how to program design for the “computer guy” vs. “meathead”. There are variables to consider for exercise selection based on their different postures.
  4. I learned how to better coach clients through lots of different exercises. I learned that external cues are more effective than internal cues. For example, to get your spine positioned correctly before doing a squat, I used to say tilt your pelvis posteriorly (nobody know what that means unless they have my background).  Using a cue like “bring your belt buckle towards your chin” is more effective.
  5. Not everyone should or could squat “a$$ to grass”. Not everyone has the same hips, structurally speaking, and therefore stretching will not get them deeper into a squat because bone is hitting bone.  If it’s not a structure problem why someone can’t squat deep, then it’s a motor control problem, which is probably core related.

I felt like I drank from a fire hydrant all weekend, but it was totally worth it.  I took great notes and have been studying them so that I can put all that knowledge into application.  I’m looking forward to all the benefits my clients will get from what I learned.

Changes to Make in Your Diet

Many people are all or nothing when it comes to working out or eating better.  Research shows that this type of behavior usually doesn’t lead to long term results.  Instead, you should focus on making changes slowly, so that they become habits and not just a temporary fix. If you view these changes as temporary, the weight will come back. Try making one of these changes and mastering it for a week or two. Then make another change. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you are in it for the long haul, not just a couple weeks.

    1. Add vegetables at every meal. Vegetables are full of fiber which helps digestion and keeps you feeling full on few calories per serving.  They also pack a lot of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals you need.
    2. Avoid added sugar or refined carbohydrates (soda, white bread, pasta, etc.) Eating excess carbohydrates leads to imbalances in your hormones such as insulin which leads to fat storage, preventing you from utilizing the fat already stored in your body for energy.
    3. Eat lean protein at every meal. Protein helps you recover from workouts and build lean muscle. It also helps you feel fuller, longer. When restricting calories trying to lose weight, it helps you maintain your muscle mass, so that you lose more weight from fat and not muscle.  Having more muscle mass keeps your resting metabolic rate higher, increasing your overall metabolism.  You should strive to eat 1 gram per pound of body weight every day.
    4. Drink more water.  You should drink half of your body weight in ounces per day.  Example, if you weigh 200 lbs, you should drink 100 oz of water per day. If you are more active or are outside in the heat, you may need more. Hydration helps with many bodily functions, afteral your body is about 60% water.
    5. Limit alcohol to 2-3 drinks a week.  Alcohol disrupts sleep and adds empty calories into our diet.
    6. Eat fish 1 to 2 times a week. Adding more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet decreases inflammation in your body.  Also, there are studies that show fish oil helps turn on genes that promote your body to metabolize fat.
    7. Spice up your food with spices instead of high calorie sauces.  This will decrease your calorie consumption while still giving you flavor.
    8. Add a protein supplement, fish oil, and a multivitamin into your diet.  If you don’t get enough protein, regularly eat fish, or eat enough vegetables and fruit, this is your insurance policy.
    9. Eat frequent, smaller meals.  Eating more regularly helps you avoid cravings where you might grab the most convenient foods, most of which are unhealthy.

Meal Planning

Many people will ask me about what I eat (naturally because I am the fitness professional), so I wanted to share what I’m eating this week and strategies that I use so I am successful.

  1. Make time in your schedule so that you make food in bulk for several days, so that healthy food is ready ahead of time and you avoid the drive-thru.
  2. Use seasonings rather than heavy sauces on your food to add taste, this saves on the calories.
  3. Modify your favorite recipes to make them healthier, such as substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream. Just look around the web and you can find ways to make healthier recipes from people more savvy in the kitchen than myself.
  4. Utilize a crock pot so that you prep a meal in the morning, and you will have a fresh, home cooked meal ready when you get home at the end of the day.
  5. Have snacks that are readily available, like nuts, veggies with a dip (plain greek yogurt with ranch or dill seasoning or humus), Lara Bars, Kind Bars, cottage cheese etc. (low carb snacks)
  6. Drink lots of water, you may just be thirsty instead of hungry.
  7. Don’t go the grocery store hungry, you’ll buy food that’s not good for you.
  8. Keep poor food choices out of sight, instead keep good snacks where you can see them.
  9. You have to treat eating right like a chore or a job, it takes planning and preparation.

Breakfast: (I make every morning)

  • Breakfast Sandwich
    • 1 Ezekiel bread English muffin toasted
    • 1 slice of Low-Fat Swiss Cheese
    • 3-4 slices of lean deli ham
    • 1 whole egg
  • Clementine
  • Coffee
  • Water

Snack: Veggies and Dip (makes several snacks)

  • Dill Dip
    • Natural plain Greek yogurt
    • Packet of dill seasoning mixed into yogurt
  • Cut veggies
    • Assorted bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sugar snap peas
  • Water

Lunch: Mini Meat Loafs with Green Beans and Mashed Sweet Potatoes (makes several meals)

  • Mini Meat Loafs
    • 2 lbs lean ground meat of your choice (sirloin, turkey breast, chicken)
    • 10oz frozen chopped spinach thawed
    • 1 onion finely chopped and sautéed
    • 1 8oz mushrooms finely chopped and sautéed
    • 10 baby carrots finely chopped
    • 4 whole eggs beaten
    • 1/3 cup coconut flour
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 2 tsp pepper
    • 2 tsp onion powder
    • 1 tsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • ¼ tsp nutmeg
    • Combine all ingredients and mix by hand in a large bowl
    • Portion out into 2 muffin pans (18 total) and bake at 375 F for 30 min
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
    • Peel and chop 5 sweet potatoes and boil in a pot until soft
    • Drain them and then mash in a bowl until you get the consistency you want
    • Add butter and cinnamon to taste
  • Green Beans
    • Take a bag of frozen green beans and microwave it in a microwave safe dish according the instructions on the bag
  • Water

Protein Shake: (post workout)

  • 6-8oz unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein isolate

Dinner: Spanish Chicken on a bed of Quinoa (makes several meals)

  • Spanish Chicken:
    • Spray the inside of a crockpot with coconut oil
    • Combine
      • 5 lbs cubed chicken breast
      • 1 lb Italian Chicken or Turkey Sausage
      • 1 red bell pepper chopped
      • 1 onion chopped
      • 1 small can of low sodium tomato paste
      • 2 small cans of diced tomatoes with green chilies
      • 1 10-14oz jar of artichoke hearts (drained)
      • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
      • 1 tsp oregano
      • 2 cloves of garlic minced
      • Sliced olives (optional)
    • Cook on low for 6-8 hrs
  • Cook a whole box of quinoa in a rice cooker or according to the stovetop directions
  • Water

Tips From the Trainer

  1.        Making changes in your diet does not happen overnight.  You need to educate yourself and put it into practice.  The more you do it, the easier it will get and it will become a habit.  If you have been eating poorly for a long time, breaking those habits can be hard, after all it has been proven that sugar is addicting as it excites the same areas of the brain that drugs like cocaine do.
  2.        Allow yourself to have a couple cheat meals a week.  You’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to eat perfect every day for a long time.  The key is moderation and not overeating.
  3.        Make eating right convenient.  One of the biggest reasons people eat poorly is that usually poor food choices are easier or faster, all you do is poor it out of a box or tear the wrapper off of it.  When you have more time in your schedule, cook healthy meals ahead of time so that they are ready to warm-up when you are hungry.  Make healthy snacks, like a homemade trail mix with almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries, and coconut flakes.
  4.        Make being active a habit.  Exercise needs to become like brushing your teeth, you just do it.  Even if you only have 30 minutes, you can still get in a great workout that will raise your metabolism.
  5.        Drink lots of water.  Proper hydration will keep you more focused, help prevent soft tissue injuries, and it helps digestion and other bodily processes.  Maybe instead of grabbing that 500-700 calorie coffee drink, you were tired because you were dehydrated?
  6.        If you find yourself grazing in the pantry or fridge, ask yourself first if you want to eat because you are bored, or if you are actually hungry.
  7.        Last but not least, set a goal! Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed if you have a lot of weight to lose. Start with a small goal, like lose 5 lbs in one month to build your confidence and get the momentum rolling.

What Exactly Is the Core?

When people talk about the core, they often think of just your abdominals.  It is not that simple.  The muscles of the core can be divided into three categories, the local stabilization system, global stabilization system, and movement system.

The local stabilization system is made up of muscles that attach directly to the spine.  They work together to achieve stability between vertebrae or segments of your trunk.  An example would be the transverse abdominus.

The global stabilization system is made of muscles that attach the spine to the pelvis. They work together to help transfer loads from upper extremities to lower extremities and provide stability between the pelvis and spine. An example of a muscle in this category is the external and internal obliques.

The movement system is made up of muscles that attach your extremities to your spine and or pelvis.  They are responsible for producing force during dynamic activities.  A muscle in this group is latissimus dorsi, or lats for short.

All three of these systems of muscles must work together to achieve stabilization.  When we refer to stabilization, we are talking about your body’s ability to distribute weight, absorb force, and transfer force efficiently.  In other words, all movements stem from the core and any inefficiency in these muscles lead to poor balance, force production, and increase your risk of injury.  The best way to train the core is with movement patterns.  Machines at the gym may be great for improving strength in isolated muscles, but they don’t load the core as well as movement based exercise.  Machines neglect to train how we move in everyday life.


rk, Micheal, Scott Lucett, and Donald T. Kirkendall. NASM’s Essentials of Sports Performance Training. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010. Print.

Spaghetti Squash

I don’t often tell my clients with weight loss goals to eat pasta, it tips the balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats way off.  You won’t like what it does to the scale the next day either.  This is a recipe that replaces spaghetti with spaghetti squash, a vegetable and good source of carbohydrates.  It takes up the taste of the sauce, so you won’t even know the difference!

Cut a spaghetti squash in half, length wise.  Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven on 350 for 45 minutes.  If it’s a smaller squash, you may only need 30 minutes. While that is baking, brown 2 lbs of ground turkey breast, adding Italian seasoning to taste. Once the turkey is fully cooked, add 2 cans of pasta sauce.  You can find sauce that has no added sugar or HFCS (high fructose corn syrup); I use the Full Circle brand at Schnuck’s in the St. Louis area. When the spaghetti squash is done baking, remove it from the oven and use a fork to pull it apart. The strands look just like spaghetti.  If you want softer spaghetti, you can sauté the squash in a pan to soften it up, otherwise it will be a little al dente.

Shopping List:

–          2 lbs of ground turkey breast

–          Italian Seasoning

–          2 Jars of Pasta Sauce

–          1 Large Spaghetti Squash

Add a green veggie or salad and you have a complete meal.

Gluten Free: Is it necessary?

A very popular trend in nutrition right now is going gluten free. First of all, I will explain what it is. Gluten is a protein in wheat and other related grains like barley and rye. There are known diseases and conditions that should avoid it such as celiac disease or people with known gluten sensitivity. Other conditions that should try to avoid it are people with ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid.  You should see a gastroenterologist if you have any of these problems.

There are many alternatives to products with gluten, although there is a glaring problem with most of them.  The glycemic index of many gluten free products is often higher than that of products with gluten.  Glycemic index is a rating of how fast after a carbohydrate is ingested that it will raise your blood sugar, ultimately causing spikes in your insulin secretion and promoting fat storage in an oversimplified explanation.

Diets high in any carbohydrates lead to weight gain for the majority of us, moderation is the key.  Some athletes in competition season may require more carbohydrates in their diets, but not if trying to cut weight in the off-season.  Your choice of carbohydrates is important to losing weight, and you should get most of them them from vegetables and fruits and some whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, Ezekiel bread and steel cut oats that are low on the glycemic index. The moral of the story: a gluten free cookie is still a cookie, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy and you can eat as many as you want.

Supplements: Things You Should Consider First

If you are considering taking a supplement to enhance your training, lose weight, or for health benefits, there are some factors you should take into consideration.

  1. There are supplement labels and there a food labels.  In order for something to get a food label, it has to be approved by the FDA. Most supplements have a supplement label and regulations are very loose.  The claims that the manufacturer makes are not regulated by the FDA so they can pretty much say whatever they want to say. However, within the supplement world, there are a few organizations that will put their stamp on a product certifying that what is on the label is actually in it, and that it doesn’t contain anything harmful such as steroids. A couple stamps you should look for are NSF (NSF International) and USP (U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention). Another label out there is GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) which ensures that the product meets certain manufacturing standards.  You’re going to pay a little more for USP and NSF labeled products, but at least you have some assurance of what you are getting.
  2. Many supplements have no known recommended daily allowances for human consumption.  In other words, it isn’t known how much you should take or what level of consumption could be harmful.  Just recently, the FDA asked supplement makers to stop using DMAA in products because there have been 86 illnesses or deaths associated with it.
  3. Do your research.  Take supplements that have studies done with humans that actually back up what they claim. A great example is Juice Plus+.  It has university research studies done showing that it actually helps improve many aspects of health, and it has a food label instead of a supplement label since it is made from fruits and veggies. It also has the NSF stamp on the bottle. Other supplements that have research behind them are Omega-3 Fish Oil supplements and Whey Protein or Whey Protein Isolate.
  4. Be wary of products that claim to be a magic pill. None of those supplements you hear about on the radio have research done specifically with them or have the USP or NSF label.  Nothing beats a good diet plan when it comes to losing weight anyway.

Chocolate Coffee Protein Shake

Protein shakes can be used as a meal replacement, especially for breakfast when we don’t have much time, or as a post work out shake (remember, drink within 45 minutes of finishing your work out). Sometimes I get bored of drinking the same protein shake all the time, so I like to mix it up a little bit here and there. I came up with this recipe:20140110_161659

  • 1 Scoop/Serving of Chocolate Protein Powder
  • 1 Packet of Instant Coffee
  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 4-5 Ice Cubes
  • 1 Spoonful of peanut butter (optional)

Blend in a Magic Bullet or your blender and enjoy!