Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Training Update: 4 months in!

"God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. He trains my hands for battle; he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow." - Psalm 18:32-34

Things have been going well with my training for the last several months. I've been using the WS4SB Strength and Speed template for the past 16 weeks as mentioned in a previous blog post.

This particular template has worked well for me since I play Ultimate Frisbee on Sundays. I've become faster and stronger, and it has become much more noticeable during the last four or five weeks.

I recently changed the way I set up my Max-Effort lifts beginning on Week 14 when I started using the 5/3/1 Method by Jim Wendler in his Three Days A Week manual. Previously, I was working up to several heavy sets of 3-5 reps. But I felt that I needed to change it up after 12 weeks. I'm still following the same Strength and Speed template, but I am now using the 5/3/1 Method for the bench and squat on my Max-Effort days to help increase my strength in those lifts.

All my other assistance and supplemental exercises have stayed the same. After next week's deload week, I am going to try another slight variation to my training in addition to the 5/3/1 Method. After I complete my Max-Effort lift, I'm going to follow it with 5 sets of 10 reps with 50% of my max for benches or squats (depending on the training day). This is from the "Boring But Big" template in Jim's manual.

After doing that, I'll go into my regular accessory lifts. This may sound confusing, but when you see how it's laid out, it will make sense.

My overall template will look like this for my second phase (second month) of 5/3/1 with the new variation (5x10) as a part of the WS4SB Strength and Speed template:

Monday - Max-Effort Upper Body
1) Bench Press 5/3/1
2) Bench press 5 x 10 @ 50% of my 1RM
3A) Rowing movement 3 x 8-12
3B) Rear delt movement 3 x 8-12
4) Shrugging movement 3 x 8-12
5A) Biceps 3 x 8-12
5B) Triceps Pushdown variations 3 x 15-25

Abs and/or Finisher

Tuesday - Speed/Conditioning
I've used speed and conditioning workouts from WS4SB 2 & 3 and also my own workouts similar to those and, most recently, the P90X Plyometrics workout.

Wednesday - Off (mid-week bible study at church)

Thursday - Max-Effort Lower Body
1) Back Squat 5/3/1
2) Back Squat 5 x 10 @ 50% of 1RM
3) Unilateral Quad movement 2-3 x 8-12
4) Hip movement 3 x 8-12
5) Glute Ham Raises 3-4 x 3-8
6) Abs

Finisher - Prowler pushes (most often)

Friday - Repetition-Effort Upper Body
1) Dumbbell presses or pushup variations 3 x max reps or 3-4 x 12-15
2A) Vertical pulling 3-4 x 6-12
2B) Rear delts 3-4 x 8-12
3) Side delts 3 x 8-12
4A) Biceps 3 x 8-12
4B) Triceps Extensions 3 x 10-15

Abs and/or Finisher

Saturday - Off

Sunday - Ultimate Frisbee!

That's how it's all laid out. The schedule offers me some flexibility within the week as well. Whenever I need to adjust one of my training days, I'm able to do so. Also, I have my max-effort lower body workout scheduled several days after I play Ultimate Frisbee in order to give my legs time to recover.

If needed (and I've had to do it a few times), I can adjust when I perform my Tuesday (Speed/Conditioning) workout, my Thursday (ME Lower Body) workout and even my Friday (RE Upper) workout.

For example, this week because of Thanksgiving, I'm performing my week as follows:

Monday - ME Upper
Tuesday - Speed/Conditioning
Wednesday - ME Lower
Thursday - Cardio/Conditioning in the AM (Turkey eating in the PM!)
Friday - RE Upper
Saturday - Off (Gators vs. FSU - I might be going to the game)
Sunday - Ultimate Frisbee

I've also done my Friday workout on Saturdays when needed (but I don't like doing that because there isn't enough rest between Saturday and Monday's ME Upper Body Workout).

So there is plenty of adjustability when I need it. If you have any questions, just let me know!

Monday, November 24, 2008

12 Days of Fitness - Free Fitness Gifts!

"Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both." - Ecclesiastes 11:6

I know that I haven't posted on my blog since last month when I reported my trip to the hospital. Since that time, I have been swamped and have hardly found a free moment to post on my blog.

I do apologize to anyone following my blog on a regular basis, and I will begin posting more frequently very soon as I have some ideas and things I want to share.

In the meantime, I have something that is absolutely free and may help you with your health and fitness goals.

Take a moment to check out the site 12 Days of Fitness. More than 200 of the world's leading fitness experts are GIVING AWAY diet plans, workouts, videos, audios and reports about practically every aspect of getting and staying in great shape.

Since it's all free, I thought you might like to check it out at 12 Days of Fitness. Be sure to get your name on the list to take advantage of all these free tips!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Trip to the Hospital!

"O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health." - Psalm 30:2

I apologize for not posting more frequently on my blog lately. I've found myself extremely busy with work and under a lot of stress with all the things going on in my life on a daily basis. In fact, the stress from the past month finally caught up to me recently.

Beginning around September 20, I began to notice that I was having an irregular heartbeat that felt like a skipped beat or extra beat. I didn't think anything of it because I have had this happen every now and then, but it was never consistent. However, over the course of the next several weeks, I noticed that it was happening more frequently.

As of this past Friday, the irregular heartbeats began happening throughout the day and that evening. It was becoming more intense to the point that I could feel a tightening of my chest with each irregular beat as well as a feeling of shortness of breath. I began to wonder what was causing it, but I figured it would go away in time.

Unfortunately, as the weekend went on, it increased in frequency and intensity to the point that almost every heartbeat was an irregular beat on Sunday. That evening, I finally told Stacey that I was having some issues with my heart but that I wasn't too concerned about it and would make an appointment with my primary doctor to have it checked out. However, I awoke at 3am in a pool of sweat with my heart beating much harder and more frequently than before. I was beginning to worry, so I awakened Stacey and said, "I think we need to go to the Emergency Room."

We arrived shortly before 4am and I was admitted to the ER where they performed an EKG, took a chest X-ray, listened to my heart, monitored my heartbeat and other vitals and drew some blood. I have no risk factors for heart issues since I don't drink or smoke, I don't use drugs, I'm not overweight or diabetic, I don't use caffeine, I'm very fit and in shape and have no history of heart problems.

The doctor said I was having premature ventricular complexes (PVCs). PVCs are extra electrical impulses arising from one of the cardiac ventricles, usually the left ventricle causing an irregular heartbeat or "skipped beat." Many people have PVCs, however, they rarely notice them or they don't happen often enough to warrant any concern. In my case, I was able to feel them, and they were happening so often that I thought I was having serious heart problems.

After all the testing, they said that I was in perfect health (which I would have thought!). My blood pressure was great throughout the testing, my resting heart rate was perfect (in the 40's), all my blood work came back favorable, my chest X-ray was clear, my EKG was normal (except for the PVCs), and I passed the Stress Test with flying colors.

The cardiologist explained that stress was the cause of the PVCs as I had no other health or risks that would indicate any problems with my heart. I have to admit that I have been under a tremendous amount of stress with work during the last few weeks in addition to many everyday stresses (good and bad). These PVCs began right around the time my stress began to increase at work.

Upon returning home from the hospital on Monday, I relaxed for most of the afternoon and took a nap. I wanted to workout, as that is one way I de-stress each day. It took a little while to get myself motivated and ready to go (without using caffeine as a pick-me-up), but once I began to warm-up, I felt good and had a great workout.

My goal now is to find ways to help de-stress and not worry about so many things with work and life. I work at an advertising agency, and there are many stressful days from deadlines, client requests, etc. So I just need to find other ways to deal with those stressors in addition to other stress from finances, daily responsibilities, finding time for various pursuits, etc.

Besides my weekly workouts (which are a great way to deal with stress), I have set aside some personal time each evening for bible study and prayer. I have found that this greatly calms me and helps ease my stress. I will also need to readjust the way I approach stress in my life so I don't have more instances of PVCs in the future.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Weight Issues Can Affect Performance in Children!

"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." - Proverbs 22:6

A study published in the July issue of the journal Obesity found that overweight kids are at-risk for a host of health complications, including elevated cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. They may also perform poorly in school.

When grade-point averages were compared among 566 middle school students in a Philadelphia suburb, overweight sutdents came in at about half a grade point lower than normal-weight kids.

The study also found that overweight students had lower reading comprehensive scores on a nationally standardized test, ranking in the 66th percentile while normal-weight kids ranked in the 75th percentile.

Heavier kids were also five times more likely to have six or more detentions than their normal-weight peers, had more school absences and lower physical fitness test scores and were less inclined to participate on athletic teams - 37 percent compared to 75 percent of normal-weight students.

This is one of many studies that show how obesity is affecting today's youth. Something needs to be done about this - and soon. I hope to help make a difference once I earn my youth fitness specialist certification through the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA).

I will use the information I've learned with the IYCA to help reverse the effects of obesity and other weight-related diseases with our youth while having fun!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Book Recommendation: New Rules of Lifting for Women!

"She is energetic and strong, a hard worker...She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: 'There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!'"
- Proverbs 31:17 and 25-29

For all the women who are reluctant to lift weights because they fear becoming "too big and bulky," this book is for you. The New Rules of Lifting for Women by Lou Schuler, Alwyn Cosgrove and Cassandra Forsythe dispells the myths that most women still believe about weight training.

This is the best book I have read about weight training for women. It includes a lot of information including some "new rules" all women should follow along with exercise descriptions, six months' worth of training programs, information on why aerobic training is not ideal for fat loss, a chapter on nutrition and numerous meal plans for breakfast, lunch, dinner, pre- and post-workout meals, snacks and dessert.

I highly recommend that all women (and men) pick up a copy of this book. It will change your life forever. You will finally realize that lifting weights won't make you big and bulky and will in fact make you lean, toned and sexy.

Get the book now! You won't regret it and will finally be able to get off the treadmill and other cardio machines and stop wasting your time and start making great progress while transforming your body into the shape you've always dreamed of!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Five Ways to Boost Your Fiber Intake!

"Then God said, 'Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food.'"
- Genesis 1:29

In addition to sleep and time alone, here's something else most people don't get enough of: fiber.

The Average American gets 10-15 grams of fiber each day, about half of what is needed to meet the basic recommended 25 grams.

Here are five easy ways to get more fiber into your diet:

Fig-uratively Speaking
Add dried figs or other fruits (cherries, kiwi and the like) to salad.

Cereal Thriller
Start the day with a high-fiber cereal such as Fiber One or Kashi Vive or even old-fashioned oatmeal.

Hummus a Happy Tune
Dip carrots, snap peas and other veggies in hummus instead of ranch dressing.

Orange You Glad You Tried This?
Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat the fruit. More fiber, vitamins, minerals and more satisfaction with less sugar.

Wrap it Up
Instead of the usual tuna-on-white, wrap a sandwich in a whole-wheat tortilla. Make your own wrap using a variety of meats (turkey, chicken), cheeses and veggies.

Try these tips to help get more fiber in your diet each day!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Breakfast Ideas to Start Off the Day!

"She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls."
- Proverbs 31:15

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, eating a balanced meal in the morning can help keep you alert, improve your mood and not make you too hungry before lunch. Here are five breakfast ideas that will give you energy until lunchtime:

Oatmeal in an Instant!
Instant oatmeal is great on a cold morning and contains fiber and vitamins. Choose oatmeal that isn't already pre-sweetened (like Old-fashioned Quaker Oats). Sweeten it with raisins or fresh fruit. Adding a scoop of protein powder will make it a perfect breakfast meal!

Smoothie Madness!
Blend frozen fruit (berries are great), milk, cottage cheese and raw nuts (walnuts) for a quick, tasty breakfast smoothie with lots of nutrients.

Eggs - The World's Most Perfect Food!
Boil, scramble or make an omlette and serve on whole-wheat toast or mixed up with veggies and cheese. Eggs are packed with nutrition including protein, vitamins and healthy fat.

Go Nuts!
Spreading natural peanut, almond or walnut butter on whole-grain toast is a great way to get both protein and fiber.

Breakfast On-the-Go!
Don't have time to eat breakfast at home? Try whole-grain toast, nuts and fresh fruit taken in the car. Boiled eggs, apple slices, a banana or a smoothie are also easy and not too messy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Benefits of Breakfast

"When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread." - John 21:9

Researchers have found many benefits from eating breakfast and with school underway, now is a perfect time to get into the breakfast habit.

Breakfast Research

Among the recent research:
  • Children who skip breakfast make more errors and are slower to recall facts.
  • Children who eat breakfast solve math problems more quickly.
  • Children who eat breakfast do better on vocabulary tests.
  • Children and adults who eat breakfast are more likely to get the vitamins and other nutrients they need.
  • Adolescents who eat breakfast tend to have a lower body mass index, even if they have one or two obese parents.
  • Adults who eat breakfast eat less calories throughout the day and make better food choices.
  • Adults who eat breakfast lose more weight than those who skip breakfast.

The benefits of breakfast apply to grown-ups when it comes to the research shown above (less errors, better math and vocabulary).

Breakfast Guidance

  • Dinner leftovers don't have to be dinner again. Heat them for breakfast instead.
  • Put together an egg casserole the night before, and slip it into the oven when you get up.
  • Make a smoothie containing one cup of milk, 1/3 cup cottage cheese, 2-3 tablespoons of raw nuts and 1/3 cup fruit (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries) for a quick, delicious and healthy breakfast meal
  • Scramble eggs with various vegetables and cheese or make an omlette.
  • If you decide to have cereal, choose a high-fiber, low-sugar cereal like Fiber One.

Five On-the-Go Ideas

  • Natural peanut butter and banana (or apple) slices on whole-grain toast.
  • Cheese wrapped in a whole-grain tortilla and some fruit.
  • Raw nuts (almonds, walnuts) and fruit (berries) stirred into yogurt.
  • A fruit smoothie blended with milk, cottage cheese and raw nuts (walnuts).
  • Two cheese sticks with a piece of fruit.

These tips should help you get into the habit of eating breakfast consistently. It really is the most important meal of the day!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Book Recommendation: What the Bible Says About Healthy Living!

"Wisdom is more valuable than gold and crystal. It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold." - Job 28:17

I recently finished reading "What the Bible Says About Healthy Living" by Rex Russell. This is a fantastic book that shows us what to eat and how to live a healthy life according to God's plan.I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book as it goes into very good detail about the various foods God has recommended that we eat. It's amazing to see how perfectly God designed our food and what effect it has on the body.

The book covers three main principles that are important for a healthy life according to God's plan for us:

  1. Eat only the food God has created.
  2. Eat only the food God has created in its most natural state before it has been altered by man.
  3. Do not become addicted to any food.

Principle one is fairly easy to figure out on your own as it pertains to all the natural, whole food God has created for us to eat. This includes vegetables, fruits, lean meats (from cattle, chicken, fish), beans and other legumes, raw nuts, olive oil and other natural foods.

Principle two gets tricky because many of the foods that we think are good for us have been altered by man in some way. Bread, rice and pasta may seem healthy and natural, but most of those products are highly processed and no longer resemble the original form that they were designed to be. The idea behind principle two is to only eat organic food as much as possible.

Principle three can be one that is hard to avoid. Many people are addicted to sweet or salty foods, fast food, alcohol or even foods that are good for us. So it is important not to worship any food or become addicted to it in any way.

I'm going to start a new series on my blog that discusses many of the things listed in the book including the topic of milk, meat, vitamins and more. I feel that many people have been led astray when it comes to eating healthy and nutritious foods.

In fact, I read an article in yesterday's paper that encouraged the consumption of white bread because it is fortified with folate and vitamins. If someone were to follow that horrible advice, they may find themselves justifying that it's okay to eat food that wasn't created by God and that is heavily processed and detrimental to the body in the long run.

I hope to clear up many misconceptions as we discuss a variety of topics related to food and how to live a healthy life. In the meantime, be sure to pick up a copy of the book. It's loaded with excellent information that will make a huge impact on your life.

Monday, September 1, 2008

My Current Training Plan - Strength and Speed!

"I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified." - 1 Corinthians 9:27

Earlier this year, I posted my 12-week training plan that helped me increase strength, conditioning and strength endurance while losing about five pounds. I posted the results of that training here - Click me!

Once I finished that program, I spent the next four months (April - July) on fat loss and conditioning programs that included Afterburn 2 and Warp Speed Fat Loss. I lost several more pounds of fat on those programs while increasing my conditioning tremendously, and I only lost a little bit of strength during that time.

Four months is about the maximum amount of time that someone should devote to fat loss training and dieting during the year, as it can be stressful on the body. Thus the reason that I decided to work on maintaining my conditioning and current level of bodyfat while focusing on my strength and speed.

I play ultimate frisbee once each week, so I need to make sure that I am well conditioned. Luckily, the last four months of training prepared me for all the running, sprinting and short rest periods during an intense game. I also know that gaining strength will help me with my overall speed and conditioning.

Currently, I'm on week four of my strength and speed program. I'm actually using the template that Joe Defranco posted in his "Westside for Skinny B*stards III" article. I've made some minor tweaks to fit my goals, but overall, I'm following the same template.

My training week looks like this:

MONDAY – Max-Effort Upper Body

Max-Effort Exercise – I work up to a max of 2-3 sets of 3 reps in some form of pressing exercise. I rotate the exercise every two weeks using a full-range of motion lift for two weeks followed by a partial-range motion exercise for two weeks and repeat every two weeks. For example, I'll peform flat barbell bench presses for two weeks followed by 2- or 3-board presses or floor presses for two weeks and then go to another full-range pressing exercise like close-grip benches or incline benches for two weeks, etc.

Supplemental Exercise – I perform 2 sets of max reps (15-20 reps) or 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps of some sort of pressing exercise (a similar movement as the max-effort exercise).

Horizontal Pulling / Rear Delt Superset - I superset a horizontal pulling movement (rows) with a rear-delt exercise for 2-3 supersets of 8-12 reps of each exercise.

Traps – I perform 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps of some sort of shrugging exercise.

Arms Superset - I perform 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps of a biceps exercise (curls) with a triceps exercise (pushdowns or extensions).

Finisher: I perform sled pushes or another short finisher similar to what I posted in a previous blog.

TUESDAY – Speed Training

General Warm-up / Movement skills (5-15 minutes) – The goal of this portion of the workout is to increase core temperature by performing basic movement skills and calisthenics. (Example: bodyweight squats, jumping jacks, skipping, back pedaling, etc...)

Ground-based mobility (5-15 minutes) – Once I've broken a sweat and my muscles are warm, I perform ground-based mobility drills for 5-15 minutes. (Sample mobility drills include: roll-overs into V-sits, fire hydrant circles, mountain climbers, groiners, etc…)

Frequency drills (2-3 minutes) – I conclude my warm-up with 1 or 2 drills that excite the central nervous system before beginning the speed training portion of the workout. These drills only last 5-10 seconds for 2-3 sets for each. (Example: low pogo jumps, wideouts, ankling, etc.)

Speed training – I follow speed-training techniques for non-athletes (distances of 60 yards or less with complete - or close to it - recovery between sprints). The goal of this workout is to get faster.

WEDNESDAY - Off (or light activity)

THURSDAY – Max-Effort Lower Body & Conditioning

Max-Effort Exercise – I work up to 2 sets of 3 reps or 2-3 singles with 90%. Just like my max-effort upper body day, I rotate the exercise I use every two weeks and use a variety of squatting and deadlifting movements.

Unilateral Movement - I perform 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps of a unilateral quad-dominant exercise such as lunges, step-ups or Bulgarian split squats.

Hip Extension Movement - I perform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps of a hamstring/posterior chain exercise such as Pull-throughs, Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, etc.

Weighted Abs - I perform a heavy ab exercise for 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps.

Conditioning Finisher – I usually perform one of the following exercises:

1) Sled pushes – I perform 4-6 30-yard sled pushes with about 1 minute rest between sets.

2) Farmer's walks – I perform 4–6 sets of 40 yards with 1-2 minutes rest between sets.

3) Forward or backward sled drags – I perform 4-6 sets of 40-50 yards with 1-2 minutes rest between sets

FRIDAY – Repetition Upper Body

Repetition Exercise – I perform 3 sets of max reps OR 4 sets of 12-15 reps of some sort of pressing exercise.

Vertical Pulling / Rear Delt Superset - I superset a vertical pulling movement (chins, lat pulldowns) with a rear-delt exercise for 2-3 supersets of 8-12 reps of each exercise.

Medial Delts – I peform 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps of dumbbell lateral raises, L-lateral raises, cable lateral raises, dumbbell military presses or a dumbbell side press.

Arms Superset - I perform 2-3 sets of 8-15 reps of a biceps exercise (curls) with a triceps exercise (pushdowns or extensions).

Abs - I perform a bridging (planks) exercise with a rotational exercise (Russian twists) for 2-3 sets for time or reps.

Finisher - If I'm up for it, I'll conclude the workout with a short finisher similar to Monday's workout.

SATURDAY - OFF (this is the day I relax and watch college football most of the day - GO GATORS!).

SUNDAY - Ultimate Frisbee (game day)

Some of the tweaks I've made to Joe Defranco's Strength and Speed template is that I change my supplemental and accessory exercises each week. This is something new I'm trying. Usually, I'll use the same exercise for 4-6 weeks before changing. So this is definitely different than what most trainers may recommend. I've never done this before, so I wanted to see if I can "trick" my body from adapting to any exercise by changing it so frequently. I wouldn't recommend this for a beginner, but it may work well for me since I've been training for so many years.

Also, I change the loading parameters (sets and reps) for my exercises every four weeks. I break up my training (using the template above) into four-week phases. This allows me to use the same set/rep range for all my supplemental and accessory exercises for four weeks (using different exercises each week) before changing the loading parameters (sets and reps) during the next four-week phase.

So that's my current plan that I've been following for the past four weeks and will continue to follow for the next several months.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Spezzatino - Online Food Magazine!

"He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever." - Psalm 136:25

John Berardi (and the Precision Nutrition team) has created a brand new PDF food magazine - a food magazine that is stunning in every regard, from the design to the photography to the writing.

It includes delicious, gourmet recipes in each issue and captivating articles covering everything from nutrition and food science to gardening and cultivation.

And what if I told you that the magazine is donating ALL of its profit to the Healthy Food Bank to buy good food for people in need?

Why, you'd say, "How do I subscribe?"

Then I'd say, "Go here, because your subscription will help a lot of people eat better tomorrow - including you!"

You can even download a sample of the first issue and decide if it's something you want more of each month. And knowing that your money is going to food banks to help people in need while benefiting your own health makes it worth it!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pitching Speed Gets 9-Year-Old Banned!

"Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him."
- Psalm 127:3

In yesterday's news, it was reported that 9-year-old Jericho Scott has been banned from pitching because the right-hander has a fastball that tops out at about 40mph - too fast, according to officials with the Youth Baseball League of New Haven, Connecticut. The league told Jericho's coach that the boy could not pitch any more.

The Youth Baseball League of New Haven has been around for three years and has eight teams with about 100 players. Officials for the league said they would disband Jericho's team and redistribute its players among other squads and even offered to refund $50 sign-up fees to anyone who asks for it.

However, Jericho's coach refuses to disband the team and parents and players held a protest on the field last Saturday urging the league to let Jericho pitch. Although there is speculation as to why Jericho is being unfairly targeted (he turned down an invitation to join the defending league champion, which is sponsored by an employer of one of the league's administrators), the fact remains that he is being punished for being too good!

According to Jericho's coach, he's never hurt anyone and he's on target with his pitches all the time. But some parents have expressed concern. An opposing team forfeited a game last week when Jericho took the mound.

"I think it's discouraging when you're telling a 9-year-old you're too good at something," said his mother, Nicole Scott. "The whole objective in life is to find something you're good at and stick with it."

The league's attorney, Peter Noble, says the only factor in banning Jericho from the mound is his pitches are just too fast.

"He is a very skilled player, a very hard thrower," Noble said. "There are a lot of beginners. This is not a high-powered league. This is a developmental league whose main purpose is to promote the sport."

Of course, Jericho is upset and wants to play baseball, as any child of his age may enjoy doing.

"I feel sad," Jericho said. "I feel like it's all my fault nobody could play."

A simple solution to this issue, in my opinion, is to allow Jericho to continue playing but encourage him to play a variety of positions on the team (not just pitcher) and ask him to pitch a little slower. However, I have a few opinions about this and I want to address a couple of them.

I agree that Jericho should be allowed to play. It's unfair to say that he is "too good" to play. He shouldn't be banned from pitching because his fastball is faster than most. Why would we want to tell our children that they are too good at something and hinder them from doing what they enjoy and are good at? This sends a negative message to children who want to play, have fun and enjoy participating in recreational athletics (These are good things! Fit, healthy children that enjoy playing games and sports is good for our youth and our society).

As long as they are not hurting anyone (including themselves), and as long as they are not being coerced or forced to perform at a level that is not at their developmental age (something that is happening a lot these days resulting in injuries never seen before - see this blog story), I see nothing wrong with them playing a sport at which they may be better at than other kids. It's a fact of life that some children develop and excel faster than others in some instances, and as long as it's not harmful to the developmental stage of the child, then it's perfectly okay.

However, I also completely agree with attorney Peter Noble that the league is a developmental league whose main purpose is to promote the sport and build fundamentals. But banning Jericho because he pitches faster than others shouldn't be a problem if he is on target and not hitting anyone. It may make it harder for other kids to bat against him, and if that is the issue, then just ask him to slow down his pitches or have him play another position!

Although I agree that Jericho should be allowed to pitch, I have a few concerns, and some of these may contradict what I just wrote above.

If Jericho is being encouraged to play little league baseball at a high level by his parents or coaches, or if he is beginning to specialize in baseball and not continue to play other sports or play as a child of his age should be doing, then I would be hesitant to allow him to keep pitching.

Because I don't know his background and what else he is doing or what his parents and coaches are training or encouraging him to do, it's hard to know if this is what is happening. However, those are valid concerns for a child of his age. At 9 years old, Jericho is still in the developmental stages of his physical development. Having him specialize in a particular sport or work on biomotor qualities (speed, strength, etc.) would be detrimental to him during this stage of his development.

He should be playing games (and running, jumping, crawling, etc.) with other children in his age range while playing a variety of sports throughout the year. These things will help him develop properly and prevent injuries or long-term issues. I would recommend that he play multiple sports throughout the year and also multiple positions on the baseball team, not just as pitcher.

I wanted to address this because I'm currently studying for my Level 1 Certification with the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). Once I pass my exam, I will be on my way to becoming a Youth Fitness Specialist.

I've already learned how children develop at different stages in life (6-9; 10-13; 14-18) and how the type of training and activities they participate in is very important in order to avoid injury, stay fit, be healthy, and most of all...have FUN!

Youth sports and fitness is something that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, there are too many coaches (and parents) that are injuring today's youth and treating them as mini-adults because they don't understand the developmental process or how to teach children effectively. I'm looking forward to being a positive influence for today's youth and helping them develop properly while making youth fitness fun!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics - These Games Will Be Remembered!

"I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time."
- Ecclesiastes 9:11

As I write this, I'm watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. I love the Olympics, and I'm saddened that the games are over. It's hard to believe that the past 17 days have gone by so quickly.

I've stayed up late each night trying to watch as many different games of the Olympics as possible. I went online and tried to catch up on things that I missed or to see the competitions that weren't shown on television such as Olympic weightlifting, some of the other track events and wrestling.

During the 2008 Olympics, we witnessed some incredible feats including
Michael Phelps winning eight Olympic gold medals while setting seven new world records and one Olympic record and surpassing Mark Spitz's previous mark.

We saw
Dara Torres, at 41 years of age, win a silver medal beating competitors as much as 25 years younger and missing the gold medal by one one-hundredth of a second. It was a bittersweet finish for Dara who proved that age doesn't matter and that you can be competitive at any age and win medals. Don't be surprised to see her in the 2012 Olympic games in London at age 45. Dara has also inspired thousands of people in their 30s, 40s and beyond to get back in the pool or begin strength training at the gym.

Jamaican Usain "Lightning" Bolt broke three world records and won gold medals in the 100m and 200m individual races and 4x100m relay. At 21 years of age (22 the day after breaking records and winning gold), he showed how gifted he is and how easily he was able to break these records with very little experience. He will improve tremendously in the next four years and will be something to watch in 2012.

American Bryan Clay won gold in the decathlon bringing the medal back to the United States while be dubbed the "world's greatest athlete." I wrote about Bryan Clay in a previous
blog, and I'm happy to see that his faith and hard work paid off.

Another athlete I wrote about,
Kerron Clement, also won a few medals during the 2008 Olympics. I was happy to see that his faith in God and the blessings bestowed upon him help carried him through the Olympics and onto the medal podium. Kerron was very excited to win silver in one of his races and was so happy to be at the Olympics.

There are many more athletes that inspired me and thousands of others including American gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, women's gold medal discus thrower Stephanie Brown Trafton, 10,000m bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan, the men's volleyball gold-medal team, the Lopez family and so many more!

There were also moments of sorrow during the Olympics including near misses for a medal, the men's and women's 4x100m relay teams' disqualification after dropping the batons, Lola Jones seventh-placed finish after stumbling over the ninth hurdle in the 10om hurdles among other tearful events.

Overall, the 2008 Beijing Olympics were an incredible show of athletic ability, talent, hard work and so much more from the beginning of the opening ceremonies through the last night of the closing ceremonies and the extinguishing of the Olympic torch in Beijing and the look ahead to London in 2012.

I'm sad to see that the games are now over, and we'll have to wait four more years to witness so many memorable moments and incredible stories of all the unsung heroes that exemplify what the Olympics are truly about. However, I'll forever remember the 2008 Beijing Olympic games and will look forward to the games in London in 2012.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics - Olympic Physiques

"All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize.... So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing." - 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

If you've been watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics, you've noticed the lean, muscular physiques of many of the athletes. It seems as though many of the athletes are leaner and more muscular now than in previous Olympics.

Certain athletes show up to the Olympics always appearing lean and muscular such as the male gymnasts, short- and middle-distance sprinters, many of the track and field athletes and the lightweight to middleweight weightlifters and wrestlers.

However, many of the athletes that are not normally as lean and muscular have come to this year's Olympics looking like super men and women. Look no further than Michael Phelps or Dara Torres. Michael Phelps has dominated the Olympics winning 8 gold medals while breaking Mark Spitz's record from 1972. The commentators have mentioned several times that he has ripped abs and muscular physique. Dara Torres, at 41, is leaner and more muscular than those competing against her, including some who are 25 years younger!

The one thing Michael Phelps and Dara Torres have in common is that they have included weight training in their routines in the recent past to prepare for this year's Olympics. They have found the benefits of strength training and it shows not only in their performances but also in their muscular and lean physiques.

Something you may find interesting is that Olympic weightlifters typically never perform any traditional cardio (try a few sets of snatches or clean and jerks and you'll find out why), yet, they tend to be muscular, lean and have very strong cardiovascular systems and incredible power. In fact, Olympic weightlifters tend to be more powerful and explosive than sprinters within the first 10 yards (and they have incredible vertical jumping ability).

If you look at the weightlifters in the lightweight through middleweight classes, almost all of them are very lean and muscular (It's just too bad that the super heavyweights are the ones typically featured in primetime). How do they get like that without cardio? Weight training and nutrition.

Gymnasts don't train with weights, however, they train using bodyweight exercises through many different ranges of motion; static, dynamic, eccentric, isometric, etc. This builds muscle and incredible strength. Gymnasts don't perform cardio, but they do perform short sprints (vault) and they stay strong, lean and muscular.

Compare the short-distance sprinters (100-400m), pole vaulters and hurdlers (60-110m) to long-distance athletes (1,500m or more), and you'll quickly see the difference in their physiques. The sprinters, pole vaulters and hurdlers are lean and muscular. The longer-distance athletes may be somewhat lean (especially at Olympic and professional levels), but they are not as lean and nowhere near as muscular as the sprinters, pole vaulters and hurdlers.

Sprinters, pole vaulters and hurdlers also train with weights and don't perform any long-distance cardio. Many of them don't ever sprint more than 200-400m in their training, and usually they sprint much shorter distances depending on their particular sport.

It should be clear to you by now that strength training is the key to building a lean, muscular physique. You don't have to be an Olympic athlete to get the body you want. And you don't have to perform traditional, steady-state or long-distance cardio to lose fat or stay lean. A proper nutritional plan and strength training program will help you build a lean, muscular, healthy physique.

What's holding you back?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Emmanuel Moody - Christian Athlete

"If you plan to do evil, you will be lost; if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness." - Proverbs 14:22

Emmanuel Moody, a 6-foot, 210-pound running back from Coppell, Texas, transferred from the University of Southern California to the University of Florida last year. Moving from the hustle and bustle of city life in Los Angeles to Gainesville has given Emmanuel more time to himself.

He spends that time praying and practicing his faith as a devout Christian who one day wants to become a minister. Emmanuel even prays during practice. When he was asked what the difference is this year compared to his freshman season at Southern Cal in 2006, he didn't mention football plays.

"This season my focus is more on God," Emmanuel said. "If I'm not spiritually right, then I won't play football to the best of my ability. He's the one who gives me strength. He's the one that gives me comfort. Sometimes at practice I'll look to Him and start praying. That's the difference beween this season and all the other seasons is that He's really captured my heart. The Holy Spirit is the one that guides me."

Emmanuel is a great role model and exemplifies what being a Christian is truly about. And he has his priorities in order (God comes first and he lives the life of a Christian).

"My mind isn't always on football. It's on other things, like God. He definitely comes first. Football just falls into place," Emmanuel said.

Now that's the type of athlete that we should be able to look up to as a role model. Emmanuel doesn't take anything for granted and knows that God has blessed him with his abilities. In return for his faith in God and living the life of a devout Christian, God will in turn bless him in many ways.

We need more courageous and faithful Christians like Emmanuel Moody (and Tim Tebow) to step forward and spread the faith and encourage others to put God first and give thanks to Him and all that He does for us.

Emmanuel also has the advantage of being in the spotlight because he is a member of the Florida Gators football team. He has the chance to witness to so many others including other members of the football team, the coaches and staff and thousands of fans and supporters.

If that isn't a blessing, then I don't know what is!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back-to-School Health Habits!

"Sensible children bring joy to their father; foolish children despise their mother." - Proverbs 15:20

With children returning to school in the next few weeks, it may be hard to keep them from grabbing the burgers, pizza, fries and other snacks in the school cafeteria, even if you pack a nutritious lunch.

Plus, after a long day of school, most kids would rather flop down to play video games than run around playing football or basketball, so it's more difficult to get them moving.

It can be challenging for parents to help their children develop life-long healthy eating and fitness habits, but parents can control how and what their children do during the school day by first fostering healthy habits at home.

Be Creative

Parents who are more creative often are successful at getting their children to eat well. Here are a few ways for parents to become more creative about making kids' diets more nutritious:
  • Offer Vegetables at Different Times of the Day or Evening - Dice tomatoes and put them in scrambled eggs.
  • Serve Salads with Most Meals - Use dark, leafy lettuce such as romaine with a variety of colorful, crisp vegetables such as celery, zucchini, carrots and bell peppers.
  • Keep Super Foods Around - Never run out of carrots, apples, broccoli, almonds or yogurt.
  • Watch It - Monitor the amounts of fat, sugar and salt that children consume.
  • Include Your Children in the Decision-Making Process - When kids feel involved, they're more likely to try new things, including healthy food. Never give up. Keep trying new foods and repeat past foods to expose your kids to a variety of nutrients.

Pack It Up

Packing a good, healthy lunch doesn't have to be complicated. Here are a few tips for packing healthy school lunches:

  • Reduce the Carbs - Think of ways to get protein into the lunch instead of just carbohydrates. Add a cheese stick, a small cup of tuna salad with pickles, or sliced meat and veggies in a pita pocket. Provide a cup of natural peanut butter for dipping apple slices.
  • Prepare on Sundays - Fill small plastic containers with vanilla yogurt and frozen blueberries or strawberries and freeze them. On school mornings, place them in your child's lunchbox. At lunchtime, it's a cool, healthy treat. Try cups of green beans, peas or carrots, which can also be cooked, packed and frozen on Sundays. Also, pack treats ahead of time.
  • Be Creative - On hot days, make a smoothie in the morning and put it in a Thermos. Include sliced cheese or turkey and almonds as a part of lunch. This sort of creative lunch keeps your child interested in the healthy food.
  • Provide Fresh, Raw Veggies - Many children will happily eat baby carrots, broccoli heads and red pepper strips with a dash of salt or a healthy dip (yogurt).
  • Shop for Your Child's Lunches at a Natural Food Store - This way, you'll know your child's diet will be lower in preservatives, nitrates, additives or unnecessary sugars and salts. And choose organic whenever possible. With the reported positive impact on the immune system, the usually higher cost is an investment in your child's future health.

Keep Them Moving

Children should spend no more than one to two sedentary hours staring at a screen each day. That time includes watching television, playing video games or staring at a computer screen. Unfortunately, most children spend 4-6 hours a day on these activities. Instead, try these tips:

  • Have a Plan - Be prepared to offer alternative activities to TV or video games. You might consider family game night, walking the dog, family bike rides or exploring a nearby park.
  • Be Active with Your Kids - What kids want more than anything else is time with their parents. To give them that, don't just send them out to play - go play with them. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming or just play tag or hide-and-seek outside.
  • Remove the Tube - Don't position your furniture so the TV is the main focus of the room. Remove televisions from bedrooms.
  • Plan TV watching in Advance - Go through the TV listings and pick the shows you want to watch. Turn the TV on for those shows and turn it off afterward.
  • Practice What You Preach - Your kids won't accept being restricted to two hours of TV, video games or the computer if you are vegging out for hours at a time. The best way to influence your kids' behavior is through example.

Hopefully, these tips will help you and your kids prepare for the school year while staying healthy and fit.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dear Parents: Your Child is Fat!

"Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives." - Proverbs 19:18

According to an article posted in Time, School children across England will soon have their Body Mass Index (BMI) tested as part of a new effort to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity.

Parents will be sent a letter telling them whether their child is underweight, a healthy weight, overweight or very overweight. The letter will also include leaflets giving advice on eating healthily, physical activities their child might do and the risks of being overweight.

So, are parents really failing to notice their little angels piling on the pounds? Yes, says the U.K.'s Department of Health.

"Today, when more children are overweight compared with previous generations, it can be harder for parents to objectively identify if their child is overweight," says a spokeswoman from the Department of Health. "Research shows that most parents of overweight or obese children think that their child is a healthy weight. Some research showed that only 10 percent of parents with overweight or obese children described their child as overweight."

Still, it pays to break the news of a child's problem gently. Following the advice of numerous obesity experts, the Department of Health has decided that the name of the final, portliest category — very overweight — was a more sensible choice than obese.

"Preliminary findings of the survey suggest that many people who would be defined clinically as obese find the use of the term obese highly offensive and would stop listening to further advice."

The softly-softly approach doesn't please everyone. "To shrink from using the word obesity is really ducking an issue," insists Dr Colin Waine, Chairman of the National Obesity Forum. "It does not have to be used in a judgmental or insulting way: if a child is obese, then the parents should know that they are obese. We must make parents know that the lifestyle of the family needs to be modified."

Statistics on childhood obesity in Britain make grim reading. Figures from 2006, the most recent numbers, show that nearly a third of all children aged between two and 15 are overweight or obese, an overall increase of 11 percent from 1995.

The U.K. childhood obesity rate is comparable to that in the U.S., where obesity in children aged between six and 11 has tripled over the past three decades, which may be why a few U.S. states already send reports on heavy kids home to parents. The College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, published a paper in November 2006 describing the "risks and benefits of BMI reporting in the school setting," and in May 2007, Wyoming started a program in which students' report cards came complete with their BMI.

Some worry that such information should be given more discreetly: "Our feeling is that the information should be given to parents if there is a serious health concern much like any other health concern a child might have," said Meghan Cavanaugh, a spokeswoman at the Childhood Weight Control Program, the University of Buffalo. "This information should not be included on a report card or such. Medical information should be kept separate."

Based on current growth rates, obesity is predicted to cost the wider community of the U.K. around $100 billion a year by 2050, according to the Department of Health. "The Government must lead on action across society to tackle obesity. Engaging parents in this issue is essential to achieving success in instigating behavioral change."

"This is a really serious problem," says Dr Waine. "We're in danger of producing a generation of children with a shorter life expectancy. We can't just say that's acceptable."

Articles like this are one reason why I'm getting a certification from the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). Our children deserve better. Although I believe that parents should be the ones correcting bad nutritional habits and encouraging their children to get regular exercise, the reality is that many parents are neglecting their own health and don't know how to help their children or serve as good role models.

There are no short-term fixes for childhood obesity. A long-term approach is key to correcting obesity and other issues that children face these days (diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.). With a certification from the IYCA, I will have the tools I need to help make a difference.

Story originally reported in Time.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Metabolic Acceleration Training - A Better Way!

"Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless." - Philippians 2:16

I'm posting this article originally written by Alwyn Cosgrove about Metabolic Acceleration Training. I've used the various methods below for fat loss and conditioning benefits with good results.

Part One
I'm a huge believer in using the "alternating set" system when training. For time management reasons, I tend to do exercise one for a set, rest 60 seconds or so, do exercise two for a set, rest 60 seconds or so, and continue. This allows me to increase work density while still getting "true" rest.

In other words, I perform a set of squats, rest 60 seconds, perform a set of push-ups, rest 60 seconds, and repeat. So in effect, I've almost tripled the rest period between squat sets (60 seconds plus the time taken for push-ups plus 60 seconds) as opposed to using a straight set system. And for fat loss training, it's unparalleled.

However, the biggest problem or complaint I get from clients who use commercial facilities is that it's really hard for them to tie up two pieces of gym equipment at peak hours. I have my own facility, but I realize this can be a real problem elsewhere. So I started experimenting with a few things - doing dumbbell lunges and push-ups for example or step-ups and dumbbell bench presses where I could use one set of dumbbells and one piece of equipment.

It was an okay compromise, but it started to somewhat limit my exercise selection. And to be honest, it still had the issue of people working in and possibly disrupting your rest periods.

So I went a step further. What if I created a fat loss or conditioning program based around one piece of equipment where you stayed in the same spot, using the same load for the entire duration. So I tried it. At first it was awkward, but after reading Istvan Javorek's work and talking with ├╝ber strength coach, Robert Dos Remedios, I started to implement different variations of combination lifting.

I just hoped that it would work as well as alternating sets for fat loss and conditioning or at least close enough that it wasn't too much of a tradeoff. As it turns out, it worked better! In fact, it worked so well that it became a cornerstone of my conditioning programs with several athletes.

Part Two
Part two of the evolution of our fat loss programs came shortly after. I have always recommended interval training as a superior form of fat loss over steady state cardio. Interval training is essentially periods of hard work alternated with easier periods of work using a cardio exercise.

The problem - running a mile doing intervals involves about 1,500 repetitions. For someone looking to cut body fat, and hit total body weight training two to three times a week, that is a lot of extra volume and potential joint stress. So I started thinking. Interval training is similar to weight training in that it involves sets (and reps) followed by a rest period (albeit active). What if I used a lighter version of traditional strength training and created metabolic circuits?

Timed Sets
This is the simplest variation of metabolic work. Pick a load that is about 80% of your 10RM. Perform as many reps as possible at a constant tempo for a period of time (e.g. 60 seconds) and try to perform as many repetitions with as good form as possible. Rest for 15-30 seconds and perform another exercise.

Example #1
Barbell reverse lunge, left leg, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds
Barbell reverse lunge, right leg, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds
Barbell push press, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds

Repeat three times for a 12-minute routine.

Example #2
Kettlebell swings, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds
Push-ups/burpees, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds
Prowler push, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds

Repeat for five rounds for a 12-minute finisher.

Metabolic Density Training
This is a modified version of EDT as popularized by Charles Staley. However, Charles recommends two exercises performed as a superset for 15 minutes. In this case, we are going to use three exercises and work for 10 minutes.

Example #1
Dumbbell bench presses
Alternating lunges
Swiss ball crunches

In this method, select a load that will allow 10-12 reps and perform sets of 6-8. There is no rest between exercises. Work continuously for 10 minutes moving from one exercise to the next. The alternate version is to perform five rounds of 6-8 reps of each as fast as possible.

Be warned, these are pretty grueling. Perform the complexes at the beginning of your workout when you're fresh. They'll elevate your metabolism beyond anything you've ever experienced before. The most frequently asked question about complexes is how much load to use.

Remember, it's a metabolic stimulus, not a strength or hypertrophy stimulus so be conservative. Now, don't go too light either. A good "Cosgrove rule of thumb" is that if you're not questioning why in the hell you're doing these exercises or convincing yourself that twice around is enough, you're not going heavy enough.

Let's get into it. Perform each complex once per week for four training sessions per week. Use the following progression:

Week one: 4 sets of 5 reps of each, 90 seconds rest
Week two: 5 sets of 5 reps of each, 75 seconds rest
Week three: 5 sets of 6 reps of each, 60 seconds rest
Week four: 6 sets of 6 reps of each, 45 seconds rest.

Then puke.

Complex A
Bent-over barbell row
Hang clean
Front squat and push press hybrid
Jump squat (bar on back)
Good morning

Complex B
Romanian deadlift
Hang clean and front squat and push press (combination lift, perform one rep of each in series)
Reverse lunge (alternate legs)

Complex C
High pull (onto toes)
Squat clean (clean the bar from the hang and then drop into a full squat on the catch)
Military press (strict)
Jump lunges (switch legs)

Insert my evil laugh here!

Complex D
Jump squat
Squat and hold for 10 seconds
Military press
Push press
Squat and press (combination lift, perform one rep of each in series)

Note: Try to work all exercises at a speed of 1-2 reps per second.

A Tabata protocol is a very high intensity anaerobic interval program that involves eight rounds of 20 second work periods at 170% of your VO2 max with a negative recovery period of 10 seconds. The best way to use these with strength training exercises is to alternate one upper body with one lower body exercise.

The second progression we use is to vary the work-to-rest ratio.

Beginner: 10 seconds work, 20 seconds recovery

Intermediate: 15 seconds work, 15 seconds recovery

Advanced: 20 seconds work, 10 seconds recovery

A great pairing is squat jumps and running push-ups (a single push-up and two reps of mountain climbers in alternating fashion) in pairs.

Medley Conditioning

This is similar to the other methods in that we are working for time, but we will use 15 seconds on and 15 seconds off and perform multiple rounds with different pieces of equipment. For example, an MMA fighter competing in five-minute rounds may use four exercises in a circuit and perform multiple rounds until the five-minute period is up.

Example #1

15 seconds, Prowler push

15 seconds, rest

15 seconds, squat jump

15 seconds, rest

15 seconds, sledgehammer or medicine ball chops

15 seconds, rest

15 seconds, kettlebell swing

15 seconds, rest

Keep working through the medley until the five-minute period is up.

Finishers are just short body weight or single piece of equipment only, 3-5 minute routines at the end of each workout.

3 push-ups, 1 tuck jumps

6 push-ups, 2 tuck jumps

9 push-ups, 3 tuck jumps

12 push-ups, 4 tuck jumps

15 push-ups, 5 tuck jumps

Continue to add three push-ups and one tuck jump to each set until you miss a rep. Then climb back down the ladder.

Leg Matrix:
24 squats

12 lunges each leg (alternating)

12 lunge jumps each leg (alternating)

24 squat jumps

(If you can complete this in under 90 seconds, do two rounds with no rest.)

Squat Series:
20-second squat jump

20-second squat

20-second isometric squat

Repeat for three rounds with no rest.

Select two exercises (e.g. kettlebell swing and burpees or squat jumps and plyometric push-ups).
Perform 10 reps of each, 9 reps of each, 8 reps of each and so on. Each week start with one set of one more rep than your top set (e.g. 11 reps, 10 reps, 9 reps, etc.).

A Final Warning
This isn't for the faint hearted or de-conditioned. They are not beginners' routines. If you're coming back from injury or illness, don't try these programs yet. They are brutal. However, if you follow these routines for four weeks, you'll see a very significant improvement in your conditioning and a massive drop in your body fat!

This article originally appeared at EliteFTS.com

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Save Money On Groceries!

"He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever." - Psalm 136:25

With the increase in the price of food, grocery shopping can be extremely costly these days. Here are a few tips to slash your entire grocery bill by 50, even 60 percent.
  • Get It For Less - Shop the sales and stock up on what you use a lot. If your local grocery store offers buy 1 get 1 free deals or 50% off, load up on items that you use often. Some shoppers only buy what is on sale. They let the sale rotations dictate their purchases and rack up consistent savings of 50 percent or more. This also helps provide variety to your diet by purchasing and eating different foods each week.
  • Buy In Bulk - Shopping at Sam's, Costco and BJ's allows you to purchase food in bulk such as 6-pound bags of chicken breasts, 10-pound packages of ground beef, 18-packs of eggs, larger quantities of cheese and produce, etc. Many times, buying in bulk costs less money and lasts longer.
  • Embrace The Store Brand - Most of the time, the store brand tastes just as good if not better than name brands. This applies to meats, dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese), eggs, natural peanut butter, etc. There are many healthy store-brand items that cost far less than name-brand foods, and they're good for you!
  • Add An Ethnic Market To Your Lineup - Spices, produce and other staples are often much cheaper. Not to mention that you can experiment with new foods and spices with many health benefits.
  • Think Outside The Box - Need milk? Check Walgreens, the corner convenience store, the gas mini-mart or a local farmer's market (a great place for produce and raw milk). All these places often beat supermarket prices. It means an extra stop, but if you combine this with another errand in the same area, you won't be spending more on gas.
  • Use Coupons - Matching a coupon with items on sale can help you save big! To get even more for your buck, do it at stores that double the coupon.
  • Plan Strategically - If possible, extend the time between trips. This may be difficult if you eat a lot of fresh food, but if you can stretch your shopping to 1o days instead of seven or less, you reduce your daily expenses.

These are just a few tips to help you save money while still being able to enjoy all the good foods God designed for us.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stay-Healthy Super Foods!

"You must serve only the Lord your God. If you do, I will bless you with food and water, and I will protect you from illness."
- Exodus 23:25

God is truly amazing. He designed our food in a perfect way. It nourishes our bodies and prevents disease and illness. Eating the foods God created for us means less chance of having to use man-made medications and prescriptions that have a slew of harmful side effects.

The right foods can protect against stress, insomnia, obesity, diabetes and more. Here are a few stay-healthy super foods and how they can help you:

Beat Stress With...
Sunflower Seeds - A good source of folate, which helps your body produce a pleasure-inducing brain chemical called dopamine.

Get Energized With...
Almonds or Almond Butter - They help stabilize energy levels thanks to a mix of protein and healthy fat.

Fight Insomnia With...
Yogurt - Calcium-rich foods boost levels of seratonin, a calming hormone that promotes sleep.

Get Glowing Skin With...
Blackberries and Raspberries - Antioxidant-rich berries prevent early signs of aging by fighting off free radicals.

Up Your Odds of Getting Pregnant With...
Walnuts - Having more mono-unsaturated fats (found in walnuts) in lieu of saturated and trans fats may help boost fertility.

Burn Fat Faster With...
Chile Peppers - They've got capsaicin, a compound that may kick-start your metabolism.

Pump Up Your Immune System With...
Cantaloupe - Just one cup gives you more than 100 percent of your daily recommendation for vitamin C.

Combat A Headache With...
Kale - Magnesium-rich greens like kale may help you have fewer migranes by fighting inflammation.

These are just a few examples of foods created by God that have many health benefits. If you read the bible closely, you can find all the foods God recommends that we eat. It's amazing how science has recently reported many of the health benefits of various foods even though they have been in the bible and recommended for thousands of years.

It's also unfortunate that man has altered many of the foods that God created making them less healthy for us to eat.

Remember these three principles:
  1. Eat the foods God created for us
  2. Eat foods as close to what God created as possible (stay away from altered and man-made foods)
  3. Don't become addicted to any food

I'll talk more about this in a future blog, as I'm currently finishing a wonderful book that explains in detail the foods God created, which ones we should eat and why we should follow the three above-mentioned principles.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Kids Urged to Bike and Walk to School!

"People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall." - Proverbs 10:9

Across the country, schools are encouraging families to forgo their cars to promote healthy habits, relieve traffic congestion around school buildings, help the environment and save money on gas.

Many schools reward kids who ditch mom or dad's car in favor of biking or walking. Prizes for walking or biking to school range from bottles of water to digital cameras, bike bells to bicycles. Many schools and community groups are funding the programs with grants from the national Safe Routes to School program, administered by the Federal Highway Administration. The FHA has funded programs in 40 states.

The FHA has worked with public schools and YMCA's to develop walk-to-school programs that appeal to parents and children. They have also helped to establish safe walking or biking routes and the funding of sidewalks.

Walking provides an opportunity to exercise and socialize before school, and it can have long-term impact on health. Students who exercise regularly are less likely to become obese or diabetic. And exercise in the morning can improve readiness to learn.

Students who live too far to walk or bike are asked to form car pools, use public transportation or walk part of the way. Many of the programs at various schools are "kid-generated." They are the ones asking their parents to leave early and walk or bike with them to school.

I think this is a great way to help our children (and their parents) to get more exercise each day while also helping to save money on gas and reduce auto emissions.

However, I find it difficult to understand why programs like this need to exist. When I was a child, I walked to school with friends every day. I also played school-yard games before classes began and again during PE, recess and after school. I stayed active throughout the day.

This shows how much things have changed in the last 20 or so years. More and more children are driven to school by their parents instead of walking or biking. We already know that kids today watch too much TV or spend too much time playing video games or surfing the internet. Parents should encourage their children to walk or bike to school to get more exercise (and parents should step up as role models and walk or bike with their kids).

With many public schools having to cut recess and PE classes from the daily curriculum, it's important that kids get more chances to exercise. Parents, teachers, coaches and other adults need to set an example for our children by getting more involved and becoming more active as role models.

Luckily, one organization is trying to make a change - the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). I will be getting one of my training certifications with the IYCA so I can effectively and properly teach children how to become more active and make exercise fun again - the way it should be!

Friday, August 1, 2008

To Keep Weight Off, Exercise One Hour Per Day, Five Days Per Week!

"Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper." - Proverbs 13:4

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that obese and overweight women must exercise at least 55 minutes a day, five days a week to drop 10 percent of their bodyweight and keep it off for at least two years.

The study reported that in addition to limiting calories, overweight women must exercise substantially more than was previously recommended. The less they exercised, the less they lost and the less they kept off. The magic number of 275 minutes a week seemed to make a difference.

The two-year study consisted of 191 women between the ages of 21 and 45 with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 to 40, which is above the threshold of healthy weight. Prior to the study, all of the women exercised less than 20 minutes a day, fewer than three days a week.

Overweight is typically defined as having a BMI (an approximation of body fat based on height and weight) of more than 25, while a BMI of more than 30 indicates obesity. Although BMI is not the most accurate measurement of body fat and health, it is a widely-used method that works fine for most people (if you carry a lot of muscle mass - such as a bodybuilder or other athlete - you may register as obese even though you are very lean and healthy).

The women were prescribed diets of between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day, and were divided into groups with different exercise goals. While women in various groups lost weight, only those who exercised more than 55 minutes a day, five days a week, managed to keep the weight off two years later.

Prior to this study, health professionals often recommended that people exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes, five days a week. But that level is helpful only for those trying to maintain their health and is not effective for those who have managed to lose a large amount of weight and are trying to keep that weight off.

Much of the focus on obesity has centered on issues of diet and ignored the impact of regular physical activity. We know that diet without exercise is not as effective - the same holds true for those who exercise but don't follow proper nutritional guidelines.

Don't be discouraged by the exercise level required by these findings. Even though working out 55 minutes a day, five days a week, may seem like a lot, it can easily be done if you make time to do it. Most of the women in the study were working mothers, and they were successful with their fat loss goals because they made the time to exercise at a moderate intensity.

This isn't the first time that one hour a day, five days a week, has been recommended. In fact, John Berardi made the same recommendation in his book The Metabolism Advantage.

In his book, John Berardi writes:

Research from the University of Wyoming clearly demonstrates that it takes at least five hours a week to see real body composition results. In this survey of more than 1,000 people, researchers concluded that people who workout out for less time than that tend to be unhappy with the way they look and feel. On the other hand, people who workout for more than five hours a week tend to be happy with the way they look and feel.

According to scientifically based U.S. government guidelines, you must exercise for 30 minutes a day to improve your health and 60 minutes a day to burn fat. In research conducted on weight gainers and maintainers, maintainers spent 80 minutes or more per day exercising, whereas gainers spent 20 minutes or less.

This has held true with my own training. Whenever I strength train 3-4 days per week and perform additional cardio sessions (high intensity intervals, strongman-type workouts, ultimate frisbee, etc.) giving me at least five hours of exercise a week, I stay leaner, much more fit and healthy.

There have been times when I reduced my training sessions to three days per week, and I always gained weight while noticing a drop in my fitness levels. In order to meet my goals, the five hours per week rule almost always holds true.

I'm very busy with work and other commitments just like everyone else, but I make training one of my priorities throughout the week. I schedule it within my week so that I know what days and times I have set aside to train. I feel better and look better when I get nearly five hours or more of exercise a week.

Remember, there are 168 hours in a week and five hours of exercise only represents 3 percent of the entire week. Considering that the average North American watches 28 hours of television per week, five hours a week shouldn't be that problematic if you turn off the television or computer and get out and exercise.

The best way to structure your training is to perform at least three 45-60 minute strength-training sessions and three 25-30 minute cardio sessions each week. Once you reach your fat loss goals, you can reduce your training to 30 minutes a day as mentioned above in order to maintain your health, but it may require more than that to keep the fat off for a long period of time.

This is why strength training is so important. Muscle is the only thing that is metabolically active. Muscle mass increases metabolism and allows your body to burn fat effectively 24/7. Cardio alone will not keep the fat off (the reason many runners and bicyclists are overweight), and it certainly won't help you maintain muscle mass.

If you follow a supportive nutritional plan in addition to intense strength training and cardio, you will achieve your goal for a happier, healthier, leaner body just the way God intended!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Christian Athlete Fitness Training - Home Gym!

"Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, (his speech should be) like the oracles of God; if anyone serves, (his service should be) from the strength God provides, so that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen." - 1 Peter 4:10-11

As I've mentioned before, I have a home gym that I set up to train myself and others. I began building my own home gym in July 2004 because I no longer wanted to train at another gym or fitness center, and I wanted to train using methods that were not always accepted in some fitness centers (Olympic lifts, heavy deadlifts, athletic-based training, etc.).

I started my home gym with a very basic but effective set up that included a Body Solid Power Rack, flat bench, 300lb Olympic Barbell set, a weight tree (to hold and organize the Olympic weight plates), two 4'x6' rubber mats from a feed store, some 2'x2' interlocking rubber mats along with a few pieces of equipment I already had on hand including a dragging sled, a 16kg kettlebell, jump rope, medicine balls and a few other small pieces of equipment. I purchased most of my equipment from Play-It-Again Sports for less than $600!

At the time, I lived on the second floor of a luxury apartment community. Luckily, I never had any problems training for the next 8 months despite the fact that I performed heavy deadlifts, squats, bench presses and other lifts. I was always careful to set the weights down carefully as to not disturb my neighbors, and I never received any complaints.

During this time, I made some great progress. I was able to focus on many basic exercises and work on increasing my strength and size.

Over time, I continued to add more equipment to my home gym including a lat/row attachment for my power rack, a 40lb X-vest, the Ironmaster Super Bench and Adjustable dumbbells and attachments, sandbags, various bands, boards, kettlebells, etc. I had also moved a couple times so I was able to expand my home gym and keep it in a garage (see photo of me squatting below).

Or on the first floor of another luxury apartment community (see photo below).

Last December, I moved into my new home and set up the gym and all the equipment I had purchased during the last four years in an organized and efficient manner. Since I have so much more equipment now than when I first started, I needed nearly half the garage to organize everything and give me the required space to perform a variety of exercises. The extra space also allows me to train 2-3 people at one time.

I'm very pleased with the equipment I've purchased, as I have been able to add plenty of variety to my workouts. I'm also able to use a variety of training methods that get results while using a very small amount of space (I have less than 200 square feet for all of my equipment). And I'm still able to fit my car in the garage along with everything else that is on another shelf or hanging on the opposite wall (house and yard tools and supplies).

Although it can be very hot training in the garage during the summer, I enjoy it because I'm able to get some fresh air while technically training outside. Luckily, I have two fans that I use on high speed to help keep the heat from becoming overwhelming, but that doesn't stop me from being completely drenched in sweat after the end of a training session or after dragging the sled, pushing the car, performing heavy farmer's walks (see below) or sprints outside on the street.

I enjoy training at home and having the opportunity to train others. I look forward to opening my own training facility one day so I can offer semi-private and group training to many more people and help them meet their health and fitness goals.

Christian Athlete Fitness Training offers strength, conditioning, fat loss, nutrition and health tips without all the nonsense. My goal is to help others succeed with their training and nutrition to get the results they desire. I also train people at my private garage gym to help them lose fat, build muscle and become athletic, strong, fast, fit and mentally tough using results-proven intense training programs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Low-Carb and Mediterranean Diets are Both Winners for Fat Loss!

"You cause grass to grow for the livestock and plants for people to use. You allow them to produce food from the earth..."
- Psalm 104:14

In one of the longest and largest studies comparing dueling weight-loss techniques, a low-carb diet and a Mediterranean-style regimen helped people lose more weight than a traditional low-fat diet.

The low-carb diet also helped improve cholesterol more than the other two. All three approaches (the low-carb diet, a low-fat diet and a Mediterranean diet) achieved weight loss and improved cholesterol, but the low-carb diet and Mediterranean diet were the clear winners.

Average weight loss for the low-carb group was 10.3 pounds. Those in the Mediterranean diet lost 10 pounds and those on the low-fat diet dropped 6.5 pounds. The low-carb group had the most improvement in several cholesterol measures, including the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (the "good" cholesterol).

Most of the participants were men and all men and women in the study got roughly equal amounts of exercise (but it did not state what type or how much exercise).

As for how the diets were broken down, the low-fat diet restricted calories and focused on low-fat grains, vegetables and fruits with no more than 30 percent of calories from fat.

The Mediterranean diet had similar calorie, fat and cholesterol restrictions, with an emphasis on poultry, fish, olive oil and nuts.

The low-carb diet set limits for carbohydrates, but none for calories or fat. Dieters were encouraged to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein (and not a lot of butter, eggs and cream).

Once again, low-carb diets prove to be healthier and more effective for fat loss. However, I should clarify that a low-carb diet doesn't mean you no longer eat vegetables and fruits. In fact, a low-carb diet should include as many fibrous vegetables as possible along with low-calorie, low-sugar and low-carb fruits such as berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries), apples and oranges.

A lower carb diet is easy to follow if you remember the following tips:

  • Eat protein with every meal from lean meats (organic beef, chicken, fish, bison, venison, etc.), eggs (whole eggs, preferably organic) dairy (organic milk, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese), raw nuts and protein powders
  • Eat plenty of vegetables with each meal - the greener and more colorful the better (broccoli, spinach, green beans, asparagus, peas, zucchini, brussel sprouts, green peppers, lima beans, squash, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, etc.)
  • Eat plenty of healthy fats from olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, avocados, natural peanut butter as well as fats from lean meats, whole eggs, dairy products, etc.
  • Limit starchy carbohydrates such as grains (bread and corn), potatoes, rice, pasta and sugar.

In fact, Mike Roussell recommends following the six pillars of nutrition:

  1. Eat five or six times a day.
  2. Limit your consumption of sugars and processed foods
  3. Eat fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
  4. Drink more water and cut out calorie-containing beverages (beer, soda, juice, etc.)
  5. Focus on consuming lean proteins throughout the day.
  6. Save starch-containing foods (in small quantities) until after a workout or for breakfast.

If you follow the tips above and consume a lower carb diet, you will be able to lose fat and improve your health. Adding exercise to your nutritional program in the form of resistance training and high-intensity interval training will increase the benefits to your health and body composition.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Florida Gators Charity Challenge!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." - Ephesians 6:10-12

Stacey and I attended the The University of Florida Gators Charity Challenge on Friday. The strongman competition showed fans how hard they’ve worked this summer and helped raise money for charity.

The Gator team, which usually holds a strongman competition toward the end of every summer, chose to open this year’s competition to the public for the first time while raising money for a good cause.

We saw our favorite players excel in team and individual events such as a tire flip, sled push, Torpedo hold, medicine ball toss and two obstacle courses.

The inaugural UF Football Charity Challenge raised $6,000 for six charities. Six booths set up inside the stadium represented each charity and accepted monetary pledges while the activities occurred on the field. The charities represented included the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the Children’s Miracle Network, the American Diabetes Association and the March of Dimes.

Stacey and I decided to donate to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation as a friend of ours was recently diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer and had a double masectomy just a day before the strongman competition.

We supported and cheered for the Gator team wearing their pink breast cancer awareness shirts. Ironically, the team we picked, led by Gator team captain and offensive lineman Jason Watkins, ended up winning the challenge!

At the end of the competition we even had a chance to snap a couple pictures with Tim Tebow. I only had a brief moment to talk to Tim as he had already spent a lot of time after the competition signing autographs and taking photos.

When I called him over for a photo, I expressed my appreciation of him as a role model and invited him to attend our church if he was ever interested.

As he began to leave, I asked him for another photo, this time with Stacey. I mentioned that she was a big fan and would really appreciate it.

I joked with him that Stacey said she was going to divorce me to marry him (she had joked about that earlier that evening!). He got a good laugh out of that, and I think I embarrassed Stacey just a little.

I wish I had a few more minutes to speak with him, as there have been many things I've wanted to talk to him about regarding God, Christianity, his humility and how his actions have even helped me humble myself (no easy feat!).

I've seen Tim on campus in the past, and I'm sure there will be another chance for me to see him and speak with him.

Tim is an incredible role model and exemplifies what being a Christian is truly about. He has a passion for children (he chose the Children's Miracle Network as his team's charity for the strongman competition) and has been on many mission trips to various countries.

He was brought up in a good Christian home and taught Biblical values and beliefs. Tim is very humble and Christ-like. He has his priorities in order (1. God, 2. Family, 3. School, 4. Football) and has been blessed by God in so many incredible ways.

He is an ambassador for Christ, and I can see that God will use him for many special things beyond football.

Read more about the Strongman competition here - Click me!