Managing Training and Life

Let's touch on something:


WHAT PEOPLE SAY versus WHAT IT ACTUALLY MEANS

“I’m too busy to go to the gym” = Being healthy is not a priority for me

“I’m too tired from working/studying all day to workout” = Being fit is not a priority for me

“I am not getting in better shape because I don’t have access to healthy food” = Nutrition is not a priority for me


It’s all about priorities.

Currently, I work full time at a multi-disciplinary engineering company and help run a fitness facility part time before and after work. On top of all of this, I have to manage my lifting schedule, and still find time to grocery shop, cook, shower, and sleep. Would I be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult and hectic? Yes, I would. But would I also be lying if I said it wasn’t worth it and possible? Damn straight.

Balancing your schedule to fit all of your daily tasks can seem impossible at times, but it all comes down to priorities. With some organization and a little bit of sacrifice you can maintain an exceptional nutrition, training and recovery program, while excelling as a parent, at work, or as a student. This might mean skipping 'boys night out' and hitting the gym for a late night squat session, or going grocery shopping on Saturday morning (instead of sleeping in because you had too much to drink the night before) so that you can meal prep on Sunday.  Before we continue do me a favor and ask yourself, what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals?

NUTRITION

Let’s start with nutrition. Before we had the meal-prep routine down in our house nutrition was definitely the most difficult components of our training and recovery program.  I was stuck rummaging through the cupboards, fridge and freezer looking for anything that seemed semi-healthy.  This gave me limited choices on what I had to eat if I was trying to adhere to a healthy diet.  With a little bit of help, I picked up a few bits of knowledge that is worth sharing.  Here are some of the tips I learned for maintaining good nutritional practices:

  • Ensure you eat enough around your workout time.

Given that schedules can differ from day to day, make sure the bulk of your eating is directly before and directly after your workout. This should include the bulk of your carbohydrate intake for the day if you want to optimize performance. Eat foods that will provide you with energy when your body needs it. Can’t get a workout in until 7 or 8 pm? Fill your morning and afternoon with quality protein sources, high nutrient vegetables, and healthy fats to keep you satiated. My favorite high fat snack: almond butter.  If you do not want to prepare any foods after your workout, make sure to grab items that you can eat without much effort that still provide you with high protein/ high carbohydrates, such as a banana (about 25g of carbs), and low-fat, unsweetened yogurt (example: 0 or 2% greek yogurt have about 20g of protein per serving) or low-fat cottage cheese.

  • Cook while you sleep.

How?  If you have the ability to cook your own food and make your own meals, I highly suggest you do so. Meal prep is critical to giving you more insight and control over your nutritional intake. The best meal prep tool? A slow cooker. You can throw all of your ingredients in one pot, turn it on, and you’re set.  By decreasing the amount of time you spend in the kitchen, you will free up time for other things, like sleeping. By prepping your food, you are also able to eat everyday fairly mindlessly, which will make it easier for you to stay on track with your meals and snacks throughout your busy day.

Other minor tips include:

  • Bringing your prepped food with you to work, class, activities, etc. to free up time
  • Skipping high calorie coffees/lattes and opting for water or Spark

Given all of this about nutrition, I would still suggest allowing your body to build muscle and adapt; be sure to not limit your success because of a number on a scale.

TRAINING

Sticking to a training regiment while busy can sometimes feel impossible, but if you treat it like you do a work meeting or college class, you will find the time and motivation to get it done. Personally, having the motivation to go train (or practice for a sport) was rarely a problem, because for me it was a great way to relieve stress and enjoy myself.  It was and still is my escape from all of the work I had to do for my academics or while on the job.  The following are my tips for sticking to a training cycle:

  • Train with others.

The most obvious one is to join a supportive gym or team. There is no better way to keep yourself accountable than to have a trainer/coach or a team that depends on you.  The individuals in the gym or on the team will share a common interest with you and can push you when you feel unmotivated. 

 Dillon brown during a late night training session

Dillon brown during a late night training session

  • Pencil it into your schedule (make it a priority).

Make your training schedule a to-do item. Establish a block of time that is not flexible. In other words, do NOT plan meetings, study times, lunch dates, or anything that might deter you from going to the gym and getting your training in during that block of time. If necessary it might be wise to try to workout at the same time everyday in order to make it a part of your daily regimen.

  • Compete (if applicable).

Knowing you have to perform in front of an audience should be enough to fuel your desire to train. However, if your ultimate goal is not to compete, then simply give yourself a deadline of hitting a specific goal. Such goals can be created with a coach or independently if you know what you are doing.

RECOVERY

To the average person, the words ‘recovery’ and ‘life’ are pretty much opposites. Between the social parties, time spent in class, family get-togethers, binge drinking all weekend at your favorite bars, fast food, and time spent lugging the kiddos around, recovery sounds like the last thing you’re capable of doing. However, as previously mentioned, life is about prioritizing. Recovery is crucial to being successful in any endeavor. Having said that, allow yourself to be successful both at home/work and in training by allowing your mind and body to rest. Without proper recovery, you will not perform to your potential, and also risk injuring yourself. The following are some quick tips for recovering:

  • Sleep

Must I say more? How many scientific studies do you have to read to believe that sleep is directly correlated to both success in and out of the gym? Pick a reasonable bed time based on your schedule and stick to it on a daily basis.

  • Understand what it really means to recover and how to do it properly.

Many people think recovery is simply foam rolling and stretching. Be aware of the various stressors that can inhibit proper recovery and educate yourself about how to maximize your efforts to recover.  Some things you may want to look into include hydration levels, sleep monitoring, and keeping a nutrition log.

SUMMARY

Prioritizing your time is essential to your success in the gym while balancing love, life and fitness. Establish a system of accountability to ensure you do not stray from your program, and be sure to seek guidance from your trainers/coaches and your nutrition coach when you can. Determine what recovery tools you have control over and capitalize on those offered to you.  By tracking your nutrition, training, and recovery, you will surely enhance your performance as a parent, at work, or as a student!

Resources: http://www.jtsstrength.com/articles/2015/09/15/managing-lifting-and-life-for-the-young-athlete/?mc_cid=4715807c27&mc_eid=143bd887d2

Thumbnail Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Food and Fitness Hacks

  Image courtesy of  iosphere  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  •  Put Rubber Bands on Your Water Bottle

    • You’ve likely heard that in order to drink more water you should bring a water bottle with you throughout the day, but it can still be tough to know if you’re drinking enough. Try using rubber bands for tracking your intake. Simply put rubber bands around your water bottle and take off one band for every time you refill the bottle. At the end of the day, you’ll know you met your goal when all the bands are off.
  • Make Smart Substitutions

    • Small substitutions can make a huge difference in terms of nutrition. When baking, try substituting applesauce for the oil in the recipe. This trick helps retain the moisture without really changing the taste of the end product.  Also, try using low fat Greek yogurt to replace sour cream or cream cheese in a recipe.

  • Spend Time in the Sun
    • In an age where you’re constantly reminded of the sun’s ability to damage and prematurely age your skin, many shy away from direct contact. As a result, not only might you be vitamin D deficient, but when you skip the sun you’re missing out on several other benefits. 15 minutes of sun everyday gives us energy and promotes Vitamin D production.  Getting this exposure is great - whether that be eating lunch outside, walking around the neighborhood or reading a book on your patio.
  • Stretch Out
    • At the end of your day, lay in bed and open your arms so they are at a 45-degree angle between your head and shoulder, keeping your shoulders down, allowing your chest to open up. You can also try this with a pillow under your back. You may feel a gentle stretch, but it’s fine if you don't. Hold this for around 3 to 5 minutes while breathing slowly into your abdomen. This can help with various problems related to working at a desk and stress. Think of this as a way to counteract how you may have been sitting and standing most of the day. Opening and stretching your chest like this can improve posture, help neck and shoulder pain that is related to posture and can sometimes help with tension headaches. Lastly, holding this stretch for a few minutes before you go to sleep along with deep breathing will help you relax and make it easier to fall asleep.
  Image courtesy of  lobster20  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lobster20 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • Increase Your Omega 3 Intake
    • One of the best things you can do to maintain a healthy brain is to increase the amount of omega 3s you eat. Eat more fatty fish, like salmon—it’s packed with omega 3 which can help keep you in a good mood. In addition to the mood boost, including omega 3s in your diet may help prevent mental health decline and heart issues, according to scientific studies.

 

  • Ask for a Non-Grilled Bun
    • Many burger places and other restaurants routinely toss buns on the grill and while extra crisp isn’t bad for you, the add-ons may be adding calories. Many times butter or oil is added to each side of a bun before grilling. The seemingly small amount of fat is about 100 calories, and those calories come from saturated fat.
  • Rethink Your Drink
    • Most drinks we chose like soda, sports beverages, coffee drinks and even juices like coconut milk, orange juice and pomegranate juice are loaded with sugar.
  • Be Smart About Alcohol
    • It can be easy to forget that alcoholic beverages can be very high in calories. Opt for dry wine over sweet wine, as sweeter wines typically have an additional 100-150 calories per glass.  Use club soda as a mixer—it pairs well with vodka or gin,  and can even help hydrate to prevent a hangover. Lemons and limes can help flavor the drink without adding calories and can also add a nutritional boost of vitamin C. Try to avoid adding juice, sports drinks, energy drinks or soda to any alcoholic beverage.
  • Don’t Confuse Thirst for Hunger
    • It can be easy to confuse hunger and thirst.  When you get the urge to to reach for an unhealthy snack when hunger strikes… try drinking a big glass of water. The volume in your stomach can take away the hunger pangs so you don't indulge in unhealthy, fatty snacks.
  • Prioritize Sleep
    • Sleep is super important.  If you are sleep deprived, your body produces more ghrelin, the chemical in your brain that says ‘I'm hungry’ and less leptin, the chemical in your brain that says ‘I'm full.’ A lack of sleep also raises cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone that creates (and keeps) belly fat.  Try sleeping 7-8 hours each night and an additional hour for every hour you workout that day.  Naps count!
  Image courtesy of  Witthaya Phonsawat  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • Prepare Your Meals on the Weekends
    • Do all or most of your shopping and meal prep on the weekend so you don't have the excuse of a busy week to throw you off of your diet.

 

 

 

  • Schedule Your Workouts
    • Set your workout plan for the week—schedule in your classes and activities. When you actually schedule your workouts on your calendar and make a plan for yourself, your chances of actually following through increase significantly.
  • Eat a Healthy Breakfast
    • Start out each day with a breakfast that is high in fiber and protein to keep you full and energized all morning.

Thumbnail Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tight Shoulders? Let's fix that!

Having proper shoulder mobility is a foundational piece of good human movement and effective exercise programs.  If we are training the upper body to pull and push in multiple planes through a full range of motion, great shoulder mobility is a necessity.

When shoulder mobility becomes or is an issue we most commonly find ourselves with less than desirable spinal positions and open rib cages working to make up for our tight shoulders.  For many people it is not a matter of if, but rather when they will injure a shoulder.  Fortunately, you can overcome shoulder pain and inflexibility fairly easily if you address it properly.

Below are some methods to work on and maintain good shoulder mobility.  If you’re currently dealing with shoulder impairments, they will improve symptoms; if you are not, they will help you maintain optimal shoulder health and function, as well as help prevent future injury.

  • Banded Shoulder Distraction. Place a green band on a bar about 2” above head, face into rack and hold the band supported on the back of the wrist, move into a lunge and allow the band to pull your arm up and forward, with your palm up to the sky, and making sure to drive your chest towards your knee.
  • Lacrosse Ball Sub-scapula Release. Lay with a lacrosse ball along the edge of the shoulder blade proximal to the spine, take your straight arm thumb down to the opposite hip, move diagonal across body to an overhead position thumb into ground, perform 5 reps slowly, adjust ball up edge of scapula, return to the starting position and repeat in 3 different positions.
  • Lacrosse Ball Posterior Capsule Release.  Lay on your back with a lacrosse ball on the back of shoulder and roll over onto the ball -- working it into the back of the shoulder.
  • Partner Internal Rotation Stretch.   Lay on your back with bent knees and the soles of your feet on the ground. Move into a hip bridge, focus on having your hips high and your femur in line with your torso angle.  Place the back of the hands on the lower back and have a partner hold down your shoulders as you slowly lower hip to the ground, repeat a few times.  (If you do not have a partner do not worry, a modification is shown in the video below.)
  • Kneeling Shoulder Stretch.  On your knees facing a 24’’+/- box, approximately 3 feet away, place your palms on box and drive your chest down toward the ground, bracing your abdomen and relaxing with straight arms.
  • Reach, Roll, Lift. Lay in a prone position face down, make a fist and place thumb on your forehead, with the opposite arm reach and pull arm overhead out of retraction crawling with fingertips, when you can’t go any farther turn thumb up and lift your arm for 1 sec., repeat a few times on each arm.

Resources: http://www.crossfitinvictus.com/coaches/are-your-shoulders-tight/

Improving your Wrist Mobility

A lack of proper wrist mobility can limit the ability for people in movements like cleans, front squats, overhead squats, etc.  We have been hearing comments from members like, "my wrist get very sore" or my forearms are getting a shooting pain."  Poor wrist mobility (which is most likely is tied to poor thoracic posture) can be the product of many factors, such as typing on a keyboard or playing on your smart phone all too often.  There are remedies and we want to reduce the amount of people with this problem.  Below are some great preventative and proactive movements that can be done to improve wrist mobility:

A. Wrist Rotations.  Wrap your fingers up and roll your wrists around in every direction.  If any position feels tender or limited try to hold that position for a few seconds.  This should be done a few times throughout your day; not only in the gym. 

B. Static Holds.  Pull or push your wrists into flexion and/or extension and hold for a minimum of 20-30 seconds. 

C. Prayers.  Standing, place your hands together in front of your body.  Keeping contact between your hands, lower them.  Go as far as possible.  The longer you can keep them together, the better the stretch.  At the bottom, reverse your hands so fingers are pointing down, keep your hands together, and bring your hands back up. 

D. Wrist Walks.  Place palms on a wall in front of you, with your arms straight and fingers toward the ceiling.  Keep contact with the wall and walk your hands down the wall.  Move your hands down the wall as far as you can while keeping your palms from coming off the wall.  When you cannot go any further, turn your hand around and walk your wrists back up the wall as far as possible. 

E.  Planche push-up position.  Get into a plank position.  Turn you hands inward so the tips of your fingers are pointing at your toes.  Keeping your mid-section tight, shift your body forward so you have an angle from your shoulders to your wrists.  Hold this for about 30 seconds and repeat.  If this is too much, try dropping to your knees. 

F. Front Squat Rack Position.  If you have pain when you are getting into the front rack position of a front squat then we need to work the range of motion required for a proper front squat.  Your shoulders should be holding the bar in its proper position, but good wrist mobility helps get the bar and keep the bar in its correct position.  Load a bar on a rack.  Set up in the rack position, with your elbows up and pointing as far forward as possible and the weight resting on your shoulders.   Pick the bar off the rack rotate your elbows forward, then re-rack the bar.  Repeat until you see an improvement in mobility.

G. Ring Push-ups.  Adjust the height of the rings (the lower the rings the harder the exercise).  Grip the rings, keeping your body straight and legs fully extended behind you.  Slowly lower yourself towards the rings.  Pause at the bottom of the movement and then push yourself back up. Try not to lock out your elbows to maintain tension throughout the movement.  Repeat.

H. Double Kettlebell Rack Walk.  Take a kettlebell in each hand.  Lift the kettlebells to your chin so your wrists face one another.  Rest the kettlebells on your upper arms and shoulders.  Walk forward and hold the kettlebells in the same position throughout the entire exercise.

Sources: http://boxlifemagazine.com/health/wrist-mobility-why-its-important-how-to-improve-it and http://www.crossfitinvictus.com/coaches/tips-for-improved-wrist-mobility/

How to Improve Flexibility and Mobility for Squatting

How to Improve Hip Flexibility and Mobility for Squatting

Lack of hip flexibility might be the main reason people are prevented from squatting properly. This is caused by hip flexion.  What’s is hip flexion?

Hip flexion is basically the technical term for a decrease in the angle between the thigh and pelvis. As your knee rises, hip flexion occurs:

There are multiple muscles involved in this action, and if do not have enough flexibility, you probably will not be able to squat correctly.

Luckily, there are some simple stretching exercises that you can do to improve hip flexibility and mobility and thus minimize and eventually eliminate the problem.  Here are some recommended stretches:

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

This is one of the best stretches for improving hip flexibility:

Work on this for 2-3 minutes per leg, and then move on to the next stretch below.

Psoas Quad Stretch

The psoas major is a pelvic muscle that plays a key role in hip flexion.

When this muscle is too tight, squatting properly is almost impossible.

One of the stretches that can help is a simple psoas quad stretch. Here is a video showing you how to do it:

This stretch can be rather uncomfortable if you are lacking flexibility.

You perform this stretch by assuming the position shown, and then driving your knee into the ground and leaning forward, getting a good stretch, followed by a release.

Perform this drive and release pattern for 2-3 minutes for each leg.

Your Weekly Hip Flexibility and Mobility Routine

Do the above stretches as described 3-4 times per week.

 

How to Improve Ankle Flexibility and Mobility for Squatting

Ankle tightness can prevent you from being able to properly drop into the bottom of a squat.  A proper squat consists of: a. the weight solidly on your heels, b. your chest up, and c. your spine in a neutral position.

If your heels want to lift off the ground when squatting, or if you find yourself shifting the weight forward onto your toes and have trouble getting your butt down to the parallel position or lower, then ankle tightness is likely the reason.

One way to increase ankle flexibility and mobility, is to mash up and stretch the tissues of your feet, ankles, and calves. Here’s a great video from MobilityWOD showing how to do it properly:

A lacrosse ball is needed for this (size 1 or 2), which can be used to perform quite a few great mobility exercises.

Your Weekly Ankle Flexibility and Mobility Routine

Do the above routine 3-4 times per week, either before or after your hip work.

References: http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-improve-flexibility-and-mobility-for-squatting/

Be More Human