Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Training Seasons

Just like you go through different seasons in life you go through different seasons in training as well. Goals will typically dictate how you are currently training but sometimes circumstances outside of your control will shape your training too.

Take age for an example; young man would and should train differently than an old man. Other factors outside of your control could be time constraints, work and family commitments, injury, or any number of other situations life could throw at your way. Let us be real, there are worse things than adjusting your training or missing a workout. The key is not to abandon your training altogether but to make the appropriate adjustments accordingly.

In my current situation, which is, new studio, new baby on the way, buying a new house, moving my wife and two kids, things are little bit hectic (to say the least). It's not that I don't have the time to train (a favorite excuse used by people who don't like to exercise) but it's not always at the top of my priority list these days. Don't get me wrong, training is a top priority of mine but making enough money to support my family and being there for them trumps a workout. Sometimes I find it hard to dedicate the solid hour that I'd like to on training. So here's what I've been doing...

As I sit here on the computer (work) I have already once gotten up to stretch and move around a bit (exercise). I plan to take another 5 minutes or so after I finish this paragraph. I think this time I'll do a few squats. What I've found is that although I might not have an unbroken 60 minutes to spend on some hard training, I can easily take 5-10 minutes a half dozen times a day to do *something*. "I don't have enough time" is never a valid excuse for someone who wants it bad enough. You see I know that exercise makes me a more productive person, a happier person, so I will not, I can not, ever, abandon it fully. It's something that I cannot do without.

[I actually did not make it through that paragraph without getting up and stretching again.]

Anyway, that's just the season I am in right now; an exercise or two sprinkled in throughout my work day. I get a full workout in when I have the time for it, and I miss the regular training schedule I once had, but I'm not going anywhere and neither is my desire to workout.

Another thing I've been dealing with which I have been hesitant to accept is injury. I've been going to physical therapy twice a week at www.evolutionsportspt.com. What started with some minor shoulder pain was exacerbated when I got rear-ended by a teenager on his cell phone. Now my entire right arm hurts! This has put a huge damper on my training and I am not happy about it. Very discouraging. There are many exercises I cannot do without pain. So, I do what I can. And most of the time when I do finally get an hour block to workout, I do my physical therapy exercises. It's not very exciting but I feel better when I do them and worse when I don't do them, yet I feel even worse when I try to work through the pain and do pull ups or bend steel when I am not supposed to. Oh well, just another season I am in.

I imagine once the baby is born and we're settled into our new house and I am out of pain, hard training will resume. I'll probably have some different goals by then and unless there are any other unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances, I am sure those goals will once again dictate my training. For now, I will continue to do what I can, when I can do it.

Training Seasons

Just like you go through different seasons in life you go through different seasons in training as well. Goals will typically dictate how you are currently training but sometimes circumstances outside of your control will shape your training too.

Take age for an example; young man would and should train differently than an old man. Other factors outside of your control could be time constraints, work and family commitments, injury, or any number of other situations life could throw at your way. Let us be real, there are worse things than adjusting your training or missing a workout. The key is not to abandon your training altogether but to make the appropriate adjustments accordingly.

In my current situation, which is, new studio, new baby on the way, buying a new house, moving my wife and two kids, things are little bit hectic (to say the least). It's not that I don't have the time to train (a favorite excuse used by people who don't like to exercise) but it's not always at the top of my priority list these days. Don't get me wrong, training is a top priority of mine but making enough money to support my family and being there for them trumps a workout. Sometimes I find it hard to dedicate the solid hour that I'd like to on training. So here's what I've been doing...

As I sit here on the computer (work) I have already once gotten up to stretch and move around a bit (exercise). I plan to take another 5 minutes or so after I finish this paragraph. I think this time I'll do a few squats. What I've found is that although I might not have an unbroken 60 minutes to spend on some hard training, I can easily take 5-10 minutes a half dozen times a day to do *something*. "I don't have enough time" is never a valid excuse for someone who wants it bad enough. You see I know that exercise makes me a more productive person, a happier person, so I will not, I can not, ever, abandon it fully. It's something that I cannot do without.

[I actually did not make it through that paragraph without getting up and stretching again.]

Anyway, that's just the season I am in right now; an exercise or two sprinkled in throughout my work day. I get a full workout in when I have the time for it, and I miss the regular training schedule I once had, but I'm not going anywhere and neither is my desire to workout.

Another thing I've been dealing with which I have been hesitant to accept is injury. I've been going to physical therapy twice a week at www.evolutionsportspt.com. What started with some minor shoulder pain was exacerbated when I got rear-ended by a teenager on his cell phone. Now my entire right arm hurts! This has put a huge damper on my training and I am not happy about it. Very discouraging. There are many exercises I cannot do without pain. So, I do what I can. And most of the time when I do finally get an hour block to workout, I do my physical therapy exercises. It's not very exciting but I feel better when I do them and worse when I don't do them, yet I feel even worse when I try to work through the pain and do pull ups or bend steel when I am not supposed to. Oh well, just another season I am in.

I imagine once the baby is born and we're settled into our new house and I am out of pain, hard training will resume. I'll probably have some different goals by then and unless there are any other unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances, I am sure those goals will once again dictate my training. For now, I will continue to do what I can, when I can do it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Lift Kettlebells?


Seriously, that's a good enough reason for me, but for those people who are looking for practical reasons to lift kettlebells, here's a few off of the top of my head:

Kettlebells develop all around fitness. Whether you are looking to build muscle or burn fat, get stronger or better conditioned, the answer is YES. I could go into all of the nitty-gritty details but its easier to say kettlebell training is both strength and cardiovascular work.

Kettlebells are fun. If you've lifted kettlebells before you know this, but then if you have lifted them you wouldn't be reading an article on "why lift kettlebells"? You already know that kettlebells provide an array of exercises for the full body in a dynamic, fast paced, fashion.

Kettlebells are convenient. A single piece of equipment that takes up virtually no space and you can do endless exercises with them. You should have a kettlebell sitting by every television in your house so you can do swings during commercial breaks.

Kettlebells are efficient. This goes back to the all around fitness thing, but you don't need daily hour long sessions to get a good workout in. 20 minutes is more than enough if you're training properly.

Kettlebells are portable. No more missed workouts because you're traveling. Need a change of scenery, no problem! Feel like training outside today, pick your place (I like the beach).

I could go on but I just remembered I already wrote this article like 5 years ago. I thought all this sounded familiar... Why Lift Kettlebells?

Art & Strength Grand Opening

Announcing the Grand Opening of Art & Strength - Where Strength is an Art Form

Where: 4115 Wholesale Club dr, Baltimore, MD, 21236.
When: Saturday, October 15 from 12-4pm
What: Amazing performances, food, drink, raffle & free stuff



Monday, June 20, 2011

Got Motivation?

Kyle Maynard, author of the book, “No Excuses” competes in the 2010 Crossfit Games. Kyle was born with a congenital amputation that affected both his arms and legs. To read more about Kyle’s incredible story, visit his website at www.kyle-maynard.com







I realized long ago that you HAVE to workout. The alternative is not acceptable. You can make effort to get stronger or you WILL get fat, weak and sick. Once I understood this obvious truth, motivation has never been something I struggled with.

Of course there are times when energy levels lag, stress peaks and life in general just takes priority but for every reason to take time away from your exercise routine there are at least two reasons to do something. That is not to say that you should never take time off, you should – and a week off every few months will do you more good than harm – but you should never get out of the habit of exercising.

Have you ever noticed how you feel better on the days you workout? Find that you are more energetic? Creative? The immediate benefits of exercise are unmistakable! Everything is better when you are primed physically – you’re a more productive employee, a more patient parent, you get more restful sleep - and these are just the things that happen the day of! Once you start to string a few of these days into weeks, months and years; you’re a totally different person before long. The thought of not feeling this way is something you don’t want. Motivation is no longer an issue. You might as well consider training as part of your job (a job that pays well and you really like!).



Though if you start to experience the opposite – less energy, lower libido, impatience, and/or problems sleeping – you could be overtraining. Sometimes your motivation and your best intentions can turn against you. There are times when rolling over and going back to bed is the best thing you can do for your training. That’s why it’s important to learn to listen to your body and take scheduled times off. More often than not that extra recovery time will replenish your energy stores and renew your motivation. Expect a good workout and few personal records when you come back.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

York Barbell Strength Festival

On May 21, 2011 there will be a Strength Festival at York Barbell Museum and USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in York, PA. There is a full schedule with the main events being a Kettlebells for Warriors workshop (all proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project) and two inductions into the Hall of Fame. Joseph Greenstein (aka The Mighty Atom) and Slim "The Hammerman" Farman will be inducted. I have the honor to be performing a strongman show for their induction. My show and the induction will take place during the lunch hour.

Also on the agenda is a USAWA "chain lift" competition and "record breakers" event. There will be martial arts demonstrations, a weightlifting exhibition, Crossfit workouts, grip games, strongman toys, stuff for the kids and a raffle worth thousands of dollars in products and services. All four branches of the US military will be there with a speech being delivered by one of our wounded veterans.

This event is going to be big! Last year's event brought in over $5000 for the Wounded Warrior Project and this years event is expected to double, even triple that.

I hope to see you there!

-Dan

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring Forward

A few weeks ago, on one of those unusually warm February days, my brother in-law and I drove past an obese woman jogging on the side of the road. I commented, “That’s awesome.” Apparently, he thought I was making fun of her, as he replied, “Hey, at least she’s trying.”

“No, I’m serious, it’s awesome. It brings me great joy to see fat people running. She won’t be fat for long if she keeps that up!” was my exact response.

It’s officially spring and this is a time when chubby suburbanites all across the country flood the streets and the gyms to shed off their winter weight in preparation for summer. And you know what? It’s a beautiful thing.

I think seasonal exercise habits are a great idea! If you remember last winter I recommended a muscle building phase to coincide with your holiday eating schedule. It makes sense; more muscle requires more calories, and increased calories usually means an increased waistline. So you put a little flab on over the winter – so what?! That’s a small price to pay for enjoying a little holiday gluttony with your family.

But now, the weather is warming up and the clothes are coming off. If your butt is bigger than it was the last time you had shorts on, I hope that’s because you’ve been squatting heavy the last couple months and you have well developed glutes. If so, it’ll be that much easier to shed your winter coat and your legs will be that much stronger to do what I’m about to recommend… and that is to get out and run!

No gyms, no machines, no non-sense; just you and a pair of running shoes (I recommend www.vibramfivefingers.com) out in the fresh air. Run your neighborhood, hit the trails or find a good hill to do sprints on. No experience necessary. Just go out and enjoy the weather and be thankful that you can run.

Like anything else, start off gradually. Try to establish a habit of running before you attempt to break any records. As soon as you find yourself in a routine, I’d recommend that you start trying to run faster, at least on occasion. Sprints and high intensity intervals. There are many additional benefits associated with higher intensity (increased metabolism, better muscle building, improved work capacity, etc) and by keeping your heart rate elevated you can reap all of the aerobic benefits of longer duration steady-state exercise as well.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Strength Training and Muscle Building

“Strength is absolute. It’s unequivocal, you either have it or you don’t. You can call upon it and use it or you cannot.”
-Dr. Ken Leistner

Let’s get one thing straight – strength is always a good thing. Getting stronger is like putting money in the bank, and like money, you can never have too much strength. If you have strength, you will find a time to use it, if you don’t have strength, you will find a time you wish you did.

Everybody should be doing some form of strength training. If you are not making an effort to strengthen your body, you will get weaker. Even children learning to walk are on a progressive strength training journey; from crawling, to walking, to running and jumping – kids get stronger. In healthy older adults, the only thing that separates them physically is their muscle and strength; posture, frailty, energy levels and ultimately their ability to live independently are all largely based on strength. Assuming you fall somewhere in between child and senior, you should be training for strength as well, if for no other reason than you’re going to be old one day too! It’s in your best interest to enter into the golden years with some muscle and strength because it’s going to be on a rapid decline after you get into your 50’s.

Muscle building is a little bit different than strength training; bigger muscles doesn’t necessarily mean stronger muscles, and getting stronger doesn’t necessarily mean getting bigger. The actual size of a muscle has a lot more to do with non-contractile properties than it does functional strength, and building bigger muscles has a lot more to do with the individual and the way they eat than it does their training alone.

Generally speaking, muscle building requires a high calorie, high protein diet with a heavy dose of the male hormone testosterone. The more testosterone you have the more potential you have for muscle building. Women, children and older men will find it very difficult to build muscle. Years of hard training and an animal like appetite is what it takes for the average man with good genetics to build significant muscle, so ladies need not be concerned about “bulking up.”

Unfortunately many women are still under the impression that lifting weights will cause them to “bulk up” and they miss the incredible benefits of strength training. Somewhere along the line the idea of “toning” came into vogue which focused on “shaping” a muscle instead of building it and making it stronger. Understand that you cannot shape a muscle other than making it bigger and to “tone” you need more muscle AND less fat. High repetition, light weight, low intensity training is an ineffective way to do either.

Take a look at the picture below. All of these women are professional athletes and with the exception of the bodybuilder and the long distance runner (neither the “toned” look most women are after), they all have similar levels of bodyfat. With that in mind, the only difference in “tone” is the amount of muscle they have. The weightlifter, Tara Nott, though certainly muscled, is not as big as the bodybuilder but she is much stronger. She’s the only American to win a gold medal in Olympic weightlifting in the last 50 years and she can lift 220lbs overhead. You can imagine how many years of hard and heavy training she put in at the US Olympic training center to build the muscle she has. It did not come over night, in a couple months or even a year. Tara has been lifting limit weights for over a decade. The bodybuilder, Kim Chizovsky, has been lifting weights for a similar time period but competes in a sport where anabolic steroids (read: testosterone) are not tested for. It’s safe to say that it’s “unnatural” for a woman to build so much muscle.

The take home message here is that muscle and strength is not built easy. It takes long hard hours in the gym over a period of years to build either, and the training and dietary regimen is totally different. It’s good to be strong – it makes you harder to kill (all cause mortality). Tone is the absence of fat and the presence of muscle in a relaxed state, and bulking up is not something women should worry about.




“Here’s an amazing photomontage that appeared in the unfortunately short-lived Sports Illustrated for Women many years ago. It features a selection of female Olympic athletes from different sports. That’s right — Olympic athletes. You can’t really be in much better shape than this. I think it speaks for itself.” – Mistress Krista of stumptous.com
(Click the picture to be directed to Krista’s article “Why Don’t You Look Like a Fitness Model”)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Resolution Dissolution

It’s February and by now something like 80% of New Years Resolutions have already been broken. I’ve never seen any specific survey results but I’m sure many of these were diet and exercise resolutions that fell short. It’s too bad, and I feel for the people who are really trying to make a difference (although I’d argue that if you didn’t even make it a month you’re not trying hard enough). Habits can be hard to break and lifestyle changes are difficult for many people to make on their own. Of course, a lot of it comes down to how bad you want it. I have little sympathy for the people whose only effort at making change is lip service. Exercise is a participatory activity - you have to get out there and “do” it. Same thing with your diet – don’t cry the blues on your way home from McDonalds – I don’t want to hear it! Either you are ready to take control over your health or you aren’t.

Yet still there are others who are ready to take control but just aren’t sure what to do. With all of the information out there, all of the gadgets, all of the programs and all of the people out there trying to make a buck, it’s not hard to see how folks are being led in the wrong direction. I bet a lot of those broken resolutions are because of a lack of results. Let’s get real though, 4 weeks is hardly enough time to see changes in body composition, and I know that’s what most people are looking for. You’d really need to work hard to see results in 4 weeks and the reality is that most people don’t LIKE to train hard, don’t know HOW to train hard or don’t know they HAVE to train hard.

Look at any new fitness gadget that hits the shelves at Wal-Mart or makes a debut on late-night infomercials. Almost without exception, they are designed to make exercise easier or more comfortable. This is aiming at people’s natural desire to take the path of least resistance, but this is also aiming in the wrong direction! Training is about making progress! This is why people lift heavier weights and run longer distances. It’s about stepping outside of your comfort zone and making things harder, not easier!

Getting fit is a very simple process but it is anything but easy. You should be skeptical of anyone claiming otherwise (although eating right actually IS pretty easy). Much of training is really just common sense and the need for progressive resistance is not that hard to figure out. The hard part is committing yourself to progression and make a habit out of pushing your limits.

“The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense."

- Thomas Edison