Ode To Personal Training

*ahem*

Busting guts
blasting butts
engaged in metabolic war

The blood is warming
figures are forming
jaws will drop to the floor

Fear dissolves
you act on a pact:

Prioritize health
no excuse for yourself

Game-changing
the difference you’re making
living life to the full

Mind is blowing
confidence showing
it’s raining tigers and wolves

Resolve is growing
the soul is moving
body is grooving
proving you’ll win

With high-fiving
high-performing
the most rewarding
time in a gym

Maintaining a Neutral Spine in the Squat

Spinal Column

The key feature of proper squatting technique is the ability to maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement. This becomes even more challenging if you’re trying to squat below parallel, and the difficulty that many people have with this only serves to perpetuate the myth that squatting is bad for your back. You may also have observed some really strong lifters performing a squat with a rounded back, which further complicates the issue. While it’s one thing to sacrifice a little bit of form when going for a near maximum-effort lift, this exception doesn’t apply to you if you’re not squatting triple your bodyweight, or if you’re still learning how to squat. Quality of movement should take precedence over the quantity of the resistance being moved.

This doesn’t mean that the lumbar spine should never move into flexion or hyperextension. But it’s probably wise to avoid extreme end ranges of motion when you’re supporting a …Read this post >>

Stretching Science Part 3: Effects on Performance

Runner Stretching

Whether you want to run faster, jump higher, throw farther or play harder, you will need to move through an optimal range of motion to meet your performance objective. Flexibility is therefore an important factor in displays of physical performance along with strength, endurance, balance, agility and other fitness qualities. Static stretching may not be able to prevent injury or muscle soreness, but there’s no doubt about its usefulness when it comes to enhancing flexibility. Having said that, there are no universal requirements for flexibility, so the potential value of stretching must be evaluated in terms of individual needs and goals as well as any inherent limitations of stretching itself.

In that light, it’s worth examining the available evidence to determine if static stretching has any potentially negative effects on performance before engaging or continuing in a dedicated stretching program. Specifically, there are a few issues to consider: 1) the immediate short-term effects of stretching, …Read this post >>

Stretching Science Part 2: Muscle Soreness

Stretching Runner

Stretching may not be able to prevent acute injury, but what about ordinary muscle soreness that sometimes occurs as a result of physical activity, otherwise known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS? Just about everyone has had at least some experience with DOMS. After finishing a workout session without any noticeable discomfort, you develop increasing soreness and stiffness which peaks anywhere between 24-72 hours and then gradually subsides over the next couple of days. In the early 1960’s, researchers believed that exercise-induced muscle soreness was the result of restricted blood flow due to muscle spasm, and that normal blood flow could be restored to the muscle by stretching.

By the mid 1980’s, the muscle spasm theory was discredited but stretching continues to be recommended for the prevention and treatment of DOMS.Regardless of the actual mechanisms involved in producing DOMS, can stretching prevent or at least reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness? Again, rather than relying on …Read this post >>

Stretching Science Part 1: Injury Prevention

Leg Injury

Injury prevention is one of the most common goals of stretching, and many people regularly stretch before physical activity with the explicit goal of reducing their injury risk. In the meantime, a growing body of evidence has been calling many of the supposed benefits of stretching into question for the majority of the population. This may go against popular opinion in the health and fitness industries, as well as contradict what many in the public might consider as common sense, but there is turning out to be little credibility to the claim that stretching will prevent injuries.

Some individuals will surely object to this, stating that they don’t get injured as long as they stretch, as if other training variables have no bearing on the outcome. Congratulations on remaining uninjured, but if we are seeking supporting evidence for a mandatory stretching protocol, then we will have to use a sample size greater than one and …Read this post >>

How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off

Image Credit: Life Design Strategies

Losing weight is easy. Keeping it off is the real challenge. Most people do not successfully maintain their weight losses, and some individuals regain even more weight than they lost. Naturally, this is a discouraging scenario, and recent headlines which claim that being overweight or obese is primarily a genetic issue might make it seem like there’s nothing you can do about it. Why bother changing your current diet or exercise routine if any positive results are completely out of reach?

Before you succumb to the dubious doctrine of genetic pre-destination and give up on your weight loss goals, there are a couple of basic dieting principles that you should know about. These are not hard and fast rules, but if you’ve had trouble with weight loss in the past, then you may want to consider adopting a new approach.

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Extreme Fitness and Diet Advice is Always Wrong

Ross Tucker from The Science of Sport posted an excellent article yesterday that highlights the polarization that has taken place among the debate on barefoot running. This phenomenon is not limited to the running community, of course, and I really appreciated how Ross compared the barefoot issue to all the paleo diet dogma that is currently being promoted. It’s not that barefoot or minimal running doesn’t profoundly benefit some runners. Likewise, some people are truly much better off when following a low-carb or even a no-starch diet. The problem arises when these positive experiences become the basis for what are portrayed as incontrovertible laws for all humankind.

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The Effects of Coffee on Performance and Health

Hot coffee

If you like coffee, chances are fairly good that you don’t have to drink it alone. Over 2 billion cups are poured worldwide each day, according to the International Coffee Organization. In the United States, 2 out of 3 people drink coffee, and 1 out of every 4 U.S. residents consume more than 6 cups per day. Some just like the taste but for many, coffee is used to enhance mental alertness or even improve physical performance. As is typical of most other health and performance topics, there is a wide range of conflicting information available regarding coffee, and separating truth from fiction can be a daunting task. Can coffee really boost your performance? Are there any detrimental side effects to regular coffee intake, such as dehydration or excessive cortisol production? Does coffee provide any nutritional benefit at all, or should it be avoided? Is decaffeinated better than caffeinated? This article will highlight some potential …Read this post >>

3 Squatting Myths That Refuse To Die

High bar back squat

The squat probably gets more of a bad rap than any other strength training movement, especially the barbell back squat. Many people choose the leg press machine instead, blaming the squat on their knee or low back injuries. Others will only perform partial squats, fearing injury if they go too deep. Avoiding injury is always good, but avoiding the squat is like refusing to walk because you’ve seen other people trip and fall on the sidewalk. Millions of professional and amateur athletes around the world somehow manage to squat regularly without hurting themselves.

The fact that a properly performed squat is inherently safe has been presented many, many times by others who are much more qualified than I am. In spite of this, the misconceptions persist, so I believe that the available evidence bears repeating. This article will deconstruct what may be the three most common squatting myths: Squatting below parallel is bad for your …Read this post >>

Miles For Music 20K & 1 Miler Event

Nothing is more important for your health than regular physical activity, and music feeds the soul. Unfortunately, school sports and music programs are seeing drastic cuts due to tough economic times. Anne McCarthy, a runner and music teacher in the Edison, NJ public school system, is taking the lead in supporting music education in the classrooms, while promoting a more active lifestyle for the youth in our New Jersey communities. Her non-profit organization, Miles For Music, is hosting a two-part event on Sunday, March 11, 2012 at Johnson Park in Highland Park, NJ. To be held first, at 9:00am, is a 20K race open to all runners. Following that, at 12:00pm, will be a 1-mile walk/run event that is open to school teams with 10 or more participants.

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