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What You WANT VS What You NEED When it Comes to Fitness

So, Labor Day Weekend is officially over and I know the last thing anyone would WANT to do is hit the gym. But… The longer you don’t exercise, the worse it’s going to be when you finally do. So, you must go do what you don’t want to this week.

Hate doing cardio? Which is worse, not being the happiest person in the world for a 3 mile jog or cringing when you see tagged pictures of yourself on Facebook?

Don’t like doing push-ups? You will once you can actually maneuver your own body weight.

I see people not wanting to do the things that would give them the most benefits all the time. They stick to the exercises they like most (or hate the least) and thus don’t get the benefits they really need. If you don’t like a type of exercise, it’s probably because you’re struggling with something you obviously have to work on. An example…

Most of my female clients hate lifting weights and prefer to only do cardio, BUT the only remedy for poor strength is weight resistance training. Plus, I’ve already talked about how strength training actually helps women lose weight.

And of course, most of my guy clients hate doing anything cardio-related and would laugh at me if I suggested yoga. BUT in order to keep their heart healthy and their joints flexible, you better believe they do both!

I personally only ENJOY lifting weights. I really have to be in a very particular mood to WANT to go for a run or to head to the Bikram Yoga studio, but I do cardio AND yoga as much as I can to make sure my heart stays healthy and I gain (rather than lose) flexibility as I get older.

Today is a great example of this. The last thing in the world I wanted to do on my last day off from a 3-day weekend was walk a mile in 80 degree/brutally humid weather to the Lower East Side Bikram studio. But I like to practice what I preach so off to the LES I went to practice yoga with my girlfriend.

Walking past all the people drinking and having fun in the LES bars enjoying their Monday off, with the sun in our eyes, and the humidity painting pit stains on us, we went from being outside in the hot, muggy weather, to the sauna-like Bikram studio.

In case you aren’t familiar with Bikram, it’s a 90 minute yoga class that takes place in a 105 degree room. Don’t be turned off though, it’s actually helped me drastically with flexibility and overall mental chillness. It’s my personal favorite type of yoga, but I simply was not in the mood for this today.

About 5 seconds into class I wanted to scream at the teacher/kill myself. I was absolutely hating every second in this cauldron of sweaty heat.

At one point I glanced over at the thermostat and it read 128 degrees!

WHAT!?!?!?!?!? $@&#*!

That’s not fair! I signed up for a 105 degree Bikram class!

I also couldn’t help but notice how much my girlfriend was enjoying watching me suffer! I made eye contact with her while she shot me a look that said “This is payback for making me hold those stupid side planks for 30 seconds longer than you said I would have to.”

I had flashbacks of some of my clients giving me the look of death when I told them to do 5 more reps than the original number of reps I had told them to do for a given exercise. Wow, they would get a real kick out of this.

Long story short… the 90 minutes felt like 900 minutes. BUT afterwards I felt like a million bucks and my girlfriend and I actually walked an additional 5 miles around the city since we were high off endorphins/zenned out and felt like getting some steady state cardio in before our work week started.

See? I hate doing things that aren’t easy too, but I do them not because I WANT to but because I know I HAVE to!

Enjoy your 4 day work week people and remember… get back to the gym pronto!

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Work in an Office? Here Are My Health Tips For You.

This is for all my office people!

If your work life has you sitting at a desk for several hours of the day, the chances are you might have tight hip flexors, a slow metabolism, kyphosis, achy wrists from typing, and poor circulation of blood flow in your lower body.

This isn’t ideal for a healthy lifestyle, but before you flip your desk over, kick your boss’ ass, and storm out of your building, just chill! I’ll give you some tips on how to combat all the negatives of sitting for the majority of the day!

First of all, when you leave your office and come to the gym, you have the stretch those hip flexors out!

The best stretch for your hip flexors/illiopsoas (in my professional option) is the runner’s stretch.

This will help you with overall lower body mobility which can help you throw higher front kicks, take longer strides while running, and get a little deeper for your lunges.

Notice how I said LUNGES, not SQUATS!

You’ve just been sitting for hours, if you want to strengthen your lower body, do yourself a favor and don’t do a move that emulates a sitting position!

I don’t want you to end up looking like the hunchback of your law firm either, so we need to do something to combat all that hunching over that’s been going on at work!

It’s cool, EVERYBODY starts to round their shoulders forward after sitting for a long period of time. The best thing we can do to offset that and get your spine to straighten up is BACK WORK!

Rows/Australian pull ups for the rhomboids (mid back), lat pull downs/pull ups for your latissimus dorsi (outer back), supermen/back extensions for the lumbar spine (lower back) and most of all, reverse flys to target the posterior deltoids (back of the shoulders).

You may even want to do a few extra reps/sets for your back muscles to counteract all the leaning forward that you may or may not have going on to get some good posture back.

How do you know if you have good posture?

Stand upright and have a friend, colleague, or some random guy take a picture of you from the side. You want your ear to be in line with your shoulder.

To my typists out there who can type 200 words per minute…

As impressive as that is, you may over flex your wrist which could lead to some achiness, so something you can do to prevent that once you leave the laptop are wrist curls WITH YOUR PALMS FACING DOWN!

This is done with you in a seated position, your forearms resting on your thighs, with your wrists hanging off your knees, holding onto extremely light dumbells (always do light weights/more reps for these), with your palms facing down. If your palms are up when you curl your wrist, you are just going to help exaggerate your already existing wrist flexion. We want the palms facing down, and your wrist to curl up to target your brachioradialis (forearm) muscles to get some wrist extension going on.

Once again, proper strength training saves the day!

These are all things you can do once you leave work and come to the gym, but don’t forget to do things throughout the day to help you out!

Sit on a stability ball instead of a chair! If for whatever reason your boss or colleagues don’t condone this, just explain how sitting on these balls will help strengthen your core, develop balance, and burn more calories throughout the day than sitting in a regular chair!

Sprint up and down your stairs! Or, maybe just walk around to keep the blood flow going in your lower extremities.

Keep your back flat against your chair (assuming your boss didn’t like the stability ball idea), and keep your shoulders back AND down to prevent a hunch.

Look away from your computer screen every few minutes to save your eyes some straining and to see that half of the office is really on Facebook instead of working.

Most of all, you must eat healthy if you are going to be sedentary for the majority of your day.

You aren’t going to be moving around, you aren’t going to burn calories, so every little thing you eat must be low calorie and nutritious.

When you go back to work post this blog entry on your Facebook and get your stair sprints on!

5 Tough As Nails Vegans

I think it’s a shame that some people out there who hear the word “vegan” automatically thinks of some scrawny, pale, weirdo with dandruff throwing red paint on old ladies wearing fur coats. I hear the word “vegan” and think of a very well educated, compassionate health nut, who can probably school the average guy on nutrition, and when I say nutrition, that also includes information on protein! Yes, that’s correct, vegans get plenty of protein!

One time I was in the gym and overheard one of the trainers telling their clients that in order to get big and strong they would have to eat a whole lot of chicken, eggs, and steak. I couldn’t help but cringe upon hearing this the same way a kid reacts to nails on a chalkboard.

I think the way my 6 foot frame wears my weight makes me appear to be a relatively lean guy. I know I personally am not much of a physical specimen that’s going to make jaws drop and strike fear in the hearts of men, but I know for a fact that for a 155 pound guy to Deadlift 225lbs and bench well over my body weight, I am a strong, healthy, and physically fit guy, who NEVER eats ANY meat or dairy! EVER!

I can honestly say I have never felt stronger, faster, and sharper mentally than I do nowadays and I attribute that to my diet. A plant based diet.

Here are my top 5 favorite vegan people.

1. Patrik Baboumiam

If you ever want to take up log throwing as a new hobby, talk to Germany’s Strongest Man Patrik Baboumiam!

Setting world records for the past two years, and wowing audiences with his awesome strength, Patrik’s record of the 397 pound log lift has yet to be broken, and he does it all on a plant based diet!

Um… I thought you needed steak and eggs to get big and strong?

NOPE!

Just listen to the friendly giant…

“being vegetarian makes you a better athlete!” -Patrik Baboumiam.

2. Jake Shields

The same guy that has the sickest Jui Jitsu in all of Mixed Martial Arts, is the last Rumble on the Rock 175 lb (79 kg) champion, the first and last Elite XC Welterweight Champion, the former Shooto Middleweight Champion, former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, and the #3 ranked welterweight in the world, happens to be kick ass and take names on a plant based diet!

“But I thought, you needed steak and eg-” CHOKE OUT!

Overwhelming opponents from bell to bell for years with an exceptional record of 26-5-1, Jake Shields is definitely representing the tough-as-nails vegans of the world!

3. Rip Esselstyn

A Texas firefighter helped his whole team lower their cholesterol, and shed pounds away by turning them on to a plant based diet? In Texas? Awesome! Hey, if you’re in that line of work, I would hope you’re in top condition!

The physical test most firefighters are required to pass in order to be considered a candidate for the firefighting line of work consists of arduous work requiring above average physical fitness. Often the work is performed in extreme weather conditions and in a chaotic environment. These fitness tests, developed by exercise experts, measures aerobic capacity (endurance) and muscular fitness.

Rip Esselstyn, author of the Engine 2 diet, son of Dr. Esselstyn (author of the CHINA STUDY) climbs up and down the polls of his firehouse using only his arms while repeating the words “real men eat plants.”

Storming into houses ablaze while wearing heavy gear to rescue victims all on a plant based diet! That’s awesome! My only quam with Rip is that my girlfriend is obsessed with him.

4. John Joseph

Lead singer for one of my favorite New York Hardcore bands the Cro-Mags, author of one of my favorite books “Meat is for Pussies,” star of the Rocks Off Lower East Side walking tour, and everyone’s favorite tough guy!

If you’ve ever been to a Cro-Mags show, you might think John Joseph was half his age the way he runs around the stage screaming into the microphone like a psychopath! His contagious energy puts the twenty something year old mosh pitters to shame!

At 50 the guy continues to preform live shows, write books, do walking tours, AND is currently training for an Iron Man!

I hope by the time I’m his age I have half the energy this dude has.

5. Rich Roll

Hey, when was the last time you swam 6.2 miles, biked for 261.4 miles, and ran for 52.4 miles over the course of three days?

This three day event that I’m talking about is what’s known as the Ultraman race that takes place annually in Hawaii. Rich Roll, one of the 25 most fit guys of 2009 declared by Men’s Fitness magazines knows what I’m talking about!

Rich, who is an absolute endurance animal eats Ultraman competitions for breakfast with a side of Triathlons and a 5k to drink!

Do you know what this plant based maniac did for FUN in May of 2010? 5 consecutive days, each day consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run, known as the Epic Five. An unprecedented, totally crazy/awesome race for the absolutely elite endurance athletes of the world.

The one and only reason I mention the plant based lifestyle to my clients is this: It’s the healthiest way to live. Meat and dairy can cause cancer. Consuming meat and dairy can clog your arteries. Meat and dairy makes you fat. And coming from a guy who ate nothing but meat and dairy for the first 26 years of his life, take my word for it: Have an open mind, don’t get stuck in your ways, you’ve got to try this out! You may like the way you look, feel, and function!

Implement the Overload Principle to Your Workouts

This blog entry is dedicated to the people playing Hanging With Friends on their phones while they think they are burning a ton of calories on the recumbent bike. This is also dedicated to the men and women who listen to an entire Kanye West song in between their sets. I would also like to dedicate this to the guys and girls who stop doing their push ups once they reach 10 reps even though they can clearly do another 10 reps. YOU AREN’T WORKING!

Here is how you get stronger: Push yourself to the max.

This is how you lose weight: Push yourself to the max.

The people I mentioned above are not implementing the Overload Principle to their workouts and therefore will not be getting optimal results! Don’t be that guy/girl!

Muscles only reap the benefits of strength training when they are forced to operate beyond their comfortable limits. The weights you lift, the reps you do, and the sets of reps you do should all be increased from time to time to keep challenging your muscles.

Your heart is a muscle too you know… If you’ve been running at the same MPH for a month going the same distance every time you run, you need to up your speed to work your heart out more efficiently!

Flexibility is a crucial element of fitness too! You must stretch your muscles to the point of tightness and hold for 30-60 seconds in order to gain flexibility results. Don’t break the hold until your 30 seconds per muscle group is up! I know you may not love stretching as much as me and all my yogi friends out there do, but full body mobility is very important. No one want’s to grow up and walk like the Tin Man.

Also, don’t take too much time off from your workouts!

If you don’t USE IT, you LOSE IT!

Muscle atrophy will occur in a few months after you cease to workout. This Reversibility is every gym goers worst nightmare. This is when your gains start to decrease!

You must keep exercising. You must make fitness a part of your life. Don’t become old and feeble… Become old and stronger, old and faster, old and sharper…

Don’t ever get to the point where you are out of breath by the time you reach the top of one staircase. Don’t get to the point where you need to think about how you are going to get up from a chair.

I’m not talking about aesthetics, I’m talking about using weight bearing exercises to increase bone density, joint stability, and overall improvements in every day functions!

STAY HEALTHY! – Your favorite New York City trainer.

Don’t Plateau!

Plateaus are real, and I’m not talking about the top of mount Kilimanjaro!

A plateau in the fitness world means that you stop getting results from your exercise. Plateauing really only happens if you make the mistake of DOING THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER AGAIN EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU WORKOUT!

Your body is smart. It can adapt to anything you put it through. You must constantly keep your muscles on their toes by changing up your routine. Changing up what you do in the gym does what is known as “muscle confusion” and it actually makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Let’s say all you do is bench press. You are working your pectoralis major muscles (chest) in ONE way and one way only. On your back, and pushing a weight above you.

Sure, you will definitely get results in the beginning of your benching program, but rest assured after about 6 weeks of doing the same thing, you will no longer be adding weight onto the bar, and you will no longer be seeing progress in the growth/definitions of your chest.

It’s like when you play the same trick on your little brother more than twice. Eventually the little guy is gonna catch on, and will get used to your pranks, preventing you from having any fun at his expense until you create a much more different plan of pranking him.

There is more than one way to work a muscle. Since I’m writing this on a Monday (International Chest Day), take the chest for example: Instead of a flat bench press with a bar, use dumbbells. Instead of a flat bench, do your chest presses on an incline or decline. Use cables. Do body weight exercises like push ups. Do clapping push ups. Don’t even change how you work the muscles, just play with your rest time in between sets. Play with the rep speed in which you do your repetitions. I can think of 20 different exercises/variables you can change for your chest!

That example is obviously for strength gains, but lets talk about weight loss. If you are doing cardio and ALL you do is run the same distance every day, guess what? You will plateau!

Don’t just run. Try rowing. Try spinning, martial arts, swimming, basketball, jump rope, etc…

The best way to avoid plateauing, and keep progressing your training is to change your routine up constantly. Me personally, I just straight up get bored with doing the same thing week in and week out so I’m always changing up my workouts. And my clients? Most of them haven’t even seen the same workout program twice and I’ve been training some of them for over 2 years!

If you like a particular workout routine, and you want to keep all the exercises the same every time you come to the gym just to track how many more reps/sets you can do for a particular exercise, 6 weeks is the most amount of time you should spend with that one program. Then, do yourself and your hard earned gains a favor and switch your exercises up!

A word of advice…

NOTHING beats plateauing like working out with a partner. I don’t care if you have someone just to give you a few extra forced (assisted) reps at the end of each set you do, or have someone yelling at you to go faster on the treadmill, or someone pushing you to not stop during your workouts, it is so much more motivating to push yourself to your maximum.

Variety is key. Keep it interesting. Change it up. Push yourself to your maximum. You must implement the overload principle of training! But, that’s a whole other blog entry…

Insult to Injury Part 1

Life lesson #1: Stop running long distances if you have a torn ACL!

One time I met up with a potential client at the gym, and during our assessment session he told me he had an injury. In this case it was a torn ACL that he had gotten from running long distance.

This seems to be a relatively common injury, so I figured I’d share one of my experiences with you guys with the hopes of preventing further insult to your injuries if you have any.

A torn ACL can be very serious. The Anterior cruciate ligament is vital for proper movement/stability for the knee. Since you use your knee every time you walk to and from work, have a seat on the couch, or run, injuring this ligament is NO FUN! If you hear or feel a popping sensation, or you feel not-so sturdy/wobbly in the knee, chances are you might have a torn ACL.

Strengthening the muscles like the hamstrings (back of the thigh) and quadriceps (front of the thigh), as well as trying to stay off of your knees as much as you can is the best way to treat a torn ACL WITHOUT surgery.  Surgery, however may be necessary depending on how severe your injury is.

Hopefully, with “conservative management” (the non-surgical treatment of this injury), your ACL will be close to 100% in a few months.

“A few months? Brah, I’m not waiting a few months to run again.”

Yes, I know this isn’t your ideal time frame to heal. I know you were hoping for an instant cure that would take seconds to magically repair your torn ACL, but think about it…

You can either be patient to totally treat your injury, or say something idiotic like “No pain, no gain” and totally destroy your knee by trying to exercise through the pain leaving you with permanent damage to a very important joint in your body by continuing to do strenuous activity on an injured body part!

Start off slow. Don’t slap on your Nike’s and set the treadmill to 10mph and go all out the very first day you feel like you’re ready for a run.

Walk first. If you can handle a SOLID STATE CARDIO session where you are walking briskly at a steep incline for a long duration of time, then maybe the next time try jogging, then MAYBE running. And definitely take more time to recover in between your work outs.

PLAY IT SAFE! DON’T END UP LIKE THIS GUY!

Gut Check!

Reach down and grab your stomach fat (I’ll do it too)…

If it’s soft and flabby you have subcutaneous fat. This is the fat that’s directly underneath the skin. Granted, excess body fat is never healthy, but subcutaneous fat is not as threatening as visceral fat.

How do you know what type of fat you have around your stomach?

“Pinch an Inch”

Reach down and try to pinch your belly fat. If you can’t get a good hold of the fat around your stomach because it is hard, you have visceral fat.

Have you ever come across one of those Buddah statues with the big belly you’re supposed to rub for good luck? Let me tell you right now, if your belly protrudes from your body that much, and the fat around your abdominal region is hard as opposed to soft flabby fat, you don’t need luck, you need a lifestyle change immediately!

Visceral fat is also known as “organ fat,” meaning, there is fat all around your organs and even a little snaking it’s way into your muscles. In fact, think of a snake who wraps around it’s prey squeezing the life out of it before he swallows it whole. This is the equivalent of visceral fat wrapped around your organs, putting a tremendous amount of stress on them, forcing the liver, pancreas, and worst of all, your heart to work extra hard to function throughout the day but inevitably prevents them from performing up to their fullest capabilities.

Drinking like a fish, eating like a wild boar, never exercising… This is how you end up with a life threatening Buddah belly.

You are more likely to have clogged arteries, tumor growth, hypertension, and heart attacks if you have visceral fat.

Deprived of maximal cardiac output, not getting the most efficient muscle contractions you can get for strength training, irregular and obstructive sleep patterns… It’s like you are living life in a choke hold!

Back in my Jiu Jitsu days my Sensie would always say “The best way to defend against a choke hold is to never let your opponent get in a position to choke you in the first place! But, since this is a private $ession, I’ll show you a little trick!”

So, these are the tips to help you out of the choke hold…

All those saturated fats that are found in red meat, cheese, whole milk, and crap like bacon should be substituted with vegetables, whole grains, and fruit. Eat as raw as you can!

DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL! If there was ever such a thing to help clog your arteries and stress your heart out it’s alcohol. Wait till you are out of a heart attack’s cross hairs to pop open a brew.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… EAT LESS & MOVE MORE!

Get your metabolism churning, get blood flowing throughout your entire body, burn calories, and shred that unnecessary, unwanted body fat! Exercise lowers your resting heart rate, it lowers your blood pressure, it lowers your cholesterol, and it gets rid of fatty deposits in your body that can impede in your every day activities!

Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help produce some great glucose and insulin responses to carbs which will start to mobilize fat stores easier than just eating something like steak. Quinoa, spinach, brown rice, apples… These foods will definitely speed up the process of saving you from an early grave! Eat the colors of the RAINBOW!