Interval Training

A recent study was published that is now making its way around the news lately, and I thought I would touch on that. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The study had 4 groups:
    • Vigorous Resistance Training (RT) only
    • High Intensity Interval Training only (HIIT)
    • Combined light RT and moderate cardio
    • Control group (that did nothing)
  • The population was sedentary adults 30 or younger or older than 64
  • The study was done for 12 weeks
  • Variables that were measured at baseline and after 12 weeks:
    • Insulin sensitivity
    • Aerobic fitness
    • Mitochondrial respiration
    • Lean mass

So here’s what happened:

  • The group that did vigorous RT had more lean mass gains (duh)
  • The group that did HIIT improved their aerobic fitness the most (also duh)
  • The group that did both had modest gains in aerobic fitness and lean mass
  • Everyone experience better blood sugar levels (insulin sensitivity)

These were observed in both age groups

What was surprising:

  • In the HIIT group, the older group saw changes in over 400 genes, while the younger group saw 274 genes change. Most of this was due to changes in the number and health of their mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell). Aerobic fitness is heavily dependent on enzyme activity in the mitochondria, so many genes are involved. HIIT by far influenced the most genes compared to the other groups, see table below if you’re interested:

 

# Genes Δ HIIT RT Combo
Young 274 74 170
Old 400+ 33 19

 

So what is High Intensity Interval Training exactly? We hear that term thrown around a lot. Interval training is just alternating periods of work and rest. High intensity is a relative term. How intense the work is relative for the individual. What might take a 25 year old athlete to get to 90% of their max heart rate will be way more work than a sedentary 65 year old. The general recommendations are to start with a 1:3 work to rest ratio, and as you progress, work to 1:2 and 1:1 ratios if using time based intervals. So let’s say you sprint on the treadmill for 30 seconds, then hop off onto the sides and rest for 90 seconds, repeating for a set number of repetitions. Another method is to sprint as fast as possible for a given distance, time, or reaching a target heart rate, then resting until you reach 60% of your predicted maximum heart rate (or true max if you have had it measured), then repeating once we know from a heart rate monitor that you are recovered to go again. That is the basics of what it is.

Interval training does not have to be done with sprinting. You can also use an exercise bike, such as an airdyne or a spin bike, you can use the stairmill, rowing machine, swimming, etc. In fact, for most beginner clients with no real exercise history, I would not start them with sprinting. Same for people with orthopedic issues, I would use the rower or bike instead and even start with low intensity intervals. Interval training does not have to be done with just a traditional cardio method either. It can be done using other methods, or even combined. For example, you can use battle ropes, push-ups, kettlebell swings, burpees, etc., all combined in timed circuit.

So, we know that interval training influences a lot of genes with sedentary people, young and old, but why else do it? HIIT is far superior to steady state cardio when it comes to fat loss. HIIT is also very effective at improving aerobic fitness capacity. So if your goals include becoming more fit and losing fat, HIIT would be a great part of a well rounded workout program.

All or Nothing

Does this situation ever sound familiar: “It’s Monday, I don’t have any meals planned, the fridge is empty, I guess I’ll just eat out and I’ll start over next week.” In my experience, I have noticed that many people are all or nothing when it comes to their nutrition habits. What I hope to teach people is that it doesn’t have to be so drastic. Instead of an on/off switch, try to be more like a dimmer. According to Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition, most people will benefit if they can stick to doing just the basics 75-80% of the time. Let’s see what that looks like: say someone averages 5 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks), 75% adherence to sticking to the basics would be 27/35 meals. That leaves 8 meals to have some wiggle room. I hardly ever see depriving yourself of “bad foods” work more than just the short term. If you want to yo-yo less, learn some habits that are sustainable. Here are some of the basics:

  1. Eat slowly, only until 80% full
  2. Eat less processed foods and more whole foods
  3. Eat more lean protein (1 palm sized portion for women, 2 for men)
  4. Eat more veggies (1 fist sized portion for women, 2 for men)
  5. Drink more water (half your weight in ounces, 200 lbs = 100 oz)
  6. Eat more healthy fats (1 thumb sized portion for women, 2 for men)

Focus on one behavior change at a time; you can measure your adherence to each using a chart like this:

Meal # 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Consistency
Monday __/__ = _%
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday
Total __/__ = _%

From week to week, you can measure if you are getting better at changing your behavior, and if you’re landing in the 75-80% range. So I guess my point is that if you mess up Monday, doesn’t mean the whole week has gone to crap. Plan out a menu for the week, when you’re going to the grocery store, and when you’re going to cook, and do it! Same for workouts, there is still Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday left. If you don’t have time, be honest with yourself. Do you really not have 30 minutes somewhere you can squeeze in?

5 Years in Business!

First of all, I can’t believe how much time flies as I’ve entered my 30s.  It really does not feel like it’s been 5 years.  Second, I am so thankful that my clients all liked me enough to keep paying me.  When I first walked away from a full schedule of clients at a commercial gym, things were a little skimpy financially. I knew I had enough business to pay my bills, but I had to depend heavily on my wife (fiancée at the time) in order to eat.  Fast forward 5 years, I’d say we are doing much better!

So what happened along the way? When working at a gym, I was one of the more facebook_1487533415286successful trainers there, and thought to myself, “I know pretty much all that I need to know about what I’m doing.” I was dead wrong. Walking away from that job was one of the best things to happen to me (maybe besides Kelly and Taj, mostly Taj).
It forced me to branch out and learn more about training and business. It has been a yuge growth experience, and it continues to this day. Here are some of the things I have learned along the way that I feel have made me more effective as a trainer/coach.

  1. Advanced shoulder and hip screening.This has taught me when working with a new client (or even one I’ve been working with for years), about how to adjust exercises for shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, and low back pain. Not very many people come to me without some kind of ailment, and having a deeper understanding of proper movement and spinal alignment have helped tremendously. It has helped me develop a better and ever changing system of regressions and progressions for exercises. I’ve taken clients that were told by their doctor that they shouldn’t squat, taught them how THEY should squat, and seen tremendous improvement in strength without pain.
  2. Focusing on changing behaviors, not just giving general nutrition advice. People often feel overwhelmed with how much weight they have to lose, or that their diet altogether is terrible. They don’t know where or how to start. Focusing on changing one or two behaviors at a time is simple. You can measure progress by adherence to those habits and not just the scale. I’ve found that it is far more beneficial to focus on doing the little things well, rather than trying to do more advanced nutrition strategies like intermittent fasting figuring out timing of your nutrients around your workout.
  3. Using social media. I hate Facebook. It sucks away my time, time I could use to be more present with my wife, walk the dog, get my workout in, or better yet, shredding mountain bike trails (when it’s not monsoon season). However, I can’t ignore how powerful it can be. People get their news, see what their friends did over the weekend, and it’s a great way to advertise. I have gotten business by using Facebook. I also like to use it as an avenue to help educate and inform my clients and really anybody else that wants to listen to me. I hope that besides learning how to safely and effectively workout towards their goals, that my clients will learn things from me to become self-sufficient in their time away from our sessions.

So here’s to many years to come, and the projects I will be working on in the near future!

Meal Prep

Life often gets hectic and making healthy decisions gets thrown out the window. The biggest problem I hear is time. It takes less time to go out to eat than it does to go to the grocery store and cook something usually, but your waistline will stay thinner and your wallet fatter if you cook meals at home.  When you make time to cook, make extra. You can freeze the extra and eat it later if you don’t want to eat the same thing a couple days in a row. If you make enough meals at once, you can rotate them throughout the week. The key is have a plan each week and stick to it. Look at your schedule and plan accordingly, say if you’re in sales and are in your car all day, you probably don’t want lunches that require heating up.

Here are just a few examples of healthy meals you can make it bulk. If I can make them, you can make them. I am self taught.

Turkey Taco Salad

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  1. Chop up 2 hearts of Romaine lettuce, rinse, and spin in a salad spinner.
  2. Brown 2 lbs of ground turkey breast and use low sodium taco seasoning according to directions on the packet.
  3. Open a can of low sodium black beans, rinse them in a colander.
  4. Cut cherry tomatoes in half (only when you’re going to eat them soon).
  5. On a bed of lettuce, place your taco meat, beans, 2% Mexican blend shredded cheese, guacamole, and salsa.
  6. Eat it.
  7. Store the rest in the fridge and save for later. This isn’t half bad with cold meat either if you don’t have access to a microwave at work for lunch.

 

Salmon Fillet with Green Beans and Sweet Potato Chunks

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  1. Set the oven for 425.
  2. In a glass baking dish with a little olive oil coating the bottom, place your salmon fillets.
  3. Sprinkle the fillets with lemon pepper seasoning to taste, and cook until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. (10-15 minutes)
  4. Place your green beans in the steaming tray of a rice cooker. Steam them according to directions for your rice cooker. Steam until they are al dente.
  5. Peel and chop a medium sweet potato. Place in a microwave safe dish. Add a dash of water and sprinkle cinnamon on the chunks. Microwave on the vegetable setting, or 4 minutes or so if your microwave isn’t fancy.

 

Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry w/ Asparagus (my wife pinned this on Pinterest and I made it)

Link:I’ll never admit I used Pinterest

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Snacks Examples:

  1. Trail mix (small handful, this is very dense in calories)
  2. Beef jerky or turkey jerky
  3. 1-2 pieces of low-fat string cheese, 1-2 hard-boiled eggs, 1-2 handfuls of grapes, and 1-2 thumb-sized portions of walnuts. (1 for women, 2 for men, that day I was really hungry so I had 3 eggs…)

*Note, not all of this together is a snack, I hope that is obvious.

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Life Lessons While Mountain Biking Part 2:

This post is going to be less organized and more of a ramble, but nevertheless I hope it inspires you.

I’ve found myself to be a much more pleasant person to be around (my wife can vouch) when I get to ride my bike in the woods. I come back home with an ear-to-ear smile and nothing else in the world can bother me. My mountain biking “addiction” has been great for reducing my stress, even as a person who workouts regularly, exercising in nature is just different. Here’s a study to back that up: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710158/.

I am not advocating to all my clients that they should go buy a bike and start doing what I do, but I do think you should make time to spend in nature. Here are examples of activities you can do in the St. Louis area to help reduce stress:

Besides one being outdoors and the other indoors, another difference between my mountain bike workouts and my regular resistance training workouts is that I put my phone away.  If I tried to get my phone out while riding my bike, I would for sure crash. Now that I hear my thoughts on this as I type, I should probably put my phone away except for music while I do my resistance training. I have had texts, emails or calls interrupt my workout, and effectively end it. Everyone is so connected all day, every day. We have phones, tablets, and computers, people can reach you pretty much whenever they need to. You should take a break from it. Those of you familiar with the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” should know that exercise is part of the 7th habit. Don’t let your phone be the reason your workout sucks and you don’t effectively “sharpen the saw” to be your best.

20161208_133156My final thought: it is winter right now, and when the trails get wet around here, they are closed to bikers (sad face). It takes a long time for them to dry out because of the freeze/thaw effect.  When I can’t ride on my favorite trails, I still go out on the Katy Trail (which is gravel and doesn’t matter if it’s wet) and do intervals. Any workout is better than no workout. If you don’t have a full hour to workout, even a 15 or 20 minute workout will go a long way. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Progress is progress and keep working towards your goals.

Life Lessons While Mountain Biking:

As many of you know, I went off the deep end with mountain biking this year. What started with a nice bike as an early birthday present from my wife, turned into a really, really nice bike a couple months later, and I’ve been riding trails several times a week since. Thinking back to my first experience mountain biking this year, I came up with a few life lessons.  I’ll start with a picture of what I got to take home with me from that ride.

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That scar (8 months old now, so it doesn’t look as bad) is what’s left from a pretty good sized hole in my arm; thanks to this rock (pictured below) that also put a hole in the sleeve of my long sleeved t-shirt. It could have been much worse, because my arm saved my face!

As I approached this section of trail, I was uneasy, didn’t think I could do it, and had no confidence. It is very steep, very quick, and has a slight turn at the bottom right before you come back up a very steep climb over rocks on the other side. I went down it anyway. Rookie move. At the bottom, my front wheel got caught and I was thrown over my handlebars and hit this pile of rocks.

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Here is what I was reminded of by this experience:

  1. When you want to do something, commit fully to it. Had I not hesitated and believed I could do it, I would have had a better chance of success. I didn’t think I could do it and look what happened, I failed, miserably. Let’s look at this from an exercise and weight loss perspective. You have to commit to the plan and BELIEVE that you can do it.
  2. Start small, don’t jump in over your head. I should have started to progress my skills on less intimidating features of the trail. Same with exercise, beginners should progress in a manner that is appropriate for them. They shouldn’t start by doing the workout plan that JJ Watt does in his off-season workouts.
  3. Get back up and try it a different way. Isn’t the definition of insanity “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”? If at first you don’t succeed, figure out what went wrong, implement a different strategy and try again. Don’t quit because of one bad experience.
  4. Have a community of support. I got better by riding with other mountain bikers. They encouraged me and helped me tremendously by watching them. With exercise, hire a trainer, workout with a friend or spouse, or join a class, these are all ways that being around others can lead to your success.

If I had given up after my first try, and not asked to ride with other mountain bikers, I would never have been able to do this.

That’s the same spot I fell, now I have conquered it! Now I have an activity that I love, and can enjoy for many years to come.

Salsa Chicken + Tomato and Avocado Salad

Are you bored with your current go to meals? Do you lack extensive culinary skills? If you answered “yes” to both questions, you’ll like this recipe. Not only is it healthy and taste good, it’s easy to make.

Here’s how to make it:
1. Trim any fat off of however many chicken breasts you desire to cook. I like to cook several extra so I have meals ready for later.
2. Place the chicken breasts in a slow cooker and cover with a jar of your favorite salsa.
3. Cook on low for 4 hours. I find that any longer will make it too dry.
4. Wait 4 hours.

Side:
1. Cut 3 (or however you want to make) avocados into 8 slices.
2. Cut an equal number of tomatoes into wedges of similar size to your avocado slices.
3. Finely chop cilantro on a cutting board and add the avocados, tomatoes, and cilantro into a bowl.
4. Add lime juice to taste and toss until the lime juice and cilantro are mixed well with the avocados and tomatoes.
5. Enjoy

As you can see, this doesn’t take much skill, time, or ingredients to make. Enjoy!