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Getting Back on Track

This past weekend, I traveled down to Bentonville, AR for a guys weekend of mountain biking.

I cut lose from my normal diet (gasp), and I’m ok with it! When we weren’t riding bikes, I ate pizza and a side salad at the Pedaler’s Pub, ice cream at the Walmart Museum (yes, there’s a museum dedicated to the history of Walmart, with an old school soda fountain at the end of it), fried catfish tacos at Flying Fish, BBQ at Sassy’s, and few beers and a free whiskey in there (the bartender poured too many for another group).

That might be a little far off from my normal diet, but not one time did I feel overly full where I regretted it. In fact, I encourage you to do the same (although if your vacation isn’t as active as mine, you might want to tone it down a notch or two).  Did I eat crappy breakfasts before riding, no. My snacks were all Cliff Bars on the trail too. So I wasn’t completely off the deep end. You can still practice solid habits of eating slowly, and stopping at 80% full. Even when you go on vacation, you can still enjoy yourself and have a healthy lifestyle.

So how did Monday go? It went great! I had healthy options planned out and ready to eat. I got back on track and even got in a lifting session.

My final thought: have fun on vacation, but don’t let the fun derail all of your progress. Get the train back moving as soon as you can!

Lift Weights and Lose Fat!?!

I often get resistance, pun intended, when I talk about resistance training (also known as weight training) for losing fat. There are a lot of people that believe you should only do cardio to lose fat. That simply is not true. I am going to summarize a few studies that have been published over the years to prove my point.

Here’s a little background first. As people age, generally they lose muscle mass, lose strength, increase fat mass, and their overall metabolism slows down. This is mostly due to being less active than when they were younger. Resistance training can slow this process down or keep you feeling younger, much longer.


Ryan, A. S., Pratley, R. E., Elahi, D., & Goldberg, A. P. (1995). Resistive training increases fat-free mass and maintains RMR despite weight loss in postmenopausal women. Journal of Applied Physiology,79(3), 818-823. doi:10.1152/jappl.1995.79.3.818

In this study, the subject group was healthy, untrained, postmenopausal women. They were divided into resistance training (RT) alone and resistance training with weight loss (RTWL) groups. After 16 weeks of resistance training, both groups increased fat free mass (muscle), increased strength, and an increase in resting metabolic rate (RMR). The RTWL group that had also saw a decrease in fat mass and body fat percentage. The conclusion was that resistance training is a valuable component to weight management in postmenopausal women.


Treuth, M. S., Ryan, A. S., Pratley, R. E., Rubin, M. A., Miller, J. P., Nicklas, B. J., . . . Hurley, B. F. (1994). Effects of strength training on total and regional body composition in older men. Journal of Applied Physiology,77(2), 614-620. doi:10.1152/jappl.1994.77.2.614

This study looked at 16 weeks of resistance training with healthy, untrained older men (60+). The men were divided into 2 groups: a control group that did nothing, and a group that did resistance training. The RT group saw decreases in fat mass, increases in muscle mass, and increases in strength.


Demling, R. H., & Desanti, L. (2000). Effect of a Hypocaloric Diet, Increased Protein Intake and Resistance Training on Lean Mass Gains and Fat Mass Loss in Overweight Police Officers. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism,44(1), 21-29. doi:10.1159/000012817

Another study looking at police officers, divided them into 3 groups:

  • 12 weeks RT, hypocaloric diet (80% of needs)
  • 12 weeks RT, hypocaloric diet + high protein using casein protein supplement
  • 12 weeks RT, hypocaloric diet + high protein using why protein supplement

All 3 groups lost fat mass. The 2 groups with high protein diets were the only ones to see increases in strength and lean mass (muscle mass gain). This would suggest that strength training while restricting calorie intake will preserve the muscle mass you have, but you will not see any gains in strength or lean mass. If you increase your protein intake while restricting calories, you can still gain muscle, lose fat, and increase strength.


My 2 cents:

In order to be successful at changing your body, you need to change your diet and do resistance training. You must increase your protein intake either through the foods you eat or supplementing.

Notice how none of these studies mentioned cardio? Yeah, you don’t have to go for a run to look and feel better. In fact, doing cardio for hours may negate any progress in attempts to gain muscle and strength. Look at long distance runners, they have some muscle, but they are very thin and lightweight. Their training primarily focuses on type 1 (slow twitch) muscles. These muscles don’t get very big, they don’t produce as much force but are more resistant to fatigue. Long duration, moderate intensity cardio can burn more calories per workout, but does not burn more calories after the workout is over.

Resistance training trains your type 2 (fast twitch) muscles. These muscles produce more force and are capable of getting bigger in size compared to type 1.  This will increase your resting metabolic rate, giving you more wiggle room in your diet and sets you up for better long term success. Resistance training also causes small trauma to your muscles, and your body has to spend calories while you rest to repair and grow bigger muscles. You can do cardio that trains your type 2 muscle fibers, that would fall under interval training. Interval training raises your metabolism for hours after you are done, depending on how intense it was. Click here for more info on that.

Some sports would fall under interval training: soccer, football, mountain biking (climb up the hill, bomb down the hill), basketball, lacrosse, hockey. You can also do it by alternating intense work, followed by periods of moderate to light work on an exercise bike, treadmill, or rower for example.

Snyder, Ka, Je Donnelly, Dj Jabobsen, G. Hertner, and Jm Jakicic. “The Effects of Long-term, Moderate Intensity, Intermittent Exercise on Aerobic Capacity, Body Composition, Blood Lipids, Insulin and Glucose in Overweight Females.” International Journal of Obesity 21.12 (1997): 1180-189. Print.

In this study, moderately obese women were instructed to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio for 5 days per week, for 32 weeks. The group data at the end of 32 WEEKS showed no statistically significant changes for aerobic capacity, body composition, weight, insulin, glucose, or lipid profile. Wouldn’t you be frustrated if you committed to do something for 32 weeks and it didn’t work for losing body fat? I would be pretty bummed. In the above mentioned resistance training studies, statistically significant improvements were seen in body fat, lean mass, and strength in half the time.

Irving, Brian A., Christopher K. Davis, David W. Brock, Judy Y. Weltman, Damon Swift, Eugene J. Barrett, Glenn A. Gaesser, and Arthur Weltman. “Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 40.11 (2008): 1863-872. Print.

In this study, middle-aged, obese women with metabolic syndrome were divided into 3 groups: a control group that maintained their current physical activity levels, a low intensity exercise group, and a high intensity exercise group. There was no diet intervention. After 16 weeks, only the high intensity group had statistically significant changes in abdominal subcutaneous (under the skin) fat and visceral (around the internal organs) fat.

So basically, if you want to transform your body, do resistance training, interval training, and change your diet.



How to Train Around Low Back Pain

I see a client as our session is about to start, they tell me they drove 500 miles in the last 2 days while working their sales job and that their low back is stiff. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that. If you have low back pain, you’re definitely not alone. It’s estimated that 80% of the population will experience low back pain at some point. There are loads of statistics about LBP, you can read them here at the ACA’s (American Chiropractic Association) website.

Now what do you do if you are experiencing LBP? That answer depends and should be determined by a doctor or chiropractor, but for the occasional minor LBP, you can usually train around the pain as long as there isn’t something major going on. In my 10 years of experience training people, I’ve found 3 exercises that people usually can do without any discomfort at all while experiencing minor low back pain.

***Of course I am not suggesting this as treatment for any injury, and if you have a hunch that you have something not so minor going on, use common sense and get it checked out!***

  1.  Bird Dog

The setup starts with your knees and hands. Your hands should be shoulder width apart, directly under your shoulders. Your knees should be hip width apart, and directly under your hips. Reach with your arm and opposite leg, as if reaching for opposite walls of the room. Don’t try to go high with your arm or leg, the goal is to minimize any shift from a neutral spine. Another mistake I see is people will just hang on their shoulder that is connected to the ground, make sure to push up through that shoulder. Try holding each rep for 5 seconds. Do 5 reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.


2. Modified Side Plank

The setup for this one starts with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Your bottom knee should be bent to 90 degrees, then you will execute the exercise by pressing into the ground, holding firm at the shoulder. Don’t just hang on your shoulder. The rest of your body should be a straight line from your ears, shoulders, hips, and knees. Try holding for 15 seconds. If you can do 30 seconds or more, try a side plank from the feet instead of with a knee down. You should feel every muscle along your side from your shoulder to your hip. If you want to take it a step further, take a big inhale, then try exhaling for 10 seconds.


3. Glute Bridge

The general setup is to lay on your back with your knees bent. Then brace your core / draw-in your belly button without changing the shape of your low back, and press your hips up as high as you can without hyperextending from the low back. You want full range of motion from just hip extension. There is some variation to this one for some people to feel it right. You may try moving your feel closer to your hips, further from your hips, wide stance, or narrow stance, some people feel it better if they pull their toes up and only push with their heels. Everyone’s hips are not the same, so you might have to experiment. The key is GLUTE bridge. If you don’t feel it in your glutes, you’re doing it wrong. Try holding each rep for 5 seconds at the top, try 5-10 reps.


Try these out, let me know what you think!

Holiday Eating


christmas vacation dinnerWith Christmas and other holidays gearing up, you may be traveling or attending several holiday parties. One thing I want you to know, it’s ok if you decide you’re going to take a little break from your normal eating habits and enjoy yourself a little. However, here are my tips for not completely derailing the train:

  1. Aim for better, not perfect. It’s ok to have Christmas dinner and eat richer foods. Maybe just don’t have a roll AND mashed potatoes. Pick one.
  2. Still eat slowly and mindfully. Just because some delicious food is in front of you doesn’t mean you can forget the basics and start inhaling food like there’s no tomorrow. Eat slowly, until ~80% full. Also, don’t keep eating just because you haven’t tried everything on the table yet.


  1. Still plan ahead. If you’re out getting your last minute shopping done, don’t let yourself get to a point where you’re starving and the first thing in sight is Cinnabon in the mall food court. Keep a bar or two in your purse or pocket. A couple of my favorites are Lara Bars and Kind Bars.
  2. Still get in some exercise. If you’re traveling, you may not have access to your normal workout equipment, but even a brisk walk outside or 10 minutes on a hotel treadmill doing intervals will keep you feeling better and battle some of the food and drink you’ve been consuming.


Merry Christmas,


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!

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:

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.


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.


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.