10 Lessons in 10 Years of Fitness- Part 1

Last month marked a full 10 years that I’ve chosen a lifestyle with fitness as the center piece. I look back on where I came from and where I am today, and there are very few things I would change. For every mistake I made over the course of the last 10 years, it’s led to the trainer and fitness enthusiast I currently am. I’ve been extremely blessed to have worked under, and alongside some incredible strength coaches, that helped me harness my love and passion for fitness. I’d like to share 10 lessons I’ve learned in 10 years in the industry, that may in some way help shape your own routine, and lead to a prolonged period of commitment to a healthy lifestyle as well!

(In this post I will delve into #10 to #6 and next post I will finish with my top 5!)

#10- You DO NOT Need a Gym to Have a Quality Workout

This is the most recent lesson that I’ve learned in 2020. CO-VID 19 has had countless drawbacks on individuals from a health and wealth perspective, however, one positive I’ve taken away, is the ability to not rely on a gym for a great workout. I didn’t realize how “lazy” I had gotten with my workouts until the gym was taken away from me.

By “lazy” I don’t mean I was missing workouts, but instead I was choosing the cable, machine or hammer strength variation of exercises, as opposed to the barbell and free-weight option. There were a few reasons for this- one being, I lift anywhere between 4 and 5:30 AM daily, so my willpower beyond that is occasionally lacking. Also, due to my personal training schedule, I’m always looking for efficient lifts, and sometimes the setup of a machine is just purely quicker.

When CO-VID shut down gyms though, I was forced to get back to the basics- left with a barbell, a pair of power block dumbbells, and a set of kettle bells, I was AMAZED at the increase in quality of my workouts- and the results!

I understand I was extremely fortunate to be a fitness professional and have my own collection of equipment prior to the virus hitting- this ability has put my home workouts on a level that not many people have access to. However, until I set my space up to exercise, I was just using my power blocks in a space no bigger than my wingspan- and I was getting great workouts in! It highlighted the fact that a gym is not necessary- if you have the internal motivation and the creativity to make safe and effective workouts, you can train anywhere and get a great workout in! Don’t get caught up in thinking you can only have great workouts at the gym, because it’s simply not true!

(For some examples of home workouts, click here)

#9- Continuously Grow Your Personal Exercise Encyclopedia

This is a skill that has benefitted me the most as a trainer, and is rooted in my own personal experiences in the gym. I can always tell a trainer that is not used to exercising themselves, when they have limited knowledge about exercise variations. I’ve always prided myself in dabbling in different variations of every movement pattern. This has ranged from Olympic Lifts, to Kettle Bells, to traditional strength moves- at various points over the last 10 years I’ve sprinkled in every kind of variation you could think of.

My initial exposure to the fitness industry was a subscription to the magazine, “Muscle and Fitness” back when I was in middle school, so I’ve always had a fascination with “new twists” on traditional moves. The one thing to keep in mind though is, I’ve always stayed rooted in the traditional movement patterns. Any experimentation with new exercises always occurs as accessory work, rather than having completely different workouts every time.

The value in having a giant exercise encyclopedia to draw from, is seen in a private sector gym most frequently- but has been highlighted recently due to CO-VID as well. The ability to substitute exercises at will, because a piece of equipment is being used or unavailable, will allow for a more effective workout. This knowledge base will also eliminate feelings of frustration when you try to exercise at peak gym hours. 

The best way to enhance your variations, is to start with the basics, then find a reputable and trusted source and experiment with the variations they publish. From there, if you feel the move to be potentially beneficial to you, at the end of your workouts, safely try out a few new variations. Some you’ll never attempt again, however, others you might keep practicing until they get worked in as part of the routine. Learn to walk the fine line of being utterly committed to the “basics” while simultaneously having a multitude of variations to substitute up your sleeves.

(Check out this write up to see 5 exercises that are unique, safe, effective and can be performed at home!)

#8 Nutrition Can’t be Thought of in Terms of ‘Dieting’

The term “diet” usually denotes a period of time that some fashion of restrictive eating occurs. Whether that’s a subscription to a traditional “Fad Diet” or simply a caloric restriction, when you approach nutrition with a “diet” mindset, you’re already setting yourself up for failure. Dieting is not conducive for long-term success- very rarely can an individual sustain commitment to a Fad Diet for extended periods of time. (I’m not discrediting the value in following a specific nutritional plan, by any means- if that works for you, then keep up the great work!)

The majority of people should be searching instead for a Nutritional Lifestyle instead of the perfect diet. Through portion control, slow and mindful eating, and the infusion of lean protein, veggies, complex carbohydrates and fats at each meal, will lead to a healthy and sustainable nutritional lifestyle. Dieting can ruin your relationship with food– anytime you feel deprivation, at some point you will likely have a binge eating episode on whatever food you feel restricted from having. This is not a healthy nutritional lifestyle. Instead, learn to accept the fact that we’re human and it’s OK to not be perfect- as long as you avoid making it a habit, a binge eating episode or overly dwell on it, then embrace nutritional slip ups as a part of a lifestyle and move on.

Everyone’s different, so find what works best for you in terms of macronutrient loading. Some people perform and feel better on less carbohydrates, while others have such an active lifestyle, a reduction in carbs will greatly hinder their daily performance. Consuming lean protein is a must- even if you’re vegan or vegetarian find the option of protein that’s right for you, because having protein at each meal will vastly assist in muscle recovery. Fill the gaps with lots of veggies and curb your sweet tooth with some fruit. Keep it simple, because simple is repeatable and therefore sustainable.

(To read more in depth about some specific recommendations I have regarding a ‘nutritional lifestyle’ click here)

#7 Overtraining is Overblown

If you are a competitive athlete at the high school, college or professional level, overtraining can certainly occur. Between practices, games and training sessions, strength coaches have lost their careers over causing athletes to have Rhabdo (short for rhabdomyolisis, which is the death of muscle fibers and release of myoglobin into the blood stream, which can cause extreme kidney dysfunction).

If training volume and frequency isn’t being closely monitored in high level/competitive athletes, overtraining can easily happen. However, for the general population, who work 9-5 jobs for 40-60 hours per week, getting an hour of activity every single day, will not cause overtraining. That said, you don’t want to make that hour of exercise the same exact movement pattern for 7 days- that will definitely hinder your ability to recover. However, having 3-5 days of well-programmed resistance training with the remaining “off days” treated instead as “Active Rest Days” you can safely and effectively hit 7 days of activity.

I am not a proponent of resistance training 7 days per week for most people. Even if it’s an extremely well planned program, I think it’s grounds to get burnt out mentally more so than anything. The issue is, for most individuals an “Off Day” is literally a “do nothing day,” which is not conducive for a fully healthy lifestyle. On days that your traditional workouts are not occurring, active rest options such as: brisk walks, bike rides, hikes, pick-up sports (basketball, volleyball, soccer), yoga or a foam rolling session, all present themselves as great recovery options. Any of these will moderately elevate your heart rate and provide you with high quality activity, that will assist in your recovery- and is different than your normal workouts!

(To read more in depth about how to transition your “off days” to “active rest days” click here)

6. Early Morning Workouts are Superior

There is plenty of research that states, as a male, I would be better off resistance training later in the day, because my testosterone levels are higher as the day progresses. I don’t doubt this science one bit, however, whatever advantage I have in hormonal levels, is negated if I let ‘life’ get in the way and I don’t even exercise. I found out very early on in my 10 year journey, that there’s one way to almost guarantee you won’t miss workouts due to life getting in the way- that is, workout very first thing in the morning. When you wait to exercise until after your workday is done, you’re allowing for the potential of a “bad day”, spontaneous social plans, family responsibilities or unforeseen work obligations (like having to work late), to prohibit you from training. Early in the morning, when most of your community is still asleep, usually the only thing that will get in the way of you and your workout is your own feeling of being sleepy- and that is purely a battle of willpower that you must win.

Yes, you may be initially tired going into the session, however, if you train hard you will feel invigorated by the time you’re done. This feeling of vitality will naturally keep your energy levels much higher throughout the day. Exercising in the morning also sets the tone for subsequent healthy decisions through your day as well. You’ll notice that by training in the morning, you’ll be naturally more health conscious with your nutrition choices. Additionally, one of my favorite aspects of exercising early, is that any activity you get later in the day is bonus! All the sudden the walk after dinner seems less like a chore and more like a great way to unwind and get some extra steps in for the day.

Committing to an early morning gym routine will give you a mental edge for the upcoming day, but also your physical goals will become more quickly attainable. Especially if you are usually inconsistent with your workouts, implementing a regular early morning workout routine will ensure consistency- which is the number one variable to achieving any goal.

(To read more about how to make an early morning exercise routine work for you, click here)

In Conclusion…

In my next blog, I will delve into my top 5 lessons I’ve learned in the first 10 years of my fitness journey. None of these lessons are particularly groundbreaking, nor are they gospel, however, they’re things that I’ve picked up along the way that has exponentially aided my overall fitness level. These lessons are applicable to all ages, genders and goals, and can take any exercise routine to the next level!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

Save Your 2020 Health by Taking These 3 Steps!

At any point during the last few months, have you caught yourself thinking: “Once this pandemic is over, I’ll get my health back under control”? This has been an extremely common -and scary – justification that has presented itself since March.

Since the CO-VID 19 outbreak, individuals have gone a few different directions with their health and fitness routines. For a small percentage of the population, the pandemic has allowed them to get their health and fitness seriously on track- they were given an opportunity to focus on aspects of their health that a crazy, hectic lifestyle had forced them to neglect. Others lost the ability to maintain a consistent exercise routine, but stayed on point with their nutrition. While still others kept their workout routine, but failed to keep any semblance of a healthy nutritional lifestyle. And finally, many individuals have completely abandoned a healthy lifestyle altogether these last 4 months.

The question is, if you’ve completely lost your way on the path to a healthy lifestyle, how can you get back on track? The good news is there is still 5 months left in 2020- along with gyms slowly reopening, fitness equipment is starting to become accessible again as well. Below, I will outline 3 ways you can save your fitness routine in 2020- with or without a gym- and get back to living a healthy, wholesome lifestyle!

#1- Find Your Workout Space, Set a Workout Time- and STICK TO IT

The key to having success towards attaining a fitness goal is incredibly simple- regardless of your goal, the workout program you choose, how many calories you take in per day, etc. there is only one thing that truly matters- can you consistently repeat the action? I can write you a picture-perfect workout routine with whatever equipment you have access to, but if it is not easily repeatable, then the routine is useless. The same can be said for a nutrition plan- low-sugar, low-carb, high fat, Keto, Paleo, Carb Cycling, Atkins, Weight Watchers- all of it can be great for certain people; but if you can’t repeat the lifestyle day in and day out, then it’s not conducive for you.

The best way to ensure a consistent exercise routine (especially at home) is first designating a space in your house/condo/apartment as the spot. Your workouts can only happen there. I understand everyone has different situations. Not everyone has a full room they can dedicate to exercise, or a shed that can be transitioned into a home gym. It can be as small as a corner in the room dedicated to storing your yoga mat, dumbbells and mini-bands. The key here is not necessarily leaving your equipment out- but rather taking the first step of demonstrating consistency- by repeatedly performing your workout in the exact same place every day. (Also keep in mind, the space does not need to be more than your wingspan wide and the length of your body long. Any quality coach should be able to make you an effective workout with only that amount of space)

When choosing your space, take the time to manipulate the room or area to require as little setup as possible for your workout. If you’re struggling to hit your workouts right now, there’s a part of you that purely does not want to exercise- and that’s totally normal! It’s very common to have that feeling when you’ve lost touch with your goals, or fallen out of a fitness routine. When you have a negative aura surrounding your workout- before it’s even started- then you must make the setup easy. If every workout session, you need to move a couch, coffee table, TV stand and a potted plant- just in order to get your workout equipment out, the task already seems daunting. Pick a spot and prepare it so that when it’s time to workout, all you need to do is set out your dumbbells, minibands and yoga mat- and start exercising!

Exercise at the Same Time!

This can be tricky to maintain now that schedules are ramping back up, and lives are becoming hectic again. However, I cannot emphasize enough, the importance of consistently exercising at the same time most days. Small variations of a few hours one way or the other is totally fine, however, what you want to avoid is the flip flopping between early morning and late afternoon/evening workouts. You want to avoid this manner of training because it cuts down on your recovery time, and also doesn’t allow you to fully get into a groove. The workouts will feel “different” at different times of the day- so try to pick one time and stick with it the best you can.

There’s no right or wrong time to exercise, however, I’m a huge proponent of early morning workouts. Especially considering if your gym is not open, you do not have to leave the house! If you’re a parent this is particularly clutch because your children are hopefully asleep, which provides the perfect opportunity to train with zero distractions.

It’s easy to avoid early morning workouts by telling yourself “I’m just not a morning person” however, you’ve got to train yourself to ignore that sentiment. Inconsistency to a fitness routine usually happens because individuals allow ‘life’ to get in the way. What I’ve found is that early in the morning, life doesn’t usually throw too many curveballs at you. Typically the only thing in your way is your own inability to get out of bed. When you push the workout back to late afternoon/evening, that’s when you start letting your bad days at work, happy hour drinks with friends, or your children’s impromptu play date, disrupt your workout schedule.

Take the time to completely map out your daily schedule to the best of your ability. Take a fine-tooth comb to it, and really think about a time that you can consistently exercise 3-5 times per week. While I recommend early morning workouts, your schedule may only allow for you to train later in the day- and that’s fine! The key is making your training schedule non-negotiable. Be selfish, put it on the calendar, and commit to putting your health and fitness first!

#2 Start With Making Small, Sustainable Changes!

Regaining lost strength levels, losing fat or reestablishing an aerobic base, can each seem like daunting tasks. Many of us are feeling like we need to do all of these things at once. Regardless of what CO-VID 19 has done to your personal fitness levels up to this point, it needs to be set aside. Whether you’ve lost 10 pounds of muscle or gained 10 pounds of fat, it doesn’t matter now- it’s in the past, and the only thing that should be focused on is developing a plan to regain a healthy fitness routine.

The key is, you cannot recklessly jump back into a fitness routine without a well thought out plan of attack. Exercising like a maniac and eating exclusively grilled chicken and rice for 2 weeks will not all the sudden turn your fitness levels back to normal. A great way to develop a plan is to make small, sustainable changes to your daily routines. Ask yourselves questions such as these:

  • Are you exercising consitently?
  • Are you eating nutritiously wholesome?
  • Are you sleeping the proper amount?
  • Are you properly hydrated throughout the day?
  • What is your alcohol intake like?

The answers to these questions will provide you with your plan to get back on track!

For example:

  • “I’m not exercising any more than 2 days per week with zero activity on my off days.”
    • Add in a daily walk (regardless of whether it’s a workout day) and add in one more 20-30 minute workout, to bump your total to 3 days of exercise. As stated earlier, consistency is the first key to successfully making a change.
  • “I do well with breakfast- oatmeal with blueberries and I usually meal prep healthy lunches such as dry tuna salads or grilled chicken and rice. But I’ve been eating out 5 nights per week, and the 2 nights I stay in are microwave dinners with daily dessert.”
    • When you order out, at least 3 of the 5 nights be sure to order a salad and eat that first. When you have your microwave dinners, add in a side of colorful veggies as well. To curb your sweet tooth, have some fresh fruit or a protein shake after dinner before you have the dessert- see if you still have the desire to indulge in dessert after either option. If you do, don’t beat yourself up over it- just limit the damage!
  • “Some nights I go to bed at 9:00 PM and others I’m awake until midnight because I get engrossed in a TV show, and I always wake up at 5:30 AM, regardless of whether I’m working or not.”
    • Set an alarm for yourself to turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed. This will help unwind yourself and keep you from getting sucked into binge watching a TV show. Try out activities such as reading a casual book, or taking a hot shower or bath, to relax yourself and get ready for bed. Aim to be asleep within 30 minutes of a target time each night. Consistently getting the same amount of sleep will optimize your body’s recovery, and provide you with great will power to exercise, and make proper nutritional choices the next day!
  • “Some days I’m able to drink water all day, but others I get distracted and may only have one glass.”
    • It’s extremely common to be inconsistent with water in-take. Many of us only drink water when we’re thirsty- which is a recipe for being chronically dehydrated. A general rule of thumb is, women should be having minimally 6, 8 ounce glasses of water per day, while men should be having at least 8. Your water needs may vary slightly off these numbers but 6 and 8 cups of water respectively is a good baseline. A great way to stay consistent with water consumption is to set hourly reminders for yourself on your phone. It’s easy to get distracted during the work day and only consume caffeinated beverages- which will further dehydrate you. Being dehydrated will cause you to feel lethargic, have headaches and be irritable- therefore it’s imperative we are consuming the proper amount of water!
  • “Since the pandemic has hit, I’ve been having between 1 and 3 drinks 5-6 nights per week.”
    • Over caffeinating during the day usually leads to a need to knock the edge off with alcohol at night to properly unwind. This is extremely common- especially during high stress times. If you feel like you’re having a problem with a dependency on alcohol, you should talk to a professional about it. However, if it’s more of a lack of will power, do your best to cut back by one day per week, until you’re having a few drinks only 2 nights per week. Don’t try to cold-turkey the alcohol, because that could potentially lead to binge drinking scenarios- instead, focus on cutting back slowly, from week to week.

These are all common, but hypothetical situations. Your scenario may be slightly different, but the big takeaway should be, you need to objectively analyze what areas you’re struggling with right now. Once you’ve identified those pitfalls, you need to make small changes in each area, rather than a complete overhaul. Drastic changes rarely yield lasting results; instead they usually cause a yo-yo reaction right back to where you were before- if not worse! Small, SUSTAINABLE Changes will always give you the best results long-term.

#3 Lose the Negative Mindset!

A huge issue many individuals struggle with- during non-pandemic times- is the notion that every workout needs to be perfect. As someone who is an avid fitness enthusiast, I can honestly say, that the majority of my workouts are not perfect. The results I’ve gotten over the last 10 years have not been because I’m hitting PR’s every workout. Rather, it’s because I train every single day that I’m supposed to- whether that’s with weights, kettle bell, going for a run etc.- I never missed a planned training session.

This mindset helped me smoothly transition into a pandemic exercise routine because I knew the perfect training session was simply not going to happen. Once you stop seeking the perfect workout, and instead focus on what is controllable- purely showing up and having a positive mindset regarding the workout- you’ll start consistently hitting your planned training sessions.

If you go into your workout thinking “this just isn’t the same as the gym.” Or, maybe you’re already back at the gym, but due to the restrictions you’re thinking “I can’t get my normal workout in, so what’s the point?” These are the negative thoughts that will automatically derail your attempt at maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If this is an area you’re currently struggling with, I challenge you to keep your goals simple regarding your workouts: “My goal today is to move vigorously.” Who cares where that happens (home, outside, the gym), what equipment you have access to, or who’s around you?

In order to have realistic goals, they also must align with your current situation. In other words, if you only have a pair of 10 pound dumbbells, and a few minibands, then “building muscle mass” is not going to be a realistic goal- which is fine! Just because you can’t realistically achieve your usual fitness goal, doesn’t mean you should just throw the towel in on a healthy lifestyle. Adapt your goals to match what you realistically have access to, and understand that it doesn’t need to be your permanent reality. At some point, you will be able to get back to your normal fitness routine, however, until then, accept the fact that you may have to pivot your fitness goals to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

In Conclusion

It would be the easy thing to just throw the towel in on your 2020 health and fitness goals. No one would blame you if you justified it by saying “2020 just wasn’t your year.” I implore you though, to dig deep and realize that you can get yourself back on track. Yes, 2020 has been one wild roller coaster ride, however, you should not let external circumstances determine your own health and fitness.

This isn’t about aesthetics- fitting into bikinis or filling out t-shirts is beside the point- what I’m talking about is people walking away from healthy lifestyles, which will eventually cause a rise in underlying health issues. Blood pressure, cholesterol, Type II diabetes and even some forms of cancer have been scientifically proven to be warded off by consistent exercise and healthy nutritional habits.

Maybe your gym is still closed, or maybe it reopened but there is limited equipment available. Whatever the case may be, understand that if you develop a plan of attack, make small changes to your current lifestyle, and maintain a positive outlook towards your workouts, you will be able to achieve an effective exercise routine anywhere. Take those 3 steps and you will gradually steer yourself back on track for the remainder of 2020!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

5 Ways a Fitness Tracker Will Enhance Your Fitness Journey!

While many parts of the country are beginning the process of reopening gyms or personal training studios, there’s still countless other regions with no light at the end of the tunnel. Regardless of what situation you may find yourself in, I believe something we’ve all learned first-hand these past several weeks, is how difficult it is to maintain consistently high levels of workout intensity at home.  

Without the social motivation, the music pumping, the class instructor in your face, it can be extremely challenging to get high quality workouts in. This is especially true, if you’re the type that struggles to motivate yourself. You may rely on an external force to provide your best source of motivation. Unfortunately, almost all our external motivating factors have been stripped away during quarantine workouts.

The question is, how can you safely increase your workout intensity without any ‘traditional’ external motivators? The simple answer is this:

Invest in a Fitness Tracker.

I’ve used a few different fitness trackers in the past and have found value in each- I’ve owned a Nike Fuelband, Fitbit Ionic and currently use a Garmin Vivioactive 3 watch as well as a Myzone Heart Rate monitor. There are several benefits to each of the products I’ve mentioned, however, the bottom line is this: regardless of the device’s accuracy or bells and whistles- the ability to track your activity, connect with others and generate movement, make a fitness tracker a must have during this time!

Why Invest in a Fitness Tracker?

#1 Fitness Trackers Offer Connectivity

During the CO-VID 19 pandemic, social distancing has unfortunately forced us away from our friends and family; by utilizing a fitness tracker, its capabilities will allow you to reconnect with a fitness community that social media cannot. Every fitness tracker is different, however, the fact is each company offers their own “challenges” and sends “awards” for achieving various fitness accomplishments throughout the day/week or month. While this can’t permanently replace the class instructor you love or exercising with your best friend, it will start to tap into the social aspect of training.

In addition, when I say “social” referring to exercise, I’m not necessarily talking about communicating with other gym members. Instead I’m talking more about the inner competitive nature we all possess. Whether you realize it or not, you’re naturally competing with the girl or guy next to you on the bench or squat rack- every single training session. This is an aspect of gym training that home workouts simply cannot mimic- unless you use a fitness tracker to compete!

#2 Generate Movement

While a fitness tracker will not help with your issue of lack of fitness equipment at home, it will most definitely generate movement. During these weeks in quarantine, more than likely you either continued living a mostly health-conscious lifestyle, or you let the wheels fall off and have been treating this time like a hall pass.

There’s got to be a middle ground between these two lifestyle choices though, or else the road back to your fitness journey is going to be uphill for a long time. The compromise that a Fitness Tracker will provide is that it’s going to be your reminder to stand up and move around- for those that have never owned a fitness tracker, you can usually turn on a “reminder to move” setting that will vibrate/beep or send a notification to your phone incrementally, letting you know it’s been too long since your last bout of movement.

This doesn’t mean you have to go for a run every time your device reminds you to move- maybe it’s just a walk around your apartment, a set of body weight squats, up and down your stairs a few times, or some push-ups. Remember, any movement is better than no movement right now.

We also live in a society that is reward driven; therefore, it admittedly feels very good getting a notification come across your device when you hit your step, stair or activity goals for the day!

#3 Fitness Trackers Will Enhance the Quality of Your Workouts

Several months ago, one of the most sobering realizations I came to when I had my first workout with my Myzone Heart Rate monitor, was discovering my actual exertion versus my perceived exertion. (While my Fitbit Ionic and Garmin Vivioactive 3 both had heart rate monitoring capabilities, Myzone Heart Rate Monitor is a chest strap that has been peer reviewed to be 99.4% accurate.) Seeing my real time heart rate zone on a screen in front of me, has challenged me every single workout to get well outside my comfort zone, thus vastly improving the overall quality of my workouts.

Even if other fitness trackers aren’t quite as accurate as the Myzone Heart Rate Monitor, keep in mind, it’s all relative. So even if the “calories burned” or the “peak heart rate” isn’t completely accurate, it will minimally be consistent. Therefore, the fitness tracker will provide you with the ability to look back on your workouts and compare your relative exertion from one workout to the next. Having this capability will assist you in getting outside of your comfort zone without the presence of a coach- accordingly, you’ll be able to maintain consistently high levels of workout intensity even outside the gym walls!

#4 They’re in Stock!

In a time when fitness equipment is virtually impossible to purchase online, I did some research and every fitness tracker I searched on Amazon or the product’s website, is available to be purchased. The common complaint regarding maintaining fitness levels I’m hearing right now, is some variation of: “I can’t workout right now because I can’t buy any dumbbells/barbells/kettlelbells etc.”

While I completely empathize with this unfortunate reality, I also feel that an alternative solution would be to instead invest in a fitness tracker. Investing in such a device will not only assist in your fitness levels during this period of quarantine, but also will continue to enhance your health once society resumes its normal function.

#5 You’ll Find Value in them AFTER Quarantine Has Lifted

Many of the fitness products that have been frantically purchased the last several weeks will unfortunately become dust collectors once quarantine has lifted. Individuals have spent considerable amounts of money on equipment, only to serve as holdovers until gyms can reopen. While your weight bench or pair of dumbbells will sit idly once gyms reopen, your fitness tracker certainly should not. If you get in the habit of allowing your fitness tracker to serve as an extra source of motivation, it will only continue to enhance the quality of your workouts and lifestyle once quarantine has been fully lifted.

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My Personal Review on Fitness Trackers

I’m by no stretch of the imagination a fitness tracker connoisseur, nor am I speaking on behalf of any one company. All I can tell you is the benefits I’ve personally experienced with the fitness devices I’ve owned and used myself. The Nike Fuelband, Fitbit Ionic and Garmin Vivioactive 3, each helped me enhance one main area of my health- my NEAT (Non-Exercise Active Thermogenesis- aka Active Rest). Having step goals in addition to the workouts I was already doing, vastly helped with my recovery from workouts. I noticed my fitness trackers’ benefit the most on weekends- where if I was being on the lazy side, having my device vibrate and tell me to get up and move was huge. (This generation of movement is the most applicable way that I feel a fitness tracker will assist in an individual’s health during quarantine.)

My Myzone Heart Rate monitor is by far my favorite fitness tracker I’ve owned though. It completely taps into my competitive nature by having my heart rate zone displayed on a screen in front of me. This has been a huge asset for me in continuing to push myself outside my comfort zone during quarantine. I haven’t personally used the function, however, you can also become completely connected with the Myzone community around the world, should you choose- this feature allows you to enter competitions and compare your workouts against thousands of other people.

I’ve only experienced two drawbacks with fitness trackers that I could see causing issues for some. First, no matter how many steps you hit daily, or how many floors you climb, your activity level will not give you a free pass nutritionally. Just because you crushed 30,000 steps doesn’t necessarily mean you can now eat whatever you want after dinner. This would be a dangerous precedent to set and would ultimately lead to you spinning your wheels. To maximize the benefit of a fitness tracker, it should be used in conjunction with proper nutritional habits.

Secondly, an issue I could see some having with the Myzone Heart Rate Monitor was the need to always have the heart rate in an elevated state- to improve the “score” of the workout. This can create the dangerous tendency to breeze through warm-ups or rush through reps, just so you can see your heart rate climb. Therefore, if you’re going to use a heart rate monitor to determine the quality of your workouts, you have to accept the fact that there will be peaks and valleys in the workout. Not the entire workout will be spent in the 80-90% range; just make it your goal to work up toward that point.

How to Know Which Fitness Tracker is Right for You??

With fitness trackers ranging from simple to fancy as well as cheap to pricy, it may be extremely difficult to determine which fitness tracker is right for you. A source of information I wish I had known about when I was shopping for a fitness tracker, is the Consumer Advocate website dedicated to fitness tracker reviews. In the link attached you will find reviews on their top 11 fitness trackers!

They rate each of these products on Features, Connectivity, Cost and Customer Experience, and my favorite part is their transparency with the product’s drawbacks. With over 200 hours worth of research, they have developed a comprehensive and exhaustive list of their findings that will undoubtedly lead you to a fitness tracker that is right for you!

In addition to the in-depth analysis of each fitness tracker, the Consumer Advocate group also lays out some distinctions between fitness trackers and smart watches, some pitfalls consumers fall into when purchasing a fitness tracker and some very helpful FAQ’s regarding fitness trackers in general. I whole heartedly encourage you to check out this website before you commit to investing in a fitness tracker!

Final Thoughts

While quarantining is protecting us from contracting a deadly virus, we are unfortunately setting ourselves up for a slew of health issues down the road by living largely inactive lives.  I urge you to consider investing in a fitness tracker and implement it as apart your fitness journey going forward.

If you already own a fitness tracker, and it’s just accumulating dust in a jewelry box, take this time to break it out. Research its functions to maximize the device’s usefulness and allow it to be a source of external motivation. Then once gyms reopen, keep it apart of your fitness routine in order to consistently execute and chart high quality workouts.

Continue to stay safe and healthy!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

Why Circuit Training, Complexes and Combo Moves Are Your Best Training Methods- Right Now!

If you are normally a hard gainer, whose goals revolve around filling out t-shirts or yoga pants, then this is an especially difficult time for you. If you were like the majority of the population who was a day or week late to Amazon, Rogue or Dick’s Sporting Goods, you’re most likely left with a Home Gym set up that doesn’t come close to including the normal weights you would use at the gym.

Maybe you have a single kettle bell, some bands, or a pair of light dumbbells- whatever you currently have access to, it most likely doesn’t compare to the variety of weights or machines you’re accustomed to using in a commercial gym. This is going to make it difficult to continue with your goal of strength, power or muscle gains.

Therefore, the first thing you need to do, is accept the following:

Temper your goals to align with your current situation.

In other words, if your goal was to hit a PR in Squats or Bench Press by June 1st, understand that this is most likely no longer a reality. Instead, focus instead on goals such as:

  • Logging quality workouts daily that elevate your heart rate
  • Perfecting basic body weight moves
  • Smooth movement patterns
  • Enhancing your mobility and flexibility
  • Adding an unfamiliar component to your workout- such as cardio

Unfortunately, 5 x 5 rep schemes just won’t work when you only have light weights to deal with. Therefore, you must display a level of adaptability with your goals and adjust to your own individual scenario. Understand that this period of social distancing will most likely result in [hopefully] maintaining the “gains” you’ve made in previous months or years in the gym- but you can also use this time away from the gym as a way to reinvent yourself by adding in new components that will benefit your future workouts.

3- C’s to Maximizing a Quarantine Workout- Circuits/Complexes/Combo Moves

#1 Circuit Training Will Make Up for Missed Intensity

If you’re not accustomed to circuit training, you may think it’s “stupid” or “only for people who are trying to be skinny.” Unfortunately, this is a very short-sighted and close-minded opinion on a style of exercising that will automatically give you intensity. With your normal intensity most likely lacking – due to not having access to heavy dumbbells, barbells or machines- it is imperative to figure out ways to mimic your normal workout’s intensity. Otherwise, you will certainly not make progress in any area, and you’ll also most likely lose interest in home workouts altogether because your workouts just won’t have the normal challenge that you’re accustomed to.

Why does circuit training possess the potential to make up for missing intensity? Because you’re quickly moving from one move to another with varying amounts of rest time in between. You’ll also be able to pre-fatigue muscles and get them working much harder than if you were to just do straight sets or traditional super-sets. By moving quickly through the workout, you’re going to be elevating your heart rate, and increasing the metabolic demands placed on your body.

The circuits you create don’t have to be full body- even though they possess a great option to alternate between upper and lower body throughout the sequence. You can do upper body circuits, lower body circuits or core circuits- each of these will maximize the minimal equipment and space you have access to.

In order to create your own circuit, you first need to identify what equipment you have. Is it just going to be bodyweight? Or do you have a few sets of dumbbells? Next, you have to determine how long you want the circuit to be (in terms of number of exercises). Anywhere between 4 and 10 exercises will provide you with a circuit that should match your ability. Then, you need to figure out your variables- specifically your work and rest time.

When performing circuit style training, the best results are usually seen when timing yourself and trying to perform as many quality reps as possible in an allotted time. These timed sets can be anywhere from 20-40 seconds long- depending on ability and the complexity of the moves. If you’re alternating between an upper body move and a lower body move, then your rest time can be minimal to nothing. However, if you’re doing high intensity, full body moves (such as a kettle bell swing, medicine ball slam, squat jumps) then you’ll want to lean more towards a 2:1 work: rest ratio. Finally, determine how many sets you want to do. Depending on time constraints, and how many exercises you’ve included, I’d recommend between 3 and 5 rounds to start.

Sample Full-Body Circuit (no weights):

Sample Upper Body Circuit (Light Weights):

Sample Lower Body Circuit (Light Weights):

Sample Core Circuit (Body Weight)

#2 Use Complexes to Maintain Strength Levels and Intensity

The next step on the difficulty spectrum would be integrating complexes in your home training. Complexes can be done with either dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, or even body weight. For this purpose, though I’m going to focus on complexes that can be done with dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells. The idea behind performing a true “complex” is performing 3-6 strength moves and not putting the weight down until the set is complete. This is an off-shoot of circuit training but lends more towards strength training and possesses even greater metabolic potential- due to the ‘heavier weight’ being moved.

Complexes can be organized a few different ways as well. They can focus on one muscle group, or they can be full body. It’s completely up to you and how you’ve organized your own training split.

Not everyone will have the potential to do complexes right now, due to the variation in exercise equipment you currently have access to. If you do have some sort of external weights though, consider integrating complexes into your daily workouts because they will exponentially increase the difficulty of your workout!

Barbell Complex

Challenge yourself to not put the barbell down, and perform between 5 and 15 reps of each movement, depending on your ability and the amount of weight you have access to.

Dumbbell Full Body Complex

Challenge yourself to not put the dumbbell down, and perform between 5 and 15 reps of each movement, depending on your ability and the amount of weight you have access to.

Kettle Bell Complex

Challenge yourself to not put the kettlebell down, and perform between 5 and 15 reps of each movement, depending on your ability and the amount of weight you have access to.

#3 Combo Moves to Create Intensity

I’m notoriously leery of “combo moves” under normal circumstances. My main reason for this is because combination moves, generally mean you’re short changing yourself in one of the moves. However, due to the fact that these are extremely abnormal circumstances, you have to find ways to create intensity with your workouts- and integrating safe combo moves are a great way.

A combination move, is when you take 2 strength moves that would normally be done alone, and combined them into one move. This is extremely beneficial right now, because most people don’t have access to heavy weights. Combo moves will provide a method to make a pair of 15’s or 20’s feel significantly heavier.

I implore you though, when performing combination moves, be safe. If the weight feels like it’s too much for a move, shut it down and do something different. If you continue to practice perfect form with the optimal weight, combination moves will provide a tremendous boost to your workouts as well- especially by adding them into a circuit!

Lower Body Combo Moves

Upper Body Combo Moves

Full Body Combo Moves

Final Thoughts

While the training methods I’ve outlined above, may not fully align with your normal goals, they will provide the intensity that your current home workouts are lacking. By implementing these methods you will be able to maintain your strength levels and stay afloat during this time away from your full gym arsenal.

In order to be successful though, you must leave your ego at the door. If you’re someone who says “I only strength train, I never do cardio…” But you also only have access to 10 LB dumbbells right now, then your workouts are going to suffer tremendously. It’s perfectly fine to ditch every one of these training methods as soon as the gym lights come back on, however, in this moment these methods will allow you to maintain high levels of workout intensity with sub-maximal weights.

When performing any of these methods though, listen to your body. If something feels easy continue to tweak variables. Consider increasing the reps, the work time or decrease the rest time. Conversely, if something feels overly challenging, make the necessary adjustments so you’re still performing your workouts safely and with anatomical integrity.

Keep in mind, just because it’s “lighter weight” doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. Allow Circuits, Complexes and Combo moves to increase your workout intensity while always maintaining proper form! Be a “fitness chameleon” and adapt to the environment you currently have access to; this adaptability will ultimately allow for you to hit the ground running with your fitness goals when society returns to normal.

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass. 

Back to Basics- Improve These 3 Areas During Quarantine Workouts!

There are so many ways CO-VID 19 has negatively impacted our fitness routines, however, one absolute positive we should all identify is the forced “return to basics.” With all the fancy machines, barbells and dumbbells stripped away for the most part, many are left with their body weight as the only option.

While body weight training is often viewed as rudimentary and basic, I can’t think of a better opportunity to re-build a faulty foundation as a collective fitness population. I look around at gym patrons (myself included) and I can immediately identify 3 areas that need improvement. Some only struggle in one area, but many are deficient in all 3 aspects, yet continue to try complex moves or are desperately seeking “harder” workouts- while ignoring their weaknesses.

If nothing else in your fitness journey comes from this extended social distancing, I implore you to please identify which of these 3 areas you struggle with, and make them a top priority in your body weight training routines:

  1. Hip Mobility
  2. Shoulder Mobility
  3. Perform a PROPER Push-Up 

Hip Mobility

Why It’s Important??

Everything starts with the hips. Pain free movement, both in the gym and everyday life starts with mobile hips. Tight hips will limit your progress in squats, lunges and deadlifts and cause chronic lower back pain. You will also put yourself at risk for injuring yourself in the gym, because tight hips make it challenging to achieve proper movement patterns in compound moves.

For example, tight hips will likely force you to have an excessive forward lean in a Back or Front Squat. An excessive forward lean, with an exterior load puts your lower back in an extremely vulnerable position at the bottom of the range of motion.

(The same can be said for deadlifts as well. Tight hips will prevent a proper hinge, and therefore make it difficult to maintain a flat back throughout the range of motion of a deadlift.)

How to Improve Hip Mobility??

Implement these exercises and perform them daily until you notice a marked improvement. The beautiful thing about mobility (especially with the hips) is: you get out of it, what you put into it. You can’t expect to do hip mobility drills once per week and expect your hips to magically loosen up. They have to be prioritized and taken seriously if you want to see improvement. When you perform these exercises daily for 2-4 weeks, you will notice your hips unlocking and the rest of your strength moves will automatically feel more natural!

Hip Circles

Hip Rolls

½ Kneeling Adductor Stretch

Pigeon Stretch

Hockey Stretch

Spider Stretch w/ T-Spine and Hamstring Flow

How to Implement It??

This hip mobility piece should be the beginning of every workout. Organize it as a circuit, in the order I’ve laid it out. Depending on your time constraints you can repeat through 1-3 times with about 60-90 seconds between sets. Always shoot for 30 seconds for each exercise (total) and keep the transitions fluid with minimal rest in between

Shoulder Mobility

Why It’s Important???

The shoulders are the most vulnerable joint in the body. It has the ability to extend up to 3 inches outside it’s socket and still remain uninjured. In order to keep the shoulders functioning at their healthiest, it is imperative to keep them mobile- in addition to being strong.

Due to the amount of technology we consume daily, many of our shoulders are naturally rolled forward resulting in extremely poor posture. Having bad posture will negatively impact not only your shoulder health- due to vastly under-active and tight muscles- but your lower back health as well. Anteriorly rotated shoulders will put a significant amount of pressure on your lumbar spine. (Combine that with the fact that you most likely have tight hips as well, and you’ve already checked off two boxes that will ultimately result in lower back pain and extreme movement dysfunction.)

Not only is bad shoulder mobility detrimental to everyday life, (brushing your hair or reaching for something on a top shelf) but it also poses an injury risk during resistance exercises. Poor shoulder mobility combined with an attempt to strengthen your shoulders by pressing weight overhead, is the perfect storm for an injury. If you are unable to achieve a proper overhead position without arching your lower back, then you need to focus on mobilizing your shoulders before you start pressing any kind of significant weight overhead.

How to Improve Shoulder Mobility??

I would add the following routine to any warm-up, but especially before I did any sort of pressing. Mobilizing and strengthening the small muscles in the shoulders before you do any resistance training for your upper body, will greatly protect you from potential injury. 

– Band in Fronts & Behinds

– Cat Cows

– Band Pull Aparts

– T-Spine Extensions

– Miniband Touchdowns

Each of these puts a premium on overhead mobility as well as correct postural alignment. The key to increasing your range of motion is first working within your current mobility. Don’t start forcing reps or compensating your movement patterns. If you feel your lower back arching to get your hands overhead, get yourself against a wall to perform Pull Aparts, and Touchdowns.

(*If you don’t have a band, just cut out the Band Pull Aparts, and use a broom stick handle for “In Fronts and Behinds.” Then grab cans of soup or veggies and use that as extremely light resistance to perform the Miniband Touchdowns*)

How to Implement It??

Perform these exercises in the exact order I laid out. You can either do these sets for time or reps. Perform each move for either 20-30 seconds or 10-15 reps for 1-3 sets. Give yourself minimal rest in between exercises and about 60-90 seconds if you do more than one set.

Proper Push-Ups

Why Doing a ‘Proper Push-Up is Important??

Do your Push-Ups look like this?

One of the first strength movements we are taught as children in elementary school is the basic Push-Up. It is a staple of many training programs- and rightfully so. Unfortunately it is taken for granted that everyone knows ‘proper form’ when executing this move. A Push-Up with good form, is a great indicator of upper body and core strength and compliments every resisted strength exercise.

The problem I see so often though is the quality in which Push-Ups are being performed. Just as I demonstrate in the video above, I routinely see elbows flared out, scapulars (shoulder blades) digging together and hips raised or dropping well below the upper body, preventing full range of motion- all in the name of completing a certain amount of reps. Each of these flaws will ultimately result in shoulder pain, back pain or both- without ever getting you better at performing Push-Ups.

For my clients, the focus is not on quantity, but rather high quality. Therefore, we work towards performing a Push-Up as follows:

Elbows at about a 45 degree angle. Hips in line with the upper body throughout the movement, shoulders directly over top your hands. The tempo is controlled on the way down and explosive on the way up. And the depth is about a ‘fist-width’ from the ground.

How to Improve Your Push-Ups

If you cannot perform more than 5 Push-Ups with the parameters I just outlined, you’d be best served to stop attempting full Push-Ups, and instead work from the Push-Up Position Plank. This is an example of giving yourself a sturdy foundation before you “build your house” … or attempt a full set of push-ups. The key to most body weight strength moves is being comfortable with your own body weight. Perfecting the Push-Up Position Plank and all its variations will set you up better for continuing a Push-Up progression down the road.

Push-Up Position Plank Variations

Push-Up Position Plank

Push-Up Position Arm to Side

Push-Up Position Arm out Front

Push-Up Position Opposite Shoulder Taps

How to Implement It??

The other downfall I see regarding Push-Ups is its programming. I’m not sure if it originated with a military boot camp mindset of “Drop and give me 50,” however, watching people painstakingly grind through a set of high repetition push-ups with bad form after the 2nd repetition, definitely makes me scratch my head and cringe.

Always strive for perfect reps with your push-ups. Put your ego aside (which should be easier now without the social aspect of a gym), and first set your sights on achieving a perfect Push-Up Position Plank hold for 40-60 seconds with proper form. Then start working through the progressions that I outlined. Only at that point would I start with an Incline Push-Up (performing a push-up with your hands on an elevated surface) and gradually decrease the angle until you’re on the floor performing a regular Push-Up.

When doing your Push-Up Position Plank variations, keep your sets to 20-60 seconds, depending on ability, for 3-5 sets. Once you progress to Incline or Regular Push-Ups, keep the reps maximally at 12-15 perfect reps. If you can do more than 15 perfect push-ups, it’s then time to start adding weight (via chains or a weighted vest) or hand and feet movement to create further instability.

Final Thoughts

I admire the fact that bodyweight training has jumped to the forefront of the fitness industry again. A return to basics is what so many people need, because for years they’ve been neglected. The issue however, is with more and more “online coaches” popping up every day on social media, I see bodyweight workouts getting crazier and more unrealistic as the social distancing continues. Since you’re not in a gym setting right now, and there’s no competition with the person next to you, I urge you to take this time and work on your areas of deficiency. If you work on improving in the areas I outlined above, when gyms re-open, it will pay massive dividends down the road with improvements in your resistance training, injury prevention and overall body function.  

As always, stay safe and healthy!

Yours in Fitness and Health,

TC

Your Final Reward Will Be Heartache and Tears, If You’ve Cheated the Guy in the Glass.