All Hail the Kettlebell

Is it weird to love – like REALLY love – a piece of fitness equipment? Especially one that has caused you so much pain?

Probably, but I’m owning it. I love kettlebells. They’re an incredibly versatile tool, and they’re so darn effective. So when I had the opportunity to pitch the “Belly Shrink” section of Shape, I went straight to the bells. Yes, they’re known for revving your heart rate and strengthening your posterior chain, but they’re also great for the core.

And just when I think there’s no improving the good, old-fashioned kettlebell, they go ahead and make ’em gold and sparkly!

Shape1

To read the full article, check out the April 2017 issue of Shape!

Advertisements

My Day as a Devil

As discussed in my previous post, I spend most of my days working independently at home in my sweatpants with a cat in my lap and a mug of coffee within reach. But every once in a while my job gets me out of the house and transports me to exotic, faraway locations like…

prudential-center
Image Source: The Prudential Center

Newark, New Jersey!

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit The Prudential Center for a tour and on-site workout with the strength and conditioning team for the New Jersey Devils. Everything I know about training for the ice comes from movies like The Mighty Ducks and The Cutting Edge (toe pick!), so I accepted the invite in the name of continuing education.

The circuit workout that head coach Joe Lorincz programmed  wasn’t all that different from a typical CrossFit EMOM, or an AMRAP I might put together for a client interested in slimming down and building muscle. We cycled through a short warm-up of power moves like box jumps and medball slams, and then moved into a lengthier circuit filled with strength training exercises like weighted carries, sled pushes, deadlifts, and ring rows. But there were a few hockey-specific tweaks, like a focus on balance. After the workout, I had the chance to chat with Coach Lorincz for this article for Men’s Journal.

mjscreenshot

I’m not sure I’m ready to hit the ice (unless it’s with my ass – that’s a guarantee any time I put on skates). But I am thinking about how to better address posture and balance in my own workouts. Even if you’re not zipping around on razor blades, being able to stand on one foot is important in everyday life (we do it every time we run, climb stairs, step over puddles…), and balance becomes increasingly important as we age and become more susceptible to falls and resulting injury.

img_20161213_172809
Post workout with the Devils’ strength and conditioning coaches

Looking for one small way to address balance training into your workout? Try adding walking knee hugs to your warm-up.  You’ll stretch the hips, glutes, and hamstrings and challenge your ability to balance on one foot.

Geek for Print

Please humor me while I geek out just a little over seeing my name in the October print edition of Men’s Journal.

FullSizeRender (6).jpg

I’ve been contributing to MensJournal.com for well over a year, and it’s been great. I’ve written about everything from training plateaus and Olympic weightlifting to hand care and tattoo cover-ups. I’ve interviewed experts in experts in exercise science and nutrition, as well as the fittest man on earth. I’m excited every time one of my articles goes live, but I was particularly giddy to see a condensed version of a story I wrote on resistance training make it to print.

I’ve been hearing that the print magazine industry is dead for at least 15 years, and I’m sure there were rumblings way before that. When I worked in PR and marketing, I saw both new publications with tons of promise and old books with extensive histories fold. In less than two years of freelance writing, I’ve witnessed the same thing firsthand.

But, I refuse to think the industry is “dead.” I think it’s a hard industry, and maybe one that’s been too resistant to change and evolution. But I can tell you that there are some really smart, creative people in charge (at least on the editorial side) and tons of writers who are stoked to claim just a tiny corner of print real estate. Print is special for that reason – unlike the internet, which is limitless and dynamic, print is a carefully planned experience. And one that can’t be changed after the fact. I think that kind of curation and permanence is unique and appealing at a time when so much content feels instantly disposable.

I suppose I’m one of those hardcover-reading Luddites with piles of magazines on the kitchen table who can’t get used to a Kindle and still values a more tactile reading experience. Maybe we’re slowly dying off and taking the industry with us, but I really hope not. I hope I keep seeing my name in print. In the meantime, I”ll keep buying magazines.

Personal Training, Featuring Peter!

When it comes to my personal training style, I aim to stay positive, encouraging and helpful. I know some people respond to more boot camp-like coaching, but that’s just not me. I’ll correct your form, keep you moving, and won’t let you get away with half-assing anything (I want you to get as much as possible out of your 60  minutes!), but this is health and fitness, not war; barking just feels mean and counterproductive.

However, considering Peter is a drummer, I thought about trying to embrace by inner J.K. Simmons ala Whiplash and getting all hardcore about the tempo for things like pike pushups.

tempo

But Peter is a nice guy, and he already works hard. I wanted him to walk away from our session feeling stoked about getting strong, not upset.

imupset

We started our session with an overhead squat assessment, which revealed some movement compensations. Peter’s knees moved inward a bit during the squat, which (often, but not always) indicates overactive (tight) adductors, TFL (hip flexors) and/or quad muscles, and underactive glutes and hamstrings.

ohs
Not Peter or me. source

To help address this potential imbalance, we did some banded “monster walks,” and I showed Peter a few self-myofascial release techniques using a foam roller and tennis balls.

IMG_2907.JPG

Peter’s goals included improving his posture and building core and upper body strength. We were in the park and using my “mobile gym,” so we did some ball slams and a challenging circuit that used bands and bodyweight movements.

IMG_2910.JPG

To work on Peter’s core strength, we did a couple rounds of cobras and tuck-ups and finished with a two-minute plank hold.

We both had fun and sweated a lot (carrying a 15-pound slam ball up to the park is no freaking joke).

IMG_2915

And nobody cried.

milescrying

Question: What coaching style do you prefer? Are you motivated by lots of feedback? Or do you prefer to keep things low-key and just get to work?

Personal Training, Featuring Anna!

Full disclosure: I’ve been friends with Anna since I was a wide-eyed college freshman straight off the turnip truck. She’s one of my closest pals, which made our first training session a lot of fun.

IMG_2682

Even though we’ve known each other for (ahem) 18-ish years, and I had some idea of what she was looking for in a workout, we still began our first session with a frank conversation about goals. This is a crucial part of the personal training experience. Sure, we could have jumped into a high-intensity circuit right away, or started with some treadmill sprints. But Anna can go for a run on her own or sign up for a group fitness class any time. The benefit of working with trainer is getting a program that addresses your unique needs and goals. Communication is key!

We also talked a bit about the concept of “toning.” It’s impossible to change the quality or shape of your muscle, and “spot reduction” is a weight-loss myth. But you can increase the size of your muscles and decrease you overall body fat percentage, which can give you a more “toned” look.

Based on Anna’s goals and exercise preferences, I designed a program that utilized tabatas (eight rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest) and circuits. Quickly moving from one movement to the next (e.g. push-ups, banded rows, banded good mornings) incorporated resistance training, while keeping her heart rate elevated. Anna also had concerns about strengthening her back and shoulder muscles, as she spends a lot of time at the computer and struggles with slouching and rounded shoulders. So I threw in some banded pull-aparts (a CrossFit staple!).

Another consideration was Anna’s day-to-day life. She has a full-time job and two kids; there’s not a lot of time for the gym or lengthy workouts. My goal was to create a workout that could be replicated at home, broken up into shorter segments, if necessary, and completed with minimal equipment and space. We skipped bars, kettlebells, and dumbbell (all of which I LOVE, don’t get me wrong) in favor of a variety of resistance bands, which are versatile, portable and inexpensive.

littlebands

Anna was a model client; she put in 100% effort and was up for everything I threw at her, even monster walks, which are just funny looking. We’re already strategizing our next session, which we may move to the park for some running intervals!

anna muscles

Have you ever worked with a personal trainer? What was the experience like?