Random Friday

Hey party people, here’s another Random Friday for your occular enjoyment.

-I don’t know about you, but this week has absolutely flown by for me.  I’ve had some very long days but it’s been great to meet and start working with several new clients.  I think 2011 is going to hold great things for Gray Fitness and it’s clients.  Be looking for some more incredible before and after photos!

-This next week will be the last week I will be offering my holiday special.  I’ve extended it a little longer than I planned and will be offering it until next Friday.  Check this out for more details.

-My wife and I (mostly my wife) have begun to get our nursery prepared.  While I’m still freaked out a bit by the responsibility of being a dad, I’m starting to get very excited the more we get the nursery put together.  I never thought I would think baby clothes were so cool.

-The blog jumped over the 5,000 views mark this week.  Thanks for reading!

-I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been following Eric Cressey’s Show and Go training program for the last few months.  It has been a great program and I have seen great gains in my overall strength, but with business having picked up so much in the last few weeks, I just don’t have the time to commit to it any longer.  Each training day takes about 75-80 minutes, plus I need time to wash up and stop sweating before my next session.  This means I need a solid 2 hour block to really get the most out of it.  So, for now, I’m stopping the Show and Go program and going back to writing my own programs.  I’ll be training more often, just in shorter sessions.  And while I know I will use Show and Go again,  I have to admit that I’m really excited to get back to writing programs for myself.

-Seeing one of my female clients perform 20 (yes 20) legit chin-ups with only five seconds rest in between reps yesterday was awesome.  Is it weird that that kind of thing excites me?

-Ted Williams (the homeless guy with the golden radio voice) has been getting a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so.  However, I thought I would post a video of the original Ted Williams.  (Who else hits a home run on their last career at bat?)

Have a good weekend!


Good Reads

I thought I would do something a bit different today and go completely off topic.  Instead of writing about stuff that’s training/fitness/health/awesome based, I thought I would do a “Good Reads” post on some of the best books I have ever read.  I know, I know, this is supposed to be a blog that helps you get stronger, leaner and healthier.  Well I believe that a good book is good for the soul and mind, so theres my tie in.

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.  I first read this book in high school and I was captivated.  It’s a story about youth and spirituality and the struggle we all have within ourselves.

This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel Levitin.  I’ve mentioned this book before, and although I’m not completely through it, it…is…awesome.  If you have any interest in music at all, check it out.

-Any Calvin and Hobbes books by Bill Watterson.  I find it very refreshing to, at times, read something that’s on a 3rd or 4th grade level.  Very little thinking, entertaining, and hilarious; Calvin and Hobbes always delivers.

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  I came across this book as a recommendation from a newsletter written by Eddie Vedder.  If you don’t know who that is, we’re not friends for the next 10 minutes.  This book challenged just about every belief I have ever had.

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell.  The tag line for this book is “Repainting the Christian Faith.”  It’s an incerdibly good read.

Of course there are many more that I would put on this list, but these are some of my top pics.  How about any of you?  Any good books that you would recommend to the rest of us?  Leave suggestions in the comments section below.

5 Strategies for a Healthier You

I had the privilege of speaking for a group of women last night.  The local American Business Women’s Association invited me to join their January meeting and talk about something fitness/health related.  After I scrapped my first few ideas, I decided to go with some basic strategies they could follow to help them healthier lives.  I think it went well, and I had a really good time.  (Plus I got my dinner paid for by them so no complaints from me!)

Anyway, I thought I would share these strategies with all of you.

1.  Have a Plan.

Through my observations, I’ve found that most people show up to the gym with little to no idea as to what they are going to do.  “Hmm, what do I feel like?  Chest? Back? Maybe I’ll blast my biceps!”  Making things up as you go along is a great way to get no where.  To ensure you get the most out of your training, know what you are going to do before you get there.  I plan my clients training a month at a time, which means that when we start a new program, i can tell them what they will be doing for the next four weeks.  Most gym-goers don’t know what they will be doing in the next 5 minutes.  Have a plan.  Know what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to go about getting there.  (Side note, if you ever encounter a trainer that seems to be making things up as you go along, I would find a new trainer.)

2.  Plan ahead.

This may seem like it’s the same as #1, and it a lot of ways it is, but I’m rewording it to make a different point.  I’ve discussed before about the importance of planing meals in advance.  My wife and I plan our meals for the week on Sunday afternoon and then go shopping so we have everything we need to make those meals.  99% of the time, we stick to the meals we have planned.  there’s something about planning for things that makes it much easier to stick to them.  If you know what you are going to eat for dinner, and you already have everything you need to make that dinner, you’re probably going to eat it.  I don’t think I need to mention it, but I will just in case-plan healthy meals.  Don’t plan on a Big Mac and fries.

The other thing with this is-make extra.  Having leftovers gives you a healthy lunch for the next day.

3. Take a lunch.

This piggybacks on the last point in #2.  Taking a lunch to work ensures you will eat a healthy meal during the day (as long as the lunch you take is healthy).  People tend to make quick stops at fast food places because it’s easy and cheap.  Avoid this temptation.  If you take a lunch with you to work (or if you’re going shopping for the day), you will be a lot better off, and your body will be thanking you for it.

4.  Eat like a caveman/cavewoman.

The basic point with this is, if you can’t kill it or grow it-don’t eat it.  Now obviously most people are never going to not eat anything that can’t be killed or grown (myself included), but if 80% of your diet is made up of things that could have been eaten thousands of years ago, you will have no trouble staying lean.  Our modern diets are made up of processed and refined foods that cause irritation, inflammation and all kinds of trouble within our bodies.  Think of raw, natural foods (lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds) and make up most of your diet from these foods.


As a society, we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be active.  We sit at work.  We sit at home.  We go out to eat or go to a club and sit, sit, sit.  Sitting is pretty much how we spend most of our days.  Don’t underestimate the role that simply playing can play.  Going for a bike ride, going for a walk, playing tag with you kids or grandkids; all of these kind of activities can play a critical role in your health and overall well being.  Playing and enjoying life does wonders for the body, mind and soul.

Hopefully you find these strategies helpful and begin to apply them to your daily lives.

Exercises You Should Be Doing: Pallof Press

I’ve got a pretty busy day today.  Between my increased client load, some new client assessments, getting my own training session in and preparing for my first speaking engagement tomorrow night, I’ve got a booked day. (American Business Women’s Association, prepare to have your socks rocked.  I’m gonna blow your minds with my Anterior Pelvic Tilt talk.)  In light of that, I’ll be making today’s post pretty short for the sake of my sanity.

I’ve mentioned before that sit-ups suck and should (in almost all circumstances) be avoided.  Click here if you’re interested in reading why.  I’m often asked by people how, if I avoid sit-ups, I train my clients mid-sections.  I usually go into brief detail about the function of the abs and why training them using sit-ups makes little sense and why training them the way I do makes much more sense.  Then I will usually have them do the Pallof Press.

They instantly become aware of the role the abs play in simply keeping the body upright and resisting forces that would try to move the torso.

Here how to do it:

-Stand in front of a cable column, with the handle at chest height. (You can also use a band attached to a doorknob or held by someone else if you don’t have a cable column.)

-With your feet a little wider than shoulder width, grasp the handle and pull to the middle of your chest.

-Brace you abs as tight as you can.  Imagine someone is going to punch you in the stomach.  This will help you get your abs as tight as possible.

-Once your abs are braced, push the handle straight out and then return to the center of your chest.

-Make sure your abs stay tight through the entire set.  It’s easy to lose the contraction as you get further into your set.

-Avoid letting your hips or shoulders tilt to compensate for the load.

-Once you’ve completed your reps for one side, switch sides and repeat.

I like to start my clients with 2-3 sets or 8-12 reps.

Give them a shot and let me know what you think.

Random Friday

Here’s the first of many “Random Friday’s” for 2011!

-Things have absolutely exploded for Gray Fitness.  So far 2011 has brought about a ton of growth.  The New Year usually brings a “bump” in business, but this year it’s been a rather large bump.  My hope is that people are beginning to see that I’m not the typical meat-head trainer who can barely tie his shoes, and as such, there may be some value in my guidance.  (Horn tooting over.)

-I heard this song on the radio on the way into work this morning.  Who ever would have thought that Johnny Cash would cover a Nine Inch Nails song so well:

(This has got to be one of the prettiest  sad songs ever written, in my humble, but correct, opinion.)

-The movie True Grit is awesome.  Go see it.

-Studies show that most people follow their New Years Resolution’s for less than a month.  In most cases, it’s somewhere around two weeks.  We’ve had a week of 2011.  If you made any resolutions, are you keeping them?

-I’ll be running my “Holiday Special” on training packages for another week or so.  For more details, read here.

Have a good weekend!

Good Lunge/Bad Lunge

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that anything, if done incorrectly, has the potential to be harmful, including exercise.  I also mentioned that I would break down the lunge and give you all a quick overview of how to, as well as how not to, lunge.

First of all, the lunge is important for several different reasons:

-The lunge is about as functional of a move as you can get.  The reason that people can’t get up off the floor is because they don’t have the strength to lift themselves up from a lunge position.  (We all get off the floor by using a lunge.)

-Single leg movements are incredibly important to decrease strength imbalances between your weak leg and your strong leg.

-The back leg of the lunge (if the lunge is done correctly) should experience a good deal of hip extension.  In practical terms this means the hips are going to gain a great deal of mobility, which we all need.

Here’s a video of what a bad lunge can look like:

Here are the ways in which this particular lunge is going wrong:

-On the upward portion of the movement, the front leg isn’t finishing the movement.  What this means is that the back foot is hitting the ground before the front leg has stood all the way up.  This is a big no-no.

-On lunges 2, 4 and 5 in the video, you can see that my front knee moves out towards my toes.  This is also bad news.  An ideal lunge should keep the knee directly over the ankle.  People tend to move forward to much through out the lunge, putting a great deal of stress on the knee joint.

-Another common mistake (not in the  video) is a forward lean of the torso.  When the torso leans forward, you lose hip extension in the back leg, reducing one of the greatest benefits of this exercise.

Here is a video of what a lunge should look like:

-You can see here that my torso is up nice and straight, without any forward lean.

-My front leg finishes the movement (stands up straight) before my back foot has a chance to hit the ground.

-My knees stay pretty close to directly over my ankles.

One of the best cues I use for the lunge is to think of moving like an elevator, not an escalator.  What I mean by this is that people usually perform a lunge by moving forward through the entire movement.  After they step out, they continue to move forward with their bodies, pushing their front knee out to, or past their toes.  They move like an escalator.  What should be happening is that once the initial step is taken out from the body, you should move down into the lunge, not forward.  Then push through your front heel and move upwards, like an elevator.

If you follow these few guidelines, you will most likely be able to do lunges without any problems.

Happy lunging!

It hurts when I do this!

In between sessions the other day, someone stopped me to ask an interesting question.  She asked, “What do you think about lunges for people over 30 years old?”

A little perplexed, I responded, “I think they’re great!”

She preceded to tell me that a friend of hers had been told by a chiropractor that no one over the age of 25-30 should ever do a lunge.

(I had the sudden urge to judo chop something.)

Really?  Never do a lunge, huh?  Well tell me, Mr. Smarty Pants, how do you get up off the ground?  Because if you watch anyone get up off of the ground, they lunge.  They put one knee on the floor and one foot out in front of them and push themselves up.

My guess is this guy has seen some people who have injured themselves from doing a lunge and has drawn the fantastic conclusion that lunges are bad-don’t do them.

This is a classic case of going to the extreme, and it’s all too common in the fitness industry.  You hear all the time that people shouldn’t deadlift or squat.  If you’re not supposed to do either of these movements, then how is someone supposed to pick up a bag of groceries from the floor, or pick up their child?  The problem with these movements isn’t the movements themselves, but the fact that people have no clue how to perform them properly.  Yes, if you lunge/squat/deadlift improperly, there is a good chance that you’re going to get injured.  Just like if you fly a plane/drive a car/eat with a fork improperly.

I remember back in high school, a friend of mine thought he would see what happened if he covered his hand in hairspray and lit it on fire.  Aside from amuse me and make me want to try it (which of course, I did), it really hurt his hand.  Following the same logic that people use with exercise, I could conclude that hairspray is dangerous and shouldn’t be trusted.  Or maybe, it’s the hand that is dangerous.  Just to be safe I’ll not use either one.

Are you seeing how ridiculous this logic is?

The fact is that when I have someone come to me with knee pain, they usually tell me that they can’t lunge or squat.  I say “OK”, but what I really mean is “we’ll see.”  This isn’t because I’m a jerk or I don’t think that the person legitimately experiences pain during these exercises, it’s because when I have them show me how they’ve been doing them, they use atrocious form.  As I begin to teach them how to move properly through lunges/squats/deadlifts they can do these movements without pain, and usually experience less knee pain during their daily lives.

You know the old joke about a guy that walks into a doctor’s office and says, “Doc it hurts when I move my arm like this,”  and the doctor tells him, “Then don’t do it?”  Unfortunately, that’s the mentality a lot of people have.  They fail to understand that maybe the reason someone is experiencing pain or has hurt themselves is because they have poor movement patterns.

The easy answer is “don’t do it anymore”, but if people never learn to move properly they’re asking for trouble, and it will only get worse as they age.

Of course, they’re are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part people need to learn to lunge, squat and deadlift correctly because they are going to be using these movements in their daily lives anyway.  For someone to say that no one should do any of these movements is absolutely ridiculous, and not founded on any kind of logic.

As a follow up, I’ll post some video content tomorrow on good and bad lunge form.  In the mean time, if any one tells you not to lunge, simply push them down on the floor and tell them they have to get up without lunging.