How to train for an Obstacle Race!

The latest fitness trend right now is Obstacle Racing. People are choosing to get down and dirty vs. those boring 5k/10k runs. People want to be challenged! They want to cross that finish line and feel good about accomplishing something they’ve never done before! I love that this is a growing trend because I LOVE OBSTACLES! I have competed on American Ninja Warrior, Team Ninja Warrior, and in a few Spartan Races, and I want to help YOU learn how to complete an obstacle race for yourself!!

    So you’re friends have all signed up for the next Tough Mudder or Spartan race and they are trying to persuade you to join them. But you’re hesitant, those obstacles look so intimidating…and you think, "how the heck am I supposed to be able to do that?!" The easy answer is to say “no thanks, I’m good” and keep on staying in your comfort zone. BUT, that is NOT what you’re going to do is it?! Nope! You’re going to meet with someone to help you build the strength and the confidence you need to take on that obstacle race! You’re going to learn how to train for it, and you are going to join your friends crossing that finish line!!

I am going to give you a few basic tips on what you need to know when training for an obstacle race. Having the right training is key to having a successful race, especially if you don’t want to end up doing 100+ burpees that day! I don’t know about you, but I HATE burpees so let’s try and avoid them shall we! These tips will help you prepare for your next obstacle race, but I highly suggest you work with a personal trainer about 6-8 weeks before your race to really be confident and ready for your race.

Step 1: Pick your race and give yourself ample time to prepare for it.
    The amount of time you give yourself to prepare is dependent on your current level of physical fitness in addition to the length of the race. If this is your first time signing up for an obstacle race, and you are a beginner, I would give yourself a minimum of 12 weeks to train your body. If you have already been training your upper body and your endurance, or this is not your first time racing, then 6-8 weeks may be enough time for you to be ready.

Step 2: Research the obstacles and figure out what you’re up against. Determine your strength and weaknesses with regard to those obstacles.
    Most all obstacle races will have a list of the potential obstacles you will face in the race. It’s good to know what these are so you can make your training as specific as possible. For example, if there is a rope climb, it’s important that you find a rope to practice on. Holding onto a rope is very different than holding onto a bar. Decide which obstacles will be easy or hard for you and plan your training accordingly. Maybe you regularly strength train your lower and upper body but you never do cardio. Then one of your weakness would be your endurance to make it through the race. That would then be made a priority in your obstacle race training preparation. Or, maybe you’re an avid runner but you have a hard time doing a pull-up, then grip and upper body strength would be your focus for your race training, and so on.

Step 3: Develop a Training Program for your Obstacle Race
    A training program for an obstacle race should consist of: upper body/lower body resistance/strength training, Full-Body HIIT, grip specific training, and endurance training.

  •    Upper Body:

The majority of the obstacles you will see are very upper body intensive. Therefore, working on both your pull-ups and push-ups is a MUST. If you can’t do a pull-up, start with band-assisted pull-ups and negative pull-ups. These are drills that will help build that upper body strength and improve your muscle activation. The same goes for push-ups, if you can’t do a proper push-up, do both knee push-ups and negative push-ups. In addition to these, you should be lifting weights and utilizing resistance training to strengthen the muscles you use in both pull-ups and push-ups.

  • Lower Body:

Most obstacle races usually also have something you will need to jump or climb over. The Spartan Race, for example, typically has an 8-10 foot wall. To train for this you will need to improve the power and strength in your legs. You can do this with heavy resistance training (squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc) and plyometric training (box jumps, squat jumps, lunges jumps, etc.)

  • Grip Strength:

 Your grip is very important when it comes to obstacle training and can be easily overlooked in your training program. A very simple way you can improve your grip strength is with dead hangs. Just find a bar and hang as long as you can. Start adding 10 seconds every time you do it, and you’ll begin to see improvements.The next step is to start hanging from other things like a rope, rings, or a ledge. Get your grip strength ready to hang on anything the race will throw at you.

  • Muscle Endurance:

Your endurance is what’s ultimately going to get you across that finish line. For obstacle races, your training plan should include BOTH HIIT and cardio.
HIIT circuits are your best friend for improving your muscle endurance. Pick a combination of exercises that work similar muscles to what you’ll need during the race. (For example, band pull-ups, box jumps, push-ups, step-ups, line sprints)
You should be able to run at least 1-4mi under the distance of the race. For the Spartan sprint (3.1mi) if you can run 2miles without stopping you should be good to go. For an 8-10 mile race you should be able to run about 5-7miles to be successful during the race. And so on. This is in addition to the HIIT circuits and strength training.

Step 4: Plan your nutrition accordingly
    It’s not enough just to physically train for an obstacle race. You also need to make sure your nutrition is giving you the energy you need for the training, the race, and injury prevention. Your diet should have an adequate amount of proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Supplements can be very helpful when you increase your training. Some of the ones I recommend taking include: Pre-workout (with or without caffeine), BCAA, Whey Isolate Protein, Fish Oils, and a Multivitamin. All of these together will help your body function like a well-oiled machine as you train for your race.
    The week leading up to your race, you’ll want to dial in your nutrition even more. No junk food or excess sugar. No alcohol. Drink lots of water (~128oz/day aka 1 gallon). Make sure you’re eating enough complex carbs to fuel your body (but don’t over do it). Brown rice, Whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, and quinoa are great choices for your carbohydrates. Make sure you're taking in enough calories based on your training. Under eating will drastically effect your athletic performance.

Step 5: RACE DAY!!

  • Check the weather before you head to your race. Make sure you’re in layers if it’s cold outside. Your muscles don’t operate well in the cold weather
  • If competing in a longer race, make sure any snack your choose to take during the race you have taken before. The last thing you want is to have to stop your race for unexpected bathroom breaks….if you know what I mean.
  • WARM-UP!! Go for a short jog, and do some dynamic stretching before your race begins. This is a great way to prevent injury and get your mind ready to go.
  • HAVE FUN!! You’ve trained hard to get to this point, and now the only thing you have left to do is enjoy the experience! Obstacle races can be challenging and also a lot of fun! Get your first one under your belt, and then train your weakness to be even better in your next one!!

YOU'VE GOT THIS!!

Feel free to message me with any questions you have regarding your obstacle training! I’d be happy to help you be successful!
   

 

Squats and Your Knee Pain

There are many common mistakes that occur with the basic squat movement. Today, I’m going to talk about the effect these mistakes it can have on the knees. Many people experience knee pain in their everyday life and have no idea where it’s from. When you take acute injuries out of the equation, most of the time it is the result of a muscle imbalance from poor technique while sitting or squatting. In today’s culture, many of you spend the majority of your day sitting down. Every time you sit and stand it is equivalent to the movement of a basic squat. If your form is improper, this can lead to chronic pain in the knees. So, whether your knee pain is a result of squatting exercises done incorrectly or from sitting and standing throughout your workday incorrectly, I want to help you correct those problems and relieve that pain.

Many people spend the majority of their days sitting at a desk. This consistent sitting leads to chronic tightness of the hamstrings and hip flexors and inhibition of the glute muscles amongst other things. When these three things happen it changes the way you are able to move your body in and out of the squat position. Your initial movement is with your knees causing you to bend your knees forward over the toes which places an increased amount of force on the quadriceps and the knee joints, as seen in the image below. This leads to overuse of the knee joint and tightness in the quadriceps and IT Bands, which causes pain in the knees.

The proper initial movement in a squat should begin with the hips. The hips should move backwards slightly, distributing the weight into the heels while activating the glutes. In this position, the knees are kept behind the toes and the force of the movement is distributed between the glutes, quads, and hamstrings and the knees are relieved of the pressure, as seen below.

Squats.jpeg

In the image, you can see her knees are behind her toes, and her torso is parallel to her shins. This is proper squat form. By utilizing this position during your workouts and every time you sit and stand you will notice a relief in your knee pain as your glutes strengthen and your posture improves.

For many of you, this position may be difficult to get into due to inflexibility of the hamstrings and hip flexors, plus the inability to activate your glutes to help you balance. If this is the case, you will want to start stretching your hamstrings and hip flexors 2-3x/day, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

In addition, you will want to start doing glute isolation exercises such as a bridge will help you learn how to activate those muscles and use them during your squat movement.

The final thing you can do to help learn how to properly perform this technique is to switch to the seated squat exercise for a couple weeks. This will help train your body to perform a squat in the proper position.

If these exercises are new to you then it is recommended that you see a personal trainer to show you how to do these movements correctly, for there is a high injury risk when squats are performed incorrectly.

Please Contact Us for any questions you may have or if you would like to learn how to squat properly to relieve your knee pain and improve your leg workouts!

STAY OFF THE SCALE!

          So I was training one of my clients today who got me thinking about this topic. He lost quite a bit of weight before he started training with me and now looking to change his body composition into more lean muscle. He told me that he dropped his calories down to 1500/day and that he hasn’t lost any weight! (He is 6’3” and 207lbs). My advice to him? EAT MORE and stay away from the scale! He just ran a half marathon on Sunday, and is working on learning how to lift heavier weights to help him increase is overall muscle tone and definition. So he’s burning A LOT of calories during the week with his running plus his weight training. Therefore, in order for his body to increase in muscle definition he has to build that muscle. Those muscle fibers need fuel to be built, therefore, he needs calories in the form of balanced proteins/fats/carbs. At only 1500 calories he is barely eating above his BMR (basal or resting metabolic rate) which means his body thinks he is starving and won’t let him use any fat stores for energy. By eating more, (about 2000-2200 kcal) his body can adequately use is food in take as fuel, which allows him to build more muscle and achieve that lean muscle look he wants.

          I have had some personal experience with this subject as well. When I was 18 I became obsessive with the scale. Growing up my mom never kept a scale in the house, but after graduating high school I moved in with a friend for 3 months before moving off to college. My friend’s parents had a scale in their bathroom, and out of curiosity I started weighing myself. When I first stepped on the scale and looked down I had this sinking feeling. I didn’t like the number, it was too high. As a competitive gymnast, I had an ideal weight set in my head that I should never be over. That mindset was toxic because the thoughts consuming me were that I was too big for my leotard, too heavy, too fat, and that I needed to eat less to get smaller. Not knowing much about proper nutrition at the time, my solution was simply to eat less, and workout harder. I resorted to only protein bars and fruit for the entire day. I weighed myself every couples days and after 2 weeks I had lost about 11 pounds. When I saw that number, I was happy, now I just had to maintain it. So I kept up with the fruit and protein bars and very small dinner portions. However, even though my weight went down so did my energy levels. I had a hard time getting through my 4 hour practices successfully. I because very short-tempered and easily frustrated, I wasn’t making the progress I wanted to in the gym and I always hungry.

    I finally realized that all this obsession about a number was pointless. I wasn’t performing well and it was hurting me more than it was helping me. That’s when I starting trying to focus my nutrition intake more on improving my performance than on changing the number on the scale. As a result, I felt better, my confidence increased, and my performance improved! To this day stepping on the scale still effects me mentally, it creates a negative self-image and I stay away from it. I focus my attention on how I feel, how my clothes fit, and how I’m performing in my workouts, the rest just falls into place.

          Remember, muscle weighs more than fat. This means that his numbers on the scale are going to be all skewed as you lose fat and gain muscle. These numbers can mess with your head. During a weight loss journey, everyone wants to keep seeing those numbers on the scale go down because that symbolizes progress. However, as you start to gain more lean muscle mass the numbers may actually go up! Therefore you need a different way to measure your progress. For example, focus on your clothes fitting better, your increased energy levels, and how you feel overall. Unfortunately, because so many of us make the scale a priority we forget about all these positive things and overanalyze the numbers on the scale. This can lead to negative self-talk, an unhealthy decrease in calories, and a loss of self-esteem and confidence.

          So, I want you to change your focus. Take your scale and put it away. Hide it from yourself. Now, I want you to focus on your nutrition. Make sure you are eating the proper amount of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. Focus on your exercise. Are you getting enough cardio in during the week? Are you getting stronger with your weight lifting? If not, then are you talking to a fitness professional to help you get on the right track? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you drinking enough water? All of these things are 100% in your control. If you focus on these things instead of what’s on the scale you will start to FEEL progress. You will feel more confident when you get dressed in the morning. You will have more energy throughout the day which will make you more productive. You will feel healthier and happier overall! Doesn’t that sound so much better than those dreaded seconds standing on the scale as you wait for a number to pop up that more times than not will put you in a bad mood?

Stay off the scale, switch your focus, and watch the results happen!!

 

Proper Push-Up Technique

Push-ups are one of the best body weight exercises you can do. When done correctly they work your pectoralis major (chest muscle), anterior deltoid (front shoulder), triceps, abdominal muscles, and even your quadriceps. That’s a whole lot of muscle work for just one movement! Proper push-ups will help you to increase the muscle tone and strength in your arms, abs, chest, and shoulders. However, often times I see this movement done incorrectly.

Common Mistakes:

  1.  Movement of the thoracic spine.
  •  Your spine should be braced and motionless during a push-up. Often times people will drop their chest down on the descent and then push their chest back up on the ascent. This puts increased pressure on the shoulders and spine and prevents proper muscle activation.


2.   Movement of the Lumbar Spine.

  • Movement of the lumbar spine during a push-ups increases disc pressure and can cause pain in the lower back. This problem can be solved by flexing the core muscles and quadriceps muscles. Tightening your abdominals and quads gives your lower back support by keeping it in a neutral position throughout the entire push-up motion.

If you experience wrist pain while doing push-ups, a good way to relieve this pain is by placing your hands on a horizontal bar which will take pressure off your wrist joint. You can also do your push-ups on your fists as in the diagrams above, however, be aware that this requires stability in the wrist joint.

A proper push-up should move all the way down to a 90 degree angle in the elbows and then push all the way back up to straight elbows, all while maintaining a neutral spine. If you are not able to complete a full push-up with the proper form then drop your knees to the ground for a modified version. You must still maintain the neutral spine in this position as in the diagram below.

If you are not quite ready for this type of push-up then give incline push-ups a try. This is where you elevate your hands off the ground to a height that will allow you to complete to full range of motion. As you get stronger and can slowly start to decrease the height as your strength improves. As I mentioned earlier, push-ups are one of the top 5 bodyweight exercises you can do to help increase your overall fitness. So start adding them into your workout regime today!!

Please Contact Us for any questions or comments!

Tips to Reduce Your Lower Back Pain!

Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints that I hear about as a personal trainer. The pain can be muscular or structural. Both of these types of pain can be prevented and improved just by improving the strength and flexibility of your body structures.

One of the major contributing factors to lower back pain is weak abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles, particularly your transverse abdominis, supports your spine and protects it from improper movement. When these muscles are weak it can cause an anterior tilt of your pelvis. This tilt puts added stress on the spine and causes the discs in your lumbar spine to be compressed resulting in pain. This anterior tilt can also cause the hamstrings to tighten which is another cause of lower back pain as mentioned below.

The hamstrings connect from the ischial tuberosity of your pelvis (a.k.a your butt bone) to your tibia (bone just below the knee). When this muscle tightens up, it pull on the pelvis which pulls on the spine and causes compression of the discs in the lower back, results in pain and discomfort.

One final contributing factor that I’m going to address how tightness of the hip flexors relates to your lower back pain. Your hip flexor is made up of multiple muscles that act to flex your hip joint. When these muscle tighten up it exacerbates that anterior pelvic tilt and puts greater compression on those lumbar discs.

So, now that we know some of the causes of lower back pain, how do we go about relieving it? Let’s start with the first factor we mentioned, core strength. Doing 100 crunches a day, believe it or not, will NOT strength your core enough to relieve your pain and, in fact, could make it worst. The best core exercises you can do, especially if you have lower back pain, are isometric core exercises. An isometric exercise means you create muscular tension without muscular contraction. Great examples of isometric exercises are elbow planks and band stability holds as seen below. These exercises strengthen that hard to reach transverse abdominis muscle which has a direct impact on supporting and stabilizing your spine, therefore reducing your pain.

Now that you have a couple ways to improve your core strength let’s talk about improving the flexibility of your hamstrings and your hip flexor's. One simple hamstring stretch you can do yourself is laying on your back and bringing on leg at a time towards your face either with your hands or a rope/band. Hold this stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds and do it 2-3 times, alternating with your other leg. Ans a simple hip flexor stretch you can do involves kneeing on one leg and pushing your hips slightly forward while maintaing a straight back. Then reach the opposite arm of the front leg up and back for a greater stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds as well 2-3 times.

By adding in the two core exercises and the two stretches mentioned above to your workout routine at least 2-3 times a week you should see improvements with your lower back pain. These exercises can also help you PREVENT lower back pain which is just as important. These movements can easily be done incorrectly and I highly recommend you have a professional help you with the proper technique.

Lower back pain an be very debilitating and you should consult a doctor before starting any exercise program.

 

For more information on this topic or for any other questions you may have, please feel free to Contact Us and we will email you a response as soon as possible!

LADIES! Lifting Heavy Weights WILL NOT Bulk You Up!

Alright ladies! Get off those treadmills and ellipticals and listen up!
    Most everyone women has an image in their head of their most desired body. Now for the majority of you, in order for you to reach that goal, you MUST lift weights! That’s is the key to success and the bottom line. Now I know what you’re thinking, “But I don’t want to gain bulky muscle and look those female bodybuilders I see in the magazines.” Well guess what?! That’s great new because that’s not going to happen! I hate to break it to you but unless you shoot yourself up with hormones and/or eat a serious surplus of calories and supplements…that is never going to happen to your body. These women go through extremely regimented programs to gain that kind of muscle size and definition, they actually work very hard to make that happen to their bodies. It’s doesn’t just solely come from lifting heavy weights.
    Now, because of this common fear among females, most women tend to stick solely to their cardio routines. While you can lose weight that way, it will not get you to the body type you’re looking for. Doing only cardio will take your body, exactly the shape it is, and shrink it down. You will have to same body shape you had prior, just a bit smaller. This is why you need to add weight training into the mix. Lifting weights will give your body the shape and definition you’re looking for. You arms will be toned, your stomach will be flat and firm, your legs will be defined and cellulite free, AND not only are you looking healthier but you will feel healthier too which is most important!

    Ready to pick up some real weight and get started? Well hold on just a second because there is one more thing you need to know. FOOD IS GOOD! You must EAT to get to the body you want. Yes that’s right! I want you to eat not three but SIX times a day at least! Why do I want you to eat so much? Because your body needs fuel to burn in order to have the energy to lift weight and also build muscle. Now I’m not saying go fill yourself up with a burger and fries every three hours. I’m saying you need 3 well-balanced meals throughout the day plus 3 healthy low calorie snacks in between the meals. As a result, your meals will actually be smaller and your calorie consumption will be more consistently where you need to be. Diets high in protein and healthy fats are very important, especially for women and healthy hormone production. Carbohydrates are also very important and should be consumed based on your activity level. For example, if you know you are going to lift heavy for a leg or back day you should consume an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates the day before to give your body the energy stores it needs to complete the workout. On the flip side, if you know you will be taking a rest day, that is a good time to ease up on the carbohydrates and increase your healthy fats and proteins to help with your muscle recovery. This trend is known as “Carb Flexing” a term we will go into another time.

     Now it is time to get you ladies lifting some weight! So you might wonder exactly what kind of lifting you should be doing to achieve the body you want. Well, for the majority of women, I always recommend learning two of the best compound lifts. Compound meaning they are working multiple muscles groups at the same time. These lifts are the Back Squat and the Deadlift. Both extremely form based, difficult to do correctly for beginners, and very effective in toning your legs, butt, and abs. Common areas that most women struggle to see progress and definition, but also want the most! Learning, practicing, and gaining strength with these lifts will improve your posture, increase overall body muscle tone, contribute to weight loss, and more! By adding in these compound lifts with upper body lifting and cardio/high intensity training, there is no reason why you can’t achieve your DREAM BODY in no time!!

So remember ladies, don’t be afraid to go heavy with those weights…your body will thank you!!

**Please consult a professional before attempting Back Squats and Dead Lifts to ensure proper form and injury prevention**

Contact Us for any questions or comments!!

 

Enjoy the day and don’t forget to Empower Your Inner You!

 

 

Resistance Training and Weight Loss

The most common reason people decide to increase their fitness level is to achieve a weight loss goal. Whether it’s for a wedding, a birthday, or just to feel comfortable in a bathing suit during the summer time we all want to shed those stubborn pounds. But how do you do it? We go to the gym and see people doing the cardio machines and we see people lifting weights but both categories contain a wide variety of body types. So then which method is helping people lose weight? The answer is both. Resistance training and aerobic/cardio training aide in weight loss in different ways. Aerobic exercise burns calories and has a direct impact on caloric expenditure, more so than resistance training. However, resistance training is a MAJOR contributor to weight loss, and this is because of the indirect impact it has on caloric expenditure.

Weight loss requires what is known as a negative energy balance. Having a negative energy balance means that you are burning a greater amount of energy during physical activity compared to the amount of energy you are putting back into your body, where energy and calories are synonymous. Sounds simple enough right? The challenge with this is maintaining a negative energy balance over time to achieve the desired weight loss. So how do you do that? Well think of calories like money. What is one way the rich stay rich? They make money while they sleep! They have created programs that literally make them money without even trying. This principle is one of the big keys to weight loss! You must make your body use more energy while at rest. Therefore increasing your energy output and helping you achieve that negative energy balance.

This energy produced at rest is known as your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). During the weight loss process one of the major goals is to increase this rate. The way we do that is through resistance training! Resistance training results in an increase of your lean muscle mass which is directly related to an increased RMR. The increased RMR has significant impact on creating a negative energy balance which in turn helps YOU lose weight!

A trend that is common with those trying to lose weight is an increase in cardio training, zero resistance training, and a decrease in calories due to extreme dieting. When this happens our bodies are forced into survival mode and begin to break down muscle for energy. This break down results in a decreased RMR that not only goes against your weight loss efforts but can also lead to other severe health problems over time. To prevent this from happening you must incorporate resistance training into your workout program in addition to the cardio training, as well as maintain a caloric intake that is appropriate for your energy output. (For questions regarding diet please Contact Us directly)

In conclusion, to be successful with your weight loss goals you MUST incorporate BOTH resistance training AND cardio training into your fitness routine. The resistance training will increase your Resting Metabolic Rate and allow your body to burn more calories internally; and the cardio training will burn overall calories helping you achieve a negative energy balance that will help you achieve your weight loss goals!!

 


For questions/comments regarding weight loss, resistance training, or anything else related to your health and fitness please Contact Us today!

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