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The Power of Play

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Do you remember a time when you were young when you would go outside and play? Maybe you ran through the forest, climbed trees, traversed monkey bars like your favorite cartoon hero or swung as high in a swing imagining that you were flying like your favorite super hero? Well I sure do. During those times nothing else mattered and we were totally 100% immersed in the present moment. We noticed the smell of the tree we were climbing and the rustling of the leaves in the tree. We squinted our eyes and smiled as the wind whisked over our face on the swing set. In those moments we were free and in those moments we were completely happy. We didn’t need music to motivate us to run, we didn’t have a watch to monitor our heart rate on the swing or pace us as we ran around parks or through the woods. We simply desired to go outside and play. It was fun and that is why we loved it.

 

Unfortunately, as we grew up, we became busy with work, family, deadlines, bills, etc. etc. Our daily play transformed into sitting in meetings, not sleeping enough, eating a pour diet, and a life filled with stress, A LOT of caffeine, and “no time” for much else. All of a sudden our desire to play turned into our need to “workout”. However we didn’t workout because it was fun, we worked out because we were overweight and unhealthy. Now our play has turned into a job/chore. Something we need to do for our health, not so much because we want to. We forgot how to play.

 

Or maybe you were an athlete all of your life. Still, your once free and happy play was transformed into constant performance goals and competition. You ate, breathed, and slept competition, goal times, races, etc. You are still very active but you too have traded in your free happy play for endless strava updates, run split times, obsession on hitting a certain pace, or finishing in the top of your age group. Every workout is goal focused and you dare not attempt a training session without your “Get It” play list jamming. You wake up hours before dawn, exhausted, to get your training in before heading off for 12+ hours of work. You miss out on social gatherings or dates with your spouse and/or children because you “have to get your training session in”. You too have forgotten how to play. I am not saying there is anything wrong with being competitive or wanting to do your best in a workout or race. Quite the contrary. I LOVE competition. However, I know that too much of this type of training can lead to burnout, injury, and a complete lack of desire to do what we once loved. We have become too obsessed/focused on numbers and goals. We have forgotten how to play.

 

I noticed this in myself a while back and I have noticed it in my athletes and non-athlete clients over the years. For me, my race training workouts started feeling more like a job than something I enjoyed. I trained because I had a race goal ahead but I didn’t enjoy the training. I was obsessed with power and heart rate numbers on my bike sessions. I constantly checked my watch during my runs for pace and heart rate data. I was completely oblivious to my surroundings. I trained like it was a job and I began to dread the workouts. I felt the need to do something fun. Something that I enjoyed doing simply for the sake of doing it. So I decided I would set my GPS watch to the side, go outside, pick an activity that I wanted to do just for fun and go play. So one morning I packed my kayak on the top of my jeep, drove to a local lake as the sun was rising, hopped in and paddled up the creek that fed the lake and just explored. I was careful to listen to my paddle brush across the water. I watched the swirls as each stroke passed from the bow to the stern of the kayak. I looked at the deep green and bright green variations of the leaves on the trees that I passed under and by. I listened to the birds and to the breeze. I immersed myself in my play and was totally lost in my play. Before I knew it an hour and a half had passed and I didn’t even realize it.

Now before you get the impression that I have now turned into a nature loving meditation dude that get’s lost in his thoughts let me assure you, I still train hard, I still put on my headphones and jam some loud ass music to motivate me through a hard session or set. I yell, sweat like hell and sometimes limp away from sessions. The difference is now I balance my hard sessions with play. Maybe it’s a fun mountain bike, maybe it was a run through the neighborhood observing the sound and rhythm of my steps and checking out the architecture and landscaping of the houses. I will also go ride my skateboard at a local skate park. It’s whatever I FEEL drawn to do. No watches to monitor my pace, power, vertical osscilation, etc. Just me going out to play. This brings me balance and it helps me keep the drive to train hard for my races. Remember, we have enough going on in life. We don’t need another “job” of training. What we need is the ability to release from our stress, and troubles. We need to smile and remember what it was like to be that happy kid on the swing set with wind whipping through our hair.

How does this benefit you? Glad you asked ☺. When we are active at play, are happy, smiling, and immersed in our activity our brains and nervous system release hormones known as endorphins. Endorphins give us a feeling/sensation of pleasure. This helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Playing and being happy has also been shown in studies to not only reduce stress but it can also strengthen immune function and help fight off disease.

So here’s your assignment.
1- Think of some activity you love or loved to do
2- If it requires buying equipment i.e. a skateboard ☺, go do that. However your activity could be just going for a walk or wandering through a park.
3- Schedule a time when you are not rushed to either start or finish
4- GO PLAY. While your playing take note and observe your surroundings. Absolutely immerse yourself in your activity.
5- While you are at play, smile, be happy, and think of 3 things in your life that you are grateful for. This will have a huge impact on your enjoyment of your activity.
***Note: Remember there is ZERO pressure or need to perform. If you want to run, ride, etc. hard and get your heart rate up and sweat, then go for it. If you want to just chill and be outside, that is perfect as well***

 

That’s it! Pick one activity a week and do it for 4 weeks. I guarantee you will be happier for it ☺.

Goblet Squat to Press

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This is one of my favorite moves for folks with very little time to workout. It can be used as part of your dynamic warm up, with a lighter weight, or as one of your primary total body movements.
Tips for Success:
– Be sure to keep weight on your heels, not the balls of your feet (keep your heels on the ground)
– Squeeze your glutes tight as you stand from the bottom
– Press the weight as high as you can overhead. When done properly your biceps will be parallel to, or slightly behind your ears.
– Keep your chest up!! If you notice at a certain point during the lowering/eccentric phase that your chest starts to dip/lean forward, stop lowering at that point.

Check it out and let me know how it works for you or if you have any questions!!

Bear Crawl

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Think holding a planks challenging? Try this movement for 60 seconds. The bear crawl promotes total body stability and strength. This is particularly useful in building strength in your quads, arms and shoulders.Be sure to keep your knees hovering just over the ground about 1/2 inch. As you hold/move in the bear crawl be sure to breathe through your diaphragm keeping your core muscles engaged.

Dumbbell Burpee

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Yep.. You read that right… Dumbbell Burpee… No other movement, to my knowledge, sends a shutter down your spine like the burpee. But just like fresh veggies to a toddler, it’s probably one of the best moves you can do for mobility and total body strength.
Seriously though, I love incorporating the burpee anytime I can into a clients plan especially when they are short on time for training. No other movement incorporates literally every muscle in your body. The addition on dumbbells will add additional load for the squat/press portion as well as increased depth through your shoulders/chest during the eccentric phase of the push.
As with any new movement or movement where load/weight is added, begin with small dumbbells and move up as you gain strength. I suggest 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions. Take a look and let me know how you do!

Traveling Lunge with Twist

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Here is one of my favorite movements for improving hip mobility and creating glute strength/firing patterns. Couple key notes on this move:
1- Exhale as you twist your trunk. Holding your breath will only exacerbate tightness
2- Don’t rush the twist. Take you time and let your breathing dictate your tempo
3- Be sure to pull from your heal as you stand for glute engagement and to take the stress off your quadriceps

This movement can be done with no weight as part of a dynamic warm up, or with weight as part of your strength plan. Don’t have a lot of room for the “traveling” part? Not a problem, simply step back into a reverse lunge instead of stepping forward. Then you can do it anywhere.

CLICK HERE for the video

Scorpion Cobra Down Dog Flow

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Do you suffer from tight hips or a tight low back? Are you training hard but sitting the rest of the day for work? If so, here is a great series of movements designed to open up the front of your hips and stretch your abs along with lengthening your spine, hamstrings and calves. You will also find that when done properly increases strength and mobility in your shoulders.
I recommend going though 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions, “1” is completing one full cycle of the 3 moves.
This series can be done anywhere, anytime and multiple times a day. Use it to relax and restore from a hard training session, or as a warmup prior to a workout or race. Don’t forget to breathe!! Let your inhale & exhale dictate your movement and tempo for this and all mobility/regeneration movements. Click HERE for the video
Get after it and email me at mo@eatrealandmove.com with any questions or feel free to leave a comment/question below.

Regeneration/Mobility Series 1

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EVERYONE, regardless of your fitness or sport goals, needs to add mobility training and active recovery to their training program. This short video is a great way to increase you mobility/range of motion, plus promote active recovery from hard training session. Be sure to be VERY aware of your body position and form when performing these, or any, movements. Click Here to see the video.

Let me know what you think about this video series, and if it was helpful in the comments box below :-).

Mo-bility 3

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In this segment of my body weight mobility & strength series I demonstrate the the below movements. Be sure to follow the queue’s given below and DON’T RUSH the movements. Take your time and if you have any questions about form or technique leave them below or email me at mo@eatrealandmove.com

Click here for the video demo

6 Strength Training Tips for a Better Bike

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bike strong

As a triathlete or cyclist, be it for fitness or to win your age group, part of the training goal is to become faster, stronger, and more efficient on the bike. Yes, even if you “just want to finish” your particular race, you want to get off the bike and not be totally wiped out for the run. We often hear the terms: “dead legs” or “rubber legs” referred to as how we feel coming off the bike. This could be because you simply pushed beyond your limits on the bike, which is often the case in newer endurance athletes, but there could be another caveat to your fatigue: bike strength.

Yes, we know that if you want to get better at cycling you need to ride your bike; time in the saddle. But you also need power and strength. Power to climb hills, battle head & crosswinds, and of course, power to do well and win. But what if you are traveling and can’t ride your bike? You can strength train. Also, if you just cycle all the time, you run the risk of developing muscular imbalances that could lead not only to slower bike times, but to injury down the road. Proper Functional Strength Training is a needed addition to any endurance training plan. Specific to the bike, you should focus on building power and symmetry throughout your lower body. You need movements that not only target your quadriceps, but your glutes and hamstrings as well. Here are 6 rules for bike strength that I prescribe to my clients and recommend for you as well.

#1 LIFT HEAVY
Let me say this: YOU WON’T “GET BIG” FROM LIFTING HEAVY WEIGHTS. In fact you may find that you lose body fat and simultaneously get faster/stronger. This study from The Journal of Strength and Conditioning research shows that heavy strength training 3 days per week for 8 weeks increased cycling economy/efficiency in the test subjects. When lifting heavy I recommend 3 sets of 4-6 repetitions of a squat or deadlift. This can be done 1-2 times a week. Before you begin lifting heavy though, be sure to meet with a certified strength coach/trainer that will assess any imbalances you may need to correct before loading your body with heavy weight.

#2 DON’T USE MACHINES
You sit most of the day. You sit on the bike. Don’t sit when you lift. Instead, perform functional movements such as: squats, deadlifts, step-ups, and lunge variations. Using these movements gives you the best opportunity to utilize those underworked muscles in your lower body; primarily your glutes.

#3 USE HIGH REPETITION
I know I just said lift heavy, but you will need to vary your intensity to stimulate different energy systems and motor unit recruitment. I will typically have an athlete perform one heavy day and one high volume day each week, depending on their training cycle. High repetition sets of 25-30+ reps with short 30-45 second recovery intervals are a great way to increase strength, but also a great way to teach your legs to use lactic acid for energy through a process called The Cori Cycle.

#4 PERFORM SINGLE LEG MOVEMENTS
If you want to become more efficient on the bike, and be able to run strong off the bike, you need symmetry in your lower body. EVERYONE has one leg that is stronger than the other. Incorporating single-leg movements, such as: lunges and step-ups, into your training plan will ensure that you are building strength and endurance in both legs equally, which can save you energy and increase bike power.

#5 PERFORM MULTI-PLANAR MOVEMENTS
Say what??? Multi-planar or multi-directional are “fancy” words for “not just forwards and backwards lunges”. Incorporating Lateral Lunges, 45-Degree Lunges and Curtsey Lunges will build balance and strength throughout your lower body. These movements can also increase balance and mobility both on and off the bike. You can perform one of these movements each time you train or you can combine all 3 as one set. See the videos at the bottom of this article to learn how to properly perform these movements and how to put them all together.

#6 TRAIN YOUR CORE
Earlier I mentioned strength for battling head & crosswinds. Core strength is a key component to being stable during windy conditions. More over you need a strong core for efficient power transfer from your legs to the pedals. When I say “core” in this case I am referring to you rectus abdominus “abs” and your deeper stabilizers of the spine, transverse abdominus, multifidi, & pelvic floor muscles. If you are looking to build a strong core be sure to incorporate balance training and movements like plank, side plank, cable/band pot stir & anti-rotation press, & glute bridges. At a minimum, you should be able to hold a plank for 3 sets of 60 seconds without failing or feeling pressure in your low back. Crunches and sit-ups should be avoided as the repetitive spinal flexion can contribute to degeneration of disk later on.

Now that you have an understanding of what movements to use to for bike strength, let’s put it all together. Here are 2 sample workouts that take about 20 minutes and can be performed virtually anywhere. Note: I recommend waiting at least 48hrs in between strength workouts to ensure proper recovery.

SAMPLE #1: HEAVY DAY
**This workout is best done during off-season or low volume weeks as the heavy weight is more taxing on your muscular and nervous system***
***This workout could be followed by an aerobic “zone 2” or “training pace” ride the following day, then a recovery day after***

5 minute foam roll (focus on calves, quads, & glutes)
5-10 minutes mobility work/dynamic warm up (see videos at the bottom for dynamic warm up demonstrations)
3×6 DB Deadlift
3×10 Anti-Rotation Press
Rest 60 seconds and repeat
2×8 DB Lateral Lunge
3×60 second plank
Rest 60 seconds and repeat
1×10 Body Weight or DB Step-up to Balance (I always like to add a balance component to each session)
1x 8-10 Push-up to Shoulder Extension (can be done on knees)

SAMPLE #2: HIGH REP DAY
**Your goal & focus with this session is continuous motion, meaning no pauses at the top/bottom of any repetition**
**Although it is high rep, it shouldn’t be easy. If your set calls for 25 reps, the resistance should be enough that you cannot perform 28 reps**
***This session can be used in both off & in-season as it requires less time to recover and is less taxing on your nervous system***

5 minute foam roll (focus on calves, quads, & glutes)
5-10 minutes mobility work/dynamic warm up
3×25 Body Weight or DB Squats
3×40 Mountain Climbers (20 each leg)
Rest 30 seconds & repeat
3×8/8/8 Alternating Curtsey/Lateral/45-degree Lunge (feel free to change the order or do 1 set of all 3 movements)
3×15 Cable/Band Pot Stir
Rest 30 seconds and repeat
3×20 Push-up to Rotation (10 each side)
2-3×15 Single Leg Glute Bridge
0-30 seconds rest and repeat

There are MANY ways to alter these sessions by adding alternate movements, changing the order, etc. This is just one example. Before you begin this or any strength program I highly recommend you meet with a qualified coach to assess your form and help create a plan that best fits YOUR individual needs. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below.

DYNAMIC WARM-UP VIDEOS:
Dynamic Warm-up #1
Dynamic Warm-up #2
Dynamic Warm-up #3

Push up to Shoulder Extension & Rotation:

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Your shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body. It is also the most unstable, and in most people one of the most imbalanced muscles. As busy adults a bulk of our daily activity a.k.a. “work” often leads us to sitting for prolong periods of time. When we sit for long periods of time we tend to do so with our shoulders slumped forward. This inevitably leads to short/tight anterior shoulder & chest and overstretched/weak posterior shoulder.

To help you combat this inevitable issue caused by sitting, and possibly training incorrectly, I shot a video of two push up variations that will help increase both shoulder mobility and strength. You can use one or both of these movements as part of your dynamic mobility warm up prior to strength training, or you can use it as part of your functional strength training routine. As with all strength training movements, using correct for is crucial to avoid injury and further exacerbate imbalances. I recommend doing these in front of a mirror so you can see your form or get with a local qualified fitness professional in your area to watch your form the first time around. If you have any questions or need help creating a functional strength training plan to reach your goals, leave a comment below or hit the “contact” button at the top of the home page.

To see the video click here. GOOD LUCK!!