Archive for September, 2011

One of the toughest challenges in fitness is finding the motivation to get to the gym and workout.  It really doesn’t matter what your current fitness level is or how long you have been doing it.  Even the fittest athletes in the world have difficulty overcoming lack of motivation.  There are days when the motivation is just not there and you want to slack off.  Here are a few tips to help you stay motivated:

  1. Be Accountable – It’s easy to blow off a workout if your all alone and working out by yourself.  Invest in a trainer or find a workout buddy or join an exercise class.  The social aspect will help you with accountability.  You tend to not skip out on other people.
  2. Plan Ahead – The easiest thing to say after a day at the office is “I forgot my workout clothes so I guess I can’t go to the gym.” Guess what? You won’t be going.  Be prepared.  Lay out your clothes the night before or pack your gym bag.  Limit the possibility of an excuse.  This goes hand in hand with nutrition as well.  Feed your body right so you have the energy to stay motivated to workout.  If you don’t plan your meals in advance, chances are, you will eat low-quality food leaving you drained with no energy and no workout.
  3. Downsize Your Workout – There are going to be times when you have done everything right, you planned ahead, your nutrition was solid, but, the energy is just not there.  Just minimize your routine.  Go to the gym, skip the strenuous stuff and just stretch and walk or hop on a bike.  You will feel much better knowing you showed up, moved a little, and got something done.  You can amp it up another day.
  4. Make a Deadline – Begin with the End in Mind.  What good are goals if you don’t have a destination.  Start small, think Big.  Sign yourself up for a big race.  Tell others so they can ask you about it.  The encouragement from others will help you stay the course.  Once again, make a pledge with a partner.  Sign up together, train together.
  5. Mix up your Routine – Doing the same thing over and over will increase boredom.  Change your routine from time to time.  If you’re a runner, jump on an elliptical every now and again.  Break up the monotony!  Add a couple of weight training days.  Enroll in a Yoga class.  Mix it up with spinning.
  6. Keep a Journal – Write down your efforts and keep a log of your progress.  Your financial company sends you statements regarding your investments.  Why not jot down the investments you give yourself by working out.  Seeing your progress will help keep you motivated.  On the other hand, not seeing any progress, might make you get a jumpstart and show your pride to better yourself.

These are just a few techniques to aid you in finding the right motivation to have continued success with your exercise and nutrition.  Find what works best for you.  Everyone has their differences.  Good luck and keep on truckin’.




Recently, I’ve had alot of people ask me what I eat.  The basis of my nutrition is primarily foods that are in their most-natural state.  Better yet, foods that will spoil rather quickly if not eating within due time.  I try to stick with protein at every meal including snacks.  Mainstays are fresh fruits and veggies.  Lately, thanks to one of my clients giving me a power juicer, I have been incorporating in atypical veggies that I would not normally eat into a juice mixture.  Items such as kale, beets, spinach, and fresh ginger.  These alone taste awful (my opinion) so I top them off with sweeter tasting fruits like apples and strawberries.  The extra vitamins and minerals have given me increased and sustained energy.  Then, of course, I have the occasional cheat day.  My reward for eating clean and healthy all week.  Some don’t agree with my choice (McDonalds Big Mac & Fries), but, that is my preference.  Why shouldn’t I go out for a nice, loaded topping pizza, right?  I cannot lie, I do every now and again. 

Below, I listed a grocery list with many healthy food choices.  Hopefully, this can give you an idea as to what you should be trying to eat on a regular basis.  At each feeding, combine lean proteins with complex carbs, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats.  There are going to be times when you diverge away from the healthy list.  It’s alright.  Don’t put your head down and give up.  Get back to the basics and continue with consistency.  Be disciplined and treat every day as a work in progress.  Check out the list:


Nuts and Seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc)

Nut Butters – All natural peanut butter, almond butter, and cashew butter

Oils – Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, and sesame oil

Ground flaxseeds and ground flaxseed meal (great for adding into shakes or cereal)

Avocado and guacamole        Paul Newman’s Oil & Vinegar dressing


100% Whole wheat breads                 Ezekial bread              Oatmeal (old fashioned, not sugary)

Cold cereals – low calorie, high fiber (moderation, look out for high fructose corn syrup, kashi & cheerios are good ones)

Other breads, pitas, bagels, & muffins – lower fat with high fiber content (limited amounts)

Lentils, hummus, beans (black, kidney, etc.)  great sources of fiber

Sweet potatoes (microwavable)                     Brown rice (boiled in bag, Kroger, easy to make)

100% Whole wheat pitas                    Protein enriched or whole wheat pasta         Tricuits

Non-starchy carbohydrates

Asparagus, green beans, broccoli, carrots, lettuce (all varieties), spinach, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, onions, peppers (all varieties), squash (summer varieties only) and tomatoes


Apples, strawberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, fresh peaches, raspberries, blueberries, pears, pineapple and bananas (limited)


Chicken Breast:  Fresh or frozen bagged, boneless, skinless chicken breast, bagged chicken breast tenderloins or ground white chicken breast are great lean meat choices. Rotisserie or baked whole chickens (breast meat only, skin removed) can also be found pre-cooked in most grocery stores.  This is a convenient and easy way to get in your protein without having to cook it yourself.

Fish:  Canned or packets of tuna or salmon.  Fresh or frozen tuna, salmon, cod, tilapia or snapper are great fish choices too. 

Turkey:  Ground turkey breast (90% lean or leaner) tastes terrific and is a nice change of pace from your every day chicken or beef. 

Beef:  Ground beef (90% or leaner), filet, sirloin steak, round and flank are the leanest cuts of beef.

Eggs, Greek Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, other Non-Fat Low-Sugar Yogurt, Soybeans

Free foods

Vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, mustard, Mrs. Dash, garlic, mushrooms, onions, scallions, lettuce, cucumber, citrus peels, chili peppers, dry seasonings, salt, pepper, sugar-free gum and sugar-free Jell-O 

Things to avoid and some tips:

  1. High fructose corn syrup
  2. Hydrogenated oil
  3. Sugar
  4. Bleached flour
  5. Enriched flour
  6. Choose foods that have less than 4g of saturated fat per serving
  7. Try to buy foods that have less than 1mg of sodium per calorie
  8. If the ingredients list is more than 5 don’t buy it
  9. Limit all processed and boxed foods
  10. Only Eat when Hungry


I see and hear alot of trainers talk about Function Training with new, perspective clients.  Why not? There has been a big buzz the last few years about this type of training.  Before joining a gym and choosing a trainer, make sure you read the following article and understand what Functional Training is before you invest your hard-earned dollars.  It’s funny how a trainer can have someone do a bicep curl and throw them on a BOSU and say, this is Functional Training.  We’ve been an advocate of Functional Training for years and this is not the way.  Take a look and develop your view with the following article:

 Functional Training: An old concept with a new name


 Juan Carlos Santana, MEd, CSCS

The hottest phrase in the fitness and conditioning field is “functional training” (FT).  FT has been to the 90s what “Plyometrics” was to the 80s, a buzzword that everyone used, but few understood. This article will discuss the basis of FT and give fitness professionals a rational for its use and a direction of focus.
First let’s try to describe what “function” is.  Function can easily be defined as “performing a duty for which a person/thing is intended for”, “a normal or characteristic action of anything – a duty, utility or purpose”.  Function is how the body moves everyday.  Therefore, FT would be to train the body for the movement it is intended for and performs everyday, or exercise that more closely mimic normal body movements – not necessarily a a muscle developing exercise

FT is not a new concept, it has been around since the beginning of time.  If one wants to get better and stronger at an activity, one would instinctively rehearse the activity, or at least parts of that activity.   In sports we always say, the best functional training for a particular sport, is that sport!  Although this is an oversimplification of the concept of functional training, it is its essence.   As my colleague Vern Gambetta points out, “FT trains movements, not body parts”!

Sounds easy enough, it is common sense, right?  One would think so, but “the problem with common sense is, it’s not so common”.   One look into any gym and you will see 99 percent of the people training in a non-functional manner.  In fact, many gyms spend as much as 75-95% of their equipment investment on non-functional equipment.  Next time you go into your gym, check out how many people are doing machine leg extensions, machine leg curls, machine seated-calf raises, machine rowing, machine pressing, machine everything!  These pieces of resistance-training equipment are the most popular in most gyms, and the gauge by which many people evaluate the “productive worth” of training facilities.  “The more machines the more better”!  Why is this happening?  Believe it or not, it may be due to “too pure of an academic view”!

At first glance, functional biomechanics and academic anatomy do not always coincide.  For example, in an anatomy class you are taught that the quadriceps extend (i.e. straighten) the knee and the hamstrings flex (i.e. bend) the knee.  Therefore, every time we look at a movement where the knee is being extending, we think the quadriceps is doing it.  Conversely, every time we see the knee flexing during a movement, we think it is the result of the work of the hamstrings. What they forgot to tell us in the anatomy class is that the quadriceps extend the knee and the hamstrings bend it only when the foot in hanging in mid air; not planted on the ground.  Other than your occasional seizure, or brake-dancing episode, the foot is in contact with the ground during almost all “functional force production”! 
Take running/walking for as an example.  During the “swing phase”, the knee extends and flexes.  According to our anatomy class, the hamstrings would perform the flexion and the quadriceps would perform the extension of the knee.  However, they do not!  During the swing phase, the knee is mostly extended and flexed by momentum.  Then, as Gary Gray, PT says, “when the foot hits the ground, everything changes”.

Without getting into a complex biomechanical analysis of running, let us look at basic quadriceps and hamstring function during forward locomotion (i.e. walking, stair climbing, or running).  The quadriceps’ primary role in running is to decelerate the leg’s collapse (i.e. the system’s pronation) during the plant phase, stabilize and accelerate propulsion (i.e. the system’s supination), and decelerate hip extension at the end of propulsion. The hamstrings decelerate hip flexion and knee extension during the swing phase, and stabilize and accelerate propulsion.

This oversimplification does not accurately depict all of the tri-planar rotational, stabilization and counterbalancing components involved in locomotion.  Nor, does it represent the complexity and importance of the entire kinetic chain, and its loading and unloading mechanisms (referred to in functional terminology as “pronation and “supination” of a system).  However, it does illustrate the shortcomings of an exclusive single joint approach, as a means of enhancing an integrated movement. Probably the most important observation one needs to make is that, human locomotion is a “ground-based, one- leg, tri-planar, counter-balanced” event.  That is, only a single leg is in contact with the ground, and the body is simultaneously counterbalancing and moving in all three planes.

Now, with better appreciation for the functional nature of locomotion, would you select a leg curl to condition or rehabilitate the hamstrings, or a leg extension to condition or rehabilitate an ACL?  I hope not!  If these exercises were functional and effective, hamstring and ACL injuries would not exist.  Most athlete performs leg extensions and leg curls.  Yet, athletic training rooms across the country are plagued by these injuries!   You can isolate all you want, but if you do not soon integrate the move into its functional pattern, you will cause faulty neural recruitment that could actually lead to an injury.

This is just one example of the discrepancies between the traditional academic view of rehabilitative-anatomy, and the practical approach of functional biomechanics.  FT follows functional biomechanics, not academic anatomy.  This is modern concept orthopedic and rehabilitative medicine still grapples with.  Leg curls and leg extensions are still part of ACL rehab protocols, despite the detrimental (i.e. dysfunctional) shear forces research has demonstrated they impose on the knee.

FT revolves around two very basic principles.  The first is the “kinetic chain”, which simply illustrates that the body never moves a single joint in isolation.  Rather, the kinetic chain is a series of joints working synergistically through multiple planes.  Rehearsed, multi-planar movements, such as a golf swing, are engraved in our brains as neural patterns, not isolated muscle movements.  By design, we are functionally, integrated beings.
 The second main principle of FT describes the physical world it deals with gravity, ground reaction forces and momentum.  These three physical factors act upon all movements and thus training.   Gravity is the basis of resistance training.  Everything we do requires that we overcome, or at least neutralize this force.  For most activities, ground reaction forces are the genesis of force production, and thus power.   For ground based activities, all power comes from the ground and we must capture, and transmit it, through ground contact.  Momentum is the result of overcoming inertia (i.e. the tendency of an object to stand still until a force acts it upon).  Momentum allows the body to move its parts with minimum energy requirements.  We saw this phenomena in the flexion and extension of the legs in the running example above.  We constantly use gravity, ground reaction forces and momentum to “load systems” so that we can generate power, such as in a jump or a throw.
Now, lets look at some important considerations we need to take into account when we are implementing functional training.  You will see that all of these points deal in one way or another with the kinetic chain principle, gravity, ground reaction forces or momentum.  Functional training must:
1)    Be specific, or mimic, the target activity.  This includes all of the appropriate joints, as well as the speed and amplitude of movements.  The principle of specificity dictates that you “train like you play/live”. 
2)    Not be restricted or supported by external means.  No machines or artificially stabilized positions.  If you are going to isolate and support for the sake of improving isolated strength (“your means”), integrate it ASAP and regularly into its functional/integrated role (“your end”).
3)    Eventually integrate a significant amount of controlled chaos into the training.  Sports, and life in general, are chaotic and unstable in nature.  The more chaos an individual rehearses, the better they will react under unrehearsed-play conditions.
4)    Deal with multi-joint, multi-planar movements.  In real life, especially sports, movements do not occur along a single joint or a single plane of motion.  Therefore, the kinetic chain must engage all three planes simultaneously. 
5)    Approach loading and development from the inside out.  Load the system internally (i.e. bodyweight) first, then add external resistance.  Develop the core of the body first, then develop the extremities.
6)    Have “causative cures” as a rehabilitative, or conditioning goal.  That is, the cause of an injury must eventually be part of its cure, or prevention.  For example, if planting a foot and rotating to change direction injured the ACL, then, planting and rotating must eventually be part of the conditioning program to prevent the injury from reoccurring. It is specificity at its simplest form.
7)    Have an evaluation criterion that is incorporated into the training.  That is, the tests must be part of the training and the training part of the tests.  This way a “test/evaluation” is merely seen as training by the athlete.  Again, specificity of testing and evaluation!
8)    Be progressive in nature.  Basic conditioning and skill acquisition before advanced conditioning and skill execution.  Slow and controlled to fast and chaotic.
9)    Be fun and make sense.  If it is not fun, then compliance will suffer and so will results.  If it does not make sense, chances are it’s not functional and not optimally effective.
Functional training is the most effective approach to performance enhancement.  However, not to the exclusion of all other approaches to training. YES, this includes bodybuilding and machine work. Everything has a place in the overall training scheme.  Functional training must dominate that scheme within an integrated paradigm. Remember, train for go – not show! Go for function and you will never go wrong!

Juan Carlos is one of the best-known trainers in the country. He runs the Institute for Human Performance in Boca Raton, Florida. He has worked with numerous college, pro, and Olympic athletes.  He definitely puts the word Function on the map with his style of training.  If you’re interested in learning more or would like to challenge yourself here in the Cincinnati area, check us out at


There can be many reasons that such a high percentage of Americans today are carrying around too much excess weight. Most all of us have heard the very true and useful information that calories burned need to be higher than calories consumed. This all comes down to regular exercise, as well as a healthy diet. As stated before, this information is all true and very effective in weight management. That is, however, only half the equation. It is also important to get in touch with the psychological reasons behind weight issues. Simply put, overeating is the belief that “I eat too much.” It’s common for me to hear my clients say they have a willpower problem with food. The truth of the matter is, they may not have a willpower problem at all. Their body may actually believe it needs more food. So what are some of the causes that lead to this belief?

1. Lack of proper rhythm

 – do you have an eating rhythm throughout the day? For instance, you typically eat at the same time every day.

 2. Lack of slow relaxed eating

 – your brain needs time to process the food you just ate. Slow down and enjoy it. Slowing down and being in a relaxed state will actually help stimulate your digestive and calorie burning metabolism!

3. Macronutrient imbalance

– the four macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water. Are one of your macronutrients outweighing the other? For instance, the low carb diet would lack protein, which would lead to an imbalance.

4. Nutrient deficiency

 – are you getting all of your nutrients. Your body may be lacking a nutrient, and you keep eating to attempt to give your body that specific nutrient. This includes the macronutrients above, as well as your vitamins and minerals.

5. Lack of quality in food in diet

 – make sure the calories you take in are from quality foods so you aren’t consuming wasted calories (ie. cookies). Does that mean never have cookies? Not at all!

Therefore, instead of settling for having a weak willpower, try one of these possible remedies:

1. Slow down, relax your breathing and your body, and enjoy the taste of your food.

2. Make sure you are consuming foods high in quality –

 this typically means less processed foods, and more of the foods that come from the earth (ie. vegetables and fruits) or have a mama (chicken).

3. Balance your macronutrients

 – have a healthy portion of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as, drink your water!

4. Rhythm

 – find a consistent time every day to eat your breakfast, have a snack, eat your lunch, and eat your dinner. Get into a rhythm or a routine. I encourage you to really take your time to be mentally present and aware of what you are eating, when you are eating it, and the rate at which you are eating. You will be amazed at how much more satisfied you will feel from being tuned in. That satisfied feeling will lead to consuming only the calories your body requires, which will lead to a healthier, leaner, happier YOU!