Thursday, February 26, 2009

10 "Get Fit" Strategies

Here are 10 simple strategies to get in the best shape of your life within the next year of your life. Remember just like anything you must TAKE ACTION! Getting results do not happen sitting on your couch eating Dorritos and drinking soda.

  1. Like Nike says, Just DO IT. Do not start after the weekend. People always tell me, "Justin I am going to start working out Monday." Why not just start now. There is no better time to start then that very minute. Start by eating healthy the next meal or that night get a workout in. You are waisting time if you "wait till monday".
  2. Stay away from processed foods. Your main source of calories need to come from fruits, vegetables, and lean protiens. The more active you are the more complex carbohydrates you need. If you work at a sedentary job then you do not need many carbohydrtes. Also, corn is not good for you. Anything with corn in the ingredients you need to stay away from. Corn is a grain and grain will cause you to gain wait or will keep you from losing weight. Eat frequently, eat clean and eat fresh. Food is fuel and who wants bad fuel in their bodies?
  3. Be consistent. Results do not happen overnight. They take patience, time and a consistent approach. There is no magic diet or workout plan. It is hard work and sweat. If you workout and eat healthy you will get results. Just put in the time. You can not get the your "perfect" body in 12 weeks. If you make it part of your life you will reap the huge benefits.
  4. Do intervals not steady aerobic training. Unless your goal is to compete in a long distance event you should never run long and slow. For ultimate fat loss and muscle building results you need to do short high intensity interval training. Whether your interval is a fast walk up an incline on a treadmill or a sprint out on a track, you will benefit more from this type of training. Other methods include medicine ball circuits, bike sprints and bodyweight circuit training. Your metabolism will increase, you will build strong lean muslce and you will burn fat all day long.
  5. Don't bodybuild. Bodybuilding is an old school method. Most bodybuilders are not truely "fit". Yes they look good, well if you are into that type of body but you have most bodybuilders do high intensity training, they would be huffing and puffing. And if you are a bodybuilder and do not believe me, come into my gym for a workout and you will see. You should never go to the gym and just lift your chest or just your shoulders. It is completely a waist of your time. Being fit is working your entire body with function and balance, having stability in your spine, mobility in your hips and being able to move freely without any limitations.
  6. Eating is huge. Yes I used nutrition as another point. It is that important. If you want to look a certain way but are eating bad you will never achieve your goals. It doesn't matter what workout program you are on. It can be the best ultimate fat burning workout there is, but if you are eating cheeseburgers and fries everyday you will never get results.
  7. Get sleep. Sleep is not overrated. The body is meant to sleep at least 7 hours a night. When you are putting in time to train and exercise the body you must make it a priority to get adequate rest for recovery and regeneration. When resting your body is at prime time to recover and build back stronger. Without rest you will breakdown and eventually get hurt....then you can't train!
  8. Push yourself. Yes you have to learn to push yourself in your workouts. You do not get results by just going to the gym and going 80%. You need full effort and sometimes you need to step out of the comfort zone. The body adapts well so you must continue to push yourself to stay away from plateuing. Even you women out there, you need to lift weights. Lifting light 5 pound dumbbells with 20 plus repetitions will do nothing for you. Stimulate the body so you can rebuild with stronger and leaner muscle.
  9. Drink lots of water. Without water your body will not regulate properly. Water keeps you hydrated, keeps your body temperature regulated, increases your metabolism and gives you more energy. Being dehydrated does not feel good. You get headaches, you are drained and you will lack energy. You need at least 72 ounces of water a day. The more you are active, the more you need.
  10. HAVE FUN in the process. Nothing more to be said. If you are not having fun and enjoy the benefits of being healthy and fit, there is no point. Being healthy and fit definitely beats the alternative of sitting in a hospital bed with IV's stuck in your arms. This is your Life we are talking about, take advantage of what you have! will change your life!

Monday, February 23, 2009

What is happiness

Happiness to me is.......

  1. getting in a great workout
  2. training endless hours to get better at triathlon
  3. finishing a triathlon
  4. spending time with my family and friends
  5. waking up at 4:15 am to train my clients
  6. the outdoors, especially when it is sunny and you can see the mountains
  7. a good night's rest
  8. traveling
  9. the beach
  10. camping
  11. my awesome, hard working clients
  12. getting a beer with my friends
  13. my brothers and my sister
  14. college football on saturdays
  15. NFL on sundays
  16. Watching the Tour of California....LIVE
  17. seeing Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer in Solvang
  18. A long bike ride
  19. reading good self growth books
  20. watching the athletes that I train compete
  21. listening to music
  22. playing golf on a nice day
  23. April 19th, 2008 (my wedding day)
  24. my Life
  25. most importantly...MY WIFE!

What makes you happy? Enjoy everything around you and be thankful for the relationships that you share with your family and friends.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So much opportunity

We live in a world that is full of opportunity for us to succeed. Whether or not you believe this statement is up to you. What kind of mindset do you have each and everyday. Do you settle for just being average? Where do you want to go, how do you want to live and how do you want people to portray you? These are questions that need attention on a daily basis. Listen I am not saying that things will just happen. It takes hard work to get what you want. You have to be determined, be pateient and be persistent to succeed. I am giving you five strategies that can help you get more organized, stay down the path to success and keep you driven each and everyday.

  1. Write down your goals. If you just talk about your goals and do not write them down with a game plan to achieve them, then good luck. We can talk all we want about how much money we want, how successful we want to become, how much weight we will lose, and how fit we will get but the truth to the matter is that if we do not write down specific and straight forward goals, it will be hard to accomplish them. I start with 10 year goals, then 5 year goals, then my 1 year goals and then weekly and daily goals. Make weekley lists of things you need to get done in order for you to accomplish your yearly goals. If you think you can remember everything you have to do by memory, again, good luck. Our memory is not as good as we think. When you make weekly and daily "to do" lists you will be more organized and prepared to achieve those small goals. Guess what, when you accomplish your small goals it is more than likely you will accomplish your larger goals. Set dates for your goals. "I want $10,000 in my bank account by January 1st 2010." When you have a date you will work your butt off to make it happen by that date. Goal setting is crucial in every spectrum of Life. Personal, professional, financial, spiritual, and athletic goals are all aspects that need attention. If you want to grow as an individual then this is a big first step to take.
  2. Read everything. Lots of people get caught up just reading material they believe in. "Don't just read things you believe and don't believe everything you read." This is a quote I hear every presenter talk about when I attend seminars. Whatever your profession it is a must you read at least 45 mintues a day on that specific literature. This will make you an expert in your field. If you did this for 2 years imagine the information you will get. Also, read self growth, financial, and motivational literature. This will help you stay positive and keep sparking new ideas for you to learn and grow upon. Reading is such a great thing. We can get all the information from an author that took them 15 years to write in about 2-5 days of reading. In this fitness industry you need Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Mark Verstegen, Gray Cook, and Dr. Stu McGill in your book case. If you don't go out and get their books. For self growth get Stephen Covey, Jim Rohn and Brian Tracy. For spritual and faith get Joyce Meyer. These are just to name a few. There is so much knowledge out there for us to learn. Go out and get it.
  3. Have mentors. You need to surround yourself with successful and positive people. I have some very successful clients. I am always picking their brains about business, finance and personal growth. They are successful for a reason so I am going to get the "tricks of the trade" from someone who has been through the fire. You need people to teach you and guide you down the right path. If you can learn where others made mistakes and learn to not make those same mistakes then you will be one step ahead. You can not do it by yourself. You need people in your life to motivate, inspire, educate, guide, learn from, talk to and most importantly be there for you at anytime.
  4. Balance is key. I am in the thick of this strategy and working on this myself. I love my job and fitness and everything that comes with it. I spend 9-13 hours a day working and another 9-14 hours a week training. So when you break it down, I spend 40-60 hours a week working, 9-14 hours a week training and 56 hours a week sleeping. That right there is 105-130 hours which is 63-77% of the week. I have my wife, my parents, brothers and sisters and my friends. That doesn't leave much time in the week for the people that really mean the world to me. The balance is not there. So breaking it down like this can really put things into perspective. You have to create balance in your life so you will not get burnt out in a particular area. Look at your daily activities and priorities and find balance. You will keep your energy and attention in everything you do.
  5. Wake up and be positive. You have to have the right mental mindset to succeed in anything you set out for. Everyday is a new day to get better, get closer to your goals, inspire the people around you and SUCCEED. Remember, just like the opening statement, there is so much opportunity out there. It is just a matter of going out and creating the ideas and programs. It will not just happen. You must put in the work each and everyday. "If you want something bad enough you just have to go get it, one small step at a time." This is a quote I have up in my office. I read it everyday. Find what motivates and inspires you and go out and make it happen.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A CFA Workout

What do you expect when you come in for a workout at CFA? When people come into gyms for the first time, they think machine exercises, crunches, curls, bench press and long slow distance training. Not at CFA. CFA is where training is done the right way. We will always stay current with up to date training concepts. We will not get stuck into old school concepts that too many training programs fall into. If you read today's blog, you are going to get a sneak peak at what we do at CFA on a daily basis.

First of all we train the entire body every workout. You will never come in and train just "chest/back". Everyday as its objectives but everyday will work the whole body. Studies show that working your entire body in 3 workouts a week will give you better results than the classic bodybuilding split that most people do. Every client is different and unique at CFA so the below example is not set in stone. The usual structure goes like this:

#1 Soft tissue work - I want the clients coming in early to work on soft tissue. IF they show up 5 minutes early, they will have 5 minutes for this aspect. We use foam rolls, a massage roller, and tennis balls. This will improve tissue quality of the muscle so it is a must for our clients.

#2 Activation/Mobility - With so many people coming in with movement and posture issues, these drills will work what each client needs to work on. If you have issues in hip mobility then we will concentrate on that. If you have issues in shoulder flexibility, then we will work on that. Also, activating specific musculature will help "wake" up the muscles before the workout. Especially clients who have sit down jobs. They are in a bad postural position all day. We have to activate their glutes and hip flexors before moving on.

#3 Dynamic Stretching - I like dynamic stretching better than static stretching. The difference is dynamic stretching is moving and stretching. Static is staying in one position and holding the stretch more than 20 seconds. Some clients perform static stretching if they have poor flexibility but every client runs through dynamic flexibility drills to lengthen out the body before the "bulk" of the workout starts. We perform lunging drills, deep squatting, knee raise pulls, and leg cradles. These drills will enhance flexibility and mobility as well.

#4 Speed Drills - We then get into what I like to call "blood flow" drills. Exercises that will get the blood pumping throughout the body and elevate the heart rate. From running high knees, butt kicks, skipping, bounding, quick feet drills, jumping jacks, and tempo running, these drills are done on a daily basis in our warm-up segment.

#5 Core/Shoulder Stability - Core and shoulder stability are aspects people really need to enhance. I see too many clients that lack core stability and they are very weak in their shoulder/scapular stability. I make this a mini-circuit so we are time efficient. We perform plank variations, chops, lifts, rollouts, push-up walks, Y's/T's/W's/L's, shoulder step-ups, wall slides and scapular push-ups.

#6 Power - Here is where it depends on the client. If I am teaching an olympic lift to a high school kid, then this is where we will put it in the program. If we implement a jumping drill, then this is where it is placed. I add in medicine ball work to this complex to get some core and rotary power. Again, to be time efficient, we might add in a pre-hab exercise as the client is "resting".

#7 Strength Work - Time is always a concern when training in a private facility so I have to figure out ways to get everything in. We perform our strength exercises in pair, tri, or even quad sets. We program the exercises with non-competing muscles. A tri-set could look like this: Set #1 split squat (lower body)/chin-up/core rollouts or stretch, Set #2 SB leg curls/push-up/shoulder stretch. There are so many variations to this concepts. I get my clients to master the basic exercises so I do not get too complicated with my design. Most clients can get a great workout with the above example.

#8 Conditioning - We usually have about 3-8 minutes when we get to conditioning. But the way we perform it, we do not need too much time. We will have clients run shuttles on our turf, perform spin bike sprints, or have them hit a metabolic circuit. Variety is key for me here. It is good to introduce different methods of conditioning to the clients as it can teach them how to do conditioning themselves outside of the sessions.

Along with the workout we discuss nutritional habits (this will be another blog) and having a positive mental attitude. These concepts are crucial for anyone to get results.

There you go! A CFA training session. It is not just about the workout it is about the quality of someones life!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Here is how my Thursday went....

Today is my day to sleep in. Well most people do not call waking up at 6:00 am sleeping in, I do. I go to coffee with two of my best friends from high school. I actually look forward to meeting with them to chop it up on how we are all doing. I got to work around 7:45 am and started training. I have sessions at 8:30, 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, and 12:30. I took lunch at 1:30. But my lunch included about 30 minutes of TV and 2900 meters in the pool. Then back to work by 4:30 pm. I had time to read and look through my emails before my 5:00 appointment came in. Beau Mills was my client. He was the 13th pick in the MLB draft two years ago. He has high hopes of making it to the big leagues by next season. He is a very hard worker. I ended the night at the gym with a 30 minute loosen up workout. Lots of soft tissue work, dynamic stretching, core stability and a couple strength exercises. Just wanted to get the body loose and in good position. I made it home by 7:15 pm, just in time for dinner with my beautiful wife. She is great!

A great day in my standards. I love waking up to take on each day. I love what I do. I love the people I work with. I love my wife!

The mind is very powerful. With the right positive mindset you can take your game to a whole other level. Learn to think like a champion. Want to be successful at anything you do. Do not settle for average. Go for the TOP and do not let anything get in your way.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's not about the numbers

I was sitting down with one of my trainers today and we started talking about "why we weigh and body fat test our clients?" Ok the typical answer are for assessment, making sure the client stays on track, to show perspective members that we get results, and so on. Yah, I get it. But then I started thinking, "Why do we really measure clients?" I teach and promote a healthy lifestyle. I do not teach 10 week programs. I want my clients working out and staying healthy until the day they die. There is no finish line for health and fitness. It is a consistent approach that is a lifelong adventure. Then we get into the numbers. If I have a 40 year old mom who comes into my gym and all she cares about is numbers, she will never be satisfied. And yes, I have these clients. The day we have them step on the scale or measure their body fat and they do not see what they want to see, it ruins their day. But she looks fabulous, is in fantastic shape and lives a very energetic and active life! Oh but her body fat was not down so it depresses the hell out of her. I don't like this method. To me the results are there. If we keep testing and measuring body fat she will eventually go up. Just with age, your body fat goes up. For instance, I am 29 and 8.5% body fat and have 12.5 lbs. of fat and 133.5 lbs of lean mass. The day I turn 30, if I have the same skinfold measurements, I will be 12.5%, 18.25 lbs. of body fat and 127.75 lbs of lean mass. So eventually my body fat will go up and my pounds of body fat will go up and my lean mass will go down. Does this mean I am failing in my fitness program. ABSOLUTELY NOT!

For some reason we as fitness professionals think that testing body composition is the gold standard for results. In my opinion results are when a 55 year old man ,who trains with his wife, changes his life dramatically in two years with working out, choosing the right foods, able to move without pain and now enjoys bike rides with his wife. To me results are a 45 year old mom who has more energy then her kids, can perform bodyweight chin-ups and is able to give her family 100% daily effort. To me results are when my clients come in and they feel 100% better than the day they walked into my facility.

Results are not numbers. Results are real life changes, an increased vigor to Live life and a contagious positive energy that they built through living a healthy lifestyle.

Stick to your program. Do not get down or depressed when you see numbers. Keep going and keep staying positive. You will see the long term results.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Don't Be Old School

Don’t Be Old School
By: Justin Levine

Why do people still perform crunches? Why do people still get on the leg press machine? Why do people still believe in long slow distance training to “burn fat”? Well, this is what we knew 20 years ago. Things change and so must people. Fitness has transformed over the past 20 years. There are many concepts that at the time we thought were the most efficient ways to get fit. We no longer live in a bodybuilding world where we design body part splits for our workouts. You know the workouts: chest/triceps, back/biceps, and legs/shoulders. If you are still doing this you are “old school”. Program design has changed to training specific movements for proper function. We will get into that a little later in the article. The body is meant to function a certain way. Check out Michael Boyle’s article and dvd, “A Joint by Joint Approach”. We need mobility in certain areas and stability in others. If the hips do not move properly our low back will hurt. Does anyone out there want to blow a disc in their lower back? I am sure no one will answer yes but every time I walk into a “big box” gym people are always performing crunches, back extension and leg press exercises. Dr. Stuart Mcgill, a low back specialist, states that “any flexion or extension will create a disc to blow.” It might not happen the 1st, 2nd, or 50th time you perform these exercises, but eventually your low back will “hurt”.
This article will cover many old school concepts and methods that you should not be doing anymore. If you are just stop. I will also get into some specific cutting edge theories that you need to implement into your program design. Remember, you need an open mind when it comes to fitness. If you want to continue to get results you must learn to change your program. There is so much education out there for us to learn. Do not do the same thing you were doing 5-20 years ago. Step out of that bubble and step into the new age of fitness training and continue to learn.

Crunches are old school. Again, if you want a low back disc to blow then continue to perform crunches. The movement of crunching puts the spine into flexion. The spine does not want this load. The function of the spine is meant to be stable. When we move at the spine we cause low back pain. Read any of Stuart Mcgill’s research. This guy is way smarter than I am and these are the concepts he talks about. Another exercise people need to eliminate from their program is back extensions. Start thinking stability exercises for the “core”. Examples are plank variations, side plank variations, cable stabilization exercises, core rollouts, medicine ball training and cable chops and lifts. If you want a “6-pack”, change your diet. If you want to lose weight, change your diet. Doing “abs” at the gym will not get you leaner. It is a mix of a properly designed workout program, consistent healthy nutritional habits and proper rest and recovery. We need to promote good postural habits and doing crunches puts our body in poor position for good posture. Stabilize the spine, stop doing crunches and you will see the difference in the way you move.

Bodybuilding splits are old school. In fact bodybuilding splits are probably close to 20 years old. This is what people did in the 80’s and 90’s. We went to the gym to work our chest for an hour. Then the next day was arms. Good ole biceps and triceps for the entire workout. We would leave the gym with a massive pump in our arms. Then the next day we worked back and shoulders. Then we would finish the week with a ridiculous leg routine. Some leg workouts left us unable to walk and we were sore for days after. If you are still working out like this, STOP! This is not an efficient way to get fit. You must incorporate specific movements and interval conditioning (I will get into that one on #4) into your workout routine. Horizontal and vertical pressing and pulling movements, bilateral and unilateral knee dominant and hip dominant movements and core stability exercises. Do not make it too complicated. Add balance to your routine. If you have two pressing exercises (bench press and push-up) you need two pulling exercises (chin-ups and DB row). If you have two knee dominant exercises (split squat and lunge) you need two hip dominant exercises (deadlifts and hip lifts). When you have imbalances it leads to injury. Who wants to get injured? Nobody! If you are trying to get fit, do not lift like a bodybuilder. Structure your workouts with these new concepts to build an ultimate fitness level.

Leg press, leg extension and leg curl machines are old school. In fact if you are working out on any machine, unless it is a Keiser cable system, then you are outdated. Machines do not build function. Your movement is constricted on a machine. Remember the old school Nautilus machines when they first came out. What year was that? 1976. Back then Nautilus was the “cutting edge” of fitness training. But we do not live in the past, we live in the future. Time to step into the new age of training. If your program is loaded with machine exercises and non-functional training then change your program. Implement deadlifts, squat variations, chin-ups, rows, push-ups, presses and core stability work. You will get results. In fact you will get the best results you have ever seen.

Long slow distance “cardio” for fat burning is old school. I was a culprit of this when I first started training clients. I would have my clients do cardio on their non-weight training days for at least 45 minutes. I wanted them to stay in the “fat burning zone” the entire time. Sound familiar? With the knowledge of guys like Alwyn Cosgrove, Mike Boyle and Mark Verstegen, I finally figured out that this was not the answer. I started having my clients do intervals. There are many different interval protocols. For deconditioned individuals an interval might be a walk on a treadmill at a 5% incline for 30 seconds and then back down to 1% for 1 minute. For fit athletes I usually choose the Tabata protocol. These are very intense and can be done as a medicine ball circuit or on a treadmill or bike. I do not use the word “cardio” to my clients anymore. We call it conditioning. Cardio is the word people use when they get on a treadmill for an hour at the same pace. Conditioning is when I have my clients perform 15 intervals of 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off. It sounds better. At the completion of every training session I add conditioning to the workout. It could be a metabolic circuit, treadmill sprints, or bike sprints.

The “5 minute walk on a treadmill” warm-up is old school. Do not walk on a treadmill for 5-10 minutes and think you are warmed up. You need to implement a dynamic warm-up to your workout routine. Not just once in awhile. Every time you workout you need to perform a dynamic warm-up. A proper warm-up will prepare you for your workout, increase flexibility, increase mobility, and elevate your heart rate. A walk on a treadmill only covers 1 of those traits. Your workout will be more intense and you will reduce injury.

Ok I saved the best for last. If you are still participating in step aerobics you are very old school. This was a fad in the 80’s. All step class is going to do is give you knee pain. Yes, it is good that you are moving and staying active but there are better options than “step class”. If you like group classes choose a strength training or circuit training class. At least now you can get some interval type training.

So the moral of the story is that things change. What we used to do does not work anymore. And what we know now may change. With the beauty of science and education we as fitness professionals continue to study the body and learn the most efficient ways to get fit. I personally will continue to learn the rest of my life. Thank you so much to guys like Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Mark Verstegen, Gray Cook, Stuart McGill, Todd Durkin and Martin Rooney who are always willing to share their knowledge to the world.

Past writings