Thursday, December 29, 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
- The death of Scott Nelson, August 17th: Scott was a very close friend that tragically was killed in a cycling accident up at Rocky Hill. Scott's death really took a toll on many people that were close to him, including myself. When someone so young and full of life dies, you start asking questions like why him? and how come? This death hit the community hard. People who didn't even know Scott were affected. As time passed and we were able to somewhat get back to normal, I started growing as a person after his death. Scott lived his life for others. His humble personality and charismatic touch were very infectious to be around. We need to live more like Scott. We need to treat others like Scott did. We need to challenge ourselves everyday like Scott did. It's so critical to live life to the fullest, each and everyday, because you just do not know. You do not know when your last day will be. Also, you must treat others good. Treat them like you want to be treated because again, you just do not know when it could be their last day. Why live life knowing you could have treated others better or lived at higher levels? We can not live like this. In 2012, decide to live everyday, to treat everyday magnificent, to enjoy the people around you, because you just never know. And if you end up living till your 90 or so, just imagine the lives you will touch with this approach.
- The birth of my daughter, February 15th. It's pretty ironic that my first 2 lessons on this list are about death and life. These life changing events truly do change your life. Watching the birth of my daughter humbled me as a man. Watching my daughter, my own flesh, be born is a magical experience. Watching my wife the past 9 months sacrifice her body and emotions taught me about respect. And holding my daughter after the birth was emotional and taught me that love is pretty deep! As death is a hardship, Life is spectacular. We must cherish our life because we only get ONE! That's right, one life. We must put our focus on the positives and learn from the negatives. Don't dwell on what could of been, instead focus on the next positive decision. As I am watching my daughter grow up, she is so concentrated on the little intricacies that life brings. The colors, the sights, the sounds, everything around her. As adults, let's learn to do the same. Let's slow down a bit and really concentrate on the important things. Our relationships, our family, our friends.....each day!
- Ironman Arizona, November 20th. Training for this massive event was the tough part. It took sacrifice, time and much energy to prepare myself for this event. During the training , the death of Scott happened, I expanded to a new facility, my daughter was a new born, I was still running my business and tri club, we took in a foreign exchange student and I still needed to find time for family...I would say it was a busy year. I needed organization, time management and very productive days. Because of the tools I learned from personal growth coaches Brian Tracy and Jim Rohn, I was able to schedule all of my priorities into my day. Ironman not only taught me about challenge and humility but in order for me to complete this event, I needed to become obsessed with organization and time management. Every Monday morning I write out my "to do list" for the week. This includes work stuff, family time, personal things, workouts, reading/writing, anything that needs to be accomplished. I also have a time management sheet that I follow. It is a 30 minute breakdown from 4:00 am till 9:00 pm. I write in everything that needs to be accomplished for the upcoming week and try my best to follow the plan (some days just do not work out because of things that just come up). I even go as far to write in my naps, my reading time, my family time. I am very serious when I say this, I could not have been prepared for Ironman if I was not organized! It's not just about putting in the training. As that is a big part of it, if you do not have the organizational tools, you will not get the training in. It goes hand in hand. And this goes for any big task or goal. Ironman was a personal achievement that I wanted to accomplish. I did it! But what I got out of the experience is life changing because it taught me to be more organized, a more humble person, more patient, to truly enjoy my family and friends and to always challenge myself to become better. And not just in my athletic life but my family, my work, my personal life. Personal development is the motivation to live life at high levels. We must continue to grow, educate and become better people as long as we are living!
- California Fitness Academy's expansion, September 3rd. First off, I would not be in the position I am in today if it weren't from some valuable people in my life. I had a few "secret angels" that helped me get started with my business. I am so humbled and appreciative of these people in my life. To me, life is about taking risks. Business, especially in these tough economical times, is risky. My first few years were more about just putting in the work. When I first got into business, I didn't really have a true understanding of goals and setting up my future. I was a hard worker and knew how to get people in shape, that's what I did. But I quickly realized that I can not just spin my tires and work hard. I needed challenges, I needed goals, I needed structure, I needed to realize what I wanted in the future. I needed to become a businessman. I needed to work ON my business in order for it to be successful. A good friend of mine, his name is Brian Hyde, one day gave me "Eat that Frog" by Brian Tracy. It was an audio CD. I listened intently to the lessons and tools Tracy was explaining. This was my first experience to Goal setting and I became hooked. I have read the likes of Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, John Maxwell and many other personal development coaches. The lessons I have learned have become a big part of my daily living. And I am still going. I am on a mission to learn, educate and observe from the best. The resources are out there. If you are on a mission yourself to start a business, to complete a specific event, to get a promotion, whatever it is, the key is personal development. Jim Rohn says, "You can't change anything around you until you change what's in you." The cool thing is, is that we can dramatically change how we work, how we live and how we grow. It's just about putting in the work. Back to the expansion of my facility. After 5 years at my first location, a 2600 sq. foot medical building, we were able to grow and fill our facility with loyal and committed clients. Again, very humbling knowing that these people intrusted in my program. First off, I love my job! I love coming to work everyday. I love my clients. I love my staff. This is a big help. But in terms of putting in the time, I put in the time and am still putting in the time. Eight hour days are for business owners who want to fail. Business growth does not just happen. Every successful business owner works! It's not a "luck" thing. Most successful people create their own luck by putting in the work. I am still climbing the mountain to where I want to get with my business but being able to expand to a 6700 sq. foot facility was remarkable. I am in a time of "growing pains" where we are getting used to a few new expenses and paying off of new construction bills. So we still have lots of work to do, but 2012 will be a big year for CFA. It's important to push yourself. Sometimes to the point to where you are stretched beyond your means a bit. It will force a sense of urgency, to get the work done, to become better in every aspect of your life. In 2012, set your goals just past what you think can get done. Challenge your body, your mind, and see what you can do!
- Taking in a foreign exchange student, August 16th. Ten days before we actually met Linda, we add no idea we were going to do this. I get an email from her exchange organization in the beginning of August. Since Linda put that she is an avid triathlete on her bio, they contacted me knowing I was the President of the Visalia Triathlon Club. They wanted me to email my club to see if anyone was interested in taking in a student. Well, I went home that night, mentioned it to my wife and we decided to be the host family. Hey, moving facilities, the birth of my daughter, Ironman, and everything else, why not!? When I grew up, my parents took in over 40 individuals to live with our family. From foster children to relatives, to friends of the family to people living on the street, our house was open to assist someone with a friendly and loving home. I guess that I found that trait my mother had. My wife probably was a bit skeptical at first but is now really good friends with Linda. We met with the exchange organization pretty much the day after the email, signed all the paperwork and by the weekend we were assigned Linda. That next week, Linda and I chatted a bit through Skype and email, finalizing all the details and getting to know each other a bit. She arrived on August 16th. And right into the craziness of our life. As you can see from my first point above, Scott died the 2nd day Linda was here. Yeah, nothing like a teenage girl coming to California and finding out about our very good friend dying in a bike accident. She was able to take it all in and handled the tragic news and her first few weeks with us pretty well. Sometimes, I fill my "life" plate up too much. I spread myself thin and work myself to the grind. But it's who I am. Like I have mentioned, Life is about living it to the fullest, no regrets, nothing to do over. Because we just get ONE! Linda is now part of our family and she will always have a place in our hearts. And just by taking the risk to open our house, spread ourselves a little thin, we now have a very good friend and another part of our family!
- Reading the 4 Agreements, February. Be Impeccable with your word. Don't take things personal. Always do your best. Don't make assumptions. These four "Agreements" transformed my life. Reading this book by Don Miguel Ruiz taught me to really think about the way I live my life. To not just go through my day to day actions without applying these 4 principles. Now, of course I am not perfect and follow these to the "T" but I am constantly thinking about them. Be impeccable with your word applies that what comes out of your mouth can truly affect people. Your words can affect people in a very positive way and in a very negative way. I choose to use my words to create optimism and healthier living for people. I choose to surround myself with people who live by these same values. Life is better this way. Don't take things personally means that if someone is bashing you, verbally beating you up, or talking behind your back, it's them, not you. This is definitely easier said than to do. People can be outright vulgar and vicious. And like the "Be impeccable with your word", words can drastically affect people. Here's an example. I was very excited to get an article posted on the Active.com website this past year. Active is one of the leading multisport educational resources there is in the world. My article was posted and I was stoked. I received some positive feedback, people really enjoyed my article. But I get this one email from, we will call him "Joe", and Joe writes how horrible my article was. He bashed me! After I read the email, I admit, I was a bit down. This guy, named "Joe", never met me, didn't know what I do everyday, just read an article and decided to personally attack my personal philosophies and methods. But, as I thought about it for awhile, I soon began to realize that it's ok. His words do not have to hurt me. For some reason, he decided to take the time to bash something positive, he must have something going on in his life that caused this pessimistic/egotistical attitude. This is where the 4 Agreements altered my thoughts. I didn't take the email personally. In fact, my thought process quickly turned around and I was motivated because of it. I wanted to be better, write better and continue doing what I was doing. People can be mean. They can gossip and talk behind peoples' back but we can choose to use our words in a good way. We can hype people up and give them confidence and improve their self esteem. That is how powerful our words can be. We must learn to get rid of the "vampires" in our life that will suck the positive energy out of our lives. It is up to us to eliminate negative people from our life. It is up to us to mold our lives and our thoughts and our actions. It just takes daily practice and mental conditioning to develop our daily lives the way we want. Always do your best is a core value of California Fitness Academy. We follow this principle on a daily basis. If you are putting in effort, you might as well strive to your best efforts. Read the books, study the material, train the correct way, eat the right foods. If you have a goal, put in the work and go for it. Do your best! It's a daily tactic that everyone needs to focus on. Last but not least, Don't make assumptions. This is a difficult "agreement" to live by. We get caught up trying to assume what people are thinking. We might here what "someone else said" and then we quickly assume. Those assumptions could be entirely incorrect. Get the facts first before you start assuming because it turns into "negative poison" and will affect your life. So remember these 4 Agreements. Be Impeccable with your word. Don't take things personally. Always do your Best. Don't make assumptions. They will change your life!
- Death of "Junior", a CFA client, October 8th. Unfortunately I have two deaths on this reflection list. Death is a touchy subject and a tough pill to swallow but it can be a time of growth as well. Junior was a motivational human being. He began working out at California Fitness Academy in 2010. He was committed, showing up to his workouts ready to work hard and give his best. He was a young business owner who had tremendous work ethic and character. We became very close and connected to Junior. When I got the call on Sunday the 9th that Junior was killed in an automobile accident, I was sad. Just when I was starting to recover from Scott's death, I hear this news. How tragic this was. A 26 year old, positive person, business owner, son, brother, hard worker....the question is again asked, why? Well, here is my reasoning...as we grow through life we start realizing the true meaning of LIFE. Unfortunately some people wake up each day and accept being average and methodically get through their days. For them, days run into each other and excuses are made of why they aren't where they should be. We may not be in control of some things, like tragic bike or auto accidents or our genetics or how our family and friends act or the economy or the views of the President, but we are in control of ourselves. We have capability to wake up and think a certain way. We have capability to live a certain way. We have the capability to set goals and work to achieve them. We have the power to change who we are today to make for a better "me" tomorrow. We have the capability to not make excuses and just get it done. It just takes work. I decide to have a positive mindset. I decide what food goes in my mouth. I decide how I react when a road block is set in front of me. I decide how to treat others. Junior lived everyday. Some people spend their lives dying and it's sad. But Junior was unique and wanted change and growth and leadership and personal development and health. He lived! Let's learn from Junior and wake up tomorrow morning and decide to live life to the fullest! Junior: "You were the epitome of what we will try to emulate."
- Bike ride to San Luis Obispo and Run from Avery to Angels Camp, July/December. Why you ask? Because I can! These two special training days are definite learning experiences. The bike ride was an adventure that started in Coalinga, Ca and took me through the coast to San Luis Obispo, 106 miles. The run was an epic conclusion to my Christmas vacation. I would start heading "home" as my wife, daughter and Linda (foreign exchange student) would leave a few hours later and pick me up on the way. 20 miles and 3 hours later, I made it to my destination. With both situations I had studied in detail my routes beforehand, I knew exactly the direction I needed to go to get to my destinations, hence the first lesson is about goal setting. It works the same way for any objective/goal. You have a starting point, which is "A" and the goal is to get to "B". There are long and extra "mileage" routes that could have you lost and frustrated, there are short and quick fix routes that might not give you the end result. But then there is the efficient route. The one that can get you to point "B" safely in the allotted time. Quick fixes are not good, they are not maintainable and not having a plan of action will get you lost and frustrated so planning and preparing the most efficient way to get to "B" is the best remedy. As you embark on this journey, this goal, road blocks are destined to be in your way. Whether it's a steep hill to run or bike, a dirt decent that's rough on your bike, an angry boss, a tough financial situation, sore knees or ankles, or a change of plan (death in the family, newborn child, etc)....how will you handle the road block? What direction will you take? My idea, take it head on. Take the challenge, the goal, the journey head on. But be prepared. Do the research. Know the path to your destination. Know your destination. If you do not know where you are going, good luck finding your way. Start constructing your 1, 3, 5, 10, 20 year goals. Just write a list, call it your "BIG LIST" and write down everything you have ever wanted. And start working to get it. Create your "bike route". Expect road blocks and frustrating times but keep going. These adventures gave me much time to allow my mind to be turned off but I also did lots of thinking. I thought about everything, family, work, fitness, life, and whatever else my mind was on. As I was cycling down the coast or running through the Avery hills, I came to the conclusion that life is what you want it to be. You can either sit on the couch each day with no goals or aspirations and die while you are living or you can get up and be active and be unique and strive for your best. You can not set limits on yourself. You will never reach maximum capacity with these self set limits. Fly I tell you. Fly high and keep going. Why you ask? Because you can!
Time to make 2012 the biggest year yet. When others are resting and not moving forward, be the person to take big action steps in the right direction. Decide right NOW that you want a big year. Decide right now how you want to live. Decide right now that you can and you will be a better person.
Happy New Year and Let's Make It Happen!
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Training for an Ironman is a commitment. You must dedicate yourself to the training program and the preparation. They say, "The success is just showing up to the start line of an Ironman." The journey is long, arduous and grueling. There are many sacrifices you must make in order to train and prepare for this epic day. And when you cross the line, it becomes all worth it. Leading up to Ironman, my training hours/mileage for this year added up like this:
3100 miles on the bike
745 miles running
150,000 yards swimming
which equates to approximately: 450 hours of training time
This doesn't add in the time driving to and from workouts, cooking and eating for training, traveling to races and stretching and foam rolling. It is definitely a job in itself.
It doesn't take weeks to get ready for this 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run, it takes months and years of consistent work. Going into this Ironman, I was ready for the adventure to come to a conclusion. My mind was made up that I was not doing another Ironman, this is it, one time and out. I was ready, prepared and anxious for this long awaited day and it was time to see what I could do....
We drove to Arizona on Wednesday, got into town around 5:00 pm, settled into our rental house and relaxed before bed. The next morning Eric Blain (My good friend who I have been coaching for the past year) and I headed out on a easy 1 hour spin on our bikes. We rode into the main location of the event and cruised around the scene. We got familiar with the roads and were able to see some of the run course. It was good to see this before the actual race. The rest of the day we chilled and stayed off our feet. We woke up Friday morning and drove the bike course. Seeing the layout before you race is important. The course had a false flat heading towards the first turn around on the bike, so we were prepared for that. But the way back was slightly downhill and fast. We then headed towards the main location of the triathlon, parked and ran a small portion of the run course to get our legs moving. We were both feeling fresh, sharp and ready.
Tapering should be a well planned layout of decreasing training volume the last 3 weeks of the training plan. I always advise athletes to be very disciplined during this taper as this is the time to allow the body to fully adapt to the months of training. If you do not allow recovery these last few weeks, the body will have residual fatigue and you will not perform on race day. So, our taper was well planned out and both Eric and I were feeling ready.
Friday night the excitement started to escalate as we went to the mandatory meeting. Race directions were given to the 2900 signed up athletes. Eric, myself and Eric's cousin Kevin drove home that night all in anticipation of the big day ahead.
We woke up Saturday morning, hopped on our bikes for 40 easy minutes just to get our legs up and moving. It felt good. We were now 24 hours away from one of the biggest events of our lives. The rest of the day was filled with eating good food and relaxing, getting all of our gear checked in and situated and mental preparation. The time was now here...
After a solid 7 hours of sleep, my alarm woke me up at 4:00 am, normal for me, so I was up and showering. I started the coffee, ate a whole wheat english muffin with peanut butter and jelly and had a banana. I sat on the foam roll for a few minutes then went outside and went through a good warm up to release any nerves and prepare the body for the big day ahead. We headed down to the "hot spot" at 5:30 am.
Here's where the first road block of the day happened....
As we were walking to the transition area, a quick thought came into my head, "Did I put my timing chip in my gear bags?" See for Ironmans, you have gear bags and special need bags for the day, you do not put your transition bag by your bike. Well, I made a big mistake and left my timing chip in my transition bag, which was still out the house! Ok, it was 5:50 am and I was calm and knew it was enough time to have my wife, Stephanie, drive back and pick it up for me before the start. I put everything together for the morning, turned in my special needs bags, put my fluids on my bike and made sure everything was good to go. I called Stephanie, "Where are you." (very calmly) She said, "I am not even at the house yet, the roads have closures so I am on the freeway." The time is now 6:10. Ok, we still have time, I told her, "Steph, this is all my fault, but if I sound a little agitated, I am sorry, but please try and hurry." I went back to my bike, pumped up my tires and then started to put on my wetsuit. The time is now 6:25. I called Steph back, "Where are you?" She said she was on a road that had closures and couldn't get through. I started to walk back to her, probably about 1/2 a mile from the transition area. I had her on the phone, "where are you babe", I kept saying. I admit, I was freaking out a bit. The time was now 6:35, we have to be in the water at 6:50 and race starts at 7:00 am. She finally says, "Ok, are you by the parking structure?" I said, "just keep driving, I am right past it." I saw her, hopped a fence to get to the car, grabbed my chip, told her she was the hero of the day and ran back to the transition area, just in time to find Eric and Kevin and enter the water! Talk about cutting it close.
Ok, now back to the triathlon...
The swim was a one loop, 2.4 mile swim in Tempe Town Lake. The water temperature was a chilly 61 degrees but when I jumped in, I was warmed up and the water didn't feel too cold. We had to swim about 200 yards to the start line, which was good to get the arms moving. We waited in the water for about 5 minutes before the big cannon suddenly went off and the race started. 2900 athletes all starting at once is a bit chaotic but the first 10 minutes went by fast and wasn't too bad. I was able to find some space and get into my rhythm. Randomly during the swim, there was traffic and swimmers all around you fighting for space and then it would clear out. I dealt with this and continued on with the swim. For me, the 1st half of the swim was a warm up, just getting going and loosening up. Once I made the turn around, I was able to put in a few hard pick ups and upped my pace. I did this throughout the second half of the swim. I would settle, let the heart rate come down and then pick up the pace again. I felt my best on the last 15 minutes of the swim. Once we made it back to the bridge where we started, I knew we just had about 300 yards to go. So I kicked my legs out to wake them up, started to mentally prepare for the bike and I gave a big underwater "YES"....the swim was over.
I quickly got out of the water and a volunteer helped me shed my wetsuit which was awesome. I told her thank you and jogged through the transition chute, picked up my bike gear bag and headed over to the changing tent. I quickly put on my bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses and race belt and hurried to my bike. I was feeling fresh, strong and ready to take on 112 miles on the bike.
Going into the bike, my whole race plan was to conserve my energy to have enough in me to put together a strong run. The bike was a 37 mile loop that was to be completed three times. The first loop for me was a warm up. I was spinning a light gear the first 17 miles, remember it was a false flat so I stayed conservative and made sure I was getting in my fluids and fuel to stay well ahead of the game. When I made the turn around, it was quickly noticed that this was going to be a fast section of the course. The wind was at our back and we were on a slight downhill. We were hitting speeds of 25-32 mph and not even working that hard. I was liking this! Very fast we were finishing the first loop of the bike. I was feeling strong. It was great because we were able to see our family and friends many times during this bike course. Seeing them really increases your energy for the next loop of the bike. The 2nd loop was a little different than the first. The wind decided to change directions and was with us on the way out. I didn't mind this because I was able to push a little faster speed on the false flat without taking too much energy. When I turned around I was still able to keep my fast pace on the slight downhill. I kept telling myself, "stay conservative, we still have a long way to go." I did and continued to eat, drink and stay fueled, maybe too much (you will see later). I wanted to get to the 3rd loop feeling fresh and ready to go, I did and was excited to have this feeling. In fact between mile 74-90 is when I was feeling the best on the bike. I was able to put in some big efforts and increase my speed without blowing up my legs. This was encouraging. Once I hit the final turn around, there was now only 18 miles to go. My energy was good, my legs felt fine but my stomach started to become a bit achy. I slowed down on the fluids only taking in water and carbo pro to see if it would subside. I knew I had saved energy and my legs for the run but as I finished the bike and dismounted and headed over to the changing tent, my stomach was full, bloated and a bit unsettled....
I sat in the changing tent, taking my time to put on my running shoes, let my heart rate drop a bit and wanted to make sure I was all good to go for the run. A marathon awaits and I wanted to make sure I did any last minute preparations for the run.
I exited the tent and immediately knew my stomach was knotted up. I had my fuel belt on with my bottle of gatorade and quickly took the bottle and tossed it to my wife. I didn't want to carry that bottle. I dealt with some major stomach cramps the first loop. I ran decent for having this problem. The 2nd loop, this problem became worse. My run slowed and walking at times became a better choice to allow the stomach to settle. My mental thoughts started to shift at this point. I figured if these stomach issues do not let up, it could make for a long, long marathon. I could be out there till 7:00, 8:00 pm. Miles 10-13 were tough because I couldn't run the way I know how and it was starting to get to me. My pace slowed to 11+/min/mile.
I came to mile 13 and decided to stop in the porta potty to let my heart rate come all the way down and allow my stomach to settle a bit. I had to make a decision right there and it ended up being the game changer for my day. I made myself throw up. This is a bit scary, because I have never done this before and the thoughts of dehydration and not having any fluids in me the rest of the marathon came into my head. But I did it. Three tough and hard vomits led to the release of approximately 25 ounces of fluids. I stood up, regained my thoughts and had an unbelievable resurrection. I came out of the porta potty, popped a breath mint in my mouth, drank some water and now it was on. My game had changed. The next 4 miles were ran fast, at 7:30 pace. I saw my parents at Mile 17 and they noticed the change and saw Stephanie and the rest of the crew at mile 19 and they saw the change. Now I was doing what I am good at.
That pace lasted to the 20 mile mark and then I slowed up a bit so I knew I needed some fuel. I took a gel, which gave me a big side ache but I was able to get that one to subside and continued running at a strong pace. I was literally passing droves of other athletes during the last 7 miles of the run. This is the best I had felt the entire day. Yes, after 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 20 miles of running, I was feeling my best. It was a true testament to my training program. I saw my parents and my uncle at mile 24 and was excited to see them with my new and energized spirits and running pace.
This is where I knew I would have a strong finish. I gulped down a small cup of water at the last aide station and took off for the finish. I ended up running the last 5k in sub 24 minutes, which equates to 7:40 min./mile.
The finish of an Ironman is surreal. Honestly, it seems like a dream, I barely remember the last 400 yards. All I know is that I was running hard, I was strong, I was happy, I was relieved it was over, and the crowd was cheering loud for everyone finishing. I gave a fist pump at the line and the race had ended. I heard, "Justin Levine, you are an IRONMAN!" Pretty awesome feeling.
Final time: 11 hours 14 minutes
Swim time: 1 hour 13 minutes
Bike time: 5 hours 44 minutes
Run time: 4 hours 4 minutes
All of the training, the hours on the bike, the sacrifices came down to one day. That one day of testing your body and your mind to the extreme limits. And when you crossed that finish line the emotion running through your body was magical. I wanted to see my wife, my daughter and Linda (our foreign exchange student) and wanted a sweatshirt, I was cold. I sat with my family by the finish for about 20 minutes post race and tried to take in the whole day and experience. So much was going in my head. But the one big thing that I was thinking, "What could I have done with a complete, strong marathon?" Sub 11 hours is for sure in the cards, I could do that! Low 10 hours is possible. I can push a little harder on the bike, learn from my mistakes and not drink too much and then get off and run a 3:30ish marathon, I can do that! Dangit, did the bug get me....?
Well, as for now, I want to recover, enjoy the Holidays and enjoy some time off from structured training. Next year, the goal is to concentrate on shorter distance races, build my top end speed and not commit to anything big. I want to run sub 1:20 half marathons. I will take December as an unstructured training month, doing workouts that sound fun but more importantly allow for 100% recovery.
I want to thank my wife for giving me massive support in my lifestyle. She is definitely my #1 fan and I love her very much and thank her very much. And thank you to all of my friends and family that supported me, followed me on race day and kept me in their thoughts. It is truly humbling. I would not be who I am and in the position I am in if it weren't for the people in my life.
And now to the next adventure and challenge....
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
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.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
I Don’t Have Time – Let’s Make Time
Instead of making this excuse, be the person that can make time for your health and wellness. Once you can make going to the gym and eating healthy food a habit, it becomes part of your life, will take less effort and you will regain that rockstar energy! Just remember, you cannot make the day any longer but what you can do is make your time use wiser. I am going to show you how easy adjustments in your day and better use of your time can give you more time to spend on your health.
Wake-up 30 minutes earlier than normal. You do this for an entire year and it adds up to 182.5 hours. Even 30 minutes a day designated for a workout or activity can tremendously increase your vitality and way of life.
Cut your TV time in half. The average American watches 5 hours of TV per day. This adds up to 1,825 hours in a year! Cut it in half and there you go, 912.5 more hours a year or 2.5 more hours per day you just gained from turning off the TV. Now you have time to workout.
Prepare most of your foods on Sunday night. Doing this can save you 20 minutes per day. Chop of your vegetables for the week, prepare a few pieces of lean chicken, and boil up some eggs and you will be more likely to have a healthy week and save daily time. Taking the time on Sunday can save you valuable time during the week.
Grab your gym bag before you leave for work. Head directly to the gym immediately when you get off work. This saves time by skipping the drive back home. Plus, you won’t get caught up at home “doing something else”.
Workout early. Get to the gym early and get your workout in before any of your daily activities begin. Once you get it in, you feel better, have more energy and have the whole evening for other activities.
Take advantage of 10-15 minutes of dead time. Perform some bodyweight squats, jumping jacks, planks and push-ups to speed that metabolism and give you a boost of energy during the day. Just like above, 15 minutes a day can add up to 91.25 hours a year.
Spend less time on the computer. I know we need our computer time but many of our hours on the computer are used for junk searching. The Average adult spends 3-6 hours per day on the computer. Let’s drop 1 hour a day and you now have 365 hours extra during the year.
Moral of the story, a week as 168 hours and we all have 4-6 hours in our week for exercise. Create the habit and make it part of your life and never again make the excuse, “I don’t have time.”
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
- Write down your goals. Even if you wrote down goals at the beginning of the year (good job by the way), write down your goals that you want to achieve over these last 87 days. Goals become real when they are written down. The next step is repeating them every morning when you wake up. "I will lose 20 pounds." "I will read 4 books." Say it with conviction and passion and start working.
- Don't dwell on the negatives. Pessimistic people are destined for failure. Just by changing your attitude you can start accomplishing so much more in your life. But this doesn't happen over night. Conditioning the mind takes work and needs focus each and every day. Wake up with a mindset to take on each day with 100% effort. For the next 14 days, every morning wake up, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat, "Today, I will be my best, give my best and do my best. It will be a strong day."
- Workout. We have 168 hours in the week. You must have 4-6 hours for yourself. Don't make the excuse of "I don' t have time". What you don't have is good time management. Turn the TV off and get moving. We have time for exercise, the key is making it a priority. Don't wait because when you age, it gets tougher and tougher to get results. Stay on top of your health and vitality.
- Spend time with your loved ones. Life is short and before you know it 3 years, 5 years and 10 years have gone by very fast. We don't want regrets. Spending plenty of time with the people you care most about is critical. This is the time of the year where we do spend time with family and friends but this time around, really cherish the time you have with your crowd. Relationships are critical for life enhancement.
- Be organized. Every Monday morning write out your "to do list" and highlight the most important tasks and start knocking them out. Get a calendar or use your phone calendar and write in all of your appointments. Put in your workouts, your family time, your reading time, your social time, your spiritual time...pretty much everything that is important to you, add it to your calendar. We actually have a lot of time, it's just how we use our time that matters. Take advantage of 15 minutes here and there for reading and/or recharge time. 15 minutes each day over a year can add up to 91 extra hours. Don't say you don't have time!
- Wake up 30 minutes earlier than normal. Just like the point above, doing this over the next 87 days will give you 43.5 extra hours! This is a tremendous amount of extra time that can be used for working out, reading, writing, time with family, praying, whatever you do that will improve you.
- Get sleep. Consistent sleep is the foundation of health and vitality. Sleep is not overrated and very few people can perform at optimal levels with less than 5 hours of sleep every night. The key is consistency. Try and get 6-8 hours of solid sleep every night and you will have more energy, your brain function will increase, you will be able to give more at work or school and you will just feel better.
- Send flowers or a box of mixed nuts to a special friend. Sometimes we take for granted the relationships that we have built in our lives. Do this randomly. Don't wait for a special holiday - it means more on a random day when no one will expect a gift.
- Eat more fresh and healthy foods. What you eat will dramatically change your energy levels and your daily vitality. If your diet is full of saturated fats, high sugar and processed foods and empty calories, you will feel like crap! Become optimal with optimal nutrition. It doesn't take any more effort to eat healthy than it does to eat unhealthy. You just have to build the habit into your life. Just remember, fresh food is the better choice!
- Volunteer your time. Hit up your favorite charity or shelter and spend some time with people that could really use a friend or a laugh. Just writing a check to a charity is not volunteer work, get out there and lend a helping hand.
- Challenge yourself. Stepping outside your comfort zone is hard but is needed for self improvement. Don't stay in the confines of your comfort space because you will never get better this way. Whether it is in a workout, reading a certain book, bettering a relationship or improving your mindset, be comfortable being uncomfortable.
- Repeat this every morning with your goals, "Thoughts become words, words becomes action, action becomes habit, habit becomes character, and character becomes your destiny." Remember this phrase before you are about to do anything. It all starts with a thought but it's what you do after the thought is what makes the difference.
- Have quiet time during the week. Recharge your thoughts and get re-focused with 5 minutes of quiet time. It can be as simple as closing your eyes in your car before you head into the office. These 5 short minutes can get you super charged and dialed in on the tasks at hand so you are more prepared to have great days.
- Have a genuine positive mental attitude. Be the person that is considerate to all people. Don't worry if someone is grumpy and gives you attitude, give them a smile and a hello and continue on with your day. It is totally up to you to create this mindset. The right Attitude can positively change many things in life.
- Take a risk. Successful people take more risks than non-successful people. They get out of their comfort zone and work their butts off to accomplish their goals. It's not easy but with hard work and discipline you can achieve very gigantic goals.
- Surround yourself with highly positive people. If you want success, if you want to get in better shape, if you want to quit smoking or drinking, if you want to lose weight, whatever it is...then it is mandatory to have people around you that will support your objectives. Negative influences will literally suck the positive energy right out of your veins. Look around you, if you hang out with losers and people that are going down the wrong path, you better take a look in the mirror and change your friends.
- Do something spontaneous. Spontaneity drives adventure and that adrenaline feeling. Out of the blue, pack your bags and head out of town on a weekend trip. No planning, just call it a free for all trip. Life needs excitement and living by the book all the time will get boring.
- Focus on you. I am not saying be selfish, in fact I want you to work on the exact opposite. I want you inspiring others and doing things for other people but listen, if you are not 100%, if you are not healthy, if you do not have energy, you will not be able to do anything else for other people. You will not be able to give full efforts to other parts of your life if you are overweight, sick all the time, and not 100%. So pay attention to you, eat the right foods, be active everyday, go get a massage and become optimal! Love yourself first so you can spread more love throughout.
- Start small and grow big. Think about this one for a minute....If you put $2.00 away in a savings account everyday, that's $14/week, $63/month, $756/year and $7560 in 10 years! Moral of the the story is that it takes small efforts done over and over to make huge gains. It started with just $2.00 and built to over $7k just by doing something so small everyday. It goes for many things. Working out, eating healthy, reading more books, brushing your teeth....It's not the one time you do it that matters, it's the long haul of consistently repeating these healthy habits that will dramatically change your life for the better!
- Live one day at a time. Once you know your goals and you know where you want to go in life, you must live one day at a time. Remember you can't do anything about yesterday and tomorrow but today affects the future! So live today big. Do more, be more and you will get more out of life.
87 days left today, next week 80, in 1 month 57 days and in two months 27 days! They will go by fast and it is up to you to make each day count. So let's go for it and get what we want. No excuses just plain ol' hard work!
Leave a comment and let me know what you will do.....
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Living Healthy, More than a Physical Matter
Living a healthy lifestyle goes well beyond just looking a certain way. It’s not just about ripped abdominals, sculpted arms and lean looking legs. Being healthy is a mindset. It creates a state of mind that can get you through tough times, cherish the good times and can push yourself beyond the limits that are set. As physical goals are important to have, we must always take a step back and understand the real reasons to be fit and healthy. As most gym goers head to the gym, their initial mindset is to lose weight, or “tone” their arms, or get rid of the body fat around their stomach. Again, these are goals that can keep your motivation to train but let’s take a look at some deeper goals that can help create a healthy life, not just for aesthetics but also for a positive mentality to keep you living at high levels each day.
1. I do it because it makes me feel good. The feeling after a tough workout is exhilarating. When those endorphins (the feel good chemical that is released post-exercise) are kicking we are so stoked and excited following a workout. I see it all the time in the gym. People might initially come in for a workout in a negative, frustrated and exhausted mood but once they get going and start zoning out, their mood suddenly changes. When the workout is completed, the mindset is changed.
2. Healthy living creates discipline in my life. Everyday you need to expect greatness and in order to do this you must set goals, be productive, have good time management and have a positive mental attitude. Daily discipline will guide you to this way of life. When you decide to live a healthy lifestyle, you must build small daily disciplines in your life to live the life you want. Wake up and drink water, pack your snacks, get to work or school on time, eat every 2-3 hours, get to the gym, pick up your kids, prepare a healthy dinner, get to bed on time. Healthy living is about systemizing your life to get the most out of each day.
3. Creating the “Always do my best” attitude. At the end of the day if you only gave 60%, you just wasted a day. Start giving 100% everyday and watch your life take off. Every aspect of your life will improve. Each day try to give just a little more so you can truly maximize your life. Living a healthy life is not about being perfect. Give your best effort one day at a time and your vigor for life will improve.
4. I am a true believer in myself. When you have ingrained this healthy lifestyle into your life you will become a true believer in your abilities. Believing in yourself is how you can continue to reach new heights of performance, personal development and personal achievement.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
10 Strategies to Reduce Injury in a Training Program
It seems that more and more people are suffering from chronic pain, injury and aching bodies. From knee and low back pain, to shoulder and hip pain, these instances can be reduced and better yet eliminated with smart training and recovery tactics. Below are 10 strategies that can help you reduce injury and pain:
1. Foam roll and stretching. Improving the tissue quality of your muscles can dramatically change the way you move, recover and live life. Tissue quality is the foundation of movement and fitness. Lack of flexibility in the muscles limits your range of motion, causing other areas of the body to compensate, thus causing pain and/or injury. You need to take time out of your schedule to focus on improving the tissue quality of the muscle. For every decade you have been alive is the days per week you should be implementing this portion (a 50 year old should foam roll/stretch 5 days a week).
2. Smart training principles. It’s not about how hard you train but how smart you train. Hard and erratic training leads to injury and inconsistent results. Smart and efficient training leads to massive improvement and an injury free body. Don’t live by the motto, “more is better”. We want you working and getting results but that doesn’t mean pushing the body past the barrier that will lead to injury. What did you do last week and what is your plan next week? Start logging all of your workouts and create a long-term training plan that will put you on the path to a healthy and fit body.
3. Proper Dynamic warm-up. Every single training session should start with a thorough dynamic warm-up. Preparing the body for the work ahead is a crucial tactic to reducing injury. Too many people just start their workout without activating the system beforehand. This warm-up should increase heart rate, elongate muscles, mobilize joints and wake up the nervous system. Without a warm-up you increase your chances of injury during your workout.
4. Strength training. Learning how to strength train can assist you in every aspect of your life. Implement full body, multi-joint movements that will increase your function and way of life. Hire a qualified strength coach to help you design a proper program that fits your needs and goals.
5. Consistent Sleep. You will eventually wear down if you are not sleeping consistently. You are in full recovery mode when your body is at rest. If you are lacking solid sleep at night, it doesn’t matter how smart or efficient your training program is because you will not fully recover and you will tax the nervous system and eventually breakdown.
6. Proper nutrition. High-level nutrition equates to high-level performance. If you are consuming empty calories, high fattening foods and inadequate fuel, your body will not be at its best level. You risk breakdown and depletion with this type of nutrition plan. The majority of your food consumption should come from nutrient and fiber dense foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Add in lean protein sources like chicken, fish, eggs and low fat milk and quality fats like avocado, raw nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.) and heart healthy oils. A good food plan will enhance your recovery, give you energy, and keep you at your optimal level.
7. Do not randomly train. One day you hit a group class, one day you run, one day you do P90x and one day you lift weights. Randomized training can definitely put you on the path to injury and pain. You will have a more successful training program when you have a plan of action and create a progressive plan to build your fitness week by week.
8. Know your limits. This is a big one. When you push past your boundaries you dramatically increase your chances of injury. I am not saying you shouldn’t push yourself, but if everyday you have extreme soreness and you are not allowing full recovery, you will eventually end up hurt. Our bodies are very resilient but when constantly pushed beyond its limits, you force breakdown and
9. Corrective exercise. We all have imbalances and weaknesses and its imperative to put focus on improving those weak links in the body. Understanding your movement dysfunction can help you devise a corrective exercise program that will enhance each weak link. If you have hypermobility issues then you need more strength and stability work. If you lack mobility and flexibility then you need more range of motion drills. Have a qualified specialist assess your movement and then implement “corrective” drills daily to give you a more functional and injury free body.
10. Drink plenty of water. As simple as it sounds, this is crucial to remaining healthy and injury free. When the body is in dehydration mode, your immune system starts breaking down, you risk getting sick and body wears down. The body needs water to work at high levels. Just by drinking adequate amounts of water you can see changes in your performance, decrease pain and injury and enhance your overall way of life.
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