Friday, February 25, 2011

All about Nutrition

Nutrition – It’s that Important

Health and fitness is a spectrum of many different aspects. This article will discuss the importance of a good nutrition plan. Physical and mental well being can not be achieved by skipping meals and ignoring good nutrition. Good discipline with your nutritional habits can enhance your energy, stamina, vitality and overall well being. Use the advice below to assist you with your healthy journey:

1. Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals is telling your body that you want it to run slow. Your metabolism will shut down and you will store food as body fat. You will lack energy and you will have lack luster performance. This is a big mistake people make and this will put a road block on your results in a fitness program. Wake up and eat and then feed yourself every couple hours. This will increase your metabolism and give you energy throughout the day.

2. Nutrient Timing is critical. What you eat is important but WHEN you eat specific foods is more important. You should not be eating foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugars when you sit in your car or at the computer or when you know you are not going to be active. After eating these foods your blood sugars are spiked and if you are not active then this sugar will be stored as body fat. The best time to eat carbohydrates and sugars will be before or after working out or when you know you are going to be active. Read labels, know what is going in your body and understand how certain foods affect your blood sugars and energy.

3. Eat lean proteins, fresh vegetables and fruit and good fat. These foods should be the majority of what goes into your body. Stay away from foods that are processed, packaged and canned. If you need energy, grab a piece of fruit with a small handful of almonds. If you are starving in the middle of the morning then grab a couple slices of lean deli turkey meat and ½ cup of berries. Keep your foods fresh and lean and you will immediately see a difference in your everyday life.

4. Don’t Do Diets. I do not teach dieting. Diets are programs people get on and get off and it can become a vicious roller coaster of inconsistent eating habits and will lead to frustration. To me, good nutrition must become a lifestyle habit. Learn to change and learn to make good choices for the long term. This will create a healthy lifestyle and will aide in long term physical and mental well being.

5. You must eat your minimum. For every person this is different. We all have a base metabolic rate or BMR. This is how many calories we burn at rest with no activity. The simple way to approximate this number is to take your weight and add a zero to the end. So if you weigh 150 pounds your BMR will be approximately 1500 calories. This is the minimum number of calories you should be eating during the day. Then you take activity into account. On a scale of 1-10, rate your activity level. If you are moderately active then give yourself a 5 and add 500 calories to your BMR. Now your number is at 2000 calories. So if you wanted to maintain weight you should be eating around 2000 calories. If you wanted to lose weight you should eat 1500-1900 calories. But DO NOT go below your BMR. This will shut down your metabolism and create a fat storing process that will stagnate results.

6. “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” I give this quote to all my clients to teach them about preparation. If you do not prepare or have the healthy foods around, you will not succeed with good nutrition. Look in your fridge and cupboards on Sunday. If you need healthy foods then make a trip to the grocery store and pick up your necessities. Think about your schedule for the week and pick up foods that will easily mold into that schedule. If you are busy then you need quick healthy choices. Make a weekly food plan so you know what will be cooked and prepared for the upcoming week. This will dramatically assist you to a healthier lifestyle. Do not make the excuse of “I don’t have time”. Just be organized and have better time management.

7. Indulge once in awhile. Life is not about having perfect eating habits. If you have been doing good, eating healthy and working out and if you are craving a certain food, then eat it! Don’t feel guilty or convince yourself you did something bad. When you are working out and putting in the work you can indulge once in awhile. But that “once in awhile” can not turn into numerous times a week. Be disciplined and have self control. Enjoying life to the fullest is having your health and taking full advantage of everything around you. Go out and make it happen!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shin Splints

The Nagging Shin Splints

Shin splints can stop you in your tracks in your training program. Technically known as tibial stress syndrome, shin splits cause dull, aching pain on the front side of your shins. Shin splints are inflammation of the periostium of the tibia (sheath surrounding the bone). There can be a number of reasons why shin splits are caused and I will go over a few:

1. Overuse and bad programming. This is probably the number one reason people have shin splints. Anything with “stress” in the diagnosis means you over did an activity. Your body was not prepared to handle the stress of the activity so inflammation happened. If your body is not prepared to run (usually the sport where shin splits occur), tibial stress syndrome will arise quickly. You must program your training wisely. Bad programming will definitely lead to shin splints because your body could not handle the high volume too quickly thus leading to overuse and injury.
2. Poor ankle mobility. When running your ankles need adequate range of motion. You need to be able to dorsi-flex freely (bring your foot up towards your shin). Poor ankle mobility will stress the shins each time you strike the ground during running. A simple drill for increased ankle mobility is to elevate your foot on a platform and drive your knee over your toes.
3. Overweight. When you run you put 3-4 times your bodyweight of pressure every time you strike the ground. If you weigh 180 pounds that is 540 pounds of shock each foot strike. Do the math and that is a lot of stress to your joints. If your body can’t handle the “stress”, stress happens. If you have extra weight on your frame and start running too much too soon, shin splints will happen.
4. Poor flexibility and functional movement. “Don’t run to get fit, be fit to run” is a quote by Diane Lee, a physical therapist in Canada. You must build your running mileage around a proper recovery and strength program. If you get strong, stable and flexible, you will run more efficiently and reduce your chance of shin splints or any other overuse injuries.

If you have shin splits, here are some remedies you can implement to relieve the pain:
• Drop the activity that caused shin splints until your pain subsides
• Ice massage - 5 minutes every hour (freeze a water bottle, cut the bottom 4 inches off of plastic to expose ice and massage the affected area)
• Soft tissue work with a massage stick, baseball or foam roll on your feet, calves and peronnials (side of the lower leg)
• Daily stretching
• Ankle mobility drills
• Feet and ankle strengthening - towel curl ups with your toes, calf raises, heel walks and dynamic warm-up barefoot
• Warm-up every single training session

Friday, February 11, 2011

What it Takes - A Fitness Business Journey

What It Takes – A Fitness Business Journey
BY: Justin Levine,

When I first decided that I wanted to have a gym of my own, I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t a business man. I was a great trainer. I had the connections, I had the clientele and I had the support. So I jumped on the tight rope. Unfortunately in business, there is no net below. Stepping into the fire, I quickly got familiar with the business ins and outs. Operating expenses, payroll, training employees, QuickBooks, profit margins, receivables, cash flow, marketing, working really long hours, etc.. The list can go on and on. Getting clients into shape was the easy part. The business side was the hard part. The one piece of advice that I was given from another business owner I knew was, “Just make more money than you spend.” Pretty simple concept right? Yes, there is some truth to that comment but it just isn’t that simple. In 3 years of being open, my business knowledge has expanded so much but I still have a long way to go.

Here is my story:

How it began
The first thing you need to do if you want to open a fitness facility is get really good at training. Don’t think you are ready if you have only been training clients for a couple of years. You need at least 5 years of training 30-40 hours a week. There is nothing better than being in the trenches. If you just know the business side of things but have no knowledge of the training, it will be very hard for you to make it. You have to have a passion for helping people change their lives! A fitness business will fail if you are not producing results. I first started training my friends in college. I would invite them to the gym to workout with me and I would devise “old school bodybuilding” routines for us to complete. I loved it! I went on to get my degree in Human Performance and Sport. When that was completed I was given an opportunity to work at Notre Dame University as a fitness facility intern. This is where I learned how to manage a fitness facility. I worked long hours and got paid very little. One of my job duties was to run students and staff through equipment orientations. I would teach them how to use the various machines around the gym. I took this job a bit further. I would sit down with them and discuss their goals and their current lifestyle habits. I then started designing individualized programs for these individuals. All of a sudden these people were getting results. Wow, it worked! Soon before you knew it, I had walk-on athletes coming to me and wanting to train with me. I began designing sport specific programs for these top level athletes. It was all done for free but I didn’t care because I loved doing it. Fitness became my life and my passion. I moved back to California (my home state) and lived in Los Angeles for 8 months. I worked at a mainstream-big box facility where I trained between 35-45 hours a week (training 35-45 hours a week is very demanding). And no it didn’t start that way. It took about 4 weeks, unpaid, of hanging out in the gym to start building my reputation. With a college degree and right out of an internship from Notre Dame, I was getting paid $9.00 a session. I would get to the gym at 5:30 am, then would take a short lunch break and then back at 3:00 and was there till 7:00 pm. Those were long days. I left that gym to come back to my hometown of Visalia. I quickly got a job at a private fitness facility. It was more my style. The atmosphere was family oriented and I had already known quite a few people there. I started with 1 client. That is right….1 CLIENT! This 13 year old kid was my prized client. I trained him like he was a professional athlete. Next thing you knew I had 2 clients, 4 clients, then a full schedule. It took about 2 months for me to build my reputation and schedule. It did not happen overnight.

Taking the Leap
I had reinvented the personal training department at this facility. Soon before you knew it my schedule was so packed that I had to give clients to other trainers. But again, it did not just happen. I was working my ass off. I remember some nights around 7:00 pm; I would be on my 12th session of the day, leaning on a piece of equipment because I was so tired. Once I had worked at this private fitness facility for 3 years, it was time to make a change. I needed more of a challenge. I was training nothing but 1 on 1 sessions, working 9-12 hour days/6 days a week and my pay had pretty much topped off. It was grueling, draining and financially tough. I had built a very solid relationship with a father of two kids I had been training for 2 years. He told me that I had “changed his kids’ lives”. He wanted to help me out. He told me that whenever I was ready to start my own gym to let him know and he would be my private investor. I was in awe. I could not believe someone would do this for me. I thought it over for sometime and continued to train. I waited about another 6 months and then decided to take him up on his offer. Again, I made a connection with another client who happened to know a commercial real estate agent. This agent had a facility he wanted me to check out. It was the one! By the way this real estate agent is now a client of mine. Another lesson to be learned, Make Connections!
I didn’t do anything right at the start. I created an unorganized budget, I had no clue about start-up costs and I did not have a business plan. Again, I knew how to train, I knew how to work with people, and I had a passion towards fitness. About 1 year into it, I finally took the time to create these things, which has helped the business tremendously. I believe in what Brian Tracy says, “Just get it done 80% and then go back and tweak. But just start!” I had about 10 clients to start out with. Before you knew it I was hiring 2 trainers to work for me because those 10 clients doubled to 20. Next thing you know a junior college softball team was training at our facility. Now we have over 70 clients and athletes and 4 trainers that are apart of California Fitness Academy.

Now that I am in the Fire
Read! Learn! Train! Read! Learn! Train! Apply! I spend most of my time training clients. That is what I love doing but when I am not doing that I am reading and learning. I have figured out that the older I get, the less I know and the more I have to learn. There is so much knowledge out there. And the crazy part is that this information is very accessible. Whether it is in a book, a video, a website or a blog, the education is out there. Here is what I am constantly reading and following on a daily basis:,, Thomas Plummer, Todd Durkin, Core Performance and Brian Tracy.
Owning your own business is a double edged sword. You can make your own hours but end up working all day anyways. You are your own boss but for me I am tougher on myself than any other person can be. You do not really get a set paycheck which is good and bad. Financially you can have a really good month and follow it up with a really bad month. You take responsibility for when everything is going great but you also take responsibility when something is not going right. I have so much to learn and have so much room for growth. Have I made it yet? Not to where I want to be. It is just a matter of time. This shit does not just happen overnight. I learn from the big dogs in the industry (Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Mark Verstegen, and Todd Durkin). These are the guys that keep me inspired and motivated to get better. I see what they have built and I want that. Would I do it again if I could? Hell Yes! To me, life would be boring without challenges.

Here is a little bit of advice for someone trying to start their own fitness business: work your ass off, do not settle for average, read everything and expect to be at your gym more than home. But GO FOR IT! If you have the determination and the want to make it happen, you will!

5 Things I would have changed if I could do it all over:
1. I should have looked for a more cost efficient building. The building I am in now is nice but too expensive. I am already trying to sub-lease it out so I can move to a more cost and space efficient building. I needed to be more patient with this process.
2. I would not get the real turf with the little black rubber pellets. This stuff is messy and annoying. My clients always complain about how it ends up everywhere at their homes. I even get some clients who accidentally swallow one or it slips into their ears. Not good! My next flooring will just be normal turf.
3. I paid too much for start-up equipment. I should of just started with necessities (dumbbells, med. Balls, bikes). I love the Keisers and power racks but I probably did not need those to start with.
4. Read more business related material. Especially Thomas Plummer, Pat Rigsby, and Ryan Lee. I should have started this right off the bat. Education is the path to a better business.
5. Meet with a business coach. Or even just a mentor who is willing to guide you along. A business coach will keep you accountable and on your toes. To me this is mandatory.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Random Thoughts Before Superbowl

I sit here watching the Superbowl pregame festivities and think to myself, "man, the writing bug comes at odd times." Thoughts, ideas, answers, motivation and drive all approach my mind as we wait for not only the Superbowl but my wife to have our first child (which could happen anytime). Here are some random thoughts to get you and your mind thinking:

1. For over a year now, I have been disciplined to create my weekly schedule. I have a simple spreadsheet with 30 minute blocks for each day. From the moment I get up and from the moment I leave work I manually write all of my appointments, my break times, my workouts and any personal responsibilities into this template. It sits right under my keyboard at work so I can glance at it at any time during the day. This has been a great way to increase productivity during the day because it allows me to construct my day precisely. We can not make the day longer but we can use our time more efficiently. This strategy improves my management of time and keeps me moving efficiently towards my goals. I am anal with this small task. I sit down on Friday afternoons and create the schedule for the upcoming week. When I show up to work Monday morning the plan is created and then I get to work. Sometimes we show up to work out a plan of action or random tasks to handle and we have nothing written down. You can accomplish a few things on your "to do" list with this method but you will also have wasted time. Thirty minutes of wasted time every day for a year adds up to over 10,000 minutes or 60 hours. A lot can be achieved in 60 hours so make the most of your time and start by writing out your weekly schedule every week.

2. If you are forced to do your longer runs on a treadmill, don't fret because I have a workout that will make time fly by fast. Whenver I run on the treadmill I make the focus on efficiency instead of volume. I might not hit those super long runs (over 16 miles) but I can run those medium distance training runs (8-13) but what's more important is there will be structure and focus during the time I am on the treadmill. Give this workout a try next time you are on the treadmill:
Workout #1: 15 minutes of ez running, 10x30 second pick-ups/30 second ez running, 2 minutes cruise then hit Main set #1: 5 x 5 minutes tempo running (this is a pace that will be a bit slower than your 10k race pace), 2 minutes of ez running for recovery, 2 minute cruise after the first main set is over, then main set #2: 8 x 1 minute hill runs, this should be between 5-8% hills and keep your pace steady and consistent (not a hard run)/1 minute easy jog for recover, and finish with 5 minutes of running
Total: 83 minutes

3. The workout structure that we all need to be following should incorporate some foam rolling, flexibility, mobility for the joints that need it, stability for the joints that need it, balanced strength training, and high intensity conditioning. If you are going for gaining lean muscle mass, shedding body fat, improving coordination, movement and strength then this should be your design. Don't skip parts. If you skip the peanut butter in a PB/J sandwich, you get a weak sandwich. Here is a breakdown of a great way to design your program and get everything you need in less than 60 minutes:
Foam Roll: 5 minutes
Stretch: 5 minutes
Movement Preparation: 10 minutes
Power/Core work: 8 minutes
Strength work: 25 minutes
Conditioning/Finisher: 5 minutes
Total: 58 minutes

4. Books you need to read: "4 Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz, "The Generosity Factor" by Ken Blanchard, "The Art of Exceptional Living" by Jim Rohn (CD), "Impact Body Plan", by Todd Durkin

5. The top five "core" exercises are probably what most people do not do. #1. The Pallof Press: this exercise is a rotary stability move that will strengthen the anti-rotational muscles in our abdominal wall. Start with standing, then move to tall kneeling, then move to 1/2 kneeling. This movement will challenge your stability and give you the strength you need to move more efficiently. #2 Farmer Walks: This is a great strength exercise as well. Not only will you build your ab wall for stability and strength but you will add in forearm strength and rotator cuff strength. It's simple too, just pick up a pair of dumbbells and walk up to 20 yards with good tight posture. #3 Plank/Side Plank: In terms of simplicity and logistics, the plank is the best because it can be done anywhere with many different variations. The plank teaches the anti-extension muscles to be strong and keep the back from unwanted stress from daily movement. There are many different variations. Start with 5-10 second short intervals, focusing on tightening the whole ab wall. Build to where you can hold for 60 seconds. Master the simpler versions before adding in the tougher versions. #4 Core Rollouts: All you need is the ab roller or a stability ball to perform this exercise. This challenging move works the anti-rotation muscles that are needed to keep the back safe. Make sure to learn how to perform this move the correct way. Ask a qualified coach to teach you this move. If you feel it in the low back, you are not doing the move right. #5 Cable chop/lifts: another rotary stability exercise that creates strength in the ab wall and builds connection between your shoulders, hips, and core. This move teaches the ab wall to be strong, stable and elastic. Start on both knees, then move to 1/2 kneeling and then move to standing. Stay tall and tight during this move.

6. Today's menu for Superbowl: Breakfast - bell pepper egg scramble with gluten free pancakes and fresh strawberries, bananas and blueberries. Lunch - Turkey melts with bell peppers and avocados. Dinner - Tortilla soup. Add in a couple of beers and we have ourselves a great day of chillin', watching the big game.

7. I honestly think flexibility dysfunction causes more problems than we think. Flexibility is the range of motion of muscles. When muscles are tight we restrict movement and then compensate through other areas of the body. Endurance athletes in particular need to implement flexibility sessions into their weekly schedule to stay lengthened, keep their muscles durable, and to aide in the recovery process. Stretching is all about good position. Make sure you have good posture when you stretch. Be strict with each move and understand that you need mild discomfort not sharp pain. You can perform static stretching which is stretching longer than 30seconds. And you can perform active stretching which is stretching each stretch for 3-10 seconds and then repeating. This is a great method of stretching as it reinforces the stretch/flex cycle our muscles go through during sport.

8. Smile more. If you get caught up in the stresses of life you need to take a deep breath, relax and smile! Smiling creates a feel good feeling. First thing in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror, smile and tell yourself you are going to give it your best effort in that day. Smiling is a great way to start your day and is a great way to erase negative feelings. Do it more!

9. The body is capable of doing so much. We have so much potential but unfortunately we limit our abilities. Don't settle for just being average. We can take our bodies and our abilities to ultimate levels. It's just a mindset. Have the mindset to work, work hard and work some more. Don't sit and wait for that winning lotto ticket. We must create our own luck and our own significance. We must go out and get what we want with hard work, drive and discipline. It's doing the little things over and over and over again for a long time. Then things start happening to you. And don't stop when things don't go your way. Let that be a sign to you to work harder, get better and be more motivated. How you handle setbacks and challenging times will define your character. So set big goals, believe you can do huge things and put in the work and persistency to make it happen. EverDAY is important!

10. Packers or Steelers? It looks like it could be a great game. But I am picking Packers 24-21 in overtime. Have a great day today and have an even better week!

Past writings