As the Blizzard Blows

Blizzard

I’m writing this article on the eve of a blizzard bearing down on the East Coast.  Having spent a majority of my life in northern climates, I’ve come to expect whatever Mother Nature chooses to throw my way.  However, I also believe in the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so a little time spent preparing for power outages and snowpack is certainly well spent.  We now have extra supplies of water and batteries with a row of flashlights and candles set up on the kitchen counter.  The cell phones and tablets — definite necessities! -  are fully charged and an emergency radio is also nearby.  Isn’t it funny how so many of us heed the warnings of an imminent threat but fail to properly prepare for catastrophes that may be far more devastating when it comes to our health?  Over the next few weeks, we’ll focus on how to prevent diseases with proper planning. 

Beat the Blahs

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Typically, I am an early morning workout advocate.  I love getting outside, pumping fresh air through my lungs and starting the day like Rocky training to take on Apollo Creed, minus the raw egg cocktail, of course.  Lately, as the temperatures seem determined to linger well below zero, my mornings are a bit less inspiring as I’m more inclined to curl up on the couch with a warm cup of tea.  Hardly a rousing way to start the day, I’ll admit.  The good news is that I rally quickly and make it a priority to get a good workout in even if it is indoors on the treadmill next to the wood stove!  Often, winter takes its toll on our fitness intentions and there may be a very good reason for it.

Put on your Skinny Genes

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We have a new family who just moved in next door.  They are from California so our harsh Maine winter is beginning to take it’s toll.  Fortunately, they love to entertain and to cook.  Those traits gain them big points in our neighborhood.  Unfortunately, the daughters are half Greek and make a decadent baklava.  Needless to say, I’m spending the better part of the New Year on the treadmill!  Actually, I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions and fad diets or exercise programs that are unsustainable for most folks by February.  It may sound bland, but consistent exercise and a balanced diet are always the best long term approach to good health and weight maintenance.  There may be other factors in play, however, that may help you revamp your resolutions once and for all.

NikkiFitness Two-​​Week Resolution Kick-​​start Plan!

Slimnastics

It’s here. 2015. To make sure you can accomplish your strength, cardio, toning and weight loss goals (not to mention those awesome, feel-​​good endorphins), follow my plan.

Visions of Sugar Plums

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It is a Christmas Eve tradition for my nephew, Lorenzo, to read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, so every time I think about that captivating poem, memories of the past five Christmases we’ve spent together fill my heart.  From sledding down a mountainside to ice skating on a crystal clear lake to getting stuck in an assortment of ice, snow and sleet storms, all of our Christmas adventures have one thing in common — precious time spent together.  This year, we’ll have to rely on technology (as so many families, especially our military do) to bring us together.  So, I appreciate your indulgence in sharing this Christmas message along with a few fun tips to help you enjoy some holiday cheer wherever you are this year. 

Sleepin’ Like Santa

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While the rest of the world may rationalize away this season as a homogenized, hectic and hassle-​​filled holiday, I, on the other hand, confess my allegiance as an unapologetic, unabashed, unrelenting fan of Santa Claus.  That’s right, I love that rosy cheeked big boy with all the toys…which may explain my obsession with all things Christmas, especially the perpetual parade of holiday movies that re-​​rack every December.  From the quintessential struggle of a family man finding purpose in “It’s a Wonderful Life” to a reluctant father whose fate intersects with misfortune in “The Santa Clause,” I’m certain I can recite every line by heart.  What’s interesting about both of these men is that they find themselves at the end of their tether and something magical happens that changes their lives and the lives of the people they love forever.  The good news is that your change of fortune may be easier to attain than you believe.  

Heavy Hump Day (Workout #26)

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Here is the 26th favorite workout of the week posted on the Military​.com Fitness Forums.

During the winter cycle, we start to add in more heavy lifting workouts but we always like to keep with the “heavy weights of the PT exercise world” — the pullup.  You can also add in some weighted pullup sets if you prefer.  Here is a fun cycle of building up to near 1 rep max level weight in the following lifts:

How to Power Down

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I come from a long line of bargain hunters and deal-​​makers which is why I’m not getting much sleep this time of year as I scour the internet for the end-​​of-​​the-​​year bargains like I did last night.  It seems that beyond the traditional black friday bargains, stores are constantly enticing us all with deep discounts and slashed prices on items that we previously never needed but now can’t afford not to buy!  While this logic makes perfect sense to self-​​confessed shopaholics like myself, it also has some unintended consequences beyond a ballooning credit card bill.  A season overloaded with Christmas gift shopping lists, catalog-​​stuffed mailboxes, holiday party crammed schedules, and the crush of crowds traveling this time of year, long days inevitably lead to short, sleepless nights.  If you’re having trouble catching your ZZZ’s, check out these five simple tips to power down before you have to gear up again.

NikkiFitness Faves: Winter Workout Holiday Gift Guide 2014

Nano Foot Roller

Kick off fitness resolutions with holiday gifts from head to toe and hydration!

Reverse Pyramid Workout (#25)

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This workout was done years ago using calisthenics only while deployed on a submarine for a few weeks doing OPS in the Med.   Many people ask about good underway workouts so the calisthenics version is a great one.  The second version that we did this week is a combination of many calisthenics exercises and lifts:

Calisthenics version:  Reverse Pyramid from 25 to 1.  Start off with 25 reps of a few exercises that focuses on legs, abs, lowerback, and upperbody.  An advanced challenge is the following:

Squats, Pushups, Crunches /​ Situps, and Plank pose (rep per second) — do 25 of each, then 24, 23, 22,21, 20…all the way down to 1.  Totals 325 reps of each exercise.  For an added break, every 5 sets do a 5 minute cardio of run, bike, or elliptical.

Weight Cycle Spartan 300

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Here is another way to build a Spartan 300 but with a weighted version of exercises in five different categories to get a fullbody workout:

Here are the movements of the body that when arranged like this insures a full body and balanced workout:

Push — Pick bigger movements like bench press or military press /​ some push press too.

Pull — Do weighted pullups, pulldowns, heavy rows

Leg — Exercises with moderate weight like squats, lunges, leg press

Full — These are more dynamic movements like dead lift, power clean, hang clean, thrusters, but easier versions too like the MJDB — multi-​​joint dumbbell exercise.  (Take out the tricep ext if weight is too heavy)

Abs /​ Core — Mix in plank poses per cycle as well as weighted abs exercises.

Beyond the Bird

wildTurkeysCrabOrchard

With the Thanksgiving holiday upcoming, chances are you’ve got a lot on your plate to do, that is, before you have a lot on your plate to eat!  For most, Thanksgiving is a great time to get together with family and friends, eat too much, and move too little.  While I don’t begrudge your well-​​deserved R&R, taking too much time off from your workout regimen and healthy eating habits can take its toll.  Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to stick with your program, keep inflammation at bay, and reduce injury.

Turkey Day Workout

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Enjoy a fun and effective workout the morning of Thanksgiving whether you are at home or travelling.  Here is one of our training group favorites to burn some calories and not feel horribly guilty for eating most of the day and sitting on your butt watching football.

If you cannot find a place to train or travelling out of town on Thanksgiving, here is a fun one you can do just about anywhere:

- Find a place to do pullups (local playground, monkey bars, park, build your own, use the TRX)

Mix in some running or rucking intervals into a big PT day.  We like to mix in several 1 mile runs so you total 4–5 miles of running mixed with as many rounds of pullups, pushups, abs, squats, lunges as well.

Oh My Aching…

Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Kachmar

We just put the finishing touches on our latest project…a custom-​​built bar made out of reclaimed barn boards, posts, and a massive slab of live-​​edge pine as the bar top.  Mark can now boast that he has an official man-​​cave!  The project required a lot of mental energy and more than a few trips up and down the stairs to get it done.  In the end and by some miracle of construction and design prowess which comes naturally to neither of us, everything ended up level, plumb, and square.  No small feat when you’re dealing with 100+ year old lumber, a tile floor and unskilled labor!  The keys to our success were patience and preparation.  Those qualities rarely translate to others areas of my life especially when it comes to working out.  If you find yourself diving in too fast, you may be surprised by the latest research.

Workout of the Week (#22) — First 5 x 5

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As the weather gets cooler up here in the Northern hemisphere, we typically transition from the higher rep calisthenics, mileage of runs, and move toward the heavier lifting cycles, some cold weather rucking, and indoor swimming for a healthy mix of non impact cardio.  If you do not have a pool and cannot swim with fins for 1–2 miles of cardio, try the stationary bike, elliptical, rower or a SPIN class even.  Here is our first 5 x 5 workout of the season.

Strong Defense, Part II

(Ohio National Guard photo by Cpl. Daniel Eddy)

Like most football fans around the country, I took some time out of a busy weekend to catch some college and professional football games.  Since I married a Buckeye, please forgive the indulgence when I brag on his favorite team for a moment.  On Saturday night, the Buckeyes dominated one of their top rivals, Michigan State.  Now, the biggest challenge here is that Mark’s parents and brother are Michigan State alumnus.  Fortunately, the family enjoys healthy competition and,win or lose, everyone appreciates a good competition.  The Buckeyes knew their opponent well and despite a more seasoned challenger, this young and agile football team stuck with their game plan and executed it nearly flawlessly.  This season, it’s good to know your opponents well and have a strong plan to keep you and your immune system in the game.

Workout of the Week (#21)

Combat Swimmer Stroke

We developed a new workout this week using a theme often used in the swimming workouts by making pyramids of the following distances:  500, 400,300,200,100.   Check out the adjustment to exercises and reps:

Warmup with burpee pyramid run:  1 burpee — 50m run, 2 burpee — 50m run, …3,4,5…stop at 10 = 55burpees

Stair crawl — (up /​ down 1 flight in bear crawl mode)

How To Build Bigger, Stronger Pecs Using Functional Exercises

strong chest

One advantage of being in the military is having a fit body. But you can’t look buff without big pecs, so whether you’ve hit a plateau or you haven’t been focusing on your chest at all (tut tut!), this is a workout to help you work your chest region and get bigger, stronger pecs.

Strong Defense

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Over the weekend, we experienced our first snow of the season — yikes!  While the harsh weather stripped most of the remaining leaves from our trees, we have a pear tree outside of our front windows which remains in defiance of the looming winter weather.  Despite the storms, its leaves have yet to turn and all of its fruit remains on the branches.  That proved to be a sleep wrecker last night as the blustery winds caused it to sway against the bedroom window knocking us awake at unfortunate regular intervals.  This morning it got a much-​​needed trim and hopefully a gentle nudge that it’s time to hunker down.  Like nature, we all can get a little out of sync when the seasons change especially when we’re not prepared.  Here are three simple ways to put up your best defenses against winter and beyond. 

Periodization — Do I Need it?

Top fitness concerns for men

Here is a short but sweet question that requires a fairly lengthy answer to do it justice.  Periodization is nothing new to fitness and the training world, but it is one of those things that people have a hard time applying to their fitness program.  Here is the email question:

Stew, I am in my mid 40’s and have been doing roughly the same thing for more than a decade (run, lift, and some PT) – seems to be working for me.  I read about your periodization concept.  I think I understand the basics but what is periodization and why it is important to me?

The best definition I have seen:  Periodization is an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period of time.  (Kravitz)