My week at Hit it! Fitness in Oak Park

Have you heard of Hit It! Fitness? If you’ve ever been upset or angry, you’re likely aware of how great it feels to hit stuff. I discovered this thrill through the years I spent practicing martial arts (both Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu). When I was given the opportunity to try out a free…

My week at Hit it! Fitness in Oak Park was originally published on Self Evolve

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Have you heard of Hit It! Fitness?

Hit It! FitnessIf you’ve ever been upset or angry, you’re likely aware of how great it feels to hit stuff. I discovered this thrill through the years I spent practicing martial arts (both Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu). When I was given the opportunity to try out a free week of classes at Hit It! Fitness, I signed up right away. Because of my crazy work schedule, I only got to try out three early morning classes. But they kicked my butt! Here’s my review of the three classes I took and why I would go back for more.

Strength training

The first class I took was Monday morning and it was appropriately named Hit It! HardBODY. It consisted of stations of strength training that focused on doing sets of 12 reps (heavy) and sets of 24 reps (bodyweight movements). After the class, I felt every muscle in my body was attacked. While we didn’t hit anything, I still felt like I got some frustrations out.

Tabata training

Some of my favorite cardio sessions consist of HIIT or tabata training. Hit It! Fitness brought me to the next level with their tabata class on Wednesday. We made our way around the 14 station circuit twice. The first round was 60 seconds of work, 30 seconds rest and the second round was 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds rest. By the end of the 50 minute class, I could barely move. Definitely made me rethink my cardio routine.

Boxing Bootcamp

This class was hands-down my favorite. First of all, it took me right back to my years of Kung Fu training and made me miss it deeply. Secondly, I got to hit things and get all my frustrations out. The class consisted of six stations which we rotated through twice. The first round consisted of 3 minutes on with 30-45 seconds rest and the second round was 2 minutes on with 30 seconds rest between sets. Needless to say, I got my money’s worth in this class. And to be completely honest, this is the class I would pay money for.

Overall, I had a great experience at Hit It! Fitness in Oak Park. For anyone looking for fun and exciting workouts, I would recommend this place highly. Check out their website HERE.

 

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My week at Hit it! Fitness in Oak Park was originally published on Self Evolve

Find your power: get explosive by adding plyometrics

Get plyometric! Jumping isn’t only for basketball players. The right explosive exercises can help make your next run feel lighter and faster than ever. Most runners think about speed work, hills, and strength training to improve their run times, but often overlook adding power. Adding plyometrics- explosive, energy-honing exercises- to your training can make your…

Find your power: get explosive by adding plyometrics was originally published on Self Evolve

Get plyometric!

Jumping isn’t only for basketball players. The right explosive exercises can help make your next run feel lighter and faster than ever. Most runners think about speed work, hills, and strength training to improve their run times, but often overlook adding power. Adding plyometrics- explosive, energy-honing exercises- to your training can make your usual miles feel like you’ve switched to warp-speed mode. Plyometrics help convert strength into speed and explosive power.

What is it?

“Plyometrics involve a fast, high-intensity, involuntary eccentric contraction of the muscles and tendons, followed by an immediate, powerful concentric contraction,” Adam Rosante, strength and performance coach and founder of the Montauk Barbell Club. There are a lot of exercises that may look plyometric (i.e. box jumps, squat jumps, jumping lunges) but don’t fit the true definition. In order for it to be considered plyo, it has to be executed in less than two-tenths of a second. This is the amount of time in which your body can experience the shock that elicits the involuntary stretch, and use the accumulated energy for the returned action. The key to doing this well is a small number of good reps.

Slash seconds off your time

Studies show that just a month of performing traditional, resistance, or assisted plyo programs two to three times a week cuts seconds off sprint and agility times. They also show an increase in running economy and performance. But the right exercises are needed in order for this to be effective. When incorporating plyometrics into your workout routine, be sure to do them at the beginning of a strength-training day, before a run, or on it’s own for a quick power session. Then give yourself a 2 to 3 days break from plyos. Try this routine (do 3 sets of each exercise):

  • Depth jumps. Stand on a raised platform, such as a box or bench, toes on the edge. Step out and drop straight down (don’t jump). When you land, immediately jump straight up. Land softly. Do 6 to 8 reps.
  • Hurdle hops. Set up four to six 10 to 12 inch hurdles in a straight line, one in front of the other. Leave about 3 feet of space between each. Lower into a quarter-squat and explosively jump over each hurdle, making minimal contact with the ground and moving as fast as possible. Do 4 to 6 reps. To increase difficulty, move the hurdles either closer together or further apart. Change is up by not putting them in a straight line and incorporating lateral hops as well.
  • Depth jump into med-ball throw. Stand at the edge of a raised platform, holding a medicine ball with an underhand grip. Step off the platform and drop straight down. As soon as your feet hit the floor, jump up and throw the ball as high and far behind you as possible. Do 6 to 8 reps. Try not to throw the ball at anyone nearby.
  • Ankle jumps. Stand tall with both feet together. Bend knees slightly and jump straight up. While in the air, pull your toes toward your shins, emphasizing flexion at the ankle joint. You won’t jump very high, due to limited knee involvement. Do 6 to 8 reps.
  • Running leaps. From standing, take a few approach steps, keeping your body as low as possible, then leap off your left leg. Land on right leg and immediately push off again as quickly as possible (it should look like an exaggerated running form). That’s 1 rep. Do 6 to 8 reps.

Do you incorporate plyometrics in your workouts?

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Find your power: get explosive by adding plyometrics was originally published on Self Evolve

Pizza and Beer: You can’t out-train a bad diet

I’m guilty as charged There are days where I just say “F it” and eat whatever I want. While these days are few and far between, I used to have these days all the time. There was at least a solid year when I was working out 3-5 times a week all while going home…

Pizza and Beer: You can’t out-train a bad diet was originally published on Self Evolve

I’m guilty as charged

bad dietThere are days where I just say “F it” and eat whatever I want. While these days are few and far between, I used to have these days all the time. There was at least a solid year when I was working out 3-5 times a week all while going home and pigging out on pizza 3-5 times a week. Ok, maybe not that bad, but it wasn’t good. My diet was crap, and you know what else was crap? How I felt. After suffering through the side effects of a year of this bad diet, I decided to completely change what and how I ate. And while now-a-days my diet isn’t as strict, I’ve found a happy middle ground between extreme dieting and eating whatever I want.

Even the world’s best trainer can’t out-train a bad diet

You could train 5 to 6 days a week with the best trainer in the world (i.e. me) but even then you couldn’t go home and pig out on pizza and beer everyday. I’m not saying you can never have these things, but to eat and drink them everyday is just too hard to combat via exercise. Also, a high carb diet will only help you so much. Without proper protein and the right fats, it will be very hard for your muscles to repair and grow stronger after a strength training session or a hard run

Many runners have an attitude that they will burn off whatever they eat. This may seem to be the case because you run and don’t gain weight despite eating whatever you want. But just because the number on the scale seems healthy, doesn’t mean your diet isn’t doing damage on the inside. Overindulgence in simple sugars is the single most common dietary transgression among any endurance athletes, especially runners. I.e. white bread, white pasta, white rice and refined sugars. Large portions of these will turn into bad molecules, bad types of fat, and bad oxidative sugar species- things that do damage to the heart vessels. 

Still, runners often hear mixed messages about how exercise can erase the ills of a junk food habit. Especially high-intensity sessions. While this may be the case over a few weeks, if you continue to have a bad diet for years there will be long-term effects. No matter how much you run or workout, you can’t outrun a bad diet.

Always hungry

But I’m always hungry! That’s because all you eat is carbs! Up the proteins and fats and you’ll feel full for longer. Carbs are important, but if they are the main source of your calories you’ll likely be eating an entire bag of chips rather than just a few. 

Do you try to out-run a bad diet?

 

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Pizza and Beer: You can’t out-train a bad diet was originally published on Self Evolve

Enjoy the great indoors: Bring your run inside

Standard treadmills are so yesterday.. Gone are the days of boring treadmill workouts. With the latest and greatest, indoor workouts for runners are actually enjoyable. Not only that, they are also helpful for runners to train smarter, recover faster, and prevent injury. Even though the weather is getting warmer, you still may want to bring…

Enjoy the great indoors: Bring your run inside was originally published on Self Evolve

Standard treadmills are so yesterday..

run insideGone are the days of boring treadmill workouts. With the latest and greatest, indoor workouts for runners are actually enjoyable. Not only that, they are also helpful for runners to train smarter, recover faster, and prevent injury. Even though the weather is getting warmer, you still may want to bring your run inside.

Sproing Fitness

Science shows that cross-training is a necessary component of any running routine. Sproing Fitness (Chicago) takes this to another level. They incorporate running, plyometrics, stability and strength work all into one 45-minute HIIT-style routine on an unique device. The Sproing is a treadmill-like machine that has an air bladder rather than a moving belt in order to customize the surface. You’ll cinch a waist-level harness which allows you to fall forward while running which lets you maintain proper form, land on your forefoot and avoid heel-striking. The class setup is intervals of 20 or 30 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. The workout transitions through a mix of forward and backward running, strength moves, and explosive exercises.

This adds up to a sweat-filled session that targets and builds the important muscles that runners rely on for faster splits and more power. The low-impact component yields rewards such as protecting the joints and back.

Precision Running Lab

Equinox (Boston) has a new Precision Running Lab where despite running on a treadmill, it feels like you’re running outside. David Siik, senior manager of running at Equinox, wanted to bring the outdoors in with this experience. Even the music is scientifically-backed in providing motivation but not distraction. The music is nonlyrical, with driving beats. A Precision class has 90 to 117 four-second light changes that cue runners as they go. And the treadmill saves your speed once you maintain a pace for 20 seconds rather than have you push buttons while running.

Another important factor? The oxygen. The studio has a filtration system that purges nitrogen and raises O2, helping to keep your lungs full and your head clear. The result is an immersive experience, focused on the workout.

Have you tried these fitness studios? Do you run inside?

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Top rowing mistakes and how to fix them

Rowing is great cardio If you haven’t tried rowing yet, you should. It’s a great form of cardio that hits all the major muscle groups, including your legs, back, and abs. But if not done properly, you can easily injure yourself. Ain’t nobody got time for injuries! These are the top rowing mistakes I see…

Top rowing mistakes and how to fix them was originally published on Self Evolve

Rowing is great cardio

rowingIf you haven’t tried rowing yet, you should. It’s a great form of cardio that hits all the major muscle groups, including your legs, back, and abs. But if not done properly, you can easily injure yourself. Ain’t nobody got time for injuries! These are the top rowing mistakes I see on a daily basis and simple ways to fix them.

Avoid these rowing mistakes

  1. Not checking the damper setting. You’d be surprised at how many people don’t even know what I’m talking about when I mention the damper setting. Many new rowers just start rowing without checking the lever on the side of the air-resistant flywheel. Also, some people will set this too high. It’s ideal to set it between three and five since this is most similar to being on water.
  2.  Rowing with only your arms. Rowers have amazing built upper bodies, so you’re ready to pull the handle with all your might, right? Wrong! Putting too much pressure on your arms, shoulders and back can cause serious injury. About 60 percent of your power should come from pushing with your legs, 20 percent from engaging your core, and 20 percent from pulling with your arms. 
  3. Mixing up the order. Firing the arms and legs at the same time may feel right, but this will put unnecessary strain on your upper body. There’s a three-step process to the rowing stroke. Focus on pushing with the legs first, next pivoting backward at the hips so your shoulders pass your pelvis (you should be in a slight lay back) and then pulling the arms into your chest. A good target for your hands is the place on your chest where you would bench press below your ribs. Once your hands are pulled into your chest, reverse the order to go back to starting position, and repeat.
  4. Hunchback. If you normally round your back when sitting at your desk at work, you’ll likely do the same thing when you sit down at a rower. Focus on turning on your abdominal muscles and relaxing your shoulders so they are pulled down and back. Keep your spine aligned.
  5. Rushing. You’re in the zone, taking strokes as fast as possible towards that imaginary finish line. Problem is, your seat keeps slamming into the front of the rower and your body is jerking forward uncontrollably. To regain control, pay attention to the timing of your strokes. The stroke’s ratio should be a 1:2 count, meaning that the body should expend lots of energy quickly at the drive, while the second half of the stroke should be more relaxed and controlled. Having a calm and collected recovery will prevent your seat from smashing frantically into the front of the rower.

Do you row?

ROW, or Recovery on Water, is a Chicago-based rowing team that gives survivors of breast cancer a unique opportunity to interact, become active in their recovery, and gain support from fellow survivors. Check out these local ROW classes in Bridgeport to up your row game. John A. teaches these classes; who’s a training client and a workout friend of mine.

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Top rowing mistakes and how to fix them was originally published on Self Evolve

Dorsiflexion: Flex for speed

The need for speed We all want to be faster, regardless of ability or pace. There’s a part of me that wants to run another marathon only to run it faster. Not sure when I will, but I have a feeling another marathon is in my future. You can turn to a structured plan and…

Dorsiflexion: Flex for speed was originally published on Self Evolve

The need for speed

dorsiflexionWe all want to be faster, regardless of ability or pace. There’s a part of me that wants to run another marathon only to run it faster. Not sure when I will, but I have a feeling another marathon is in my future. You can turn to a structured plan and training methods to help up your pace and efficiency, but one of the best places to start is with body mechanics. Focusing on ankle dorsiflexion, i.e. moving your toes towards your shins or flexing your ankle, during your next run is one tiny tweak that can yield big benefits for all runners.

Pretend to run through wet grass

Run like you just got a fresh pair of white kicks that you’re trying to keep clean while running through wet grass. This simple tweak immediately improves running mechanics. The idea is to decrease ground contact time. The lighter you are on your feet, the faster you run. A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise compared elite and novice runners on different terrains and found that the elites exhibited more ankle dorsiflexion at toe-off when running at the fastest speeds. Another study showed that as you start picking up the pace, the body lowers its center of gravity by increasing flexion of the hips and knees and dorsiflexion of the ankle.

Less time on the ground = faster race times

It’s estimated that runners who pull their toes up spend 1 or 2 percent less time on the ground. This may not seem like a lot, but it can add up to seconds, even minutes, shaved off a race time. Rather than landing toes first, or forefoot striking, dorsiflexion favors a midfoot landing. Keep in mind it takes time to alter mechanics. It’s best to focus on a tiny tweak for a small segment of the run (i.e. 100 meters or two to five minutes), and gently increasing from there. Before you know it, you’ll be flexing without thinking about it.

What do you do to run faster?

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Dorsiflexion: Flex for speed was originally published on Self Evolve

Zero gains: 5 reasons your workout isn’t working

Working out is hard.. But when you feel your body becoming stronger, your energy levels increasing, and your pants feeling looser, it’s worth it. The problem is, at one point or another, everyone has put in work and felt like they were reaping zero gains. Besides being very frustrating, it can cause even “gym rats”…

Zero gains: 5 reasons your workout isn’t working was originally published on Self Evolve

Working out is hard..

But when you feel your body becoming stronger, your energy levels increasing, and your pants feeling looser, it’s worth it. The problem is, at one point or another, everyone has put in work and felt like they were reaping zero gains. Besides being very frustrating, it can cause even “gym rats” to throw in the towel. Sound familiar?

Not anymore. Below are five main reasons you may not be seeing the fitness results you want, plus easy ways to get your workout working for you.

  1. You’re doing the same ol’ thing. Whatever you do, whether it’s sitting on the couch watching Netflix or running 5 miles a day, your body gets used to it. Your body is an amazing adaptive machine, it gets stronger and adds more muscle when you lift weights. With cardio, your body adepts by increasing endurance and aerobic capacity. If you do the same thing workout after workout, your body will stop changing. You have to change it up! The fix: progressive overload. Once you feel like your workout is getting easier, add more weights or reps to your strength routine, run faster or farther, or try more advanced progressions of your favorite yoga pose.
  2. You wing it. On the opposite side of the spectrum, some people change their workout up too often. Hopping between different programs goes against the concept of progressive overload. This doesn’t let you advance in any particular program. The fix: pick one discipline to be your bread-and-butter for at least a few months at a time. You can always sprinkle in other types of workouts to keep things interesting, but you should feel like you’re getting better at something.
  3. Your body’s stressed out. A bad breakup, work drama, financial troubles, processed foods and crappy sleep can trigger a stress response in your body. Cortisol and inflammation levels can increase and over time your body could start breaking down rather than building strength. The fix: You have to reduce the amount of stress in your life. If you can, cut back on the hours of work you do or your workouts if needed. But you will need those workouts to get more fit, so focusing on what outside force is stressing you out and trying to manage that is ideal.
  4. You try to crunch your way to a flat stomach. Spot training is a myth that just won’t die. Abs are some of the smaller muscles we have, and core exercises burn a low amount of calories because of this. The fix: If you want a flat stomach, you have to build muscle everywhere rather than just your abs. Focus on compound, total-body exercises like squats, deadlifts, and burpees to work out your body’s largest muscle groups.
  5. You’re eating too much- or too little. The foods you eat can either fuel your workouts or completely counteract them. Some people deprive themselves of calories and carbs they really need to workout, whereas others will eat a package of Oreo’s after moving around some dumb-bells at the gym. While the former can make you feel sluggish, cause your muscles to break down and actually slow your metabolism, the latter can easily cause you to take in more calories than you’re burning – even if you’re counting calories. The fix: Treat food as something that should fuel your body both in and out of the gym, rather than something that either 1) makes you fat and should be kept to the bare minimum or 2) is your reward for hitting the gym. That mind shift takes work, but it will help you keep your diet balanced and allow your workouts to show.

What do you do to avoid zero gains?

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Zero gains: 5 reasons your workout isn’t working was originally published on Self Evolve