Category Archives: fitness

3 Ways to Get the Most from Your Workouts

Here are 3 basic guidelines to help you take better care of yourself and make the most of your workouts. The more closely you follow them, the better prepared you will be for anything I might throw your way, and you’ll have way more fun.

I know what it’s like to run out of water in the middle of nowhere and force myself to press forward regardless of feeling lethargic, uncoordinated, and a little bit scared I was going to careen head-first off a cliff. Because I neglected to plan ahead, I set myself up for a potentially catastrophic emergency, a lesson I have learned repeatedly in my recent endurance training. Our bodies need to be fully hydrated well before starting a workout. You should be drinking at minimum 64 ounces daily. As you become more active, you sweat and breath more, which requires more water. As little as 5% dehydration can effect your energy and performance. Proper hydration also helps you insulate against the extremes of both hot and cold weather, aids in digestion, and a whole host of other functions. The minute you wake up, begin replenishing the water lost during the night. You can lose as much as 2 pounds just through exhalation during sleep, so one little glass of water isn’t going to cut it. Since Urban Agility workouts are only an hour, there’s absolutely no need to get fancy with your beverages. Unless you are recovering from an illness and are seriously dehydrated or you are training for an endurance event, water is the cheapest and most effective way to give you the necessary hydration, and it’s calorie free! In order to be ready to exercise properly, teach yourself to drink water throughout the day. Set a water bottle at your desk and remember to drink from it during posture breaks. Bring it with you in your car, drink from it at stop lights. Keep track of how often you refill it. About 1-2 hours before your workout, you should drink small amounts of water in order to maintain the proper levels. If, however, you have neglected to drink water until 30 minutes before your workout and then guzzle down a quart just before or during, all you’re going to experience is a lot of liquid sloshing around in your stomach. Not fun, especially during burpees and sprints. Once the workout is over and your body returns to stasis of rest and recovery, feel free to gulp down that quart of water. It will help aid in the digestion of your next meal. And speaking of food…

I once ate an entire burrito just before a spin class. I had waited too long to eat and suddenly I was so hungry, my logical brain had taken a siesta. That burrito, much to my chagrin, sat in my gut through the entire class. I was in serious distress, but I learned my lesson. When you eat, you are signaling your brain to send your blood away from your muscles into your digestive tract. You need to give your system time to process the food and send it back into your body in the form of energy. Your workouts will suffer if you haven’t nourished your body with the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and water well before your workout begins. As with hydration, you need to plan ahead. Know when your workout begins and work backward. If you have an evening training session, have a snack between lunch and your workout. I recommend something with fiber, protein and carbohydrates, like an apple and some almonds or peanut butter. Experiment with different protein shakes or bars or other whole foods. If you are slow to digest like I am, you’ll want plenty of time – at least an hour – to digest this snack. If your blood is still working on your last meal, it will not be much good to your working muscles.

I design each workout to give you a full body workout experience, combining upper body, lower body, stabilizing, trunk and core strengthening exercises with cardiovascular and agility drills. But not everyone can complete every exercise. Since I’m not a mind-reader, I don’t always know whether something feels right to you. I try to check in with everyone before the workout to gauge how things are going, However, it is your responsibility to learn how your body works – how it moves, what it can and cannot do. Many clients return to training after an injury, illness or pregnancy with some limitations. Or many limitations. I encourage anyone rehabbing a shoulder or knee, etc. to bring PT exercises to do when you feel you cannot do a particular exercise. That said, it is vitally important that you spend some time in between workouts to facilitate your recovery, improving range of motion, strengthening weak muscles, and becoming more in touch with how your body should and does function. And if you haven’t learned yet how to modify an exercise, I have become quite skilled at this, so please ask. Exercise shouldn’t cause pain, but it sometimes makes us feel uncomfortable, and you should learn to distinguish between something that will hurt you and something that will help you grow. As we work together, I will start to see how hard I can push you. Each workout gives you an opportunity to see where your physical and psychological limitations are. Don’t miss out on getting to know how strong you really are.

If you are training for an endurance activity of more that 90 minutes like a half marathon or marathon, here is a great article on ways to keep your body functioning and happy in regards to fuel. I encourage you to experiment with different sources and see what works for your body.

What Exercise Is For

It’s bikini season, everyone! I’m sure that you have all held fast to your new year’s fitness resolutions and are approaching your vacations with the calm expectation that your summer clothes will flow effortlessly from your bodies like magazine models. Okay, that was fun.

This is the real story of what exercise can do for you:
●You can confidently hover over the porta-potty at outdoor summer festivals because your legs are so strong.
●Even though it’s hot or windy or cold (it’s the Bay Area, after all) or Wednesday, you’ll put your shoes on and go for a walk or a run or a bike ride because you hate how it feels when you don’t. And you love how it feels when you do. Make sure to take those special summer precautions: hydration, sunscreen, bike helmet, keep attending to your affliction (see previous blog post).
●You will have the fortitude to put your too heavy pack on and hit the trail. And just when you’re ready to get back to civilization, you see a spectacular river or mountain or valley that makes the effort worthwhile, views that cannot be seen from the window of a car.
●You can now go paddle-boarding on your vacation because you’ve been working diligently on your full-body balance and pliability. And because of this work, you can stand and move with confidence and feel the breeze across your face. Wow, a dolphin!
●You will be able to withstand an epic labor that may last 2 hours or 20 or 63, and you never thought it would hurt this bad, or be this long, but you kept working and everyone around you is amazed at how strong and powerful you were in those hours. And then, a perfect little baby! Or two.
●You’ll have the capacity to lift your tired 60 pound child in your arms and carry him as far as you need to because you have a strong core, arms, back, lower body, and lungs. And you will remember when he was a tiny baby and how he’s still your baby.

Exercise is awesome and useful if you want to lose weight. It’s great for a whole host of other things too. Exercise helps you treat your life like the adventure it is. If you want a bikini body, just put a bikini on your body. I myself am perfectly happy with board shorts.

Make an Appointment with Your Affliction

It’s been 3 weeks since my last confession. I mean blog post. I have spent the time taking a vacation, recovering from the half marathon, and going back to work. I also dove into depression and then slowly climbed out of it. I wish I could tell you that I could have been better about this, or prevented it. Maybe I could, and here are some thoughts.

It’s time we all make an appointment with our afflictions. Whether you have nagging joint pain, muscle injury, food and weight issues, problems in a significant relationship or severely depleted seratonin, you need to pay attention.
* Take the time to notice it. The signs are there – pain, discomfort, stress, anxiety, hiding under blankets.
* You are a human being, not a machine. Don’t feel ashamed of your frailty. Your support system of friends and family is there (or should be) to offer support and helpful advice. But you have to be the master of your own affliction. Complaining is not enough. You must be proactive.
* Ask for help from someone who may have had similar issues. He or she may have a great exercise, system or referral for you.
* Ask for help from experts. Doctors, physical therapists, trainers, chiropractors, massage therapists, or acupuncturists may not have The Answer, but they can become your advocates and give you steps to go in the right direction.
* Your rehab will enhance your life, but nothing will change if you ignore it. It might be expensive and/or time consuming. Doing nothing is much more costly.

When I realized I was sinking into a hole, I took steps to dig out. I told some of my people. I got out of bed and sat in the sun. I FORCED myself to move. I ran for at least 30 minutes every day. I stretched my aching body. I took a rest when I could. At the end of the week, I had a workout with my personal trainer. He took me through a crazy and intense series of exercises that had every fiber in my being shaking. By the end, I was exhausted but I was smiling, my brain and body finally becoming more whole. If I hadn’t first acknowledged my affliction and taken care of myself, that workout wouldn’t have happened. I would still be stuck.

This is the work we all must do in our own way. Am I cured? Probably not. But next time, I can do better. I can see the signs before it’s too late. I am stronger than IT is.

Take a breath. Breathe down into the bottom of your lungs. Breathe into the soles of your feet. Exhale through the top of your head. The body and mind you have is precious. Take care of it. Take time out of your day to appreciate what you are given and the miraculous life you have. Fight for your health, your sanity, and your happiness.

If not now, when?

Race Post-Mortem

It is often helpful to look back at a race (or a hiking trip or a trip to Costco with small children) and examine in hindsight the decisions we made that either helped or hurt our experience and performance. Regardless of whether you ever have any desire to engage in that activity again, it is still important in order to become a guide for someone who’s interested in your wisdom. Alright, I’ll go first.

The Oakland Half Marathon was great. Again, I knew I would complete it because I’m at a place in my fitness and mental preparation to be able to push through certain kinds of discomfort and pain and get through the gauntlet. Heather, my running buddy, was sticking with me through the whole thing, yay. My nutrition the day before consisted of a large late lunch with extended family: pretzel dog, green salad, quinoa salad, chicken, chips and guacamole, and 2 chocolate chip cookies. That sounds like a lot, but I did not have dinner but continued to drink water throughout the day. In the morning, because I had decided to just have fun and not stress about how I was going to do, my stomach was not in knots like usual. I drank coffee like always, then ate oatmeal with applesause, cinnamon, berries and toasted almonds. No eggs. I made that mistake last time and had stomach cramps for 9 miles. I felt great, digestion-wise, didn’t even feel guilty about those cookies – they were so good. I packed some hot black tea for the trip over to the staging area. Caffeine is awesome.

About 30 minutes before the race, I ate a banana. I find they are the easiest food for me to digest before exercise. I had a small water bottle with me on the course to sip between water stations. I doon’t know if I’d do that again, there seemed to be plenty of water stations on the course. Once we started, the little twinges in my body started cropping up: ankles, hips, knees. Made a mental note to get back to yoga. Still, I felt pretty good overall. By mile 5, my hip pain was constant though not worsening, ankles felt better, knees not so good. I had experimented with kinesiotaping my IT bands the night before, which have been tight, but I think I added too much tension, and I felt pain in a different part of my knee than normal. Another note to self: practice kinesiotaping on NOT RACE DAY!! Oh wait, I should backtrack.

Experts say you should never do something new on the day of an event. You should break in a pair of shoes, an outfit, a habit, a running technique, a technology well beforehand. I did everything right on that list except for taping my legs and the technology. I usually run with a iPod, make the running mix beforehand and try to gauge where I’m going to need particular songs. At the last minute, I decided to use my iPhone for music – you know, consolidate my gadgets. With my headphones now connected to my phone (not my iPod), I moved past mile 6. West Oakland, the Crucible, my neighborhood, the music totally in sync to where I thought I’d be: The Tuneyards, Cee-Lo, Ms. Dynamite. I rounded the corner of 7th and Mandela where they had water, Gatorade and GU packets. I took GU and Gatorade, figuring that’s the best place to replenish electrolytes. In my opinion, I should I have stuck with just Gatorade. The cloying sticky sweetness of GU didn’t feel good. I probably would have done better with a piece of hard candy to suck on or a cough drop. It wasn’t until we reached Brown Sugar Cafe when I made my fateful dietary decision: to eat the brownie or not eat the brownie.

I ate the brownie. My stomach said, “What are you doing? We do not like that?” All the blood I had circulating in my body was not directed at my digestive tract. That brownie was just too complex for my system to handle. I was looking around for more water just to wash the sweetness out. I don’t know if the later events would have transpired if I hadn’t have eaten that brownie. But the future is clear: just don’t eat the brownie.

My family met me right there with great signs of love and support. My wife, my daughter in her mermaid dress, my son with a “Go Susan Go!” sign, my brother Steve and our friend Deborah cheered for us. It was so great. Leaving West Oakland, my foot started to get a hot spot, a precursor to a blister. I had slathered my feet in Vaseline, a back-packing trick I learned many years ago. I changed my running gait to see if it put less pressure on that spot. Instead, a blister formed on a totally different part of my foot. We meandered toward Lake Merritt, a stitch forming on my upper right side. Effects of brownie or the typical lactic acid buildup I tend to get? I tried to open up my chest and stretch my shoulders as I ran. Effective somewhat, nothing miraculous. Starting to feel sluggish. At almost mile 10, our friend Marlo was waiting to boost our morale. I gave her a great big hug, and that sustained my mood. My body, however, was struggling. I had to stop and stretch my hamstrings for a minute, which felt awesome. I really wanted it to be over, to walk to the finish. Heather told me she had to keep running or she would cramp up, and I thought, “Oh shit, is she for real or is she lying to me so I’ll keep moving? I cannot lose her!” I did not walk. I didn’t exactly run either, something in between. By mile 11, I really needed the right music to be cued up. My iPhone required a password, which I tried to put in while “running” and squinting in the sun and sweating all over it, but it kept going to shuffle, and I was so frustrated. Last note: my iPod works so much better.

Oh hey! They finished the new walk bridge around the lake just in time, it even smells new! How great. Okay, back to the race.

Okay, here we go with the lineup: Macklemore “Can’t Hold Us” – AWOL Nation “Burn It Down” – Lil’ Kim “The Jump Off” – and for the finish line, Die Antwoord “Baby’s on Fire” (don’t judge, that song is really motivating). But Lil’ Kim went on too long, and we passed mile 13, and oh man, an uphill finish, this is hard, and who cares what song is playing, we are almost there. Everything hurt and nothing hurt, we were going to sprint to the finish. Heather was fading, and I was not going to let her fall behind. She had practically pulled me the last 3 miles, the last 13 miles, we were going to finish together. The lyrics “So we put our hands up, like the ceiling can’t hold us “ playing in my head, across the line and then, it was over. Funneled through the vortex of water, food, silver blankets, and medals, we shoved food and liquids down our faces, wanting to find a place in the grass to be horizontal. Instead we stood along the finish line to wait for our friend Shoshana, who was finishing her first full marathon. Which she totally did.

The Crushing Weight of the TO DO List

Four years ago my friend Maurice told me he’d teach me how to weld, that he’d help me build my fence. Our wives were due about the same time, and what better way to spend a summer than in leather jackets, gloves, and welding masks, putting a steel fence together, piece by piece? After it was done, and we got busy with our little baby girls, there was one project left to do: finish and install the mailbox. I’d done some of the work. I welded together what was basically an unwieldy steel box that didn’t look like a mailbox at all, more like a post-apocalyptic rat trap (is there such a thing?). So, it sat in my garage, unmoving, unmovable. quietly rusting. A couple of years goes by, my lack of initiative slowly scratching away at my self-confidence, not to mention the skills I may have learned. I was stuck, hopelessly stuck, the words “finish and put in mailbox” on every To Do list I ever made. And still, not done. Three and a half years goes by pretty quickly.

Well, as you can see, it’s finally in. I can now cross a huge task off my list, in a long list of both large and small jobs. I can’t take credit for it at all. What I started I didn’t seem able, or willing, to complete. Instead, I asked experts – you know, people with skills and tools – to actually do it. Sure, it’s a blow to my DIY ego but the trade-off is that IT. IS. DONE.


Though your lists may have different things on them (and I’m sure nobody has “install large unmanageable steel box onto fence” on your list), most people can relate to feeling overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility: work, school, family, home upkeep, relationships, bills. Where does your fitness fit into the endless list of To Do? Is it one of those “Yay, Vacation!” parts of your week or is it one more damn thing you have to feel guilty about? Maybe a little of both?

What if your fitness could stay off your To Do list and you could still get it done regularly? What if your fitness actually helped you fulfill more of your responsibilities while giving you that wonderful satisfaction of being in control of your life? As I did with the mailbox job, asking for help doesn’t mean you can’t move on and take charge of the next big adventure. It just means you don’t have to let your body and your soul languish as one more unfinished project. It’s your life, you are worthy.

I’m going to do my best to take stock in the coming months of what it means to live a more balanced life for myself, to be present in the moment, to take hold of that To Do list without letting guilt or fear or exasperation get a foothold. I’d much rather be out giving you the best workouts possible, being the expert you can count on.

Okay, let’s get it done.

The Muddling Runner

Oakland Half Marathon (and my first), 2010

I just signed up for the Oakland Half Marathon. Which means I’d better step up my training significantly, since it’s almost 6 weeks away. Becca and I ran it last year. At the time, I thought we’d run it together, but after a few minutes, I realized she wanted to go her own pace. That pace, it turned out, was 20 minutes faster than mine.

I’ve been working on my running gait, trying to build speed without causing injury. I consulted with a great sports chiropractor – Jessica Greaux from Innersport – who really helped me with flexibility and my running form. In shortening my stride and speeding up my feet, I think that maybe I have a chance of keeping up with Becca this year. That, and I dropped 12 pounds thus far. Yay me!

This running business is not my forte. Ten years ago, the very idea of running went against everything inside me. “I do NOT run, just to run,” I would say. “I run away from danger. I run to catch a bus. That is all.” Obviously, that has changed. I had to learn to stop hating it for a long, long time before I learned to like running. This is how I did it:
Trial and error – learning what works and what doesn’t for my body and my life. I’m a natural sprinter. After 50-100 yards, I’d like to be done. I’ve had to train my body to go for longer periods without stopping. First, a half a mile, than a mile, and so on. I’ve come up against asthma, shin splints, hamstring and hip pain, side cramps, and a dozen other roadblocks. The mental agony I’ve endured at just getting my shoes on in the morning when it’s cold, in the afternoon when I’m exhausted, has almost made me give up. It’s enough to know that I went through all the discomfort to see myself really succeed and learn to enjoy being out there on the road or trail. I also know that some of us do better when we have some big goal to work towards, and to try to fit training into my crazy life. I started doing a few races a year – a couple of 10Ks and one half marathon, just to keep my motivation rolling.
Stopping and starting – taking some time off, but getting back into it. This can be the trickiest aspect, because it’s hard to start something once you’ve stopped for a long time. But often life happens, injuries and illnesses happen. It’s not usually the end of the world. Once you start back, don’t expect too much of yourself, but do some short runs a few times a week. It’ll feel better the more often you do it – I know it does for me. Once you’ve started back for a few weeks, you can run longer distances. Granted, there will still be the occasional “ugly run” – the run that never gets easy or effortless – but they will become less frequent, I assure you.
Fast and slow – speed work is important to getting more miles under my feet. There are myriad ways to increase your speed, but I suggest going a tiny bit faster for a short distance, then going back to regular pace. Another option is to do timed quarter, half, or mile intervals with a period of rest in between. As you progress, your recovery period will get shorter and shorter while your timed interval gets faster. I’ve been slack on this aspect, and I’d like to really pay attention to whether I’m getting faster for certain distances.
Short and long – doing short runs – 2 or 3 miles – helps develop the physical and psychological strength for the longer runs. I also find changing the locations from road to trail to treadmill can help ease the monotony. In the fall last year, there was a trail I was regularly running for a time. And one day, as the very long, very ugly run set in, I started to hate this trail, loathe this trail, wanted beat this trail with a stick and slap its mama. Seriously. Even though it was a perfectly beautiful trail. I knew I had to find some other place to run for a while. It’s time for me to make my way back there, because it really is quite a great trail.

Alright, that’s all for now. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going. I’m sure you experienced and happy runners out there can enlighten me with some better running wisdom. I need it.

Quick & Dirty 30 – Workout #2

Here’s the next workout:
Starring Mabel the WonderPit as my workout partner. She did a stellar job!

Start with a 10 minute warm up.
5 Sets of 6 Exercises – 45 seconds on, 15 seconds recovery between each exercise:
1. Shoulder Press – light weight
2. Squat on BOSU – medium weight
3. Bicep Curl – light to medium weight
4. Sit Up – body weight
5. Kettlebell Swing with alternating hands – medium weight
6. Russian Twist – 8lb medicine ball
Have fun!!