Sunday, December 27, 2015

Move of The Week: Lateral Kettlbell Swings

As person who likes to incorporate new moves into my workouts, I get it can be hard to come up with ways to keep your workouts fresh. If you're the type that doesn't mind the same thing all the time, great! In all honesty I sometimes wish I didn't get bored. Truth is though, most of us do. So Weekly I'll be posting a new exercise or move that might help for those looking for new ideas. Sometimes they'll be basic, sometimes more complex. But the aim will be to expand my repertoire, and everyone else's.

With that said, this week I'd like to share a move I incorporated into my workout today which really made me enjoy my workout, plus I feel it took it to the next level.  It's called the Lateral Kettlebell swing, though I've also seen it called a pendulum swing. Not sure what the actual name is, but it's one bad ass move. This move in particular is great for your core, rotational movement and power. Like almost all kettlebell exercises it will engage other muscles as well so you get a lot of bang of your buck. Just note, two exercises are shown in this video, I am referring to the first one, though I've done them both and loved them. Check out this video by Australian Kettlebell Instittue for a demonstration and subscribe to them on Youtube for more awesome videos.

Hope you'll incorporate this move into your own routines if you're into kettlebell training. Word of advice, this is not necessarily a beginner move, so if you're a novice please be careful, use light weight, and if possible work with an expert to get this move down. If you're more advanced and are confident, still be careful but swing away.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tracking fitness

Fitness Tech......

Activity trackers and fitness trackers are all the rage these days. It seems like every other day there is a new device on the market. Are these wrist worn devices worth your time and money? My answer to this question is yes. In my last post I said I would be reviewing some of the devices that I have used, but first I wanted to make a post about why you should get one, if your thinking about it.
Let me be clear in saying that fitness trackers/watches offer just estimates. There is no device on the market today that will give you exact numbers of calories burned. If you are using a tracker with no heart rate monitor you are just basing your calorie expenditure on an algorithm, as opposed to actual heart rate data. Heart rate data will offer a much more accurate figure in terms of calorie burn.

Why would you want to purchase one? 

The best answer to this is that you would be able to trend your own data over time. You can see how many days of the week you are active, at what time of the day you are most active, least active, etc. I like to record specific workouts and use a heart rate monitor to see how my endurance is improving... this leads me into the next section:

What type of tracker should I purchase?

I do see the value in counting steps if you are a couch potato. For me, that doesn't really matter. There have been days that I have taken less than 1,000 steps and burned over 600 calories in a workout, doing hundreds of heavy kettle bell swings. For me, the most actionable data comes from measuring your heart rate during activity over time. Trending this type of data will show you how you are improving over time.

Optical heart rate or chest strap?

There are a lot of new devices coming out with on board optical heart rate sensors. Unfortunately, they all suck (except for one, review coming soon -stay tuned!). I do a lot of strength training, including  kettle bell work, and unfortunately optical hear rate sensors do not do well when there is a lot of dynamic arm movement during exercise. For cardio based workouts (running, elliptical machine, stair master etc) most sensors work just fine.
I love the idea of an optical hear rate sensor, if it is accurate.
The benefits of optical sensors are many:

1. less equipment to carry to the gym, or wherever you work out.
2. You can virtually track a work out anywhere , anytime if you are wearing your wrist worn device.
3.No uncomfortable chest strap!

The good news is that the technology is improving quickly. At the moment I am not ready to give up accurate data for comfort, so I will continue to be married to my chest strap.

Here are a few reasons to jump into this fitness wearable tech frenzy:

It will keep you accountable:

Let me explain... the device itself will probably not keep you accountable, but every time you think about ho much money you spent on the device it should motivate you to be active, these things aren't cheap. I remember when I was not so motivated to work out, remembering that I was paying $75.00 / month for my gym membership always motivated me to get up and work out.

A tracker will give you a better estimate of how active you are and how many calories you are burning. If you couple this data with a good food tracking program like Myfitnesspal (review coming soon) you will be able to meet your goals with a lot less guess work, whether you are trying to gain muscle or lose a few pounds.

Trackers will motivate you:

Literally.. a common feature in a lot trackers is a move reminder. If you are sedentary for too long you will get a light vibration and message asking you to get up and move.

Social pressure (peer)

Some of the current platforms, for example fitbit, offer a lot of opportunities for friendly competition. So if you and your buddies have the same tracker you can compete to see who takes more steps, or burns more calories in a week.

I hope this brief snap shot of a very broad topic helps to shed some light on what type of tracker  suits you best. I will be posting information about the device that I am currently using and ones that I have used in the past. Like always, we thank you for supporting our site and podcast! Look out for a new podcast episode, coming this week!!!!


Sunday, December 13, 2015

fitness technology review

Fred and I are always talking about how we can improve our  healthy living lifestyle. One of the things that I have incorporated in my life is fitness tracking. I  have been using fitness trackers for over two years and I have pretty much narrowed down the type of tracker and features that work best for me. I am in love with fitness and technology, so from time to time I will be posting some reviews of products that may make your fitness journey a more manageable one. I Will be describing how I use technology to keep track of all my fitness/nutrition metrics. Look  out for my post , should be up in the next few days. If anyone has any questions about a tracker that they are considering shoot me a question. Chances are I have done extensive research on it, or have owned it.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Meals For Muscle Or General Health, Just Take Control.

Since my campaign to put on more muscle began some weeks back, I have been doing a lot of thinking about nutrition lately. Particularly around cooking my own meals and eventually getting into the idea of doing meal prep for a few days in advance the way bodybuilders and other athletes do. This idea may seem like a bit much to some, and even for me it seems like something I might struggle with. But like any challenge, I feel the first step to overcoming it is to understand it. One night a few months back I listed the top 5 reasons preparing meals for a week would be an issue for me, which are:

  1. Time (it can take half to an entire day)
  2. Consistency (would I be able or willing to do it week after week?)
  3. Monotony ( to keep it simple, I'd have to be willing to eat the same meal or similar ones very often, could I do that) 
  4. Am I a good enough cook? ( Kinda goes with # 3 but I'll elaborate soon)
  5. Would it be worth it?
For the moment, I'd like to skip questions 1,2, and 6 because the other two were pretty simple to answer. Well sort of, the thing about number is 3 I could absolutely eat the same or similar meals all of the time. Two reasons for that are that it makes it easier when you're looking to be in control of your diet, and in all honesty it sort of just naturally becomes your habit. Even if I'm not packing my lunch for work, I rarely find myself deviating from some sort of grilled meat, carb and veggie combo from the same place I get lunch nearly every day at work. For example, Grilled steak or chicken, Sweet potato or brown rice, and broccoli or spinach. See below for pics.

Even with the meals I make at home, they're pretty similar to one another and I don't often try new things, for examples of my home cooked meals see below.

Let me be clear, these are just some of the images I had readily available, I do vary things from time to time, like a healthy variation of Shepherd's pie made with green plantain mash instead of regular potatoes, or a turkey and vegetable lasagna with the middle layers of pasta being replaced with spinach. But those are every once in a a blue and typically something I cook up on the weekends when I have more time.

Now as far as me being a good cook, my friends and family who've tried my food have all enjoyed it. While my skill level is faaaaar off from master chef, I have to admit I do well enough. So saying I can't cook or cook well enough is not really a challenge anymore.

So this leaves me with the remaining challenges of time, consistency and value. I still can't really answer the first two since I've yet to try it. Now do I see the value in it? Of course I do, I wouldn't be writing this otherwise. Now while I'm not a competitive athlete, let me just mention that I think the biggest benefit of "meal prep", as it's known to fitness buffs, is the fact that you'd be able to adhere to an eating schedule. You don't have to be training for the Mr. Olympia or a marathon to do this, in fact it is a staple of being healthy, promoting a good metabolism and feeding a growing body. You have to eat well, often, and enough. I like many have been victim of long periods of time without a good meal due to the burdens of a hectic job or school schedule. But having your meals with you and ready to eat so you can squeeze them in is a good way to stop that and mitigate the issue of settling for a less nutritious or flat out bad meal,

In addition, while spending an entire Sunday cooking meals for the week may seem like a lot of work, when you have a crammed schedule you may find that coming home and having something pre made you can quickly heat up and eat so you can focus on chores, homework, family, or even best of all making time for exercise, is just invaluable. Think of the reason TV dinners took off the way they did when those horrifying dietary atrocities were introduced to the market. It was all about the convenience of them. Instead if a some time is set aside early in the week, you can have well made, balanced, natural, and actually nutritious meals ready to go.

Something to note here is even if you're not thinking about eating for growth like I'm currently doing, there are other benefits to this idea of focusing so much on your food. I don't want to go on and on about this, but instead I'd like to propose something before getting to my point and offering an alternative. If you're reading this and thinking it would be too difficult or too crazy to try meal prep. I say try this, think of 3-5 reasons meal prep would benefit you. Maybe weight loss? Maybe for better energy? You've already noted the reasons you couldn't do it, so now think of reasons you should. In fact, share them in the comments below.

Now to my closing point, while I don't feel I'm quite ready to try the meal prep thing let me leave you with this, at least make your own meals. Even if you don't know how to cook, the internet has some pretty simple recipes one can follow and as you do it more and more, like anything else you'll get better at it. I don't just credit my 60lb weight loss to hard work, it was mostly good and consistent eating habits which I reinforced by cooking for myself more often. Handling my food own food more often absolutely gave me a better picture of how to adjust my diet to maintain a healthier weight and life. It's been almost two years now and the only time my weight went up was when I wanted it to. And even then it's been good lean muscle. I take pride in my healthier body, and what goes into it. Shouldn't we all?


Friday, December 4, 2015

A Strong Mindset To Overcome Setbacks

In anything one sets out to do in life, there will hardly be an easy path. If there is, maybe it wasn't an endeavor worth the time. Even if the challenges once faces aren't the hardest, they still arise. But then there are the ones that do slow us down, maybe even stop  us in our tracks. So what is the best way to get past these obstacles? Is there some sort of trick one can have in the bag that can be applied at any sign of trouble which will solve all? Not really.

So by now if you're still reading, you may be wondering where I'm going with this. In all facets of life, I've been encountering some difficulties lately and it's what prompted this entry.Well, if I'm being honest not all areas of life, but at least the ones I've been hoping to make the biggest strides in. I've talked on the podcast and in previous entries about my injury which has slowed my progress in terms of fitness. And I have to admit at times it gets frustrating, in fact more than that, I can't help but to get pretty upset about it. But I've talked about how trying new things has kept things fresh for me, and has allowed me to find other avenues to stay the course despite having certain limitations. Some of the things I've done to keep up have been discussed in the first few episodes of the podcast, but I'll discuss some more in the upcoming episode and future entries..

In fact it has payed off, I recently saw an orthopedic surgeon to follow up on my Type 1 SLAP tear (See image below), and though I was prepared to hear not so good news, I was cleared to start pushing in my training and that surgery may not be in fact required for my type of injury. It was also good to hear I've made pretty good improvements without surgery, as much as some make with it. This was very vindicating, as I chose to believe that if I kept working I could get better. I can' lie though at times I was convinced I'd need to go under the knife, but I had mentally prepared myself to do what was necessary both before and after to bounce back.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
So this brings me to my final point for this entry, which as cliche as it sounds, it's just plainly the truth. It's all in the power of the mind. This whole thing started with a choice to not stay down, to not allow myself to slip away into being another part of the obesity or chronic disease statistics. But even more important than that choice, were all the subsequent choices that have kept me going for almost two years now. The choice to build better habits, to not give up, and to stand back up every time I fell. And like my muscles through all my training, my mind grew sharper, stronger, and more flexible. Strong enough to not be broken through the tough times, sharp enough to recognize when I am faltering, and flexible enough to seek other avenues when I reached roadblocks. After all as set back is just something that sets you back, not that stops you. Unless you let it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Balance: Routine and Structure Keep Me On Track

I recently made an entry speaking to how being free and open minded with fitness has kept me going. The having fun aspect of it all has kept it from becoming tedious, yet it sometimes can backfire if you're not careful. I have fallen victim to this recently, in that I haven't been training for a specific goal, I just have been making sure to work out which has had some impact in my overall health but when it comes down to it, how measurable is that?

My pal, and podcast co-host Ernesto, recently hooked me up with a Polar heart rate monitor which I've been using for about two weeks now. Something he always raved about to me was how having the data from his workouts was invaluable to him, a point I could never argue against especially considering the type of work we do for a living is driven by data analysis. Therefore, I already understood how data could be used to shake future workouts and diet plans to best fit a goal. But the first step of course is to have a goal. Currently I've locked in to a very specific goal, which is to put on some lean muscle over the next few months. That being said I had to look at two areas I know I haven't been atrocious at but could be better, diet and rest.

As far as rest goes, I have always struggled with sleep hygiene. And even when I'm developing good habits I tend to go through times where I just simply don't get much sleep. My brain just seems to want to go into hyperactive mode whenever it's bed time. This has been the case since I was kid and I can't say that nothing has worked to correct it, but no one thing has worked alone. Sometimes its herbal remedies (valerian root for example), other's it's supplementation (Melatonin), even binural beats and isochronic tones have worked from time to time. But nothing seems to work all of the time so this will continue to be a work in progress.

So the other component I'll have to focus on for now is my eating habits. Over the past year and a half I've been overall pretty good with eating right. And though from time to time I felt I wasn't eating enough it never seemed to me like I as under eating all of the time. Yet, over the past two weeks of measuring my calorie output and some food tracking I quickly realized most days I was just about breaking even, or ending up at a deficit. I don't want to butcher this but basically if you want grow, it's not just about how you train, your diet and how much you rest are the bigger keys to focus on.  You have to feed your body the right nutrients and allow it to recover. It's a big misconception among beginners that muscle growth happens while lifting, instead it's actually while sleep. Don't believe me? Do your research, you'll find it's actually one of the basics.

To give my example though, I average a calorie output of 2000-2400 calories a day from a combination of my workouts and BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate, another important thing to get to know about). Meaning in order for me to grow to the weight I want to be at I have to consume around 1000-1500 calories more than I burn per day. Of course this also means the calories have to be the right type, I'm talking nutrient dense calories. The easiest way to do this, and the method I'm following is to calculate what your macro nutrient breakdown should be. Basically the percentage of fat, carbs, and protein in your diet. In order to grow these three have to be at the right ratio, and none can be neglected. Idealistically I'd like to put on Muscle and cut some fat, so my macro nutrient breakdown would be either 50/30/20. In other words 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat. Or I could even go 40/30/30, which would yield a similar result but may slow the fat burning process. I'm going into too much detail for some here but I'm trying to illustrate here is I would not be able to figure all of this out without data.

Actually there is one point I'm trying to make, and that's that in order for me to attain this goal of putting on more muscle and cutting fat I'll not only have to train hard, but stay disciplined in my diet and rest properly. I've already alluded to how the sleep part is a bit tricky for me, but my eating habits can and will be adjusted specifically for this goal. If there is any doubt in this method for anyone, let me just say that any bodybuilder out  there can attest to what I'm saying, knowing exactly what goes into your body for fuel, using that fuel, and then resting to recover your muscle is the way to go.

So while keeping things fun have made it so I don't get bored with the whole fitness thing, I do acknowledge there is a place for structure in the grand scheme of it all.  Especially if you have a goal like mine. But at at the end of the day, the important thing is to keep the fun and structure in balance. Be free to try new things in your workout and diet regimen, but do remember to not go too far off the rails. After all, you can head out on a journey and decide you'll walk whatever path you find until you reach your destination, which can surely be an adventure. But a well laid track will guide you to the exact destination with little to no surprises. For me, and for now structure will have to be my method.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Balance: I'm Having Fun, and It Keeps Me Going.

As I sit on my futon waiting for my post workout meal to be ready, and think about the routine I just finished one thing came to mind. A question I have often asked myself after a good training session, especially over the past year is "what the hell was that?".

I turned 33 this year, and have been on the fitness wagon, fallen off and gotten back on a few times over, come back from injuries, failed, succeeded, basically been through it all. What I haven't been through since my teens is to consistent training, and having fun at it. In my teens into early twenties the only kind of training I did was martial arts training, which was never hard to keep up since I was effectively obsessed with becoming the best martial artist I can be, Once in my early twenties I began to branch out, and of course found myself dabbling in and learning other things I went on to incorporate into my repertoire. But I have to admit, through all these years I have failed to find the fun in physical activity that I did back then.

So why now? Why am I suddenly having so much fun with my training? I don't just do Martial Arts any more, I do calisthenics, kettle bells, plyometrics, yoga, hiking...I mean anything I can do really. Is that the answer? The variety of things I do certainly help but I don't think it's the only answer. Another very motivating factor is how good I feel these days, even on my off days I'm still more energetic and I'm sick way less often. My appearance of course, like anyone else looking in the mirror and not seeing a body you're ashamed of is certainly a plus as well. The famous meme "once you see results, it becomes an obsession" is some real wisdom. Yet I don't think that's it either. What is it? Well, I'm not going to lie as I started this entry I wasn't sure that I could answer that question until it hit me about three sentences back. It's just that I'm having fun.

Don't get me wrong, I take my training very seriously. I like making sure I'm getting better, faster, stronger, leaner, etc.  Having goals is important, accomplishing them and setting new ones to conquer is always nice too, and that type of discipline is necessary if you're looking to compete in some sport. But if it is no longer is fun, then all of the hard training becomes hard work, the soreness just pain, and the clean eating just a dietary restriction. You have to enjoy this, and by that I mean enjoy what you do. You can be a runner, you can be a yogi, a martial artist, a body builder...whatever, but you have to be having fun. Even if your goal is just to exercise, not really to lose weight or look good for the summer, but just to work out. My recommendation is just to have fun.

Play ultimate Frisbee, go for walks, go hiking, dancing, lift weights etc. Just have fun. For me, fun is pushing my body, learning new movements, and seeing a progression in my fitness and wellness. Fun is teaching friends new movements and ideas to train with, and to absorb from them. Fun is going for a hike everyone in blue in to try something different, but fun is also slinging some kettle bells around my living room until my heart is pounding. And sure there is soreness, sometimes injuries, set backs, the dieting can be tough but so what? This has been the most fun I've had through training, and to me that's important. It's also important to fuck off here and there, have that delicious fatty meal or sweet treat you enjoy here and there. Just be aware of the consequence of that, and react accordingly. A few beers, pizza, and wings during a football game or MMA event are good for the soul in my opinion. . Just have fun, try new things, don't take it too seriously, just don't stop. And for those who haven't started, start having fun. The balance will ensure longevity.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Share Your Thoughts!

Want to provide feedback on our show? Or perhaps be a guest? Maybe you'd like us to talk about something in particular. If so, you can reach us at

Fitness And Health As A Lifestyle

Fitness is a lifestyle, it is my lifestyle. This was not always the case. As a teenager I watched my dad recover from quadruple bypass surgery. Have you ever watched someone wake up from the effects of anesthesia? It isn’t pretty; as the patient’s body temperature rises, the body shakes, sometimes violently, uncontrollably.  At 17 years of age this marked me. I told myself: “I never want to be in this predicament”.

 I have been trying to live a healthy lifestyle for the past 9 years. I say trying because in our society living healthy is not the norm. Throw in time constraints and family commitments and you have a few cards stacked against you. It is important to find resources and people that have the same passion and energy to live healthy and fit. Welcome to our blog, a place where we can share ideas and our experiences, our defeats and triumphs.

This blog is intended for those that want to find balance in their lives. Fitness is a journey. A journey in which you are going to make mistakes and at times take two steps back for every step you take forward; that’s ok, as long as you keep moving. Please join us in sharing your ideas and struggles as we will do the same. We will be picking fitness related topics and blogging about them. Please check out our podcast in conjunction with this blog. We look forward to hearing from you!


Friday, September 11, 2015

My tale of shame, An Introduction.

Over the past year and  half, I have been undergoing something of a change. One that has come about through plenty of self analysis and coming to terms with a lot of things. The most significant of those changes,or at least noticeably significant, is my weight loss. All of this began when I turned 30, and though it certainly is not old age you absolutely begin to look at things in a different light.

Let me rewind for a bit, you see I am a typical story you might hear on an infomercial about a weight loss program or exercise equipment. A person who has been fit before, but life situations take you down a path where it becomes something you ignore, and watch your abilities and health decline some. Until one day that decline became too apparent, and all too dangerous. Yet, it wasn't the fear of a life plagued by chronic illness or feeling uncomfortable about looking a plump, okay maybe more than a little. No it was something, that for me is far more terrifying, it was an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame.

So, what was the cause of this shame and guilt? Well, like is often heard in these stories I was not like a person that has never been fond of exercise, knew nothing about fitness, or had some debilitating injury. Nope, I just flat out had a habit of giving up, of finding external reasons I wouldn't work out anymore, of eating ridiculous foods I knew where no good for me, at times to an excess I will not admit to others just yet. But at least I did admit it to myself. Let me take it back one more time, see I fell, and I mean head over heels in love at a very early age. No, this isn't going to get sappy since I mean with something not someone. It was martial arts.

At the age of 5 in Dominican Republic, I saw for the first time some martial arts techniques thanks to two boys my brother and I were friends with. One day my brother who had already been watching re runs of the old Kung Fu television series for a year was literally obsessed with the show and martial arts took me to see them and was uber excited because one of them had been taking some type of Karate, wish I could recall the style. They were two boys, same age as us but a little bigger and rougher than us. The elder was the one taking the karate, and while it's hard for me to remember what happened I just recall him throwing a bunch of cool kicks at my brother to show off, and those kicks are burned in my memory. The rest is a long and tedious, but basically I began training at 8, and didn't look back since Earning two black belts by before I even left high school. I live and breathe martial arts. Even when I am not practicing or learning a new one, I am reading up on them, watching them, dreaming of them. Except for a few periods in my life when I wasn't training very often, and there have been three periods in particular where my weight spiked because of it. I call these my dark periods, the last one of which happened since about 2012 to 2014. When I can honestly count the amount of hard workouts, of any type that I did one one hand. Sure there were some feeble attempts here and there, but nothing worth taking credit for. During this time, I eventually ballooned to 245 lbs, and believe me I was not what some folks I know call diesel fat, where there are remnants of a time you were in shape. This was a free fall into absolute dietary chaos, and a sedentary lifestyle. Yes, there were things stacked against me, yes there were difficult times, yes I was tested, and I failed. Someone on instagram today posted a picture of himself after winning a natural body building competition despite a setback that required surgery and the caption resonated with me. The account is @tolumontana_fitness, and he said:

Follow @tolumontana_fitness on instagram and +tolu montana on google+ for some serious inspiration

"Life has taught me so many things. Getting knocked down is part of it but getting back up is our full responsibility."

Seriously, dude's right. That line is what brought me writing this entry, I am purposely leaving out a lot of details because I will talk of those three dark periods in greater detail in future entries, as well as the podcast. But the point I am trying to drive home is this, life will try to beat you down, keep you down, and it will try to do so more than once. Life will be stubborn, it will not give up, it will try and try again. Life can be your biggest adversary and your greatest teacher all at once. But guess what, life is really only demanding one thing, that you match up to it. That when it challenges you, you stand up to it. And if it beats you, that you rise again until you conquer it. Life fights you with fire, and you have to fight it with fire. Today I am no longer 245 lbs, I'm 185. Leaner, stronger, faster than I was in 2012. Not quite what I was in my teens and early 20's, but headed that way. How? I found that fire again, I chose to rise up to the challenge I had given up on. I took responsibility for my lack of action, my lack of fortitude, and I began to climb my way back out of the hole, now that I'm out I'm going to find every mountain I can climb and conquer it. Why? because to me, there is no greater shame than having proved to yourself just how powerful you can be, only to neglect that power. 

And I can't wait to accomplish all my goals, which most important of all is to inspire others.