Shaker Factory Nitro Shaker Bottle Review

Greetings! Between training clients, coaching classes, and teaching drumlines, I have been quite busy so far in 2014. I did, however, want to take a moment today and review a great product I have been sent from the guys at Shaker Factory. Back in early March they contacted me asking if I could write a review of their Nitro Shaker, and after receiving it in the mail, I have been using it ever since!
Nitroshaker (3)
Here are the specifications from Shaker Factory themselves:
  • 600 ml capacity
  • Turbine strainer for a smooth mix of your nutrition supplements
  • Best usage: Post workouts but also other purposes
  • 3 different compartments for various ways to include nutritional supplements
And here is a list of positives that I came up with after having used the product for roughly one month:
  • Large: fits way more liquid than normal.
  • Separate containers allows for storing powders and pills individually.
  • Quiet: doesn’t make noise like shaker bottles with a wire ball do!
  • Mixes great, especially when the powder is stored in the separate container below.
  • Lid doesn’t leak, and is quiet when closing (no annoying ‘snap!’)
And a few brief critiques:
  • A bit too wide to easily fit into my backpack side pocket or my car’s drink holder.
  • The powder container underneath sometimes leaves a residue on the underside of the bottle.
  • The logo has already worn off from washing, but that is purely aesthetic.

Here’s what the Shaker Factory Nitro Shaker looks like when you put some protein powder in the bottom and screw it together:

IMG_1289

So all in all this is a great protein blender bottle! Shaker Factory is based out of Switzerland, so you have to contact them to get a quote on the Nitro Shaker. I want to say a huge thanks to Antonio, Angelo, and Paul at Shaker Factory for allowing me to review their awesome product, and be sure to check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Thanks for reading!

Five Well-Being Practices I Recommend

Today I will be writing about well-being. Over the past few months I have been taking a class at George Mason University on well-being, and the focus of my upcoming graduate study there will be on leadership, mindfulness, well-being, and the arts.

Martin Rooney of Training For Warriors fame often says, “We don’t have a knowledge problem; we have a doing problem.” Thus, I want to offer practical advice for implementing these tips in your daily life, rather than simply spouting off more knowledge and adding to the problem. I hope you enjoy!

Five Well-Being Practices I Recommend

  1. Drink water.
    • Ideally, aim for half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.
    • I weigh 185 lbs, so I would drink 92 ounces of water each day.
    • If I have a 16-oz water bottle, then I know I have to drink about 6 refills of the bottle.
    • Bonus: Add a lemon or lime for flavor. It really helps me drink more water, plus it helps you stay alkaline!
  2. Meditate.
    • The best meditation practice is the one you will consistently do, so experiment and see what works.
    • Start small, perhaps 5 minutes each day, and then gradually add time as you feel comfortable.
    • Keep it simple: just sit, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing.
    • Bonus: Try the Headspace app’s free Take 10 Program.
  3. Walk.
    • Walking is a powerful yet simple practice to adopt, especially as the weather gets nicer.
    • If you have 20 minutes to walk, then simply start walking and turn around 10 minutes later!
    • Stand tall with good posture and walk quickly (whatever that means to you).
    • Bonus: Walk unplugged (no phone, iPod, or headphones), and unweighted (no backpack, purse, or bags).
  4. Play.
    • Play an instrument, play a game, play sports, play with your children, … the list goes on!
    • The key concept here is playing with no vested interest in the outcome.
    • Play can involve creativity and art as well, both of which are undervalued by many people.
    • Bonus: Make it social by playing with a pet, a family member, a friend, etc.
  5. Practice gratitude.
    • Personally I have found that practicing gratitude helps to alleviate stress and increase my mood.
    • If you find time to journal, then simply make a list of 3 things for which you are grateful that day.
    • It can also really help to talk about gratitude out loud.
    • Bonus: Ask someone else, “What are 3 things you are grateful for today?”

There you have it! Part of my own well-being practice is to write, so thanks for reading! Let me know how these well-being practices work for you.

Do Not Diet or Set a New Year’s Resolution in 2014

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope that 2013 was a fantastic year for you and that 2014 will be even better. However, I do NOT want you to diet or set a New Year’s Resolution this year. Why? Please read on…

Diets Do Not Work

As someone who regularly works with people who want to lose weight, I am painfully aware of the fact that diets simply do not work. The Canadian National Eating Disorder Information Centre writes here that those attempting a diet are more likely to gain weight than lose it! And researchers from UCLA note here that after analyzing over 30 long-term studies, they observed that at least 2/3 of participants gained back the weight they lost (if not more) during short-term diets. Armed with this knowledge, it would be downright foolish to attempt a 30-day challenge or some other restrictive diet with the goal of keeping weight off long-term.

New Year’s Resolutions Do Not Work

I have an article about willpower coming out in the January 2014 issue of the Performance Menu, in which I cite several gloomy facts about the utter failure of those who set New Year’s Resolutions. In one informal study led by Quirkology, the success rate one year later was just 12%! Fitness and nutrition juggernauts Alwyn Cosgrove and John Berardi have noted time and time again how your chances of success when adopting new habits drastically decrease when you add too much at once. The numbers are alarming: one habit at a time yields an 85% chance of success, whereas two habits lowers to a shocking 35%, and three habits is almost zero! Just as with the knowledge of diet failure rates, the stats here should steer you away from doing what most people do when it comes to setting New Year’s Resolutions.

What To Do Instead

If your goal is to lose weight in 2014, then there are a couple options I would recommend:

  1. For quite literally instant weight loss, cut off a limb. (Actually, I can’t say that I recommend this option. You would lose weight though.)
  2. If you want to lose body fat and keep it off for the rest of your life, then talk to the people at Precision Nutrition. They are the largest and most successful nutrition coaching company in the world. They even tailor their free web content by gender! I highly recommend this course for men and this course for women. And if you are a trainer looking to level up your nutrition coaching skills, then check out this course.

If you have other goals unrelated to body composition, then here is what I recommend:

  1. Prioritize your goals. Go so far as to make a numbered list.
  2. Now take number 1 on your list (let’s say it’s, “Meditate more often”) and make it more specific (“Meditate for 5 minutes every day.”).
  3. Set an end date when you will re-assess your success. February 1st should work well.
  4. If and only if you accomplished your number 1 priority, then you may continue on to the other items on your list in a similar fashion.

For an added bonus, post your goals to the comments here or as a status on Facebook. Pay someone $20 to hold you accountable. Or better yet, find a social network with similar goals so that you have communal support.

And lastly, if you would prefer one-on-one coaching, then I am looking for online coaching clients in 2014! I have helped several people lose weight in the past, and I have personal experience when it comes to adding lean muscle mass and learning new skills. Thanks for reading!

Quick Tip: How to Count Sets for Strength Work

Quick tip today related to how to count sets for strength work. Many people program workouts such as 5 sets of 5 reps in the back squat, for instance. If your heaviest back squat ever (your 1 rep max, or 1RM) is 200 lbs, then perhaps your goal is to lift 175 lbs, or 75% of your 1RM, in this workout. Some people might do this:

  1. One set of 5 reps with the bar (45 lbs)
  2. Add 25-lb plates and do 5 reps (95 lbs)
  3. Swap them out for 45-lb plates and do 5 reps (135 lbs)
  4. Add 10-lb plates and do 5 reps (155 lbs)
  5. Add 10-lb plates and do 5 reps (175 lbs)

That’s 5 sets, right? Nope! That’s 2 warm-up sets and 3 working sets, not 5 working sets. I would recommend that the athlete in the given example above do 2 more sets at 175 lbs in order to truly have done 5 sets of 5 in the back squat that day. The question then is, how do you determine what counts as working sets for strength work?

Charles Poliquin has a general rule for determining how to count strength sets, and I have found it to work rather well:

There should be no more than a 10-20% spread in load from the lightest to heaviest set.

This principle is very easy to apply when you have a workout such as 3 sets of 3 reps, 4 sets of 6 reps, 10 sets of 1 rep, etc. Thus, if you aim to overhead press 100 lbs for 5 sets of 3 reps, then you should only start counting sets once you reach at least 80 lbs on the bar.

Things get a bit trickier, however, when you have wave-loading rep schemes like 5-3-2-5-3-2. Here, if you aim to deadlift 300 lbs for 2 reps on the last wave, then perhaps your first set is 225 lbs for 5 reps. (You could start at exactly 80% and do 240 lbs, but I’m a big fan of just using “natural weights” like Dan John discusses here.)

So there you have it: keep things simple when counting your strength sets, but don’t fool yourself and do less work than is prescribed. I hope this tip helps you optimize your time spent training! Thanks for reading.

Quantifying Instructional Efficacy

Over the past few years my life has been split between fitness and music education. As such, I have spent a lot of time both instructing groups and taking group classes. It is crucially important for teachers and trainers to also be students every so often. You can almost always pick up on other ways of doing things that you can then bring back into your own practice.

For instance, I always begin my CrossFit classes with everyone stating their name to the group. Why? Because I have dropped in on many CrossFit gyms where no one knew each other’s name and the atmosphere was socially awkward! Another example is that I never ask a group a question such as, “So you all have already gone over ____ before, right?” Inevitably, no one wants to be the person to make the entire group go over a basic skill again. Rather, I work basic skills into the warm-up so that I know right then and there where everyone is at on that skill for the day.

hspu

Banded Headstand Push-up: One method I’ve learned to expose new or weaker athletes to inverted bodyweight pressing.

While observing a group exercise class the other day, I realized there is a need to quantify Instructional Efficacy. What do I mean by that? Please allow me to get a bit technical:

  • Average Movement Quality (AMQ): In a group setting, the AMQ refers to how well each person is executing each skill. For instance, if 10 people are doing front squats, and 5 of them look rock solid while 5 of them have wobbly knees and elbows, then the AMQ is 50%. Similarly, if one person is doing power snatches with good positioning but consistently “presses it out” overhead, then perhaps we can say the AMQ is 33%.
  • People: Total number of clients, athletes, students, attendees, etc.
  • Instructors: Total number of trainers, coaches, teachers, assistants, group leaders, etc.

Using these three variables, we can then define Instructional Efficacy as:

  • Instructional Efficacy (IE) = (AMQ x People) / Instructors

Important to note here is that while the Average Movement Quality is a subjective number, the number of People and Instructors is not. Therefore, as a gym owner, manager, or head trainer, your task should be to set clear standards for what counts as good Movement Quality and what does not. (The CrossFit Judges Course is a good place to start, although I think some of their standards are a bit questionable. Catalyst Athletics has a great resource of videos too.)

Let’s see this formula play out in a few different scenarios:

  1. CrossFit class with 2 instructors and 20 people doing power cleans. 5 athletes look good, 10 people could fix one small detail like stance width, and 5 newer clients need serious work on hip extension instead of arm bending. So let’s say the AMQ is 75%. Thus, the IE = (.75 x 20 people) / 2 instructors, or 7.5. If you only had one instructor, you’d have an IE of 15, and if you bumped it up to three instructors, then you’d get an IE of 5.
  2. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class with 1 instructor and 12 people practicing arm-bars. 3 blue belts have it down, 3 advanced white belts can do it but have trouble transitioning, and 6 newer white belts are really struggling. The black belt instructor deems the AMQ to be roughly 40%, and therefore the IE is 4.8. If he asks a blue belt to help the white belts and the AMQ raises to 90%, then the IE raises to 4.95.
  3. Personal training session with 1 client and 1 trainer discussing nutrition. Ah, a trick question! Well, if the client goes home and follows the trainer’s advice to eat mostly meat and vegetables, then the Instructional Efficacy is high. However, if the nutrition information goes in one ear and out the other, then it is the trainer who has some homework to do because their IE is low.

So how should you use this concept? Your goal should be to keep the Average Movement Quality, and thus the Instructional Efficacy, as high as possible. Whether you teach fitness, martial arts, music, or arts and crafts, your value as an instructor can be quantifiably measured based on the quality work done by your students.

Thanks for reading, and please share if you find this concept to be noteworthy!

Reps and Resources

Just a quick post today to get you guys a bit of information about what I have been up to. I have created a “Resources” page that features a few links:

ID Life, meaning “individually designed life,” is a soon-to-be-released supplement line that I am backing for a few reasons. First, their products will be organic, gluten-free, casein-free, and GMO-free. Second, the entire program is based around an exhaustive questionnaire that individualizes your supplement prescription to YOU, rather than making blanket statements about what people need in general. Lastly, I respect a lot of the people involved (Keith Norris, for instance), and the company’s executives are tailoring the products towards a Paleo-minded fitness crowd.
Precision Nutrition’s Coaching Program is top-notch in the field of sports and exercise nutrition. This link brings you to a free 5-video course, and from there I highly recommend their certification program. They focus on principles rather than ideologies, meaning it is better to get results using varied means rather than stick to just one method. In this course you will learn both nutritional science and basic coaching psychology.

Precision Nutrition’s Fat Loss Course for Men and Fat Loss Course for Women are great resources, and these links bring you to a free 5-video course about eating to achieve leanness and confidence. From there you can sign up for their Lean Eating coaching program, which I highly recommend simply based off the thousands of people who Precision Nutrition has helped lose body fat. If you are interested in seriously committing to losing excess weight in 2014, then there is simply no better place to go than here.
2. I spent the past weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina attending an Original Strength Workshop led by Tim Anderson. Without giving away too much, Original Strength is based around the ideas Tim originally espoused in the book Becoming Bulletproof, and it is centered around the idea of “pressing reset” on your body by focusing on breathing, rolling, rocking, and crawling. We went through hundreds of progressions and regressions for each of the movements, and all those reps really helped the group learn the intricacies of the drills better.

This reminded me of a bigger picture point that although we all can occasionally gravitate towards the 5-minute instant fix, sometimes simple repetition is king. If you are learning a new skill, regardless whether it is speaking Spanish, playing an instrument, or doing barbell snatches, you need to do reps and reps and reps and reps. I once had a drumming student e-mail me asking about a particular rudiment, called a “flam drag.” My response was, “Play 1,000 flam drags over the course of the next week, and then let me know if you still need my help.” He never responded!

Thanks for reading! Remember to check out my article in the November issue of the Performance Menu, and be on the look out for another one coming up in January!

Get People Excited About the Basics

If you are ever in need of a bout of inspiration in the health and fitness world, just travel up to quaint little East Greenwich, Rhode Island for a weekend. While there, be sure to stop by the Poliquin Group‘s brand new facility, complete with a 20,000-square-foot gym (with all Eleiko bars and plates), a supplement bar (all Poliquin line), a café (entirely gluten-free), a classroom (state-of-the-art), and even a student lounge (with couches, refrigerator, etc.). Heaven exists people, and it’s in Rhode Island.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Dynamic Movement in Sports Symposium hosted by the Poliquin Group. Saturday belonged to Coach Christopher Sommer of GymnasticBodies.com fame. This guy has been a Junior National Team coach for about 40 years, so what he says is law. It was very cool to work with someone who had zero desire to over-hype, blow smoke, or romanticize his product; rather, his method has been proven over and over again through his athletes. In the very near future I will be working through his Foundation Series, which comes highly recommended from many others in the field.

On Sunday morning Jeff Serven of Trident Athletics gave a lecture on his view of CrossFit, heavily informed by legends such as Mark Twight of Gym Jones, James FitzGerald of OPT, and Charles Poliquin of Strength Sensei, not to mention Jeff’s 10 years spent as a Navy Seal. I found this presentation to be very refreshing because he spoke openly and plainly about what it is we need to do as fitness professionals: get results, regardless of allegiances or biases towards any one sport, method, or program.

Derek Woodske, a Poliquin Group staff member and overall badass, gave the last speech of the day on supplementation recommendations for CrossFit athletes. Suffice it to say that the biggest thing I learned from listening to Derek talk for 2 hours was that I need to listen to Derek talk more often. The guy is incredibly open-minded and easy to talk to, especially for someone who has the wealth of training and coaching experience as he does. Check out his video blog here.

All this recap leads me to a crucial point I was reminded of this weekend: coaches and trainers need to get their athletes and clients excited about mastering the basics. Which basketball team will win: the one who shoots 8 for 20 from the 3-point arc, or the one that’s 18 for 20 on lay-ups? Or what about a general fitness client: should they try box jumps if they cannot properly squat with just their bodyweight?

For instance, you’ll often hear about some of the best weightlifters in the world coming into the gym and warming up the exact same way, every single session. Why is that? Probably because they are still working on mastering the basics: squatting, hinging, knee position, hip position, shoulder position, bar speed, extension, etc.

In the context of martial arts, you should always adopt the white belt mindset: humble, eager to learn, and respectful of the process it takes to improve. Gordon Emory, the owner and head instructor over at Charlottesville Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, recently sent out an email that ended with, “A black belt should be a master of the fundamentals.” And believe me, you do NOT want to get triangle-choked by Gordon.

Now if you are a trainer like me, then here’s something to mull over:

  1. Clients come to you because they are interested in fitness. Their goals are to look good, feel good, and have fun.
  2. Your first priority should be to get them moving well in basic ways: squat, hinge, push, pull, breathe, walk, etc.
  3. In order to do so, you need to keep them excited about their progress, and use what they want (look good, feel good, have fun) to motivate them to improve.
  4. Shortly thereafter, you should start discussing the fundamentals of nutrition, NOT some crazy 30-day challenge. I’m talking about real food, meat and veggies, colors on your plate, drinking water, etc.
  5. At some point later you should mention sleep quantity, stress levels, setting goals, etc.

Sexy? Hell no. Effective? It will be, but only if you as a coach or trainer get people excited about mastering the basics. Thanks for reading. By the way, check out the November 2013 issue of the Performance Menu for an article I wrote titled, “Health and Fitness Production vs. Consumption.”