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Entries in track & field (5)


Plyometric Bodyweight Drills

Often I get asked questions like "I don't want to join a gym, but what else can I do besides running?" or "How can I spice up my workouts without having access to equipment?"

I'm a big fan of plyometric bodyweight drills due to my time running track in high school and college. (note - I was not very good and probably lost 99% of my heats)  I use bodyweight plyos as warm-up drills for most of my fitness classes, and also as a form of Tabatas to get everyone's heart rate elevated and make them earn their trip to the water fountain.

Plyo drills are a great way to not only challenge your cardiovascular system, but build your explosive lower body power and fast-twitch muscle fibers.  These drills can be difficult to explain and are best demonstrated - so I've decided to use a pretty accomplished source as an example, IFBB Figure Pro Erin Stern.

Erin Stern is the 2010 Ms. Figure Olympia, and competed in the high jump and heptathlon at the University of Florida.  I'm always biased towards track & field athletes, and Erin Stern justifies my feelings with how well she hits each of these drills shown in the below videos.

Erin Stern is one example of why it takes a lot more than just "going for a jog" or reading a magazine on the StairMaster to achieve the sort of physique you can be proud of.





Women's Fitness Spotlight - Lolo Jones

This Women's Fitness Spotlight is on one of my favorite individual sport pro athletes - U.S. Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones

Lolo won the World Indoor Championships in the 60m hurdles in 2008, but won even more fans (including myself) after her dignified behavior following the 2008 Bejing Olympics.  She entered the finals of the 100m hurdles as the favorite, but while leading the race towards the finish, clipped the second-to-last hurdle to finish 7th.  Instead of pitying herself or making excuses, she faced the public head-on and gave classy interviews, giving many of us an example for how to handle disappointment in a big spot.

She came back in 2010 to defend her 60m Indoor hurdles title with a winning time of 7.72 (a new American record).  She also picked up a win in the 100m hurdles earlier in September at the IAAF World Challenge meet.

Lolo Jones is another athlete that also seems to "get it" in-terms of social media, online presence, and fan interaction.  In addition to her main site, you can follow her on Twitter as well. 

If you like those abs ladies, she gave a few tips and exercises to Runner's World in a feature last year.

She's also got a pretty robust YouTube presence, here are a few sample videos:

*Lolo Jones walks us through an athlete's nutrition (try to tune out the German voice-over).

*Clap Pushup Challenge (Ladies take note!)


Fitness Spotlight: Apolo Ohno

As the 2010 Winter Olympics draws to a close, I figured this was a good occasion to spotlight the workouts and nutritional habits of both a men's and women's competitor.  For the men's spotlight, let's take a look at short-track speed skater and gold-medalist Apolo Ohno. 

After viewing one of his training videos courtesy of Strength Performance Network, I noticed that Apolo's training style was very reminiscent of explosion and plyo drills I learned during my time running track & field in college.  The neuromuscular requirements of sprinters and speed skaters are very similar, both require explosive power along with fast-twitch muscular endurance.  Apolo's workout also features a big emphasis on hip flexor strength, which is another immediate similarity to a track & field sprinter philosophy.

 As I expected, Apolo Ohno seems to have a solid understanding of what sorts of foods make his body perform optimally.  Other than Michael Phelps, I don't think many of us can run efficiently on pizza, pancakes, and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Ohno apparently fuels with complex carb sources like oatmeal and brown rice earlier in the day, good lean protein sources like chicken, and of course plenty of leafy green vegetables.      

Ohno's coach, John Schaeffer deserves a ton of the credit, having helped Apolo Ohno shed 16 pounds in preparation for the Vancouver Olympics by closely monitoring his meals approaching the final phases of his training.


Should I stretch before I workout?

Answer: No.

Really. No.  You shouldn't stretch before you workout. 

Without getting into the science of it all (there is plenty of scholarly writing available on Google), think of your body as a car. 

Now this is a timely metaphor since it is less than 20 degrees outside and all of our cars are covered in ice.  Each morning before work, all of us take an extra 3-5 minutes to scrape the ice off the windshield and let the car warm up before heading out.  You wouldn't take the car on a stop-start trip, back and forth in the parking lot.  You might let it idle in park, or rev up the engine until the little heat meter moves a few centimeters up from "C".

Warming up your body serves the same purpose.  Another metaphor would be to stick a bandaid in the freezer for an hour.  Then pull it out and try to stretch it.  Odds are it probably won't be very flexible.  Scary to think your hamstrings and deltoids work the same way.  Take that same rubber band out of the freezer and stick it in hot water or in the microwave for a little bit.  Chances are it stretches much more easily. 

There are a number of ways to get warm (jogging, body weight squats, jumping rope, burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc).  A "dynamic warmup" is basically a movement-specific way to get the blood circulating and the heart rate up prior to your key exercise. 

One of the biggest life-long values I received while running track in college was the art of the dynamic warm-up for both the legs and core/abs.  Here's a few videos demonstrating exercises that fall in the dynamic warm-up category:

Sprint Warm-Up:

GPP (General Physical Preparedness):



Nike vs Under Armour

After group fitness class one day, someone asked me if I had a contract with Under Armour.  Much of my workout gear is from Under Armour, so I assume this is what sparked the question.  My answer was "No, unfortunately" since I am no where close to a fitness model or famous enough to get paid for wearing a specific brand of athletic apparel.  The question sparked a longer conversation between us that eventually landed on the debate of "are you a Nike person or an Under Armour person?"  I thought I would follow up that debate with some informal analysis here.



 As most know, Nike became famous for being a basketball brand thanks in large part to Air Jordan, and continued today thanks to LeBron and Kobe.  Not many are aware though that Nike originated as a running shoe brand, which is part of the reason they are still prevalent in the track & field market.

  Under Armour basically originated the "dry fit"-style football undershirt, but has clearly branched out into so much more these days thanks to the launch of their running shoe line, and continued branch out into nearly all forms of athletic apparel.

Nike holds a solid presence in football, featured by their Pro Combat line.  I was actually a Nike-guy my entire football life, I never wore anything other than Nike cleats, and that is despite playing for a school with a two-year contract with Reebok until I was a junior.

Under Armour has not yet penetrated the football cleat market as deeply as Nike, but their apparel is closing fast.  They have also been smart to go after the youth/high-school market with their name-sponsored high school football All-American game being one example.  Nike has attempted to counter this with their SPARQ training brand.  

Moving strictly to observations (and admittedly this sample size is limited to what I see at my gym each day or runners I notice while driving down the street) it seems as though Nike is somewhat more popular in the female demographic as it relates to runners.  I've been told their running/fitness apparel is "cute" by lots of women, whereas the options are somewhat more limited for men.  Both genders have great shoe options, however as it relates to apparel, Nike seems to put more of its efforts behind the basketball market (another comparison would be how Adidas directs most of its apparel towards the soccer market).

 While I played football (and high school basketball) in nothing but Nikes, I'm strictly an Under Armour shoe person for running and workouts.  Saucony is an outlier since I do have a couple pairs of their running shoes, but I don't want to stray from the main two focuses of this debate.  When Under Armour launched their running shoe line in January of 2009, I picked up a pair and was blown away with how good they were.  It seems as though the general public consensus is that they are solid shoes, which goes to show that as important as fashion may be, quality always wins when it comes to athletic footwear.

I should also say that I had the chance to meet and workout with Team USA Women's Soccer Olympian (and Under Armour endorser) Heather Mitts recently, who told me Under Armour running shoes were "by far" the best shoe she has ever worn for serious runners and athletes.  I was already wearing UA shoes at the time, so I don't think she was trying to "sell" me. 

I'm not sure what degree of market-share UA may have claimed from Nike since they dove into the footwear and overall athletic apparel battle.  You'd probably have to check with people like CNBC's Darren Rovell (Twitter: @darrenrovell1) or Brian Gainor of www.PartnershipActivation.com (Twitter: @briangainor). 

My .02 cents: Nike is still the king of sports apparel and footwear since Under Armour truly only goes head-to-head in football, lacrosse, softball, and a few other olympic sports contested on the high school level.  Nike largely runs unopposed in basketball, golf, track & field, and a few others.

With that said, it is a testament to Under Armour's tremendous products, sharp marketing, and well-thought-out business plan that they have been able to make up so much ground in a relatively small amount of time.

*Hopefully this is the first installment of these, I welcome comments and feedback on your own Nike/UA product experiences.