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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.


Fitness Spotlight: Rachel Elizabeth Murray

Rachel Elizabeth Murray is a certified personal trainer who has also been featured in numerous modeling projects as well. 

There are numerous ways to follow her fitness projects currently.

www.ifitpersonaltraining.com is her personal training site.


You can get fitness tips from Rachel herself here.

She is also currently training clients out in the Seattle area who are blogging their weight loss progress online, frequent updates are posted on Twitter.

I see so many women every morning slaving away on the treadmills and ellipticals, thinking they are inching towards the body and fitness they've always hoped for.  Examples like Rachel Elizabeth Murray show that overall fitness (which includes resistance training AND a clean diet) is the only true way to get the results you are after.

Here's a sample video of her iFit Tips, and you won't see her barely moving on some elliptical while reading a magazine, but getting after it with serious exercises like ring pullups and even hitting the heavy bag.  Her first words?

"Ladies, do not be afraid to lift heavy weights..."




Can you really put spinach in a smoothie?

Yes, you can.  And no, it doesn't ruin the taste. 


I wouldn't have believed it myself if I hadn't listened to Craig Ballantyne (and watched his video).

I didn't have as much trouble with my blender as Craig did, but his advice is spot-on.  Adding leafy greens like spinach or kale to your smoothies or blended drinks is a great way to get high volumes of plant nutrients into your daily diet without having to sit down behind a punch bowl-sized salad three times each day. 

This is sure to be only the first in many discussions about "green smoothies", if you are anything like me (or most people) it will probably take a few times for you to get used to the idea of combining spinach in a blender with the rest of your smoothie.

Here's another video of Atlanta Falcons' tight end Tony Gonzalez using spinach (and a bunch of other veggies) in his blender drink:


Fitness Spotlight: Jessica Biel

If there is one celebrity that in my experience, makes women who want to get themselves into shape say "ooh I'd love to look like her...", it is Jessica Biel.

While it's usually a bad practice to emulate a celebrity's diet or workout patterns, if you're a female trying to get in shape for "beach season" there are still lots of things we can learn and implement from what Jessica Biel has done.

For starters, hopefully we can dispell the old fear that some women  - "if I lift weights, won't I get big and bulky like a man?"

 As is shown to the right, lifting weights hasn't made her look "like a man" at all.

While she does put time in around the weights, the core structure of her workouts also seems to be interval cardio sessions that gets the heart rate going. 

Here is a link to her workouts that feature weights, plyos, and sprint intervals:


The "clean eating" nature of her diet is hopefully something that becomes a consistent theme throughout this site.  There really isn't anyone alive (save for the 10% of our population that earns their living as pro athletes in some capacity) that can achieve the body they want while eating garbage regularly.

Here's a quick :30 video interview of her outlining the workouts in preparation for the "Blade" movie role:

Key Takeaway:  Even though she has much more time than the average woman to workout, the average woman can still implement some of the same drills, exercises, and nutritional habits to see real changes in your body.