Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Skinny on Walking

Health benefits of walkingWhile I would love to say that walking can be just as effective of a workout as running, I can’t, because I would be lying to you. In fairness, the two really shouldn’t be compared against each other. Running due to larger muscle recruitment, greater forces exerted and faster motion capability will always have the proverbial ‘leg up’ on walking. With that being said, walking is a really good form of exercise and can help you reach your fitness and weightloss goals.

As a life long track athlete, who has marveled at race walkers (checkout the olympic walkers on youtube), I don’t scoff at walking. In fact, walking is the suggested workout over running for many people. For example, those with knee, ankle and back problems and also for people who are overweight to obese. Walking is more of the default component of cardio workouts for my older clients and something that I encourage my clients of all ages to do more of every day.
walking to get healthy on the treadmill

Walking is a lower impact exercise and can be done for longer periods of time. The Mayo Clinic points out some of the best benefits of walking.

When it comes to a walking workout, I challenge clients by varying the speeds and inclines on the treadmill. I will also use light dumbbells to better engage the arms and core during the walk. One use of dumbbells is to simply hold them during the natural arm swing movement while you walk. Another variation you can try during your walk is to do an exaggerated runners arm pump. And finally, a favorite move of mine with dumbbells is to do almost a bicep curl arm pump while walking.

Here’s a 30 minute treadmill workout to take your walking routine to the next level.

(Note: try to never hold onto the treadmill while walking, even when at an incline)

Treadmill Walking Workout to lose weight

Parts of this post were featured on NBC News BETTER

Why walking is underrated NBCSo there you have it. Good luck with integrating walking into your fitness routine. It is not only a good way to get and stay in shape, but also to explore your surroundings. Here’s to seeing you on walks around the world.

Outdoor walking to get healthy

Monday, July 2, 2018

5 Tips to Make Your Summer Travel Plans Your Fittest Ones Yet

Brooklyn skyscape

Summer travel season is officially in full swing and I wanted to share some vacation and travel tips with you to keep your fitness and workout routines humming.

When traveling for work, I find a quick workout to be a great way to focus my mind, get my energy levels up and destress from the various modes of transportation.

fire island, boat, water, vacation
When it comes to vacations, I may be one of those rare people who really look forward to having the time to focus in on my fitness. Vacations are in my opinion the perfect time to re-incorporate working out into your daily routine. Like many professionals, my daily routine can be pretty overwhelming, leaving me crunched on time to get in my workouts. Thus, when on vacation I take all the time in the world to do my dream workouts (whether that’s extra stretching, long yoga sessions, or killer 2 hour gym sessions).

jump squat, vacation, workout
An important takeaway for vacation and travel workouts is to emphasize routines and activities that you enjoy and/or make you feel good (or are at least good for you - because those will make you feel good in the end).

Here are a few tips on how to make your next travel plans your fittest ones yet

Yoga, vacation, travel, workout1.) Morning Yoga/Stretching: If you’re like me, you might always have the best of intentions to wake-up earlier in the morning to do a little yoga or stretching but the time crunch of getting into work, kids, eating or sleeping more gets in the way. While on vacation I like to leave my mornings open so I can leisurely wake-up and either do a 10 to 30 minute yoga routine or a stretching session. The app Daily Yoga or on YouTube - YogaTX are good yoga options. 

And here are two stretching series I designed: Sitting Stretch Series and Standing Stretch Series
stretching, workout, JKF Fitness & Health

2.) Runs: As a former competitive runner turned recreational runner, I love exploring my vacation or travel locale with a run. The two apps I use most frequently to track and guide my runs are MapMyRun and Nike Run Club. A cool feature of these apps is they can actually provide suggested routes right in the app for your current location. It’s also always a good idea to check with your front desk or check local running sites on the dos and don’ts of running in your area: for instance best times, safe neighborhoods, and proper footwear and attire.

3.) Best Travel Equipment: I will occasionally bring some equipment with me. A pack of resistance bands or my TRX cables. Both are great because they are pretty small to travel with and not too heavy. Plus, they make it easier to do pull movements and are also a source of resistance for workout moves. I’ll also travel with a small jump rope (my rope of choice)

4.) Workouts!: And of course these tips wouldn’t be complete unless I gave you a few JKF Fitness & Health custom designed workouts. Try my newest Travel workout which has its own accompanying video: 

And here’s a breakdown of all of the moves:

1. Jump Rope - 2 mins
2. High Knees - 45 seconds
2. Butt Kicks - 45 seconds
4. Jumping Jacks - 45 seconds
5. Speed Walkouts - 45 seconds
6. Bulgarian Split Squats - 20 each leg
7. Forward and Back Dive Push-ups - 10 reps
8. Jump Squats - 30 reps
9. Heel Touch Sit-ups - 30 reps
10. Close Hand Push-ups - 20 reps
11. Bent Over Row (Cable or Resistance Band) - 20 reps
12.Push-ups - 20 reps
13. Bent Over Row (Cable or Resistance Band) - 20 reps
14. Wide Hand Push-ups - 20 reps
15. Bent Over Row (Cable or Resistance Band) - 20 reps
16. Pilates Teaser Series (3 moves, (1) legs held up and out, upper body and arms back and sit-up to reach toes, (2) Sitting almost upright with arms extended above head, lower and lift legs, (3) V-up motion - 10 reps of each move
17. Jump Rope - 2 mins

Additional Workouts:

5.) Final Takeaways: Take advantage of the facilities at which you’re staying. If they have a gym or offer classes or running groups, be sure to check them out. Keep it rolling when you get home. Tried out some of the suggested routines above? Start tracking your progress with an app like FitNotes to see how you’re improving with reps, time, weight or resistance level. For instance, I’m challenging myself with some great pull-up and push-up challenges at the moment. I superset 15 pull-ups to 25 push-ups and see how many times I can go through in the shortest time possible. And lastly, be flexible. As my sister reminds me constantly, never let perfect be the enemy of done. If you crunched on time, sometimes the best thing to do is just a quick 20 minutes of cardio, or a 10 minute cross-training session, or a short stretch sequence. The important thing for your long term health and fitness goals is to get in those quality “active” minutes for your weekly total. Remember the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 mins of intense activity a week to be healthy.
John Ford, bags, travel, vacation

Friday, November 25, 2016

Interval Cardio Workouts Great for Getting you through the Holidays


Let me start by wishing everyone a belated Happy Thanksgiving and I hope everyone’s Holiday seasons are off to a great start.
In the Nov/Dec issue of Muscle & Fitness Hers I gave them a tip for their Healthy Happy Holiday Survival Guide.

The holidays can be a stressful time and keeping up with your workout regimen shouldn’t be a contributing factor to your stress. My advice to Muscle & Fitness was to have a quick high intensity interval (HIIT) cardio workout in your back pocket to do. It’s a great way to work off excess energy from stress and get a little endorphin boost. In the Muscle & Fitness Hers Survival Guide (and below) you can see the cycling workout I created just for them.

Don't fret if you don't have a stationary bike to rock the above workout with, I also made a simple 5 move interval workout that you can do at home, in the office or on the road while traveling.

It’s 5 moves, 1 set takes 7 and a half minutes - and you are ideally shooting to complete 3 sets back to back, meaning in about 25 minutes you'll have gotten in a great workout. To push even harder in the workout, try to exceed the numbers of reps of each move in each of the three sets.


Breakdown of the moves

1. Deep Squats (1 min) - Stand feet little wider than shoulder width apart and drop you hips to the ground until thighs are slightly below parallel to the ground. Stand back up pushing through your heals. Repeat the movement varying the speed of the motion throughout.

30 seconds rest

2. Close Wide Middle Push-ups (1 min) - In plank start with hands spread wide (positioned a couple of inches outside of the shoulder), do one push-up, bring the hands to about shoulder width apart do a push-up, bring the hands to about 6 inches apart and do a push-up. Start the sequence in reverse beginning with the close hand position. One set will be 6 push-ups (2 at each position). Repeat for 1 min getting in as many sets as possible. Love this move as it works multiple aspects of my pectoral muscles and incorporates a cardio component as I switch from the different positions.

30 seconds rest

3. Jog in Place High Knees (1min)

30 seconds rest

4. Full body sit-ups (1min) - Lying prone on the floor with arms overhead. Swing arms forward lifting shoulders up. Once your shoulders are halfway up, start bringing your knees into your chest. The finished position should have you at the top of a sit-up movement with your feet off the ground. Slowly extend you legs out and lower your shoulders back to the ground to complete one rep. Repeat as many times as possible over the minute. This is a great total core workout. Working your upper, lower and middle abdominal muscles.

30 seconds rest

5. Switch Jump Lunges (1min) - Get into a lunge position with your right foot forward and left foot back and flexed bringing your bent left knee as close to the ground as possible. Switch jump your left foot forward and then bring your right leg back in a controlled manner to dip low into a lunge. Keep jump switching between the legs. Great exercise for a low impact cardio cross training movement.


And there you have it, 2 great cardio workouts to keep you looking and feeling great through the holiday season. Give them a try and let me know what you think about them!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mastering the Squat and all its Variations

Squats are one of my favorite exercises and one that I try to make sure all of my clients (no matter age or ability) master.

As I tell them, if standing up is something you're going to be doing for the rest of your life, then squatting is going to need to be a part of your exercise routine. Parts of this post were featured on Thrillist.com

The quick benefits of squatting breakdown:
  • Full body exercise
  • Great core strength developer (especially when weighted)
  • Builds strength in all leg muscles
  • Increases flexibility (specifically through the hip complex)
  • An exercise that stimulates the release of anabolic hormones (meaning promotes muscle development in the body).
Here are the squat progressions you’ll need to master with what I consider some of the best and shortest video examples.

The first thing anyone needs to do when it comes to squatting is master the form. There's a great deal of flexibility, core strength and leg strength necessary to perform a proper squat. I would describe a neutral squat as feet about shoulder width apart. You should be able to drop low, sending your weight onto your heels, while maintaining an eye focal point at about 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock. Your hips should be able to drop just past parallel (not necessarily something you do on every squat, but you should have the capability).

I start clients with a simple body weight squat. For beginners, I have them hold onto a banister, or any ledge (or bar) and drop backwards sending their weight onto their heels, dropping their glutes backwards and slightly below parallel.

The next progression is the body weight squat without holding onto anything. Placing an emphasis on keeping your chin-up and spine straight (to slightly arched) through the motion.

Once that's mastered, it becomes about weighting and destabilizing the motion. The easiest and probably safest way to weight the movement is holding dumbbells at your side with straight arms.

Weighting with a barbell across the back can be helpful for those looking to be able to drop their hips a little lower during the movement.

Another variation I introduce around this time is squats on the bosu ball. This variation is important for working on control of the movement through balance, by stressing the stabilizer muscles.

Once all of the above is accomplished the next variations are front squats with a barbell or dumbbell (goblet). This movement is helpful in being able to really squat with your weight in your heels and sending your hips and glutes backwards, due to the weight in the front creating a counter-balance.

The next motions I approach to start mastering after the above are single leg squats. Single leg squats can also be weighted forward, backward or at the side. One of the great benefits of single leg squats is that they allow a diagnosis of strength differences between legs. Make sure you can perform the same amount of reps at the same weight, with perfect form on each leg. Otherwise, you may have an imbalance between your right and left sides that will need to be addressed.

The final and most difficult moves for me are pistol and single leg squats on a bosu ball (both flat side up and down).

And that's my ultimate progression for the squat movement. If you can do all of the above then you will have mastered the squat.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Favorite Treadmill Workouts

If you’re looking more like Homer on the treadmill these days it might be time to give one of my favorite workouts a try. I much prefer running outdoors, but when weather conditions are not to my liking it’s to the trusty old treadmill I head.

Workout #1 was actually featured on Brit + Co so you know it’s a good one 😏

1. It’s an interval routine (HIIT) and works best when you can program in 2 speeds for your sprint and recovery.

I start with about 2 minutes of casual jogging.
  • Then it’s a 45 second sprint (mine is about 12 to 13 mph)
  • Then 30 second active recovery (mine is about 6.0 mph)
I repeat that sequence for about 8 to 10 sprints. (Note you can increase or decrease the sprint and recovery paces to be able complete the 8 to 10 sets).

Then cool down for about 3 minutes around 7.0 mph.

2.) My other favorite thing to do on treadmills is pace runs with an incline. As a former sprinter it’s good work for me to get on a treadmill and kind of be forced to stay at a pace for an extended distance. These type of workouts have been great in conditioning my body to run longer distances are more event splits. The target time for this workout is 10 to 15 minutes. Heads up, like race time, this workout is a sprint from the start.

(Note: To gauge the speed you should be at, work from your current fastest mile time. To start the run look to add somewhere between one minute to 90 seconds to that time.)

  • I go out at about 6:40 mile pace with a 2.0/2.5 incline - maintain for ½ mile.
  • Increase the pace to about 6:30 mile pace and drop the incline to 1.5 - maintain for ¼ mile
  • Decrease pace by 10 to 15 seconds and take incline back to 2.0 - maintain for ¼ mile
  • Increase pace by 15 to 20 seconds and drop incline to 1.0 - maintain for ¼ mile
  • Decrease pace by 5 to 10 seconds, increase incline to 1.5 - maintain for ¼ mile
  • Increase pace by 10 to 15 seconds, drop incline to 1.0 - maintain for ¼ mile
  • Increase pace by 10 to 15 seconds, drop incline to 0.5 - maintain for ¼ mile
  • Increase pace by 5 to 10 seconds, drop incline to 0 - maintain for ½ mile (the sprint to the finish, can increase pace additionally as you see fit)
  • Cool down jog for 2 minutes around 5.0 mph pace

And there you have it - two great treadmill workouts to try on your own. Just don't be like these epic fails on the treadmill . . . . 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stretching is . . . fundamental?

Stretching puts a smile on your face
The question of whether you should stretch seems pretty settled when you consult most fitness professionals and doctors. But a google deep dive will bring up more conflicting information than you might expect. 

So where do I stand, er sit, on stretching? I’m a big proponent of stretching and it’s a huge part of my wellness routine when I’m not being bad and skimping out on my post workout regimen (as quoted in this Bustle feature). Anecdotally, I attribute proper stretching to a broad range of my athletic accomplishments and current capabilities. Plus, I have seen tangible improvements in workouts and well-being in my clients who stretch (I stretch them myself to ensure they do it)

Studies have shown that the major benefit of stretching is maintaining or increasing range of motion through a joint. Is that it? What about injury prevention and improved performance? Well the science is a little more undecided on those two things, with some studies showing gains and improvements, others none and even a few showing adverse effects. Where does that leave you and what you should do? Here are my takeaways for what is most commonly accepted and administered to athletes today.

  • A pre-workout, race or game routine should include a cardiovascular component to warm the body up and get blood flowing, followed by a sequence of dynamic exercises to prime and stretch the range of motions used in competition. (Keep an eye out for our upcoming “Dynamic” warm-up video, a great go to guide on how to prime yourself for a competitive event or intense workout) 
  • Following a race, game, competition or workout it’s then prescribed to do a cool down cardiovascular routine to re-warm-up the body, get blood flowing and slowly stretch back out tightened muscles. During a strenuous activity muscle fibers can become overly contracted. If not properly stretched and smoothed the fibers can be more prone to pulls, tears and a shortening of their range of motion. That’s where a good full body static stretch routine performed while the body is still warm from your cool down can be most beneficial, because your muscles are most receptive at that point. 
In the two videos below you’ll see full body routines that utilize static self-stretching and isometric stretching, one routine standing and the other on the ground. The routines are designed to be performed post-workout while the body and muscles are still warm. When holding the stretches for approximately 30 seconds each, the routines run between 10 to 15 minutes.

There are four commonly referenced stretching methods: Static, Ballistic, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) and Dynamic. For the purposes of this post I’m going to focus in on static. Static stretching is further divided into three subcategories (1. Slow and steady with a partner aka “passive”, 2. slow and steady by one’s self aka “self-stretching”, and 3. slow and constant with/against an object aka “isometric”).

A visual to bring together the need and benefits of stretching is to think about having a full long stride length during a sprint. That long stride requires a range of motion through multiple joints, like the ankle, knee, hip and back. As you fatigue during a sprint, your muscles tighten, shortening your stride. This decrease in range of motion coupled with the energy depletion and accumulation of muscle contraction waste products, decrease the power, speed and length of your stride forcing you to slow down. Even after you stop, your muscles remain stressed and overly contracted. A proper cardiovascular and post workout stretch routine addresses these issues.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Make Your Summer Body Your Year Round Body

What does it take to make a difference? How long must you do something before it can result in tangible change?

These are questions that perplex many when on the precipice of change. Especially when it comes to our bodies. In a society of immediate gratification, with miracle pills and creams promising instant beauty and happiness, the thought of sustained and committed work can seem not worthwhile. But living your life in a best version of yourself, is something to strive for.

So how much time to make that change? After almost a decade of working with people trying to make that tangible change in their lives, I’ve decided on 4 weeks or if you’re willing to add on the extra 2 to 3 days, 1 month, to jump start a new body. To be honest, I’m still a little uncomfortable with the mass media packaging of the idea of 4 weeks to your Summer Body. My current physical state is the result of almost two decades of non-stop training. Despite injuries (including 4 surgeries over that time), I’ve probably taken no more than 3 or 4 weeks off from training/working out. Meaning I know it takes work and for me, I actually like the work.

Weight loss, female, abs

But this post isn’t about me, per-say. It’s about the inspiration I’ve gained from my clients over the last decade. Clients who made the difficult first steps in coming to me for help and then committing to give me 2 to 3 hours of their time a week for a month, or sometimes longer. There is one client whose inspiring path I would like to share, especially since for the first time we’ve tracked our progress together through photos, and her name is Emily.

Emily’s interest in my services had been piqued through emails and friends, and so, heading into the summer of 2015, she decided it was time to “grab the bull by the horns”. She signed up for the summer body program.

As she told other prospective clients, working with John is worth it, though getting through the first couple of workouts, or weeks can be hard and painful. The important thing is to stick with it. Emily has stuck with it, continuing her program for over a year now. Starting with just 2 sessions a week she has scaled the program up and down to fit her busy schedule and budget. Once she had made working out a part of her weekly routine, she started fully incorporating healthy eating into her program.

From trying out nutrient rich salad recipes from me to using meal delivery companies, Emily found a way to eat that made her feel good and look good.

In terms of the workouts, Emily was apt to take full advantage of my varied training background. When grilled about what style of training I specialize in, Emily pondered and replied, it’s really a nice mix of a lot of things. From body weight exercises, to running, to machines, to TRX, to pilates, it’s a mix of exercises best designed to get her the results she wants. And the results have been great.

We’ve never focused too much on a weight number, it’s been more about what she’s capable of doing in the gym and how she feels. By training for performance, she’s benefited from the improvements necessary to allow her to run more, stretch further and lift heavier. All things that result in you having a pretty kick-ass body and feeling great about what you can accomplish with said body.

So why not give 4 weeks a try? There’s no reason your summer body can’t be your year round body.