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

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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Introducing Cooking Shirtless with John - The Man Salad

Cooking Shirtless with John

The Man Salad - Eats Like a Meal

I’m really excited to introduce everyone to the man salad video and through association the Cooking Shirtless with John (erhh . . . self-produced) web series. The genesis of the video came from my roommates commenting on how tasty the salads I was making looked. And the fact that New York apartments are hot in the summer, prohibitively hot for shirts.

Salads are a great way to get your daily intake of raw and cooked vegetables. My parents introduced vegetables to me at a young age, before I even knew to say no, and over the years they have become a bigger and bigger part of my diet.  
At first, the vegetables I ate were . . . . limited, but through a concerted effort to eat to perform better in sports and improve my general sense of well-being, the selection of not just vegetables, but fruits, seeds, mushrooms and beans in my diet have increased considerably in number. A great deal of the increase can be attributed to reading the works of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, specifically, The End of Dieting: How to Live for Life.  I first came across Dr. Fuhrman’s book when I ran into a friend and noted how great he looked (thank goodness for friends who inspire through looks, I mean well-being). He said he had started implementing a lot of the methods and foods in Dr. Fuhrman’s book and that I should read it and give it a try. Sidenote, he said his improved diet meant he didn’t have to workout as much, which the lazy, I mean busy person I am, really saw some added value in.

I will confess that some of what Dr. Fuhrman writes can be a little intense, but his works do build from the foundations of what is considered a healthy a diet and then they take it to another level by emphasizing foods that are nutrient rich and work to keep you healthy and at an ideal weight.

Which brings me back to the Man Salad and the practice of eating salads as a meal instead of an appetizer, side or starter dish. There are so many nutrient rich foods to get into your diet that creating a meal or dish can be complicated. Salads are a simple and functional way to maximize the number of raw vegetables and nutrient rich foods into one dish. The thing I had to get comfortable with was not limiting the amount of ingredients. In fairness, I wouldn’t say the salad is a culinary masterpiece, but it gets the job done. In my basic Man Salad I include all of the below:

  • Spring Lettuce Mix w/ Spinach*
  • Romaine Lettuce*
  • Green Peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Grape Tomatoes*
  • Sweet Peppers (Red, Yellow and Orange)
  • Portobello Mushrooms*
  • Carrots
  • Avocado
  • Turkey Meat
  • Craisins
  • White Cheddar Cheese
  • Sea Salt
  • Cracked Black Pepper
  • Vinaigrette Dressing

Time for the technical breakdown:

This salad definitely eats like a meal and keeps me full through the night. The starred (*) ingredients are known as some of the top foods for fighting fat, because of either their phytochemical or polyphenols concentrations. A spring mix of lettuce is a great way to get a lot of the most nutrient rich cruciferous vegetables into your salad. Through compounds in these foods you can help fight inflammation in the body, prevent fat production and boost the body’s natural detoxification system. Green vegetables, like the green peppers are super rich in antioxidant nutrients and the cucumbers have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The red, yellow and orange sweet peppers are rich in vitamins and nutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. They also help boost your immune system and promote healthier skin and eyes. The portobello mushrooms are a great immune system booster, help fat fight deposition in the body, and increase the types of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. The tomatoes in the salad are another super-food packed with vitamins and phytonutrients, specifically several carotenoids. Tomatoes have been shown in studies to promote cardiovascular health, bone health and to have strong antioxidant capabilities. Avocado is a great source of monounsaturated fat and it’s inclusion in the salad can help with the uptake of the nutrients like carotenoids found in the other ingredients. Additionally diets including avocado have been shown in studies to have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. The final couple of ingredients (vinaigrette dressing, salt, pepper, cheese and craisins) I use a flavoring devices.

Hope you enjoy! Let me know your thoughts. And if you have any healthy recipes for me to try, send them my way (