Category Archives: Strength

A Few of My Favorite Things (2012)

Sometimes I get to blog just about personal life things that I’ve enjoyed.  2012 was a fun year and brought many new things to life – some planned, others unexpected.  Here’s a list of a few of them.  I’m blogging this for my own memories, but I hope you can find some value also.

Favorite Author: Jon Swanson

Jon write at 300WordsaDay and he is the one blogger I read daily.  He writes about following Jesus in 300 words per day – brilliant.  Short posts but they cause me to reflect and think deeply about my faith.

Workout Gear: TRX


I did a project for a grad class this semester where we looked at the biomechanical analysis of the TRX.  The TRX is suspension training and my research reminded me how efficient and challenging this workout can be.  For our class, the professor built a quick make-shift TRX so we could work with it.  His craftsmanship inspired me so I’ll be building my own this season.

Phone:  iPhone 5

iPhone 5

I couldn’t resist.  I was due for an upgrade and a couple weeks ago I got the latest Apple phone.  My main reason was that Katie requires higher megapixels on our pics since she uses them for calendars and photo books, and my iPhone 4 wasn’t cutting it.  It’s a wonderful upgrade.

New Project: Sorin’s photo book

Katie has been making photo books each year for our kids as gifts to my mom.  This year I jumped in on the fun and did all of Sorin’s book.  I had so much fun!  And now Katie and I are working together to revamp how we organize our pictures so we can do these books easier and more often.  What a fun project.

Start-up business: 8Bit

My blog runs on Standard Theme, a product of the guys at 8Bit.  John Saddington and his crew do great work, they’re fun to watch as a team, and they are a pleasure to work and talk with on Twitter.  I find a lot of inspiration from these guys.


News feed: Zite

One thing I do every morning while eating breakfast is check Zite.  It’s an iPad app that puts together various feeds of news based on categories I choose.  Then when I read or star certain items, Zite gets even better at providing relevant news.

Lists/Groups:  Facebook and Twitter

I was so much more productive this year b/c I was able to filter out my Twitter and Facebook feeds using lists.  I get very annoyed at people who complain that there’s too much on the social media sites.  The fact is a little discipline and you can make the social networks work for YOU.  I’m spending part of my winter break slimming down the lists even more for 2013.

Notebook: Moleskin and Evernote

moleskin evernote

I’m a hoarder, I admit it.  But with Evernote, that’s not a problem.  I literally keep my life in Evernote.  But you can never get away from analog writing, planning, drafting.  So that’s where the Moleskin notebook comes in.  I’m almost to the point where the two are perfectly in sync.  But that’s just me.



Business tool:  Fit411

I had a fantastic conversation with Briana from Salus this semester and concluded that her software has so much potential to advance my business.  I’ll stop here b/c you probably don’t care.  Again remember, this is more for me than you.

App:  Instagram

Though they had quite the PR debacle at the end of the year regarding their terms of service, Instagram was a ton of fun this year.  It’s amazing how well a picture can tell a story and how creative these pictures can be.  I’ve enjoyed looking back at my Instagram feed from the year.  (there were a lot of coffee and espresso references)




There you have it!  These favorites from 2012 don’t represent everything from the year.  These are essentially just the things that have come to mind at the end of the year.  Probably what’s more important than looking back is looking forward.  That’s what will happen later this week when I write about my 3 words for the new year.  Having a great year is all about goals, not resolutions.

How about you?  What are a few of your favorite things from 2012?

Faithful Four

Three years ago I started a Sports Conditioning class at the health club I was working for at the time.  This class consisted of mostly high-performing athletes, but also some very dedicated clients who were strict in their attendance.  As a former athlete and certified trainer, I knew the drills, exercises, and activities that made up the bulk of our workouts each week.  But part of my philosophy is is to make the workouts timeless.  I want my athletes to have a foundation to work from.  Every drill doesn’t have to be the newest fad of the year.
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Running at the Next Level: Squats and Lunges

Everyone has a “next level.”  I love working with people whose next level is running two days a week.  Or starting a push-ups and sit-ups routine three days a week.  But many of the people I know are runners or bikers who have a few competitions under their belt and now they’re starting to compete with themselves.  And they want to take their competition to the next level.

The first thing I recommend is strength training.  As a runner, I know what I’m going to get out of my runs.  I know how all the long runs build up over the 12-week training period and I know how the mid-week runs all support that increase in mileage.  But cardio strength is different than muscular strength.

Last summer I started to do a little more strength training with two exercises for the legs: squats and lunges.   These two exercises are great for a few reasons.  First, they don’t require any equipment.  And if you did want to add some resistance, anyone can find 30-50 lbs of gear around your house or garage to up the ante.  Second, they’re whole-body exercises, so not only are your legs benefiting but you’ll see results elsewhere.  In fact, these two exercises are half of my Faithful Four routine I use for my Sports Conditioning clients.

I’m not going to go over technique.  You should be able to figure that out yourself.  Contact me in the comments section or shoot me an email if you’d like to talk about this one-on-one.  If you’re looking to take your running to the next level, try three sets of 8-12 reps of squats and lunges during your week.  Do this for two weeks and share your results with me.

Preparing for Winter Training

I am the exception to the rule:  I actually enjoy outdoor running throughout the winter.  But what about you?  Do your workouts diminish proportional to the temperature outside?

Last year I bought shoes that are more weather resistant than my typical running shoes.  This was in reaction to the previous winter when I cam home after numerous runs with damp if not wet feet.  That was no fun.  So I made and adjustment.  I bought the shoes.  I made a plan.  Do you have a plan?

Sometimes when I’m at the gym where I work, I look at my clients (current and former) and monitor their attendance to see if they’re still working out here.  This week I noticed three (former) clients hadn’t been to the club in three weeks.  I think there’s a lull in the season where workouts fall off our priority lists.  Then of course the holidays hit and then our attendance is hindered even more.

Take control.  Make a plan. If it’s not outdoor running, make arrangements for a different form of cardio.  Focus on strength and core for the winter.  Whatever it is, don’t allow Mother Nature to determine your plans for working out.

Faithful Four

Working out 3-5 days per week like ACSM recommends can be time consuming and costly.  Gym memberships are great for so many reasons, the biggest being the equipment that they provide.  I am an outdoor runner, so I don’t need the gym for my cardio workouts.  But my strength training is limited if I don’t go to the gym.  Currently I have two 25-lb dumbbells for lifting weights.  That’s it.  To put together a good set will cost me a couple hundred dollars.

But what if I didn’t need to go to the gym for strength training?  What if we broke down our strength training to the most basic component, a minimalist approach?

Along this line of thought I put together what I call the Faithful Four.  I do these exercises every week with my Sports Conditioning class I teach Wednesday mornings.  These are four exercises that will always be faithful to you.  They’ll never leave you and they’ll always give back what you put in.

Faithful Four:

  • push-ups
  • sit-ups
  • squats
  • lunges

I usually do push-ups and lunges together for three sets, and then do sit-ups and squats together for three sets.  This is strength training at its most basic level.  But it’s a great routine in that it works the whole body and provides a foundation for you to build more strength training when you’re ready for the next level.

Time commitment?  Three sets will take about six minutes!  What I love about the Faithful Four is that over time I developed a sense of ownership with this routine.  No equipment is required.  It’s just me and my body weight.  Hershel Walker was an NFL great whose main strength training consisted of push-ups and sit-ups.  Of course he worked up to 500 of each per day (yes, per day).  Still, it goes to show you the potential of this basic strength training routine.

The Faithful Four is a great starting point to daily strength training.  Start out wherever you feel comfortable.  Give yourself two weeks to move to where you feel challenged.

The Principle of Overload

There is a principle in fitness training that is essential to experience any type of improvement in performance.  It’s called the principle of overload and here’s how it works.  Our bodies get really good at performing the demands we place on it.  If you ask your body to run 2 miles every other day, your body will get really good at that.  If you ask your body to do 60 push-ups and 60 sit-ups every day, your body will get really good at that.

What about at work?  If you tell your body to walk around the store room and move a few boxes, your body will get really good at that.  But what if those boxes got heavier?  You’d struggle!  Or what if you were asked to move 30% faster?  You’d struggle!

This is where the principle of overload comes in.  When you overload your system (i.e. your body) you systematically break down your muscles so that they grow back stronger.  This is the only way to improve performance, by breaking down muscle fibers.

I experienced a perfect example of this on my 12 mile run this morning.  I’m training for a half marathon in Middleton at the end of the month.  Training has gone well so far, but my longest run was last week and it was only 8.75 miles.  To jump to 12 miles was ambitious, but I know my body and it’s abilities.  Typical distance training calls for small increases in “long runs” once per week.  To go from 8.75 to 9.5 or even 10 would have been very comfortable.  But that additional two miles was excessive overload today.

And I felt it.  My route was three 4-mile loops, and on the third loop I was halfway through when it hit me.  I knew it was coming, but knowing the principles of overload and progression made the feeling even more pronounced.  I had entered a mileage where my body was completely stress because it hadn’t been there before (during this particular training session).

Of course this brings up another topic – the fight.  What do you do when you are at a place you’ve never been before, but you need to make it to the finish line?  Another post for another day.

Back to overload.  This morning’s run was excessive overload but it was a controlled situation and it was a place I’ve been before, albeit one year ago.  Still, the overload is necessary for improved performance.  (I’ll have to remind my legs throughout the day that this is for their good.)

So what about you?  Training, work, personal, spiritual.  If the principle of overload says that you must exert greater than normal stress on a system to grow it stronger, how are you doing that?

Strength Training (Exercise Program 3)

Strength training is an important component to an exercise program.  It also seems to be the most confusing part of the program for new exercisers.  There are many different variables in a lifting program: days, sets, reps, weight, rest.  But don’t worry – I’ll explain the essentials here and have you feeling stronger within two weeks, guaranteed.

Why strength training?  The easy answer that fits every individual is that strength training makes life easier.  That’s right, when you are stronger you are able to do the ADLs (activities of daily living) much easier.  You can take those two flights of stairs because your legs don’t get tired that easily.  You can bring in 4 bags of groceries instead of two.  You can pick up that box for storage, climb the step ladder and heave it over your head without fear of falling.  You name it, it will be easier after just two weeks of strength training.

The other reason I like to focus on is increased confidence.  When you’ve spent time “pushing weights around” and adding some strength to your frame, your frame and your confidence display your hard work.  You walk a little more upright.  You move around better.  You feel more confident in your body – both men and women.

As I noted earlier, strength training is probably the most confusing part of the exercise program.  This post will make you familiar with the essentials so you can start lifting this week.  Remember – think of this training in terms of progression.  Strength training provides the greatest feedback in terms of accomplishing a goal and moving forward.

First, some definitions:

  • repetitions (reps): number of times a weight is lifted, ranging from 8-15
  • sets: number of times a group of reps are completed, ranging from 2-4
  • weight: come on, you know what weight is

Some debate exists on how often strength training needs to occur (per week) for benefits to be seen.  At minimum you need to lift two days per week.  This is mostly for maintenance, but it’s a good place to start.  Ideally I have my clients lifting three to four days per week.

Without me being able to demonstrate the proper technique of these lifts, I’m giving you homework.  If you are unsure of how these lifts should be done you should search YouTube for proper technique.  As always, I’m available for individual consultation in the comments section or on Facebook (

So how do you put together a strength training program?  Let’s start with two days per week and six lifts.  (Remember, you have to look these up for proper technique)

  • Bench Press
  • Bent-over Row
  • Bicep Curl
  • Tricep Extension
  • Military Press
  • Squat

There are a couple reasons for me including these lifts but all I want you to walk away with is the understanding that these are the building blocks for a complete strength training program.

How much to lift?  That’s up to you, and it will require some trial and error.  Your goal is to lift each weight 8 times (reps) and do this for three sets.  You should lift in the order listed, and you can do two exercises at a time, alternating.  So it would happen like this:

  1. bench #1 followed by row #1 (which would be first set)
  2. do this for a total of three sets
  3. move to curl #1 followed by extension #1 (which would be the first set)
  4. do this for a total of three sets
  5. finish with military press #1 followed by squats #1 (which would be  – you guessed it – the first set)
  6. do this for a total of three sets
Have I mentioned I’m available in the Comments Section?  You can also email me at Hans416 [at] gmail dot com.   (Sorry, I’m a little paranoid about spammers.)
Two weeks.  
That’s all you’ll need to grow out of the first set of weights you started at.  You’ll see increases within two weeks if you lift 2-3 days per week.  All the gains won’t happen that fast or that often, so enjoy it while it’s there.
Strength training is important for so many aspects of your health, both mental and physical.  I’ll write about that more in later posts.  Have you experienced any benefits of strength training?  Share your experience with me and this community (you’re not the only reader, mom) in the Comments Section.

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Happy Training!!