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personal training

How to Pick The Right Shoe for Working Out

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How to Pick The Right Shoe for Working Out

A question that I’ve gotten from athletes over the years is "What type of shoe should I purchase for running or for working out?" First off, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am by no means a podiatrist. However, I do have experience assessing people’s musculoskeletal imbalances, and I can prescribe corrective exercises to address these issues.

I’ll start with the most common dysfunctions that could improve by having the proper footwear. It's relatively common to have mobility limitations and insufficient movement patterns at the ankle joint. One of the more common issues I see is excessive foot pronation (feet collapsing inward) (as seen in the photo below) and lack of dorsiflexion (inability to flex the ankle).

People with flat feet or low arches will usually pronate their feet, causing them to put a majority of their weight into their arch. This can create a chain reaction of unwanted stresses up the body - up the “chain”. However, the reverse is also true, which means that if your hips are not stable and aligned, they’ll cause issues down the chain, and your knees and feet will begin to compensate as a result. Here’s a perfect example: as a result of the feet collapsing inwards, the knees will also collapse inwards. This can cause various knee issues, knee pain, and can make it more difficult to externally rotate the hips. The muscle that’s responsible for externally rotating our hips is our glutes/butt. If our butt isn’t in the game when we do lower body movements, then we’re in danger of not just having a flabby butt, but also potentially suffering from overuse injuries due to compensatory patterns.

Lack of dorsiflexion, or the lack of flexing at the ankles, is usually attributed to tight calf muscles - gastrocnemius and soleus being the biggest culprits. This issue is also usually coupled with the feet everting, or turning out, as a compensation for not being able to flex at the ankles.  Dorsiflexion allows for more freedom up the chain to flex the knee and hip during lower body movements such as squats and lunges. Besides exercises to help improve these two common mobility issues (I could write an entire blog post about these exercises), the right shoe can help solve this. That’s what we’re here for, right?! We went to our neighborhood shoe store, BAIT in the Mission to show you some examples of what to look for in a shoe.

FOR THE RUNNERS

First off, let’s start with those of you who run. I suggest getting a gait analysis at a local running shoe store like A Runner's Mind or Fleet Feet. You could also ask one of our P4L coaches to assess your overhead squat and single leg squat. From there, they’ll be able to give you feedback on the type of shoes that you may benefit from, depending on your musculoskeletal imbalances. One recommendation I could give without any assessment is this: if you’ve got flat feet, or if you put weight into your arches, get shoes that give you arch support. Make sure to do some research online beforehand to ensure that you’re getting the shoe that’s best for you.

 
This shoe is ideal for running, because it is a lightweight shoe. The difference between this and a cross-training shoe is that there's no lateral support, meaning there's minimal traction at the sole. I personally like a minimalist shoe, because it strengthens your feet while running and feels closest to a bare foot.

This shoe is ideal for running, because it is a lightweight shoe. The difference between this and a cross-training shoe is that there's no lateral support, meaning there's minimal traction at the sole. I personally like a minimalist shoe, because it strengthens your feet while running and feels closest to a bare foot.

 

FOR THE STRENGTH TRAINERS / CROSS-TRAINERS

For those of you do a variety of activities, and especially if you strength train, then please do yourself a favor and get cross-training shoes. I’ve seen countless people over the years strength train or do functional fitness classes in running shoes. Two reasons why this is not a good idea:

  1. Running shoes don’t have ankle support, so when performing lateral movements, you’re going to be more vulnerable to ankle sprains.
  2. Running shoes don’t provide as much heel elevation or do as good of a job at preventing pronation as much as cross trainers do. Cross trainers will lock your foot in place and assist in ankle flexion - however, that’s not the best reason to get cross trainers.
 
This shoe gives you more ankle support than a running shoe. The elevated heel makes it easier to flex in the ankle, thus helping you squat easier. You'll have increased stability. In addition, it has heel support and traction so that you can do lateral movements.

This shoe gives you more ankle support than a running shoe. The elevated heel makes it easier to flex in the ankle, thus helping you squat easier. You'll have increased stability. In addition, it has heel support and traction so that you can do lateral movements.

 

I will say that I do prefer a minimalist shoe, or even working out barefoot if you’re solely strength training; the reason being that you have more feedback and contact with the ground, thus giving you more natural ability to move your foot freely and to generate force into the ground with your entire foot.

Thanks for listening and I hope this helps!

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Why You Should Be Using Kettlebells

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Why You Should Be Using Kettlebells

First, what are kettlebells?! Kettlebells were first developed in Russia and are traditionally cast-iron rounded weights with a handle. Though you may have seen or used one in an exercise class, they’re actually still used a lot by special forces, martial arts masters, and national champion lifters, as well.

What makes this certain type of weight so special, you may ask? It’s because of how many athletic components you’re able to work. Research has shown kettlebell-specific routines to increase strength, strength endurance, general endurance, work capacity, balance, coordination, and agility, and to lower heart rate and blood pressure. A study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in 2010 found that, during a kettlebell snatch (a type of olympic lift) workout, subjects were burning at least 20.2 calories a minute. This is equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace, and they compared that calorie expenditure to the amount of calories burned while cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace. With all of these possible benefits that basically cover every spectrum of fitness and athletics, why not train with kettlebells?

If you’re just getting into training and are overwhelmed by all the different machines and weight types throughout the gym, the kettlebell can be your answer to simplify things. I recently earned my StrongFirst Kettlebell Certification, which focuses on 6 lifts that can essentially be the entirety of your workout routine. You may need a couple different weights, but you can basically replace an entire gym full of equipment with just a couple of kettlebells. A national champion track and field thrower, Dan John famously said “with this kettlebell in my bedroom I can prepare for Nationals.” Form and technique are very important while using kettlebells to train, so make sure you’ve got a coach that can introduce you to the basics - as StrongFirst says: “safe execution first, perfect is a journey.” Even with light weight, just because of the nature of the exercises using this modality, you will get a large training effect.

For those athletes out there trying to up their game, this style of training will be hugely beneficial for you, as well. A big component of what makes kettlebell training transfer to sports is the relationship between relaxation and tension that is ever present. To hit a ball it’s furthest, or to throw the most powerful punch, an athlete needs both of these components at certain times. First starting loose so that they can react, then an initial tensing as they initiate the movement, followed by another relaxation period as the arm or bat flies to its target at top speed, and finally when connection has been made, tensing with everything the athlete has against his or her target. With this order, you can achieve maximum speed in the movement while backing it with power and strength. By training with kettlebells, you’re working on these same ideals, especially during the kettlebell swing which, of the main kettlebell lifts, most closely mimics this order. In the swing, you’re relaxed as you swing in the down motion, followed by tension to initiate the movement, relaxation as the bell starts to swing up, and finally achieving full tension at the top of the swing. The swing, snatch, and clean are all considered “ballistic” movements by StrongFirst and will follow this same basic principle, while the get-up, front squat, and overhead press are considered “grinds” that’ll improve the amount of tension and strength your body can achieve. Prof. Leonid Matveyev, a soviet scientist, noted that higher-level athletes could relax their muscles faster, observing an 800% difference between novice and olympic-level athletes in the speed of tension to relaxation in muscles. If you can’t relax your muscles, then they can’t hit maximum speed, which will ultimately hinder how much force you’re able to produce.

What does all of this mean? It means that any level of athlete can gain big benefits from a kettlebell workout routine, whether you’re training for a sport, competition, or just to look better. If you’re looking to mix things up - or to improve your own kettlebell skills - I suggest looking for a Strongfirst SFG certified trainer and get swinging!


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"Can I Work Out if I'm Pregnant?"

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"Can I Work Out if I'm Pregnant?"

Our co-founder, Justine Sharifi is a newly expectant mother, and you may have seen her being a total badass handling business per usual at the gym, directing the build-out of our second location, and even boxing with one of our pro boxers, RJ! I've been training her for the past few months, and I wanted to answer a few questions about exercising while pregnant for other expectant mothers.

Is it safe to exercise while pregnant?

Yes, in most cases.

You should always check with your doctor, but if you were active before being pregnant, then you should be alright to carry on with physical activity. In fact, it’s usually recommended that pregnant women do at least some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day. Of course, goals will change when you’re pregnant, so it’s important to keep in mind that the focus of your exercise will need to shift from aesthetic, fat loss, etc. to your individual needs while pregnant.

What types of exercise are best?

As far as exercise selection goes, choose exercises that are:

  • Low impact (to minimize joint stress)
  • Low to moderate intensity (due to the fact that your heart rate and body temperature are already elevated from pregnancy)
  • Resistance-based, aerobic, or a mix of both.
    • A couple of notes:
      • Resistance training should focus on spine support and addressing low back pain by strengthening the hips.
      • Avoid exercises that keep you in a supine position (on your back) for long periods of time.
      •  Limit static stretching (i.e. yoga - instead, look for prenatal yoga).

Due to the changes your body’s going through, you have to take into consideration the extra stress to your body added by exercise and hormonal changes. For example, an increase in the hormone relaxin is to be expected, which is secreted to relax the ligaments down below, the uterus, and the cervix to prepare your body for child development and labor. However, the increased relaxin levels will also affect other parts of your body, such as the muscles preventing stomach acid from coming back up, which can lead to heartburn. Further, you’ll have to keep physical activity at a low to moderate intensity because your body is already stressed and working hard to create another human.  

What are the benefits of exercising as an expectant mother?

  • Stress control/relief
  • Maternal muscle strength (pelvic floor strengthening)
  • Helps with urinary inconsistency
  • Weight control (pre- to post- pregnancy)

Don’t be afraid to exercise, but don’t over-do it! Always be sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting an exercise routine. Do things that will complement this significant change to your body and to your life, and do things that will make this experience the best that it can be.


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Why I'm a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker

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Why I'm a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker

I’ve always thought that hearing someone’s story about why they do what they do can be one of the most fascinating ways to get to know a person. I get to understand where they come from, what type of experiences they’ve had, what they’re passionate about, what drives them when life gets tough, and if I’m lucky, I get to learn something that I might never have known about them through regular conversation and interaction. Through hearing the stories of others, I’ve been able to learn from the experiences of others, grow in my respect for those individuals, realize that I have much to be thankful for in my own life, and become inspired to press on with my dreams. I wanted to share with you my story about why I’m a Movement Specialist and Clinical Bodyworker - why I do what I love to do. I realize now how much I’ve hyped up my story so just as a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I don’t think my story is so crazy that you’re going to learn from the experiences of my 23-year life or become inspired to take over the world, but hopefully, I’ll be able to entertain you and you’ll be able to learn a thing or two about me that you didn’t know before.

The Origin Story

The first time I ever went out of my way to work out on my own (I’m making a point to emphasize this as I grew up playing a variety of sports casually and competitively), I did so because I was being a dramatic teenager in high school and I thought my world was shattered after a girl had “broken my heart”. The truth was that I was just a dumb and awkward teenage boy. In my dark, spiraling depression, I told myself that I didn’t end up with that girl, and that I was never going to end up with any girl at all, because I didn’t look a certain way - because I didn’t have a six pack and I didn’t have arms so huge that they couldn’t be lifted above my head.

So what did I do? I turned my emo pain into anger, and I used that anger to fuel my intense P90X and Insanity workout routines. I didn’t know a thing about exercise, so with P90X and Insanity’s promises to get me ripped and lean, I was sold on the video workout plans. I worked out twice a day during one summer, and when the school year started up again, I’d get up an hour earlier than normal to work out before classes - only to have to go to tennis practice for hours after school was over. Every time I wanted to give up during a workout, I reminded myself of what it felt like to have been rejected so that I would press on. At first, it seemed as though my efforts were futile, but as time went on, and as I consistently pushed myself and strictly adhered to my diet, I began to see results.

To make this part of a long story short, I wasn’t facing my romantic problems appropriately and I was only using fitness to cope with my issues instead of using it to better my health. I did, however, learn something extremely valuable: I learned that if I set my mind to something, if I put in hard work and sacrifice and countless hours of dedication, I could achieve anything.

Fast forward to my freshman year of college at the University of San Francisco. I was a biology major with hopes for going to medical school, which means that I was a biology major with family, relatives, and friends who had extremely high hopes for me to go to medical school - no pressure or anything. That pressure was then coupled with dwindling hope as I was barely passed my core classes and was withdrawing out of the chemistry class that I was about to get a D in.

The Epiphany

So what went wrong? What happened to the all-knowing and wise Austin who just learned that he could achieve anything he set his mind to? Why was he getting a D in freshman-level chemistry? The problem was that, instead of studying compounds and electron configurations for classes, he was studying set and rep schemes on Bodybuilding.com so that he could figure out how to get jacked. He was learning that you can’t just achieve anything, but rather that you can only achieve something that you actually give a damn about.

And that was the problem: I didn’t give a damn about chemistry or biology. I loved movement and I loved the way the human body worked, especially in relation to exercise and nutrition. By the end of my freshman year, I had switched my major to kinesiology and it was the best academic decision I could have ever made. Instead of studying “life” by staring at bacteria in a microscope, I was running a living person on a treadmill to figure out their cardiac output. Instead of figuring out how elements were interacting in a beaker, I was learning how the perfect balance of macronutrients can fuel various athletes for optimal performance. For me, kinesiology was the perfect balance of science and movement, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Journey

My time at USF flew by and before I knew it, it was the summer before my final semester of school. I was loving everything I was learning about, and I was very seriously considering a career in personal training. I wanted to help people feel good and look good, but I also wanted to use training as a medium to share with people the lesson that I found so valuable: that they could achieve anything if they worked hard and set their mind to it. I looked into personal training internships and I happened to stumble upon one at Perform for Life.

I applied and was interviewed by Bryant and Justine and accepted for the summer internship. It was everything I wanted and more - like, lots more. Lots more of waking up at 5 AM, and lots more of doing difficult and seemingly endless business assistant work. It was hard work, but I learned more than I could have ever hoped for - I learned the value of community, what customer service and networking in the real world is like, how concepts of training and exercise physiology pertain to real people and not just textbook examples. While learning these positive skills, I also had to learn a hard lesson early on during my time at Perform for Life: how bad the feeling is of my client getting hurt.

I asked myself all kinds of questions. Was it my fault? Could we have avoided the injury? How long will my client be unable to workout? How much is this going to impact their daily life? As you could guess, this drove me to become very careful and methodical in my approach to training. I obsessed over pain and injury management with movement and devoted myself to learning as much as I could about corrective exercise as a means to help people with serious issues. Immediately after earning my kinesiology degree from USF, I went to massage school for a year so that I’d have an additional skill to help my clients - but I didn’t stop there. I took functional neurology courses such as P-DTR so I’d have an even wider variety of tools to help people in pain. My client’s injury made me feel like the heart-broken high schooler again as I immersed myself in anything and everything I could learn about from courses and my mentors so that I could feel like I was making things right.

I may have been going a bit hard on myself, but this time, I wasn’t just using my learning to cope with my issue. I was learning about methods and modalities for healing in movement and bodywork that I genuinely had a passion for. I loved, and still love, learning everything there is to know when it comes to the ways our bodies move, function, and heal, and since our bodies are still such a mystery to us, I know I’ll be learning for a long time.

I think that’s what I love most about being a professional in the health and fitness field - I’m never going to stop finding new things about the way we move and the way we can heal. It’s a never-ending chase to learn about the latest finding or the new best technique and that’s what I love about being a Movement Specialist and Bodyworker. So why do you do what you do? What’s your story? Hope to hear from you soon.


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How to Structure a Well-Lived Life

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How to Structure a Well-Lived Life

As the year is well on its way towards spring, it is likely that ‘we’ - San Francisco professionals - are feeling overwhelmed. As much as we’d like to structure our time to live a more balanced lifestyle, we end up prioritizing our careers over our health, personal development, and loved ones. What we’re always telling ourselves to do, and what we may often try to do, is “find time”. This, however, should be looked at differently - you need to make time.

As San Francisco professionals, we value knowledge, and we value experiences. We trust experts to help us, whether it’s through online research, counseling, or coaching services. However, do we really take full advantage of these insights and services? Or do we just go through the motions to get a little help, without actually living the lessons that we’re taught? The key to forward progress in almost any aspect of life is structure (funny, I know, coming from a guy whose thoughts are always racing a million miles per hour). However, what I’ve come to notice about myself, my family, employees, and my hundreds of clients and athletes over the years is that what gets us off track is the lack of effort in structuring our lives. After interviewing some of our top P4L athletes, we found that one of the main cravings that they have is the need for more balance in their lives, and the need for more structure in their training regimens.

What I would recommend is this: ask for help. Yes, you heard me. This actually means two things. The first: hire someone to help you with the lack of structure in a given area. If your nutrition is out of whack, make it more of a priority and hire a nutrition expert or food-delivery service to help guide you. However, there’s a second component many people lose sight of after hiring an expert or purchasing a service. Setting expectations with them about how the service is structured and making clear what you need from them is essential to success. Take a moment from time to time to reassess the value you’re deriving from the service, and also to note any progress made. From there, you can decide whether the progress is coming along great or is subpar at best. There should always be ample opportunity for discussions around how you and the expert expect to improve the structure of the program if you feel that it’s lacking. Make sure to keep in mind what’s realistically attainable in the time that you’ve given yourself. Overall, remember to not get discouraged. Structure is a good thing, and so are goals, but if you don’t reach them, keep moving forward. A little forward progress is better than no forward progress at all.

Structure helps us get the most out of our time, our services, and our lives in general. Here at Perform For Life, every new athlete’s fitness journey begins with a designed alliance: a contract that outlines the expectations of both trainer and athlete. This gives the athlete the chance to talk about his/her goals, requests, or even any worries they may have, while also giving the trainer a chance to discuss their planned exercise program structure and to get the athlete’s thoughts on it. We want to ensure that the athlete is involved in the plan every step of the way, and also that the plan is always aligned with the athlete’s goals. Goals often change, as do people, and that should always be expressed so that the trainer can adjust the structure of the program accordingly.

We know that structure is essential to success in almost all facets of life. At Perform For Life, it’s the key to our athlete’s success. Make a structured plan, stick to it, and go forth to achieve your goals.


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