Monthly Archives: June 2012

It’s Friday, and I’m Beet!


You read that right. Beet. As in those strange red bulbs your mom always said were so packed with nutrients but that you still refused to try unless force fed.

My mother emailed me yesterday and told me how she had started juicing to help relieve arthritis pain and to discover more of the supposed positive side effects of a juicing lifestyle.

I was inspired. Thanks, Mom!

The Beet That Started It All!

Last night, while the family ate my famous homemade spaghetti, I took out the juicer. My hearty dinner consisted of the following:

1) 4 medium-sized organic carrots (unpeeled)
2) 2 bunched up handfuls (fists) of baby spinach (about 3 cups)
3) and 1/2 medium-sized organic beet (stems included)

It was…interesting.

At some point, I think I may have likened the taste to that of the fresh waters of Lake Minnetonka. After time, though, the taste kind of…I don’t know…settled onto my palate (as much as late summer inland waters can, I suppose).

Thing is, my energy levels last night were incredible, but when it was time for bed, I knocked right out. When my iPhone’s alarm sounded at 4:45 this morning, I jumped out of bed, put on my PT uniform, and cranked up the juicer once more.

Dinner was a concoction ripped from a website. Breakfast was my own creation.

1) 3 medium-sized carrots
2) 3 fists of baby spinach
3) 1/2 unpeeled cucumber
4) 1/2 beet
5) 1 small green apple
6) and–wait for it–3 oz pure goji juice

By the time I got to the gym, I couldn’t wait to hit the treadmill. Totally energized, I did 15 min of 1 min speed intervals. The tread was practically smoking!! If that wasn’t enough, I spent another hour playing Ultimate football (I know…it’s not Ultimate if no one’s chucking a disc down field, but still a fun and demanding workout!).

So I think I’m sold on juicing. While it will likely never replace my carnivorous ways, it sure is an awesome way to supplement.

Pure octane!

Oh…and if you do try the beet recipe, don’t be surprised if your urine has a slight reddish tint to it. Sure it’s a little unnerving at first, but then it becomes a little amazing. Especially after 12 hours and more than a gallon of water hydration!

This experience was just too interesting not to share. I challenge you to try replacing one meal a day with fresh, organic vegetable and fruit juices for seven days. Share your juicing experiences here. I will, too!

Don’t forget your goals…

In the meantime, let’s all keep focused on those mid-term goals. Are you still progressing? Did you backslide on a goal? If so, what happened? Do you intend to get back on track? Do it! It’s never too late to make a fresh start. We’ll follow up more on these later next week.

Up next…

Monday’s focus will be on the effects of stress on gym performance and weight management. Still researching as promised.

Until then, have a super relaxing, fun, and SAFE weekend!

Warmest Regards,

Photo courtesy of


Stress Cookies? No Thanks…

This post is a bit closer to the fringe of the fitness and nutrition discussion. The focus here is on stress.

So. Are you? Stressed, that is. If so, do you know if it’s a healthy or unhealthy stress? Do you understand that distinction?

Enough with the questions, Aj!

Right. Sorry. The reason I ask is that I deal with all kinds of stress each and every day, and so do you if you are a cognizant human being. I’ll spare you the long talk on stress. Here’s the abridged version.

Stressors: Cookie Cutters Need Not Apply…

You’ve certainly heard before that people experience stress from many different situations and in many different ways. The kind of stress we experience, for most of us, depends largely upon the type and intensity of the stressor(s) acting upon us. All stressors, believe it or not, influence your physical fitness level to some degree. And not all of those influences are the kind your mother warned you of (i.e. “we are judged by the company we keep”). Some can be quite beneficial.

Stress and Lifting…

According to a January 2012 Men’s Health News article, “stress can activate a part of the brain that’s also triggered during muscle contractions…”, which some researchers contend causes one to lose focus in the gym (imagine working out solutions to differential equations while counting “1 up, 2 down”).

Unfortunately, the MH article falls flat in explaining exactly what kind of stress is at fault there. They do make a connection to a few generic stressors (e.g. work, relationship, or financial issues), but nothing quite specific enough.

Where’s the discussion on positive stress? And what about linkages between the physical (neural) stress placed upon the body during a workout and the mental (psychological) stress we endure at work and at home? What’s more, they make no mention of the connection between stress and weight management.

Let’s add one more goal to the list.

I’ve asked some questions but so far offered up no answers. I want to, and I will. My goal for next Monday is to get more fidelity on the subject. There is a lot of research out there on it, and I’ll dig up as much as possible.

I fully understand that MH relies on perhaps more than a few half-baked articles in order to create a platform for advertisements. Nonetheless, readers should expect (read: demand) more thoughtful answers to such questions. If you read fitness and health periodicals, you’re obviously looking for helpful information; not an advertisement for the latest pre-workout supplement (and don’t get me started on those other ads in the back of some h&f magazines).

Why is this such a biggie, Aj? We’re all stressed…

Right you are. We’re all stressed, and I want to know how it’s affecting my workout.

Say I had a boss with crazy expectations no regular human could live up to. Thankfully, my boss is supportive, understanding and realistic. But we’ve all had that boss at one time or another. The solution MH gives is to get plenty of exercise to help cope with that kind of stress.

Brilliant, MH! Only…I’m already doing that, and I’m interested in excelling in the gym; not just hitting it to blow off steam.

Come Monday, It’ll Be Alright…

So on Monday, we’ll hit this topic in greater detail. In the meantime, keep working on those mid-term fitness and nutrition goals (and on getting cheesy song lyrics out of your head).

I’ll sign out with an excerpt from today’s gym log. What a motivating session! Until Friday…

Warmest Regards,

The Workout — BACK and TRAPS


Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Rows – Power 2-4 3 to 5
(115×5) 1min (125×5) 1min (125×5) 1min (125×5)
* Last week, I used the Smith machine. Today, I used the bar. 125 w/bar is harder than 135 on Smith. These sets were awesome! Much better than last week.

Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Rows – Muscle 2-3 6 to 12
(60×8)* 1min (60×8) 1min (60×8)
* Note: Went up 5lbs from last week. harder but still good form; right stronger than left. Work on that with more isolation movements.

Exercise Sets Reps
Lat Pull Down – Muscle 2-3 6 to 12
(60×9) 1min (60×8) 1min (60×7.5)
* Machine is plated & marked about 60 lbs heavier than standard pulldown machines — fooled me last week when I tried to start at 120…not this time. Great sets!

Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Cable Row – Burn 1 40
(85x24x3x3x3x3x3x3) = (85×42)
* This is up by 15lbs from last week. Super tough sets!

Sharing Is Caring…for Oneself?


Goal #2: “I want my bench, squat and dead lift sets to go up by 20 lbs each in the next 30 days.”

I know. Last week I promised only three posts per week, and I’m sticking with that formula. But just as I’ve encouraged you all to do, I want to share with others (you) a couple recent successes. This mini-progress report touches on one of my long-term goals.

Woe Was Me…
I spent Saturday and Sunday completely wiped with a low-grade fever. Obviously my 5-Day Split routine went on hold, with me only knocking out 3 of the 5 workouts for the week.

By Monday, I was on the mend but made a bit woozy by too much exertion. So I decided to take yet another day of rest. I also juiced some fresh veggies and fruit to boost my recovery. The lost workouts were a real bummer, but all was not lost.

Unforecasted Growth…
At 5:00 this morning, I hit the road for a solid 2.5 mi run. By noon, I was in the gym. I decided to take my last two missed workouts (Saturday and Sunday) as losses. So just as I did last Tuesday, I hit chest and triceps…hard.

Throughout the workout, I paid close attention to the notes I kept during my previous session and really pushed myself (I track my workouts via my iPhone while listening to Pandora–usually reggae).

Notes from today’s session:

Bench Press – Power
Sets: 2-4 Reps: 3-5
(165×5) 2 min rest (165×5) 2min (165×5) 2 min (165×5)
* Note: This is 10lbs more than last week, and I missed zero reps. Time to move up!

Incline Bench Press – Muscle
Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6-12
(135×8) 1.5 min (135×7) 1.5 min (135×6)
* Note: Same weight as last week, but gained reps on all sets for a great overall performance. Will use same weight next week and try to hit 12 reps/set before moving up in weight.

Dumbbell Bench Press – Muscle
Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6-12
(60×7) 1 min (60×6) 1 min (60×5*)
* Note: Finished with alternating presses to really isolate the movement, hence the lower rep count on that set. I did, however, gain a rep on that first set. Definitely felt a power increase from last week. So much progress despite being wiped out the last few days!

As you can see, in just one week I’ve made measurable progress toward a long-term goal. Talk about motivation! And because of that, I’ve had even more nutritional discipline all day long. Awesome!

Keep working on your goals, achieve something, and be awed by your own abilities. Until tomorrow…

Warmest Regards,

Photos courtesy of

New Week – New Goals

Well, folks, it’s a brand new week, and I’m ready to take on some new challenges. If you read the wrap-up last Friday, you know that the focus this week is on setting a couple mid-term fitness and nutrition goals.

When we set mid-term goals, the idea is to take on some of those goals that take a little longer than a couple weeks, but that are not quite on the three months or more scale (long-term goals).

Of course, just because the name has changed, the rules for goal setting haven’t changed a bit. Let’s recap:

Any goals you set should be realistic, attainable, and (pay attention) measurable.

Gut check!

Think back on your seven goals for last week. Did you attain any of them? If so, how did you measure your achievements? If it was weight loss, that might have been pretty easy to figure out. Just set a number, do some homework, and do what it takes to reach that number. If it was to drop inches, though, that might have been a bit more tricky, since the timeline was so short (tougher to measure in the short-term).

This week is an opportunity to get a good snapshot of your long-term progress before you even get to those end goals. If you want to grow your chest a few inches by September, for example, you’ll have trouble measuring significant progress after just a week or two. Give yourself three weeks, though, and you should see some real, measurable changes. Perhaps that would be the goal:

I want to record a positive change in my chest measurement by 16 July. Any measurable growth will do!

Don’t overdo it!

Be careful not to set more than two or three of these mid-term goals. Setting more than that may overwhelm and then discourage you where the intent is to encourage you.

So, in keeping with the goals we set last week, we want these mid-term goals to link back to our long-term goals. Here’s what I shared:

The Bigger Picture:

  1. I want my current 27 min 5K to be an easy 24 min by September
  2. I want my bench, squat and dead lift sets to go up by 20 lbs each in the next 30 days
  3. I want to get back on a regular sleep schedule by the end of the month
  4. I want to reduce stress for the long-term
  5. I want to drop my BMI by at 5% by September
  6. I want to improve my flexibility and reduce potential for injury
  7. I want to be working in the fitness industry full-time within the next 5-10 years

Obviously it will be tough to measure progress toward no. 7 on that list given just a few weeks. The others, though…sure!

But which goals do I focus on?

Whichever is most important to you and for which progress toward it can be sufficiently measured. For me, given the long-term goals listed above, I’m going to focus on running my 5K a couple minutes faster by 16 July, and dropping 5 lbs in the same amount of time.

That’s it. Too easy.

In closing:

Get going on your goals. Share them with someone you trust and who tends to have a positive outlook on life. We’ll check in with one another on Wednesday. Until then…

Warmest Regards,

Friday Wrap-Up No. 3


Happy Friday, folks. I hope you’re still tracking and making progress toward those seven goals for the week!

As for me, it never ceases to amaze me just how successful we can be when our minds are focused on specific goals. My progress this week has been astounding! And I’m not just trying to motivate myself to keep it up over the weekend ahead.

One of my goals for this week was to find a new gym routine and stick with it. I’ve been weight training in earnest for over two years now. The routines I’ve followed have mostly been my own.

Remember, over the course of nearly 20 years, I’ve built up my fitness experience and knowledge base. But that doesn’t always translate to best practices.

So after making good on my goal to grab a new routine (that 5-day split discussed on Wednesday), I was admittedly a bit reluctant to take it all the way.

But I did take it all the way, and I’ve got to say, it’s been a real eye opener!

Less is more…

As it turns out, less really can be more.

My typical workout takes me about 45-60 minutes, though I’ve been known to spend upwards of 90 min in there if I throw in a 3 mi run on top of it all.

The touted success behind this routine hinges on the concept of focused output in three ranges: power, muscle, and burn. Here are my notes from yesterday’s workout:

Quads and Calves
Start: 15:50
Finish: 16:20

Squat – Power Sets: 2-4 Reps: 3-5
(180×5) 1 min rest
(180×5) 1 min rest
(180×5) 1 min rest
(180×5) 2 min rest
* Smith machine- 90 lbs per side

Leg Press – Muscle Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6 to 12
(270×12) 2.5 min
(360×8) 1.5 min
* Solid set at 360 (4 plates/side)

Front Squat – Muscle Sets: 2-3 Reps: 6-12
(90×5) 1.5 min
(90×6) 1 min
* smith- 45lb per side

Leg Press – Burn Sets: 1 Reps: 40
(210×12 — 190x8x8x4x4x4) = 40 reps

Seated Calf Raise – Muscle Sets: 2 Reps: 10-15
(50×14) 1 min

45 Degree Calf Raise – Burn Sets: 1 Reps: 40
(90x24x3x3x4x3x1) = 40 reps
* mega burn!

So you can see how it works. I probably could (perhaps should) have given closer to 2 minutes between sets…at least for those heavier, power sets. In all, it took me just 30 minutes to complete the entire workout.

What happened to my legs?!

I awoke this morning with LLS, or lead legs syndrome, with yesterday’s quick but intense leg workout nearly lost from my short-term memory bank (doesn’t take much). Obviously there is something to be said for this 5-day split. I am very grateful that I made good on this specific goal. It’s just what my body needed!

Next week…

We’ll set some more goals on Monday. This time, though, let’s narrow it down to just two or three objectives that may take more than a week (but no more than two) to reach. I thrive on shared goal setting, so please start thinking about your goals now. Until then…

Warmest Regards,

Photos courtesy of

Hump Day & Full Disclosure

Hi, folks. Happy Hump Day!

With just three more days left, it’s time for a mid-term review of this week’s goals. Here is a list of the seven goals I set for myself on Monday. In truth, my “seven” started on Sunday. So be fair to yourself as you review your own progress.

My Short Seven:

  • Perform 20 – 30 min of interval cardio on at least 5 of 7 days
  • Find a new weight training program and stick to it (it’s time for a changeup)
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night
  • Do one relaxing, enjoyable thing each day this week
  • Avoid alcohol and starchy foods
  • Do a solid 5-10 minute warm up before every weight training session
  • Find at least one new fitness podcast and one fitness blog to follow
  • So if you recall from Monday’s post, I’ve linked these seven short-term goals to seven long-term goals. If you accepted my challenge, you’ve done the same.

    Did you share your short list with anyone? It’s not too late if you haven’t. That’s important to your success, but don’t just take it from me. Check out what CrossFit guru Nichole DeHart of CrossFit Invictus had to say about it:

    Build a support group. It is crucial to have support when you are trying to achieve something that takes perseverance, dedication and determination. Your support group should be made up of people who have your best interest at heart. They can help motivate you and provide encouragement along your journey to success. They also provide needed accountability. Identify those who detract from your stated goal and try to eliminate their influence as much as possible.

    As promised…FULL DISCLOSURE:
    My Monday challenged me big time. Meetings took up most my day, and family duties kept me busy into the evening. I met all my nutrition goals, but I did not see the inside of the gym or log more miles into my Adidas miCoach app. I did, however, get a full 8 hours sleep.

    I awoke Tuesday recharged and ready to tackle my goals. With the exception of a business lunch of steamed rice and Kung Pow Beef (unavoidable), I did well on nutrition. Fitness-wise, I nailed it! I grabbed Steve Shaw’s Power Muscle Burn 5 Day Powerbuilding Split as my new gym routine. KILLED IT!

    This morning’s wakeup found me wondering how a bear attacked me in my sleep. At least, that’s how my chest and tris felt after yesterday’s “5 Day” bout. With about 7 hours of much-needed sleep ahead, I can rest easy knowing I knocked out some more goals today. Another “5 Day” down, and I played a board game with my family. Check and check.

    One last note…I started following a new fitness blog about one young lady’s body transformation journey. She liked my last post; I returned the favor. One more goal achieved! Now I just need to find a new fitness podcast (suggestions welcomed).

    Closing Comments:

    Keep your eyes on the prize. As you strive to meet these short-term goals, motivate yourself by solidifying that link to those bigger goals. Great work so far, everyone. Please feel free to share your goal quests here. We want to support you!

    Until Friday…

    Warmest Regards,

    7 in 7 — Succeed!


    It’s a new week filled with new potential. As I mentioned in my last Friday Wrap-up, I’ve decided to change things up a bit at Aj’s Focus on Fitness. Instead of hitting “Publish” six or seven times a week, I will only be doing that three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

    Why the change, Aj?

    Well, as I explained on Friday, it’s been almost a month since I started this blog. After 23 articles, it dawned on me that I needed more time each week to come up with some higher quality stuff. Those extra days in between posts should help me achieve that goal…among others.

    How many goals will you score this week?

    No. That’s not what I just asked my soccer-crazy teenager. That question is for all of us. Me too! How many fitness and health goals can I reach in the next seven days? This is the focus of today’s post: goal setting.

    Unlike that As Seen on TV product that allows would-be master chefs to just “SET IT AND FORGET IT!”, I’m going to challenge you to set seven realistic and attainable, short-term goals pertaining to improving upon your current fitness and health profile. That’s one goal per day.

    Cool! I am going to lose 20 lbs, become a vegan, buy that $4,000 home gym I’ve been wanting for years…

    Like I said, these seven short-term goals need to be realistic and attainable. And I’ll add one more requirement: they need to do something to advance your efforts toward those bigger, long-term goals.

    I don’t really have any long-term fitness and health goals, but can I still play?

    Of course you can! What you may discover along the way is that your long-term goals turn out to be just bigger versions of some of the short-term goals you’ll set this week.

    What do you mean by “realistic” and “attainable”? Aren’t they kind of the same thing?

    Right you are—mostly. A realistic goal may be to lose 40lbs of body fat. That is also an attainable goal. But that goal is not specific enough to truly be judged as either realistic or attainable. You need to build in some parameters.

    “I am going to lose 40lbs of body fat over the next 6 months.”

    That is a very realistic and attainable goal.

    “I am going to lose 40lbs of body fat over the next 2 months.”

    Though it may actually be attainable, it’s not very realistic for most people (especially those interested in healthy fat loss).

    So here’s what we’re going to do…

    Me: I am going to share seven of my short-term goals this week and then tie them to some specific long-term goals. By the end of the week…full disclosure on both successes and failures.

    You: Your challenge is to write down your seven short-term goals, link them to some long-term goals, and then share that list with another person or group of people. It doesn’t really matter who, but I highly recommend you choose an optimistic and generally fitness- and health-oriented personality. By the end of the week…follow up with that person/group to let them know how you did.

    If you want to, I encourage you to share them right here on this blog. This blog is a safe place for that kind of thing, because the feedback you need will always be helpful and encouraging. If you’re taking the time to read up on fitness and health topics, I’m a fan!

    The following numbered list hits on my short-term goals for this week. The second list correlates to each of the short-term goals as it ties them to long-term objectives.

    My Short Seven:

    1. Perform 20 – 30 min of interval cardio on at least 5 of 7 days
    2. Find a new weight training program and stick to it (it’s time for a changeup)
    3. Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night
    4. Do one relaxing, enjoyable thing each day this week
    5. Avoid alcohol and starchy foods
    6. Do a solid 5-10 minute warm up before every weight training session
    7. Find at least one new fitness podcast and one fitness blog to follow

    The Bigger Picture:

    1. I want my current 27 min 5K to be an easy 24 min by September
    2. I want my bench, squat and dead lift sets to go up by 20 lbs each in the next 30 days
    3. I want to get back on a regular sleep schedule by the end of the month
    4. I want to reduce stress for the long-term
    5. I want to drop my BMI by at 5% by September
    6. I want to improve my flexibility and reduce potential for injury
    7. I want to be working in the fitness industry full-time within the next 5-10 years

    Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

    ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

    I’m excited to discover what you and I can achieve this week. Let’s surprise ourselves! We’ll chat more on Wednesday. Until then…

    Warmest Regards,