The Top 5 Exercises to Prepare for an OCR

Have you signed up for an Obstacle Course Race and don’t know where to begin your training? Or, maybe you have thinking about signing up for one, but are intimidated. If you are still thinking about it, check out Coach’s Suzanne’s reasons to take on an OCR. Aside from foam rolling and putting in some miles, below are some great exercises to incorporate in your OCR training.

 

  1. Pull/Chin Ups

Pull/Chin ups are crucial when training for OCR success.  There are many obstacles that require climbing, pulling, and grip strength. Be sure to use multiple styles of pull-ups (multiple hand positions and varied tempo) as well as multiple types of grips (fat grips, towels, balls).

  1. Carries

You are required to carry heavy objects in many races. The bucket carry, atlas carry, sandbag carry are just a few obstacles that require to move heavy loads. Like the pull-up, practice multiple styles of carries (farmer- weight in each hand, bucket, sandbag- over the shoulder, kettlebell in the rack position). This will prepare you for the required strength, endurance, and grip.

  1. Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings made the list because they are fantastic for developing power, endurance, and grip strength. They are also a great alternative if your body needs a break from running.

  1. Crawls

Crawls is an amazing functional exercise that must be trained if you plan on having a strong race.  The crawl is yet another exercise that should be trained in multiple forms and direction (forward, backward, and lateral).

  1. Box Jumps

Weather your race has flights of stairs, obstacles to jump to, or obstacles to jump over, box jumps will prepare your body for the needed power, conditioning, and athleticism needed to complete many obstacles. They will also help condition you for any burpees that may need completing.

Be Active In Recovery

By: Coach Nick Lape

What do your “rest days” look like? Do your they make you look like you have zero fitness goals? Now I know some of you read that question and tilted your head like a lost puppy. How could I possibly be comparing rest days with fitness goals? Because, we all know fitness doesn’t happen on rest days, right? If you answered, “right.” Then please keep reading. I have some words that you may need to hear. You may have heard us trainers talk about ‘active recovery’ days, and we do so for a reason. We use these days to keep our bodies and even our minds active and in tune with our fitness goals. Let’s be honest, there is no way our bodies can keep up with all out training for an extended period of time. That’s like someone asking an NFL team to be prepared to play in the Super Bowl every week. It’s just not doable. Eventually your body needs a little love.

When I discuss active recovery days with people, I bring up one of my favorite fitness personalities, Mike Boyle. He talks about creating active habits. Those include doing SOMETHING everyday. It doesn’t have to be deadlifts, it doesn’t have to be kettlebell swings or push ups. It could be, working on breathing techniques. It could be doing some of your warm up or mobility work. It could simply be getting on a foam roller and giving your muscles a little love, but DO SOMETHING. When we sit and do nothing, we regress, being sedentary is the world we live in today. We just have to make doing something active a habit, just like the workouts we are trying to recover from. Staying active and reminding your body that it needs to be prepared is the best way to do that.

It is so important to create these active recovery habits if for nothing else, for this one reason. Here I’ll quote Dr. Malcolm from Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” This could very well be where you find your active recovery days. So you made a plan to go to the gym but hey guess what, now your child is sick. There’s a chance to get some recovery movements in. Especially with a sick child! Why? Exercise helps increase your immunes systems ability to fight infection. Then your boss calls while your child is sick and needs you to leave town for a couple meetings. Boom, 2 more days we didn’t plan. Or, maybe you had a race, event, or an especially hard training session and you are pretty sore. A day off and being sedentary is not going to help in any scenario. All of these time are perfect to hop on a foam roller, use bands, go for a walk, work on breathing, or do a RAMP just to try and stay active. It just so happens that we have any entire system built just for this and all you would need is a band.

All I’m saying here, is that recovery days don’t and really shouldn’t have to be planned. If you know you aren’t going to lift anything heavy on Wednesday because you lifted heavy stuff on Monday and Tuesday, then take Wednesday to get in some active recovery. Don’t let your body just lay dormant. At the beginning of any program, one where you are trying to create positive lifestyle changes, a rest day of doing nothing can be a huge killer of momentum. Try to prioritize and set as the same time every day for some form of movement whether it’s a work out or active recovery in. It’s the easiest way to build a habit.

There are a million different ways to make your off days or what we like to call active recovery days beneficial for yourself. I only mentioned a few above with foam rollers and bands. But each person is going to be different based on the goals they set for themselves. With all this in mind, what will your next rest day look like? Don’t just lay your goals aside. Be active! I’d love to hear what your favorite active recovery includes!

The Best Results Come from Great Recovery

By: Coach Mike Klaus

You work hard in your workouts. You push yourself. You level up. You are putting in a lot of effort so why not make sure you are getting the most bang for you buck from them? The magic happens while you are recovering. The workout is the stimulus. During a workout you are actually damaging your muscle, creating micro tares. With proper recovery, your body repairs these tares and you are ready for your next workout a little stronger. Below are our favorite recovery activities to help you thrive in and outside of the gym and get the best results!

Foam Rolling

Foam Rolling offers many of the same benefits as a massage, including reduced inflammation, scar tissue and joint stress, as well as improved circulation and improved flexibility. Our favorite places to roll, especially for those who are at a desk all day include you calves, quads (tops of your legs). By rolling during pre and post workout, you will help prepare your muscles for the workout ahead and also help with post muscle recovery.

Check out Mike’s video on foam rolling! Need a foam roller? We have them at the studio!

Sleep

Achieving adequate and good quality sleep help to provide mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. Getting enough uninterrupted sleep, which is between 7-9 hours for most people, is crucial for optimal health. No matter what your goal, performance, fat loss, feeling better, or having more energy, without enough sleep, you will not reap all the benefits of the work you are putting in during the day.

Need some ideas on how to get more sleep? Check out Coach Suzanne blog post.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage can help with small or large muscle injuries or aid in the healing of chronic problems. Deep tissue massage targets deep muscles, tendons, as well as protective and connective tissue known as fascia. Those with chronic muscle tension or injury are more prone to adhesions, or thick “knots” that form in muscle fibers. These adhesions may not only be painful, but can disrupt blood flow and circulation, diminish natural movements, and result in inflammation. Undergoing deep tissue massages helps break down the adhesions and restore proper body functions.

Looking for a great massage therapist? Contact Johanna Mertensmeyer at 314-409-3724. Her studio is located in the Tower Grove area.

Nutrition

During recovery nutrition we remember the three R’s: refuel, rebuild, rehydrate.

Each of these critical recovery concepts calls for a different combination of fluids, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein—each playing a specific role in the recovery process. After training the body is left dehydrated, drained of fuel, and broken down.  The body is in a stressed state, and the proper blend of nutrients can jump-start the body’s recovery process to help you come back stronger and healthier.

If you are looking to optimize your nutrition for fat loss, performance, or just feeling better, email our Registered Dietitian, Suzanne at suzanne@forwardfitnessstl.com.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy triggers the release of endorphins, helps activate circulation, decreases inflammation by clearing toxins, and ultimately stimulates cellular regeneration, resulting in overall faster healing. Cryotherapy is used by elite athletes to improve muscle and injury recovery. Celebrities use it to slow down the aging process. And, clients can benefit from pain management, weight management, and relief of stress-related conditions to improve mental wellbeing.

Looking for a knowledgable and friendly place, check out Radiance Float + Wellness.

5 Reasons to do an Obstacle Course Race

By: Suzanne Klaus RD, LD, CPT

From the Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder to The Green Beret Challenge and Spartan Races, OCR, or Obstacle Course Races are taking over! Back in February I completed my first Spartan Race in Arizona. I loved it! It had such an impact on my life that I wrote a blog specifically about it. I absolutely love obstacle course races! It’s hard to narrow down the reasons, but here are my top five reasons.

1. Have something to train for.

As Joe De Sena said in his book Spartan Up! “When you sign up for something, you’re forced to train for it. Just like in a business, you are forced to work. Just like having a kid, you’re forced to take care of it all. All of a sudden, you become accountable.” After I signed up for my first Spartan Race I took ownership of my workouts. I had some form of training every day, but Sunday. It mattered if I missed a day. You can’t fake it during a race. For me signing up for obstacle course races has made all the difference in my training, 2018 has been my best and most consistent year of training. It’s April 10th and I already have 68 workouts completed!

2. Do something you didn’t think was possible.

I am a firm believer that anything is possible. Maybe the thought of an obstacle course race is scary, but that is all the more reason to do one. With the proper training, nutrition, and mindset you CAN do it! Imagine crossing the finish line! What an AMAZING feeling to conquer something you once thought was impossible! It’s a way to break out of the monotony. It’s a whole new feeling and way of living.

3. Challenge the way you think.

During any race, there is usually a point where you think, “Why am I doing this?” You are tired and there is still plenty of race left. It is during these moments that you are faced with two choices, to dig deep and keep moving forward or to stop. When you choose the mindset to keep moving forward it can translate to other difficult situations in your life. In some of the races you don’t know what the obstacles will be until race day. This forces you to adapt to situations you didn’t plan for. Doesn’t that sound a lot like life. You are forced to put all your focus on the present obstacle in front of you. You aren’t thinking about the stress of work, the laundry that needs to be done, or any family issues. You are focused on the present task at hand. You are choosing to face an obstacle head on and give it your all.

4. Build strength.

One of the reasons I love obstacle course races so much is the fact that they require strength. A marathon is certainly a challenge, but it doesn’t require the same kind of strength that you need to get through an obstacle course race. You must be able to jump over, crawl under, and pull yourself up. Most people I meet with say they want to become more “toned,” which is basically building muscle and losing fat. Trust me, training for an obstacle course race will do just that!

5. Elevate your overall health and fitness.

Having an obstacle course race to train for automatically motivates you to make healthier choices. Not only will you have a reason to train, but you will be more apt to get your 7-9 hours of sleep, drink plenty of water, and make healthier food choices. With all these healthy habits forming, your stress level should decrease too!

What are you waiting for? Join the Forward Fitness OCR Team! We already have a few races lined up. They are roughly 5K or 3 miles.

Warrior Dash: August 4th

Spartan Stadium Sprint (Busch Stadium): August 11th

Spartan Sprint (Nashville): September 22nd

Interested in getting all the benefits of OCRs? Email Suzanne@ForwardFitnessSTL.com to get started!

This for That

By: Nick Lape

I had an epiphany the other day. If you know me, you know that it gave me an immediate headache (just kidding). But it happened during a team workout. I was complaining about flutter kicks, you know, the one where you lay on the ground and hold your legs up and kick them around. Yeah, that one. And this thought crossed my mind, “Good heavens, my legs are HEAVY! I strongly dislike this,” give or take a few choice words not to be mentioned out loud. Although, I’m pretty sure I said a few things out loud because Mike said to me, “You do know you do that to yourself right?” And once he explained what he meant, it made my mind go into a whirlwind of thought. What type of things do we give up in order to train for something specific?

I’ll just start by giving an example of my training goals at the moment. In short, I want to lift weights. Big weights. Weights that truly challenge the structural integrity of my body. We are talking hundreds and hundreds of pounds. Ok, I think you get it. In order to do that, my body has to match my goal. In order to lift big weights, guess what, my body and more specifically my legs have to match. I noticed it most during flutter kicks. My legs have gotten significantly heavier, therefore I have to work a LOT harder to do longer duration exercises like flutter kicks. And here’s the thing, I am MORE than willing to give this for that. I may hate flutter kicks and struggle whole heartedly at holding my legs up, but guess what, it means I don’t have to struggle so hard at lifting 400 and 500 pounds. Now maybe you see where I’m going with this.

We all (hopefully) go into training with an idea of what we want. For me, strength is king. Always has been. For others, maybe athleticism is more of what they are training for. To be agile and quick. If my goals are to lift as much weight as possible, sure I can add some agility type moves into my workout. Am I going to be great at them? No, probably not. I’m going to have a lot more of me to try and move quickly. But remember, that’s not my goal. This could very well be the opposite for someone looking to have the quicker more agile training approach. Gaining large amounts of muscle mass for these people is going to make that type of training more difficult and possibly make them unsuccessful.

Everyone has a different mindset about their training. We approach things differently. But it is ALL fitness. Someone trying to lift hundreds of pounds can easily be looked as fit. Someone that is training for functionality or athleticism can also be considered fit. The things they are good at, are going to differ quite a bit. And that is where this title came from. This For That. It is something until recently, like 24 hours ago, that I never really considered. And honestly, I think it’s something that so many people get caught up in. They want one thing, just to look across the room and want something else, never settling on a path to reach a certain goal. This process can usually lead to people stagnating, or even leaving their path to wellness all together.

When I say give this for that, I don’t want you to think that you can’t train for something and change your mind about what you want. You most certainly can. It’s a matter of finding that one thing you want to train for the most and committing to that plan. That is why nowadays I am OK with struggling at certain things. Some of those things happen to be things that in the past I happened to be good at. I know that those things can help me reach my goal, but I also know that my goal is not to be great at flutter kicks. My goal is to be great at deadlifting and bench press. My goal is to compete with others that have that same goal. As you figure out what path you want to go down on your wellness journey, stop worrying about those little things that have all of a sudden become a bit more difficult. Sometimes those things whether thoughts, exercises or skills, aren’t crucial to you achieving your goals. The real worrying starts when we sit back and allow ourselves to just become mediocre. Don’t be afraid to give a bit of This for That.

Breaking Through Complacency

By: Suzanne Klaus RD, LD, CPT

Complacency was the perfect word to describe my fitness and health for most of 2017. I could hop in a FIT Camp and do great. I could also decide to skip a workout because there was too much work to do, I was tired from the long day, or I wasn’t willing to get up early. There wasn’t much of a consequence if I missed. In the past, my goal was to always have the strength to do a push up and pull up. I could do both with ease and now had nothing to focus on and work towards. My training was erratic and there was nothing to work towards.

In the early fall of 2017 I raced in the Warrior Dash. Prior to this race, I went on two runs and was not consistent in the gym. I ended up placing third. I must tell you, yes, if felt nice to place third, but I wasn’t too proud. I ended up throwing my medal (and a lot of other things) away after reading “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It did not bring me joy.

A few months ago, Mike mentioned that he found it ‘interesting’ that I didn’t keep any of my past medals (two Warrior Dashes and a half marathon). I couldn’t give him an answer besides the fact that they didn’t bring me joy. After giving it more thought I realized I didn’t keep any of those medals because I didn’t put much work into preparing for the event. For my half marathon, I maybe ran four times before hopping into the race. A big part, for me, about being proud and excited is committing to a goal to the point where you put in the time even when it’s not convenient and you don’t feel like it. It forces you to grow.

How did I get out of the sneaky and clutching hole of complacency?

I found a new goal and focus. Mike had mentioned doing a Spartan race. I didn’t know much about Spartan races so I did some research. It looked like a challenge I was up for. The obstacles seem hard enough that if I didn’t train it would be a miserable race and I could fail, but attainable if I put in the work. I decided 2018 was the time to break through the complacency. I signed up for the Spartan Trifecta. If you are not familiar, the trifecta consists of three races the Sprint (3+ miles with 20-23 obstacles), the Super (8+ miles with 24-29 obstacles), and the Beast (12+ miles with 30-35 obstacles). I chose the date of my sprint and began my training.

With my new-found goal and focus I took responsibility for my progress. It’s so easy to make excuses. I would blame a missed workout on the fact that I have too much work to do. I would blame a missed meal on the fact that when got home dinner was not ready. If I wanted to be successful, I needed to take responsibility for me. My success was up to me. I could choose whatever path I wanted, but I knew that it was completely up to me.

I planned and prioritized my day. Working out was now a non-negotiable. It became a priority. I starting thinking about where my workout would fit into my day. For me, I needed to make my workout towards he beginning of my day. An evening workout left the possibility of me using work, hunger, or lack of energy as an excuse.


I got a training program.
One of the hardest parts about starting towards a goal is figuring out what you need to do. It’s hard to create a program for yourself. I enlisted the help of Nick and Mike and a program was crafted for me. I had a written plan. I just needed to follow it.

I kept my goal on the top of my mind. It’s easy to set a goal, write it down, and then not look at it again for a while. You think because you wrote the goal you should be making progress towards it, even though you haven’t done a single thing to accomplish it. For me the pain that I associated with going to that race without training properly was a driving force. I pictured myself in the race. I imagined the dread, pain, and tiredness I would feel if I didn’t prepare. I also visualized myself completing the race having trained. I felt the joy and since of pride I knew would come from putting in the work now.

I found support and created a mentality of support on race day. I had a lot of support from family and friends leading up to the race, but I needed to make sure I had some on race day. I like to know things in advance and if I don’t know them, it’s a lot easier for me to get nervous. Racing in Phoenix, a place I was unfamiliar, in a race I have never done had a lot of unknowns. Was parking going to be crazy? How long would it take to get through registration? Would the Spartan volunteers be nice? Which obstacles were going to be in this race and how long was it going to be? These were all questions going through my head. It helped to have my siblings there racing with me and the support of my dad as a spectator. My dad drove taking the stress of transportation and parking off me. I had my brother and sister by my side doing the same race. Knowing I was with two other racers helped me. For as much external support as I could get, I also had to create internal support. A few nerves are okay before a race, but it is very easy for me to get worked up and super stressed to the point where it is no longer helpful. Whenever I felt this happening, I told myself, “You prepared. You put in the work. You got this.” I thought about the things I could control. I took the focus off other racers and ran my own race. The comfort of knowing I put in the work even when I didn’t want to brought a since of support, comfort, and confidence.

I crossed the finish line as the 5th female in my age group with a since of accomplishment. I now have my Spartan Sprint under my belt! I learned a lot of the unknowns that I was worried about before. I know the areas I did well in and the areas I need to work on. I set my Spartan Super date for May 12, 2018 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I am choosing to keep moving forward and choose goals that require and inspire me to better myself. Off to train for my Super!

Modifications: Starting Slow, Leveling Down

Disclaimer: I’m Maggie, the Administrative and Membership Staff Member at Forward Fitness. I lovingly write this blog from the perspective of a member. I am not a fitness professional.

 Wrestling with injuries is frustrating. Whether they are new or chronic, it’s a blow to your motivation. You know you can perform better, you know you can lift more, or have better flexibility, but your body is saying “NO ma’am, not gonna happen today!”

I’ve had the same SI joint issue since I was a teenager and “threw my back out” for the first time. It took 10+ years and several injuries for a doctor to finally diagnose the source of the pain correctly. Now that I know the problem, and can clearly picture the anatomy of where my pain originates, I can pay more attention to my movement, protect that area, and be better in tune with when it’s weak and more susceptible to injury. Because of this, and other limiting factors, I have several modifications that I rely on during workouts:

Here I am saying hi to our new Darth VaderBell.

  • I do my burpees with a medium box.
  • I raise my deadlift off the ground with an extra riser so I don’t have to hinge as low to start the movement.
  •  I lower my kettlebell swing weight if I’m not feeling 100%. I level down to hinge sometimes.
  • I do Spiderman from tabletop position because any jerky lower back movement is an easy way I can “tweak” myself.
  • I put something under my heels if we’re doing lots of squats.

And there’s NO SHAME in it! I learned all these tricks from our trainers in the last 2 years of being a client here. If I didn’t do these mods myself, one of them would notice something was off and attend to making sure I’m getting the most out of the workout by accommodating my specific needs.  They correct our form or give us an alternate exercise or variant of the move because they know our limits and what’s going to be most valuable to our performance.

The same feeling of frustration can happen when you’re new, or an exercise is new. It can feel uncomfortable when you’re leveled down, like you’re being singled out.  You could be super fit already, or brand new to the gym scene, and it still takes time to get the basic moves right so you can compound on them.

Sitting at the front desk recently, I was looking at a packed fit camp of all different ages and fitness and experience levels, and realized we’ve never had any sort of emergency or serious injury in this gym. I think that speaks a lot to the attention our trainers give EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US as we progress through different stages of capability, injury or limitation. They are always there to slow us down, suggest a modification, and conversely encourage us to challenge ourselves by advancing a level.

I’ve learned that being new at a certain movement, or suddenly needing to take a step back is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s more important to do it right, to do it productively than to do it quickly or with too much weight! I like the feeling of confidence I get starting every fit camp or semi-private session, knowing that I don’t have to overdo it or risk hurting myself to be a fully present participant in my workout!

Coach’s Corner: Do Your Shoulders Look Like THIS When Pulling

By: Nick Lape

One of the most common mistakes when doing a band pull down or row is no shoulder movement. Personal trainer and coach Nick, does a great job explaining the proper way to pull. As you watch this video you will be able to see the difference. The first time Cati pulls the band down there is no should movement. This can eventually lead to pain/injury. The second time Cati pulls down, her starting position is different. Cati reaches (without shrugging) before pulling down.

What to Look for When Choosing a Gym

By: Cati Davis CPT, HKC

If you were to ask someone what they looked for when choosing a gym, your answer would most likely be, “I don’t know, they have a lot of treadmills, I guess.” Yeah, that may be nice at times, but there are so many key factors to take into consideration when choosing a gym where you will thrive.

There are a few main things to keep an eye out for when deciding which gym is right for you. When you first walk in, who is the first person to greet you, or is there even anyone that notices you? First impressions are huge when choosing a gym, because it is what sets the standards on how you are going to be recognized while you are there.

If you are interested in a gym, step in and ask for a tour and see what happens. This is your chance to see the gym, what equipment they use and most importantly what the trainers are like. Is the facility clean? Are the trainers personable and how are they interacting with their members? They should make the time for you and have no problem with answering questions you may have.

A movement screen is a must. If a gym doesn’t know how you move how can they create a program that’s going to give you the best results? The FMS, functional movement systems screen, this is one we do at Forward Fitness! If you are looking to do semi-private training, or even group classes the trainer needs a base to build from and the FMS is the way to go. This will allow the trainer to see your strengths as well as opportunities to build a better foundation for your training. Most importantly it will decrease injury, increase movement and strength, and help get you the best results.

Accountability and motivation are key factors when working out. There are some people that are great with holding themselves accountable when working out and there are others that may need the motivation to keep themselves accountable. Either way, you can find what helps you best when sticking to a workout schedule. Does the gym you are interested in call/text you if you miss a session or haven’t been in a while? Do you have to schedule your workout or can you go anytime? Scheduling a workout can be a great tool because then you have to go at the time. You can’t keep saying. “I’ll go later today.” Does the gym that you are interested in have a form of motivation (monthly goals to create and achieve)? Do they have challenges to join to help push you that extra step and hold yourself accountable? There are many ways to help motivate yourself and others and it is a great option to have when choosing a gym.

One last (and huge part of what motivates me) is having the team or family by your side, pushing you to meet your goals and keeping that positive atmosphere. When you walk into the gym, are there members that are mingling? Does there seem to be a sense of comradery? Do the trainers seem involved with the members? If so, that is the place to be! Those are your building blocks and your foundation to keep you positive and to keep you going when you just aren’t feeling it! That is your team, your family!!

I hope you find the perfect gym to help you move forward with your goals. If you live or work near Maplewood, Forward Fitness would love to be that gym for YOU!

Foam Rolling to Perform and Feel Your Best

When you are short on time for a workout or stressed and just want to get started, foam rolling is typically the first thing to get cut from your workout. Right? This can prevent you from getting the most out of your workout and feeling your best. Watch Mike as he explains how to effectively roll before a workout.

 

If you have never foam rolled before a workout, start. If you typically skip it, don’t. Pay attention to how you feel during your workout. Let us know what you think!