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Are Box Jumps Doing More Harm Than Good?

There’s been a lot of attention lately on athletes who are doing some outrageous box jumps.  To see what I’m talking about, simply search “box jumps” on YouTube and you’ll find plenty to choose from.

While these are some pretty impressive hops, they’re also doing more harm than good.

Box jumps can be a great fitness tool, but the focus needs to be on proper form and NOT jumping up on some crazy high box.

How To Do Box Jumps Correctly

To do a proper box jump, stand in front of a box (I typically suggest no more than 18”-24”) with your feet about shoulder-width apart, take a quick, shallow dip and then explosively jump up on it.

You should focus on sticking the landing like a cat (meaning soft and quiet – not like the roof just caved in) then step back down (do not jump down), take your time to reset and jump again.

If you find you’re landing on the box in a deep squat position, then you’re not only doing them wrong, but are opening yourself up to an injury.

A good box jump will have you taking off and landing in the same position, meaning if you jump from a ½ squat then you should be landing in a ½ squat.
About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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Father’s Day Gift Guide – For the Fitness Enthusiast

With Father’s Day fast approaching, it’s time to ditch the traditional gifts of ties, socks and shirts and give dad something he really wants (and needs) . . . the gift of fitness!

There are some great options that dad will not only love, but will actually use to help him feel better, move better and look better.

Whether your dad is a fitness newbie or an exercise vet, here are some fitness gifts that he’d love to see this Father’s Day.

 

Two kettlebells in red

 

 

 
Aside from looking a bit odd, kettlebells are one of the most versatile workout tools available. Whether dad is looking to get his heart rate up or build some crazy strength, kettlebell training will do the trick!

Why would dad want to train with kettlebells? In general, kettlebells add an element of abnormality and instability to weight training. The unique gripping handle along with the almost awkward center of gravity challenges the stabilizing muscles that act on the wrists, elbows, shoulders and spinal column.

Dad can swing them, push them, pull them carry them and add the ever-important element of “fun” to his workout routine.

Kettlebells provide an “all-in-one” gym. Grab a few different sizes and dad has an instant gym at home.

 

Man holding a Medicine Ball

 

 

 

Much like kettlebells, medicine balls offer a wide variety of exercises and a challenge that dad will love.

Medicine balls are great because they allow users to mimic the movements that we do in everyday life. So while many traditional weight training activities allow us to only move in one plane, med balls allow for movement in all 3 planes.

They’re great for training the core (which will keep dad’s low back healthy and happy), as well as for building strength and power throughout the entire body.

Dad can throw them, slam them, and push them to get a full-body workout.

Medicine balls come in a wide variety of sizes, with some made to bounce while others are designed to absorb the impact of throws and slams.

 

Resistance Bands

 

 

 
Dad will love the versatility and wide range of uses that continuous loop resistance bands provide.

These are a great strength tool for any home gym and can provide an awesome total body workout.

And, if dad has to travel for work, they can easily fit in a suitcase or travel bag. . . something he’ll definitely appreciate being able to use when away from home.

Dad can attach them to his weight rack, to a door, wrap them around equipment, or utilize his own body to stabilize them for a wide-variety of pushes, pulls, stretches, etc.
These gifts will make it easy for dad to commit to getting fit this Father’s Day, no matter what his fitness goals may be.

To make your Father’s Day gift shopping easy and affordable, check out the Power Pack Strength Bundle.

 

About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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Powerful Plant Based Proteins That Pack A Punch

We all know that protein is one of the basic building blocks of life and plays a big role in your fitness and nutrition program.  But when most people think about protein, things like meat, eggs and powders are what usually pops into their minds first.

What many people don’t know, however, is that plant-based proteins can be just as good AND easy to find.  Yep, veggies with protein . . . it’s true!

And, not only are protein-based plants quite abundant, they’re often times easier and better for your body.  Let’s take a look . . .

Plant-based foods are high in fiber, have little to no cholesterol, and are alkalizing to the body.  Animal proteins, however, lack fiber and are acidifying to the body.  This acidic effect can cause calcium to be pulled from your bones, have decreased oxygen levels in the blood, and have a negative impact on the digestive system.

Alkalizing proteins can lead to less aches and pains in the body, aid in fighting off diseases, help with digestion, better sleep and better moods, and improve memory and concentration.

Incomplete Proteins vs. Complete Proteins

One thing that often scares people away from focusing on plant-based proteins is that most are considered an “incomplete” protein, while animal-based proteins are classified as “complete” proteins.

These classifications can be a bit misleading, however . . . here’s why:

“Complete” proteins refer to foods that have all nine essential amino acids for our bodies to utilize and build protein with.  “Incomplete” proteins, on the other hand, have the essential amino acids but are simply low in one or more of them.

But don’t let that deter you, our bodies are amazing in breaking down foods and absorbing the nutrients.  During the digestion process, amino acids are broken down and made available for our bodies to use.  If you eat a good variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, etc., your body collects what it needs from the available amino acids.

The key in assuring you get the most out of your plant-based proteins is to enjoy a wide variety of them.

Plant Based Proteins

Let’s take a look at some of the best options:

Nuts

Peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc. not only make for a great snack, but they can also be used on salads, in foods, and as a spread (nut butters).  In fact, almonds are among the most nutrient dense foods with 6+ grams of protein per ounce – allowing them to help keep you full longer.

Cauliflower/Broccoli

These cruciferous plants have an impressive nutritional profile with a load of health benefits that include reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. One cup of chopped broccoli has 6 grams of protein, while 1 cup of cauliflower has 3 grams.

Spinach

Popeye taught us all at a young age that spinach was a powerful food! One cup of cooked spinach has 6 grams of protein and is filled with nutrients that are good for your skin, eyes, brain and bones!  It’s also a very versatile food that can be added to foods, served as a salad, or thrown-into your favorite smoothie.

Quinoa

This is the king of grains when it comes to protein with a whopping 6 grams in only ¼ cup.  It’s also a great addition to other veggies like asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower for a protein-packed side dish!

Pumpkin Seeds/Sunflower Seeds

The next time you carve a pumpkin, be sure to save the seeds!  One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains an impressive 10 games of protein.  That’s 2 grams more than the same quantity of ground beef!   Have them or some equally impressive sunflower seeds as a snack or on your next salad.

Understand that it’s very important that we get enough protein each and every day.  While many people may believe that it’s difficult to get enough quality protein (especially from plants), it’s actually quite easy.

As part of your daily protein planning, be sure to focus on proper pre and post workout nutrition (here’s a simple guide).

Regardless of your preferred protein choices, keep in mind that true health comes from a variety of whole foods.  If Mother Nature designed it, you should try it!



About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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Squat Depth: How Low Should You Go?

There’s always been a lot of debate in the fitness world on what constituted good squat form.  More specifically, how deep should you be going with your squat depth?

Ideally you should squat to thighs parallel or just below while maintaining a neutral spine.

A good deep squat is very healthy for your knees and also recruits the hamstrings and glutes far better than a partial range squat does.

However, most people lack the mobility and flexibility necessary to go into a good deep squat without rounding their lumbar spine (lower back).

If you fall into that category I suggest you squat as low as you can while maintaining proper technique/posture.
This may be just at parallel or it may be a couple of inches above. Continue to do that while also working on your mobility and improving your range of motion.
Also, focus on squat progressions to help you master a deep squat before putting a weighted bar across your shoulders.

Squat Progressions

These include:

  • Bodyweight Squats
  • TRX/Suspension Trainer Squats
  • Weighted Vest Squats
  • Goblet Squats
  • Front Kettlebell/Dumbbell Squats

 

About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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Military Workouts to Make Them Proud on Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend is widely recognized as the kick-off to the Summer season. However, let’s remember that Memorial Day is our chance to say “thank you” to all the brave men and women who gave their lives for our country.

On this Memorial Day let’s honor the sacrifices of prior generations, as well as honor the sacrifices of the men and women who have served or continue to serve our country. Let’s pledge never to forget the true meaning of Memorial Day!

As we appreciate those who bravely protect our freedom and serve us all, why not honor them with a great Memorial Day workout!

As many of you know, each military branch has a set of physical requirements that service men and women need to meet in order to serve our country.

These physical requirements are built around total body fitness and 3 fundamentals of training – strength (push-ups, pull-ups, curl-ups, etc.), cardio (1-2 mile run) and agility (obstacle courses, etc.).

This military-themed circuit workout is sure to make our service men and women proud.  Although it requires no equipment, it’s guaranteed to provide a high energy, total-body challenge.

Get ready to celebrate your freedom with a nice little sweat-fest!
Be sure you’re properly warmed-up before going through the workout.

Circuit #1

(Challenge your pace on this circuit using good form with a full range of motion on each exercise)
Prisoner Squats x 30 seconds
Mountain Climbers x 30 seconds
T Planks x 30 seconds
Jumping Jacks x 30 seconds
Rest 30 seconds and repeat for 2-3 total rounds

Circuit #2

(Focus more so on form and good range of motion on this circuit)
Push-Ups x 30 seconds
Bodyweight Renegade Rows x 30 seconds
Wall Sliders (Shoulder Press) x 30 seconds
Iron Cross Hold x 30 seconds
Rest 30 seconds and repeat for 2-3 total rounds

Circuit #3

(Emphasize the core area and staying strong through the middle part of the body)
Body Saw Planks x 30 seconds
Side Plank – Right x 30 seconds
Side Plank – Left x 30 seconds
Hollow Hold x 30 seconds
Rest 30 seconds and repeat for 2-3 total rounds

Bonus Finisher

If after completing the above you still have some gas left in your tank, complete 4 rounds of the following as a nice little finisher:

20 seconds of bodyweight squats
10 second hold at the bottom squat position

This 2 minute finisher will “finish off” your legs.  Perform all 4 rounds with no rest, so you’ll do 20 seconds of squats, followed by a 10 second hold at the bottom position, and then immediately go into your next round!

About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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Check Out the Latest to Receive Awards

Buying a treadmill is both an investment financially as well as for your health. You will want to pick a treadmill that gets you the most for your buck, but don’t take our word for it. Recently, Treadmill Talk, a treadmill review site, honored the following treadmills with their Best Buys for 2017.

 

The Horizon T101 Treadmill

Our tried and true treadmill is best for walking. It has easy assembly as well as 30 workout options on the console. It’s also a space saver with it’s FeatherLight folding frame type. This simple treadmill is great to get on and go.

Learn more about the Horizon T101 Treadmill

 

The Horizon Adventure 3 Treadmill

A step up from the T101 is the Adventure 3. This treadmill runs up to 12 mph and 12% incline. It comes with a lengthier cushioning and parts warranty of 3 years and a lifetime frame and motor warranty. Additionally, it is Passport Ready and includes ViaFit technology.

Learn more about the Horizon Adventure 3 Treadmill

 

 

The Horizon T7 Treadmill

This affordable running treadmill is great for those who want to get in those miles! Use the incline for added intensity and use your FREE Polar heart rate monitoring chest strap to stay in your target zone. Stay motivated with over 40 exercise programs and Virtual Active Programming.

Learn more about the Horzion T7 Treadmill

 

 

The Matrix TF30 Treadmill

The newest and most advanced out of the bunch is the Matrix TF30. This commercial-grade treadmill has a strong frame and deck combination as well as the best console technology around. It has three console options: The XR, XER, or XIR. The XIR has the largest touch screen, but both the XER and XIR come with great entertainment options such as: Facebook, Hulu Plush, MyFitnessPal, Netflix, Sprint 8, Twitter, YouTube, and more!

Learn more about the Matrix TF30 Treadmill


Quick, what is Velocity Training? Learn the Benefits and How-to

Do you think of strength training and speed training as two completely separate forms of fitness? What if there were a way to combine the best of each training method in one efficient workout? Velocity training combines both strength and speed with an emphasis on increased power. The benefits of velocity training are nearly countless and can apply to almost any population. Velocity training improves performance for athletes, with both short term gains and long term muscular activation. With body weight or light resistance, this training can be completed in your home. It provides greater functional fitness than traditional forms of strength training. So just what is velocity training and how can it be done at home?

 

What is Velocity Training?

Velocity training reduces the load you might use for simple strength training. You complete movements more quickly and with potentially greater range of motion. For example, typical strength training might perform squats with dumbbells or a heavy weight at ten reps over 60 seconds. Velocity training could reduce the load to body weight or a light weight held in front of the body. Using the same period of 60 seconds, you would complete as many reps as possible in the same 60 second time frame.

You will generate a force similar to using a higher weight at lower speeds. By increasing the speed of the movement, you will experience the use of more muscles and neural connections (beneficial for everyone from conditioned athletes to senior citizens). You will also develop greater muscular control during eccentric phase (moving with gravity) of the movement.  So understanding the concept of velocity training, what are its specific benefits?

 

What are the Benefits of Velocity Training?

Velocity training provides the potential to complete both cardiovascular and strength training simultaneously. Workouts become more efficient. You will experience both an increased calorie burn and greater muscular activation over strength training. When completed in an interval format, velocity training provides many of the same benefits as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). You can experience an increased calorie burn for the 48 hours following your workout. HIIT training also has tremendous anti-aging benefits. Senior citizens and new exercisers also experience enormous benefits from velocity training.

Increased range of motion and use of the entire body results in functional training. This improves fitness for daily activities and sports performance. The use of lighter weights (typically around 30% of maximum weights), makes velocity training safe and adaptable to home settings. Additionally, because you are using your entire body to complete most of the movements, you can experience a calorie burn that is similar to running, without the impact.

  • Time efficient workouts: Velocity training meets both your cardio and strength training requirements. You’ll burn calories at a level similar to running by using your entire body to complete movements quickly. You’ll also stimulate muscle development with traditional strength training movements.
  • Your body will get smarter. Think about slowing a barbell as it descends during a bench press. Your body will have to control both phases of the movement during velocity training. This results in greater recruitment of both your muscular and nervous system. These gains are especially beneficial if you are a new exerciser, senior citizen, or seasoned athlete looking for new gains.
  • You’ll do amazing things for your metabolism. Use velocity training for high intensity, interval style workouts without requiring impact. This approach will increase your metabolism for up to 48 hours following your workout. This also stimulates production of Human Growth Hormone, supporting your muscle growth and overall health.
  • You’ll build bone density without impact. Velocity training reduces the amount of weight required to complete strength training while maintaining or increasing the force generated. This directly stimulates the skeletal system supporting bone density.
  • You will build visible muscle. Velocity training targets the generation of forceful movements from specific muscles. These powerful movements stimulate the same muscle fibers required for sprinting and maximum effort weightlifting. This results in visible muscle growth without heavy weights.

How to Start Velocity Training at Home:

Velocity training can be completed with nearly any home exercise equipment. Kettlebells, resistance bands, dumbbells, and a box are all very useful.  Using about 30 to 35% of your maximum weight (or reducing movements to bodyweight), your goal is to complete your reps as quickly as possible, without sacrificing form or range of motion. Here is some of the best home fitness equipment for velocity training.

  • Plyobox: Think you’re pretty good at push-ups? Use a plyobox to complete your push-ups at an elevation. They will be easier so you can do more and do them more quickly. This will train your body to crank out more powerful reps on the floor. Elevated push-ups are also a great option if you struggle to complete full push-ups on the floor. Plyoboxes are also great for squat variations. Check out Bulgarian split squats or Box Squats for velocity training friendly variations of a squat.
  • Resistance bands: This may be the most versatile piece of velocity training equipment there is. Loop this onto your pull-up bar for a velocity training variation of pull-ups. Resistance bands also work well for Pallov presses, squats, bicep curls . . . you name it. Because they provide resistance during both the eccentric and concentric phases of the movements, resistance bands are a natural fit with the improved control of movement that is a benefit of velocity training.
  • Kettlebells: Use Kettlebells to complete simple swings or break Olympic lifts into Kettlebell Cleans and Snatches. Kettlebells encourage full body involvement in dynamic movements, increasing the benefits of velocity training. They are also useful for front squats and goblet squats, encouraging upright posture and proper depth.
  • Dumbbells: Dumbbells let you isolate each side of the body individually. They also allow a greater range of motion than barbell work. This enhances the muscular recruitment benefit of velocity training. Use dumbbells for bench presses, shoulder isolation work, or bicep/tricep isolation. Remember to keep your movement controlled. While you want to complete your reps quickly, the weight should be heavy enough to challenge the targeted muscle. Avoid overextending your joints or losing core engagement.

Check out the latest in functional fitness accessories!

As you can see, nearly any workout you complete in your home gym, can be reworked as a velocity training workout. Use an interval approach that aims for maximum reps in a period of 30 to 120 seconds. Alternate your work intervals with equal period of recovery. You’ll create a time efficient workout that targets both strength and cardio increasing muscle mass and metabolism in as little as 30 minutes. With so many options, which approach to velocity training will be your favorite?

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.

 

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Why Cycling Improves So Much More than Just your Muscles

You probably noticed on our recent Technical Tuesday that cycling has huge benefits for your muscles.  Cycling hits all of your major muscle groups, especially if you zero in on cycling hacks to improve your form.  However, there’s so much more to cycling than training your muscles. Let’s celebrate National Bike to Work Day by thinking about how outdoor biking can improve our lives.  Here are some of cycling benefits that might really surprise you!

Cycling Makes Your Heart Stronger.

Even casual outdoor biking contributes to meeting weekly recommendations for aerobic exercise. To maintain heart health the CDC recommends 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week. You can easily meet that by using your bike for running errands and participating in National Bike to Work day. Of course, you can step that up with some indoor biking for even greater training benefits.

Cycling lets you Save the Planet.

Did you know that most trips in the car are within 2 miles of home? Think about the environmental impact of cycling whenever possible. You’ll not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also save on vehicle and fuel costs. The third Friday in May is National Bike to Work Day. Or you can participate in one of the many other National Bike Month events throughout May.

Cycling Builds Community.

Nearly every small town has an outdoor biking club. What a fantastic way to enjoy the beauty of spring and summer scenery! By getting started on outdoor cycling, you’ll also open yourself to the on-line community of active and fun people. Think you need to be an expert to get started? You’ll probably be surprised. Many cyclists are passionate about helping beginners. Check in with your local bike shop for recommendations.

Cycling Makes You Smarter.

All that blood flow that builds your muscles? Yeah, that’s also heading right into your brain. Couple that with the zen-like immersion of time on the road and you’ll find yourself solving some of your greatest problems while getting fitter and stronger.

Cycling Is Great for Your Mental Health.

It’s no secret that exercise is good at reducing depression and anxiety. From endorphins to dopamine, physical activity does great things for our mental outlook. Did you know that outdoor biking can boost your mental health even more? Participants in outdoor exercise report greater feelings of energy, revitalization, and engagement. They also experience less tension, confusion, anger, and depression. Sounds like a winning combination. Here are a few more mental health benefits of cycling you might not have considered.

Cycling Makes You More Attractive.

We all know that confidence is appealing, right? Exercise improves the self-esteem of everyone from children to senior citizens. Not only that, but a 2012 British Heart Foundation survey found that participants ranked cyclists positively in areas ranging from intelligence to charitable involvement. Oh, and they also appreciate the benefits of well-fitting Lycra.

Cycling is For Everybody.

Cycling is forgiving on the joints. It’s also a simple and approachable way for anyone to maintain or build fitness and participate in their community. You can sign up for a road race, pedal to the farmer’s market, or seek out an outdoor biking club. Any of these options will let you experience the many benefits of outdoor biking.
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.

 

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Better Your Ride by Building a Stronger Biking Body

As we approach the outdoor biking season and the arrival of Ride Your Bike To Work Day (Friday, May 19) , it’s important to note that there are several great things you can do in the gym to better prepare your body for a great ride.

While the legs are obviously an important part of biking, let’s not forget about some of the other key muscle groups that will help you pedal better…..

Core

A strong core is key to a biker being able to handle their bike, climb hills and endure through a long ride.

Core exercises to include:  Planks, Dead Bugs, Palloff Presses

Glutes

The glutes are the powerhouse of the lower body and play an important role in biking.

Glute exercise to include: Hip Bridge, Reverse Lunges, Deadlifts

Hamstrings

Strong hamstrings will help you pedal much more efficiently…especially when you hit those hills!

Hamstring exercise to include: Stability Ball/TRX Curls, Lunges, Single Leg Deadlifts

Low Back

Long periods on a bike can be brutal on the low back.  While this area is generally covered with your core exercises, it’s always a good idea to incorporate a few things specifically for the low back.

Low back exercise to include: Kettlebell Swings, Superman’s, Deadlifts

 

About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.

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How To Quickly Get Your Beach Body In 8 Weeks – Weeks 7 & 8

Awesome job getting to the last 2 weeks of the Beach Body Workout! The last few weeks have been a challenge, but hopefully you are feeling and seeing the effects. . . in a positive way of course!

In weeks 7 & 8 we are adding in variety to make sure we avoid injury and don’t burn out. We will revisit some of the exercises from weeks 3 and 4 and target upper body muscle growth. This is the last push before sticking your toes in the sand and feeling the warm sunshine. You’ve been waiting for this!

 

If you need to visit the previous weeks here they are:

Weeks 1 & 2 (includes Strength Workout 1 & 2)

Weeks 3 & 4 (includes Strength Workout 3 & 4)

Weeks 5 & 6 (includes Strength Workout 5 & 6)

 

Week 7 AM PM
Monday Sprint 8; Strength Workout 1
Tuesday 25 minutes of cardio intervals at 75-85% of max heart rate 30 minutes of cardio at 75% of max heart rate, Strength Workout 2
Wednesday Sprint 8; Strength Workout 3
Thursday 30 minutes of cardio at 75% of max heart rate, Strength Workout 4
Friday 25 minutes of cardio intervals at 75-85% of max heart rate 30 minutes of cardio at 80% of max heart rate
Saturday Saturday Slammer (see above), Strength workout 3
Sunday Rest or active recovery

 

Week 8 AM PM
Monday Sprint 8; Strength Workout 5
Tuesday 25 minutes of cardio intervals at 75-85% of max heart rate 30 minutes of cardio at 75% of max heart rate, Strength Workout 6
Wednesday Sprint 8; Strength Workout 1
Thursday 30 minutes of cardio at 75% of max heart rate, Strength Workout 2
Friday 25 minutes of cardio intervals at 75-85% of max heart rate 30 minutes of cardio at 80% of max heart rate
Saturday Saturday Slammer (see above), Strength Workout 3
Sunday Enjoy the Beach!

 

Once you’ve completed the series, keep going! Don’t break the habit now! Enjoy the beach and the warm weather, but continue exercising all throughout the year. If you need more ideas visit the Johnson Fit Blog.