Meet Ken Grall

Take a moment to meet one of our Horizon Fitness experts, Ken Grall!

Ken is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, as well as a Youth Fitness Specialist (YFS) through the International Youth Conditioning Association. He has trained and coached in the fitness and sports performance fields since 1992, having worked with all fitness levels from the beginning exerciser all the way up to professional athletes.

Since 2009, Ken has owned and operated Edge Fitness in the Madison, WI area where they specialize in group fitness and personal training. That same year he also became an Athletic Revolution franchisee–one of the nation’s top youth fitness and sports performance training businesses–where they have worked with hundreds of local athletes and coaches focusing on total athletic development, injury prevention and education.

We recently caught up with Ken to ask a few questions:

How long have you been doing what you do / have you been a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist?

KG: I have been in the fitness field since graduating from UW-La Crosse in 1992 and became a C.S.C.S. in 2000.  Other certifications I’ve obtained along the way include A.C.E. Personal Trainer, Nike S.P.A.R.Q., IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist, and IYCA Speed & Agility Specialist.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to become healthier?

KG: It’s a mind-set. You have to first want to be fit/healthier and then do the little things it takes to get you there like regular workouts (find activities you LIKE to do), eating clean (cut out the processed junk that’s everywhere and focus on protein, produce and water), and getting plenty of sleep (7-8 hours/night MINIMUM). Keep in mind that it takes time…consistency is the key!

How would you describe your coaching/training style?

KG: Looking back I can see that my training style has changed quite a bit over the years. I’ve evolved from the “hit them hard each workout” trainer into what I am today – someone who is focused more on getting people to move and feel the way they should.  I teach people to train smarter and focus more so on the quality of a workout vs. the quantity.  When everything clicks they know how to listen to their bodies and determine when to go hard, when to ease up, when to take a day or two for recovery, when to focus on mobility/flexibility/corrective exercises, etc.  I view myself more as a coach and teacher rather than a trainer.

Read a few of Ken’s most popular articles:

Reaching a Fitness Plateau

Consistency in Workouts

Flexibility vs. Mobility

Common Nutrition Myths

You can also catch up with two of our other writers, Coach Jenny Hadfield and Joli Guenther.


Ask an Expert: Nutritional Supplements

Question: I’ve read a lot about nutritional supplements lately. Are they something I should consider adding to improve my health and fitness? If so, what is the best (and safest) way to start?

I get asked at least a few times a week about different supplements and exactly what people should or shouldn’t be taking to help them reach their fitness goals. In fact, I just got a message from one of my brothers who is digging back into a regular fitness routine and wanted to know what he should be taking. This is the same brother who I can pretty much credit for me being in the fitness field. He was always into working out when we were kids, and was the one who got me hooked on being active. He was my first “trainer” in a sense as he started me out on his good old fashioned Weider cement-filled plastic weights and included me in on all kinds of outdoor activities from playing frisbee (great way to incorporate sprinting) to playing neighborhood games of football, basketball, etc.

Anyway, here’s a recap of what I not only told him, but what I also share with anyone that approaches me for advice/recommendations when it comes to nutritional supplementation: Supplements are just that — a “supplement” to what you may not be getting through your daily nutrition program.

Personally, I choose to supplement. I fill the gaps if there are any, and I do my best to make sure that there never are any. I don’t waste my money on a cupboard full of products. My staples include a quality fish oil, a decent multi-vitamin, vitamin D, and whey protein. This suits me, my eating habits and my physical lifestyle. This doesn’t mean that this won’t change down the road if I shift my goals or change my eating habits.

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For instance, for the past year or so I have incorporated Intermittent Fasting (IF) as part of my nutrition routine. This IF plan I’m on involves a daily routine of 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8 hour window where I focus on a couple of good sized meals and a couple of snacks. Because periods of fasting can trick your body into utilizing muscle as a fuel source (that’s why calorie deprivation diets do not work), I have added Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) into my pre-workout routine each day to help preserve muscle. In this case, I adapted my supplementation to fit my person needs & goals.

The big problem with supplements is that many people think of them as a magic bullet. And who can blame them with all of the marketing ads that promote this pill or that powder as all you need to gaining muscle and losing fat. Sorry to break the news, but if you think supplementing is going to give you the body of your dreams you’re sure to be disappointed. Supplements are not bad, but you have to understand that they should serve some kind of purpose. A lot of people take supplements in hopes of the supplements serving the wrong purpose. Get your eating dialed in to 80% clean (at the minimum) and then evaluate how you’re feeling and how your workouts are going.

It’s best to have a chat with your trusted healthcare provider before altering your diet and exercise in any way, but my general supplementation suggestions for the everyday athlete are:

  • Take a daily vitamin. Consider it an insurance policy that assures you’re getting the proper amount of essential nutrients.
  • If you incorporate strength training into your workout routine, get a decent whey protein into your body immediately after working out to aid in muscle recovery and regeneration.
  • If you can’t get out in the sunlight on a regular basis, consider supplementing with vitamin D (I recommend taking this over the winter months if you live in a cold-weather location like I do.)
  • If you can’t get fish or other omega-3’s into a regular rotation in your diet, consider adding a quality fish oil supplement.

While supplements are everywhere these days and can be a great addition to a well-rounded fitness and nutrition program, always remember that a supplement is just that — a supplement to working hard and eating right!

Ken

Ken Grall a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, as well as a Youth Fitness Specialist (YFS) through the International Youth Conditioning Association. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.

 


Post-Workout Nutrition

Eating the right foods at the right time is equal parts science, art and experimentation. But it’s something you can master with just a little guidance. For example, pre-workout nutrition should leave you feeling energized and nourished, without worrying about your digestion. While post-workout nutrition should help you with recovery, gaining strength, and better performance. We’ve already covered what to eat before your workout (Pre-Workout Nutrition) and when (Workout Nutrition: Timing Meals) but in an effort to lose weight or see gains in overall fitness levels, many people also fail to eat enough (or at the best times) following their workouts. Let’s take a closer look.

If you have eaten a meal reasonably close to your workout, then post-workout nutrition becomes less important, as your body is able to access the food that is already in your system to repair and recover from your workout.

But if it has been several hours since you finished your last meal at the time you complete your workout, taking advantage of the post workout window of opportunity (the sweet spot is approximately one hour post-workout) to time a balanced meal will increase your ability to protect and build muscle and replenish muscular carbohydrate stores.

By putting off your next meal, or thinking you do not need to refuel your body post-workout, you become more likely to overeat and less able to take advantage of the positive effects of that meal on your performance and body composition.

Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining energy during and after your workouts. To get yourself on the right path, a good first step is to keep track of what you eat for a week to gain a sense of the overall quantity and quality of foods you’re eating. Then, put into practice what we’ve covered in this nutritional series and feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions.

Interested in more information? Browse the nutrition category in the Horizon Community.

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


Pre-Workout Nutrition

As you establish your training plan, it’s important to support your activity through sound pre-workout nutrition. The most common struggles related to sports nutrition includes not eating enough, eating the wrong foods at the wrong times, or skipping workout nutrition entirely. Let’s take a closer look at how skipping a pre-workout meal can set you back before you even begin.

It’s no secret that your body needs fuel. By skipping a meal before you workout, you are more likely to hit the wall during your workout, reducing the effectiveness, quality and overall calorie burn of your workout. You will also increase the likelihood of breaking down muscle in order to fuel your activity.

So what is the best way to keep this from happening? Keep in mind the nutritional adage, “fat burns in a carbohydrate flame.” This refers to glycolosis, which is how our bodies create fuel for our exercise. We require some carbohydrate within our muscles to access our fat stores. If it’s hard to time a meal right before your workout, your best bet is to provide your body with some simple, easily digestible carbs shortly before your workout. This might include fruit or fruit juice, a breakfast bar, or toast. You’ll make up the calories by improving your workout and will help your body to access the fat stores you’re trying to reduce.

 

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Meeting your training goals takes more than just completing the workouts, you need to support your training efforts by eating the right foods at the right time. These efforts will result in stronger training sessions and helping you to get stronger and fitter faster. Eat smart and have a great workout!

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


Common Nutrition Myths

In today’s age of television infomercials, the internet and social media, people can easily get confused when it comes to health and fitness, causing common nutrition myths to circulate. Everywhere you turn, so called “experts” are telling you to work out this way or eat that way. And as long as people continually search for that elusive magic short-cut to their dream body, we’re going to continue to be bombarded with information–much of which isn’t the truth. Today I want to tackle a few common nutrition myths that are still in circulation and clear up some of the confusion so you can finally eat with confidence.

Myth: Saturated Fat Is Bad For You. For as long as I can remember, we’ve been told that saturated fats will cause heart disease and raise cholesterol. This belief is even incorporated into many modern dietary guidelines.

  • The Truth: Recent studies show that saturated fat has NO link to increased risk for heart disease or stroke. In fact, saturated fats can even raise HDL, the “good” cholesterol–making them one of the good fats for the body. Trans fats, on the other hand, are bad for you and have been linked to raising the risk of heart disease dramatically through insulin resistance and metabolic problems.

Myth: A Calorie Is A Calorie. Many people will tell you that “calories are calories” and it doesn’t matter where your body gets them from. This myth is essentially saying that as long as you control your calorie intake, it doesn’t matter what you eat.

  • The Truth: Not all calories are created equal. Different kinds of food can directly affect calorie and fat burning, and different foods also have an effect on the brain centers and hormones that regulate your appetite. For example, a high protein diet can significantly reduce appetite and even raise your metabolic rate. One study even indicates that a high protein diet can help you eat fewer calories.

Myth: You Should Eat Several Small Meals Throughout The Day. This is a big one that is still out there as many fitness and nutrition “experts” will tell you that eating several smaller meals throughout the day will keep your metabolism high and, in turn, help you lose weight.

  • The Truth: While eating frequent, small meals may help curb your appetite, it has no effect on the amount of calories you burn. On the contrary, one study showed that there may be a correlation between frequent meals and increased liver and abdominal fat.

Myth: Eating Fat Makes You Fat. This one has been around for years and is the driver behind the “fat free” food craze. Fat is the stuff under your skin that makes you look soft, so it only seems logical that eating fat would give you more of it.

  • The Truth: The truth of this one depends on the context. Diets that are high in processed carbs and fat can make you fat, but it’s not the fat’s fault. In reality, diets that are high in fat but low in processed carbs consistently lead to better weight loss than low-fat diets. So, when looking at full-fat vs low-fat foods, make sure you’re also checking the carb and calorie counts.

Myth: Cut All Carbs From Your Diet If You Want To Lose Weight. Much like the “fats make you fat” craze above, carbs have more recently been labeled as “evil” and something you must avoid in order to get that desired lean body.

  • The Truth: Carbohydrates are what fuel the body and allow you to get through those all-important high intensity training sessions, but many non-pros seem to think that cutting carbs completely from their diet is the only way to lose weight. The key is the type of carbs you eat. Instead of eating empty carbs – such as sugars, white breads and pastas, the focus should be on whole-grain carbs such as brown rice, vegetables and fruits to not only help provide fuel, but also to assure you’re getting enough fiber in your diet.

In closing, always be sure to do your homework when it comes to fitness and nutrition and don’t be quick to jump on the latest bandwagon. Nutrition can be a confusing piece of the health puzzle, but seek out the truth behind the latest craze.

 

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Ken Grall a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, as well as a Youth Fitness Specialist (YFS) through the International Youth Conditioning Association. Learn more on the Meet Our Writers page.


Ask an expert: Healthy roadtrip snacks

I’m going to be traveling a lot with the family this summer. What are some healthy foods and snacks I can pack during our family road trips? – Jennifer

Whether it’s an afternoon at the beach or the All-American Road Trip, there’s nothing better than hitting the road for some summertime fun. While enjoying the local culinary offerings can be a big part of this experience, sometimes you’re just going to need a quick bite that doesn’t leave you and your family with a nutritional flat tire. Some of my favorite standbys that hold up to travel include cut veggies with hummus (Particularly peapods, carrot sticks and grape tomatoes), shelf stable milk and cereal, and dried fruit with nuts.

If you pack a cooler, pre-cut and washed fruit and yogurt topped with granola (pack the granola in a separate bag and mix when you’re ready to eat) or wraps using lettuce leaves or tortillas also travel really well. You can fill your wraps with your choice of meat, nut butter, or a high protein veggie salad. While they’re a little pricier and more processed, sometimes a grab-and-go protein bar or granola bar is your best option for portable nutrition that travels well.

Whatever you choose, pack plenty of water and top up your tank with a good mix of carbohydrates and protein so you and your family won’t crash and burn in the middle of your summer adventures.

Happy traveling!
Joli

Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor, and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. To find out more, visit the Meet Our Writers page.

 


Ask an expert: Workout nutrition

It never fails, halfway through my workout I end up lacking energy. I know I should have protein immediately following my workouts, but do you have any advice on what I should be doing and eating before my workouts to sustain my energy?  –Alec

Your awareness during your workouts is a great first step in making changes to resolve the situation. There are a variety of variables that can have that effect on your workout energy including not getting enough quality sleep, pushing too hard in a workout and not having enough recovery in your workout routine.That said, nutrition plays a vital role in maintain energy during and after your workouts.  A good first step is to keep track of what you eat for a week to gain a sense of the overall quantity and quality of foods you’re eating.

You can eat plenty of calories, but if your menu consists of too much processed, synthetic foods, it can leave you feeling drained and lacking energy. The more ingredients that are hard to pronounce on the food, the harder the body has to work to digest it and the more it lacks the vital nutrients it needs to live an energetic life.

Keeping a fuel log, whether online or on paper will help you get a better understanding of what you’re putting in your body. Focus on making small changes by switching out a few things at a time rather than revamping your diet all at once. For example, if you eat chips with your sandwich at lunch, add cut veggies like carrots or celery instead. Or add a piece of fruit to your breakfast and veggies to your dinner. The more you lean into a clean diet, the better you’ll feel. Simply put, garbage in = garbage out.

Total caloric consumption is also important as many fall prey to eating too few calories, which results in energy drain. A prolonged low caloric diet also puts the body in survival mode and shifts the metabolism thinking it needs to conserve fat.  Rather than focusing on counting calories, it’s better to invest in eating whole, clean foods throughout the day. For instance, eggs, blueberries and toast for breakfast, a salad with chicken for lunch and fish, veggies and brown rice for dinner. It’s a little like putting clean gas in your car. Your body will run better, feel better and move better.

Finally, we are all an experiment of one. Some perform best on a meal two hours before the workout. Some do better on a light meal an hour before the workout. And others still perform best with no meal before, or a glass of fresh juice. It’s best to experiment and log what works best for you.

If you are going to eat a meal, give yourself 1.5-2 hours to digest it before you workout and focus on consuming high quality carbohydrates, and lower in fat and protein. This allows the food to digest more readily and avoid having stomach issues due to having undigested food in your stomach. (Example: oatmeal with berries and nuts.)

If you’re going to eat a light meal, allow an hour before your workout and go for foods that have a higher concentration of water and carbohydrates. (Example: banana and teaspoon of almond butter.)

Also try working out on an empty stomach if your workout is in the morning. You may find that you have the most energy with nothing in your stomach first thing in the morning. Again, everyone is different and the best way to find out what works best for you is to experiment with timing, size of meal and the variety of foods.

Happy Trails.
Coach Jenny Hadfield

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.


Should you go gluten-free?

The health food industry seems to operate in waves. Every so often a different food or substance is vilified. Suddenly, it becomes a badge of honor for foods to be labeled as free of it. Once it was fat, then carbs became the target. Right now, gluten seems to be the thing to avoid. A brief stroll down any grocery store aisle will show the growing prevalence of gluten-free foods. In fact, the gluten-free industry is now worth about $7 billion dollars per year.

Originally, however, the gluten-free diet was designed to help the one percent of the population suffering from celiac disease, an auto-immune condition triggered by the wheat protein. Now gluten-free diets are used to treat just about every symptom and are even said to encourage weight-loss and athletic performance. The Garmin-Transitions pro-cycling team follows a gluten-free diet while racing in an effort to reduce inflammation and easy digestion.

Celiac Disease, Gluten Intolerance and Wheat Allergies

There is a solid medical basis for opting out of gluten.

As mentioned, celiac disease is the chief reason people traditionally dropped the protein, found in wheat, barley and rye. When someone with celiac disease eats or, in some cases, uses a product containing gluten, their immune system misfires and attacks its own small intestine. In the ensuing violence, the villi, which absorb nutrients are damaged or destroyed. With the villi not functioning, the person can become severely malnourished.

Recently, though, doctors have started to identify other conditions that might require a gluten-free diet. Gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, is distinct from celiac in that it is not an auto-immune disease and involves a completely different biological response. The science is still young, though, and the symptoms are a bit nebulous. The primary signs include bloating, diarrhea and cramps, but the list includes well over 100 other symptoms as well.

There is also the possibility of developing an allergy to wheat, not necessarily to gluten. This is a completely different condition and may only justify avoiding wheat, rather than all gluten containing products.

Gluten intolerance and wheat allergies can both develop later in life and the numbers show that sufferers are steadily increasing.

Why the Increase?

Initially, the immediate skeptical response was to blame faulty diagnoses for the rise in gluten intolerance. Some experts, though, feel that there is legitimate concern due to modern genetic changes in wheat crops.

During the so-called Green Explosion of the 1950s, wheat was cross-bred to not only increase its productivity but to also increase its protein content. Many feel that this manipulation changed the gluten in ways that adversely affect the human body.

More research is needed to prove or disprove this theory, however.

Does Removing Gluten Help?

More and more people, though, are turning to gluten-free diets because they want to lose weight or because they’ve heard it can help their performance in competition.

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that avoiding gluten can do all that. It is possible that adopting a gluten-free diet could help you lose weight as a by-product of reducing highly processed, calorie-rich foods. Sometimes, sadly, the opposite is true. Many gluten-free foods are loaded with sugars and fats, which boost the calories dangerously high, despite .

No research supports the idea that gluten-free diets can help athletic performance, either. Again, it’s possible that you might feel better as a result of a more healthy diet but unless you have an undiagnosed sensitivity it’s the lack of gluten that’s helping you.

Sources

http://beta.active.com/nutrition/Articles/Should-You-Go-Gluten-Free?page=1

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200393522456636.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57483789-10391704/gluten-free-diet-fad-are-celiac-disease-rates-actually-rising/


Ask and expert: Running through your performance highs and lows

Ask Coach Jenny

 Q: How come some days I feel like I can run forever and then other days I feel like I can barely make a few miles? ~Andrea

 A: That’s a great question, Andrea. There are many reasons that contribute to the highs and lows, and one of the most significant is how you go about running day to day, especially if you’re training for an event.

It is easy to get caught up in running by a certain pace (ex. 9:30 per mile) now that we have all these wonderful speed-distance devices that tell you the pace as you run. Remember the days when we would have to drive the distance to see how far we ran? I do…

There is something that gets lost when we train by pace – we tune out what is going on in our bodies. When we do that, we risk over- or under-performing on any given day. Pace should be the outcome of your run, rather than the target and here’s why.

Let’s say you go for your planned run today for four miles and it is 90 degrees outside. Your plan calls for an easy-effort run but your mind is set on running at a 9:30 per mile pace, which is normally an easy effort. You end up running in a hard zone due to the heat. Your next run is a tempo workout where you run at a specific pace that is comfortably hard (8:30 per mile) but you’re fatigued due to the hot run, so that tempo pace now feels extremely hard (red zone). In time, your body fatigues and that can result in a host of challenging runs or contribute to “dead legs,” where your legs simply don’t have any strength.

Training by pace and pace alone defeats the purpose of the run. When you train by effort and how your body feels (heart rate and your breathing rate), you’re always training in the right zone on the given day. On that 90-degree day, you can still run easy by slowing your pace and running at an effort where you can still talk. This may even require run-walking intervals to keep your body cool. On the flipside, when it cools down and you have a strong day because you haven’t trained too hard – you will run stronger than that calculated pace. It all starts with tuning into your body, listening to your breath and flowing with what the day brings. When you run in the flow, your body adapts more efficiently and fatigues less.

Take this timeless challenge and let me know how it works out for you. Invest three weeks in running by your body and breath. Run hard on your hard days and easy on your easy days – but do so in the rhythm of your body rather than your watch or speed-distance monitor. It will change your life forever…

Other variables that can negatively affect your performance include:

 Sleep

The quality of sleep greatly affects your running performance. Have you ever pulled an all-nighter and then went for a run the next day? It’s hard and results in higher heart rates, lower energy levels and an overall tough run. Invest in quality sleep for at least 7-8 hours each night.

Your Cycle

This doesn’t quite apply to the men. However, as women, our menstrual cycle has a rhythm all of its own with highs and lows. The highs you may recognize as the days when you feel like Wonder Woman and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. This typically happens between days 7 and 15 around ovulation. The lows happen 7 days before menstruation and the first few days of your cycle. The great news is our bodies have a built in flow – where you can run harder around your strongest days, and ease back on the throttle and take an easy-effort week during the challenging days around the cycle. Doing so keeps in alignment with the natural flow of your body. By the way, there have been world records set during menstruation, so it doesn’t translate to poor performance.

Nutrition

You are what you eat. If you eat low quantities of fuel on a low-calorie diet or miss meals, it will instantly translate to tough runs. In the same light, eating highly processed, low-quality fuels can also have the same effect – icky runs. Keep a fuel log and begin to take inventory of what you eat. Making small changes to good, clean fuel sources will increase the likelihood of better runs more often. Stick with foods that have a short ingredient list of things you can actually pronounce – vegetables, fruits, protein sources and healthy fats.

Stress

This is a silent energy killer. It sneaks into your life and subtly zaps the energy right out from underneath you. Whether it is due to work, deadlines, family, loss or relationships, stress sucks the life out of your runs. Invest in yoga, meditation or even breathing deeply for one minute during the day. Being mindful of the stress and making efforts to decrease and manage it will greatly improve the quality of your life performance on and off the roads.

As with any old habits, remember that they die hard, so start improving your runs with small changes that you can stick with over time. It may take quite a bit of practice to break the desire to train by pace, but it will pay off exponentially in the long run – literally and figuratively.