Communication, Confidence, Leadership, and Passion

26 Oct

9-27_sports_volleyball_julianawacklawski_14-792x5281This past weekend, I had the pleasure of watching a local volleyball standout, now playing for a successful, East coast DI program.

I actually saw her play for the first time as a high school senior – by accident.  I was at a match watching a few athletes I train, and she was a teammate of one of “my” athletes.  I quickly recognized that she was the best player on the floor and have followed her career since.

This young lady has obviously spent countless hours on the court, practicing her volleyball skills.  And, although she is clearly a very talented volleyball player, she has something more.  I recognized four “intangible” characteristics that set her – and, I believe all great athletes – apart from her teammates and competitors:


Great communicator.  Always talking with her teammates (and, occasionally, coaches) – positioning, strategy, encouragement.


Great aptitude for the game.  High volleyball IQ.  Has a “short memory” and doesn’t beat herself up when she makes mistakes.  Trusts her abilities and skills.


Along with communication, like having another coach on the floor.  Takes charge, provides guidance and direction to teammates.  Never comes off the court.


Obviously loves the game.  Plays with energy and enthusiasm.  Always hustles.  Never concedes a point or takes a play off.


Your thoughts?

The Power of Positive Attitude

24 Oct

positive-wallpapers-22[2]Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” ~ Winston Churchill

A positive attitude may not ensure success in everything you do but, without one, dealing with everything (and everyone) becomes more difficult.  A positive attitude brings optimism into your life, and makes it easier to avoid worries and negative thinking.

A positive attitude can help you achieve goals and attain success.  It can give you the ability to inspire and motivate yourself and others.  A positive attitude can enable improvement in everything you do — school, sports, work, and life.

Attitude is contagious.  Before you say a word, your attitude is conveyed to others.  Your body language is a result of your mental attitude.  By choosing your attitude, you get in that mood and send out a message that everyone understands, consciously or unconsciously.

Have passion for what you do… whatever it is.  Passion and desire breed success.  Passion is the single fastest way to drive yourself to success.  Do something you love, and get excited about it.

Best of all, you can choose a positive attitude… choose to be happy (yes, it’s a choice).  The only source of happiness – and unhappiness – comes from inside yourself.  Happiness is not something that comes to you.  It is something you create now, today.  It is not what happens to you that counts. It is how you react to what happens to you.

Have faith in yourself.  Believe in you.


Your thoughts?

7 Surprising Reasons to Give Up Sugar

21 Oct

spoonful+of+sugar[1]I recently read an interesting article in Rodale News, and thought it was worth sharing.  The article discusses how “Food manufacturers pump excess sugar into an array of foods—even “health foods”—creating catastrophic health results,” and encourages readers to “Learn where this type of sneaky sugar hides, along with these surprising sugar side effects.”  Ultimately, sugar makes you fat.

Please read 7 Surprising Reasons to Give Up Sugar.  Reducing your sugar consumption can improve your health, fitness, and overall wellness — and it all starts with awareness.


Your thoughts?

Pumpkin (plus Protein) Pancakes Recipe

19 Oct

pic3r054p1I found this delicious, easy-to-prepare recipe for pumpkin pancakes, and prepared them for my family this past weekend, with a few modifications (noted below).

This recipe makes about six (2 pancake) servings – 8 grams of protein and less than 300 calories per serving.  Enjoy!


  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer whole wheat flour)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (my addition to the recipe)


  1. In a bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and protein powder in a separate bowl. Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Preparation tip: Prepare the pancake batter the night before you’re going to cook the pancakes.  We found that they were better the second day, probably because the ingredients had a chance to blend and interact.


Your thoughts?

Train on One Leg to Improve Strength and Balance

17 Oct

Dumbbell-Standing-Bulgarian-Split-Squat-622x485[1]I am an advocate of unilateral (single-leg) training exercises of the lower body (for that matter the upper body also).  When you consider the forces that athletes must overcome on one leg in stopping and starting it makes sense to train unilaterally.  That does not mean that bilateral exercises — like regular squats — are not part of the routine.  Unilateral exercises should be used to complement bilateral exercises, perhaps on an alternating, bi-weekly basis.  Unilateral exercises can not only improve strength, but also balance, stability, and injury risk reduction.

Here are some of the unilateral, lower-body exercises our athletes perform at Athletic Performance Training Center:

Single-Leg Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat (front-loaded, dumbbell, barbell)


Lunge (stationary, walking, reverse, lateral)

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Single-Leg Squat Jump

Single-Leg Box Jump

You can further increase the degree-of-difficulty of some of these (non-impact) exercises by using an unstable surface, such as an Airex balance pad.


Your thoughts?

30 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

14 Oct

3-Tips-to-Increase-Strength_46d1f626-d679-4457-ae40-360b6e724ece_1024x1024[1]No more excuses.  Here’s how to get a great workout—wherever you are.

From Men’s Health, here are 30 awesome bodyweight exercises that require no equipment and very little space.

These exercises burn calories and work your muscles.

You can modify your training intensity by varying the repetitions, sets, rest intervals, and/or pace of the workout to suit your needs.

No gym?  No weight room?  No workout facility?  No problem.


Your thoughts?

Taper Your Training Regimen for Peak Performance

12 Oct

Straight Bar Deadlift

Tapering is an important component of the training process. It involves the systematic reduction of training frequency, duration, and intensity combined with an increased emphasis on sport-specific skill development and nutritional intervention. The objective of tapering the training regimen is to attain peak performance during the competition season.

As a general rule, your strength and conditioning activity (frequency, duration, etc.) should be at its highest level during your off-season, when sport specific activity (practices, games, etc.) is typically at its lowest level.  As you progress toward the pre-season phase (usually 4-8 weeks prior to the beginning of the season), your strength training should gradually taper down until the season begins.  At that point, your strength training activity should be at its lowest level, relative to your yearly cycle. At Athletic Performance Training Center we typically observe three phases: Off-season, pre-season, and in-season. That being said, it’s not quite that simple — in reality — when you factor in multiple sports and “off-season” activities like AAU basketball and JO volleyball. Nevertheless, your goal should be to build strength during the off- and pre-season phases, and (at least) maintain strength during the in-season phase.


Your thoughts?

5 Reasons Why Parents Make Sports That Much Better

10 Oct

sportsparents1There are lots of articles about parents of youth (and older) athletes, many of them – including one or two from yours truly – critical of the way these folks conduct themselves and ruin the experience for their kids.

Here’s an article from a young man, Jacob Linkous, that provides a refreshing perspective on the potential positive aspects of youth sports parenting (along with a link to the original article):

5 Reasons Why Parents Make Sports That Much Better

“I couldn’t have made it through high school sports without them.”

Throughout my life, I haven’t played a crazy amount of sports; however, sports have filled my life, and no matter the sport, my parents have always been there for me as my number one fans.

The first sport I ever played was soccer. My dad was actually the assistant coach for a couple years, and I played that all the way through seventh grade. The next sport I started to play was football, and that was only for fourth grade. I started to play basketball the next year all the way up until ninth grade. The only sports that I played in high school were track and cross country of which my parents supported me the most by going to almost all of my meets no matter where they were.

Some people think that sometimes parents can ruin the sport that a child loves, but I’m here to show you five ways that the parents make the sport that much better.

  1. They want you to succeed more than you do

My parents wanted nothing more than me to succeed in every aspect of sports, this was also the case with my brother who played sports in high school and my sister who played in high school and college. My dad once bet me a Nintendo DS that I wouldn’t get in the top 20 of a cross country race, I got 16th that week.

  1. Successes are just that much better

Hitting that game winning shot or maybe anchoring the swimming relay to the state championship is always a great feeling, and celebrating it with your teammates is amazing — but being able to celebrate it with your parents is ten times better.

  1. Sometimes they’ve been there.

My mother never played any sports, but my father ran cross country and also played basketball. Having my dad already played the sports helped me out so much in terms of knowing what to expect. It’s hard to know what to expect for a mile race when you’ve never really run in your life. My dad knew what it felt like to have a bad race, and he knew the right things to say to cheer me up.

  1. The bonding experience

My dad and I have a lot in common but me running cross country and distance in track and field was yet another way that we could bond, and we did a lot of it. Having similar interests is always a good way to get closer with someone.

  1. You’ll strive to be like them with your kids.

My dad always tells me how his parents never saw him run during his cross country and track and field days. This made me sad knowing he never had the support system that my siblings and I had. Whenever I have children, they won’t be forced to play sports, but if they do, I will be their biggest fan.


Your thoughts?

Whole Grain Doesn’t Always Mean High Fiber

7 Oct

fiber-one-cereal[1]I think everyone should be able to read and understand food labels, but I don’t always like the way manufacturers use this information to mislead us.  For example, just because a product claims to be “whole grain” doesn’t necessarily mean it is high in fiber.

As a matter of fact, the criteria for a food to be able to claim “100% Whole Grain” and “Whole Grain” are based on whole grain — and not fiber — content.  That’s why sugary cereals can claim to be whole grain and contain just 1-2 grams of fiber per serving.  Some of these whole grain foods contain more sugar and calories than those without the whole grain stamp.

You’re better off looking for foods with a 10:1 ratio of carbohydrates to fiber, or lower (Cheerios, for example, has a 7:1 ratio).  Foods with this ratio have more fiber and less sugar than those foods with higher ratios.


Your thoughts?

The Worst Breakfast is No Breakfast

5 Oct

Breakfast[1]I always enjoy traveling to different schools and organizations to discuss Strength & Conditioning, Speed & Agility, and Nutrition.  Invariably, when discussing nutrition, we touch upon the importance of breakfast.  When I tell the audience that any breakfast is better than no breakfast, I usually get a few sarcastic responses like, “what about donuts?” or some other sweets or junk food.  Although I differentiate between a healthy, nutritious breakfast and a less sensible option, the point is this:  Eat something — anything — within 30-90 minutes of waking.  It will set the tone for the rest of your day.  It’s not that the quality of what you eat is unimportant, but the benefits of eating breakfast are indisputable:

  • Improves physical and mental health
  • Improves behavior and performance
  • Kick-starts your metabolism
  • Improves your mood
  • Boosts your energy level
  • Helps to minimize daytime hunger

Like any other meal or snack, the key is to aim for balance: clean carbohydrates (whole grains, high-fiber), lean protein, and healthy (unsaturated) fats.  Protein for breakfast is a must.  Eating a protein-rich breakfast can energize you, reduce food cravings, and prevent overeating later, according to research from the University of Missouri.

Don’t get hung up on eating “breakfast” food for breakfast… eat whatever you want.  Just keep it sensible, nutritious, and balanced.  Leftovers from last night’s dinner?  Eat ’em.


Your thoughts?

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