Monday, November 4, 2013

Age is Just a Number

Robert Piazza was born January 13th, 1947 in Jersey City, NJ, and was married to my mother on June 19th, 2011 in Glen Gardner, NJ.  For the past 3 or so years that I have known him he has remained a physical anomaly to my friends and myself.  I remember helping him move a washing machine one day, and without any notice he hoisted himself up and over the machine as quickly as I would have done just to get to the other side.  This was at the age of 63.  The man remains committed to a lifestyle of healthy eating, regular exercise and solid dedication. This commitment has awarded him with a fitness level higher than most twentysomethings and a physique that most middle-aged men would kill for.  He truly is a testament to the quote, "age is just a number."

I recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions regarding his journey with fitness, and was able to gain some insight into how he has remained in such good shape.

 1.) How old were you when you began exercising on a regular basis? How old are you now?

 When I was 15 my brother and I erected a pull-up bar in the back yard and we were always doing chin-ups and pull-ups. I lifted weights in our basement and with a couple other guys and we started a weight lifting club after school. From then on my fitness regimen varied from practicing yoga for 12 years to running for 4-5 years. I started working out with more dedication about 28 years ago. I am now 66, 2 months shy of 67.

 2.) What is your greatest fitness-related accomplishment(s)?

At the age of 18 I had the highest score on our 5-man High School Marine Corps physical fitness team. Our team was eight overall out of 13 school districts. At age 32 I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. with a time of 3 hours 29 minutes. At age 52 I bicycled 75 miles through the 5 boroughs of NYC in about 6.5 hours. Also on weekends I would routinely swim a half mile in the ocean for about 20 minutes.

 3.) What is the key to your success in regards to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle?

 I refer maintaining a healthy life style as to abiding by the 3 D’s; diet, determination and dedication.

 4.) Explain a time when you found it difficult to stay motivated, and how did you bounce back?

 For several years I was the main chef at a vegetarian restaurant in Washington D.C. I was working very long hours, I was at my heaviest weight and in the worst physical shape. It was depressing. That is when I started running and working out again. Now there are still times when I don’t always feel motivated to go to the gym but I always still do. I always without exception, leave feeling fulfilled and elated. There is no better cure for depression or laziness than continuing with a work out regimenPeriod!

 5.) What is your favorite exercise and why?

 I’d have to say pull-ups. I’ve been doing them for most of my life with tremendous results. I’ve always been complimented for the width of my lats. Haha.

 6.) What are your 3 favorite healthy foods?

 Chicken, salmon and salad.

 7.) What is your ideal cheat meal?


 8.) What would you say, or what piece of advice would you offer to someone who has found it difficult to commit to a healthy and active lifestyle?

 There are three stages of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Stage one is when one first decides to begin a training regimen. He may not enjoy doing it but he knows it is good for him. Then second stage is when he begins to enjoy training and starts to notice improvements in himself. Whether it’s appearance, strength, endurance, etc. The third stage is when he does not want to miss a work out or a training session. It has become a life style and an integral part of his life. That is what one should strive for. It is not always easy and it may not happen that quickly, but sometimes it does.

 9.) If you could change something about your fitness journey, what would you have done differently?

 When I was younger I had thought of competing in natural body building competitions but never pursued it.

 10.) Have you ever injured yourself to the point that you weren’t able to be active? How difficult was it to deal with, and how were you able to reintegrate exercise back into your life?

 There have been several times in my recent life when I have had an illness or injury that prevented me from working out. 11 years ago I had two medical conditions treated within the same year. One in May and another in July. They lasted throughout that year. I worked out for only 6 continuous weeks that year from May through July. My comeback was arduous and discouraging. My entire physique had morphed, smaller arms, wider waist, etc. It took over 6 months to reach the level which I was at prior. 5 years ago I broke my foot and could not walk for months. I was still able to do pull-ups in the basement and I was doing dips on my walker. I was able to return to the gym within four months still in relatively good shape. Less than two years ago I had major back surgery with bone grafts, clamps and screws. Another four months out. I was walking twice a day, doing crunches on my bed and dips on the bed frame. The surgeon advised me not to resume working out for 6 months. I was back at the gym in two months going through my routine with little or no weight on the bars. Gradually I began to slowly add weights until by the time the doctor had advised that I could return to the gym, I was almost at the same level I was at before the surgery. All of this short recovery time I totally attribute to being fit and in good health.

 11.) How have you modified your exercise programming as you have gotten older?

 Each time that I had recovered from those two most recent setbacks I also had to accept the fact that I was aging at the same time. So as one ages one has to concede to reality. I am not as strong as I used to be. I don’t recover as quickly from soreness. The one thing to maintain as one ages is the intensity of his training. Strength becomes relative as does appearance.

 12.) Do you have any goals that you haven’t achieved yet, but plan on conquering? What are they?

 My goal in life is to continue training well into my late years as long as I can remain healthy and to be a testimony to others to the many rewards of staying fit.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Why You Should Pack Your Own Lunch"

Whether you are looking to clean up your diet, cut your weekly expenditures or develop a stronger bond with your family, it all starts with packing your own lunch.

Sounds simple, and it is.

All it takes is a few minutes of planning for 2-3 "major meals" a week, a trip to the grocery store and an hour or 2 on a Sunday afternoon or evening preparing the meals.  No excuses, just get it done!

Health Benefits:

You know exactly what you are eating, you are able to control the portions and you already have a clearly defined meal.  When you buy from a cafeteria, fast-food restaurant or whatever place you frequent for your mid-day fuel, chances are that you were not in the kitchen when it was prepared.  You essentially have no clue what was used in the process of making that meal.  Also, when given a monstrous-sized meal you will tend to over eat simply because the food is there and your self-control will dwindle.  Lastly, when you already have a plan for lunch it will keep you from getting to the cafe and grabbing whatever your mind desires at that moment (usually a carb-heavy calorie bomb).

Economic Benefits:
How much is your weekly or monthly grocery bill?  Not cheap, I'm guessing.  Add on another $10.00-15.00 per day for lunch, and the number can get out of control real quick.  A wallet-friendly remedy would be to buy whole, fresh foods in bulk and prepare a few lunches for the week.  Not only is this MUCH better for your mind, body and soul, but it will also save you a tremendous amount of money.  Go ahead and crunch the numbers, I'll be waiting here saying, "I told you so."

Bonding Benefits:

It doesn't matter if you are dating, married and/or have children, everyone can benefit from a little time in the kitchen together.  I have found that many of my constructive discussions with others have been accomplished while either cooking with the people that I love, or while enjoying a meal that was made at home.  Of course I enjoy the restaurant dining experience from time to time, but I'll take a fresh-made meal that was prepared in the comfort of my kitchen over a restaurant any day.  Cooking should be done with love and purpose, and it is the best way to bring people together to share in the experience.  Everyone loves to eat, but creating value in the meal should not be overlooked.

So with most everything in life, the choice is yours.  Continue to eat processed, mass-produced crap while paying inflated prices to do so, or start taking control of your diet, finances and family with one simple modification.

+Wesley Claytor

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Welcoming Failure


The fear of failure is a tough obstacle to overcome.

It doesn't matter what you do in life, at one point you've faced an overwhelming fear of the possibility of failure.  If you haven't encountered this, then your free-ride on your parents' couch must be stagnantly awesome.

In order to do anything great, or anything of value, you need to test your own internal boundaries.  Stepping out of your comfort zone is how you find out what your strengths and weaknesses are.  This is the foundation of personal development and growth in my opinion.  Sure, you might think you know what you need to do in order to progress as an individual, but until reality smacks you in the face you probably have no clue.

The quickest way to self-actualize is by stepping out of what makes you feel safe and secure and heading straight into what makes you scared.  This is where mediocrity advances.  This is where learning and growth is achieved.

Failure is the one of the most powerful motivators, and you must fail in order to succeed.  If you miss this crucial state, the state of failure, then what is your success worth?  Do you value the things that you have achieved without failure as much as those that were faced with adversity time and time again?  Maybe, maybe not.  I would argue that you most certainly do not.

I know that whenever I fail in competition, I am taken to an awful place internally.  I hate that feeling more than anything, but I do not fear it.  I learn from it each and every time, and get better at handling it when it happens.  This has taught me how to be more patient, honest and confident.  It also shows me where my greatest weaknesses are, so that I can go back and work on them.

Failure teaches you to calm your ego.  It teaches you how to lose, and how to bounce back.  It teaches you what doesn't work, so that you can try a different way that may work.  It teaches you what your deficits are.

Failure uncovers your spirit.  It uncovers your will, and your perseverance.  It uncovers your courage and your purpose.  It uncovers your strengths.

Face the fear of failure, embrace it and get comfortable.  Learn to enjoy every aspect of your journey, whether it be good or bad.

You cannot experience life fully without the failures.

+Wesley Claytor

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Rice & Beans

So my wife recently became a representative for Wildtree, which is a company that specializes in all natural food mixes, oils & seasoning blends (along with other awesome products) that contain no chemicals, additives, preservatives, MSG, or food dyes.  We have been working in the kitchen like mad scientists to create healthier, tastier recipes that incorporate Wildtree products so that we can offer you the best recipes possible.  We will only promote these products because we have tested them, and stand behind them.

Here's an awesomely simple recipe for the best Rice & Beans you haven't tried yet!

What you will need:

-1 can (15.5 oz.) of Black Beans
-2 tbs Wildtree Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil

-1/2 tsp Wildtree Cajun Seasoning
-1 tsp Wildtree Rancher Steak Rub
-1 cup of rice (we used white, but feel free to substitute)

What you will do:

  1. Begin to prepare rice (follow directions for the specific rice you chose)
  2. Heat a medium saucepan on Medium heat
  3. Add the Grapeseed oil to the sauce pan
  4. Add the Black Beans, Cajun seasoning and Rancher steak rub to the saucepan, and begin to mix
  5. Add 3/4 cup of water to the saucepan, let simmer for 10-15 minutes
  6. Remove from heat, serve over rice when done
  7. ENJOY!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The 5 Best Exercises for Balanced Strength

I want to begin this post by stating that these are my 5 favorite exercises, and they have helped me to create a strong, lean and balanced body.  I know some of you will disagree with my choices, and that's all well and good, but also irrelevant.  I am an experience-based individual, and have experienced nothing but success in reference to my goals of functional strength from these 5 exercises.

1.)  The Deadlift:  If you have been following my blog, Facebook page, or my YouTube channel then you are already aware of my obsession with the Deadlift.  The Deadlift is one of the fundamental lifts for building tremendous strength, not only in the posterior chain, but also grip and core strength.  

2.)  The Squat:  There is something extremely gratifying about loading up a barbell, resting it over your traps, and descending your body towards the Earth with the hopes of being able to drive through your heels and bring the weight back up against the force of gravity.  The Squat is one of the greatest exercises for building strength, stability, size and for blasting through old plateaus, yet it is one of the most over-looked exercises.  Maybe because they're terrifying when attempting new PR's, they're painful once DOMS sets in, and they're not "sexy".  But they're amazingly effective.  

3.)  The Pull Up:  The Pull Up is one of the most underutilized exercises EVER!  Almost every single client I have ever trained has given me the same reason as to why they don't/can't do pull ups, "because they're hard."  Yes, at first this is true, because when you spend a lifetime avoiding something it will only compound the difficulty.  But with practice, the pull up will develop, and your back, arms and core will thank you.  Stop making excuses, and start incorporating pull ups. 

4.)  The Push Up:  The Push Up is a misunderstood exercise.  Almost everyone implements the push up in one way or another when exercising, however the push up comes in many shapes and not all are created equal.  People tend to flare their elbows out and sag their hips, leading to screwed up shoulders and lumbar discs.  The proper push up should resemble a plank through the entire range of motion, and the elbows should track the ribs (stay tucked in rather than flaring out).  Try doing them like this and I promise you will notice the difference.  

5.)  The Dumbbell/Kettlebell Clean & Press:  Of all the overhead pressing exercises, my favorite is the Dumbbell Clean & Press.  I prefer using the dumbbell or kettlebell over the barbell for overhead movements because it requires more stability, and less reliance on a dominant muscle or muscle group.  With barbells it is easy to rely on your stronger side, which allows for underdevelopment in our weak stabilizer muscles.  This is simply not possible with single-arm overhead pressing.  I also like utilizing the clean for the development of explosive power, which will ultimately assist the Deadlift and Squat, and vice versa.  

Honestly, you could create a pretty badass program utilizing only these 5 exercises, while only tweaking the reps, sets, rests and order.  Start incorporating some of these into your current program, or ditch what you're doing now and give them all a try if you want to speed up your process of becoming awesome.

+Wesley Claytor 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tilton's Success

I want to share with you a quick story about my good friend, Matt Tilton.

Matt is from Manchester, New Jersey, and I first met him at Montclair State University.  We were both working towards our degrees in Exercise Science, and would often talk barbell experiences.  He would always be training, studying, eating or thinking about training. I soon realized that Matt had the potential to be a pretty strong powerlifter, but whenever the discussion came up about competing he seemed to have no interest.

Well he recently became interested, and just competed  in his first powerlifting meet, held at Pure Focus Sports Club in Brick, New Jersey on May 25, 2013.  He weighed in at 197.6 lbs, qualifying for the Middleweight Open Division.  His results were:

  • 1st Place - Bench Press: 295 lbs
  • 3rd Place - Deadlift: 500 lbs
  • 24 reps x 295 lb Deadlifts

500 lb Deadlift 

I am impressed by how well he did, and it inspired me to write this highlight because it reminds me of my "Stop Doubting, Start Dreaming!" post.  Matt always had the desire to compete, but for whatever reason he felt he wasn't ready.  Now that he has decided to give it a go, he is crushing it and looking forward to his next one.  

Don't put off the things that feel natural to you, or grab your attention.  We all have a calling and a purpose in this journey of life.  If something drives you, motivates you, or brings you enjoyment, GO DO IT!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Importance of Recovery

Are you overtraining?

Maybe.. probably not..

Could you use some extra time to recover?

Most likely.

People often get confused between overtraining and overuse.  Generally speaking, most people are far from overtraining.  It takes an excessive amount of physical exertion, combined with a lack of rest and proper nutrition to become overtrained.  However, many people are suffering from a conglomeration of overuse injuries.

When people implement a program that has little variety, and refrain from periodization (breaking your training up into specific phases), they begin to develop neurological and muscular recruitment patterns.  Continuous stimulation of these recruitment patterns can become detrimental because we over-develop these muscles, and under-develop the antagonist muscles that work in contrast to these recruitment patterns.

The result: An imbalanced body.

When we become imbalanced, we begin to rely on our over-developed muscles, and continuous reliance leads to overuse.  If we consistently use the same muscles each and every workout, each an every day, we do not allow the muscle to recover.  The micro-trauma that these muscles endure through a tough workout begins to accumulate, and you will eventually wind up with muscular strains, tendinitis, or even a muscular tear. 

Aside from the muscular detriments of inadequate recovery, an overworked neurological system spills over into all facets of our daily living.  Neurological stress can lead to a supressed immune system, a variety of sleep disorders and a host of other mental/physiological issues.

What can you do?

Rest!  Even if you feel like you can crush it everytime you gear up for your workout, it doesn't mean you always should.  IF you're REALLY training HARD, then you WON'T be able to hit it HARD EVERYTIME.  You're body won't allow for it.  You'll either wind up burntout, injured or in some other sad state of physiological distress.  So take some precautionary meausres by getting adequate sleep as often as possible, taking in the proper nutrients and calories to compensate for your activity and expenditure, and taking an occasional break (1 week OFF every 3-4 months or so) from training to allow your body to heal up and recharge. If you don't, you will regret it, I promise.

Check out this video for some basic tips on speeding up your recovery 
(plus, a great protein-rich smoothie recipe):

+Wesley Claytor