Monday, December 31, 2012

Vertical Frog Jumps

Want to work on those legs? We are used to the the regular squats and lunges I always talk about. So how about we try something a little different? I was skimming through Fitness magazine and saw this move that I thought was great for the legs and butt. It incorporates both a squat and a jump.
  1. Start in a standing position and then squat like you would regularly do. However, in this squat, widen your knees a little, and lower your palms to the floor. Yes, literally like a frog.
  2. Propel your body upward starting by lifting your arms. But make sure the force of your jump comes from your legs.
  3. As you land back down, try to land softly to not put so much impact on your joints.
  4. Crouch and repeat.
See the video below for more details.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ankle Weights: Yay or Nay?

Over the years, the consensus on additional weights when exercising has been that it is great. However, I am of the opinion that not every type of weight is great in every circumstance.

I'm pretty sure not everyone reading this uses ankle weights in their workouts. Maybe you've seen it used, heard of it, but don't quite get it yet. Or maybe you are trying to get comfortable with exercise without adding the additional complications. Maybe you are super familiar with dumbbells and barbells, but not really ankle and wrist weights.

What are ankle weights? They are simply add-on weights that you strap on to your ankles so you are lifting more than your body weight when you do regular exercises.

Why all the fuss then? What is the big problem? They are weights, right? So they should be great? It depends on how you use them. People use them for both cardiovascular and strength training.

Cardio: You may have seen folks running with straps on their ankles and wondered what those were. The positive benefit of running with ankle weights is that you are also working your legs and core by mixing both cardio and strength training. However, if your body is not strong enough to lift the weights, the negative impact is that you could be putting unnecessary pressure on your joints. Pressure that they are not used to. So my advice would be to stay away from ankle weights when doing cardio.

Strength training: if you are looking to tone your legs, do cardio regularly, but use the ankle weights to push your body more at strength training exercises. The same way you would lift dumbbells to tone your upper body, ankle weights would help exert more pressure on your muscles.

My advice? If you are a professional athlete or have worked out vigorously and are sure your body can take it, you can add ankle weights to your cardio workouts. But I would prefer if you were careful and used them just for strength training :)

My favorite brand is the Women's Health ankle weights. They come in various sizes. However, I also like the Bell Fit brand, if you are looking for options.

Cheers Eights and Weights!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Healthier Oatmeal Cranberry Almond Cookies

Well, Christmas was yesterday, so Merry Christmas!!! The year is almost over...gosh. Why do I feel like it just started? Anyway, before I start to reminisce, let's talk about some Christmas treats!

Yesterday, I'm pretty sure everyone ate more than we usually do. Hopefully, you tried to burn some off as well? No? Just me? Is that why folks made fun of me on Twitter and Instagram for sharing details of my Christmas run? at least I was happy afterward!

Even with all that, in the spirit of the holidays, I thought I'd do some baking and share. I know, I know, what recipe do I have to share that you'd like? Well, everyone loves cookies! I baked my healthier version of oatmeal cranberry cookies with almonds. Here goes.

1/2 a cup of flour
2 cups of old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (or any other kind of milk)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of almonds (sliced would be best)
1 cup of cranberries
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil or 1/2 stick of butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
Some water

1. Put the oil and eggs in a bowl and beat them or use a mixer till you get an even consistency.
2. Add in the salt.
3. Throw in the flour and baking soda and mix until it is even.
4. Throw all the oatmeal in. This may mean it gets a little hard.
5. Put the milk in so it gets back to that creamy texture.
6. The almonds and cranberries are the last to go in.
7. If you find it is way to hard, add in some water. Some folks like their cookies harder, and some like it crumbly.
8. However, if it is too soft, add in some more oatmeal.
9. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees while the dough sits. I like to let it rest for a while, I may even put it in the fridge for a few hours.
10. Put the dough in a cookie tray making each individual cookie the size you desire.
11. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the cookie browns.
12. Viola! I hope you enjoy in as much as we did!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Importance of Balance in Running

The debate about the most efficient way to run has gone on for decades. Is it on bare feet? Is it in heavily padded shoes? We've heard opinions from different sides of the table. But before we get that far, let's talk about why shoes are important in the first place. 

Balance and core strength are two very important factors in running because you spend most of your running time on one foot or the other, but not both. It may seem intuitive, but they are probably also the most neglected factors with runners. And what happens when you neglect them? You hurt your ankles, your knees, or other muscles and joints in your lower body.

Ever watch professional races? Do you notice that people from certain countries (i.e. Kenya, Ethiopia, etc.) tend to dominate the sport? Ever wonder why? Well, I'll tell you! In America and other countries, when we train to run, we train on surfaces that have been built to be even, like the track or on asphalt. And then we run in shoes that cost more than we make each month, which are usually heavily padded to provide enough support so we aren't working as hard. The problem is that these things spoil our bodies so we aren't also training as hard.

In a country like Kenya, when they start to train from a young age, they do so on natural surfaces that don't have the evenness we have created on our surfaces, and they train mostly on bare feet or close to bare feet on an elevated plane. This forces their bodies to learn to balance naturally on different types of terrain in different levels of air pressure. This balance definitely gives them an edge.

Did you know that statistics show that most runners hurt their joints each year? I think this tells us that there is a problem. We are supposed to balance on the balls of our feet in the middle of our feet,  but a lot of us do not have strong enough legs and so end up landing on the outsides or insides of our feet, putting all the pressure in our knees and ankles, and hurting ourselves in the process. 

Stand on one foot. If you wobble at all, you may need to work on your balance. Get this: If your hips shake from right to left involuntarily as you walk, you may need to work on your balance. Yes, I hear women sigh everywhere.

Okay, we've established that most of us have balance issues. What can we do to fix it? Do exercises that work on your inner thighs, do exercises that require stability (like the one I do with the Bosu ball above), do exercises that build a strong core (not crunches; things that require holding your body up, like planks), run on uneven surfaces, and monitor your feet as you land. Improving your run could mean exerting less energy on balance and gaining more mileage.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Does All This Sweat Mean?

As humans who are so obsessed with perfection, we've somehow created this image in our minds that sweating is horrible. Okay, if you're perspiring profusely and giving off rancid smells in the middle of the office, maybe it is kind of bad. But when you work out, it is actually a super duper thing.

When you exercise more and more, usually you learn to control your breath. The reverse is true for sweating. The more performance-oriented your body becomes, the more you tend to sweat. Why? Two reasons: One, you work out more so your body may produce more heat; and two, your body has become proficient in regulating its temperature. 

If you ever took a science class, you know that the purpose of sweat is to cool the body when it overheats. This is why you sweat more when your body produces more heat, like in the sun or even in the gym. And this is the same reason why it takes longer to produce sweat in freezing weather.

But don't just say "Hooray" if you've got to the point when you sweat a lot during exercise. Remember that what liquid you lose needs to be replenished. Which means you also need to be drinking more water or you could get dehydrated easily.

However, do not take this to mean that you burn more calories simply because you sweat more. There are other factors that determine how much sweat you produce besides how hard you work out, like your sex and your genes.

But if you've noticed that you've been steadily producing more and more sweat during exercise, rather than look for a million ways to reduce it or hide it, celebrate it! You work hard!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chobani Greek Yogurt Review

If you are a fan of yogurt, you've probably heard both good and bad things about it. Recently, Chobani, one of the big makers of Greek yogurt, sent me some flavors of their low fat and fat free yogurt to sample and write a review on. Prior to trying them, I already had a positive nutritional view of Greek yogurt, but as I haven't tried a lot of flavors, I was a little iffy on the taste.

The great thing is that they did send me three flavors as you see in the picture above: Pomegranate (non-fat), Mango (low-fat), and Pineapple (low-fat). Since I adore tropical fruits, this was already looking up for me. I'll provide details on the three individually so that you can determine if any of the flavors work for you. Each contain 6oz.

Calories: 160
Fat: 3g
Protein: 13g

Calories: 160
Fat: 2.5g
Protein: 13g

Calories: 140
Fat: 0g
Protein: 14g

See the protein in there? That's about 2 times more protein than regular yogurt! Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Post-workout protein shake base! Rather than use regular yogurt as your base, you could try Greek yogurt to give you some extra protein. 

I must admit that I did also like the taste. You have to stir in the fruit on the bottom, but it tastes good once you do. And it does have a creamier consistency than regular yogurt so if cream is your thing, then it's great. My favorite flavor was the mango, but my favorite on nutrition content obviously was the pomegranate.

Chobani also claims the Greek yogurt is made with only natural ingredients, no artificial sweeteners, and no preservatives. So I thought I'd check out the ingredients on the pack. Although it is true that all the ingredients are 'cultures' and 'fruit', some of the fruit content seems to come from fruit concentrate, which I'm not a big fan of. So that is the only part of the Chobani Greek yogurt that does not sit well with me.

What do I think? You should definitely try it. But be aware of the sugar content as well since the fruit comes from fruit concentrate.

Have you tried Chobani? What are your views?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TribeSports 12 Days of Fitness Challenge

So as you know, we love TribeSports challenges. And as Christmas is approaching, they have issued a 'The 12 Days of Fitness' challenge. I absolutely love this idea. What does it involve? Every day starting today, just like the '12 Days of Christmas' song, we do the exercise for that day and add all the exercises for previous days leading to that day. For example, on the fifth day, you do 5 star jumps, 4 burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 wall squats and a 1 minute plank.

The picture above shows the entire challenge, but for more details, also visit the challenge website to track your progress: TribeSports 12 Days of Fitness. It will be fun!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eights & Weights Video: Spartan Jacks Cardio Workout

Another video! I know we all struggle with cardio workouts because they usually consist of repetitive motion. So I thought I'd get one of those that may be a little fun, at least if you like to jump around. 

The Spartan Jack is a great workout for the overall body, and is pretty similar to the Jumping Jack, but rather than clap your hands above your head, you lower and raise your fists like you are lifting weights. For more impact, you can lift light weights as you raise and lower your arms.

Step 1: Stand straight with elbows in a 'W' beside your shoulders and your fingers in a fist. Keep your shoulders down.

Step 2: Simultaneously lift your fists straight up above your head while you jump and land with your legs open wide shoulder-width or wider apart.

Step 3: Simultaneously lower your fists and jump and land with your feet closed.

To provide further guidance, see the video below.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Truth About Targeted Fat Loss

Targeted fat loss (or spot reduction) is when you do exercises to lose fat in one area of the body. Too many people I know focus on exercises to reduce their stomach fat, arm fat, or any other specific area. If you've ever watched an infomercial and gotten sucked in, you'd know that they tend to sell the idea that if you buy some machine - usually called Maxi Abs or something similar - rock back and forth for 10 minutes a day, it would target all the muscles of your core and make you get that 6-pack in no time. In no time. Even if your midsection is currently extra fatty. This is absolutely untrue.

The reason these products keep selling is because they make it sound easy. It appeals to our basic human instinct that we'd be able to lose fat in our abs if we continuously do sit-ups, right? Unfortunately, our bodies do not quite work that way. You can blame God, Mother Nature, the apes, or whoever, but unfortunately, the cards we have been dealt do not allow us to spot-reduce fat.

As I was coaching my mum through her newly discovered exercise routine, and trying to explain this same concept to her, I realized the belief in spot reduction is a universal phenomenon. Ladies, you cannot lose the fat in your midsection by doing crunches. Gentlemen, you cannot lose the fat in your midsection by doing crunches. You know what happens when you do crunches and still have fat in your abdomen? You may build muscles underneath and have fat over it. So you wouldn't see the muscles anyway until you lose the fat.

Now that we've got that out of the way, what can you then do to lose fat? The mechanics of the human body only allows us burn fat all over, and then do strengthening exercises (like sit-ups, planks, etc.) to tone the muscles underneath. To burn fat all over, we're talking about doing some cardio and changing up our diets.

To get a basic understanding of how the body processes calories and how fat burn works, check out this post. The summary is: You have to burn more than you consume to lose fat. Your body is consistently burning fat, but it usually is not enough to burn all you eat, which is why you need to supplement it with exercise. Cardio exercise will help you burn fat. 

If you are unsure of what cardio exercises to do, here are a few examples: Running, Walking, Climbing Stairs, Elliptical or Cross Trainer, Cycling, Swimming, Aerobics. As you can see, these are exercises that involve consistent motion, either high or low intensity. Higher intensity cardio exercises usually burn more fat than lower intensity ones.

Got the cardio down on lock? Great! Now you can also focus on doing the strength training exercises that help build muscle. Depending on what part of your body you are looking to tone, there are different strength exercises to work different parts. Use our 'Search' box on the side bar to find exercises to tone a specific area.

That probably made you sad for a little bit if you've been focusing only on crunches. Well, no need to worry. Follow the details outlined above and you'll be way closer to getting that body that you want :)

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Interview with Dami Bakare: "When You Leap, Leap High"

Who is Dami Bakare? Well, if you watched the London 2012 Olympics, you may have seen the 6ft 5in Nigerian-born Brit playing volleyball for Great Britain. Athletes fascinate me with their drive to succeed and how much they put into their bodies to perform. We could all learn from them in our quest for fitness.

I got the chance to interview Dami, and I must say, I was thoroughly impressed by his hard work, his background, his patience with me, and his overall attitude. He was on a full-time training schedule in Korea during this interview and coordinating our schedules was not the easiest thing, so patience was really required.

Alright, let me get off of those praises and focus on the actual interview. Enjoy!

Eights & Weights: Can you tell us a little about your history and how you got into volleyball?
Dami: I was born in Kaduna, Nigeria and moved to London while I was still a baby. In Primary school, I took up learning the trumpet. In Secondary school, I gave music up and went into sports. I was involved in  basketball and high jump on and off. In high jump, my highest achievement was representing my borough, Wandsworth at the London games. In basketball, I trained with the England coach and some of the team members for a while, but I had to stop training because due to the travel distance, it interfered with school too much. So I took up volleyball in school over lunch breaks as advised by a teacher. It slowly progressed from there. I played for the school, the borough, London, England and finally, Great Britain. I also progressed to playing for a few teams within the UK leagues as well as professionally in Belgium and now I am currently playing professionally in South Korea.

Eights & Weights: That's quite a random story. We keep seeing that Olympics athletes 'found' the sport they play in. How does it feel to have participated in the Olympics? Tell us about your journey to get there.
Dami: It's pretty funny, but the only time I really remember playing in the Olympics is when I look back at photos or videos taken while I was there. It actually feels like a dream I once had. But I'm so grateful, excited, glad, confused at how I managed to make it to that point. To be honest, when I started in volleyball, I never even thought about getting as far as I have. Then London won the bid for 2012, and suddenly a new door had opened. I think I was already playing for England at that point so I felt I had a chance to make it into the Olympic team. This would come at a price however.
I turned down the opportunity to be with a bunch of players training as a new team in Holland for a year so I could start my degree in Dentistry in the university of Bristol. The word at the time was that the team would be based in Sheffield upon returning at the end of the season. So I looked into transferring my course over to the university of Sheffield. Luckily, within the 1st year of study it was still possible.
What I didn't expect was how fast it hit me. Training full time while being on a full time course where I'm already dealing with my own patients! My schedule was intense: 6am wake up for 7am weights before rushing back for 9am - 3pm clinics and lectures, and then back again for 2-3 hours of training in the evening. Things were worse during the international season which also tied in perfectly with the exam period! 
By the end of my 3rd year, my grades had taken a hit, my training progress had become stagnant, and I was told it would be difficult for me to make the team if I continued with the way things were. Maybe it was a good thing the UK sport funding stopped for the program in Sheffield as it meant I had to make a choice:  stay in Sheffield training less but able to study, or focus full time on volleyball. After a lot of talking with the Dental school, they allow me to take a few years out. Just what I needed.
After that hurdle, I played in Belgium for 2 years. During the international season, I was back with the Great Britain squad fighting for a position. I was fighting more to be a starter rather than just making the team, and I achieved this. That's how I got to the Olympics pretty much.
Eights & Weights: How has the participation in the Olympics affected your everyday life? Have you got any endorsement deals or offers that you may have only hoped for prior to the Olympics?
Dami: I wish that the volleyball team as a whole would have had more exposure to these things but being indoor volleyball, it isn't well known in the UK and was the first time it got aired on a main channel during the games. So unfortunately, no.

Eights & Weights: I don't think people realize how much training athletes go through to perform at their sports. How much training did you have to do to prepare for the Olympics? What was your typical training week like with both exercise and nutrition?
Dami: Training with the national team was completely different to my time in Belgium and it is completely different now I'm in South Korea. When I first started with the development squad, weight sessions were early in the morning and it contained a lot of power exercises aka Olympic lifts! A lot happened in the morning! Then a large break for people to go to work or school/college/uni etc before a court session in the evening.
During international season, weights would be a little later and training a little earlier. Weeks were planned with 3 weight sessions, 2 bike spinning sessions (roughly 1 hour long) and 5 court sessions (2-3 hours long). Weekends were normally free but there could be a morning court or weight session randomly. With the national team, we were always left to our own devices when it came to nutrition. This is probably a fair bit different from other sports, but never proved a problem for a lot of us. We had all gone through the same process of getting nutrition talks when younger so we ate what we thought we needed, which could be different for everyone. 
I ate a lot of rice and pasta; basic things really. I always had chicken handy to make something quick, and then a couple times a week, throw in some fish, sweet potatoes and beef into the mix. Breakfast was simple: porridge/oats and a protein shake. Protein shakes were used as a diet supplement for repair rather than muscle growth. Most meals were cooked at home otherwise it was an odd Subway meal when rushed for time or a stone-baked thin crust pizza once every couple of weeks with the team.
Eights & Weights: And now? What does your typical training day look like since the Olympics is over?
Dami: Training has varied since then to being a little less work in the gym in Belgium with no weekend training and now every so often 3 training sessions in a day! While in Belgium, my meals were taken care of, so a lot of fruit and veggies and a mix of meats with every meal. That's probably the best I've eaten. Plus, desserts were amazing though not always required!
South Korea is a lot different in diet. They eat pork a lot here and I've had a few words to say about that. I also don't think they have the same idea about sports nutrition as we do in the UK, so I have been surprised at meals we've had before games and even more so directly after games. To me it always seems to be to fatty/fried or just not enough.

However, in Korea, we train everyday for the most part. We play matches almost twice a week too. A typical day so far has been: breakfast at 8am, weights at 10am, a court session till about 12 - 1pm, lunch, and then usually another training session within 2 hours. The length of the post-lunch training session can vary, but on average, I'd say it usually lasts 2-2.5 hours. We may have a training session later after dinner and there will be no food provided after this session if it happens.
Eights & Weights: What muscle groups are usually important for volleyball?
Dami: Things that need to be looked after well in volleyball are the ankles, knees and shoulders, I'd say. Prevention is a big part of training. You do things to prevent injury as well as do preventative exercises. But every volleyballer will and should do squats, leg extensions, and dead lifts. I'd say a good strong back/shoulder is better than a good looking chest. It is the small muscles that can cause a lot of functional problems if they are injured or not used in the right way. 
Most exercises we try to do are with free weights rather than a machine as it requires more muscle stability and therefore incorporates more muscle control. (yay!) Also, free weights are better for working those smaller muscles groups, especially around the shoulder. TRX rows are a good work out, with or without weights. We work on strengthening the rotator cuff around the shoulders for endurance purposes, not necessarily to make them larger.

Depending on the phase of workout you may be required to help speed things up a little, so squat jumps, box jumps, rebound box jumps or another type of rebound jump.

Eights & Weights: We focus a lot on exercise and nutrition for our readers. For those who want to build bodies like volleyballers, what are some exercise and nutrition tips you can suggest?
Dami: When I think of a volleyballers I typically think NBA player but on a slightly slimmer side. That is not to say you won't find some incredible beasts out there. But with volleyball you want to be lean but explosive, having some weight is nice but you need to be able to move it quickly. A typical volleyballer will be an the taller side of the population and very often have a long arm span. (At 6ft 5in, he isn't playing when he says 'tall')
Exercises which are key in my opinion are the following:
  • Squats, as in full 90 degree squats, 
  • Power cleans with perfect format and speed, 
  • An abs circuit for helping with stability in the air, 
  • Bench press (a good weight, no need to go crazy), 
  • Bent over row with dumbbells or barbells/TRX rows, 
  • Either lat pull down or body weight chin ups (you should never feel serious tightness the next day on this otherwise you've over done it in my eyes) 
  • Brazilian rotator cuffs (not sure if it's the proper name but it involves using a dumbbell). From straight arm, bicep curl across your stomach to your chest up to the shoulder of the same arm. Then raise the elbow above your head while the dumbbell passes round the side of your head/neck to behind your head. Then straighten the arm raising the dumbbell above your head, then elbow. Keeping the arm straight, bring the dumbbell back down to your side via the side of your body. If you did this with 2 arms you would make a T shape with your body. It works the bicep, triceps and shoulders. (Ouch! Sounds painful. I must try it.)
In reference to nutrition, I would say it doesn't need to be protein heavy at all. Eat a lot of fast burning carbs, and where possible, meals that are light on the stomach before the training day is over. Fish is good, really good. Milk is also something to have during the day at least once other than at breakfast. High sugar content such as sweets or fizzy drinks are sometimes acceptable after a tough training session if a recovery drink is not available but it's not meant to be your recovery drink ALL THE TIME. Try for a cereal bar and a banana if you can't carry things for a quick protein shake. Also try and make all your food from fresh ingredients rather than pre-made things in the shop. You have more control over what exactly is in it! (What have we always said about natural foods? I'm glad he agrees.)

Eights & Weights: Now that the Olympics are over, what is the next step for you?
Dami: Right now, I'm still playing in South Korea. So I guess this was my next step. Why here? I wanted a bit of an experience, and it was one of very few options still available to me.

Eights & Weights: Would you continue training and try to qualify for the 2016 Olympics?
Dami: My situation is a little difficult with university still holding my place, change in student fees, how much we have in terms of funding for 2016, and the legacy of volleyball in Great Britain, while working with the different volleyball federations we have. It's a question I will only be able to answer once a few more things have been finalized next year.
Eights & Weights: How is the Dentistry line looking like for you?
Dami: While studying Dentistry, I loved it. I'm still very much interested in completing the course. However, I haven't done anything 'dentisty' for the last 2-3 years. And so I'm way too rusty to be allowed in anyone's mouth right now. But given a month or so, I'm sure I will get the skills back again. There are some things that need to be resolved with the university on how best to incorporate me back into the course, since it has been a while and many things have changed in the guidelines and the curriculum itself. Talks are still happening, so we'll see.
Eights & Weights: Well, we have our fingers crossed for you. I for one, believe you can do whatever you set your mind to. Before we let you go, what is one thing our readers would be surprised to learn about you?
Dami: I developed lactose intolerance when I was 19-20 had to change my diet a little but luckily nowadays there are a lot more lactose free products on the market. However as silly as it sounds, I don't suffer from it anymore! I have no idea why though. (Black folks and lactose intolerance. I'm not sure what the origin is.)
Well, there you have it! Hopefully, you fell in love with him too. Keep looking out for Dami in the volleyball circuit in the future. Follow Dami on Twitter @donlybakare to learn more about future games and activities he is involved in.
Cheers Eights & Weights!
Photo credit:,,
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