How to Design a Boxing Routine with BOB (Body Opponent Bag)

Boxing with BOB (Body Opponent Bag) is a great way to add variety and fun into your exercise routine. Balance, speed, coordination, cardio and overall movement are involved. Here is a 10-minute video demonstrating how to build and customize your own boxing routine. If you don’t own BOB or a heavy bag, that’s okay. You can do shadow boxing. . .and that’s harder than you think. My video is for all levels, whether you are a beginner or skilled striker. Enjoy and don’t forget to always warm-up and protect your hands and wrists with proper gloves.

Concussion: Book Review

I just finished reading the book Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas today, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a human story. It’s a courtroom drama. It’s a science lecture. It’s a search for answers. Bust most of all, it’s about a man’s journey and his willingness to stand up to the NFL and tell the truth.

Calling this book a page-turner is an understatement. I truly couldn’t put it down. At times I felt like a spectator sitting in a courtroom watching events unfold or a fan in a stadium cheering for my favorite player/team. Other times I felt like I was sitting at the kitchen table across from forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu as he was examining slides of brain tissue from deceased football players. His journey from a small village in Nigeria to the United States, covering both coasts and in between, is gripping. Laskas clearly details his decision to study medicine and his motivation to move to the US. And how did he make one of the most significant medical discoveries in a downtown Pittsburgh morgue? And what impacts would his findings have? Laskas does a superb job in the telling of the story, often using Omalu’s direct quotes or sharing events and conversations from his point of view. This book very much reminded me of The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.

Mentorship, science, politics, money, the American dream, egos, truth, mystery, racism, cover ups, and happiness. They’re all there. For me, Omalu’s actions are a reminder that one person (even on the sidelines) can make a big difference. In some ways, Dr. Bennet Omalu reminds me of the character Spok from the Star Trek television series and movies. Remember what Spok said in Star Trek II? “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” I strongly encourage you to read Concussion. You’ll be in for the ride of your life. And in the end, Dr. Omalu is right. Dead men do tell tales.

Polenta Carnitas Casserole

Recently we tried a polenta carnitas recipe from Trader Joe’s. It’s a combination of Italian and Mexican cuisine. The polenta, marinara sauce and cheese blend (75% of the ingredients) make up the Italian part. Polenta is a traditional Italian dish made when cornmeal is boiled in water. It makes for a nice substitute for pasta or rice. The Mexican part (25%) comes from carnitas, which is braised or simmered pork that is cooked with cumin, Mexican oregano, thyme, chili and other spices. It’s often served with salsa, rice, guacamole, tortillas and refried beans. Are you hungry yet?

So try out this recipe and let me know what you think. Italian with hints of Mexican flavors? Enjoy!

Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta (one or two 16-oz tubes)
Trader Joe’s Traditional Carnitas (12 oz package)
Trader Joe’s Organic Tomato Basil Marinara (25-oz jar)
Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio Shredded Cheese Blend (12-oz)

Since all of the ingredients are cooked, it’s just a matter of assembling them in a 13 x 9 baking dish and heating them up. Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Slice or crumble the polenta on the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread the carnitas on top of the polenta. Pour the jar of marinara sauce over carnitas. Liberally cover with shredded cheese. Place in oven and cook for 30 minutes.

*For a Mexican slant, we garnished with sliced avocado and tortilla chips.

Trader Joe's Polenta recipe 1

A Parent’s Testimonial

Getting a written testimonial from a client is always rewarding. It’s like a big thank you and reminds me why I have been personal training for over twenty years. But getting a testimonial from a client’s mother is even more meaningful to me. I’m just going to cut to the chase and share what Betsy recently sent me. Not to pat myself on the back, but I’m feeling pretty good right about now. Here you go!

“I contacted Eric because I was concerned about my son’s weight gain and general inactivity. As a 24 year old, I wanted him to have a healthier lifestyle now that he was out of college and settling into real world life. He had gone to weekly workout sessions at our local health club while in high school but never really enjoyed it so much that he wanted to go on his own. Working with Eric in a private setting, has made all the difference. Eric has a reasonable common sense approach to working out, making good food choices and losing weight. My son has learned so much and now regularly counsels me. Eric is so positive and encouraging that my son has gained real confidence in his ability to reach his goals. He is pleased to be gaining strength and feels proud of his progress. Eric makes the sessions enjoyable so my son is happy to be there. As a parent, I couldn’t be more pleased.” – Betsy W, Middleton WI

Treat or Cheat?

Treat or cheat 1

I love chocolate ice cream. It’s my go-to dessert when I want something sweet. Eric, how can you say that? You’re suppose to tell us that ice cream is a big no-no, that it’s on the naughty list and should be avoided at all costs. Alarms should sound off in our heads if we even think about ice cream. That it’s high in sugar, fat and cholesterol. That we should chew on some raw, unsalted almonds instead. Or drink a big glass of water and wait it out. Or have stronger willpower. Hmm. If you have read my blogs over the years, have trained with me or just know me, then you know that I don’t believe in depriving oneself. I don’t believe in gluttony either. And by the way, did it sound like I was encouraging you to eat an entire carton of ice cream or eat it every day? Nope.

Depending on how you look at it, ice cream can be seen as a treat, a fun food for once in a while. Or it’s a cheat food, something to avoid like the plague. I guess it’s a matter of perspective. Personally, I DO NOT believe in diets, so therefore I am not breaking or cheating on my diet (which I am not on) by eating ice cream. As you can see, I’m very forgiving to myself. And you should be too. Let’s be honest, one treat/cheat meal will have little, if any, impact on your metabolism and your overall calorie intake for the week. Aside from some potential GI issues like gas, bloating or diarrhea, my only concern is that it will make a dent on you mentally and emotionally. I’ll talk more about that in a bit.

I encourage people to eat meals (soups, stews, casseroles, sandwiches, salads, etc.) that are high in fiber, sourced from complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and vegetables. There should also be an emphasis on lean proteins from nuts, poultry, legumes, dairy, etc. Notice I did not specify a particular food. That’s where we can get in trouble, by singling out certain foods and labeling them as good or bad. Treating individual foods as good, bad, better, best, prefect or off-limits is a set-up for failure. Why? When we eat a food on the “bad” list, even if it’s just a taste, we feel guilty. Therein lies the problem. Guilt leads to feelings of failure, that you’re a bad person and unworthy. You have failed, and you’re not meant to be in shape. This is all a bunch of crap. You are worthy, and you are NOT a failure because you treated yourself to a fun food.

Sure there are those who thrive on the structure and challenge of a diet. And to our eyes, they do not appear to be bothered by limited food choices. Good for them. But inherent to its very makeup, diets fail people (not the other way around) because diets are not intended to be long term solutions. Seeing fun foods as treats, as opposed to cheats, gives the freedom to choose. You are empowered. You don’t feel guilty. You are not stressed out every time you put something in your mouth. Remember, the relationship between stress, cortisol and weight gain. So many times I have heard people say, “I messed up this weekend.” or “I really blew it.” or “I need to get back on track again.” when they ate or drank a little too much over the weekend. I respond by asking him or her if what they ate or drank was any good. If they say Yes, then I say “I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s okay to treat yourself.” If you haven’t already guessed, I like food. And isn’t a positive relationship with food a good idea? I think so.

Remember, there is no perfect diet, food combination or smoothie recipe, so stop striving for perfection. Just have fun and try. That’s all you can ask of yourself. You are not infallible. Mistakes come with the territory. When I tell people that I can eat anything I want, it doesn’t mean that I eat treats every day. It’s an attitude, an approach to life that says that there’s no guilt, I’m having fun and I’m trying.

Italian Beef with Pepperoncini and Olives

Yesterday I was in the mood for beef. And something spicy. And something substantial. And something that I could toss in the crock pot, set on “Low” and not worry about it. I was having a hankering for veggies too like carrots, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, garlic and tomatoes. So voila . . . Italian Beef.

As with many crock pot recipes, prep time for this Italian Beef Recipe is under 15 minutes. Then it’s low and slow for about 8 hours. We served the meat and veggies over pasta, but it can easily be served plain or over rice, or shredded and enveloped by a hoagie bun. Try it out and let me know how you like it!

Italian Beef Recipe

3-4 pound beef roast
4 carrots, cut into large chunks
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
3-4 tablespoons Italian seasonings (blend of oregano, thyme, basil, parsley and rosemary)
2-3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

*olives and pepperoncini for garnish

Place vegetables in crock pot first. Then set meat on top of vegetables. Cover with tomatoes, Italian seasonings and Worcestershire sauce. Set on “Low” for 8 hours. Vegetables will be very tender, and the meat will pull apart easily. Plate over pasta, rice or plain and garnish with olives and mild pepperoncini. Yum!

Happy Holidays from the Foxman Family


Heavy Squats 101

There are many types of strength: explosive, agile, relative, endurance and speed to name a few. So when a client asks me to help them get stronger, I need them to clarify what type(s) of strength they’re referring to. For a particular sport? To rehab from an injury/surgery? To increase muscle mass? One client I have been working with said that he wanted to focus more on his squats, bench press and deadlifts — the three primary movements for powerlifting. These lifts require intense focus and maximum effort. Additionally, we incorporate many functional/core exercises as well as standard lifts you see at a gym. Needless to say, he has made incredible progress, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. The most impressive is his barbell squat. Check out this video from a recent workout.

365 lbs x 5 reps!!

Celebrating 20 Years!

It’s funny how anniversaries seem to sneak up on me. Just ask my wife, Heather :-) So it comes as no surprise that my 20-year personal training anniversary is this month. Wow, 20 years ago seems just like yesterday. During college (1991-1995) I became interested in personal training as a profession and asked a friend, Bruno Perron, how he got into the industry. He said the first thing I needed to do was to get certified through A.C.E. (American Council on Exercise). To this day, A.C.E. is recognized as one of the premier fitness certification organizations. Then he said I would need to be patient and work my tail off. Building a clientele wasn’t going to happen over night. So my journey began in personal training a long time ago. Sounds like the beginning of a Star Wars movie, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away [Los Angeles] . . .”

Well it all started when I approached several health clubs in the South Bay and asked if they needed a personal trainer. I was 22 years old and had recently graduated from the University of California at Irvine with a BS in Biology. Some gyms said NO and told me that they were not building a personal trainer program, just their memberships. As an aside, this was around the time when many gyms and health clubs were discontinuing working with independent contractors and just hiring personal trainers to be on staff. It was an interesting transition for the industry. The last club I visited was just a few minutes from where I lived. I brought a copy of my resume with me and talked to the Operations Manager. That was a fortuitous meeting as Jodi told me that they only had one personal trainer and were looking for more. From then on, I became a permanent fixture at that gym. If I was not training a client, I was working out there. If I wasn’t working out, I was standing at the front desk in the lobby greeting members and offering free lessons. That was, in fact, how I started with my first client, Susan. I didn’t have a website (remember this was 1995), and there was no FaceBook, Pinterest, Angie’s List, Yelp or Google to promote my services. I had my business logo decal on the back of my SUV, a box of fliers and 500 business cards. At the time, I called myself “Eric’s BodyShoppe”. Hey, I thought it was catchy.

Over a short period of time, I developed a reputation for timeliness, attentiveness and being able to tailor exercises to match people’s abilities and interests. And I always knew that other gym members were watching. Unlike training in my private studio nowadays, I was on display so to speak. The gym members could see my clients get in shape, perform exercises that were safe and effective . . . and all the while have fun doing it. The other personal trainer wasn’t too happy about this. In so many words, he let me know that I was “cutting into his business”. A couple years later, it was discovered that he was not even certified as a Personal Trainer and was taking money “under the table”.

I have to admit that I was at the gym so much that many gym members actually thought I was the owner. If only, right? Walking through the front doors made me feel like a character in the TV show Cheers. No, people didn’t shout “Norm!” at me, but you get the idea. Training people never really felt like work. Still doesn’t. I had several bosses over the years (Personal Training Directors, Operation Managers, General Managers, etc) who tried to assign volume/sales goals for me, but that kind of pressure never worked. I came and went as I pleased and trained whom I wanted.

New trainers came on board over the years, and I did my best to make them feel welcome. Instead of strutting around like a big dog, which is hard when you’re 5’7″, I reassured them that there were plenty of gym members to go around. We all had different styles, backgrounds and approaches to personal training and we’d attract different clients. Two Personal Trainers, Joi and Marie, became close friends. There was friendly competition and a camaraderie that I had not experienced before. We encouraged each other, supported each other and the gym became a great place to work for 9 1/2 years until I moved to Middleton, WI in 2004. You might ask what happened to the South Bay gym where I got my start? It went out of business in 2005, and it is now the location of my mom’s favorite grocery store, Sprouts.

My goal is, and has always been, to make health and fitness fun and accessible. To cut through all of the hype, fad diets and high risk workout programs. People might hire me for a short term goal, like a 5k walk/run or an upcoming Caribbean vacation, but they quickly understand that it’s all part of the bigger picture of living a healthy lifestyle. It’s about being able to kick the soccer ball with your son, push your daughter on the swing, go for a walk with your friends or chase your wife around the house :-) It’s about living and enjoying life now. Twenty years goes by fast, and I have done my best to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. I’ll see you in another twenty!

Gotta stay in shape if I’m gonna run down the dunes will all three boys!
Running down Sleeping Bear Dunes with Bruce

Running down Sleeping Bear Dunes with Kyle

walking down sleeping bear dunes with roy

Get CPR/AED Certified

CPR Madison logo

What would you do if you found someone lying unconscious on the gym locker room floor?

What would you do if your child started choking at the dinner table?

What would you do if your walking partner suddenly grabbed their left arm and complained of intense chest pain?

These are all things we hate to think about, but they happen every day. The best thing that you can do to protect your family, friends and even yourself is to take a “CPR, First-Aid & AED class” at CPR Madison. CPR stands for Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation, and it’s what we associate with rescue breathing and chest compressions. AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator, and these medical devices are found in most public places.

As a personal trainer, I am required to be Adult CPR/AED certified. Three weeks ago I attended a class for healthcare providers at Lussier Community Education Center in Madison. You may never find yourself in a situation to use CPR, but learning these life-saving skills is a lot like having insurance. . . just in case. It’s about being prepared. Let me share three personal experiences with you.

Once, when I was working at a gym in Los Angeles I saw another trainer’s client pass out while on an assisted pull-up machine. She fell off the platform and landed on a sit-up bench. Immediately the other personal trainer called me over to help. Luckily, the client was fine, more embarrassed than bruised. It was early in the morning, and she said that she hadn’t had any breakfast (low blood sugar). In addition, she was doing an exercise that changed elevation, so she got light-headed. Have you ever felt a little dizzy when you got up from a chair after sitting for a long time?

Another time it was more serious. I was in the middle of a training session at the same gym, and a man had a heart attack while walking on a treadmill. Without speaking a word, my client, who was a healthcare professional, and I looked at each other. He ran over to the elderly man, and I ran to the sales office to call 9-1-1. While I was on the phone, my client and another member started CPR. Two other gym members, a nurse and a doctor, were there to help. The paramedics arrived in less than two minutes.

A few years ago, I was at a local gym here in Madison when a cable on a machine snapped while a member was exercising. The bar she was lifting smacked her in the head, and she literally crumpled to the floor. I ran over to her and noticed major swelling forming on her forehead. She tried getting up but was disoriented and off balance. I insisted that she stay on the floor and not move. You might be wondering what everyone else was doing while this was going on. Some were just watching and others continued to work out. I shouted at the front desk person to call 9-1-1 because a member was hurt. I’ll never forget his response. He asked “Why?”. I repeated that a member had a serious injury. He looked even more confused. Even as I write this, my heart is starting to beat faster recalling my frustration. Paramedics arrived quickly. While the woman received treatment (and eventually went to the hospital), I answered questions about the incident.

So do your loved ones, and even strangers, a favor by taking a CPR, First-Aid & AED class. It might come in handy one day.
Learn more at the American Heart Association.