Get to the Choppa! Workout #1

You’re locked in the basement of a farmhouse with a little girl who has just eaten her parents. Or, you’ve been living underground, but the subterranean military compound has experienced an uprising among troops of the dead kind. Or, you’re in a tenement house or a suburban shopping mall and there’s a helicopter waiting for you on the roof. No matter the exact scenario, you have to go up. Because there are zombies below.

Escalators are out of the question as the power’s been out for months. Same applies to elevators, although you wouldn’t want anything to do with those anyway.


Stairs are often your only means of escape from the hordes of the hungry dead. And, since climbing them with any speed requires some amount of coordination and muscle memory, a quick stair climb offers ample opportunity to open up a gap between your living body and your pursuers. It can also get you to the chopper on the roof before those roving bandits can steal your ride out of the land of the dead.

So, how do you train for stair climbing? The Stairmaster is just as boring and tedious as the daily ennui of being sequestered in the compound before the zombies created friendly fire of the ghoulish kind. Unless you live in an M.C. Escher drawing, or the Southside Slopes of Pittsburgh, walking up and down the same staircase can be just as monotonous as the aforementioned analogy.

Stair walking extends the knees and ankles, and extends and flexes the hips. To get to that choppa, you’ve got to develop the muscles responsible for those actions — the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The Get to the Choppa! Workout #1 features to multi-joint weighted movements to work the stair-climbing muscles with basic plyometrics to add explosiveness to your movements. You want to be shot out of a cannon when making your initial escape and maintain a steady, intense pace during your ascent.

Get to the Chopper 1

For this first Get to the Choppa! workout, you’ll need a jump rope. a box or step (use a height that’s safe, but challenging for your 80 step-up reps), and two dumbbells (use a weight with which you can complete 40 thrusters — those will be the limiting factor).

Some rules:

  1. At the top of each step-up, stand upright to fully extend the hips before stepping back down.
  2. Squat below parallel at the bottom of each thruster.
  3. Explode out of the bottom of the thruster, using force from standing as you press the dumbbells overhead and lock out your elbows.
  4. Rest is optional, but recommended.

I can’t promise that you’ll enjoy the workout (thruster enthusiasts are rare), but it is far more dynamic than an endless climb on a piece of gym equipment.

FITApocalypse Live

Back in June, I was invited to speak at a patients’ rights conference as moderately relevant comic relief in what was otherwise a serious affair covering important issues in our pre-apocalyptic society. The video of the FITApocalypse presentation, in which I detail the theory behind fitness for the zombie apocalypse, was just posted yesterday. It is rather lengthy and filled with participation from undead aficionados in attendance, but for those brave enough to press play, I hope you enjoy.

Murderer’s Row Baseball Swing Workout

The baseball bat — the weapon of choice for hitting a baseball, beating on brats, and totally ravaging Oshman’s Sporting Goods. Its involvement in one of many attempts to kill the Warriors was ineffective, yet the baseball is arguably one of the best weapons for the zombie apocalypse when you’re down to your last out. It doesn’t require ammunition and the metal ones won’t break when smashing zombie skull. So, for all the aforementioned reasons (and this being spring and all), it’s time to cover your bases and work on getting a solid baseball bat swing.

No trips to the batting cage are required here — you’re not looking for timing and the ideal swing mechanics to belt a small, leather-wrapped ball out of the park. There’s no time for small ball. You’re swinging for self-de-fences in the zombie apocalypse.

It may seem out of left field, but the power of the swing actually generates from the hips and legs, not the upper body. A strong core is necessary to get the torque and to help transfer the power of the lower body to the swing. Grip strength is also essential, as the forearms and wrists play a huge role in making contact with the target (be it ball or zombie head). The Murderers’ Row Workout utilizes several movements that simultaneously work grip, core, and lower body with an aerobic boost because, when the zombies have home field advantage, you can’t afford to go o-fer.

It’s the bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. Full count. Down a run. And there are zombies in the outfield. It’s time to give clean-up hitting a whole new meaning.

zombie apocalypse baseball bat workout

Everything I Do Not Know

It was recently brought to my attention that I have no idea how to predict weather. I didn’t expect to suddenly remember a time in my life in which I was formally trained in meteorology. I never thought that I was particularly well versed in the subject of weather. But I didn’t know that I knew so little. In fact, even with an above-average education, I know less about weather than many people.

Last night, I learned that a red sky at sunset predicts a sunny day to follow. This millennia-old method — likely the contemporary of the sundial — was news to me. Here I thought that we naively go to sleep each night with only the local news to tell us what tomorrow could possibly bring. I didn’t realize the homespun wisdom meant something. I didn’t realize that people let simple patterns give them understanding.

I don’t know what barometric pressure indicates. I know that it has something to do with the possibility of an oncoming thunderstorm. I know this because I memorized the movie The Great Outdoors. But, until last night, I didn’t know whether it was high or low that meant Reg with the skunk hair was probably going to be struck by lightning for a 67th time.

I don’t know which direction is north unless I know where I am and there is a landmark with the word “North” in it and I am able to figure it out from there.

This could be a problem for me. No matter how many pull-ups I can do, my lats alone won’t help me if I’m attempting to flee the hordes by traveling north to Mexico.

In today’s talkative world, we are very quick to assert our rightness. Maybe we always were, but now it’s just more apparent. Feel great after a week of troglo-dieting? Paleo is the answer! Hear one Rand Paul speech? Libertarianism is the only thing that will not cause our nation to collapse into itself!

We seldom realize how much we do not know. We don’t know enough to know that we don’t know what we think we know.

If I go into something thinking I know everything, I won’t learn. Hence, why I never thought to look at the color of the sky when thinking about weather. Now, my red sky epiphany has let me understand my lack of understanding, and I will approach weather the same way that I approach the pistol squat — as a true neophyte intent to learn.

I don’t know what barometric pressure really means. Sure, I’ve heard about high- and low-pressure systems on the morning weather forecast. But I tuned out (mentally, not changed the channel) until I heard words that I understood, like rain and sun and hailstorm. I never bothered to learn which was caused by high and which was caused by low. And, until last night, when I found out how common this knowledge was to those who are not from an urban area (I grew up in the suburbs of DC) did I know that I didn’t know it. And that the difference between the pressure systems may actually be pertinent to daily life.

Some people in semi-remote areas have barometers in their homes, allowing them to gauge whether or not a storm is coming. I learned this last night. Apparently people tried their hand at predicting weather before men in suits on TV pointed at computerized maps. Apparently the weather always affected things. This last fact I actually knew. But I’d never thought about it until I realized that I could be perfectly capable of gauging tomorrow’s weather.

I could learn to read a barometer. I could look up the difference between high and low pressure systems, so I could understand the weather forecast without waiting for the meteorologist to define each term with a qualifying word like “rain.”

I could apply these skills if a zombie apocalypse forces all living off the grid. But I won’t. Because that’s no way to live. But I will take my knowledge of my lack of knowledge and apply it to everything that I care to learn. Right now, Olympic lifts are at the top of my list. No matter how good my clean and jerk may one day be (a far off day — mine are terrible), I will never think that they cannot be better. I will never think that I have nothing left to learn. After all, there are apparently many things that a simple gust of wind can tell me about impending storms.

Whole-Grain Turkey Lasagna

The temperatures in Pittsburgh have been hovering around a degree in the past couple days. A lonely degree. So, I asked my freshly thawed post-gym self, “What activity would give me a reason to hang out by an oven heated to at least 300 times the outdoor temperature for an indefinite period of time?”

Yes, it was the perfect opportunity for the interminable process of cooking lasagna. And, to make the process as Tolstoy-esque as possible, I decided to make some alterations to trim the fat and sink as many healthy choices into the noodle dish as possible.

Now, I know what you’re thinking — “Lasagna! Isn’t that for rotund, belligerent orange cats?” Not anymore.


Nine, for hungry people (post-workout hungry, not Donner party hungry)

Per serving:

350 calories
12g fat
32g protein


  • 1 package whole grain lasagna noodles
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 16 oz. 1% milk small-curd cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 5 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. oregano

Cook the noodles per the package instructions, making sure to throw a teaspoon of salt in the pot so you don’t lose the precious infrastructure of the lasagna to the bottom of the pot. Once they hit al dente, lay the pasta out on wax paper to let it cool. Some noodles may come out of their maritime adventure looking like they were aboard the HMS Hood (see below), but that’s okay — even the most battle-scarred pasta is more salvageable than the remains of those that crossed paths with the Bismark.

healthy lasagna


At some point during this process, you should probably pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. This may be a good time to do so.

Slice a red bell pepper into large chunks and chop in a food processor. Repeat with the half an onion.

whole grain lasagna recipe

Chop the tomatoes with a knife — I suggest pretty large chunks and cooking will strip them from the skins anyway, kind of like a Thomas Harris villain.

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a large saucepan and heat over medium. When the oil is hot, toss in 2 teaspoons of minced garlic. Add the tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the peppers and onions. Add the balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, and oregano. After cooking for a couple minutes, stir in the canned tomato sauce. Remove your chunky vegetable sauce from the heat.

whole-grain turkey lasagna recipe

Scoop a couple spoonfuls of the sauce out and into the lasagna tray. You don’t need a lot, just enough to coat the bottom.

whole-grain turkey lasagna sauce


Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan. When hot, add the ground turkey. Chop with a plastic or wooden spatula (preferably a limited-edition Halloween model) and stir frequently. When no pink survives and only brown remains (like the opposite of Reservoir Dogs), turn off the heat. With a straining spoon, scoop out the turkey — letting the liquefied fat drip back into the pan — and place it in the sauce.

whole-grain turkey lasagna


Pay no attention to the ladle in the photo. It lost an appendage a couple years ago when it wasn’t paying attention. I call it Tyreese (too soon?).

whole-grain turkey lasagna sauceYou will notice that I used the same saucepan to cook the sauce and the turkey. This is because I currently only have one semi-large saucepan. And, yes, those are the plates that came with an apartment I rented eight years ago. When the zombies come, you’ll be eating off a lot worse.

In a mixing bowl, like the high-end Ikea model pictured below, beat the eggs. Add the cottage cheese and stir thoroughly. Add the parmesan cheese and 1 cup of the mozzarella. Stir until all the cheeses are mixed.

whole-grain turkey lasagna cheese mixture

Now, the building process. Assembling a lasagna is a bit like building a house. It must be structurally sound. The levels should be relatively even to optimize taste. Lay six lasagna noodles (or five, if you had some boiling casualties) overlapping on the base sauce layer in the pan.

With a spatula, apply half of the cheese mixture mortar to the noodles. Spoon a third of the sauce and meat mixture over the cheese. Stack another layer of five or six noodles and add the rest of the cheese and another third of the sauce. Place the last noodles on the lasagna. Add the rest of the sauce.

whole-grain turkey lasagna recipe

Bake for 30 minutes. At that time, sprinkle on the remaining cup of mozzarella cheese. Return the lasagna to the oven for another 15 minutes of baking. Remove from the oven and let the lasagna cool until you’re willing to slice into its pristine construction.

whole-grain turkey lasagnaI ate my lasagna with a spinach and kale salad, as well as these roasted sweet potatoes from the Barefoot in the Kitchen blog that I discovered when Googling “Italian sweet potatoes.”

I thought everything was fantastic. If you ever want to hang out by your oven for hours on end and give the recipe a shot, I hope you’ll concur.

Spicy Mexican Avocado Brownies

No, these are not some sort of dessert-guacamole hybrid. They’re Mexican dark chocolate brownies with a cayenne pepper kick. The avocado, though appropriate for south-of-the-border cuisine, actually functions here as a butter substitute. Not only is this pseudo-litigiously named fruit (yes, it is technically a fruit), it’s filled with potassium, healthy fats, and a even a bit of protein.

mexican avocado brownie

Our northern interpretation of Mexican food gets a bad rap in health-conscious circles (even though the actual regional cuisine does not consist entirely of deep-fried street food) — almost as bad as, say, brownies. But these spicy, chocolate breakfast concoctions are about as far from a chalupa as you get.

This recipe is basically a better-for-you version of this Aaron Sanchez Food Network recipe, so it’s safe.


  • 3 avocados
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup protein powder (I used GNC Wheybolic Extreme 60 in chocolate)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Scoop out the edible parts of the avocados and mash them in a food processor to get a smooth, guacamole-like consistency.

Mix the eggs and coconut sugar into the avocado in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients, stirring frequently.

Spray grease a baking pan and pour brownie batter in.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Stick a knife into the brownies to see if it comes out clean. I used a smaller pan because I apparently like taller brownies, so mine took about minutes. Keep cooking for 5-minute intervals until the knife comes out clean.

mexican avocado brownies

When you’re done, you should have 9 magnificent brownies — each with 165 calories and 6.5 grams of protein.

Hotel Hell Workout

I’ve been in Puerto Rico on vacation, hence the lack of posts. One of the first things my brother, sisters, and I did at the hotel was check out the gym. For a Marriott gym, it was pretty well-equipped with multiple cardio machines and even a dual cable apparatus, a bench, a Smith machine, a full rack of dumbbells, and a lonely barbell with weight plates.

But the section of the gym where burned off most of the piña colada and alcapurrias (carb-conscious, healthy versions of the local awesome cuisine coming soon) was a small area with four mats and a mirror. Each morning of vacation, I made up a Crossfit-inspired workout on the fly. We wanted to keep it quick at the gym, to get to the beach and sip rum from a freshly beheaded coconut, so we powered through the workouts in no more than 15 minutes each.

After a quick warm-up on the treadmills with a couple air squats and stretches, we launched into the workouts. The most challenging and fun is the Hotel Hell Workout. It’s a simple alternating sequence of two multi-joint exercises. The dumbbell front squat is pretty straightforward, with the dumbbells held at the clavicle like they would be when using a conventional barbell. The second exercise is a weighted squat thrust with push-up and shoulder press. Use the same dumbbells for both exercises and hold the dumbbells the entire time. The sequence counts down and up simultaneously, so each round consists of 11 reps. I used 12-pound dumbbells while my sisters used eights and fives, the latter of which seemed to be too light.

With limited space and only light weights, this is a super challenging workout and the perfect way to jump start a day at the rum distillery.

hotel hell workout

The Escape Workout

Sometimes you just have to get the Hell outta Dodge. And how you escape will have to do with where this figurative Dodge is. Your Dodge could be the a street-level building a mere 5-yard sprint from a car. Or, you could be underground in a sea of sludge and the only way that you can get up to the surface is to climb on a 30-foot “rope” made from the braided hair of your deceased cohorts. No matter where you are, the zombies are coming and you have to get out.

I love fast-paced workouts that combine plyometrics, power, and compound strength exercises. The more maligned exercises (hang cleans and burpees) get fewer reps than those that have far fewer detractors (push-ups, sit-ups, squats). This one has minimal rest because you’ll barely have time to catch your breath when climbing away from the zombies on a braid of human hair.

escape workout

Don’t Forget to Breathe

It seems impossible, yet I do it all the time. I’m not talking about holding my breath deliberately to increase lung capacity for swimming or during a superstitious trip through a tunnel — I mean controlled breathing during a workout. I become engrossed in the activity and forget to exhale.

Luckily, there are a lot of non-mouth breathers out there who remind us to breathe. The fitness-minded folks over at The Fix put together this fantastic guide to breathing during a range of physical activities.


Check out the article here: 

Super Protein Bars

They won’t give you super powers, but they also won’t be your Kryptonite. These bars are made entirely of super foods, with the addition of whey protein powder. Super easy to make, this recipe can also serve as a base for modifications. I added some equally super dark chocolate chunks to 1/3 of my bars as an experiment (I usually don’t like to mix berries and chocolate, but it seemed like a good idea at the time).


super protein bars

Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F.


  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted slivered almonds
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Other super foods can easily be added/substituted — dark chocolate, walnuts, strawberries, bran flakes, and bananas, for example.


Put the bars in a greased pan. They should be about a 1/2″ thick.

super protein bars

Bake at 350˚ for 20 minutes.

super protein bars

super protein bars