February 2012


Have you ever wanted to see what natural movement really looks like?  Watch a small child.  If you have sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, etc, keep an eye on them.  The problem for adults is that we have developed, over the years, compensatory patterns.  Ways of moving that are not good, and contrary to the way that nature intended.  The reason being is that we eventually come across something that we want to do that our body does not, so we figure a way around it.  The issue that that develops is that you cannot out-wit nature.  Your body only moves certain ways because that’s the way that nature intended it to move.  If you watch your kids, you notice that they run up on their toes.  Until we put them in shoes.  They learn to throw underhand first (usually), since this is more nature and less destructive.  They have perfect squats!  Look at this picture.  This kid has gotten it down.  All the basic elements are there.  And I’ve watched my kids play this way for 15-20 minutes at a time.  I am completely jealous!  If I still had that range of motion, I’d be all over it.  And mine are better than many.  I watch people squat every day and just DESTROY their bodies by adducting their knees, over-extending their quadriceps and completely neglecting the hip musculature.  Bad, bad and more bad.  We want to teach lifters to move like children.  Free of compensation.  Kids don’t compensate because they don’t know any better.  If something doesn’t work, they simply just don’t do it, because the alternative typically hurts.  Until they learn to compensate.  We teach them bad movements by enforcing bad movement patterns.  And that good movement that they knew simply gets overwritten in their brain.  From there, it’s hard to re-write it the proper way.  So teach them properly from day one.  Encourage natural and varied movement.  You could learn a lot from your kids!

And more importantly, why are you so concerned about it?  I will tell  you why.  It’s because we have been fed over the years and driven to the point of the scale being the only measurable marker of fitness success.  Societal stigmas, mass marketing and shows like The Biggest Loser have given us the undeniable opinion that whatever else you do does not matter.  It doesn’t matter if you now buy pants that are 2 sizes smaller or that you can do 15 push ups when you could only do 3 before.  All of that is irrelevant if the scale has not moved in the downward direction.  The issue with this is that it creates unrealistic expectations of what fitness should be.  Fitness is about feeling better and being healthier.  Now, for some people, this could be accomplished with some weight loss.  With over 1/2 of the American population qualifying as overweight, it’s an undeniable fact.  However, this is not the only tool that we should measure by.  Health is better measured by more tangible things, like body composition and circumference measurements.  Let me give you and example, and I swear that I could not make this conversation up.  It happened years ago when I was training at a small studio.

Client: “Nick, I need to talk to you.  I’m totally frustrated.”

Me: “What’s up?”

Client: “Well, we’ve been working together for 3 months here, and I’m extremely frustrated that my weight now is the same as it was then.  Not even budged.”

Me (sighing, and probably rolling my eyes a little): “OK, but let’s look at something else.  How do your clothes fit now?”

Client: “Well, I was just able to put on a pair of jeans that I haven’t worn in 3 years….” (coming to a realization).

This was an honest to gosh conversation.  Those of you who know me, know that I’m not nearly smart enough to make something like that up.  Had my client lost “weight”, no.  But who cared?  Her measurements had all improved in the right places and she looked and felt so much better than she really ever had.  Isn’t that a measure of success?  People who suffer from legitimate eating disorders lose weight.  By that definition, they should be the healthiest people on earth.  But that’s just silly, because it’s just not true.  We need to re-shape our opinion on what drives success.  And programs that focus their entire value on what the scale says are foundationally flawed.  Think about that the next time you step on the scale.

Take a look around you.  Take a look at the people that you work with, interact with on a daily basis.  See your friends and people you went to high school/college with.  We all do it.  We all compare.  I look better than that person.  How does he/she look so good?  The answer, often, is oxidative stress.  Oxidative stress is what occurs when the body is subjected to chronic stresses such as smoking, drinking, stress, poor food choices, lack of physical activity and even long duration cardiovascular exercise.  What happens is that the Oxygen in our body becomes reactive.  It loses an electron and thus becomes susceptible to mutation (free radicals).  Then it must steal electrons from other molecules, subjecting them to mutation.  This becomes a huge chain reaction and creates imbalances in the body’s chemistry.  At the least bit, excessive oxidative stress has shown to accelerate the aging process.  Look at Lindsey Lohan, as a great example.  Her body has been exposed to about as much oxidative stress as you can.  She is 25 years old.  Yikes!!  I’m 36 and she looks older than I do.  I was also shocked to learn that one of the members where I work is 4 years my junior.  I was discussing this with another trainer and we would have pegged him for early 40’s.  You can see it in marathoners and other distance athletes, as well.  The excessive duration of their training ages the body prematurely, however to a significantly less severe degree than if they were doing nothing at all and poisoning their body with other toxic foods and drugs.  Excessive oxidative stress has also been linked to things like atherosclerosis (plaques in the arteries), heart attack, and alzheimer’s among others.

So the goal would be to prevent excessive reactive Oxygen formation and thusly reduce the stress in our bodies.  We can do this through a mixture of exercises and good diet.  In terms of the exercise, cardio is not the only way.  There is a reason that marathoners look older than they are.  It’s the consistently high mileage and work in the Oxidative energy system of the body.  Now, this doesn’t apply as much to the person who signs up for their local marathon and runs maybe one per year. Probably no biggie, there.  But for people who are consistently training running anywhere from 20-50 miles per week, there is a cumulative effect.  We can get the same/better results by mixing in some higher intensity work that stresses other energy systems, and cutting the mileage.  Another discussion for another day, though.  Now, for the diet, we want to consume food sources that contain substances known as “antioxidants”.  We’ve heard of them, but what are they?  They are molecules that just carry around extra electrons.  So that when they meet one of these free radicals, they can neutralize is and stop the chain reaction.  So, it’s really important to include good sources of these in the diet.  Antioxidants include the following:

Vitamin A –  Eggs, Liver, and dark green, orange or yellow fruit or vegetable

Vitamin C – Citrus, bell peppers, tomatoes

Vitamin E – Nuts, seeds, kiwi, cold-water fish (also a good source of A)

Obviously, fresh sources are best, as vitamins are broken down in light and heat.  So eat well, be well and age well.

If you guys keep up, CBS ran an expose on yoga this past week.  William Broad has been a practicing “Yogi” for 30 years, but he’s also a rational person and a topical science writer.  So, he decided to investigate and explore the practice that he loved.  He finds that same thing that I have written about in the past.  Yoga is dangerous!  You have unqualified instructors stuffing people into poses that crunch bones, tissues and blood vessels (especially around the spine).  It can puncture lungs, form blood clots and lead to strokes.  Sounds like fun, right?  The problem is is that people who really are into yoga tout all the benefits, like strength, balance, etc.  All of these things can be achieved through other means that are significantly less dangerous and stupid.  Yoga doesn’t make you stronger.  Balanced, maybe.  But stronger is just a lie.  It causes joints to loosen and become less stable.  Which, even if an injury doesn’t occur in class (the incidences are higher than in weight training, by the way!), it can occur later when the body is not strong or stable enough to catch itself in a fall or loss of balance.  Yoga people are also the loudest.  They swear that yoga is the only true path to wellness and that it has complete healing powers.  Let’s see… you’re telling me that static stretching poses that involve no neural function whatsoever and can even cause injury is that one true path to health and well-being?  Even though the majority of instructors are un- or at the least under-qualified to do their job?  That’s like taking food advice from someone who lives on hot dogs and mac and cheese.  Yoga is one of the oldest fitness practices in the world.  Brought from the far eastern realms of society and practiced as much if not more than anything else.  But the forms of yoga that we see today are a sad, bastardized form of the original teachings. Fitness yoga is not true yoga.  There is truthfully little benefit to the classes that are taught by and to the masses at big box gyms.  They do little to help and more to harm the body, especially for those who are just beginning it.  Do yourself a favor, and just don’t!  Increase your mobility through work with a qualified trainer.  Now, with that said, you have to be careful there too. I have written in the past of the dangers of resistance training with bad trainers, as well. The bottom line is that anything done wrong can hurt you and you have to take care to do anything properly. Don’t do it just because someone told you too.

Every single cigarette/cigar contains over 4000 toxic carcinogens that have a negative impact on virtually every system of your body.  They can cause cancer in the mouth, larynx, stomach, lungs, pancreas, liver and spleen not to mention others.  They create acidosis and raise blood pressure.  Tar build up leads to respiratory issues and emphysema.  Sounds like fun, right?  1 pack per day increases your risk of heart attack by over 10x a non smoker.  February is heart health month.  Do yours a favor and quit today.  Pass this (including image) on to anyone you know who smokes.  Remind them that their spouses, kids, dogs, etc are depending on them.  The left side is a healthy pair of lungs, and the right is smokers lungs.  Do the math and take this to heart.

So, this is what we are reduced to!  Fitbie (a subsidiary of MSN) has released an article on the Laziest Ways to Lose Weight.  C’mon!!  That’s what we are down to?  We have to be lazy even when we are trying to lose weight?  Losing weight isn’t supposed to be easy!  It’s hard work.  Getting fat is easy, dumbass!  I was under the impression that being lazy is how we got into this obesity predicament in the first place!  And some of the suggestions?  Multi-task while you watch TV.  So doing a couple of stretches or crunches during the commercials is going to cancel out the bag of chips and ice-cream just waiting for you when you continue?  Shorten your shopping trip.  I understand the premise, but if you rush the shopping trip, you tend to buy the cheapest stuff.  Guess what’s cheap?  Garbage.  Shopping good means reading labels and comparing.  My average grocery trip is over an hour.  The bottom line is that you cannot get thin by being lazy.  It just doesn’t work.  How about show some self-control and discipline?  See if that works for you.  Instead of Americans always trying to take the easy way out and get something for nothing, how about we decide to kick some ass and put in some real work.  That’s how you achieve ANYTHING!  Go get ’em.

Recipe day!!  This is one of our all time favorites.  Delicious, kicky, and actually really good for you.  Who knew?

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cooked, boneless chicken breast half, chopped
  • 3 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 2 (4 ounce) cans canned green chile peppers, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 5 (14.5 ounce) cans great Northern beans, undrained
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 10 minutes, or until onions are tender. Add the chicken, chicken broth, green chile peppers, cumin, oregano and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low and add the beans. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until heated thoroughly. Pour into individual bowls and top with the cheese.

Bon Apetit

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