Repeat it enough and it becomes the truth

Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies

Over the last 30 years or so, oil, or fat (actually they both are lipids, oil is when a lipid is in liquid state and fat is when a lipid is in a solid state) has been portrayed as the worst thing for our health that we could consume. People were being informed by the government, American Heart Association and others to stop eating fat because it leads to obesity and heart disease. Even today I think it’s fair to say most people are purchasing food marketed as being low fat, fat free. Evidence of this is the food manufactures are still making these products. Cookware is marketed as being able to reduce the amount of fat consumed in your meal.

With the reduction in consumption of fat, did weight gain subside and rates of heart disease decrease? Not really. Over the last 35 years, obesity rates in the U.S. have more than doubled. Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in the U.S. The government’s recommendation to reduce fat consumption to address obesity and heart disease was wrong. For further evidence we can look at what is called the French paradox. The French have relatively low rate of incidence of coronary heart disease while having a diet high in fat.

When fat was removed from foods something had to be done to make the food palatable so sales would not suffer. What happened was the amount of sugar and sweeteners added to the products (high fructose corn syrup) were increased. Research is now showing that it’s sugar, not fat that causes heart disease. And sugar is in pretty much everything we eat from sauces, breads, salad dressings and even baby formula.

Basically fat has been demonized. And it shouldn’t have been. Another example of how governments are not doing what’s best for people. Our bodies need fat to function. Fats are used for energy, our cells and hormones need fat to function. Fats slow down the metabolism of our food so we feel full longer. Fats are needed for the processing of minerals and vitamins. It’s essential to our well being.

I didn’t intend to write that much about the history of why we live in a low or no fat age. So I’ll stop. What I do want to get into is an oil we should all be consuming because of many benefits. I thought it would be good to provide a back story regarding oil/fat. If one person has a better understanding regarding why everything is low or no fat, then it was worth it.

The oil

Having said that I am now backtracking a bit in that I need to tell you that coconut oil was also demonized back in the 90’s for being a saturated fat. Long story short, that was a long time ago, and it is no longer the case.

So what is coconut oil. Yes, it’s a saturated fat, but different. Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride (MCT) fat whereas most saturated fats are long change triglycerides.  So what does that mean? It means that MCT fats are metabolized by the liver unlike the long chain. This enables the fat to be used as a quick source of energy rather than being stored.

So lets get into some of the benefits of coconut oil:

  1. Can kill bacteria, fungi and viruses – Coconut oil contains Lauric acid. When coconut oil is digested, it also forms monolaurin. Both Lauric acid and monolaurin can kill bacteria, viruses and fungi.
  2. Stave off hunger – Consuming fats as part of a meal will slow down the digestive process, and give that feeling of fullness, killing off hunger. This is even more so with coconut oil because of the fatty acids it contains.
  3. May lower risk of heart disease – Contrary to what we have been told and are being told, coconut oil, a saturated fat, improves heart disease risk factors like LDL and HDL cholesterol. Studies in both rats and humans have shown this.
  4. Bones – Coconut oil improves the absorption of important minerals such as calcium and magnesium which are important in maintaining healthy bones. Especially important for women who are at risk for osteoporosis.
  5. Slow down aging – With it’s antioxidant properties, coconut oil can help in preventing premature aging due to damage to cells.
  6. Obesity – Due to the fatty acids coconut oil contains and the effect that has on staving off hunger, coconut oil should help prevent obesity. Also because coconut oil is an MCT oil, it can increase energy expenditure compared to long chain fats which can potentially lead to weight loss over a longer period of time.

Pretty impressive for a fat isn’t it. Who would have thought that a fat is good for you? Walk through the grocery store and read most of the labels and you would think fat is bad for you. OK, that was a bit of a generalization. Fats such as hydrogenated fats, palm oil are not beneficial to your health and should be avoided. I also believe that this helps substantiate the position of all calories not being equal. We need to stop thinking that all calories are equal because it can cause more harm than good. If you have read some of my previous posts you might have read about the dangers of sugar. Comparing the damage calories from sugar can do to your health and the benefits calories from certain fats can do for your health, how could they be equal?

How to enjoy

There are a lot of ways you can enjoy coconut oil. The simplest way is to grab a spoon, dig out a chunk from the container and consume. Really. It tastes pretty good. If this is not for you, here are a some other ways:

  1. Add a couple tablespoons to your smoothie. It’s not even noticeable.
  2. Cook with it. Replace oils you would normally use with coconut oil.
  3. Popcorn. If you are into the old school way of making pop corn, a big pot,oil and kernels, use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. If you are not a big fan of the taste of coconut oil, don’t worry, it’s pretty subtle.
  4. Add it to your coffee or other hot drinks. This may sound weird, but add it to your drink and then mix using a blender. It will make it more creamier instead of oily.

Coconut oil can also be used in your hair and on your scalp, on your skin, and even to brush your teeth (it kills bacteria).

And more

If you decide to start using coconut oil try to stay away from coconut oil that has been bleached and or deodorized. To realize the benefits from coconut oil try to purchase a brand that is organic and raw, unrefined. The 6 benefits I listed are from eating coconut oil. There are also benefits we can realize from using coconut oil externally, on our scalp and hair, on our skin. You could probably replace any skin cream with coconut oil.

If you haven’t tried coconut oil, give it a try. Use it in your cooking, or eat it raw! Why not, it tastes great! And even though we hear the same message over and over on TV, at the stores, don’t believe it, it’s not the truth. Fat is not the enemy.

Yours in health,

Darryl

We ourselves must walk the path

Alone I am one voice, but together we are a tidal wave of sound.

The world of fitness has changed over the years, and will continue to change. The one thing that is constant in life is change. I think that’s a good thing. Most times change is the result of new information that provides a better way of achieving one’s goal or goals.

Let’s look at resistance training from back in the 70’s and upwards. The goal of resistance training, or body building was to get huge. Put on as much muscle as possible. No one did any cardio training because that might consume valuable calories that could go to building muscle. The gyms were dominated by men probably to a point of most gym’s having a customer base of 100% men. I think that’s why the perception today is if you do any training that involves weights you are going to get huge. Because that’s what was happening in the gyms. Were these guys strong? Yes. Were they functionally fit? No. Get them to do an activity that relied on various groups of muscle working together in a strenuous way and they would be gassed in a short time. This is generally why they aren’t on the court shooting hoops.

Fortunately over time fitness evolved into something geared more towards the ‘average’ person. TV shows like 20 minute workout, Body Break. People like Rachel Cosgrove, Susan Powter, Billy Blanks. The focus seemed to shift from working out being something that had to involve weights to being something were working out could be for everyone.  Gyms started opening that were women only gyms providing a place for women to work out with weights and feel comfortable. Fitness also started to evolve into a form that moved away from the focus being to gain as much muscle as possible to fitness becoming what I refer to as functional fitness.

Kettlebells, full body training, body weight only training, plyometric. All things that don’t require machines or movements that focus on a single muscle. Working out started to resemble normal every day movements, to a point. These movements are exaggerated for the purpose of fitness, muscle growth and increase in strength but if you were to slow down the movements you could see how they resembled things we do every day in life. If you were an avid sports player you could incorporate these exercises to gain performance in your sport and become a better, more efficient athlete.

What it’s about

Functional fitness in a sense is what it sounds like. Fitness that incorporates functional movements, i.e. movements that have a specific function that you can relate to an activity. For example if you play basketball either leisurely or as a sport, you would benefit from an increase in your vertical leap. If you take the movement of a vertical leap, bending the knees and coiling up that energy then releasing that energy as you leap, it very much resembles a burpee. The movement also resembles a squat up to the point of the explosion of energy that takes your feet off of the ground. Both exercises are great and you need both but they work the body in different ways.

We know the main difference between the squat and the burpee is during the squat our feet stay planted, and the hands are stationary. That’s obvious. The difference I would like to point out is one uses a static path of travel whereas the other is very dynamic. With the squat, we are focused on keeping our weight on our heels, head up, butt sticking out so our hips stay aligned. With a burpee as you spring up and leap off of the floor your trajectory probably isn’t going to be perfectly vertical. It may, but more than likely it is going to follow the path of how your body functions. Your leap instead of being on a 90 degree trajectory may be on an 80, or 85 degree trajectory. It may not seem to be that much of a difference but if that is the way your body travels, it may make sense to train the body on that path. With a burpee we are also incorporating our hands reaching up as high as we can. This movement will recruit muscles such as your back, shoulder, chest muscles whereas the squat doesn’t. Another point is you are working these muscles together when they are fresh but also when they are tired. They are getting used to working in all conditions and responding to these conditions.

Now we aren’t necessarily going to build strength in all these muscles when doing a burpee. But what we are doing is recruiting those muscles that we use in these activities into our workout mimicking the activity. This is the functional part. If all we do is train our muscles in isolation, how will they know how to work together? Or how will they work together well?

Another example I’ll use is the cable hip abduction. A great exercise to build our abductor muscles, muscles we use when moving laterally. But once again an exercise that isolates a muscle group. So what can we do to strengthen these muscles and supporting muscles and have it relate to a function? If you do something that requires strong lateral movement such as skating, skiing, martial arts, then you would benefit from a functional exercise. Some great exercises that are functional are lateral skaters and lateral jumps. Doing these exercises you are incorporating muscles that are used when doing the actual activity and having these muscles work together as a team.

Options

Find what it is that you feel will benefit from functional fitness. I used the example of Burpees for the basketball player but this could be applied to other things like getting out of a chair, getting things done around the house. Yeah, that’s kind of why I used a sport as an activity, much more interesting.

But you get the idea. Once you know what it is you want to strengthen, talk to a personal trainer to get ideas on functional exercises you can do to work on this area.

Another great benefit that I’ll mention is the increase in coordination. You are now forcing muscles to work together over and over, getting better each time. Look at someone who is just starting out doing Burpees and observe someone who has done 100 or 500 of them. Big difference in efficiencies between the two.

Some thoughts

If I could use an analogy I would use the following. Working muscles in isolation is like each instrument in an orchestra playing their part of the piece, but without a conductor. They are playing their respective piece beautifully, each of them. But it sounds horrible, disjointed. Now bring in the conductor and have them start over. They are playing the same piece but everyone is working together and it sounds beautiful. The same can be applied to the body. We need to train the muscles in different ways, sometimes isolating to strengthen, but we also need to train them together, to work as a team. The results will be beautiful.

Yours in health,

Darryl

We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them

What doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger.

It can be your friend or your enemy. And it can do you good and it can do you harm. It is one of the hormones that is produced when we feel we may be in danger and have to make that fight or flight decision.

Cortisol, a steroid hormone also known as the stress hormone. Like a lot of things, we need Cortisol at appropriate times as it does benefit us. But, like a lot of things, too much of it, and also produced at the wrong times can do us harm.

I want to use this post to talk about both the good and the bad of Cortisol. I think it’s important to understand how this hormone is used by our body and how we can reduce the negative impact of Cortisol.

The Good

As mentioned earlier, it is one of the hormones (the other 2 are Adrenaline and Norepinephrine) released during the classic fight for flight syndrome. We have all been there at some point in our life. Feeling physically threatened, or you are called into your boss’s office and you know it’s not for a good reason. And it isn’t always a negative situation. It can be right before an event such as an exam, or grading. Or something competitive like a race, or sparring.

It’s like there’s a lion on the loose in the room. Our heart rate jumps significantly, our senses become acute, we get that taste of copper in our mouth. Our muscles are ready to react quickly if needed. You are breathing faster and you might even be sweating. You are focused on the situation and ready to react.

Specifically Cortisol is responsible for:

  • allocating available glucose for the brain
  • creating energy from reserves
  • diverting energy from lower-priority activities (such as the immune system)
  • Blood pressure management

All this is done by Cortisol in order to survive immediate threats or prepare for exertion. Something that should happen over a short duration, not an extended period of time.

The Bad

As mentioned earlier, too much Cortisol, or producing Cortisol for a prolonged period can be detrimental to our health.

Cortisol is produced when we have a stressful situation, and most times we deal with that situation in a short time and get on with things. The body returns to a normal, balanced state. The problems start happening when we bring on situations that cause stress and that stress remains for a long period of time. Our bodies Cortisol levels are now elevated longer than they should be. Our body is now out of balance.

Cortisol has an immunosuppressive effect meaning if you constantly have high levels of Cortisol you are more susceptible to illness or infection. Cuts could end up taking much longer to heal. Cortisol also reduces the calcium absorption in our intestines making our bones weaker. Other effects of too much Cortisol are increased blood pressure and obesity.

Attack it

I wish I could provide an easy answer to deal with stress but there really isn’t one. There are things we can do to lessen the amount of Cortisol our body produces due to stress and I will go over each one:

  • Exercise – You are probably already doing this because you are aware of the many benefits of exercise. The more intensely we work out the better. When exercising we increase the amount of Cortisol our body makes. Remember, Cortisol is produced when we are stressed. Exercise is a form of stress. Highly intense training compared to endurance training produces less Cortisol and also produces Human Growth Hormone which has many benefits. Let’s quickly compare high intensity interval training to endurance training. We know Cortisol is produced during both types of exercise. But right off we know that HIIT training is much less in duration then endurance. So if your body produces Cortisol for anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes for HIIT training, that is much less than the 1,2,3,4 or more hours with endurance training. Also, during endurance training, Cortisol is produced the whole time because our body is responding to a perceived threat. It’s our fight or flight syndrome and we are flying! In a sense your body is reacting as if it’s being hunted, and it wants to survive! When endurance training and you run out of glucose to fuel your activity, your body releases Cortisol which then will metabolize muscle tissue for the energy needed. Ideally if properly fueled through the foods you eat and when you eat them, your body will also use fat for fuel. But it will always use some muscle. This is generally why endurance athletes tend to have lower amount of muscle and will also appear older than they are.

On the HIIT side of things, if we look at Tabata as an example, we are in the intense range for 20 seconds than we are back to a 10 second rest. During that 10 second rest your       body reacts in a way that there no longer a threat, and stops producing Cortisol. If eating properly and at the correct times, you should have an adequate supply of glycogen to fuel your activity and prevent your body from metabolizing muscle for energy.

Resistance training will also result in less Cortisol being produced. It will also increase the amount of Testosterone your body produces. All things that aid in the creation and maintenance of muscle.

 

  • Food – Another way to reduce the amount of Cortisol is by choosing the correct foods to eat.
    • Spinach – The magnesium in spinach will help balance the amount of Cortisol your body produces.
    • Beans – Contains Phosphatidylserine which may counteract the effects of Cortisol.
    • Citrus fruits – Try replacing carb rich snacks with citrus fruits. Vitamin C rich foods help slow the production of Cortisol.
    • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Along with reducing inflammation, they also help reduce levels of Cortisol. You can supplement, or you can eat foods such as flaxseeds or walnuts. If you are vegan and looking for an Omega-3 supplement you can by an Omega-3 DHA that is made from algae instead of fish oil.
    • Avocado – Great source of B vitamins and also reduces inflammation.
    • Cashews – Provides you with a great source of fat and protein and Zinc. Studies have shown low levels of Zinc attribute to anxiety and depression.
    • Garlic – So many benefits come with eating garlic. Neutralizing free radicals (free radicals damage our cells) and strengthening our immune system. And really, who doesn’t agree that garlic is awesome!
    • Oatmeal – A great source of complex carbs (try not to load it up with simple carbs such as sugar) oatmeal will cause your brain to produce serotonin. Serotonin has antioxidant properties but also helps create a soothing feeling that can help overcome stress.

 

  • Meditating – Meditating is a great way to deal with the stress in your life. It’s also a great way to relax, improve concentration, and slow aging. There are other benefits to meditation which you can find in this post.

Acceptance

There’s a lot in this post to consider. Should you stop endurance training because of the effects of Cortisol? That’s up to you. If you are going to be a miserable SOB because you didn’t get in your long run then maybe not. If you find your fitness needs are met by switching to interval type training, and resistance training (everyone should be doing resistance training, even endurance athletes) than I would recommend doing that.

I think it’s good for us to be aware and educated on the things we do, from eating to working out. Is stress bad for us? Yes and no. We now have a better understanding why. Use this information and try to see where you fit. Then decide.

Something else I want to say. There are things in our life that we cannot control. Absolutely cannot. I am going through this at my place of work right now. A major takeover that could impact me. Can I control this? Absolutely not. So I tell myself that this is something that I cannot control so don’t waste any time on it. Are there things I can do to prepare for these changes if they happen? Yes, and those are the things I focus on, put my energy into. In a sense, that helps to mitigate the stress.

It sounds easy when written down but it isn’t always easy. Eat well, sleep well, exercise and if you can, meditate. Those are four things you can do that will help tremendously.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Steal the warm wind tired friend

All my pictures seem to fade to black and white

Let’s start with full disclosure. I am not a doctor, scientist nor and I’m an expert in biomedical science. The following is my opinion based on research from experts in these fields. I think it’s important to point this out because there are many people who will present solutions to various problems, or solutions to optimize health and come across as experts in these areas even though they have not done any clinical research, or even have doctorates in the area that they speak to. As with anything it’s up to you to determine what will benefit you and what is only something someone is proposing to make money. Through a couple of years of reading research and articles about the following I feel it’s important to at least read about it and to come to your own conclusion. Why am I writing about this? Because I think that it can make a difference in our health, and all the research that I have read makes common sense. My objective is that if someone benefits from just reading this post, than writing this post has been worthwhile. Having said that, lets get to it.

What it’s about

Vitamin D deficiency. I could have probably chosen a number of vitamins or minerals to write about but I think vitamin D, or specifically being deficient in vitamin D is an important article to write. A study in 2009 found that 75% of teens and adults in the U.S. are deficient in vitamin D. The study also shows that the trend is that it is getting worse. 55% of teens and adults has insufficient levels only a decade earlier. That is a significant increase over just 10 years.

Let me list some of the things vitamin D regulates or manages:

  • Vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone that controls the expression of over 1000 genes in our body.
  • Shown to regulate the aging process.
  • Plays a role in having stronger bones and teeth.

There are some other benefits but I’m listing what I think are very important benefits. Let’s break down the first benefit to another description that might help you understand it better. Controlling the expressions of over 1000 genes can also be described as vitamin D controlling over 1000 different physiological processes. What is gene expression? Let’s look at the definition from Wikipedia: “Gene expression is the process by which the heritable information in a gene, the sequence of DNA base pairs, is made into a functional gene product, such as protein or RNA. The basic idea is that DNA is transcribed into RNA, which is then translated into proteins. Proteins make many of the structures and all the enzymes in a cell or organism.” Pretty important. 

Vitamin D has also been shown to regulate the aging process. Quick biology lesson. We probably know that we have genes, and chromosomes. But we also have telomeres which are on the end of our chromosomes. The telomeres protect the chromosomes, which protect the genes. The telomeres work to protect our DNA from damage. Think of them like the tips on your shoe laces that prevent them from fraying. A large epidemiological study consisting of 2100 female twin pairs found that increased vitamin D levels correlated with increased telomere length in white blood cells. The longer the telomere the more protection for that gene. Here’s an important part. The difference between those with high (sufficient) and those with low (insufficient) levels of vitamin D corresponded to 5 years of aging. The study also found that those supplementing vitamin D had longer telomere lengths than those that don’t.

Another recent studies findings show a relationship between the regulation of serotonin and vitamin D. Serotonin is also known as the feel good hormone. It is believed  that is why we enjoy carbohydrates so much because they can elevate the level of serotonin. Could SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, be partly due to low levels of vitamin D, or could the effects of SAD be minimized by increasing levels of vitamin D? Wouldn’t that be amazing if SAD could be alleviated by increasing vitamin D levels? I have a link at the end of this post to a study from 1999 that concludes that vitamin D may be important  treatment for SAD.

Why are we low

So why is it that the majority of people have insufficient levels of vitamin D. One reason is the use of sunscreen. Sunscreen blocks the UVB radiation that allows our skin to synthesize the vitamin. So even when we are outside if we are using sunscreen we are not getting vitamin D. Also if you live in a location that puts you further away from the sun such as North America, especially in the winter months, the level off UVB  radiation getting to your skin is much less than in the summer months. Body fat will affect the bioavailability of vitamin D. A higher amount of body fat will prevent the vitamin D from being released into the blood stream.

Concerns

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. Therefore it is possible to get too much of it. And that’s not good either. Studies on mice have shown that too much vitamin D will also have the same implications as not enough vitamin D. To put it into different terms there is a sweat spot or optimal amount of vitamin D. The Vitamin D Council (The Vitamin D Council is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in California, United States, working to educate the public on vitamin D, sun exposure and health and was formed in 2003) suggests that a level of 50 ng/ml is the ideal level to aim for.

So how do you know if you have the correct levels of vitamin D in your blood? The only way is through a blood test. Contact your doctor and request a visit to have your blood work done. Let your doctor know that you want to know your level of vitamin D. The Vitamin D Council states that you need to ask for a 25(OH)D blood test. I’m not sure if this is specific to the U.S. or if this is a universal test. You can also order a vitamin D test online if you so choose.

What’s next

Is vitamin D the new Echinacea, or the new in vogue supplement? I don’t think so. Study after study is showing that our vitamin D levels are low as it is, and studies show the benefit of having proper levels of vitamin D. And we aren’t looking at something that reduces the chance of getting a cold, or something that boost performance. This impacts your DNA directly. I think that’s something important that we should be aware of.

So what can you do? Start with a blood test to see what your level is. I think the days of going to the family doctor only when you are sick, or for an annual physical are changing. We need to take our health into our own hands. If there is a direct correlation between vitamin and mineral levels in our body and our wellbeing, I think it’s important that we ask for these tests to be done and know what our levels are. Think of it as the difference between having a flat tire on your car and using a cheap grade of motor oil. When your tire goes flat, you know right away and address it. The damage from using a cheap motor oil may not be evident until the motor fails 200,000 km’s later. Having an inadequate level of vitamin D will not be evident like the flat tire. It’s going to be the motor that fails 15 to 20 years later.

Or will all this research be contradicted later, or show up as junk science? I don’t know. In my opinion I don’t think so. This isn’t new. For years I have been reading that our levels of vitamin D are too low and study after study is recommending higher levels of vitamin D. Do I get my blood tested for vitamin D levels? Yes. Why not, it’s free if you live in Canada and covered by insurance in other parts of the world.

It really bothers me that when it comes to our health specifically things like; which vitamins/minerals to take, am I taking enough, are left to us to determine. Evidently these things can have a huge impact on our health and well-being. Why? Why can’t I go to a lab and have all these things done for me with one blood sample. Have a pretty graph print off showing me where I’m deficient. It’s being preventative instead of reactive and should save the health care system millions and millions of dollars. Liability? I don’t think so. Look at all the drugs that are prescribed and their associated side affects. Half of the commercial for these drugs are dedicated to full disclosure of the side effects associated to the drug. Wait a minute. It just came to me. There probably isn’t any money to be made. In fact, more money can be made by people not having adequate levels of vitamins and minerals. Using one example, if people suffering from SAD no longer suffered because of supplementing with vitamin D that would mean they are no longer taking Wellbutrin or some other anti depressant for treatment. The money that is made by treating the diseases, etc. from this is astronomical.

Sorry, you may view that as being cynical but I think these are valid questions. Until we get there, we have to work with what we have.

It your choice, it’s your health. It’s up to you.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

References:

Vitamin D Council

Dr. Rhonda Patrick

Scientific American Study on Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D and Serotonin Paper

Vitamin D vs broad spectrum phototherapy

 

full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

To our body it is as rich as gold, and as bright as the sun.

I’m lying in bed, it’s really early, probably around 4 in the morning and I’m woken up by the pending doom of a calf muscle cramp. Usually I wake up about 5 seconds before it happens. And I know what’s coming too. The pending pain almost like someone has grabbed onto your calf muscle and squeezes as hard as they can for about 10 to 15 seconds. I can feel the muscle as it cramps up from it’s elliptical shape to a ball. Then it’s gone.

Sometimes we get muscle cramps while exercising. I have done certain exercises where it’s the supporting leg that cramps. Often this happens when holding a position.

What causes muscle cramps and what can we do when we get a muscle cramp. Lets take a look.

Why

Muscle cramps can be due to many things. Dehydration, lack of electrolytes, lack of minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium, overuse of the muscle, and medical conditions. I have left out some that don’t really have anything to do with exercising or eating, the things I would like to focus on in this post.

Hydration and Electrolytes. I’m putting these two together because there is a relationship that needs to be looked at and discussed. I think it’s fair to say that over the last 5 to 10 years we hear a lot about drinking more water. Every adult should drink 8 cups of water a day. I believe that’s the recommendation. Of course this does not take into consideration your level of activity, are you a heavy sweater, any medical conditions, etc. So how do we know we are consuming enough water? A good indicator is the colour of your pee. It’s true! If your pee is dark yellow in colour then you are not consuming enough water. Keep in mind if you take a B complex vitamin it will turn your pee a nice yellowy colour. If your pee is clear, like water running from the tap, then you may be consuming too much water. Ideally the colour should be straw like, you know, a hint of yellow. Another indicator that you are dehydrated is feeling thirsty. By the time you get that thirsty feeling you are already dehydrated.

It’s important to drink water about half an hour before physical activity and also during physical activity. We probably realize we lose water when we sweat, but we also lose water because it’s used in the chemical process of creating energy. Ideally you probably want to start taking in water 10 minutes into an activity. Don’t drink too much unless you feel you need to. A mouthful should do. Post exercise is also an important time to replenish the water you have lost.

Want to know how much water you have lost from physical activity? Weigh yourself. Weight yourself before the activity and then weigh yourself afterwards. Don’t weigh yourself afterwards with all those sweaty clothes on as they contain most of the water your body sweated. Keep in mind this may not be all that accurate if your scale isn’t accurate. And depending on the temperature, level of activity, and duration the amount of water lost may not show up through weighing.

Let’s get into electrolytes. What are electrolytes? You can think of any solution that conducts electricity as having electrolytes. Put salt into a glass of water and it becomes an electrolytic solution. I don’t think we need to worry about what makes an electrolytic solution but more so why do we need electrolytes.

Electrolytes are essential in maintaining hydration, nerve impulses, muscle function i.e. contraction. A deficit in electrolytes could cause weakness, or severe cramping.

We get our electrolytes by maintaining a healthy diet. Eating healthy will provide most of us with the needed electrolytes. So why are there drinks we can buy for replenishing electrolytes? Are they beneficial? Yes, if you are someone who participates in such an event that you have depleted your body. A general guide line is if you are exercising for more than an hour, you should think about electrolyte replenishment.  If you are familiar with articles from my blog I think you know what I mean by exercising. If you are exercising at a low to moderate level than you probably don’t need to worry about this. If your level of activity is high and intense, or if you tend to sweat a lot, then having a post workout drink that supplies electrolytes when you are done could help you.

Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium are three minerals that are classed as electrolytes. Eating foods rich in these minerals can help prevent cramping. Foods you might want to consider are bananas, spinach, avocado, lima and black beans, soy, and potatoes.

Lastly I want to get into what I mentioned earlier, the relationship between hydration and electrolytes. If you consume too much water throughout the day it is possible to deplete your body of the minerals that make up electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, etc. Just like anything, too much of a good thing (water) is not good for us. It is even more important that you replenish your electrolytes.

What can we do

So the cramp finally hits you. What can you do to relieve the intense pain? Here are some things you can do when it happens:

Massage: Massage the muscle. This will help it to relax and untighten.

Stretch: Stretch the muscle to relax it. When I get the cramp in my calf I will straighten out my foot pointing the toes toward my knee. This helps to relieve the tension.

Motion: Walk around or jiggle the leg. This can help the muscle to relax.

Heat: Apply a heating pad, hot water bottle or take a warm bath.

Be prepared

I think the best thing you can do is to be prepared. If you haven’t had a muscle cramp on you yet you probably will at some point. Who knows if you are eating a healthy diet high in minerals, drinking enough water it may not happen. But if you are someone who is very active and pushes your body, sometimes that is just not enough. When it happens remember to do the things above; relax, stretch, etc.

Try not to get caught up in the hype with sport drinks though. If you don’t need one, then don’t have one. Most sport drinks tend to be high in sugar and if you don’t need a sport drink you are just consuming unneeded sugar which won’t do you any good. If you are up to it there are plenty of recipes available to make your own sports drink that are not high in sugar. A little more work but it gives you the ability to replenish your electrolytes and since you made it, you’ll know what else is in it. It may not look pretty and blue, but it will get the job done.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

 

an island covered with forest, in the very middle of the sea

I feel the weight of Atlas.

How do I start this post off. I have a feeling this is going to be a post that reads like it’s all over the place, bouncing from one thing to another. That’s alright though. I think I’ll still be able to make my points or be able to add to your health and fitness.

Recently I met with a health care professional and had a great discussion that started on one topic and ended up covering a good few. I have known this health care professional for a few years now and thought it would be good to have a discussion regarding fitness with him. I think it’s beneficial to discuss health and fitness with people in the health care profession as they are dealing with the effects of injuries, low or no level of fitness and general poor health.

Of course what happens with me happened again. It got me thinking about things. Things like fitness, health, food, and environment. So what happens? I usually end up writing a post. And here it is. This is where things start to get dicey and may end up kind of being all over the place. Try to hang in to the end if you can.

The past

We don’t live today like we used to hundreds or thousands of years ago. There’s good and bad with this. The following points are general and by no means am I applying this to everyone, or being flippant. I am aware that unfortunately we have homelessness, people living in poverty, people who don’t have access to affordable housing, people who don’t have access to clean water. Those are really important issues but I don’t think this is the forum to go into these things any deeper.

Generally speaking we have better health care today. The average lifespan is longer. We have easy access to information. The bad is we have gone from leading an active lifestyle that was imposed on us just to survive, cars or mass transportation was not around, manufacturing and farming was not what it is today. Most of us are working in jobs where we are sitting for a good part of the day. We have become very sedentary.

Food isn’t what it used to be. I recently saw Dr. David Suzuki and his guests on his BlueDot Tour and he talked about how when he was young there wasn’t such a thing as organic food. All food was organic. When he was young he wouldn’t give it a second thought to drink directly from a stream. Today people are put into a position to choose between the healthy and the unhealthy. Water costs more than pop does. Additives such as high fructose corn syrup, sweeteners, etc. are added to foods to entice people into buying the products. We are marketed to, and lied to, to get us to buy these products. This is just wrong. No other way to put it. It shouldn’t be a financial burden to eat healthy. People should have access to clean water no matter where they are. People shouldn’t have to spend hours trying to educate themselves on what foods to avoid. Think of what kids are experiencing daily in their lives. This isn’t the way it used to be. Kids that are 10 to 15 years old have been marketed to like no other generation. They are growing up with a really distorted sense of what healthy eating is. Seriously. Studies are concluding that obesity will be or is the next epidemic.

Why is this? What are we doing differently today than our parents, or their parents? In my opinion, food is a big contributor to this as I mentioned previously. Where am I going with this? Good question, read on please.

Today

As I mentioned food is a big, or the biggest contributor to health concerns today. What can you do? The short term answer is to educate yourself on how to eat healthy. You cannot rely on governments or business to help you out here. They are the reason why we are where we are.

Educate yourself on eating whole foods. Start making your food instead of buying it in a can or box. Read about savvy marketing tricks such as using words like lite, or low fat, or low sugar. The long term solution would be to advocate governments and business for healthier foods. One way of advocating is by making better choices when buying your food. It’s not easy and it’s not always cheaper. Do what you can. Instead of buying pasta sauce, buy the raw ingredients and make it yourself. It will be much healthier and you will have the satisfaction of making it yourself, the way you like it. We have a lot of power as consumers and I think sometimes we forget this. I’ll use the example of Meatless Monday. A non-profit initiative with the goal of reducing meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of the planet. Just think of the impact if everyone did this. I’ll leave that with you to think about.

A lot of my posts talk about intense exercise, getting the most out of your workout or addressing specific issues when it comes to training. I have taken some time to look back at my posts and I have concluded that for someone to read these posts that they could be very overwhelming. That is the largest challenge I run into when writing my posts. I try to walk that line of delivering the information but not make have it end up being ‘here’s another thing that I need to do and I just don’t have the time.’ It’s tough. I guess you could say that this is somewhat of a driver to writing this post, or at least the next part of the post.

It doesn’t have to be complicated and it shouldn’t be. Ultimately if it becomes complicated you probably won’t do it. The complexity can often lead to the unrealistic. I don’t want to be part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution, and that has always been my intention. What can we do then?

I think a good place to start is by looking at yourself today. We probably all know that we need physical activity and that this activity benefits us. It keeps us healthy and ultimately it should allow us to enjoy life more. It allows us to do more and feel good too when doing these things.

So where are you today? What is your goal? I think those are two great questions to ask yourself and use the answers to determine what you want to do, and what you need to do. I put the phrase ‘want to do’ first because it’s important that you find something that you will want to do. If you start an activity solely because it is good for you, but you don’t enjoy it you probably won’t last long doing it. Either you will resent it or boredom will set in. If it’s something you need to do to address health concerns or to better yourself physically than you can look at ways to incorporate those things into your life.

It can be difficult to do. I remember seeing my optometrist and he gave me exercises to do for my eyes. You are laughing, aren’t you. I found it funny too. Did I do them? No. It was just another thing that I had to think about doing and honestly it wasn’t a priority for me.

That’s probably what it comes down to. Is it a priority for you. Do you feel adding this activity into your life is important enough to forego something else? It might me. Maybe not at this time, but maybe down the road, the future.

Tomorrow

What does tomorrow bring? No one knows, well, almost no one. If you knew that 3 months from now you will be experiencing back pain that will make it tough to sleep, stop you from enjoying your activities and basically cause you a ton of pain, would you change what you are doing today and everyday moving forward to that 3 month mark? Probably. But that’s the tough part. We don’t know. And there’s no guarantee that it would make a difference. You could still bend down to pick up that pencil and feel a sharp pain in your back. Until we are able to replace body parts with biomechatronic parts we are going to have issues with our bodies.

I think the point I’m trying to make is choose the things you want to do to be active, to feel better and to feel stronger. If you have areas you feel you need to work on then go ahead and do it. Maybe it will push that incident out to 12 months instead of 3 months, and your recovery will be quicker.

We can’t do it all. We will never have ‘perfect’ symmetrical bodies. I recently found out I have one shoulder that sits higher than the other. Am I concerned about it? Not really. I don’t feel any discomfort or pain from it. I don’t see any impact to my range of motion. I made the choice to not worry about it. We can’t do it all. We can choose what we want to do and what we can do.

Muddied waters

I’ve said a lot here today. Things that I feel needed to be said and will be said again but in a different way. I think it’s a good message and good messages need to be heard more than the negative messages. Too many of those.

I’ll hand it over to you now. I hope I haven’t muddied the waters.

Yours in health,

Darryl

the only direction is forward, there is no retreat.

Set yourself free. Confront your fear. Stare it down into it’s own defeat.

In a previous post I wrote about things we can do to remain motivated, to keep us on track to reach our goal. That post mainly talked about motivation in the context of showing up to your workouts and what could be done to make exercise a lifestyle and not just something to do because the summer is coming up.

In this post I’m going to cover how to keep motivated when carrying out an endurance type of activity. This will deal with motivation but in a different way.

First off

So what is endurance? It can be explained as the following: “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” By this definition you could almost apply this to anything. For some, a one hour workout could be defined as endurance by this definition. So what would make an event an endurance event? In today’s world it seems that the definition is changing. Most people would agree that a marathon is an endurance event. Why? Well, I think it’s safe to say that the average time to complete a marathon is 4 hours. A fair amount of time. But what if you are an elite athlete and it takes you 2.5 hours to run a marathon. Is it still classified as an endurance event? I guess my point is it can be somewhat relevant to who is completing the event. We could use a bench mark of an event of 2 hours or more. If the event is demanding I think the 2 hour mark is a good mark as you will probably be required to replenish electrolytes and maybe even need something to eat to refuel. There we go. Let’s use the 2 hour mark.

Lastly

We have our minimum time requirement to deem it an endurance event. What about a maximum time? I guess there really isn’t any limit. Today we have marathons, ultra marathons ranging from 50 to 100 miles, triathlon’s that can range in distance. There really isn’t a limit then is there.

Getting that out of the way let’s get to what we can do to keep motivated while carrying out the activity. It can be tough, I know. As part of my training one of my gradings lasted 7 hours. Was it tough? You bet! I’m going to use my example as a way to provide methods of keeping motivated.

What we can do

Preparation. Make sure you are prepared for your event. By being prepared I’m referring to all the work you are doing leading up to the event. Depending on the event this could be a 16 week period. If you are someone who thought it would be a good idea to run a marathon because it seems like the thing to do and you don’t take it seriously then you could be trying to complete an event where you have already sabotaged yourself because your body will not be ready. If you have carried out your training you will be going into the event confident knowing that your body will be able to perform. You are then left with only the mental aspect to deal with.

Be sure to be rested before the event too. This will also help provide you with the confidence by eliminating something that may make you worry.

Break it down. I knew my 7 hour grading was going to be broken into segments if you will of varying activities. Knowing this I thought it would be a good idea to take each segment and focus on getting through it. Instead of thinking how am I going to get through the next six hours, or the next 5 hours, etc., it allowed me to think of getting through the current segment. Kind of like a check list, crossing each one off as it was done. You can also break down the segment itself. If you are competing in a triathlon you could break down the bike ride into each of its miles. This allows you to not get overwhelmed by the size of the overall event which can become crippling. Don’t let your mind wonder and start thinking outside of that segment. That can be disastrous.

Cadence. Cadence could by your footsteps if running. It can be your breathing. Something rhythmic. It can be almost trance inducing as you only focus on that rhythm. You get into a certain head space, listening to the foot falls, listening and feeling your breathing in and out. You are so focused on this that your mind forgets to think about the scale of the event you are in. Next thing you realize is that you have completed half of the event.

Music. If your event allows it music can be a great way to keep the mind distracted from the pain, the duration of the event.

Coping with pain. Pain is going to happen. It’s almost unavoidable. NOTE: Pain is ok as long as it’s functional pain. Examples of functional pain are a blister, muscle soreness. If you experience nonfunctional pain you should stop and seek medical attention immediately.

Don’t try to ignore the pain. Acknowledge it. It’s there but it’s functional pain so you are ok. No need to panic. Once you have acknowledged it try to let the mind focus on something else. Focus on how awesome you are because you are doing this and you are going to work through the pain.

Fear. Fear can be a performance killer. Fear of failure, fear of the event. Fear of the unknown. Fear will also kill your confidence. You can’t have both. If you were confident you would not have fear. So what can we do to eliminate fear? Build your confidence. Reassure yourself by reminding yourself that you are prepared for this event. You have put in the training, you know your shit and you are going to kill this. I like to use an exam as an example. If you have studied and you know the material than why be nervous or fear the exam? Same goes for this event. If you have prepared and you are ready then let the fear go. Replace it with confidence. That’s what you should have.

Relax. Kind of ties into the above. Know that you are great. Tell yourself that. Then take that confidence and let it calm you. Let is wash over you like warm water. I have seen too many people who know what they are doing sabotage themselves by being nervous. They know all the kata required for the next belt. They have been reviewing for weeks and weeks. Then, it’s the belt test. Do they still know their kata? Of course! But the nervousness can be gripping and it starts to take over. It’s only normal. Feeling nervous is normal and it will happen. Don’t think it’s a bad thing. Accept it and remind yourself that you are ready, you have prepared and it’s ok to feel nervous but you are not going to let that dominate you. I’ll let that nervousness happen but I’m not going to pay attention to it. Instead remind yourself that you are here because you are ready and you have shown that you are ready. Then, as you start the event you realize that it’s not so bad.

Healthy Competition. If you are in an event that other people are competing in try to find someone similar that you can start a friendly competition with. Don’t pick someone who is much further ahead of you fitness wise as that will only be defeating. If you are running a marathon try to find someone with the same goal as you have. You can then use each other for motivation, helping each other along the way with encouragement. If you are really competitive you can set your goal even higher and tell yourself that you are going to be the winner of the two. That’s ok, it’s just healthy competition and if that keeps your mind occupied then great!

Positive. Maybe this should be the first one, or the most important one. I think that unfortunately there are too many negative influences on our self-image. From the media telling us how we should and shouldn’t look to people trying to get ahead by bringing others down there are a lot of negative influences in our lives. Don’t listen to these voices. They don’t do you any good. Instead look at what you have accomplished. Feel good about those things. No, don’t feel good, feel great! The fact that you exercise already puts you into the minority of people who do. Now you are engaged in an event that will last more than 2 hours. That should be more than enough food to feed your confidence. We should be positive about these things and there is nothing wrong with feeling proud about these accomplishments. I’m not saying that you need to be cocky about it. But don’t dismiss it. Use it to help you get through your event and use it to remind yourself that you can do anything.

Wow

That’s a lot isn’t it. But it needs to be. History will show that the mind will quit before the body. The body is an incredible machine that can be put through a lot. It’s usually the mind that lets us down.

Use these techniques to keep the mind going strong. One final tip that I think can help. Before the event, or any time really as this can help you with almost anything, remember something you did that made you feel really good. Something that made you say ‘I totally rocked that!’ When you get tired, or discouraged, pull that image up and remember what you did. Remember that that person didn’t quit. Remember that that person is an incredible person. Remember that that person is you.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

and I’ll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small.

If you have been reading my posts than you have heard terms such as intensity, HIIT, Tabata, DOM. Terms that are synonymous with working hard when you train. Well, I think it’s time I spend some time writing about what I mean by training hard and intensity and the other words.

Let’s throw some other words out there such as balance, feedback, rest. These words are just as important as the ones above. In fact, they could be even more important as they are words that can be applied also outside of our world of fitness. Put them under the category of health. They are things that tend to get forgotten about as we rush through life trying to get everything done. We avoid doing what these words mean and then we wonder why we are always getting colds, why we are lethargic, and why by Friday we are run down and feel like shit. Ok, that was a little harsh, but I’m trying to make a point.

The worst of it too is as time goes on, months, maybe years, we continue to wonder why we haven’t met our goals, why we haven’t put on the muscle that we have been working so hard to do, or your cardio hasn’t improved as much as it should.

So let me spend a little bit of time explaining what we can do to elevate our quality of life and to get us back on track to meeting those goals.

More than working out

Let me start with the first word, balance. Just like the saying, too much of a good thing can be bad. There is a point where if you tax your body continuously through working out, you will pay the price if you are not maintaining the balance of rest and eating. An extreme but possible scenario of training too much and not getting the rest needed is Rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle tissue that leads to the release of muscle fiber into the blood, then being filtered by the kidneys, causing kidney damage. This is an extreme case but it is possible.

If you are finding that you lack the enthusiasm you had before when going to exercise or workout, or you are not making the gains you should be even though you are working out hard, then take some time off. Relax. Let the body catch up.

We need to listen to our body more. Our body tells us when things are not right. Muscle pain 3 days after a hard leg workout? That’s your body telling you that it was too hard and the muscles need a break. Any muscle soreness after 2 days should not be interpreted as you are going to make great gains. In fact, you may lose gains you made. Severe muscle pain (you are having a hard time walking) day 3 after a leg workout as an example means you have stressed your muscles too much. If it’s a really bad case you can actually cause scar tissue to form on your muscles.

Do not work these muscles until they have fully recovered and the pain is gone. To avoid this from happening again, when you have been away from working out for a while, let’s say about 2 weeks, go into it easy. This way you won’t over stress the muscles.

Are you eating adequately? The quantity and quality of food is very important especially for someone who is active. If you have doubled your activity level than you need to increase your caloric intake. It’s what our bodies use to create energy and to rebuild our bodies. Protein, fat, complex carbohydrates are all things our bodies need for fuel, and for rebuilding. Think of it as a bonus! You get to eat more because your body is consuming a higher level of calories. This is especially important if you workout in the high intensity zone. Remember, if you are not providing an adequate amount of calories your body could result to metabolizing your muscle tissue for energy. I know. No one wants that.

Feedback from our body is important as it’s our body telling us when things are good, or when things are not so good. Feedback can also be actively thinking of the muscles you are working out while working them. Think of the muscles contracting and they will actually engage more than if you didn’t.

If you are getting sick more often than you usually do that could be a sign again of over training.  When we over train we are negatively impacting our immune system that makes it harder to defend against viruses, etc. Listen to this feedback and take some time off from working out and evaluate your training. It may be time to step it back a bit.

Lastly, rest. This can be a tough one to get a handle on. We are busy, have stuff to do and really, who likes to go to bed early. That’s when all the fun stuff is happening. But our body needs that sleep. Otherwise it cannot repair the damage we have done. The brain wont’ get the chance to create wild scenarios that allow us to deal with stress through dreams. Keep in mind it’s not just getting the required hours of sleep, it also has to be quality sleep. Studies are showing that even a source of light that is on while sleeping may impair your quality of sleep. So turn off the TV, the laptop, the phone, all that stuff. If you find that you are lying down for 7 or 8 hours but you are still tired, you may not be sleeping well. Talk to your doctor and see if they can help.

Just the messenger

I know it’s not easy, balance, rest. We have priorities in our lives, and most times things like balance, sleep take a back seat. That’s understandable. But if you are looking for answers to help you with the things I outlined than it’s up to you.

Will you take the red pill, or keep taking the blue pill?

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

I put one foot in front of the other, knowing I’ll get there

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

I’ve written some previous posts that talk to core exercises, ones I think we should be doing and ones that I think we should avoid.

Like a lot of exercises we do, there are ones that are ‘beginner’ and then there are exercises that get progressively harder to an advance level. What I would like to do is cover off a few exercises that are in the intermediate to advance level for our core.

If you are someone who has been doing crunches, planks, and other core work for a while, these exercises might be what you are looking for to take your core to a whole new level. Trust me, these exercises are tough and should not be tried if you are just starting to work your core.

Are you up to it? Yeah? Great! Let’s get to it.

The core killers

Let’s start off with a tough one. This one you have no choice but to engage your core. It’s pretty demanding but I think you will enjoy it as it has some movement to it:

Stir the Pot, or Stir the Caldron (it is the season)

For this exercise you will need a stability ball. Position your forearms on the stability ball having your elbows under your shoulders. Straighten out your body, feet on your toes, like you are in plank position. Go figure, having to be in a plank position when working the core. Now move your forearms while on the stability ball in a clock wise rotation, like you are stirring. Then, stir the other way. Tough, isn’t it!

Do this until you are almost at that point of losing form. Once you can’t hold your form any longer, take a 30 second to one minute rest. Repeat. Or, go on to one of the other exercises I have below.

Plank with arm out

Once again we are in the plank position. It’s not a coincidence, trust me. I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading about back injuries, exercising the back without damaging it and it seems that when doing any back exercise where it involves curling the spine, we are putting a lot of pressure on our disks. Also, many studies have shown that doing core exercises such as planking does just a good as job working the abs as does other exercises that curl the spine. Many more athletes, professional and amateur, are removing traditional ab exercises such as sit ups, Roman twists, etc. from their workout and replacing them with planks.

But I digress.

Starting in the plan position, extend one arm straight out. Hold it for 10 seconds then alternate to the other arm. Do this for as many times as you can until you are fatigued. Take a 30 – 60 second break then repeat. Keep your shoulders level while doing this. If one shoulder drops, bring it back up, or if you cannot do this exercise without the shoulder dropping than go back to doing just a standard plank. Give yourself time to build the core. Once your core is stronger you can come back to this exercise and try it again.

An arm and a leg

If you were able to do the above exercise and keep proper form, then you might want to try this one to add some difficulty. Start in plank position and extend one arm. While the arm is extended, extend the opposite leg. Hold for 10 seconds than switch to the other side. You may want to do this one in front of a mirror. The reason being is you want to check your hips. If your hip of the extended leg drops from being parallel to the floor than this one is maybe a little too difficult. Switch back to standard plank or plank with arm out.

Options

It’s good to have options and choices. It allows us to remain motivated and excited about our workouts. Don’t be discouraged if you cannot do all of these core workouts. Instead look at it as a goal you can set. You will get there with all the hard work you are doing. But we have to start somewhere. And the fact that you have started means you are already on your way to stirring the pot, or having an arm and leg out while planking.

One more thing. When you are planking or doing any core exercises, remember, your core includes your back, glutes, abs, and legs and you need to keep these muscles engaged. The bonus of this is when you are doing other things such as standing, playing sports or doing other activities you will probably notice an improvement, or notice things feel tighter. That’s your core providing the stability you need to do these things. Enjoy your new awesomeness!

Challenge yourself, set the bar a little higher. You will rise to it. You always do.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

…all I have to do is work on technique

Technique is the basis of every pursuit.

Over time I have realized the importance of proper technique. I have experienced firsthand the consequences of incorrect technique and I have also seen people suffer from incorrect technique.

Outside of injury I have seen people become discouraged because they are not getting the gains in fitness or the benefits they feel they should. Most times this is due to incorrect technique. From incorrect mechanics to not understanding the process of resistance training at all.

Technique can be defined as a way of carrying out a particular task or procedure. I like to expand the definition to include carrying out the workout to completion. It makes sense I think. If you have sound technique when executing a move, or moves whether it’s resistance training or stretching, etc., if the workout is not put together to help you achieve your objective than it’s not really accomplishing what it should be.

Technique can relate to many things too. Breathing, length of gait when running, intensity and interval length when incorporating HIIT into your workout. Technique can also be the frequency you train muscle groups, the amount of rest needed between workouts. I’m not trying to make it complicated. I’m trying to expand our thinking on how we look at technique when working out.

If your goal is to maximize every workout, to squeeze as much out of it as possible and to reach your designated goal as soon as possible, then these are things you want to be aware of. If you are looking to exercise and reduce the risk of injury and still reach your goal then you can start with focusing on understanding proper mechanics when working out, and incorporate these things later. Keep it simple and don’t overload yourself. Remember, this needs to be fun! If it isn’t, then why would you do it? If you think it can’t be fun then maybe you need to change what you are doing. Otherwise you risk burning out, and finding ways to avoid your workout.

Solutions

What are our options to learn about technique? If you are looking to improve your technique in the gym, or where ever it is you workout, then you might want to start with getting a personal trainer. A personal trainer can help you with technique but also many other things such as creating a workout program that incorporates all aspects of training; warm up, workout, stretching, cardio, etc.

If you are someone who is looking to specialize in a certain activity such as running then you might want to sign up for a running course. It’s common for us to think we already know how to do these things, because we do – in a basic sense. All of us can run as an example. But, all of us can learn to run more efficiently, better, and lessen the risk of injury.

I would caution against using Youtube or any video service as your source of learning proper body mechanics for an exercise. Although it may give you instructions on what to do, it’s only one way and there isn’t anyone there to correct your mistakes.

Keeping it simple

I like to keep it simple. By not incorporating proper technique, in a sense, it becomes more complicated. Dealing with setbacks, injuries, lack of gains, and lack of motivation.  Think of it as empowering yourself with knowledge. And with that knowledge you will have a much better understanding of why you are doing things a certain way and how doing these things will make you stronger, faster, or more flexible.

Give it a shot. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Yours in health,

Darryl