the stars are alive, and they are in my reach

the flame flickers, reaching, grasping, waiting with it’s hand outreached.

I consider this the third post in my series regarding adding strength and muscle.  The first post was the challenge that I’m sure you accepted. The second post deals with the progression made so far. This post I will talk about things that you may be doing that in affect could be sabotaging your progress. Will there be more posts in this series? Yeah, I think so. Stay tuned.

It’s what we do

Restless. You want to add the poundage of muscle onto your frame, but you are that type that when in a gym, or anywhere working out you cannot just ‘sit there’ counting the seconds or minutes. You try to take a 2 minute break between sets but no matter what you try you can’t. You find yourself waiting no more than 30 seconds, or maybe a minute. The fact is you won’t be adding the muscle you would like to unless you take that rest. Try it yourself. Look at how much weight you use when resting for 2 to 3 minutes compared to how much weight you currently use between sets. I bet you that with the longer rest you are using more weight each set. Why? Because the body needs that length of time to replenish its energy stores used to lift weight. Rest, slow down, and relax. Enjoy it. You’ll be glad you did.

Minimalist. Are you eating enough or are you eating the same you always have. We know where that has gotten you, nowhere when it comes to adding muscle. If we don’t have the protein intake needed for our muscles to grow, they won’t! Personally, I’d rather be on the side of too many calories than not enough. Once you hit that point of knowing you are consuming too much, you can always scale back.

Enjoy it. I always think this sounds funny when I say it, I love food and I love eating. If you do too, enjoy it more and get in those quality calories. If you can, keep track of the amount of protein you are consuming daily. Try to spread it around too. Don’t try to consume larger amounts of protein in fewer meals. Have that protein always available for your body to use it.

Stress ball. Relax. Yeah, I know. It’s easy for me to say, isn’t it. But it’s true. Stress can be good, it helps us react to threatening situations but if stress isn’t dealt with properly it can be detrimental to our weight gains but worse, it can be detrimental to our overall health. As westerners I think we missed the boat on how to deal with stress, and how to relax. I don’t think meditation gets the respect it should. Hopefully it will now that the technology exists to show the benefits of meditation.

We all need more. Sleep. That’s it. As simple as the word, it really is that simple. You will want to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night so the body can rebuild, become stronger, become bigger. That is the goal, right? If you aren’t sleeping, why is that? Do you know? Can you do something about it, maybe the previous point can help? Getting the proper amount of sleep can be tough, I know this because I am there myself. What can you do? Some say if you are going to eat before bed time, eat foods high in protein (a plus) and fat because this will regulate your blood sugar and prevent a rise in blood sugar possibly impacting your ability to fall asleep. When lying there in bed, breathe in through the nose and exhale out of your mouth, nice and slowly. This rhythmic breathing can help to relax the mind and body.

By no means do I pretend to have the solution. I wish I did.

Playback. Are you keep a log of what it is you are doing? No, why not! How is it you know what you did last week, or what you did the last workout? Are you resting the proper amount of time between sets, are you lifting more that the last workout, do you know what you did yesterday? Besides being a great motivator, a log helps you get the most out of your workouts be knowing what you did previously, and letting you know what it is you need to do today. Recording what it is you are doing, number of sets, number of reps, rest, amount  of weight helps you stick to the program and will help you get there quicker. It also allows you to review what you did against what you were supposed to do and make changes if necessary.

Also, a few weeks in you can look back at week one of your log and marvel at the progress you have made.

I wish

I don’t have the pill, I don’t have the magical answers. I wish I did. I can only provide recommendations to you to help you achieve your goal. There is one thing I will say that I think is probably the most important. If you take only one thing away from reading this, take this: Believe in yourself. Know that you can do it. Why? Because you can! I know you and I know what you can do, and you can do this. Don’t ever doubt it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

虎穴に入らずんば虎子を得ず。

Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu

No pain no gain. Words to live by, right? It depends. It depends when the pain happens. We need to experience pain from working out but that pain needs to be later, not during the workout. If we aren’t experiencing pain after the workout, we have not challenged our muscles significantly for them to grow and become stronger. What about during the workout?

Injury

Experiencing pain during a workout is your body telling you to stop, right away. The pain you are experiencing is because you have injured yourself and if you continue to work out, you will only aggravate the injury, possibly making it worse. Stop and treat the injury.

Understanding what is it

Some people make the mistake of taking being uncomfortable as being in pain, and tend to stop because of being uncomfortable. I’ve written a few posts on the power of the mind, and this is a case of the person become defeated by the mind. Being uncomfortable is not fun, most people prefer not to be. But we need to be uncomfortable to realize any gains from working out. You need to learn the difference between being in pain, a pain that is muscular or skeletal and being uncomfortable. If you never do, you will never experience the gains you are looking for.

What kinds

Muscular pain can be a pulled muscle, or worse a torn muscle. You can also experience injury of the connective tissues, the tendons. With these types of injuries you should follow the rule of RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Rest. Stop what you are doing and get yourself somewhere comfortable. Relax and enjoy some downtime. Ice. Put ice on for 15 minutes and then remove for 15 minutes. Do this until swelling has gown down. You can make your own flexible ice pack by putting water and rubbing alcohol into a zip lock bag and throw it in the freezer. Or you can use a bag of frozen veggies. Compression. Use a tensor bandage to add compression. Elevation. Keep the injured area higher than the heart. If after a while you still have swelling, or are concerned about the injury, see a doctor.

Injuries to our skeletal system such as a fracture, break, or sprang should also follow the RICE rule. Again, if swelling remains or you are concerned about the injury, see a doctor.

If you have experienced any of these injuries you need to let that area recover. Give it the rest it needs. Coming back and training that area too soon can lead to extending the time to recover to 100%, or could lead to a more serious injury of the area. If you are someone who needs to workout, see what options you have that remove that injured area from the workout. See a personal trainer for ideas if you need to. An injured foot is a great time to train the core. An injured arm could be a great time to train the legs. Be flexible in ideas as to what you can do. But give the injured area rest.

Smart

Training smart. I always say it. Training smart will result in getting more out of your workout, and lessening any chronic aches and pains you may experience down the road. Train hard, hard enough that you do feel the muscles aching the following day, or two. That’s the pain you are striving to capture.

Listen to your body. Respect your body. Love your body and it will love you back.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Of all the words of mice and men

It’s not for the things you’ve done, it’s the things you haven’t done.

You have read the mission and you have accepted it. It might have seemed somewhat daunting, but you knew you were up for it. It’s something you have been wanting to do and have been having trouble doing it, or getting the anticipated results. But this time it’s different, this time it’s going to happen.

Where are we

About a week and half ago I wrote an article on what you can do to gain 5lbs of muscle in 4 weeks. I laid out things to do, and things not to do. Some of them easy, some of them more challenging. Things like getting an adequate amount of sleep. Yeah, we all wish this was easy to do. Getting the right amount, or even too much protein can be tough too. But I don’t want to talk about these things necessarily.

It’s been 11 days! Well, eleven since I wrote the post. Where are you in project five lbs? 4 days, a week, or 11 days? How are you making out? Have you been weighing yourself? If you have, relax if you haven’t gained weight yet. The body may not necessarily respond right away. It might take two weeks to see an increase of 2 or 3 lbs. The worst thing you could do is start to worry. When we worry, or create stress our body responds by releasing cortisol, a hormone that can be harmful if we don’t handle the stress correctly and do away with it. Don’t sabotage the work you have been doing.

Keep going

If you have hit a stumbling block, don’t quit! Keep going. Push out your date if you have to. Reevaluate that roadblock and put together a plan to deal with it in the future. It’s not the end of the world (that stress thing again). Instead, focus on the positive things you have been doing. Feel good about them. You should.

A slice in

It’s a small slice in time to see what you can do when training specifically, for a specific goal. Try to manage things so you are able to keep on track.

If it’s late, and you haven’t worked out, do it anyway. Once you are into it you’ll feel better and you’ll feel better afterwards, nah, you’ll feel fantastic because there won’t be any guilt! You’ll then go into the next day carrying that high you felt from your workout. Believe me, it’s a great feeling.

But don’t sit there contemplating it. Sometimes you have to say f*ck it, and just get it done. That’s it.

4,3,2…

Week 4 will be here in no time. Fly by just like that. Welcome that week with that 5 lbs. of muscle on your frame. Who knows what comes after that. I’m thinking another 5.

Yours in health

Darryl

Hold hold the light that fixes you in time

Finding out who we really are.

You’ve been with your trainer for about 2 to 4 weeks and you’re contemplating cutting the cord. Ahh, the pain, how dare you! Ok, I will get over it. Being a personal trainer I know I’ll have clients that need me there every workout, and I know I’ll have clients that don’t. That’s fine. I’m not in the group that feel everyone needs a personal trainer every workout. So you are ready. You feel that you are ready to work out on your own. You have your schedule, your exercises and you are confident you have the technique down.

But you are a little hesitant. There are questions on your mind. Will you be able to perform as well without your trainer being there to push you? Will you remember how to do every exercise you were shown? Will you remember all the nuances?

All valid concerns.

It comes down to

I think it can be said that if you are someone who needs to be pushed, who isn’t a self motivator when it comes to exercising, you may want to rethink the decision to start out on your own without a trainer. A personal trainer plays many roles, one of them being a motivator. The motivation can come in the form that you are paying for their services so you want to get your monies worth, or your trainer knows what to say and do to get the most out of you. Probably the latter, I hope so since that should be happening.

There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s ok to have to have someone there to push you. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.

The art

Technique is another area that a trainer services are invaluable. Improper technique can lead to short term or long term injury. Some people pick up proper technique fairly quickly, just like some people learn to ride  a bike fairly quickly. If you aren’t one of those people be sure you talk with your trainer. Your trainer should be able to tell you that she or he is comfortable in you doing your workouts on your own, and that your technique is satisfactory. If your trainer has concerns they should be voicing them. If you choose to ignore those concerns that could be a risky decision.

Something you can do to help you understand the proper technique for the exercises you are doing is to ask questions. Remember, you are responsible for your health and well being, not your trainer. If you aren’t asking questions when your trainer is there you are passing up a great opportunity to better understand technique. Questions such as ‘where do I keep my elbow?’, ‘should I lean forwards or backwards’, ‘what if I can do more reps when I hit the number I’m supposed to do?’. If you can’t think of anything to ask when doing the exercises, try to think of questions after the workout when you are home and can reflect on the workout. There aren’t any stupid questions, well, there is. The question that doesn’t get asked. No one is going to ask the questions for you, it’s up to you.

Move forward

So how do you know your workouts are working now that you are on your own? A journal is a great way to keep track of your progress. Keep track of weight used, number of repetitions, number of sets. If running keep track of time and distance, elevation if running on a treadmill. Also enter into your journal how you feel during and right after your workout.

When working cardio by running, biking, etc., the length of time it takes you to get your resting heart rate back is a good indicator of your fitness. If your heart rate returns to resting in around 1 minute you are doing really well.

Keeping a journal of these things will allow you to see if you are progressing, plateauing, or regressing. If you find a couple of weeks go by and you aren’t making any progress it might be the right time to call your personal trainer and talk about a reengagement.

No right or wrong

It’s alright to use a personal trainer bits at a time. A personal trainer does not have to be a year long commitment, for most of us. Understand your needs and goals and if you are meeting them than that’s great. That’s the goal, isn’t it?

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

A little death…

The mind can be powerful, and the mind can be weak. It can propel us to unimagined heights or it can make us feel like a loser. Sometimes the outcome, or how we feel, can be determined by what we do before a large event, or before an event that requires the mental strength.

Why

We have to take ourselves to that place where our mind will quit, or we will not be successful. We have to do this in order to grow. If we never take ourselves there, we end up becoming stagnant, or we end up plateauing. Taking ourselves there also gives us motivation. How many times have you surprised yourself by accomplishing more than you thought you would because you went pass that point your brain told you to stop. It felt really good, didn’t it. In fact, it felt great. You will never know what you can accomplish if you quit at that first moment the thought enters your mind, ‘this hurts, this feels uncomfortable, I want to stop’. We cannot go on living in our comfort zone. We are more than this. We need to grow. We need to be satisfied. We need to break out of that zone so we can grow, so we can become what we are supposed to be. If you don’t take that chance, you will always regret it. Won’t you?

Caution

Having said that, we need to be aware that that voice we hear, telling us to stop is not there for no reason. If we are pushing ourselves to the point that we could do physical damage to our body, the voice is there to get us to quit before we could do damage to our body, specifically our organs. If you  have never run more than 3km’s, and decided to run a marathon at a time under 4 hours, it might be a good idea to listen to that voice. You haven’t prepared your body for this type of event and the voice telling you to quit is probably right.

Be prepared

So what can we do to minimize the impact of this voice and continue our workout, our event or whatever it is you are doing when your brain starts to question what it is you are doing.

 

  • Be prepared – I like to use the analogy of having an exam to write. I know with myself, I am much more nervous if I feel I’m not prepared, I didn’t study enough. If I have put in enough study time, I go into the exam feeling confident, and not as nervous (there’s always some nervousness, it is an exam). If you are competing in a big event such as a marathon, or tough mudder, try to include into your prep something that mimics what it is you are doing. For example, if your event is a marathon, be sure to include a distance run that is about 90% the length of the marathon. This way you will go in to the event confident knowing that you only have to run that 10% more than your longest run in training. You’ve eliminating the unknown which can lead to fear.

 

  • Nutrition – Make sure you are properly fueled. If you aren’t, you will exhaust yourself so much sooner, and this can lead to a drop in confidence and motivation leading to our friend the brain telling us to stop much sooner than you should be. Be sure to eat a couple of hours before your workout and try to have something high in carbs about 30 minutes before hand, something such as a banana or an orange. If your workout is intense, and lasts more than 60 minutes you may also want to replenish your glycogen stores by consuming something high in carbs such as dates, or figs. You can even try the gels that runners use. This will keep you going and lessen that voice telling you to quit and give in.

 

 

  • The zone – Time to stop thinking about yourself, about the pain, about the fatigue. Try to think of something, anything else besides the work you are doing. You should find that your mind gets focused on this instead of the workout. I’ll do this when I’m running, I’ll think about the workout I need to put together for class, or I’ll think about my next blog post. Before I know it, I’ve completed about half my run. If the mind is busy with other things, it won’t be focused on everything that comes with the workout.

 

  • Feedback – We do need to listen to our body when working out, we can’t totally ignore it. But, we need to listen to the important things. Finding yourself more tired than normal may be your body telling you that you need to consume some carbs. If you feel pain don’t ignore it! Pain during a workout is never a good thing. Typically that means you have injured yourself. Pain after a workout such as muscle pain is ok since this means you have been successful in creating micro tears in your muscle fiber which now need to be repaired. This is what leads to increased strength and muscle growth.

 

Do you want it

You desire it, but do you really want it? It would be great if we could just take a pill and just like that our cardio would be top notch, or we just added 10 lbs of muscle. Or would it be great? If you are someone who trains regularly, leaves your workout exhausted and sweaty, feel good about that because 70% of everyone else are doing nothing. Then there are those who do something but really will never see any gains because they never get out of their comfort zone.

I know you want it. I know this because you are hear reading this, reading my blog and I like to think I’m honest in what I say in my posts. If you keep coming back to read more, you are probably someone who wants to get the most they can out of life. Do it then. Don’t give in. You know what you want, go out there an grab onto it. You’ll embrace it with open arms knowing it’s right.

Yours in health,

Darryl

five

I don’t know my right from left

Working hard and not gaining muscle? Frustrated? Thinking you’ll never gain anymore muscle? Absolutely it can be frustrating to put everything into your workout but not make any gains. It’s hopeless isn’t it. You’re going to stay at this weight forever. Unless you change what it is you are doing.

Five

Five pounds. Five pounds of muscle in 4 weeks. How would you feel if you added five pounds of muscle onto your body? I’m thinking you’ll feel awesome and you’ll be surprised that you were able to add muscle.

It can be done. It’ll be hard work, dedication, and sticking to a schedule but I know you can do it. And the four weeks will go by so fast it won’t seem like an inconvenience at all.

Plan

So what can be done in four weeks? What needs to be done that I haven’t already been doing? Let me lay it out for you and see if you have been doing some of these things that have been negatively impacting your growth.

Reps. How many repetitions are you doing when working out? 10, 15, 20? Are you doing so many reps because you want to work harder? That’s ok, but by doing a high amount of repetitions, your body will not add the muscle you are looking to add. Instead of doing higher reps, lower the amount of reps and increase the amount of sets to add muscle. Stick between 4 to 8 reps and increase the amount of sets to 4 – 8 based on the number of sets you would like to do. Higher reps do work your muscles but it will not facilitate the adding on of muscle.

Failure. Are you stuck in the world of numbers? The program says to do 8 to 12 reps, and you get to 12 and stop. Could you have done more? Yes? Than you need to add weight so when you get to the maximum rep you are fatigued and have to reach in deep to pull off that final rep. Your muscles respond better and will grow when worked to failure.

Progression. Try to add weight every workout. It can be a small amount of weight; 2.5, 5lbs based on the activity you are doing. Let’s look at the bench press. If you are benching 100lbs, 5lbs is 5% of the weight you are currently using. The benefit is it’s a small increase, your body will respond due to working harder to work with this weight and you are making gains! If anything it’s a boost to your self esteem and could help keep you motivated.

Sleep. What is the easiest thing you can do to add muscle? Yeah, sleep. Although it’s easy to do, it may be hard to get it. But let’s try for four weeks. Shoot for 8 hours every night if you can. During sleep your body produces more human growth hormone then during the day when you are awake. This is also when your muscles are repairing from the stress you’ve put them through during your workout.

I know it can be hard to get eight hours of sleep. We have to work, than we have things we need to get done when we come home from work. And what if you can’t get to sleep? Try these things and see if it helps. Leave your electronics out of the bedroom. Just the light off of electronic devices can interfere with sleep. If you tend to snack in the evening, snack on something that is high in protein such as almond butter, peanut butter or have a protein shake. This helps to regulate your blood sugar and could lead to a deep sleep. Breathe in deeply through your nose then release by breathing out of your mouth. This should help in calming the body and mind. But there is one thing you don’t want to do, don’t stress out if you are having troubles sleeping. Stress if not released is not healthy for us as it produces cortisone, the stress hormone. We need this hormone for the fight or flight reaction when the situation calls for it but if we don’t react either way, our body will continue to produce cortisone which is detrimental to our health.

Eating. I’m going to call this the second easiest thing to do. And who doesn’t love to eat. How many calories are you consuming daily? Don’t know? You need to find out, and write it down. Keep track over a couple ‘normal’ days to see what your caloric intake is. Then add 500 calories to your day. Ideally you want to consume these calories by eating protein rich foods. Peas, quinoa, tofu are foods all high in protein. If you think about the process of adding muscle by breaking down the muscle you have, and then the body repairs the muscle adding to it, how would it do this without the adequate amount of protein? Also, if you have been maintaining the same body weight even though you are active, adding 500 calories should result in weight gain regardless. And that’s the whole idea of this post.

What you don’t want to do is snack on processed carbs. Eating processed carbs will increase your blood sugar causing your body to create more insulin to counter the increase in blood sugar which can lead to disease due to inflammation. If your 500 calories are going to be partially comprised by carbs, stick to complex carbs such as sweet potatoes, whole fruits, or whole grains.

All for $19.99

I don’t know what else to say other than that’s it. Low reps, more calories, sleep, overloading.

Four weeks. 28 days. How fast did your last four weeks go by? I’m thinking fast. Look at each day on it’s own. Live only in that day. For four weeks take each day as a separate unit. There is no tomorrow, there is only today. Then deal with tomorrow tomorrow. Then do the same. That’s all you can do. By living in each day you will find that tomorrow doesn’t matter and you will achieve what you wanted for that day. If you look too far ahead it can become overwhelming and you could lose focus.

Tomorrow will always be there.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

but I’ll get around it

A river in a time of dryness, a harbour in the tempest.

The bag of salted peanuts, chips, chocolate. The thought comes into your mind that you really want some. You dismiss the thought only to have it come back about 5 or 10 minutes later. This time it’s much stronger. You can taste the food, you want it so bad. But you resist the craving and hold off. Ok , it’s no  use, I’m grabbing the food as fast as I can. It’s not so much that I like the food and that’s why I need to have it, it’s I have to have it, I WANT it.

Cravings can be so powerful and can virtually leave us at their mercy. You can’t think of anything else but the food you are craving. Salt, sugar are the most common cravings.

Powerful

Cravings don’t seem to happen all the time either. It can come on all of a sudden and nothing else matters other than satisfying that craving. Weeks may go by without a craving but all of a sudden it’s there, knocking at the door of your mind. Why? Why is it that cravings happen randomly like that and isn’t the same as craving water when you are thirsty.

Why

Wanting food, or craving food is different than liking food. It can seem like a life or death decision, if I don’t satisfy this craving, I’m going do die. It can be that strong.

A leading theory is that based on the craving, your body could be lacking minerals, hormones, or have an underlying health issue. I want to look at the common cravings and what they might mean.

Salt. You are a craver of all things salty. Salty popcorn, salty nuts, pretzels. Yeah, love the salt. You crave salt so much you are thinking about going to a farm surplus store to pick up some salt licks. One study concluded that craving salt may be due to a diet low in calcium. The theory is calcium temporarily increases calcium levels in the blood tricking the body into thinking the low calcium issue has been resolved. But, in other studies, the results showed that craving salt may be due to low iron, calcium, and potassium.

Carbs. I’m excluding really sweet foods such as chocolate, ice cream, etc. Carbs such as snack crackers, chips, potatoes are a common craving. If you look at typical snack foods, they are primarily carbs. And if you look at what people mostly snack on, it’s mostly carbs. The theory is that carbs stimulate the release of serotonin. Serotonin is the feel good hormone. If you are feeling low, have some carbs. Carbs are basically anti depressants packaged up as food. I believe that is why most people snack on carbs. If protein had the same affect, most snack foods would be rich in protein.

Sugar. Sweet sugar. Yes, sugar is a carbohydrate but when I mean sugar, I mean really sweet food such as chocolate bars, donuts, pop. We are now getting into the area of drugs in that studies have shown that consuming sugar has the same affect on the brain as doing cocaine or heroine. Going even further, Dr. Lustig, a leading expert on the affects of sugar suggests it be regulated the same as cigarettes. But, sugar cravings can also be due to other issues going on such as thyroid issues, a yeast infection, high stress in so much that your adrenal glands are working overtime.

Foundation

You have a wall in your house and it keeps cracking. You patch the crack and a day, or week later the crack is there again. You patch it again and once more it comes back. You could do this for the next year and the result will be the same. Why? Until you fix the faulty foundation your house has, the crack will always be there because the foundation is the issue, not the wall.

Address the underlying issue and your cravings may go away. But keep in mind too that cravings are not the end of the world as long as it’s a moderate craving.

If you feel your craving may be due to lacking minerals or a hormonal imbalance, get these things checked out by our doctor. I’m a proponent of getting blood work done and looking at all vitamin and mineral levels to ensure they are at adequate levels. I usually have this done every six months.

Relax

Address the underlying issue of the craving. You may still get the odd craving but don’t get worked up about it. Unless, you are the one with salt licks located throughout the house.

Yours in health,

Darryl