The physics of perception

And the world will continue to revolve…

There are a lot of things that impact our performance. Some of these things benefit you when they have been done well before the event, things such as recovery from your workouts, getting enough sleep, your diet and some of these things need to happen at the time and during the event. Things such as hydration, and fuel.

I want to add another to the list of things you can do during your event that will help you tremendously, at least I have found this out myself.

What

Intense exercise

It took me a while to find this one out, and I’m kind of glad I found out myself because I experienced it and when I experienced it that light went off in my brain, ‘Holy shit, what just happened?’ is what my brain said.

I’ve been training in martial arts, particularly karate now for almost 12 years. But don’t look at it in the sense of 12 calendar years. I pretty much live in the dojo, probably putting in about 16 – 25 hours a week almost every week over those 12 years. Not all training, but a combination of training and teaching. You learn a lot by teaching be it teaching a group of students or individuals. You see how others move at each level of proficiency and you understand how you move your own body. Things that you do can make more sense and you can see the way you used to move your body when you are teaching someone of less experience. I find it an enlightening experience.  It makes your own martial arts that much better.

But it takes time doing the same things over and over for this growth to happen. Like many students, whenever we run through the syllabus of kata it can be a very tiring experience, sometimes taking up to 2 hours to complete. It’s really tiring when you are a lower belt and are giving it 100% the whole time, and I mean the whole time. Muscles constricted pretty much all the time, slowing you down and exhausting you. But you haven’t yet learned how to move efficiently and also move like the ebb and flow of a tide.

But then it happened. The light went off. It was a Saturday black belt class, the dead of winter, I even think it was snowing that day. I didn’t really want to be there that day but there I was. Tired, suffering from dead of winter depression I knew I had to be there and I had to perform as being head instructor I cannot just not perform and be a poor example to my students.  I lined up with my fellow karateka and I told myself to just stay relaxed and only put effort into each individual move itself, not 100% from beginning to end. And that’s what I did. Low block fast and intense, but then relax right away. Inside block fast and intense, but then relax, immediately. I did this for every kata, only being explosive and only contracting muscles when I moved to execute the move. Everything else was just staying relaxed.

I remember having to hold a stance for a long time as my Sensei talked about the move we just did and I remember telling myself to just breathe, relax, and all I did was focus on my breathing:

in, slowly, deeply

out, slowly, deeply

Sometimes I would close my eyes as I did this letting calmness become what I felt instead of anxiousness.

What will you see?

I did this kata after kata after kata. And I could feel the difference. I wasn’t nearly sweating as much as I would have. Ask anyone that knows me, I’m kind of known for my sweatyness. My heart rate wasn’t racing like it usually does. It worked. Although tired, depressed, and usually anxious when training I got through the two hours without feeling like death. You may not know how huge this was/is for me. I’ve done many belt tests, kata reviews and usually am exhausted afterwards. My brown belt test went from 5:30 to 9pm on a Friday night and you could have rung out my Gi and filled a bucket I sweated that much. Did I know the benefits of relaxing? I thought I did but I couldn’t put it to practice I guess. Like a lot of times we know what we need to do but we don’t always do it. Sometimes it takes circumstances, or time for these things to happen, for the light bulb to go off.

The Mind

It makes sense though. It requires fuel to contract muscle in the form of glucose and oxygen. The more fuel we use the more our blood needs to circulate to provide that fuel to our muscles and the faster our breathing gets and we then get tired. Of course your level of fitness ties into this. The more fit you are the less the heart has to work as one heart beat will deliver more blood to the muscles. But your fitness level is your fitness level going into the event. You can’t change that when you get up that morning and decide your are going to increase your fitness level by 20%.

But, the mind. The mind can be changed, or altered that morning and during the event. You are able to tell yourself to breathe deep and long. You are able to close your eyes and listen to your lungs expand, contract, and the air leaving your mouth. If the mind is not calm and relaxed your heart rate will increase. We all know what happens to our body when we nearly get into an automobile accident having to break hard and suddenly to avoid something. We get that copper taste in our mouth, our heart starts racing, palms get sweaty. These stimuli are processed by our brain and we react. How we react is up to us. This is one benefit of sparring. If you have ever sparred you probably remember the first time, having to stand across from someone who wanted to punch you in the face. Anxiousness, nerves, fear, our breathing intensified and even though the round was 2 minutes we were sweaty and tired. But, after many many sparring sessions you are calmer, generally more relaxed. You’ve been here before and you know what to expect. It’s still the same event as the first time you sparred but through experience you no longer get worked up. Any professional who deals with these things all the time; bouncer, cop, firefighter will tell you the same thing. The core events, or experiences have not changed but the person who is experiencing them have. The mind, or brain is not treating these things the same as it used to.

It’s like the saying ‘It’s all in your head’. Well, in this case it is.

Finally

Be calm, breathe deep, relax and tell yourself these things constantly, every moment you can. There’s an old Zen expression, ‘Mushin’, mind without mind, no mind. Think of it as ignoring everything; the person next to you, the sound in the room, someone talking, the sweat on your brow. Think of only calmness.

You can’t change the stimulus coming at you, you have no control over that. But, you can change how you react to it. This is all up to you.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Indulging in my self-defeat

Overtraining can be just as detrimental to our fitness gains and overall health as missing training, or some may argue, even more so. Overtraining can cause lack of muscle / strength growth, sickness, lethargy, and can also cause lack of enthusiasm.

What

Adding resistance

Overtraining is when your training has exceeded the body’s ability to recover. You can also think of overtraining as chronic fatigue, burnout, and overstress. If for a period of two weeks for unexplained reasons your performance has dropped, it can be that you are overtrained.

Let’s look at common symptoms of overtraining:

      • Persistent fatigue: don’t confuse this with the tired feeling that comes from hard training that day. This is the sluggishness, dragging your butt feeling you get even though you have gotten enough sleep/rest.
      • Elevated resting heart rate: Another reason to where a heart rate monitor. I’m assuming you haven’t abandoned your fitness program so that’s not why your resting heart rate has climbed back up.
      • Depression
      • Irritability
      • Increased injuries: when the body doesn’t have adequate time/nutrition to recover this happens
      • Delayed recovery: you haven’t taken a long break from working out but you start to notice that muscle soreness is lasting longer than normal

How

Does this look like you? Are you overtrained? Alright then, let’s look at what we can do to address this and hopefully prevent it from occurring again. It may never occur again, but if you are aware of the symptoms than you’ll be ready to address it.

whole foods plant based

Calories: I’m listing this first because I feel it’s often overlooked as the reason and also it’s simple to address. Unless you are an elite athlete, and by elite I mean you are competing professionally, you probably have no idea how many calories you are consuming daily. The fact is the harder you exercise, the more you exercise the more calories you need. And how do you know you are getting more? Weight gain is a good indicator but unless you are monitoring your weight weekly you may not notice. I like the idea of defining a baseline. Take a ‘normal’ day and measure everything you consume and then calculate the calories. If this is a representation of a normal day then you have a good idea of calories in. Then, calculate your RMR (resting metabolic rate). RMR is the amount of calories your body needs to live. Right, to live. This is the amount of calories you need to lay in bed and do nothing. This does not take into account physical activity at all. Now, take the amount of calories you have consumed in a given day and compare this to your RMR. Your calories consumed should be higher. If not, I don’t know how you are still here because RMR is the requirement just to sustain life.

Now, look at an average day of exercise and google the amount of calories required to complete those exercises based on duration and your sex, age, etc. Add that to your RMR. Now, take everything else such as walking, house chores, everything else other than sleep or sedentary activities. Look up the caloric consumption for these things. Add them to your RMR.

Now compare the total of RMR + workout calories + other calories to the calories you have consumed and where do you end up? If your calories consumed are lower than RMR plus the other calories you burned than this could be why you are overtrained. I know this may seem like a lot of work to calculate but you need to do this.

A simpler method is to weigh yourself weekly and keep that history and compare it to your workout log that you have also been keeping. Another benefit of keeping logs. If you have been steadily working out for let’s say the last month, and all other things are pretty much the same, and you have not put on weight despite resistance training; really pushing yourself; experiencing muscle soreness; knowing you have been working hard then YOU ARE NOT CONSUMING ENOUGH CALORIES.

Try it. eat more nutrient dense calories for 1 week. Not junk food, none at all. This is your test to see if this addresses any notion of overtraining and also will provide your body with what it needs/wants to repair the damage done and to also build muscle. Without nutrient dense foods, and eating too much junk foods, the body is not getting what it needs to repair itself and potentially build muscle. Try it. One week. One week to eat as much as you want of high quality whole foods that are plant based. Beans, lentils, greens, whole grains and rice. You know what I mean. But before you do this weigh yourself a couple times that day and take the average weight.

Now, one week later. You did it. You ate more than normal. And hopefully you feel better. Now go weigh yourself a few times this day and take the average. You should see a slight weight gain. If you don’t and if you see a weight loss than you are not eating enough. Maybe some things came up and interfered with your plan. Try extending another week to see if you notice a change. Just as a point of reference, there are professional athletes who are consuming well above 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day just to maintain their training weight.

Lastly, be sure to do this if you are competing in an upcoming event. Just like tapering, you will want to make sure your body has the nutrients it needs that week or two before to be ready for a beat down so it can repair the damage and build on muscle and strength.

If you don’t see any positive changes after two weeks then I would recommend you see your doctor.

Sleep: Makes sense, right? The body uses sleep to repair damage done to it. But it needs to be quality, uninterrupted sleep. It can be tough to get this but try to make it a priority. You will feel better both physically and mentally. If you find on your days off you feel like your legs are twice as heavy as they usually are, and that you are lacking motivation listen to your body. Rest, have a nice long nap. These are cues your body is giving you to tell you to stop and sleep. Don’t give in to guilt and ignore the cues. Be reasonable and if you have had a busy week, worked out hard then take the break and let the body repair itself.

Finally

Calories, rest, output. It can be a delicate balance but it can be achievable. You can achieve what you set out to do with proper planning and measuring. A lot of money has been and is being made on taking things that have been around forever and rebranding them. Think of first principles. Put a load on the body frequently and it will grow given the right environment. Create that environment for your body and you will see the change.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

failing to plan is planning to fail

I’ve written posts on this topic in the sense of the individual things that can be done to keep on track to a goal be it your goal to lose weight, increase strength or flexibility, run a marathon, or any health related goal you may have. Keeping journals, measuring the food you eat, etc. Without a plan, how do you know if you will end up where you are trying your best to get to?

And it can be broken down into 2 parts, I think: the planning that is needed to get you there ready to rock, and the planning for the actual event itself.

Before

Don’t underestimate preperation

If it’s a sanctioned event such as a marathon, 10k run or something similar where these things happen all the time, all around the world than there should be a wealth of information available to help you plan to get ready for this event. Blogs, podcasts are plentiful for these events with lots of info on what you need to do to be successful and also information geared towards what can be done to complete the event in your desired duration.

If what your event is not a standard event such as above, try to find something similar. If you are participating in an event that is 5 hours long and thus classified as an endurance event than try to find something similar. You could probably equate this to a marathon, or maybe even  a triathlon. Use training information for these events to help with your planning.

The lead up

I recently wrote a post on this. Taking it easy for the week or two weeks before your event. Seems contradictory that you’ve worked so hard to get ready for your event that you would take it easy leading up to the event. How could that help you out? With hard training comes many demands on the body. Muscles breaking down, less time for the body to recover due to lack of rest/sleep, running an oxygen deficit.

EPOC. Do you know the word? I sometimes make the mistake of forgetting that something I understand doesn’t mean that others understand it. Let’s take EPOC as an example, Excess Post exercise Oxygen Consumption. In simple terms, when your exercise routine consists of high intense interval training you put your body in a state of oxygen deficit. Hard to believe when we breathe in oxygen all the time. If fact, this oxygen deficit can last up to 30 hours! This is 30 hours of time that you will not perform at your best. You will perform fine, but not at your best, and you want to be your best, you want kill this event and have that feeling that you killed it. Nothing like a big confidence booster knowing you did your best and your best is the best you’ve ever been.

So I guess my point is you need to take it easy that last week or two so you are in optimal condition to do this. This doesn’t mean you stop everything, it means working at a moderate pace so you are still moving and still active but the intensity is less, about 60% of what you are used to. Also since you will be burning less calories due to the lesser work load, you shouldn’t worry about running a calorie deficit. You might even see some gains in muscle size and strength because of this. And if you aren’t sure you are eating enough, consume more food as long as it’s not processed.

And don’t worry. Don’t worry about working less than you have been. You’ve put in the hard work the last number of months and now is the time to slow down and let the body recover so it’s 100% ready.

The day

The fire inside

Well, actually I’ll start on the day before. Try to do what you normally do. What I mean is don’t just sit around the house. Try to keep moving, eat well and if the opportunity is there, do what it is you are planning to do the next day. This keeps the body moving, lubricated, prevents injury due to lack of movement, keeps the mind busy and will also help you settle down that night and get a good night’s sleep. Consume whole foods that are plant based, drink plenty of water so you have your fuel tank full and are also fully hydrated. Pack up the gear you need for tomorrow instead of doing this in the morning. Double check that you have everything you need packed. And err on the side of caution. Better to have too many gels, electrolytes, and food then coming up short. Now is the time to make sure everything is ready to go, not in the morning where if you can’t find something this will bring on undue stress and is not a good way to start the day of your event.

When the morning comes, be sure to eat a quality breakfast. Steel cut oats with berries on top is a really good choice. The oats and berries will give you the carbs and the fiber will also slow down digestion and ensure you have the fuel you need. Try not to load up on protein as you need carbs to fuel you. Protein will come later, after the event to help rebuild the damage that has been done.

While you are waiting to leave for your event, as your breakfast digests, visualize yourself completing this event as you want to complete it. In your mind picture yourself being the best ever, no mistakes, perfection, poetry in motion. This might be the hardest thing to do for you. We all have doubts about ourselves and often times this is the voice we listen to in our head. We push out the voice that says you did well, the voice that says you are awesome and amplify the voice that says you could have done better, you sucked at that, you were awful and don’t deserve this.

Why is it ok to tell ourselves these things but not ok to say the same things to someone else? Why is it we are so good at disrespecting ourselves? Self criticism is OK if it’s constructive but it becomes damaging when it is not based on reality but instead is driven by other reasons, reasons which are usually emotionally based and thus not constructive. Trust me on this one, I know. I struggle with this all the time and I think I always will.

And when the time comes, and you are an hour, two, three into your event keep telling yourself this: You do deserve this, You can do this, You are incredible and You will do this. Mistakes will happen but don’t dwell on them. Forget them right away. The more you pay attention to them the more you will break down the positivity you have built. Set milestones for the event be it time based or event based. As you complete each milestone, remind yourself that you are doing this, you are in it for good!

I know, it’s all bullshit, right? Woo woo bullshit. But why is it we throw out the food that was left out too long and has mold on it. Why not eat it? Because it’s poison and will make us sick, possibly even kill us. Then why do we let ourselves consume poison food for our mind? Throw that poison in the garbage and eat the positive food. As I’ve said before, the mind will quit before the body will. Keep your mind as strong as it can be.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

into the echo chamber

Your time is valuable and should not be wasted. With that, I give you myths and mistruths that for some reason have shown a great amount of longevity. It’s time for that to stop.

So with that, here we go:

  • Spot reduction of fat: Myth. It cannot be done. This is a common one mainly perpetuated by people doing ab work to get that six pack. Sorry to disappoint but doing a bunch of ab work to get rid of that fat around you belly will not make it disappear quicker. If you do a lot of ab work, along with eating a whole foods plant based diet then you will get there, but not because of the ab work alone, that’s just using up calories. The fat you eat is the fat you wear. Based on your body type the fat will deposit where it wants to, with women mainly in the hips and butt, and with guys usually the belly. That’s just the way it is. So the same goes for these area’s. You can’t target specific areas of your body with exercise to remove fat from that area. By eating correctly and exercising correctly the fat will come off and eventually will also leave those places you want it gone, eventually. But always remember, your overall health is much more important than where you might have some fat. Focus on health and well being, not just looks.
  • Fat burning zone: I haven’t heard this for a while up until a few weeks ago. The ‘fat burning zone’ was huge about 10 – 12 years ago. Is there such a thing, a fat burning zone? Yes, in the sense that when exercising at a lower heart rate, let’s say a moderate intensity, the body tends to use more fat as a preferred fuel. Not exclusively but it does use fat. The problem is that’s about it. It does not increase the amount of fat used post exercise and doesn’t really do anything to raise your resting metabolic rate. And you have to exercise for a much longer duration to burn the fat you want to. Comparing this to a high intensity interval workout where the primary fuel is glycogen the body will still not use as much fat. With a high intense interval workout the body uses both glycogen and fat for fuel but the big benefit is afterwards the body uses fat as fuel to help replenish the oxygen consumed (EPOC). Sometimes this can take up to 36 hours depending on the intensity. Also, the resting metabolic rate is raised thus consuming more calories (fat) when resting. So why was the fat burning zone so popular? It was a great way to make money. People loved to hear that they could work out in the fat burning zone with little effort and get results. It’s a good example of the echo chamber, people love to hear positive reinforcements of their bad habits. Books, videos, magazines, etc. where sold by the thousands making people a lot of money.
  • Work abs every day: Another myth. I’m not sure if this one is still popular today but there was a time where people would work their abs every day. Sit ups, leg raises, crunches. Maybe pushups is the new ‘abs every day’. If you are already aware that you need to let your muscles rest, recover after a good workout for up to 48 hours then why would abs, or chest muscles be any different? I don’t know either but people treat them differently. Just like you wouldn’t do legs every day, don’t do ab work, or pushups every day either. Work them hard one day then let them recovery over 48 hours.
  • Protein after a workout: This is still very common. People have a tough work out, maybe an hour long, or longer. Lots of sweat, lots of work. The body is exhausted. Then, they go and down a protein shake. Believe it or not you are not doing yourself any favours, in fact you are denying your body what it needs: carbs. Most of us have only about 60 minutes of fuel in the form of glucose and glycogen in our body. This is when we are in a state where we are fully fueled, the gas tank is full. Most of us aren’t even at that state when we show up to exercise, we are already running a deficit. So why is this a problem? When you have depleted your fuel, your glycogen stores, you need to replenish them. Glucose and glycogen (the stored glucose) is needed for everything your body does: the brain and other organs functioning, walking, talking, everything including digesting food. If your body doesn’t have the glucose it needs it goes to the glycogen stores and if that is empty because you have just used it all up exercising it will then metabolize muscle tissue into glucose to fulfill it’s needs. So your body is now consuming the muscle tissue you worked so hard to build. It’s awful. So what do you do? After a tough workout consume carbs. Apples, oranges, bananas, berries or anything that is whole foods and high in carbs. I like to have a shake consisting of a banana, a cup of frozen berries (blueberries, strawberries, black berries are great), some unsweetened Almond milk, and some spinach. This gives me both the carbs my body needs to replenish my glucose deficit and also gives me protein the body needs to start the recovery process. An ideal ratio of carbs to protein is 4:1. Later, about 90 minutes I can then have a meal that is more protein focused to also help the body start the healing process. But, if you follow a whole foods plant based diet then you really not worry about this at all as you will be getting the correct ratio of carbs, proteins, fats and importantly fiber.
  • You need lots of protein: This is probably the largest myth out there. I’m not going to write too much as I already have an article on this. It comes down to money. The protein supplement industry is a multi billion dollar industry and it’s growing. Hard on our body especially when animal based, too much protein can damage the kidneys, can speed up the aging of cells and basically it is not needed. Your money can be used for better purposes then buying protein supplements. What the message should be is fiber. The lack of fiber in people’s diet is evident in the increase of cancers: colon cancer, prostrate cancer and other sicknesses. Fiber is used by the body to flush out the excess hormones and toxins we have in our body. Without enough fiber, the toxins and hormones stay in the blood and are not removed. We can do a lot in our lives to avoid toxins but we cannot get away from them. Eat any processed foods lately? What about the things you put on your body like shampoos, toothpaste, deodorant and so on. Driving, walking, just being outside we breathe in toxins. It’s really unavoidable. But having a diet low in fiber is not unavoidable. Increasing fiber will help the body in removing these toxins and hopefully help in preventing disease.

Finally

Those are only a few. If you are serious about your health and wellness it may make sense to challenge the things you do, to seek out more qualified information. There is a lot of information out there, a lot of ‘bro science’ which to me again is perpetuating the echo chamber. A good example is the JRE, the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Don’t get me wrong, I like Joe especially when it comes to Martial Arts as I don’t think there is a better colour commentator out there. But, when it comes to perpetuating misinformation I don’t think anyone reins greater than Joe. Too many times he has had guest on his show promoting Keto diet, Carnivore diet, low carb diet, carbs are bad, veganism unless done absolutely correctly will cause you health issues (veganism is more than just what you eat but yes, a ‘vegan’ diet should be done correctly but why is it always said veganism has to be done right where as a non vegan diet doesn’t?) His guests on his show spew out ‘facts’ from industry funded studies and no one challenges it. Thus more people end up harming their body, sometimes the effects not known until 20 years later and no one the wiser.

But I digress. Getting the results you want isn’t that hard, really. It takes a bit of work initially to find good sources with reliable, accurate information but once you do, it gets even easier. Book mark those sites and go back to see what else you can learn from them. After all, the choices you make are the choices you live with.

Yours in health,

Darryl