Understanding Tofu

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It’s been misunderstood, demonized and unnecessarily avoided. Tofu is an excellent source of protein and also fiber, the latter being greatly insufficient in most people’s diets.

what

So what is tofu? Tofu is a food prepared by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into solid white blocks of varying softness. High in iron, calcium, magnesium, and low in calories, it is a food that has been around for thousands of years. It’s a staple in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other southeast Asia country’s cuisine. It also comes in several forms: silken, soft, medium, firm and extra firm texture. Having a very subtle flavour, tofu will take on the flavours of the foods it is cooked with. Also because of the subtle flavour it can be used in desserts such as vegan cheesecake (no cheese needed) and remain undetectable. Just 100 grams of tofu contains 8 grams of protein, 35% of daily requirements for calcium, 30% of daily iron requirements, and has only 76 calories.

Tempeh is another way to get soy into your diet. Where tofu is prepared from soy milk, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. You’ll find tempeh more flavourful then tofu as it has a nutty profile to it.

Tofu can often get a bad wrap in cultures that associate eating meat with masculinity. Who hasn’t heard the term soy boy used to emasculate men who are on the left of political and social views. Tofu is looked at as a ‘hippie’ food while meat, especially beef, will always be used to sell beer in a commercial showing the guys getting together on the weekend. Which is ironic since a number of studies show that the higher consumption of beef can lead to the decline in testosterone levels in men while consuming tofu does not have this effect. It’s not surprising considering that when you are eating meat you are eating not just the meat you can chew but also consuming the hormones that make up the cow it came from; estrogen, and progesterone.

There is also the fear that soy consumption will increase the risk of breast cancer in women because of the levels of phytoestrogen (phyto refers to plants) but studies have shown that consuming soy reduces the risk of breast cancer and also lowers the risk of death from women whom have breast cancer. Let’s look at the following: “Researchers calculated all-cause mortality for those women diagnosed with breast cancer eating soy, or not eating soy. And those eating soy cut their risk of dying by 50%! So, not only does soy prevent breast cancer, but women with breast cancer eating soy live longer.

To get tofu into your diet it can be as easy as adding it to your stir frys, or soup (chunks of tofu in miso soup is very nice). Another option is to marinate it and put it into an air fryer. It’s very versatile. Are you vegan and miss scrambled eggs? Make yourself a tofu scramble using soft tofu while adding red pepper, onions, garlic. Key thing to remember is that tofu is comprised of a fair amount of water and you’ll want to press out that water before cooking with it.

finally

Tofu is a processed food so do not go overboard with it. It’s always a great idea to have variety with the foods we eat so treat it in that manner. And be sure to purchase only non-GMO tofu or tempeh. Embrace it, don’t be scared of it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Sometimes your best is not always your best

young asian sportswoman having rest after workout in park
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We are not the same every day. There are many things that influence how we perform day to day: recovery time, the foods we eat, quality of sleep, alcholol consumption, etc. But yet we like to see improvements day to day when working out or performing. But that isn’t really realistic, is it? It may serve us well to be in tune to what our body is telling us and to then adapt accordingly.

what

Let me relate a recent experience with you. My current running routine has one slow day a week and the remainder workouts are intervals. When doing my interval days I like to keep the speed of the fast interval at no less than the last workout. I want to see progress and I want to make sure I’m working hard so I realize the progress. But my interval workout didn’t go that way. I didn’t get enough quality sleep the night before. I knew it as I woke up feeling like I really didn’t sleep at all. I could have easily stayed in bed for another hour that morning, but that’s how bad habits start.

I arrived at the gym, jumped on the treadmill and started my warmup/run. I was able to complete my first interval without issue but it wasn’t easy. I had to push a little more than normal. It felt like I hadn’t ran in 2 weeks. Next interval the same. Then, on my 3rd interval I made the decision to dial it back a bit. I feared if I didn’t I would either injure myself as I would be extending myself and that is when form takes a hit and becomes sloppier, or I could injure myself as I could put myself into an over trained state. That can lead to injury or sickness.

3 days later after some nights of better sleep I found myself at the gym again ready for my interval training. I felt rested and good. I did my first interval running at the speed I had worked up to, and I felt great. When I hit the slow part of my interval I listened to my body to get an idea of what my perceived exertion was and it wasn’t as high as some other times. My next interval I decided to add .5 mph to the speed, the fastest I have run in quite a while. Did it and I felt great, still! Next interval my fast speed was now a 1 mph increase. I finished my run completing the fast parts of my interval at the fastest speeds yet, and I also extended my run by 5 minutes. I completed what I wanted to do, experienced growth in my performance even though a few days earlier I performed below what my average was.

Growth does not happen exponentially but more inline with a continuous S curve where we plateau and then grow. And the more we know when we are plateauing, and the more we listen to our body the shorter time we will spend at the plateau or worse, falling off of the plateau.

how

Let’s look at some tools we can use to better understand how we are progressing in our workouts.

  • Journal: I’ve written about this many times. If you don’t know what you have been doing, from the first day to the last workout, then it becomes very hard to see the growth or know if your latest workout was your best. Just like in the world we live today data in power. The more you know about your performance the better you can be for it. And you can log plenty of data: amount of sleep, workout duration, type of workout, foods consumed, current weight. All of these things can come into plan on how you perform. And if you don’t have time to keep a journal, read my next item.
  • Bio Feedback: I’m a fan and a retractor of Fitbits and other fitness bands. Why? They are great in that you can look at your stats for your workout and your day (see items above from journal) and compare to your previous workouts, you can see how well you slept and how long (these are different things) you slept, you have a readout of heart rate including resting heart rate and historical heart rates. These are all metrics that impact performance. Unfortunately  people can end up using these numbers as a way to reward themselves not fully understanding the impact of the reward. Constantly rewarding yourself by increasing your dessert intake or drink intake probably is adding that weight you are trying to lose instead of aiding in the removal of that weight. There are also newer fitness bands that are better at giving you bio feedback and will let you know what type of workout you should focus on that day: high intensity or mid to lower intensity. These type of bands take the guess work out of it. You go into your workout pretty much knowing how you will probably feel during that workout. A great tool to help you from preventing over training which can be just as bad as not training. 
  • Perceived rate of exertion: PRE, or perceived rate of exertion is a scale that allows you to assign a number to how you are feeling while you are working out. As an example, 10 is max effort and comes with the feeling of it being impossible to continue, completely out of breath, and unable to talk. 6-7 on the scale is for vigorous activity where you feel you are on the verge of becoming uncomfortable, short of breath and can speak only a sentence. On the low end, 2-3 is light activity where you feel you can go on for hours and it’s easy to carry on a conversation. Understanding where you fall in the chart when working out should help you understand your goals for that workout. Feeling really good you might be able to live in the 10 zone for 30 seconds if the workout that day is meant to be intense but take that same workout another day you may need to be in the 6-7 zone due to lack of sleep or recovery time

 

finally

The more you listen to your body, the more data presented in the right way to understand your body should result in you staying motivated, seeing the results you are working hard to achieve. Gone should be the days of a cement head attitude of ‘balls to the wall’ or ‘take no prisoners’. Now don’t conflate this with a softening attitude on my part. Do you need to work hard? Absolutely! Just what ‘hard’ is in actual measurable work can change.

Hard work is can vary day to day. It’s no different than if you go for a 2 hour run and 90 minutes in you start to have pain in your knees. You would be stupid and irresponsible to yourself to continue. How is that different than running at 8 mph when your form has gone to sh*t just because your last interval training was at 8 mph. Take down the intensity a bit for that workout. You may be able to increase the intensity next workout or the one after if your body conditions are right. Rested, had a great sleep, ate the right foods and enough of the right foods probably got you there. Your best is not always better than the last time.

Train hard but train smart! You’ll be training longer and you’ll feel better for it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Engaging Your Core for a Stronger Core

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It may not always seem like it but our core, the part of our body from our neck to our knees, is always working for us regardless of what it is we are doing. Typically we do notice this when we incur soreness in our back. That is when we realize how much our core is involved in day to day activity.

In today’s post I want to talk about what we can do to strengthen the core even when we are not focusing primarily on the core. Let’s get into it.

what

To perform even the simplest of movements we need our core to engage. And if you want to perform those things well, you will want a strong core. We probably don’t realize it when we are climbing stairs, running, punching, kicking but the core plays a vital role in those activities. And there is really no better way to develop strength when we do those things then to let the core engage.

Here’s an example. When I jump onto a treadmill at my gym often I’m waiting for the incline setting to reset back to zero. Sometimes I’m waiting almost 20 seconds as it seems like it’s set to its max (not sure what that is, maybe 10 degrees?). And I’m fine with that if the person who was using the treadmill with it at that setting was actually walking or running WITHOUT having their hands on the equipment while exercising.

disengaging the core

It’s not uncommon to see people using the treadmill while having their arms out front holding onto the machine due to the level of incline and the inability for their core to support them while executing this motion. Now, it could be said that maybe they are doing this to increase the resistance on their leg muscles. Ok, maybe. But the problem with this is that they have released their core from the responsibility of supporting their body while doing this. What you are actually doing is training your body to not be there for you when you have now put your body into that position of having a higher load on your legs. This increase of load can happen when climbing the stairs, walking outside and you face an incline, playing with your kids or grandkids, or many things where the core needs to power up and engage.

It may be a fair statement that we all have faced back pain sometime in our life, or we still do. It is usually very debilitating, painful and most times happens when doing something simple such as picking up a light box, standing, or reaching for something. And when that happens it most times has a big impact on our lives.

When we exercise and exercise with intensity, we want our core to also be firing away getting stronger. If we exclude our core from these activities by disengaging it, it won’t be there when we need it the most. If you have your hands on the treadmill when walking due to the incline you have it set at, ask yourself a question: Why is that? Is it because the incline is increased to add more resistance to your leg muscles and you are holding on for stability? If so, stop. Really, I mean it, stop and reset. Reset the incline to 1 (1 is pretty much the equivalent to walking outside and dealing with the grades of the roads) and start over. Then, raise it by 1 degree to the point that you are able to support yourself.

Let your core muscles do the supporting, not your hands. This is how the core will get stronger. You may not like the fact that you can’t have the incline as high as you want but you will get there, over time. And you will have a much stronger core because you are now giving your core the opportunity to engage and support your body throughout this exercise.

And you will get better over time. The incline will increase gradually without having to hold on and while this happens your core will strengthen. And here’s another bonus: While working out your legs you are also now engaging more muscles due to working the core which means the energy needs are greater! That means you are burning more calories, working more muscles which should also raise your resting metabolism rate. Don’t you love bonuses!

WHY

I’m a strong proponent of full body exercising. Strengthening the whole body through a full range of motion. The end result is a body that is strong when executing movements from the beginning to the end throughout the motion.

Remember that when you are tired. Remember that when you are tired and have a few more burpees to do and you figure you’ll squat down only half way. Then remind yourself why full body exercise will make you stronger no matter what position your body is in. You won’t do as many burpees but that’s not the point of exercising, to do as many reps as you can. The focus should be to do as many reps as you can while maintaining proper technique.

finally

If you aren’t sure on how to use equipment, if you are new to the fitness game, if you need some refreshing on certain movements or just need someone to motivate you don’t hesitate to engage a personal trainer. It doesn’t have to be a long term engagement, it could be as many sessions as you need to fix these things.

You will not regret it. You’ll have a better understanding of what you are doing and I bet you’ll end up enjoying your time exercising much more.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Omega-3 and Cutting Out the Middle Man, or Fish

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I’m writing this blog in hopes of educating people on Omega-3 essential fatty acid, especially with the recent celebrity news.

I am a vegan which means I morally object to the inhumane treatment of animals (veganism is a moral principle whereas following a whole foods plant based diet is not necessarily) so I get excited when celebrities such as Miley Cyrus become vegan and the positive influence that can have on a lot of people. But then I become disappointed when that celebrity goes onto arguably the worlds most listened to podcast and announces she is no longer vegan due having to get Omega-3’s from fish because ‘my brain wasn’t functioning properly‘. Shortly after she also states: ‘…and I think that I was at one point pretty malnutrition [sic]’. On the podcast Miley talks about suffering severe head trauma at the age of 2 and consuming large amounts of cannabis and mushrooms at a very young age. These are 2 important things to keep in mind. We are learning more and more about the long term effects severe head trauma can have and we also know the brain does not stop developing until approx. 25 years of age. Severe head trauma and consuming drugs at a young age can have a profound impact on how the brain develops and functions throughout the rest of your life.

This isn’t a post about Miley’s time on Joe’s podcast but I wanted to highlight some key points before I get into Omega-3’s for perspective. To me, the interesting points are that Miley talks about being malnourished, suffering severe head trauma, and consuming drugs at a young age. All things that can greatly impact brain function and health. One more thing before I move on: with all the money and resources Miley has at her disposal, there wasn’t any other option available to her? Blood work, health professionals for a diagnosis of any deficiency, Omega-3 supplements, high-end vegan dieticians, other health experts and lastly, the foods we eat. Let’s get into that.

what

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Marine algae and phytoplankton are primary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Common sources of plant oils are walnuts, edible seeds, flax seed, hemp hearts, and certain algae.

There are 3 main types of Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • ALA: alpha-linolenic acid. ALA is an essential fatty acid in that the body cannot make it. Your body can convert some ALA into EPA and then to DHA.
  • EPA: eicosapentaenoic acid. Associated with cardiovascular benefits
  • DHA: docosahexaenoic acid. Long chain Omega-3 fatty acid that aids in healthy brain maintenance

So if we look at DHA we can see it has a role on how our brain works. With respect to veganism, the controversy starts with the belief that you would need to eat very large amounts of plant based ALA (as mentioned above, the body can convert ALA to DHA) to get enough DHA. Let’s look at the following. A FDA serving of salmon has roughly about 450mg of DHA. A 3oz serving of Tuna has about 200mg of DHA. A tablespoon of flax oil has 8 grams of ALA and when using the conversion rate of 3.5% (here’s a Pubmed study that puts it at a 3.8% conversion rate) you get 300 mg of DHA right in there with the average serving of fish. If you don’t want to eat flax oil, 3 oz of Walnuts will provide the same amount of ALA -> DHA. Also, the requirement from the WHO is from 150 mg to 300 mg a day.

Some of the benefits of having Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet are: helps to reduce the development of plaque in the arteries, mental clarity, helps in fighting depression and anxiety, can fight inflammation, good for your skin and other benefits.

where

Just like how people eat animals for protein, people will eat fish for their Omega-3 needs. But there isn’t any need for this. And again, just like instead of going to the source for protein (plants) and eating animals, people aren’t going to the source (algae and phytoplankton) for Omega-3 and are eating fish instead, the fish that consumed the algae and phytoplankton.

Also, our waters have been heavily contaminated over the years. Just this week the EPA is easing restrictions on lead, mercury, and other toxic discharges from coal plants into waterways. Guess where these chemicals go: into the fat of the fish in those bodies of water.

Cut out the middle man if you will. If you’d rather get your Omega-3 from other sources than from the water, you have choices such as walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and hearts, and Brussels sprouts. Let’s look at the Omega-3 fatty acid content of some of these:

Want to supplement? Here’s some vegan options: Freshfields with over 240 mg of DHA from mercury-free algae and a 2 months supply for just $30 CDN. Here’s another from Whole Earth and Sea made from algae that gives you over 320 mg of DHA! Again, without the mercury or PCP’s found in fish oil, yech.

finally

Do I think Miley is doing what she thinks is best for herself and to take care of herself? Absolutely. I can’t fault her for that. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of her fans will listen to her talk about that she had to do this and she feels better for it when really there is so much more going on here than possibly being deficient in DHA (at one point on the podcast she talked about eating nothing but celery). And a lot of her fans will go back from being vegan or start adding fish to their diet contributing to the 2 trillion fish killed annually.

I hope this article helps you to understand how you can get Omega-3 fatty acid without consuming fish, and without increasing your risk of disease.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Plant Based Nutrition

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For many reasons people have a belief, a strong belief, that they need to eat animals and animal products to have a balanced diet and to fill their daily nutrient requirements. It’s just not true.

But hopefully, you are not one of those people or you are someone who is transitioning to eating more of a plant-based diet or nothing but plants. That would be fantastic because if more people ate a whole foods plant-based diet exclusively our health care system wouldn’t be as burdened, our environment would be in much better shape and we would vastly reduce the needless suffering of millions of animals.


Changing your eating habits can be difficult and knowing how to get the nutrients you need can initially be tough too. A good rule to follow is to embrace variety. The more inclusive your diet is of all the choices you have the better you will be at meeting your nutrient requirements. And the more you will enjoy eating too. Just think of having different meals every time you eat instead of the same dish every night or for lunch.

So with that in mind, you will find below some info graphics to remind you what foods have zinc, iron and so on. I hope you find these as a useful reminder on what our favorite foods contain.

Starting with the classic ‘Yeah, but where do you get your protein?’ question here is the protein info graphic. I kept this to 4 choices because all plants have protein and also contain all essential amino acids. This myth of having to mix plants and having to add animal products to ‘complete’ the protein was disproved years ago.


Zinc is needed to help fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also uses it to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in cells. The body also needs zinc to develop and grow properly.


Omega 3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are important in preventing and managing heart disease by helping to slow the development of plaque in the arteries, lower blood pressure and reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm. And you don’t need to get your Omega 3 from fish oil. Something to keep in mind is western diets tend to be low on omega 3 and really high on Omega 6. The recommended ratio of Omega 6 to 3 is 4:1. Research has shown that western diets tend to have this ratio from 10:1 to 50:1.


Iron is one of those nutrients that people believe you have to get it from meat. Not true at all. In fact, heme iron (iron from meat) has been linked to cancer.


Potassium. Contrary to rumor, bananas are not that high in potassium compared to other options. A medium banana provides only 8% of the daily requirement compared to a large sweet potato that has almost 25% of the daily requirement. I’m not beating up on bananas or the banana lobby but why is there this association of potassium with bananas? I don’t know, maybe because they are ready to eat right out of the skin.


And finally, we have calcium. Milk does the body good, right? Wrong. Marketing at it’s best. I’m not going to write paragraph after paragraph as to why we should avoid dairy at all costs because I’ve done that already but listen to what Dr. Milton Mills has to say. And I will say this, you need milk from a cow just as much as you need milk from a cat, a dog, a rat, or a horse.


finally

I hope you enjoyed this post. It’s my first attempt at creating info graphics and I think it servers its purpose here well. Don’t believe the lies companies tell you and the lies from industry-funded studies. It’s all about the money.

Believe me when I say that if they find a way to make broccoli sexy or exuding machismo, you’ll be throwing that on the BBQ instead of steak.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Whey and the lack of protein myth

Let me ask you a question, and I want you to think about your answer, really think about it. I want you to think about your answer both in the current time frame and about 20 – 30 years from now. Think of your life now and your life in the future and everything that you’ll experience. Now, the question:

Why is health and fitness a priority for you?


photo woman bodybuilder using cable and pulley machine while facing mirror
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Thought about it? Good.

How many of you answered that the reason you are serious about health and fitness is for longevity? How many people answered that you are not happy about your body and want to change it? Maybe you have a passion to pursue such as running, biking, etc. All good reasons. And I’m positive if I asked you if you wanted to do these things for as long as you live without incident you would respond with a resounding yes. Knowing that let’s look at something I feel plays a very important role in achieving this.

too much of anything is bad

We have been lead to believe that we need to supplement our diets with protein. But wait, let me back up a bit, we have been lead to believe that we need more protein than we actually do. Ask someone what they had for dinner last night and they usually respond with the meat they ate: “I had BBQ chicken”, or “I had steak last night”, or “I had beef stew”. No one really answers that they had broccoli with rice and tofu, or they had a mix of chickpeas, greens, onions, and garlic. People generally always mention the ‘protein’ and nothing else (I put a single quote around protein to emphasize most people think only meat has protein).

raw almonds spilled out of small ceramic bowl on table
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We are obsessed with protein so much that people who are already eating animal products 3x a day are still supplementing with protein powder. Our protein intake has skyrocketed over the years. As a global average, per capita meat consumption has increased approximately 20 kilograms since 1961. Cheaper production methods, mass marketing, government subsidies, and marketing to our children through milk programs and promotions such as pizza day have led to the vast increase in consumption of dairy and meat. Then add supplementation on top of this

Most Americans are already consuming too much protein, roughly twice the recommended daily amount. We have been marketed to death that carbs are bad and protein is good. Why? Money basically. It’s much easier to market meat, dairy than it is to market plants. Which leads me to supplementation.

Therefore, I concluded that focusing on mostly whole plant foods (and very little processed foods) was a healthy and effective way to achieve fitness results.

Robert Cheeke – Two time natural body building champion

The more people buying protein powder = companies making more money. It also means the people promoting the supplements are also making money. It’s a huge industry. In 2019 an approx. 18 billion dollar industry. All built on this myth that we need more protein to be strong and healthy, and to grow!


But at what cost? What cost do you pay consuming additional protein you don’t need in the form of whey protein, or casein protein (both derived from dairy). Let’s look at the negative affects of whey and casein protein:

If this doesn’t shock you I don’t know what will.

Let’s go back to my initial question, why is health and fitness a priority for you? How can you keep doing the things you love if you suffer from any of the above effects? Health and fitness should always be looked at from the perspective of enhancing our lives, not negatively impacting them. So why do we do this? Why do the majority of people continue to destroy their bodies needlessly? I think this is why:

  • Peers: “My friends do it and man did they bulk up”. The same could be said in a sense for meth, or coke, “Man you have lost a lot of weight, you look great!”, but you wouldn’t start doing meth I hope.
  • Media: Bro science continues to promote these falsehoods and who does not like to hear what they are doing reinforced positively? If you are a Joe Rogan fan you are used to watching him with mainly one guest and most times what they say goes unrefuted. Look how this changed when Chris Kresser was challenged on the show in an open debate. But if you don’t have his guests fact-checked you will tend to believe what you hear because it’s on a highly popular podcast.
  • Lack of education: Unless you take it upon yourself to research nutrition from resources that are not funded by industry you’ll probably never know. To illustrate my point, ask people you know if excessive sugar causes type 2 diabetes and the majority of people will say yes, although almost a hundred years ago it was determined that saturated fat causes type 2 diabetes.
  • It’s not talked about: With doctors having on average less than 20 hours of nutrition training over 4 years, they are better at sick care than health care. They are more apt to prescribe drugs or have you operated on than tell you to deviate from the standard american diet. There is rarely a discussion focused on changing a diet to address disease but instead, the discussion is focused on medication, not prevention.
  • Culture and peer pressure: There is a lot of pressure to fit in, fit in with the family, and not rock the boat. Fit in with our friends and feel like we belong. Belong to a tribe. This may be more so with choosing a whole foods plant based diet but it is similar. We love to feel that we belong to a tight group, we belong in a tribe. Refuse your grandma’s cooking and be prepared to be treated like a traitor.

options

If you feel you need to supplement due to reasons such as not having access to a complete meal then supplement with a natural plant based protein such as hemp protein, or a mix of plant based proteins such as pea, brown rice, etc. Consuming the appropriate amount of calories for your lifestyle and goals is very important but always try to make it a priority to eat whole foods.

finally

Advocate for yourself by educating yourself and questioning the things you may believe or hear from others. If you haven’t already read it, I recommend reading Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s book, The China Study. This is the first book I read regarding the damage consuming animal products does to our body and also was the precursor to taking Cornell University’s plant based nutrition certificate course.

Continue to do the things you love, and set yourself up to continue to do these things many years from today.

Yours in health,

Darryl

We cannot improve until we know where to improve

person writing on white paper
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The difference between hearing and listening

I think most of us are into fitness for a few reasons; to stay healthy and disease free, to not be tired when climbing a level of stairs, to do the active things we love doing and some of us are into fitness as it’s a component of a passion of ours, such as martial arts.


It’s that time. I think it’s about time I write this post as a reminder. We all need reminders from time to time. As a certified personal trainer, and someone who’s been teaching martial arts for about 8 years I have seen a lot in the sense of who walks through the door. You can have people who are super eager, enthusiastic, will listen to pretty much everything you say. You have people who need an explanation for everything you ask them to do. You have people who don’t ask questions at all. And I think, I could be wrong, that almost everyone hears but doesn’t listen.


What do I mean by hearing but not listening? We all do it, everyone. We nod our head up and down when listening to someone talk but inside our head we are daydreaming, thinking of something else. We’re hearing what is being said, the noise of talking, but not taking it in and processing it. It’s not always intentional but it happens. And the consequence when this happens when you are being instructed is you miss out on the instruction and ultimately over time, you may even miss out on instruction because your instructor has come to the conclusion that you are unteachable.

I remember before my first trip to Okinawa that my Kyoshi (head of our association in North America) told all of us on the trip that it’s Japanese culture to correct you only twice. The first time they tell you what you did incorrectly. Then they watch you and if you make the same mistake again they’ll correct you again. The 3rd time? They’ll smile like everything is fine and you’ll think you did great! The reality is that they have concluded that you are too arrogant to take instruction or are too stupid. And you may never realize that because they let you save face by not calling you out.

don’t be that person

I have seen a lot of this lately. A lot of giving corrections and people doing the incorrect thing they were corrected on immediately afterwards. I’m not kidding either. I’ll tell someone when doing burpees to drop all the way down into the squat to benefit from full range of motion and do they then do that? Nope. I’ll stop them and just to make sure they do have the range of motion to drop down, I’ll have them when standing lower themselves into a squat just to see. I then tell them that is where they need to be. I’ll tell someone to change their hand position when doing hook punches and do they change? Nope. I’ll then stop them and physically change their hand position. And it’s not like they don’t hear, they nod their head up and down as I tell them. It’s something that happens too often.

the problem

The problem by not listening is you bear the results of this. Injury, not realizing full muscle development, loss of potential, not being as awesome as you should be.

Your trainers and your coaches are there to make you better, to elevate you to greatness. Really. I know this is why I do what I do. Believe me it’s not for the money. It’s because I want the people I train to be the best they can be.

so listen up

Listen up! And then put it into action. Process what you have been told through your brain over and over and analyze what it is you are doing and change it! If you have to, slow it down so you can change that muscle memory and once you have it, then you can speed back up. Don’t keep the same speed and expect the change to happen. You will end up fighting muscle memory. Slow down, change, make it permanent, then speed up.

If it’s a few things you need to change and are worried about forgetting, take notes after class so you can go home and run it through your head. The next time you have class you can review your notes beforehand so you already know what you need to fix and can put it into action.

finally

It’s a two way street. Your coach/instructor has a role to play, to coach you and give you the things you need to be better. And you have a role to play, to take those things and put them into action.

Harmony at it’s best.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Put your butt into it

Our glutes are one of the strongest muscle groups in our body. You might not know this but our glutes are made up of 3 different muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The glutes engage when we sit down or get up out of a chair, when we walk and run, and also are engaged when we externally rotate our hips


External hip rotation

So if you play golf, baseball, soccer, or any martial art you rely on external hip rotation. If you are doing things that rotate the pelvis you are executing external hip rotation.


Today I’d like to look at a simple exercise that can help build the glutes, mainly the medial glutes and provide more power in the rotation.

the how

First, you’ll need to get your plyo box if you have one. Don’t worry if you don’t, you can use a couch instead or any object that will allow you to sit with one leg up and the other foot on the ground.

Now, sit on whatever it is you have putting the right leg up on the object with your leg bent and your foot out in front of your crotch keeping your leg bent at about 80 – 90 degrees. Now, with your right hand grab underneath your right knee and try to drive that knee down using your glutes. Hold this for about 5 seconds. This is an isometric contraction of the glutes, a contraction that doesn’t use movement.

Hand underneath

The angle your knee is away from the box will vary. If you are loose in the hips and glutes your knee might be resting just above the box. If your knee is up higher, around 20 – 30 degrees this next exercise will help in getting this lower.

Keeping yourself in the same position, this time we are going to rest our hand on top of our knee and push down with our arm. Keeping the isometric contraction, resist the motion by pushing back upwards using your glutes. Hold for about 5 seconds.

Hand on top

For both exercises, do 3 – 5 sets holding for 5 seconds each time. And of course be sure to do both sides, 3 – 5 sets each side.


If your glutes are already strong, and want to challenge yourself a bit, try this. Keeping the knee close to the box, and this time put your LEFT hand on your right ankle (removing your right hand from your knee) try lifting your foot and ankle from the box straight up without moving the knee. Tough isn’t it.

Hand on top of ankle

Try these exercises and you may find that you experience pain in your butt where you might not have before. And you may also find over time that your running is better, your soccer game is better and you punches are more powerful.


I’ll give you one more reason you’ll want to do these exercises. Having strong glutes also helps in stabilizing the pelvis. And having a strong pelvis will help prevent injury from doing your favorite sports, etc.

A quick test of this is to stand on one leg. If your pelvis does not drop down on the opposite side of the leg you are standing on, then your pelvis is stable. If it does drop then start building stronger glutes for that pelvis support.

finally

Add these exercises into your routine when doing leg day since you are probably working the glutes if squats are part of leg day.

Stay tuned for an article on stretching the glutes.

Yours in health,

Darryl