it may just help

B.

If you have not read my previous post then this post may not make much sense. So before you read this, go here and read this one first.

In my last post I wrote about lower back pain and what newer research is concluding regarding what may be causing it. As promised, this is the follow up post and I want to use this post to go over what you can do if you are suffering from lower back pain caused by stress on your thoracolumbar fascia.

What

Let’s look at the 3 common items I covered last post that can distress the thoracolumbar fascia and cause back pain and what can be done to address them:

  • Dehydration: Simple. Drink more water and also consume foods that are high in water content. If your urine is dark in colour, not light like straw you are dehydrated. Check out this link to read up on the colour of your pee. If you are very active or sweat a lot, you have to consume more water. And if you can, please stay away from bottled water. The huge negative impact on our environment and also to yourself for something that is in the ground under your feet, comes out of your taps and is pretty much available anywhere for free. If you are concerned about the safety of your water you can purchase water filtering kits for your home or elsewhere. It doesn’t make sense environmentally and economically for you to purchase water pulled from the ground, transported, put into plastic (a byproduct of oil) bottles, transported again to the store for you to pay for. If you would like more info on the environmental and health impacts of bottled water check out the links.
  • Lifting: “Lift with your legs, not your back otherwise you could injure your thoracolumbar fascia!” That’s it. Lift properly. Not only heavy things but all things. Lifting something incorrectly that’s not that heavy may not cause discomfort but it may cause distress and over time, doing the same thing, that distress can add up and lead to an injury that requires time off of work, time away from the fun things you like doing. When lifting, don’t bend over at the waist. Bend your legs, look forward or even up, keep you back straight, weight on the heels and lift using the muscles in your legs. If you feel the load is too much for you, get someone else to lift it!
  • Sitting: When at work, be sure to get yourself a desk that can go from a normal sitting position to standing position. If you think about it, why do we sit in chairs at work? How long have people been doing this? For years! Way back when offices were created, long before computers, we lived in different times. The boss, the company held all the power (ok, that hasn’t changed all that much over the years). No sick days, no going home because your back is sore. Also, that work did not involve having your hands out in front of you using a computer. So why do we still use technology today that is from over a hundred years ago? It makes no sense! We know the more we sit the worse it is for us. And for as little as a couple of hundred dollars you can get a device that will allow you to stand and sit while using a computer. Keep this in mind too, the damage isn’t only done over a long time frame, short term consequences can have long term impacts too. Short term is a relative term but it can be as long as 5 years. If you work for 45 years 5 years is about only 11% of that time frame. And don’t let the boss make you feel like a snowflake asking for this. It’s 2019 for f*cks sake! Our workspaces shouldn’t look like they did back in 1919. If you need to, put together your arguments on why this will benefit your boss. At the end of the day when you are gone working somewhere else for whatever reason, you will still have the back you have while your boss will not really give two sh*ts.

Lastly

Hot baths, hot water bottle, heating pad are great for bringing heat and thus increasing blood flow to the injured area which should aid in healing. You can also try this stretching routine to help loosen things up:

      • Lying on the floor on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the ground, take time to feel the spots that have tension and relax them. Lay on the floor and feel everything relax.
      • Then, press your lower back to the floor (cat pose) and relax. Then, do it again for 8 to 10 times.
      • Now, do the reverse. Bring your lower back up (cow pose) to increase the space between your lower back and the floor. Do this about 8 to 10 times.
      • Lay there and relax.
      • Do the above again, the cat and the cow.

The above can also be done while sitting in a chair. Try it!

Finally

Take care of yourself. Advocate for yourself. You are your keeper.

Yours in health,

Darryl

it’s not always what you think it is

A.

I’ve suffered from it for years, ever since I was a teenager. Happened one day when I bent over to pick up an empty box that held items the store I worked for were selling. That was it. Bending over picking up an empty box.

A terrible sharp pain in my lower back.

I could hardly straighten up due to the excruciating pain and fortunately, I was able to leave work early. The pain subsided a bit but I was not myself for about 7 days. A year later the same thing again. Then the following year again. I think then I went and saw a chiropractor. The treatment I received alleviated the pain for  a short time but it never did seem to cure it. Almost every year a flareup.

Side note: I don’t despair chiropractors but do your homework and listen to your gut. A chiropractor that was at a health fair put on by my employer was concerned about my back condition(?) and wanted a formal evaluation. I had x-rays taken and he examined my back. I was told that my back is in such bad shape that he would not be surprised that I wouldn’t be around this earth after 5 years. Seriously. This is what I was told. It didn’t feel right, his philosophy on chiropractic so I bounced. That was about 19 years ago. Guess I showed him.

What

dealing with pain
Dealing with back pain

Back pain, specifically lower back pain. I think almost everyone has had some lower back pain at one time. And it can be so debilitating. You feel immobilized, useless, every movement seems to cause pain. And then it goes away after so many days. Then, maybe 6 months, maybe a year it’s back again and you have some ideas why but you really aren’t sure. It gets in the way of the things you do, the plans you have, it makes life suck.

What causes this pain though? Unlike a typical blunt trauma injury like a sprained wrist, a broken leg, a pulled muscle it seems to be a mystery. Rest would be the fix then they changed their mind and movement was the best way to be back on your feet. Your chiropractor ‘adjusts’ your back and it feels good but it’s not a cure.

Why

The reading I have done on this subject over time shows more studies are pointing to muscular imbalances, overly tight muscles and also muscle fascia.

Tight glute and piriformis muscles can cause lower back pain and also that pain that shoots down your leg due to sciatica. Hamstring muscles that run from your hip down the back of your knee if tight can also cause lower back pain. The psoas muscles that run from both sides of your spine down to your femurs if tight and short will end up pulling on your vertebrae causing back pain.

It’s a lot of information, isn’t it. Confusing and complicated. I want to add one more to this list, something you may not have heard of and it’s been getting more attention over the last few years. Thoracolumbar fascia.

treatment
Treating the pain

Let’s break this down. Fascia is made up of connective tissue collagen and other stuff. It holds muscle where it’s supposed to be, like compartmentalization of things otherwise you would have muscles and organs floating around in your body, sloshing together. It’s a support system for your insides. Think of the white stuff that is between the orange peel and the flesh of the orange. That white webbie stuff. That’s your fascia.

The thoracic part is because it covers the thoracic spine. It’s more than that diamond shape from the mid spine down to your tailbone, it actually runs from one shoulder to the opposite hip. The transitional area between the upper and lower body allows forces to be transferred for various daily activities. Enabling movement, it is also important for stability.

So what is it we could be doing that can aggravate the thoracolumbar fascia? Let me highlight some of these:

        • Dehydration: This fascia tissue is in constant contact with muscles, tendons, etc. constantly rubbing as our body moves. Water is what our body uses as lubricant for our joints and also for fascia tissue. This can cause inflammation and may then stimulate the free nerve endings that live in the fascia. I’ve talked in the past how being dehydrated even 5% can cause a drastic negative hit to our performance and I just gave you another reason to drink water.
        • Lifting: “Lift with your legs, not your back otherwise you could injure your thoracolumbar fascia!” When we feel pain after incorrect heavy lifting we think we hurt our back which in a sense we did but if we don’t know exactly what we injured then how could we treat it? Lift properly, always no matter what the load is.
        • Sitting: I may shock you here with what I’m going to write. When you read ‘Sitting’ did you immediately think lower back position in the chair? Probably, I know I think that. But let’s look at the fascia and how it connects. As I wrote earlier it’s connected all the way from our pelvis to our shoulder girdle.  If I grab your right shoulder from behind and pull hard, does only your shoulder girdle move? No, your body twists all the way to your hips. Are you sitting in such a way that you have tension in your chest, tension in your shoulders? As the fascia tissue adjusts to the tension, the changes can be manifested to your lower back causing you to think you’ve incurred a back injury. But you are right too. Improper sitting, favoring one side over the other most definitely will lead to injury. Think of what laying in a bed in the same spot, sitting on a couch in the same spot over the years does. They get compromised from the constant weight, that one spot. Our body will take abuse but only so much. Sitting in positions that aren’t neutral to our support systems; fascia tissue, bones, muscles, etc. over time will cause us grief.

More to come

This will be a 2 parter. It’s early in the morning, I’m off to work in about an hour and boy is it going to be a long day.

This may help you to understand what may be causing your back pain. I hope so. And if you think so then you may want to read the second part coming out soon.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

the heavens crushing down

You might not be a Titan condemned to hold up the heavens for eternity but who doesn’t want bigger shoulders anyway?

That is the topic of today’s post. Keeping it simple, I am going to give you the formula to help you get there. I’m not saying it will be easy, hard work will definitely be involved but it will be simple in what you need to do.

What

shoulder
Strong shoulders

Let’s look at shoulders. Broken into 3 muscle groups, the anterior deltoid (front of the body) the lateral deltoid (the side of the body) and the posterior deltoid (the rear of the body). I have excluded the muscles of the rotator cuff as that is a large topic in itself.

Most of us, and I do mean most, have over developed anterior deltoids. This is largely due to the lives we live. Our arms are out in front of us mostly; using a keyboard, working on things with hands in front, and also carrying heavy items. This tends to over work the anterior deltoids leading to them being stronger than the other two deltoids. I’m going to include exercises that will involve all 3 deltoid groups but you may want to check with a personal trainer to see if you fall into this group and should be focusing on the lateral and posterior delts more that the anterior delts.

Let’s get to it.

How

Posterior deltoid:

        • Bent over dumbbell rows: This is a great exercise to work the back of the shoulder. Holding two dumbbells at your side, bend over at the waist keeping your back arched as to keep a good posture. move your elbows out so your arms are almost perpendicular to your torso. You should now be bent over almost to 90 degrees with both dumbbells touching just below your chest. Keeping a bit of a bend in your elbows, bring the dumbbells out and up so they are almost parallel to the ground. You should look like a giant letter T with a head on it. You may find your hands will want to fall back towards your waist. Don’t let them. Hold at the top for 3 seconds then bring the weight back towards under your chest but not all the way as you want to keep the resistance on your muscles. This exercise can also be done on a bench. Sitting on the end of a bench bring your chest to your knees and do the flies from there. Do you feel this at the back of your shoulders?You should. Don’t have dumbbells? Move onto the next exercise.
        • Resistance band Rear Delt Fly: This exercise mimics the bent over dumbbell row exercise except you are standing and working only one shoulder at a time. Attach one end of the band to a stationary object that will not move at a height that just below your shoulder. Grab the other end of the band and position yourself so your hand is just on the other side of the centre of your body. So if I’m using my right hand, my hand should just be on the left side of centre of my chest. Now mimic the same motion as the dumbbell fly exercise keeping the arm slightly bent, bringing that hand to the outside of your body so your arm is almost extended but still slightly bent.

Lateral Deltoid:

        • Lateral Raise: This is kind of like the dumbbell flies in that the motion is very similar but you wont be bent over and the weights start just in front of your legs. Standing with a dumbbell in each hand, legs soft (this means you have a slight bend in the knees) the dumbbells just ahead of your centre in front of your quads, with that bend in the arms bring the dumbbells up and out so you for a big T with your arms. Resist the urge to spring into the motion using your legs to help carry the weight up. This would be cheating and you don’t want to do that, yet (we’ll talk doing negatives later). Keep the wrists soft too, almost like you are pouring out from a jug when your hands get to the top.
        • Resistance Band Lateral Raise: Just like the above exercise but with resistance bands. I’m a fan of resistance bands. If you have read my article you know the benefits are constant resistance where as with free weights, or even machines, there is a point in the motion of the exercise where resistance drastically falls off. If you are using bands be sure to use ones that give you the resistance you need to keep in the range of adding muscle and strength and not endurance.

Anterior Deltoid:

        • Front Dumbbell Raise: Pretty much the same as the lateral raise except the dumbbells are brought up in front of you kind of like you are holding up your hands to push someone away from you. Keep knees and elbows soft and again, don’t bring the weight all the way down to the point the resistance is lessened.
        • Resistance Band Front Raise: Again, same as above but with resistance bands.

The standards:

        • Dumbbell Shoulder Press: Working the anterior delts, this also works the tricpes, the muscles in the rotator cuff, the trapezius muscles. And it helps make you stronger when lifting things overhead. Using two dumbbells, sitting or standing, start with the dumbbells at your shoulders like you are ready to press something upwards. Lift the weights up above you until your arms are almost straight (keeping soft elbows). Do not lock out your arms as we want the resistance to stay on the muscles, not the joints. Bring the dumbbells down but not too low that the resistance comes off of the muscles.
        • Shoulder Shrugs: It’s like it sounds but with weights. Using two dumbbells at your side, be sure to keep your hands centered at your side, shrug your shoulders like you are bringing your shoulders to your ears. This exercise mainly works the trapezius muscles and in turn strong traps helps with improving posture as they pull your shoulders back and help to stabilize your neck and upper back. Also, you can use much more weight doing shrugs than you can doing raises so this helps in developing forearm and hand strength. Try not to use aids such as wraps to help hold the dumbbells if you are using heavy weight. In my opinion, it’s better to drop the weight and hold the dumbbells using the strength of your muscles. Think of it as putting your hands on your knees when doing lunges. You may be developing stronger legs but by putting your hands on your knees you have eliminated the stabilizing muscles, your core muscles, from working and your core will not be strong as it should be when doing this type of movement.
        • Resistance Band Shoulder Shrugs: If your resistance bands have the ability to attach a grip then you can use them for shoulder shrugs. Depending on the type of resistance band, you can stand or sit and have them under your feet to make them the right length to give you the right amount of resistance.

Tools

presses
Shoulder presses

My explanation on how to do these exercises make sense to me but maybe not to you. Check Youtube for video’s on these exercises if you need to. Or, engage a personal trainer to show you and to ensure your form is correct. Remember, incorrect form may not manifest itself in an injury immediately. It may take months before the damage done has been felt. I’m not self promoting when I recommend to hire a personal trainer. It doesn’t have to be  a long commitment. It can be short term to educate yourself on proper form and then a check up or a few. It could be money well spent preventing a future injury.

Mix it up. Use various principles to add strength and muscle. Principles such as negatives, pyramids, stacking, etc.

Goal

If your goal is to add size, and with size comes strength, DO NOT DO MORE THAN 12 REPS. If you are serious about adding size, keep reps under 6. This is why you never see power lifters doing endurance sports, or lifting lighter weights to get more reps. This does not mean use the same weight you would have when doing 12 or 15 reps and do only 6, it means using heavier weights, or more resistance.

The muscles need to be stressed to the point there are micro tears for growth to happen. Stopping at 6 when you could have done 8 will not help you achieve your goal.

Stick to 2 exercises for each muscle group doing 3 sets for each exercise sticking to the appropriate amount of reps. Do this to start. If the muscles are stressed and you notice this with the normal muscle pain than great, you are doing well. If not, add another set.

Eat. Eat as much whole foods that are plant based as you want! No worrying about how much protein you are getting as you will get what you need. Did you know the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for the average woman is under 50 grams? The world we live in has us believing we need so much more. And more isn’t always better. More protein means more work for our kidneys and it’s unnecessary and if you are getting this in the form of a supplement you are just throwing your money down the toilet, literally. If you find you are not adding weight than you probably are not eating enough whole foods and may be eating too many processed foods that won’t help contribute to building muscle tissue.

Finally

Right amount of sets, reps, eating well. Listening to your body’s feedback and reacting to it. Setup a schedule and follow it. It is that simple. I know! I used to be a big guy in the sense of muscle once weighing in at 200 lean lbs and squatting over 300lbs. I was mentored years ago by a friend who went from 150lbs to 210lbs. He knew what he was talking about and he was walking proof and I took that knowledge and applied it to myself.

Do the same for yourself and you will get results. Will you have the same results as others? Not always. We have different body types and those underlying body types will always be there at the core. But you will change your body. You are sitting at the wheel, molding the clay, shaping it the way you want.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Don’t fear death…

fear a life unlived.

I don’t know why but today I’m in somewhat of a philosophical mood. I was recently told that I should write a book as I’m a philosopher. I was in Okinawa Japan recently and had the charge of 5 kids to make sure they remained unscathed on their first voyage away from home, almost half way around the world. Devinda, a really smart 16 year old was in a group of 3, him and 2 boys that are 14 years old (constantly arguing who is the oldest of the 2). One day while talking about responsibility I brought up how he has his whole life in front of him and is now experiencing something that many people will never have the chance to. We talked about other things too and that is when he told me I should write a book. It kind of made me laugh. Devinda’s an awesome person. Mark my words, I know one day a lot of people will  know the name Devinda Epaarachchi.

I had to laugh when I heard that though. I don’t look at myself that way, having words of wisdom, I’m just some guy who tries to help when and where I can. And I can’t see writing a book. Who would read that?!

What

So what am I going to write about today? Today’s subject is goals. You have to have them. You do! And they don’t have to be lofty goals either, just goals no matter how small.

A goal can be running 10k in a race. A goal can be running a marathon race. Those are somewhat big goals, right? To many yes, but to others no. A goal can be something a basic as focusing on a body part that you feel needs improvement. Maybe you want bigger shoulders, or larger legs? Take that and make it a goal.

Let’s look at larger shoulders as a goal. What does that mean, larger shoulders? Wider, bulkier, stronger? First thing is to define the goal. Let’s define this one:

      • Larger shoulders: I want the 3 heads of my shoulders to be defined and larger than they are now.

That’s it. The goal has now been defined. Shoulders larger in size and also having the 3 muscles that make up the shoulder clearly defined. So now what, what is next now that I have a goal?

How

You have to put a plan into effect but it needs to be a good plan, something, a plan that will get you what you want. If I were to break down this goal into a plan it would probably look like this:

      • What exercises target the 3 heads of the shoulder, the anterior (front), the laterial (the side) and the posterior (the rear, the most neglected of the 3)?
      • How do I do these exercises to work these muscles?
      • Document current strength doing these exercises: how many reps/sets and how much weight?
      • Photos: What do my shoulders currently look like? Take pictures but be sure to take them in a controlled environment so when you take photos later on you can compare knowing the environment such as lighting is the same and your results can be compared realistically
      • Duration. What is the duration of the goal? Do I want bigger shoulders in 8 weeks? Is this a realistic time frame?

Does this help make things clear? Some of it may not be. Let’s look at duration. Do you know what is a realistic time frame to reach your goal? Now, if you want crazy big shoulders 8 weeks may not be long enough, you may need 26 weeks for your goal. If you aren’t sure, hire a personal trainer to help you out. They can provide realistic targets to your goal.

Why

Goals, I think, are good ways to keep motivated. I find also they help to keep the energy up, they help you to get through those times where you feel you are just spinning your wheels. Goals help to add purpose to your workouts.

Goals can also help you get through those times that are tough. It may help you focus on a specific thing to help you get your mind off of other things.

Finally

I’m no philosopher. I really don’t think I have any words of wisdom. If this article helps you become what you want to become than I’m happy for you.

Do you have your goal? Is it something you really want? Are you going to do what you need to to make it happen?

I hope you will. You are awesome and I have never doubted that you have what you need to do it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

But the monkey on my back

Wont’ stop laughing

Stretching before exercising, specifically static stretching (no movement) will hinder your performance. Then why do people static stretch before working out? Good question. I see it often myself. Classics such as crossing an arm across the body to stretch the shoulder to the good ole hamstring stretch while sitting on the floor. But kidding aside if there is any stretching to be done before working out it should be only dynamic stretching.

Why

shoulder stretch
Static shoulder stretch should be done after the work has been done

Let’s look at static stretching. Why do we do it? Static stretching is done to become more flexible, to lengthen short muscles which in turn should help in injury prevention whereas dynamic stretching (stretching with movement such as crossing your arms back and forth) helps to lengthen muscles but more importantly warms up the muscles and tendons.

So why is this a bad thing to do before working out? Because of the strain you are putting on your muscles. With this strain you are actually decreasing muscle strength. Studies have shown that the decrease in strength can be upwards of 30%! Yikes!

To prepare for your workout, or event a proper preparation should help increase performance not negatively impact performance. It should do this by warming up the tendons and muscles thus loosening them and increasing the range of motion. Warm muscles and tendons use oxygen from the blood stream more efficiently and also use glycogen, stored fuel, more efficiently. Static stretching on the other hand can leave strained muscles weakened for up to 30 minutes because of the stress put on them.

What

warming up
Warming up incorporating dynamic stretching will increase your performance

It’s like almost anything we do. Unless we have educated ourselves on the matter we are usually doing things that we learned a long time ago by someone with good intentions but not educated in the area. I think, and I may be wrong, that a lot of things we do when it comes to working out, running, swimming, biking, or any physical activity unless at an elite level where there are professional coaches and trainers, were learned from school. Learned from the gym teacher who might have been a great football player, or might have done well in track when she or he were in school years ago but doesn’t have formal training in these areas. So they pass on what they learned years ago by someone who was great playing football, or might have done well in track….

Do you get the point? This is why I became a certified personal trainer when I received the rank of Nidan (2nd level) black belt and started running students through workouts more frequently. I felt I would be doing a disservice to our students to be doing the same thing my teacher did and that didn’t sit well with me. I wanted our students to be the best they could be, properly prepared to excel physically and mentally.

Who Cares?

growth
Everyone can grow

But you might be saying what’s the big deal? I still get in my workout regardless. This is correct. For some people showing up, doing the workout is all they need. But to others it’s more than that. Also, think of it in another light. Success is a great motivator. I really believe that you are your own competition. You compete against yourself every time you workout. How many burpees did you do, how quick were you when doing bag work. How we workout could determine if we workout again. If you constantly feel like you are not improving then it could get tough to find the motivation to go back and workout again. But, if you performance is increasing because of doing a lot of right things than who does not like that? Success is a great motivator and this is why I believe in keeping  a journal of workouts. It shows you the growth you have made and with seeing that how can that not motivate you?

Finally

Static stretch after your workout. Dynamically stretch before your workout to warm up your muscles, tendons and to dynamically lengthen the muscles through movement.

Another tool to help you succeed!

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

at the lower realm of things

It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to sit down and write out a post. But, today seems to be a good time as I’m taking a break from getting outside work done around my house. And, who doesn’t like an afternoon coffee, especially a Mexican Chiapas!

What

When we think of strong legs, large legs we often think of the upper leg, the quads. I like to throw hamstrings in there too as they can get neglected. I think of the hamstrings as the triceps to the upper arm. Most people work biceps and neglect triceps but you need to strengthen both triceps and hamstrings to keep a well balanced body both in strength and injury prevention.

legs
Never neglect the legs

Often what gets overlooked is the calf muscles. Running from the ankle to just above the knee attaching to the lower femur the calf muscle aids in the ability of all leg movement. The calf muscles are comprised of 3 muscles:

        • The Soleus: this runs between the other two muscles largely seen below the diamond shape of the calf muscles to the achilles tendon.
        • The Gastrocnemius: These are the two muscles on either side of the Soleus, the muscles that give that diamond shape just below the knee.

These muscles are what moves the heel up when we walk, run, jump or any movement that requires the heel to come off of the ground.

So now that you have a bit of a better understanding of the calf muscles, why do we need to work them? One reason is to prevent injury. A survey of 14,000 injured runners revealed that the 2nd most common injury were calf pulls.

Strong calf muscles means stronger and more stable feet. Ankle rolls are less likely to occur. Also, if you have a pronation or supination (foot turning inward or outward) in your feet, strong calf muscles can help correct this producing a balanced, more neutral stance, thus reduced risk of injury.

More power can be realized when your calf muscles are strong. As mentioned earlier the calf muscles are what lift your heels, your feet off of the ground. Want to increase your explosiveness for any movement where you move your feet you want to strengthen your calfs.

What

Here are some exercises you can do to achieve the ultimate strong calf muscles, those bulging diamonds just below your knees:

          • Calf raises: This exercise totally isolates the calf muscles. It will add time onto your workout but if you are looking to target your calf muscles this will do it. The exercise can be done on the edge of a stair tread, a 4 x 4 square piece of wood that is long enough to support you or anything where you can stand on the balls of your feet and lower your ankles as far as they will comfortably go. The idea is to lower and lift your heels, holding at the top to get that extra contraction of a couple seconds. You can also add weight by doing one leg at a time, having a dumbbell in one hand and supporting yourself with the other. Or, you can wear a weight vest to add weight. Or, you can go to a gym and use the calf raise machine. Whatever method you use you will want to keep in mind what your goal is. If your goal is to add strength you will not want your reps to be greater than 12.
          • Lunge Pulses: Stand with your feet together. Step forward into a lunge with your right foot. Bend your right leg 90 degrees at the knee and extend your left leg behind you, knee bent. Be sure not to have the foot too far behind you as you will want a bend in this knee. Now,  pulse up so that your left leg is straight. Bend to complete one pulse. Attempt about 15 reps then do the other side. This exercise is great for working the Soleus muscle of the 3 calf muscles.
          • Mountain Climbers: Position yourself like you are in the starting blocks for the 100 meter dash. Kind of a modified pushup position. Now, alternate bringing one knee to your chest and then the other. Kind of like running on the spot. Your feet should glide above the ground, not dragging along. Mountain climbers are great to strengthen the whole leg but really help in strengthening the calf muscles. You wont add much bulk or strength though as your reps will be much higher than 12 – 15.
          • Jump Rope: This is more of an isometric contraction of the calves since your heels remain off of the ground the whole time and the heel will never drop below ground level. Since the heels are always up the calves are always in the concentric contraction state making it an isometric contraction, contraction without movement.

Finally

balance
Balance your body

If you are already doing some of these exercises then great, you are working your calves. If you feel you need stronger calves due to weak ankles, or not having a neutral foot position, then look into isolating them and using resistance training to build them. If you need help in that area hire a personal trainer for a few sessions and you will be well on your way to stronger legs overall.

Here’s a tip. This can be applied to calves or any other muscle or muscle group. If you are a person of a higher fitness level and maintain that fitness level well, take the calves, or something else and make it a project to increase its strength. Target that muscle or muscle group every 3rd day (this gives 48 hours off for maximum recovery) and do that for 4 -6 weeks. During this period keep track of your performance at the beginning and each workout. At the end of week 4 or 6, look at your performance numbers. I bet you they have jumped at least 10%. Then, look at your calves. Larger, aren’t they.

I’m a fan of a 4 to 6 week program where you target one area and work on that area diligently. Why? Because 4 – 6 weeks go by in a blink of an eye. Take a part of your body you want to increase strength/size. Do the 4 – 6 week program. Stick to it. Document it by measuring size, strength. Then, at the end do the same. I know you wont be disappointed.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

He who controls the Spice, controls the universe

“The Spice must flow.” – Baron Harkonnen

I wrote an earlier post that commented that I don’t believe in ‘super foods’ rather I  believe that we should focus on the vast majority of the foods we eat being healthy and in that sense they are super. The reason I make this differentiation is that sometimes people look to super foods to fix their issues that they have from not following a healthy diet and or not exercising. To me, it’s kind of like one of those super new leak fixers you see advertised on TV that when using this product you no longer have to pay a plumber to come to your house to fix the leak, just slap this amazing leak fixer for $29.99 on and your leak is forever fixed! If you have ever used one of these you know it didn’t work and you had to then pay a plumber to come out and fix the leak and so much for that super fix. Same with food. People look to Turmeric to prevent cancer, they look to Quinoa to get the super protein they need, they look to probiotics in their yogurt to have a healthy gut all while still consuming foods that cause cancer, the wrong type of protein and cause gut issues. If you aren’t addressing the main problem than these ‘super foods’ more than likely aren’t going to help you.

What

Having said all that I want to write a few words on a spice that until recently, I thought there was only one type. If you have addressed your diet and are eating healthy let’s look at cinnamon and what it can do for you both for your health and other areas too.

Who doesn’t like the taste of cinnamon; on oatmeal, on toast with Agave or honey, some people even put it in their coffee.

Native to Ceylon, Sri Lanka, cinnamon dates back in Chinese writings to 2800 B.C. Its botanical name is a derivative of Hebraic and Arabic term meaning fragrant spice plant, amomon. Many years ago 350 grams of cinnamon could be exchanged for over 5 kg of silver, about fifteen times the value of silver per weight. Cinnamon used to be used to preserver meat, to treat coughing and sore throats.

Why

Today, cinnamon is used mainly as a spice added to enhance foods. But, lets look at some benefits, and also some not so good things about cinnamon.

      • It’s an antioxidant: this protects your body from damage done by free radicals. Free radicals are toxic byproducts of oxygen metabolism that can cause significant damage to cells and tissues in a process called oxidative stress. Alcohol, cooked and processed meats, oil that becomes oxidized during storage are examples of how free radicals can form in your body. Cinnamon is so high in antioxidants it outranks all other foods even garlic and oregano.
      • Anti-inflammatory: Inflammation is good in that it helps to repair the body from damage and also helps in fighting infection but too much inflammation can cause arthritis, and also some cancers. Studies have shown that cinnamon has potent anti-inflammatory properties.
      • Heart benefits: Cinnamon has shown to reduce the LDC cholesterol (the one you want low) while not affecting the good HDL cholesterol. In animal studies cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
      • Improves insulin sensitivity: This is really important if you are active and looking for ways to improve performance. Insulin is key in how your body processes glucose to fuel your body for all things including exercise. This is why Tabata is so useful for improving performance because one of the benefits is it increases insulin sensitivity. Looking for a performance boost? Save your money on buying expensive supplements and instead add some cinnamon to your food.

The right type

Now comes a very important part. I think most people aren’t aware of this as I have never heard of this from anyone: there is not just one type of cinnamon. As mentioned earlier, cinnamon came from Ceylon, Sri Lanka. The cinnamon you are probably using did not. It’s a cheaper version mainly found in grocery stores and it’s Cassia cinnamon, not Ceylon cinnamon. Is there a difference? Yes both in taste and what it contains.

While Cassia cinnamon is safe to eat, too much can lead to health issues due to a compound in it called coumarin. Eating too much coumarin may harm your liver and increase the risk of cancer. Also, eating too much Cassia cinnamon has been linked to many other side affects such as mouth sores, low blood sugar and may negatively interact with other medications.

A teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon contains approx. 5mg  of coumarin while Ceylon cinnamon contains only trace amounts. The recommended daily coumarin limit is approximately 0.05 mg/pound (0.1 mg/kg) of body weight, or 5 mg per day for a 130-pound (60-kg) person. This means that just one to one and a half teaspoons of Cassia cinnamon could put you over the daily limit.

Lastly, Ceylon cinnamon, in my opinion tastes a little subtler and sweeter than Cassia cinnamon. To me, I don’t find it as harsh if you happen to add a little too much to the foods you are eating.

Lastly

If you aren’t eating cinnamon, try it. Get some Ceylon cinnamon, the good stuff and add it to your shake, soup, your chili or whatever else you want to add it to. If not for the benefits, do it for the taste because it tastes awesome.

Yours in health,

Darryl

the first taste was cold

but it quenched my thirst.

Sometimes we don’t know where to start, or how to start. We have big plans, plans to change things but how do we do that? How do we make a change that can make things better? Ideas run through our head but they don’t match up to what we want to do. They seem too small, not adequate for the purpose. It has to hit the target right in the bulls eye otherwise why bother?

But I don’t think everything that has ever happened that made a huge impact started this way. Some things maybe, but I think those are few and far between. And always trying to find the perfect solution can lead to nothing being done at all and in the end, what is worse, not having the solution that will fix everything or not having the solution that will start the beginnings of a wave that can potentially grow into a tsunami?

It’s good to think big but thinking big can become overwhelming and take a long time to put into place. Sometimes those ideas that may seem smaller in comparison can end up taking a life of it’s own and end up growing into that large thing you were thinking of. And it can happen without even knowing it was destined to happen.

I went vegan 5 years ago because of someone I know who is vegan. She was the first person I met who I knew was vegan and she opened my eyes to the reality of how the foods we eat end up on our plates and the cruelty, unnecessary suffering and death that is involved in this. I myself know of a large handful of people who have also gone vegan because of knowing me and listening to me talk about animal cruelty, the health benefits and the positive impact on the environment from being vegan. I can only imagine how many people they have touched and have also switched.

Sometimes it’s hard to see or understand the impact of our actions. But one person CAN make a difference, a huge difference. When thinking about this Rosa Parks always comes to mind. When the bus in Montgomery Alabama became full and all the white seats were occupied and white people were left standing, the bus driver told Rosa and 3 others to move to the back and give up their seats from the colored section. The 3 complied but Rosa, in her words, ‘felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night’. She refused to give up her seat and was arrested because of this. This action, the action of one person is said to have invigorated the struggle for racial equality. And now I also think of Greta Thunberg, The sixteen-year-old environmentalist, who featured on TIME’s Influential People Of 2019 list for her efforts demanding political action to save the environment. How many people has she influenced? Probably in the thousands

I don’t think we ever know who we touch, or how many we touch. It can be the subtlest action or a large action like Live 8. But positive change is positive change no matter how small and it will make a difference.

Follow your heart and try not to get overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation you are trying to improve. You’ll never know how it will play out until you take that first step. You got this.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

maybe another day

I’m sure I’m not the only one who learns new things about themselves, or discover what they might have suspected to be true.

Running outside

Back at the end of last year I wrote a post of a goal that I had this year, to run a marathon. I signed up feeling that it was a good goal, a goal I needed and within reach if I trained hard for it. It didn’t happen. I was supposed to run the marathon April 28. Sickness (I made the mistake of running for 90 minutes with a bad chest cold) that set me back, a work schedule that picked up interfered with my training but I think the largest contributor was realizing I need something to occupy my mind for the long runs. Now, it very well could be that doing my long runs on a treadmill is not the smartest thing to do but there wasn’t much of a choice since my training was during the hard cold winter here in Canada. Or if running inside maybe I need one of these to keep the mind busy. Don’t see that happening anytime soon.

The mind’s state

But I definitely lack the mental stamina to be on a treadmill for more than 60 minutes, 90 minutes tops. And it didn’t help that I constantly had audio troubles with my phone. I would line up a podcast to listen to and about 50 minutes in it would crap out and I would have to try to get it back on track and yeah, that usually didn’t work. I would be left with listening to rhythm of of the treadmill, the sound of my feet landing. And my mind would get the best of me.

I have run further before. I used to go for 3 hour, almost 4 hour runs a few years back. All outside. It was nice. I chose roads where traffic was light and the mixing up of scenery was a great way of keeping the mind busy. Roads that have forests right next to them would help you forget you were running. I think that’s the trick, keeping the mind occupied. The runs go by quicker and the other win is whenever that event comes up that you have been training for, no adapting to outside elements is needed since you’ve already did all your training outside.

So that’s it. That’s my story about that. I wish I could have updated that I completed my goal and it would have been a good news post but I guess that’s life.  Life has it’s failures and this is one of them.

I learned something about myself and I now that’s an obstacle I have to address.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

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