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

 

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill


who disappeared into those shadows

We all have voices. Some tend to be very vocal quite often and some of us tend to not use our voice. Of course we all speak but I’m referring to the voice that advocates for ourselves.

It’s  a tough thing to do. Often we don’t advocate for ourselves for a number of reasons. We may have been brought up where you were never aloud to be heard. Often told to shush, be quiet. We can be raised to always respect and not question authority which extends to the people we deal with in health care. Your personality might be that of a quiet person, someone who is more introverted than extroverted. On the extreme side of things a traumatic event could have happened that makes it very difficult to speak up for yourself. And if you won’t speak up for yourself, who will?

I think also many times we don’t speak up for ourselves in fear of the consequences. But the consequences of not speaking up can directly affect you but in the short term and long term.

Why does it matter?

What does this have to do with a health and fitness blog? A lot. All of us have been injured at some point, or if not a physical injury we may have something going on with our body such as nagging pains, or generally not feeling well. What do we do? We usually visit our doctor. Hopefully it’s a successful visit and whatever was ailing you is resolved. But that’s not always the case.

Does he have your best intentions in mind and is he highly competent?

How many of us go to our doctor and then leave feeling that it was a waste of time? How may of us visit our doctor and end up still dealing with the same issue months later? 

Who cares more than you do

I’ve been there. And I’m sure a lot of you have too. I know I feel guilty if I start to question my doctor. And honestly how many of us know what the next step is if we don’t agree with our doctor? It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine is sitting in the doctor’s office while the nurse gets the doctor. She happens to glance at her medical file the nurse left behind and sees a note left by a doctor that she’s difficult. The doctor walks in catching Elaine reading her file. He’s not pleased that the ‘confidentiality’ of the medical file on her has been broken. She is quickly dismissed without him even looking at her issue she came in for. She then sees another doctor hoping to leave all that stuff behind. Elaine is surprised to see he has her file in his hand and after looking at her file quickly dismisses her too having read the entry from her last doctor.

It shouldn’t be that way. We shouldn’t feel that there are negative repercussions speaking up for ourselves when we see any health care professional. People in the medical profession are just like anyone else in any other profession. Lousy mechanics, lousy lawyers, lousy customer service representatives, etc. We tend to hold these people in high esteem but really they are no different then us. Just like any profession, there are competent people and there are the other ones.


You

Take charge of you health and wellness. If after a visit with a health care professional you feel that the issue hasn’t been taken care of, go back and explain this. I always believe in giving that person a chance to hear you out. Then, if you make no progress, ask to see another professional. We have all seen stories of people, or know people who have been misdiagnosed and have suffered for months, or years, or in the worse case, have died. When I broke my foot and went to the hospital the nurse told me I was lucky that an orthopedic surgeon happened to look at my x-ray because the first doctor who saw it did not see the break. It’s not always an issue of competency either. The health care system is overtaxed and health care professionals have less time to spend with their patients. People can make mistakes when they are rushed.

If you don’t speak up for yourself, who will?

Be your own ombudsman. Advocate for yourself. And keep advocating for yourself until you feel better, are better. Ask if there is a specialist you can see regarding the issue. Don’t be that person who a year later is still dealing with the same issue. That’s not fair to you!

Be persistent and never give up. Never forget you are worth it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

mushin

無心

We’ve grown accustomed to our environment. Constant input. Especially over the last 10 years. I want you to think. Think hard. How often is it you have a period of 5 minutes without stimuli, and sleeping doesn’t count? Probably not that often. Maybe once a year? I don’t know, am I going out on a limb saying that?

I think over the last 10 years our lives have become more stimulated due to technology, mainly smart phones. That train ride, bus ride, visit to the doctors where you sat and enjoyed the peacefulness, or read a book, or went over your life. Those are gone now. Even social gathering are not the same. People no longer just sit together and enjoy the silence when talking is done. The phones come out and that moment is gone where you had the chance to just enjoy the quietness.

But, I think it goes deeper than that. I think we are slowly changing how our brains work. What might have happened during that 10, 20, 60 minute period where you were left to your own thinking? What process would your brain have gone through to keep yourself occupied? What electrical pulses would have fired, what chemical processes would have reacted? Are we reshaping our brains by not letting this happen? There is a strong belief that children’s brains are not developing the same way because they are over stimulated and are always having things done for them, in a sense. No longer are children left to come up with activities to keep themselves occupied, things like drawing, playing with blocks, spending time outside hiking around adventuring or just left to figure out what to do when they are bored.

How many of us have actually gone somewhere and not had any stimulus other than what the natural world has to offer? Even camping has changed. TV’s, radio’s, internet, phones, etc. I remember going camping and portaging through 5 lakes until I ended up somewhere where I was the only person around. I was on an island and there was nothing around me other than animals for about two or three miles. It was amazing. At night I had a beautiful star filled sky above me and nothing but quietness. It can be a profound experience, something that you come to yearn for. When you come out of that location it can be unnerving, getting back to the hustle of everyday life. The business, the impatience, the effect it has in wearing you down.

To the point

That’s interesting and all, but what does this have to do with fitness and health? It’s not everything but it’s something. Do you want to get more out of your workouts? Are you working on a specific goal? Is your physical activity part of a bigger plan, a goal to achieve? Our mind plays a role in this. It can help us achieve what it is we are going after our it can be our downfall.

Let me talk about the title of this post, Mushin. Empty mind, no mind. What does it mean? Not the obvious in that no mind does not mean you don’t have a mind. Let’s look at the two characters that make up the word mushin: 無心. The first character, 無 can be translated into nothing. The second character, 心 meaning heart, mind, or spirit (the word kokoro will also come up when translating this word. To the Japanese everything has kokoro, or a spirit).

So what does mushin mean when it comes to working out, or reaching for your endeavors. Think of it as blocking out all that doesn’t matter, nothing that is important at the moment. I have started to adopt this myself when working out . I try to empty my mind when performing kata or especially when sparring since the only thing I need to focus on or should be focusing on is my kata, or my opponent. But how does this come into play when working out? Simple. Focus on your body’s movement. Focus on your breathing, focus on your heart beating. Focus on your feet landing when running. Focus on your body movement when pressing weight. Take the earbuds out and focus on these things. It will change how you work out.

I want to talk about an experience I had recently when teaching a class. I have noticed recently that I would talk about specific technique, something such as keeping your hands up when striking and how when one hand goes out to strike the other hand reciprocates and protects the jaw. I talked about this for about 2 minutes, showing the technique, giving analogies to help drive home the point. ‘Ok, back on the bags and get striking’ is what I finished up with. The students started hitting the bags again and maybe one student was actually doing what I talked about. I think because of the constant ‘noise’ in our lives we have lost the ability to listen. We hear, but we don’t listen. I stopped the class and talked about this. I said that in this example you have to go up to the heavy bag and tell yourself what you need to do – you have to say it in your mind. It’s the only way your technique will change.

How

So what do you do? You have a stressful event coming up. You fear failure. You fear that you are going to walk into this event and fail. It’s unnerving. And that’s fine. If you didn’t have this fear of failure than what is driving you? But try not to let this fear consume you. Use the fear to drive you. And accept it. Let it push you and help you to prepare for the event. To deny it is to deny something that is a part of you.

Believe in yourself. Know that you have the ability and the skill to accomplish this because you would not be where you are if you didn’t. You will make mistakes. Once that mistake has happened it is now history. No matter how much you let it affect you, no matter how much you regret it, it can’t be undone. Gone. It can’t be reversed. Accept that and move on.

Mushin. Give it no mind. Give it no regard.

Mind your body, mind your breathing, mind your stance, mind your block. Mind your peacefulness.

Don’t mind history. That is for later as we use our experience to better ourselves. But that is not now.

 

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 




It seems pointless

You’ve been working really hard. Been very diligent with your eating habits. But your body has stopped responding. It’s been weeks since you have noticed any weight loss. Why?

Influences

Eating: What we eat can have the largest influence on our weight. The quality and amount of carbs, the quality of fat and protein. There is the saying “calories in vs calories out” that concludes if we use more calories than we consume we will lose weight. But this doesn’t take into account the type of calorie.

Calories from simple carbs has a much different impact to our body then calories from fat or protein. Eating simple carbs causes a release of hormones that negatively impact our body causing greater fat storage.

Try to consume quality calories to help lose fat.

Also be sure to not skip meals. If our body is not getting the calories it needs when it needs them the body will go into starvation mode slowing down the bodies metabolism, thus slowing down weight loss. Eating less does not always mean you will lose weight.

Exercise: Most of us think that the best and quickest way to lose weight is to do lots of cardio. Doing cardio is great for health and fitness but we need to also include resistance training into our workouts. Resistance training done properly increases muscle mass which increases our resting metabolism rate thus increasing the amount of calories our body requires daily to function.

Basically,the more muscle mass, the more fat burned.

Counting: How many of us actually know the amount of calories we consume daily and also the type of calories? We may think we know but more than likely we are consuming more than what we think we are. Take the time to measure your meals over a few days to really know how much that is.

Change: The body is a wonderful thing. It can adapt to change and will adapt. What used to be a workout that shocked your body no longer has the same affect. The body isn’t challenged the way it used to be.

Mix up your workouts every six weeks or so to introduce change and shock the body into getting results again.

Priority: Are you fit? Is it only that last 10 pounds you are worried about? Are you kicking ass in your workouts? Then be happy with who and what you are. Our focus should be on being healthy not just looking healthy. There is a phrase skinny fat which talks to being thin but not really healthy.

last

focus on your health and the rest will take care of itself. The fat will eventually come off. And your health is much more important than your appearance.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 




We owe it to ourselves

Not everyone has good intentions.

It’s great when a conversation at the dojo can end up being a blog post. Lately I have been having a difficult time coming up with ideas on topics I can cover for my blog. Fortunately, a conversation I had Saturday will be developing into this post.

For some reason, proper nutrition is a landscape of mines of misinformation. The reasons can be money based; new or controversial information can sell books, get you booked onto TV shows and can make people a lot of money. Ok, I’m going to stop there because I think that is the most common reason and I would say 2nd is people actually wanting to educate people.

This post I’m going to go into the aspects of a high protein, low carb diet.

What is it

Let’s start be explaining what is considered a high protein/low carb diet. A high protein diet can be considered as having anywhere from 30% to 50% of your caloric intake to be comprised of protein. It’s hard to find a firm definition of the percentage, but we also need to keep in mind our lifestyle and that not everyone is the same. The amount of protein needed by someone who is sedentary, elderly will be different than someone who is very active. You could also break down an active lifestyle to how much of that activity is carrying out resistance training (the need to repair and build muscle). If we look at it on a granular level, you can’t take a one size fits all approach.

On to carbs. First, let’s break down carbs into their 2 categories; simple and complex. Hopefully we know that we should avoid simple carbs. Things like sugar, starch, high fructose corn syrup. Simple carbs do have their place  in things such as sports drinks if really needed to replenish glycogen stores but should be avoided as a part of your daily diet.

So what constitutes a low carb diet.  According to the Institute of Medicine, the organization that sets the recommended daily intake of nutrients, we should be consuming about 130 grams of carbs daily. Most of us exceed this due to eating primarily prepared foods and also if you look at most snacks that are consumed, they are high in carbs.

Now, if we look at a low carb diet, a diet that will make our body go into ketosis (in a nut shell this is the goal of a low carb diet. It is done so your body will use fat for energy), you will need to consume less than 50 grams a day. That is almost a 2/3 less than the recommended amount. But again we are all different. Sedentary, active, elderly, young, etc.

Exercise and nutrition

I want to be sure to cover off the bioenergetic concepts of how our body produces fuel to feed our energy needs. These needs are determined by our level of exertion from doing nothing to all out full on exercising. Based on the level of exertion our bodies use different sources for energy:

  • Low level of exertion – with this level of activity our body is primarily using fat as the energy source.
  • Mid to low – this level we are now utilizing blood glucose and muscle glycogen.
  • High – Again we are using blood glucose and glycogen.

*Note – Fuel for any of these these exertion levels is not exclusive. All of them use fat, and glucose in some ratio.

Notice that none of these exertion levels uses protein as the fuel source. So how do we replenish blood glucose and muscle glycogen? Ideally carbs. And what if we are not adequately consuming carbs? The body will adapt, right? Yes, it will. And here is how it adapts. The body will take the easiest route to get it’s glucose and that easy route is to convert muscle into glucose by a process known as gluconeogenesis. Muscle is broken down into amino acids and then sent to the liver to be processed.

Yes, this happens in extreme cases caused from being very sick, severely malnourished, or not consuming enough calories. And not consuming the required foods are body needs to maintain the balance between fuel consumption and fuel stores.

This really made sense to me when I delved into bioenergetic concepts. I may be over simplifying it but I like the analogy of a sports car. Use the wrong fuel in that sports car and it won’t perform well but also over time the engine will become damaged. Use the correct fuel and the car performs much better and the engine should last longer.

Why

What is the driver behind people switching to a low carb/high protein diet? The promise you will lose fat. And I get it! I understand why people want to lose fat. Got to look good, got to be slim, but not too slim, got to have those chiseled abs, the six pack. Images and definitions on how we should be primarily perpetuated by the media in many forms. So strong is this message that people will do anything to achieve that ‘ideal’ body sometimes to the point it kills them. How powerful is that. It’s scary.

Having said that lets take a look at the negatives of this type of diet:

  • Fatigue – Research has shown that muscle fatigue increases in almost direct proportion to the rate of depletion of muscle glycogen. It can be hard enough to get the energy due to lack of sleep but this would just add to it.
  • Muscle loss – Glycogen is the fuel of choice for muscles. Without this fuel muscles contract less
  • Lower metabolic rate – with that loss of muscle comes a lower metabolic rate. This means overall your body will be using less calories than before, even at rest. The more amount of muscle we have the higher the caloric requirements just to maintain that amount of muscle.
  • Missing nutrients – Giving up fruit, legumes, whole grain, and other complex carbs deprive you of all the nutritional benefits from eating these foods. Your fiber intake will also drop which can have long term negative effects on your body. You are also depriving your body of antioxidants and phytonutrients.
  • Difficult to maintain – It’s not easy to maintain this diet because our body wants carbs. For a good reason!
  • Damaging – Carbs make us feel good. Studies have shown that eating carbs increases the release of serotonin, the feel good hormone. Depriving our body of this could end up stressing us out, causing an increase in the release of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone which is OK when we either fight or we flight. But when cortisol is released and we don’t do anything about what caused it we can cause damage to our body over the long term.
  • Bad breath – Due to the production of acetones due to the body being in ketosis.
  • Dangerous to our body – I’m saving the big one for last. When on a strict low carb diet our body goes into ketosis. This is the intended goal. The plan is to put the body into ketosis so it will burn fat for the body’s fuel needs. Here are some potential side effects of having the body in ketosis:
    • Increased risk for kidney damage
    • Increased risk for osteoporosis
    • Abnormal heart beat
    • And even sudden death
  • Data – As of yet, there isn’t a long term study on the effects of following a ketogenic diet. But, we do have long time studies of people on high carb, low fat, low protein diet. Just look at various countries in Asia, the rice eaters, the sweet potato eaters. People living with less disease and obesity. One of the longest living people are the Okinawan’s, some living past 100.

 

Healthy

Let’s be healthy and smart about our choices. Instead of focusing on losing fat let’s focus on being healthy. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and let this get you to where you want to be. And it doesn’t need to be an all or nothing approach. Let yourself enjoy the things in life. Nothing wrong with having dessert once in a while or whatever your choice is. If the majority of your eating is comprised of healthy foods than your doing alright.

Lastly know what it is you are doing. I think we all have this ideal on what we are doing but when you actually take the time to analyze and measure what it is you are eating you tend to find out that you were off the mark.

Be healthy. Don’t fatten the wallet of someone trying to cash in on a diet trend. Not everyone has good intentions.

Yours in health,

Darryl

*Note: I am a certified personal trainer with an interest in nutrition. Before making any changes to your diet please consult your physician.




I am standing still. In slow motion, I watch the colours blur

…And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to working out. You’re stuck doing to same routine over and over. It becomes boring, unsatisfying, and our body tends to stop growing. It doesn’t respond anymore to the same stimuli. And if you are bored of your workout you are most likely on your way to not working out anymore. That’s not good. We need to remain engaged.

Options

It doesn’t have to be that way. We can change things, introduce new things and take away that boredom. Our body will respond to this by getting stronger and our mind will respond to this by becoming more engaged.

I’m going to list off 5 things you can do to shock the body and get engaged in your workouts. Maybe you are already doing some of these things? If not, give them a try and see if it’s something you might want to add to your workout.

  1. Ditch the barbell: Instead of using a barbell for presses, and curls, use dumbbells. All of us have muscle imbalances, one side stronger than the other. We will keep perpetuating that imbalance if we continue to work out both the weak and strong side at the same time. When working with dumbbells start with the weaker side. Keep track of how many reps you did and do only that many on the strong side. Over time your weaker side will get stronger and catch up to the stronger side.
  2. Bands: Exercise bands are a good option for resistance training if you don’t have weights. Some advantages of exercise bands are they are very portable letting you use them pretty much anywhere. The resistance gets greater as distance increases and tension is created throughout the full range of motion.
  3. Speed: How long does it take you to do one rep of an exercise, let’s use a push up, or a bench press. Maybe one, two seconds? Now lets do the same exercise taking 10 seconds. 4 seconds to lower the weight or lower your body on the push up, hold for a second and then 4 seconds to come back up. A lot different, wasn’t it. You can mix up the time also. 5 seconds for first movement (lowering), hold for 3 seconds and then 10 seconds to raise. Lots of options but the idea is to slow it down.
  4. Drop it: Instead of using the same weight, or varying by a small amount, for each repetition of an exercise, start with your 1 rep weight (the amount you can execute one repetition) and work to exhaustion. When your rep is completed, drop the weight and continue. Then drop the weight again without pausing. Do this for 4 to 5 sets. This will give you a great burn on the muscles you are working. You think you have exhausted your muscles but you keep going further and further, until you are totally drained.
  5. Pyramids: Like the name implies, we in a sense are building a pyramid, a pyramid of muscles. Well, ok, not so much a pyramid of muscles but we are working out our muscles from the bottom of a pyramid up to the top, then back down again. How does this look? Start with a weight that you can execute 15 reps. Do those 15 reps. Than choose a weight where you can do 12 reps. Do those reps. Are you getting it? Of course you are. 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15. That’s the pyramid. Your muscles will thank you for it. It’s tough but you can do it and you will do it. It’s not the weight you use but the repetitions you do.

Is it new?

If you’ve been here before you have heard this message already. Our body adapts and needs to be ‘shocked’ to continue to grow. Will it hurt? Yeah, but that’s the bonus, it’s a good pain. The pain that lets you know that your muscles are responding, instead of feeling nothing the next day. You want that pain. Don’t you? Good, I knew it.

There are other things we can do to ‘shock’ the body and get results. But, it’s not always about getting results. If we don’t work out, then we do ourselves a disservice. It can be about keeping ourselves engaged. Staying in the game. Stay in the game and make it a part of your life.

Yours in health,

Darryl