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Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

PostHeaderIcon How I Cured My Muscle Pain

I always loved fitness, but the one thing that motivated me to become a professional more than anything else was pain. I remember my physical therapist telling me that I was too young to have back pain and if I wasn’t careful, my spine would just keep getting damaged. He didn’t tell me what being careful entailed. Does being careful mean staying in bed and never running again or lifting my baby boy again? I loved to run and I honestly wondered if I would ever be able to do it ever again.

I had no idea what was causing the pain, but having a background in mindfulness made me look back at all the times in my life when my back was healthy. Coincidentally, these were the times that I was consistently fit. The times when my back was in the worst shape were the times when I was the least fit or had a sit down job. Since all other health options weren’t working, I decided to get fit again. This was not easy. I had a bad back. I started by just doing my physical therapy and some low impact cardio like walking or light aerobics. After a while, the pain subsided but it still came and went. It turned out I had two degenerated discs in my lower back. The best advice anyone could give me was a physical therapist who was also a pilates instructor. She told me to keep moving and stay fit. She said if I wasn’t opting for surgery, my best bet was to strengthen the muscles that protect my spine.

What made the back pain permanently vanish? Well, that’s quite a journey. I became a fitness expert. I learned how muscles and bones worked. I learned that there were specific muscles in my core, hips and even shoulders that weren’t working right. For example, my tight shoulders caused me to have to overly arch my back in order to stand up straight. I can now spot this in my clients or students instinctively. Sure, I was told I had degenerated discs in my lumbar spine but re-establishing mobility in my tight shoulders took a huge burden off my back.

Some muscles of my hips were much more flexible or stronger than others. In fact, it turned out I had a very strong core but was overcompensating, using my back to do all the work because I had weaknesses in my legs and butt. My core wasn’t weak. It was overburdened by taking all the weight my hips couldn’t bare. I also had very tight hip flexors which pulled on my back.

I want to share this with you because I’ve seen a trend in our health care system. Insurance companies only pay therapists to work on the “one” body part that needs it. So, if your back is in pain because you have tight shoulders, you’ll get a lot of therapy for your lower back when you should be opening your shoulders. This is only an example. My knowledge in corrective exercise has taught me that it could be your feet causing pain in your knees, hips or even back, yet our health system is structured to focus on one muscle group at a time.

I was surprised when my son’s pediatrician told me that they don’t refer out people with pronated or “flat” feet to physical therapists. They just suggest orthotics. When I became a corrective exercise specialist, I learned how to re-build the arches of the foot. The reason why feet go flat is because they are out of shape. Walking in shoes and on flat surfaces with no variety has caused the arches of our feet to atrophy. Much like sitting in chairs all day can atrophy the muscles of our back, most of our chronic muscle pain is due to inactivity more than anything. Wearing special shoes or a back brace is like leaning on a cructh. You’re relying on an external object to make up for your own weakness. There are exercises you can do to fix muscular skelatal problems.

Unfortunately, like obesity, the greatest cure can’t be taken overnight. If you have surgery, it might cure a skeletal issue but if you don’t keep your muscles strong, that part of your body will just get re-injured. If you use liposuction to suck out your fat, but continue to eat more than you are burning, that fat will creep back on. The only pharmaceutical drugs prescribed to lose weight only work along with “diet and exercise”. We can cleanse the damage we do to our heart, blood and organs by detoxing on a high vegetable diet, but if we go back to our old way of eating, those problems come right back. We need to start getting real about how we maintain our health.

These days I’m back to doing all the things I love. I run, practice martial arts, jump and hike. But I also keep up a steady practice of muscle strengthening and stretching. The frailty of old age happens when we lose muscle and bone but all of this can be prevented if we take proper care of ourselves. My job requires me to be in top athletic condition and I sometimes get little tweeks in my knees, or other joints, but the good news is that I know what to do if these obstacles arise and they are usually ironed out in a few days. I’m currently in the best shape of my life because I’ve taken the time to address my weaknesses and work out smart.

A lot of people come to me after class, asking about their aches and pains, so I’m having a workshop specifically on corrective exercise in September. If you are interested in taking this workshop, click here for more info.

Special Events

 

PostHeaderIcon Why Run, Walk or Dance against Cancer

I never thought supporting the American Cancer society and Stand Up To Cancer would be such an amazing experience. Last month I participated in The Rugged Maniac obstacle course run, and the Night Nation Run (which was really an unbelievable music festival).
I want to share my experiences because I think everyone should do this at least once. If you don’t like running or obstacle courses, the Night Nation Run is more of a dance party than anything. Really, anyone could do it. Here’s why:

These Events are super inexpensive:

Early registration or groupon registration is as low as $29. I’ve seen other races that go for over $100. If you want to donate to the fight against cancer, you have the option of paying more or starting a fundraiser page to get sponsors, but all of that is optional and isn’t pushed on anyone. Plus, they are fully refundable, unlike other events.

It Appeals to all Fitness Levels:

If you’re a crazy athletic type who likes to get rugged, you can participate in the Rugged Maniac Run. If you’re not competitive at all and just want to have a workout or an all around good time, the Night Nation Run is for you. If you’re a night person, do the Night Nation Run. If you’re a day person, do the Rugged Maniac Run. You even get to choose the time you run. If you are a serious competitor, then there’s a special run for you but you can also run for fun.

The experience is thrilling and amazing:

At the Rugged Maniac Run, I got to participate in 25 obstacle courses on a 5k course. You can also do a 10k if you like. Some of the obstacle courses are akin to what you would see in the military, like climbing over walls and crawling under wire but there were also inflatable water slides and a warped wall like in the show Ninja Warrior. Everyone was super supportive. It was a hot day, but the course had lots of water and mud so it kept me cool. There’s also a festival with contests and prizes involving a mechanical bull, a pull up contest and a plank contest. I won a free t-shirt from winning the pull up contest and one for almost winning the plank contest. I participated with my son and we both received a ton of free stuff. Here I am leaping over a fire pit!

The experience is awesome and inspiring:

At the Night Nation Run, I felt like I was a part of something larger than myself. It was humungous! There was a huge stage and a dance party. It took place at Angel Stadium. Everyone got free neon necklaces and other glow in the dark paraphernalia. There were selfie stations everywhere. They riled you up before you ran, DJs and entertainers were everywhere, making it fun and throwing out free gifts. You don’t even have to do the run. You can enjoy the atmosphere, people watch or participate in the huge dance party. The run took us on an amazing tour of Angel’s Stadium. Some people walked, some jogged, some ran. There were dance stations and music everywhere which was motivationg. You could just stop and dance anytime you liked. We got to see the enormous stadium and go into the dug out, feeling what it must be like to be a professional base ball player. After the run, the party continued. Famous DJs kept us dancing. I probably burned more calories from dancing than I did from doing the 5k. Free glow in the dark toys were tossed everywhere. I did this run with  my husband and it was one of the best dates we have been on. This is also a family event. Unfortunately, all my pictures were accidentally erased. :( But here’s one from the website:

Life’s too short not to:

We’ve all had friends and family who either survived or passed from cancer. As hard as it is on all of us, I’ve learned that life is just too short. We get caught up in our ruts and routines and we forget to truly live. Remember to take the time to do something different, even if its not one of these events. Sometimes its hard to break from routine, but once I do something like this, I feel so much better. Life becomes more meaningful and I’m glad to have spent quality time with my loved ones and fellow human beings. Isn’t that what life is really all about?

It Fight’s Cancer:

While all the proceeds from these events goes to fighting cancer, it fights cancer in other ways. First, it brings people together. Evidence has shown that people who have a strong support group are more likely to survive the disease. Secondly, it forces us to get exercise. Numerous studies have shown that exercise helps prevent many kinds of cancer. Third, it gets us out which means we’re not inside getting depressed as depression can lead to more chronic health ailments.

It’s Fun:

I don’t like to think of exercise as a work out. I like to think of it as play, a way to move, to get out and to connect with others. I also think of it as a meditation and as an experience that teaches us to overcome our many  obstacles. People who suffer from cancer also need to overcome many obstacles. Let’s lift them up by being there for them and doing something that makes us positive about living.

Here’s a link to the Night Nation Run website, where there are events all over the World. There’s also a virtual event:

NightNationRun.com

Here’s a link to the Rugged Maniac website, where there are events all over the US and Canada:

RuggedManiac.com

I’ll be participating in the Night Nation run in LA in July 21 and in the Rugged Maniac run in SoCal, Temecula on November 17. Let me know if you’d like to join us. :D

PostHeaderIcon Does Your Time Perspective Affect Your Health?

How we view reality is subjective. Just ask your parents or siblings how they remember certain events in the past. You will find that everyone remembers these events very differently. Studies on eye witness testimonies have shown that most memories are false. This is why lawyers are not allowed to “lead the witness” while questioning them. Hinting or suggesting certain view points can lead someone to remember something completely differently, greatly skewing the real truth.

For more information on how our beliefs control our reality, click here:

Voodoo, Beliefs, Health and Society

We all wear tinted colored glasses that shade our world in a way only we can see. Modern psychology has examined how these attitudes can promote success or lead to failure. Experts on Time psychology (such as, Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D and John Boyd, Ph.D, authors of “The Time Paradox”) study and break down our relationship with time. They say that time is money as we are often paid for our time but I think that time is priceless and have always struggled with my relationship with it. We all only have a limited amount of time in a day and how we spend that time is so crucial. Yet no one really knows how much time we have in a life. I could die tomorrow in an accident or many years from now. This mystery just makes time even more valuable. I think that’s why I enjoyed reading “The Time Paradox” so much.  Much can be said about how we view the Past, Present and Future.

 

THE PAST:

As stated before, we can’t always trust our memories to give us an objective reality about what really happened in the past. There are many sides to one story and our side is highly influenced by our attitudes. Some people believe in a golden age, when life was innocent and simpler. Other people say our history is full of horrors and we are living in the best times ever. Yet, how we see the past can directly affect our success in the future. if we are constantly focusing on our failures and disappointments, we have created a general attitude that we are losers. If this is so, we will go about our lives with a chip on our shoulder, not expecting success and always expecting failure. We could be sabotaging ourselves without even knowing it.

In contrast, if we focus on our little successes, we have proven to ourselves that we are capable and will have a more positive attitude towards our endeavors.

Studies have shown that the act of rumination, of constantly thinking about the negative aspects of the past can lead to depression and other chronic diseases that stem from emotional stress such as heart disease. Being depressed will cause us to try less, to take less risks and to attract more disappointments and failures. If we don’t change how we think about our past, we become trapped in this cycle.

Past negative attitude: I shouldn’t have eaten that cookie! This is why I never reach my fitness goals. What’s the point of trying? I’m just gonna stay fat and die early. I’m gonna wallow in my sorrow, stay home and eat a gallon of ice cream

Past positive approach: I didn’t reach my goal of losing 10 lbs in one month but that’s because I cheated by eating a few cookies. I did lose 7 lbs. That’s a huge success! I’ve never lost 7 lbs before. I just have to keep at it and I’m certain to reach my goals soon. Better not miss my muscle pump class.

These examples show two different ways of looking at the same exact situation. Which mindset do you think will lead to success? We can find happiness focusing on all the good times, or we can wallow in depression by ruminating over the bad.

For more information on using awareness to influence our free will, click here:

Science, Yoga, and Free Will

THE PRESENT:

There are three major ways of viewing our present situation; Present Fatalistic, Present Hedonistic and Holistic present.

Present Fatalistic people have a deterministic attitude towards life. They don’t believe anything they do now could change future outcomes. This is common in people who come from backgrounds of poverty, little opportunity and insecurity. The attitude goes something like this: “What’s the point of trying? I’m going to die anyway,” or “I’ve always been poor. That will never change.” Such attitudes sabotage us from making pro active decisions in our lives. So if you are overweight or come from a family of overweight people with chronic health conditions, there is little you will do to change this situation because you have little belief in your ability to make a difference.

Present Hedonistic people love to live in the moment and think little of future consequences. They are usually the life of the party, encouraging everyone to give in to their indulgences, which can be great for you’re health if your enjoying a Zumba class or a nice outdoor run. But this attitude may also lead to more drinking alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs or emotional eating with little thought of how this behavior will effect the future. Present hedonists tend to gamble more and be more promiscuous. The positive of this approach to time is that present hedonists tend to have more fun. The negative is that their inability to consider future consequences can still lead to health problems, addiction and failure to commit and follow through due to lack of planning.

The Holistic Present approach is living in the utmost present, the way we do when meditating or writing poetry. Buddhism and many other philosophies have preached the beauty, peace and serenity of living in this state. It’s also known as “mindfulness”. Many who reach this state even say that time becomes an illusion and the mental disorders that come with negative viewpoints of time drift away. This is the state we are in when we are meditating, enjoying a sunset, painting or writing a poem or completely focusing our mind on the task at hand. We see time as one holistic whole and live in one-ness with our place in the grand scheme of things. We let go of the pain of the past, the addictions of the present and the demands of the future. It’s a very clear and calming place to be. If we take the time to reach this state on a regular basis, it can have many positive affects on our mental and physical well being.

If you’d like to learn more about meditation and focusing on the present, click here:

Meditation (A Running Into Reality)

THE FUTURE:

Do you plan for the future? People who create goals for themselves are more likely to do well in school, be on time, succeed in losing weight and be financially well off. They save their money, plan their meals and workouts, do the work needed to finish future projects and tend to be more successful in all aspects of life. They know how to delay gratification, often choosing to make present sacrifices so they can be more successful in the future.

The negative of always living for the future is becoming so engrossed in what needs to be done tomorrow that we forget to enjoy today. Relationships might struggle due to lack of spending that quality time with those we love. This perspective can also lead to a type A personality, someone who is always worried about getting things done, always planning to fill the calendar and finding that we never have free time to live in the moment. This can lead to fear of not living up to expectations and such stress contributes significantly to cardiovascular disease. Feelings of anger and fear have been known to harden the arteries more than a high fat diet. So one must strike a balance between planning for the future and living in the present.

Since people who plan for the future, are good problem solvers, they can easily fix the negatives by planning their schedules to include fun time for themselves and their loved ones.

For more instructions on how to plan out your fitness goals, click here:

How to Make Your New Year’s Resolution

In Conclusion, we all have very different relationships with time and taking a moment to examine how we relate to it can help us with our health, our finances and relationships. Do you dwell on negative memories of the past and find it hard to forgive? If so, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Try taking some time to focus on fond memories and past successes and see how this can shift your attitude and positively change your outlook.

Do you believe that the choices you make in the present have some sway over your future? If not, then you are probably letting your environment decide the life you should be living rather than living the life you choose to live. Do you over indulge in the present moment, giving little thought of what you say or do can effect your future? Such impulsive behavior could interfere with future success.

Are you so focused on ambition and future outcomes, that you have become a big ball of stress and have forgotten how to relax, smell the flowers and make time with your loved ones? This can lead to frustration which can greatly affect your health. Therefore, taking the time to contemplate your time perspectives and learning to balance how you view your past, present and future can help you positively change your life and your health.
“You can choose how to reconstruct the past, interpret the present, and construct the future. You can choose to remember a wonderful glass of wine that you had yesterday, and forget the special bottle of wine that you spilled last week. Today you can choose to see the glass as half full and savor its flavor. And you can choose to expect the glass to be completely full tomorrow. In so doing , you make the most of your time by choosing happiness over despair, joy over heartbreak, and pleasure over pain.
The greatest gift that you can give to others and yourself is time. Embrace the gift of time whether you give it or receive it. Allow yourself to be fully present and to choose happiness. The past is gone, and the future will never arrive. The present is all that you have. Give yourself permission to enjoy the present and to pursue happiness in the future.”
–From “The Time Paradox” by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd

 

PostHeaderIcon What Can I Eat if Everything is Unhealthy?

What Can I Eat if Everything is Unhealthy? This is a common question I’ve been hearing a lot from students and clients recently. This confusion stems from the fact that much of the mainstream information we are getting on nutrition do not come from experts or scholars but from journalists putting a doomsday, fear mongering spin on nutrition (fear sells in journalism) or from salespeople trying to push a supplement or diet program for their company. Because of this, much of the information we get on nutrition is biased or false, so before you freak out that eating apples are bad for you, ask yourself this question: Who gave you this advice? Was it a friend with no credentials on nutrition? Was it a sales representative whose job it is to push their product, or was it from a blog or news source that sites no studies or specific sources? Be careful when you hear the generic term, “experts say.” Who are these experts? Unless there is a specific study cited from a reputable scientific journal or a reputable scholar, that can mean anything. Also, studies and experiments need to be repeated many times before we really understand them, and some have more merit than others due to the way the study was conducted. Was it a double blind controlled study? Were the methods of measurement accurate? You would have to be a bit of an expert to understand why some studies are better than others.

Diet information can be run by fads. If a recent study indicates that high fat diets improve the sleep patterns of diabetics, everyone will go on that diet, even the non-diabetics, and they’ll assume it will help them lose weight, even though the study was about sleep patterns. These days it doesn’t have to be a study. It can just be something someone posted on social media that looks interesting and goes viral.

All my certifications are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard in the United States for assessing professional competence. All the information I have been taught come from the most comprehensive scientific studies and advancements. I am also required to continue my education and update my certifications every year. The classes I take are taught by people with advanced degrees in the field, often by professors with Ph.ds who have dedicated their lives to science and research. However, there is a lot of crap out there. I’ve seen articles that have completely misread or made assumptions about expert advice to put a spin on things that have made me cringe.

Recently I opened an article on my browser’s home page about how nutritional experts are misunderstood. It said that we nutritionists say fiber is bad for you because it can cause gastrointestinal distress. This was taken out of context. On the contrary, fiber is an essential nutrient. We recommend that the average person get at least 20 grams of fiber each day. It can help prevent gastrointestinal disease. However, if you are an athlete who wants to take advantage of the carb boost gained from eating carbs right before or during a workout or event, it’s probably better to pick a less fibrous form of carbs so you don’t get gastrointestinal distress during your performance. The article kept saying “experts say” but it wasn’t written by a nutritionist nor did it quote any experts or site any literature.

Recently someone said to me, “if you aren’t speaking out against the quacks, you might as well be supporting them,” so I just want to clear this up to my followers.

On supplements: Fitness supplements are harmless to some, a shady business to others. Since supplements aren’t well regulated by the FDA, you can give someone a water pill and say that anything is in it. It amazes me how many people will buy anything if they are told it will help them build muscle or lose weight without even thinking about consulting their doctor. I’ve met a few people who were so sold on supplements by their gym or trainer, who got Crohn’s disease as a result and had to stop working out. I know a dietician who often meets patients with gastrointestinal problems due to the sheer number of nutritional supplements they have consumed, this includes bars and powders. Please remember that supplements are not meant to replace food.

Before you buy just any supplement, please check out the warning and regulations on the USDA’s website here:

https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/dietary-supplements

If you are discovering my website for the first time, I recommend this blog on different types of diets for different reasons. These specific diets are the ones that have the most long standing research. Fad diets are not included here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=999

Remember the overlooked obvious, to cut out the junk food and eat a diet rich in variety and nutrients, such as the one described in the food plate here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=385

So you don’t get fooled by marketing found on food labels, please read my blog on how to read them with discernment here:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=824

If you’d like to follow more articles written specifically by fitness and nutritionist experts, check out my twitter page where I post articles regularly

https://twitter.com/HeroesTraining

P.S., I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in so long as this year has been extremely busy for me. I’m still here and hopefully I can post more in the future.

PostHeaderIcon My Experiment: Applying Yoga breath/Pranayama to Running and Athletics

I like to do hill sprints occasionally to really get my heart rate up. I consider it power and strength training for my heart. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with how changing the manner in which I breath effects my performance.
What truly inspired me was a study I read about in the book “Body Mind and Sport” by John Doullard.
This study consisted of teaching athletes classic yoga pranayma breathing and having them apply it to their sport. This usually took a few months to teach because the athletes had to learn to exert themselves while only breathing through the nose and with very deep diaphramatic breaths.
This study was inspired by top athletes like Roger Bannister who broke the four minute mile. He described his experience as euphoric and not at all torturous. He didn’t feel as though he was working hard, but as if he had found a perfect flow.
I observed this once while watching Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt competing. His sprint looked effortless. His mouth was closed. There was no sign that he was over exerting himself. When it was over, he had so much joy, he ran more laps, waving to fans and celebrating. There was no sign of exhaustion, and yet he beat a world record. Most people in the world couldn’t run that fast if they killed themselves doing it.
What John Doullard’s studies showed was that those who mastered yoga breathing even while performing a seemingly intense, athletic feat felt less stress. Everyone who participated in the study could still perform with high skill. They just didn’t feel like they were working hard. The recovery rate was faster. In fact, many felt they could keep going and they didn’t feel tired after the training if they applied yoga breathing.
So I tried this for myself. First I did the smaller hill which usually takes me between 27 to 30 seconds to complete. I stood at the bottom of the hill and cleared my mind. I started breathing the way I do in yoga class until I felt I had the long, slow and deep breaths down. Then I bolted up the hill. I found that if I could keep the long breaths going, I brought my time down to 26 seconds which is an amazing improvement for a runner. I also realized that it didn’t feel like I was running fast at all. Perhaps it was because I was breathing slow and not panting. The slowness of my breath made me feel as if I were running at a more even keeled pace.
I tried this on the longer hill as well. This hill usually takes me 50 seconds to 1 minute to complete. When I focused on the yoga breathing, I was able to complete it in 46 seconds!

160917_001Another book that inspired me to experiment, not just on how hard I exercise but on what my mindset is when I exercise is “Power vs. Force” by David R. Hawkings M.D. Ph.D. This book is based on thousands of studies using applied kinesthiology to test strength. The book breaks down which mindsets give us the most strength. For example, the mindset of shame makes us weak. If we were to push on a person’s arm who feels shame, their arm would fall right away, but if you were to push on a person’s arm who feels joy, that arm is full of strength and energy. This book concludes that after testing thousands of people, that joy and universal love (that stems from compassion not infatuation) has the greatest energy.
I decided to test this theory on a whim as it was a very stressful week for me and I had so much on my mind. I was running my usual pace when I decided to try clearing my mind and focus on something more expansive than my every day worries.
I managed to quiet all the noise in my head. I don’t remember how I did it. Perhaps my own curiosity motivated me, for I wanted to see if my sprint time would improve if I achieved a  higher state. I think I connected with the spirit of the hawks that built a nest in that area to lift me up. Focusing on the beauty of nature, put me in a different state, and I swear my time improved by at least 3 or 5 seconds! Some things came to mind. I recalled that my kung fu instructor who said that everything happens for a reason and I was able to rise above my worries and realize that its all happening the way its supposed to.

I invite all of my readers who have experience with yoga and pranayma to take what you learned inside the yoga studio and start applying it to your workouts and your life. After all, what use is practicing meditation if we can’t use it to improve all aspects of our lives? Instead of seeing exercise as torture, see it as a meditation, an opportunity to tap into your higher power. Then see if you can apply these breathing and focusing strategies to career and relationships. Lately, I’ve been training more clients and teaching more classes than ever but I’m learning to breath through my work, to focus on the moment and to start applying my practice to my life.

To read more about the benefits of meditation, click here:

Meditation (A running into reality)

To read more about the benefits of breath control, click here:

Don’t hold your breath

For more on applying a positive mindset to fitness, click here:

Yoga, Joy, Gratitude and Prana

 

PostHeaderIcon The Best Diet for You

There are so many diets out there that the general public is confused as to what they should and shouldn’t eat. What many don’t realize is that some diets are geared to certain types of people. For example, an endurance athlete may have completely different dietary needs as a sedentary person with diabetes. Someone training to gain large amounts of muscle may not have the same nutritional needs as  someone who is trying to lose weight. To help clear up this confusion, I’ve listed some popular diets below and showed which diet works best for which type of person. These are not fad diets, but the most researched and recommended diets in the medical literature.

Preventing Hi Blood Pressure- Dash

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet consist of low salt intake, low saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat. The staples are fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products. Fish, lean poultry, nuts, unsaturated fats and whole grains are encouraged. Red meat, sweets and added sugars are discouraged. this eating plan was developed to reduce blood pressure but studies suggest that it may also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and bad cholesterol.

Weight Reduction, Reversing Overweight/Obesity- Moderate Energy Restriction /Low Energy-Dense

Moderate energy restriction diets are designed to help people lose weight in the most healthy way possible. They are designed to help people lose weight without sacrificing their metabolism and have been scientifically shown to be more successful in long term weight loss in active individuals than starvation or very low calorie diets. This diet consists of creating an energy deficit through diet and/or exercise. For example, if you burn an extra 300 calories a day and eat 300 calories less each day, this is a deficit of 600 calories a day. Since you must burn 3500 calories to burn a pound of fat, it would take you about 6 days to lose one pound. Since research has shown that losing 1-2 pounds a week on a moderate energy restriction diet is the safest way to lose weight without sacrificing your metabolism, I recommend this method of weight loss. Remember that calories count. If you change what you eat, but you are still consuming the same amount of calories, you will not lose weight. Extremely low calorie or starvation diets are not recommended without the supervision of a doctor or registered dietician due to the risk of lowered metabolism, loss of muscle, bone, organ tissue; and the risk of death.

For more information on why not to ruin your metabolism while dieting, check out this link:

Dieting too much? You could be hurting your metabolism

For more information on how to count calories, check out this link:

How many calories did I just burn?

If the thought of counting calories is daunting for you,  low energy-dense diets are recommended for people who want to lose weight without counting calories. Research shows that many have been successful at losing weight by making it a habit to eat foods that have less calories such as getting their carbs from whole grains instead of processed grains or from beans, whole fruits and vegetables. Make it a point to make your meat lean such as eating egg whites, poultry and low or non fat dairy products. Aim to eat foods higher in water and fiber and lower in fat as water and fiber help you feel full and contain no calories. Eating a diet with less fat has been proven to help people lose weight faster. Fruit juice and soda is not recommended for their high calorie content but vegetables, salads, broth based soups and unprocessed foods are encouraged.

For more information on switching to a more energy-dense diet, check out this link:

The Switch Trick: How to lose weight without counting calories

 

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Overall Longevity- Mediterranean/Vegetarian/Vegan/DASH

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. Studies have shown that people on this diet tend to live longer lives. This diet is named after the Mediterranean as people in the Greek island of Crete are known for their health and longevity. This diet consist of lots of Vegetables (other than potatoes), 4 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables, some healthy servings of beans and/or nuts a few times a week,  fish at least twice a week and replace red meat with lean poultry. Also, replace butter which is rich in saturated fat with cholesterol lowering vegetable oils such as olive oil.

Vegetarians and vegans tend to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease due to the fact that meat products contain mostly saturated fats. Cutting out meat products can help reduce the risk of high cholesterol or triglycerides in the blood which can lead to heart disease.  Talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin B 12 supplement as this vitamin is only found in animal products. Vegans need to be aware of how they combine foods to insure they get all essential amino acids which are easily found in meats but in varying amounts in vegetable proteins. Food combinations such as whole grain rice and beans can provide a full spectrum of amino acids. Vegetable sources of protein that contain all essential amino acids are soy, chia seeds and quinoa. Vegetarianism is also better for the environment but do remember that eating nothing but junk food such as pastries, deep fried foods and processed carbs is still unhealthy even though these foods do not contain animal products.

Balanced diet, healthy food concept

Alzheimers Prevention- The MIND Diet

New research on Alzheimers disease risk has shown that dietary patterns play a large role in preventing the disease. The new MIND diet was developed to educate people on what to eat to keep the mind healthy. This consists of a mix of the DASH diet for hypertension, which I mentioned above and the Mediterranean diet for longevity and healthy heart health, also mentioned above. However, instead of just recommending many fruits and vegetables, the MIND recommends specific fruits and vegetables which have been clinically proven to help keep the brain healthy such as leafy greens and and blueberries. Nuts are encouraged for their brain healthy fats, as is olive oil and fish. Saturated fats and trans fat are discouraged due to their inflammatory effects. As a matter of fact, all of the diets listed in this blog discourage saturated fats and trans fats. There is a common theme, I believe, that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain.

Athletes-High carbs/High Protein/Nutritional Timing

Athletes metabolize glucose and protein differently from sedentary people. Since glycogen stores are depleted quickly in athletes, they should eat carbs often in order to maximize performance. Also, athletes tend to have as much as or more than twice as many needs for B vitamins and protein than a sedentary person. This is very general as there are many different kinds of athletes. Power athletes and body builders require the most amounts of protein. Endurance athletes require more protein but not as much as body builders. It is estimated that one must consume 1000 to 3500 calories to gain one pound of muscle so body builders need to consume extra calories as well. Also, performance is enhanced when athletes time their nutritional intake. For example, athletes who eat a large amount of carbs and protein as soon after a workout as possible are more likely to be less sore the next day. Athletes also need to re-fuel for their next training session or competition which is also why eating the most right after a workout and often during the day is so important.

Food Sensitivities and Allergens –Gluten Free/Dairy Free/Allergen Free

Its been well known that Celiac disease (a reaction of the gastrointestinal system when exposed to gluten and gliadin which is a component of wheat and other grains) is a good reason to avoid gluten. There has been some mounting evidence that shows that some people may also have sensitivities to digesting gluten. If you suspect a gluten sensitivity, check with your doctor and have him/her test you for celiac disease and other sensitivities. Remember that whole grains are a source of B vitamins and fiber and most grains such as wheat, barley and Rye contain gluten. One Swedish study showed that people who cut out gluten for 10 years had low levels of B-6 and folate. A U.S survey found that half of people on gluten free diets had inadequate fiber, iron and calcium intake. Some natural gluten free foods that contain whole grains include rice, corn, millet and buckwheat. It is recommended that you check with a doctor or registered dietician if you suspect gluten sensitivity. People who have no sensitivities to gluten need not cut it from their diet.

The same thing goes for dairy free diets. Some people suffer dairy sensitivities such as lactose intolerance which makes the digestion of dairy difficult. Others suffer from allergies that cause reactions such as hives, gastrointestinal distress or anaphylactic shock. These people should avoid dairy and can get their calcium requirements from calcium fortified grains or juice. When taking a calcium supplement, keep in mind that taking above 50% of the recommended daily allowance is too much for the body to digest all at once. Try to get a little bit of calcium throughout the day. Avoid soda because the high levels of phosphorus in the soda can interfere with proper calcium absorption and compliment calcium intake with foods rich in magnesium such as nuts, seeds and leafy greens.

If you suspect any kind of food allergy, have yourself tested by a doctor so you know exactly which foods to avoid. While cutting out certain foods may be necessary for someone with allergies or sensitivities, eating a diet rich in variety is encourage in order to satisfy our nutritional intake so I don’t advise people to cut out whole foods unless necessary.

Foods we should all cut down on are processed foods, foods with added sugar, deep fried foods, trans fat and saturated fat.

 

PostHeaderIcon The Limitless Pill

I once heard of a culture where a preventative medical practitioner is paid a wage by the patient in order to keep the patient healthy. When the patient gets sick, the practitioner doesn’t get paid. So the idea is not to save a patient once they are already ill, but to simply prevent illness. I thought this was an interesting take on health until I realized that this is what I do.

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As a fitness/yoga instructor and personal trainer, I am paid to keep my clients and students healthy. When they are too ill to train with me, I am not paid, at least in most cases. While there are medicines and surgical procedures that can cure many illnesses, they don’t always work.

Yet the proper exercise and nutrition regimen has been clinically proven, time and time again to prevent and sometimes cure most of the deadliest illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancers. Being fit lowers the risk of many diseases such as Alzheimer’s, depression, erectile dysfunction, fatigue and chronic pain. This fact is backed by countless of scientific studies. People who exercise have been cited in many studies to have a greater chance of being in a good mood, doing better on the job, and being more intelligent and alert.

It would take pages of citations for me to list all of these studies so here is a reference summarizing many of these studies from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. You can click this link:

Lack of Exercise is a Major Cause of Chronic Diseases

Our society is fascinated by the idea of a magic pill, such as the one found in the movie and TV Show “Limitless” that makes us smarter or that cures all things. There is no panacea for all illnesses yet exercise and nutrition has been proven to work for most illnesses without any side effects.

Of course some exercises work better for some ailments than others. For example, I wouldn’t have someone who suffers from herniated discs in their lower back to take up parkour. Still, there are other types of movement that have proven to help ease the pain of people who do suffer from herniated discs. There seems to be a stereotype that fitness specialists are just here to torture you and make you puke. Yet, if you look at my class schedule you’ll see that on top of training, I also teach chair classes for people who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and water arthritis classes which is full of people who not only have arthritis but who also depend on wheelchairs and walkers.

The medical community has stated that exercise is important for general health, as important as brushing your teeth to avoid getting cavities. Yet, why do people not do it? In fact, why do people spend so much money on medication, surgery and the sheer cost of suffering from a disease due to inactivity when they should be devoting their efforts to getting on an exercise program? It is no secret that exercise is the best thing that most of us could possibly do for our health. In fact I’ve helped many clients get healthy enough to stop depending on drugs which has saved them thousands of dollars.

I’d like to end my blog with a question posed by Dr. Mike Evans in the video I cited below, “Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23 and a half hours a day?” Just taking 30 minutes out of each day to move can not only save your life, but increase your standard of living significantly. He also states that of all preventative measures, movement is the one that will give you the biggest return on your investment. Make a commitment to your health with a disease preventing exercise regimen if you haven’t already.

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

for more motivation on how to make that change check out this post:

If You Don’t Stand for Something, You’ll Fall for Anything

Also, click this link to view some motivational posts Motivational posts

PostHeaderIcon What Pain Has Taught Me

I was able to move through my childhood unscathed. Maybe a scratch or bruise here and there, shin splints or a pulled groin muscle that healed eventually. There was that minor concussion after full contact sparring when I used to do kung fu. Actually, maybe I did get injured more than I thought I did but when we’re young, you bounce back and tend to forget. Then we get our first chronic injury, the one that keeps coming back to haunt us. That happened the first time I hurt my lower back. I didn’t even know why or how it happened. These days, I have a good idea but I had to experience chronic pain before I could understand some of the underlying causes that we often overlook. I was barely 21 or 22 when the chronic back pain started and I remember thinking that I had finally gotten old and that it might be down hill from then on. At the age of 22, I thought that I had reached old age. These days, I see teenagers who look like they had already reached the end of their lives, backs hunched over from texting and video games and I now know that injuries have nothing to do with age. It could happen anytime to anyone.

The first thing I learned about injuries and pain is that it doesn’t have to be caused by specific trauma like a car accident. The pain can just start unbeknownst to us. We have no idea where it came from or why its there. It could have been caused by mental or emotional stress, a lack of sleep or recovery, overuse; or it may have been there for months but we were too pent up on adrenaline, caffeine or pain killers to notice. Then one day, we can’t hide from it anymore and the pain makes itself known.

My back pain recurred many times in my life, before I made the choice to commit myself to fitness and keep my core healthy for good. It came back again after I worked in an office. Maybe it was sitting in a chair all day that did it. The lower back would get so swollen and I would need to see a therapist or chiropractor but I had no idea why it would become inflamed and lock up on me. It occurred again after giving birth to  my son and that was the worst because it actually took me a few years to recover from that. The pain went away in a few months but my back would still bother me if I sat for too long or witness most forms of stressed. Training myself to be strong and athletic again, despite my weak link was an experimental journey that involved fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of being too weak, fear of resting it and not making it stronger, fear that making it stronger would be too much and finally the faith that came with believing that it will get better. I also hurt my knees and that took about a year or more to recover. This happened when I was teaching over 30 classes a week. My knees became worn down and I finally stopped teaching Zumba.

So I know what its like to be teetering on the edge of wanting to do something and wanting to not do something about our pain. We don’t know when we should be resting or when we should be building. Some people heal up after finally finding the right regimen, some never do and just accept their chronic pain. Some of us rest too much and allow ourselves to atrophy, others pound away at the injury, doing everything they can to strengthen their bodies when they should have just rested that area all along. We all heal at different levels and, unfortunately all the technology we have can’t always detect exactly what we should be doing. A lot of times it has more to do with how we stand, sit, sleep, think and eat.

Despite all the suffering I felt, I have to admit that being injured is one of the best things that has happened to me (knock on wood). I’m grateful because it taught me mindfulness. It made me realize that healing is not as easy as some people make it out to be. I also learned that healing modalities such as yoga, tai chi, pilates etc. may work or may worsen an injury and you have to figure out what is best for you. It also made me realize the true meaning of mind body. It isn’t taking a power yoga class because you want to look like a hot, new age chick in a bikini. The initiation of yoga and pilates into conventional gyms have changed the original mind body approach of these modalities. Yoga is meditation. It’s learning the body’s limits and strengths. We breath and move with awareness so we can learn what works and what doesn’t. Bringing conscious awareness into how we move helps us understand ourselves. It helps us to gauge if we are doing too much or too little, if our soreness is healthy or a sign that we are doing something incorrectly or abusively. This kind of awareness is priceless.

Injuries have taught me to be deeper, to make my work outs an internal art, to meditate, to incorporate mindfulness, mental illumination and emotional reflection into my healthy lifestyle. I have learned to consciously engage smaller muscles that I never knew were there before. My search for a pain free life has opened me up to many ways of thinking and moving and has empowered me to share with others. No one’s body is the same. We all have different sized limbs and muscles but the more we understand, the more empowered we become.

Pain has taught me that I’m not immortal and has driven in me the lesson that I am no better than anyone else. This, I believe, is a good thing because it is the ego that creates judgment, hostility, dictatorships and oppressiveness. Pain has taught me compassion and empathy and these traits are the heart of love.

If you find yourself having to deal with pain, please read my post on the steps you should take in case of an injury:

What To Do In Case of an Injury

Do understand that there is no one panacea for pain. The best advice I can give in our quest for a cure is to be mindful. Pain is just a loud message your brain is sending you that something is not right. It may take you a while to understand the message but the search for an answer will help you in all aspects of your life. The pain may be a call to solve a problem you have been ignoring for far too long. Often, its a bad relationship, job or situation. Sometimes its just the way we have been treating body. Pay attention.  It may be a call to learn more about your body and mind so you can live a fuller or deeper life. Humble yourself and listen.

Here I am with my son turning 40 years old, and feeling less pain now than I did when I was in my 20s.

 

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PostHeaderIcon The Switch Trick: How to Lose Weight Without Counting Calories

Happy New Year everyone!

As I work with people, I realize how difficult it is for some to keep track of how many calories they consume so I have been trying to think of a simpler approach to weight loss. I came up with this method which is actually based on many studies on habit change and what we know about food.

I call this The Switch Trick:

I have always said that calories count and that if weight loss is your goal, you must burn more calories than you consume, but measuring calories can be a chore so here are some mind tricks to help you get around that. I actually use this approach myself and it has helped me lose weight in the past and maintain it every since.

Habit Change: The most comprehensive research on habit change teaches that you can’t just stop doing something that is a long standing habit. You must replace that habit with something else and believe in your ability to change. This can be done with food. For example, you have gained weight this year because you got into the habit of eating cookies around 2pm. Do the switch trick. Replace the jar of cookies with a basket of apples or any other snack that has less calories than the cookies such as low fat string cheese, carrots, celery, non-fat yogurt, non-fat turkey meat, etc. At first, you will crave the cookies but over time, your body will adapt to the new habit. As a result, you will lose weight because you are consuming less calories.

Sometimes we gain weight because we eat when stressed. We have candy bars on our office desk. Replace them with peaches or anything that is healthier and has less calories. Sometimes we get emotional and buy ice cream. Replace it with low fat frozen yogurt. Sometimes we go for a drive and grab a high calorie Frappuccino. Go for a walk instead and get some iced green tea. As hard as it is to lose weight, I’ve seen many people succeed by replacing many unhealthy habits such as drinking alcohol and binge eating with starting an exercise program. After some time, exercise becomes addicting but its a healthy addiction. Find something that suites your personality and that you think is fun and replace unhealthy habits with this new hobby.

Many studies have shown that foods high in fiber, protein and water help us feel fuller. These foods include fruits, vegetables, non-fat lean meats, non-fat greek yogurt (greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt), and whole grains. Studies have shown that only 5% of adults consume the recommended allowance of fiber anyway and this nutrient is vital in helping us feel satiated, keeping down cholesterol levels, aiding in digestion and feeding probiotic bacteria necessary in fighting disease.

Also, replace fruit juice or soda with water or whole fruits. Whole fruits have a lower glycemic index (the sugars in them are burned more gradually because the fiber in the fruit helps to regulate them). The sugar in fruit juice can spike blood sugar levels. Plus, the fiber in whole fruits contains more nutrients and will help you feel fuller than simply drinking juice.

When eating out, order something different. Replace pan fried foods with grilled or roasted foods. Replace creamy sauces with low fat tomato sauces. Replace french fries with a salad, white rice with brown or a bread roll with a bowl of sweet fruit. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate

Now here is the hard part: Write down the new foods on your grocery list and make sure you buy them instead of the old ones.

For more information on nutrition, check out these nutrition blogs:

NUTRITION BLOGS

I’ll be doing a nutrition for weight lost seminar on February 4. For more information, click here:

SPECIAL EVENTS

PostHeaderIcon What Kind of Exercise Raises Our Metabolism?

Our cells consume extra oxygen (and burns extra calories) during a workout. This elevated oxygen consumption can continue after a workout because the cells are busy restoring and building tissue in order to prepare our body for the next workout. This phenomenon is known as excess post exersice oxygen consumption or EPOC. EPOC was first noted in the 1920’s but has been studied extensively since the 1980’s. Though the studies regarding how long EPOC lasts are conflicting due to different measurement methods, types of exercise, duration and mode; we do know that exercise intensity is the strongest factor affecting EPOC. The harder we train, the greater the afterburn

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Study on Aerobic training in a metabolic chamber

Since testing in a metabolic chamber is the most accurate way of measuring metabolism, I’d like to site a study, Knab et al, (2011) published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. A metabolic chamber is a small room where subjects can live while scientists measure precisely how they eat, sleep and exercise while also tracking how oxygen is consumed in the vacuum. Since other methods of measuring metabolism are not as accurate and since the subjects can not lie about how they eat, move or sleep, this study has great appeal.

According to this study done on 25 year old men, a 45 minute workout on a cycle ergometer had an average energy cost of 519 kilocalories. EPOC was elevated for 14 hours afterwards–an increase of 190 kcal compared with the control group of those who rested.

Comparing high intensity resistance training to traditional resistance training

Another study on how traditional resistance training compared to high intensity resistance training, Paeli et al, (2012) published in Journal of Translational  Medicine, tested men (aged 24-32). The first group used traditional resistance training methods which consisted of 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions to failure (70%-75% of their 1 rep max) with 1 minute rest between sets for single joint exercises and 2 minutes rest for multiple joint exercises. The training lasted 62 minutes including a 10 minute warm up on the treadmill.

The high intensity training group lifted to failure a weight comparable to the subject’s 6-RM (meaning subjects could do 6 reps but not 7 or more). After 20 seconds of rest they lifted the same weight to failure a third time (1-2 reps). They rested for 2.3 minutes then repeated the entire regimen a second and third time. The training session lasted approximately 32 minutes, including a 10 minute warm up on a treadmill.

Ater a 22 hour period, the subjects were tested. The traditional resistance training group had an energy expenditure that was 5% (99 kcal) greater than their resting values. The higher intensity group’s energy expenditure was 23% greater (452 kcal).

According to these studies EPOC is elevated after many types of workouts but mostly for high intensity resistance training, probably because that produces the most wear and tear on the body, thereby requiring more recovery.

Also keep in mind that while intense training increases the metabolism, starving oneself and over exercising can decrease the metabolism. The subjects in the these studies were also given extra food to make up for the extra calories they burned. For more information on how not eating enough while exercising too much can hurt the metabolism, read this article:

Dieting Too Much? You Could Be Hurting More Than Your Metabolism

For more information on burning calories, read this article:

How Many Calories Did I Just Burn?

This month, I will be doing a workshop on nutrition that will cover nutrition and diet recommendations for athletic performance and fat loss. Learn which carbohydrates impact glucose levels, which proteins and fats we should be eating, and how to properly calculate your ideal caloric intake/output. All of the information to be shared are based on the latest studies and most up to date expert advice.

For more information on this workshop, click this link:

NUTRITION WORKSHOP: The Truth About Calories:
Carbohydrates and Nutrition for Fitness