Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Meditations and Tips for Emotional Eating

Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

Mindfulness

Let’s face it. Most of us know how to lose those unwanted pounds. We have to change how we eat. We have to shift our habits We know those cookies and that ice cream won’t help us lose weight but why do we eat it? Well, humans aren’t as rational as we think we are. We’re emotional and eating is often an emotional act. And yes, this has been a stressful year.

Recent studies on psychology point to one personality trait that is most successful in helping people lose weight and maintain it. This trait is awareness or mindfulness, a trait we strive for in our yoga practice, but what does it mean?

Thich Nhat Hanh once said:

“When I hold a piece of bread, I look at it, and sometimes I smile at it. The piece of bread is an ambassador of the cosmos offering nourishment and support. Looking deeply into the piece of bread, I see the sunshine, the clouds, the great earth. Without the sunshine, no wheat can grow. Without the clouds, there is no rain for the wheat to grow. Without the great earth, nothing can grow. That is why the piece of bread that I hold in my hand is a wonder of life. It is there for all of us. We have to be there for it.

“Eat with gratitude. And when you put the piece of bread into your mouth, chew only your bread and not your projects, worries, fears or anger. This is the practice of mindfulness. You chew mindfully and know that you are chewing the bread, the wonderful nourishment of life. This brings you freedom and joy. Eat every morsel of your breakfast like that, not allowing yourself to be carried away from the experience of eating. This is a training.”

Breaking Childhood Patterns

Much of how we eat can stem from how we were raised. Some of us were given foods as a reward or punishment and the food represents our failures and our achievements. Unhealthy treats may be something we feel entitled to if we think we are acting in accordance with society’s laws. Food symbolizes issues that have nothing to do with health.

If we come from a place of poverty, we might want to eat any type of food as long as we can get it. It doesn’t matter the quality of the food. Sometimes we’re taught to eat everything even if we are no longer hungry for fear that there might not be food tomorrow. However, if you are over weight, this is not a good habit. The food will keep getting stored as fat. These mindsets happen beneath our conscious awareness. By bringing our mind to the present moment and really appreciating what is right in front of us, we can change these habits.

I suggest thinking like Thich Nhat Hanh, when we go grocery shopping or when we read a menu at a restaurant. Look at the food. Take a moment to reflect on what its made of. Look at the ingredients. When you by a fresh vegetable, reflect on how it was grown. Notice the sun and rain that went into the growth of that vegetable. Ask yourself how your body will feel when fresh food is inside you.

When you buy something that is processed, think of all the ingredients that went into the making of the food. Imagine what the preservatives, artificial colors, added sugars and salts will do to your body when it is inside you. Really imagine how those ingredients will make you feel over time. What kind of food do you truly deserve? Are these chemicals, added sugars and fats really a treat? Perhaps its time to change our perception.

Since I became a nutritionist and really started to understand food, I’ve been doing more of this type of meditation and it has helped me a lot. I don’t struggle with my weight like I used too. When I eat fruits, I really relish the hydration I’m getting from it and I am grateful to live in a place that has fresh fruit. Because of this, I have decided to always choose fresh fruit over dried, canned or processed fruit as long as I have that choice.

When we eat out with friends and family, it is time to focus on them. I once new a girl who lost a lot of weight and looked incredible. I knew her for many years as she went to my high school and she never looked so healthy and attractive. I asked her how she did it. I thought she would have some kind of beauty secret. I thought she would tell me she was seeing an alternative doctor. But I’ll never forget what she said. She said that all her life her mother made her feel like food meant love. Because her mother cooked, she had to eat all she could. When she realized that its just food and didn’t represent how she felt about her mother, she was able to lose weight.

I often think about what my friend said. I now realize that when I go out to eat, I don’t have to gorge myself. I can nibble. I can choose small servings and say “no” when offered a lot of food. As an adult, no one can force me to eat or make me feel bad for not eating. They will appreciate it more when I focus more on them than on the food. Once we come to terms with why we see food the way we do, we make huge breakthroughs.

The Regret, Shame, Guilt Eating Cycle

Most of us are aware of the regret, shame guilt cycle. We feel guilt so we eat. We regret eating so we feel guilt. So we eat.

This is a very difficult puzzle to solve but I believe that the solution has a lot to do with self love. When I taught the chakra opening workshop, I addressed the 2nd and 3rd chakra; the chakras of creativity and will power. They are blocked by shame and guilt.

To help us let go of our shame we meditated that we were at the beach and written on the sand are all the horrible things people make us feel about ourselves. It might say, “lazy” or “fat” or so on. Then think of who you were before life has made you feel unworthy. We imagine that we wipe the words away with our feet. Then we watch as the waves come to the shore to wash away the sand. Those negative words no longer exist and they never have because we were the only ones who saw them.

Then, we walk on to see a lovely stone. We take a pick and write on the stone words that describe who we really are, words like, “talented,” “good,” “accomplished,” etc. We inscribe these words permanently on the stone. We become more confident about ourselves and the things we can create. We respect ourselves and others more because of this.

Guilt is another feeling. It’s similar to shame, but unlike shame, guilt is the feeling that we have done something wrong. Shame is a feeling that we, ourselves are bad. The best way to deal with guilt is to have the resolve to tell yourself that you are sorry for what you have done and once you have apologized, resolve to find a way not to make the same mistake again. Being able to do this takes some emotional courage. It means listening to your emotions instead of drowning them with food, drugs or any other addictive activity. But eating our way out of an emotion doesn’t end any cycle because it never addresses the issue.

“When we have a meal in mindfulness, we invest all our being in the present moment and are aware of our food and those who are eating with us. We can cultivate the energy of mindfulness while we walk , while we breathe, while we work, while we wash the dishes or wash our clothes. A few days practicing like this can increase the energy of mindfulness in you and that energy will help you, protect you, and give you courage to go back to yourself, to see and embrace what is there in your territory.”

“There are real, painful feelings, strong emotions and troubling perspectives that agitate or make us afraid. With the energy of mindfulness, we can spend time with these difficult feelings without running away. We can embrace them the way a parent embraces a child and say to them, “Darling, I am here for you; I have come back; I’m going to take care of you.” This is what we can do with all our emotions, feelings, and perceptions.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

Overcoming Failure and Obstacles

A few years ago a controversial study was released that showed that positive visualization doesn’t always lead to the achievement of goals. This contradicted other studies that visualizing success leads to success. But it isn’t that simple. Visualizing that you lose weight is a wonderful fantasy that you may or may not achieve but there is one visualization that works better than any other.

Its when we visualize overcoming failure and obstacles that we are most likely to succeed. For example, I had a client who succeeded in losing 10 lbs. while training with me but her goal was to lose 10 more. She knew that whenever she goes to a party she over eats and gains weight, so we went over what she should do when she attended the party that weekend so she would not regress on her goals. We decided that she would not eat before the party, stay away from the food table and sip on a lot of water. Because she planned ahead of time, she was able to avoid inevitable failure.

So, for the final meditation, visualize something that always causes you to fall back on your healthy habits. Perhaps its stress at work, a party, or lack of time. Think about this obstacle before it happens and create a plan on how you will deal with it. This usually means planning how to make your meals, where to eat and what to buy ahead of time so we are driven by mindfulness and not by subconscious drives.

I hope these tips help end the cycle of emotional eating and help to bring some clarity and health to your day.

“Our minds create everything. The majestic mountaintop, brilliant with snow, is in you yourself when you contemplate it. Its existence depends on your awareness… The sights and sounds of the world are not your enemies. your enemy is forgetfulness, the absence of mindfulness. –Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

More blogs on mindful eating:

PostHeaderIcon Remember That Something Inside you is Stronger Than Your Circumstances

And Happy Holidays!

The holidays are coming up as we reach the end of what some would call the worst year ever! For this holiday season, I wish you peace and good health.

The fitness industry has taken one of the hardest hits from the lockdowns and quarantines. I have not been able to return to my jobs as the facilities have been closed due to government sanctions. Plus, dumbells and weights have tripled in price! Still I know that my industry is not alone. Restaurants, live events, retail and many other businesses have been shut down and or forced to spend much more for very little profit.

I do believe that one of the things that has kept me going is the knowledge that there is something deep inside me that is greater than my circumstances. This is why at the end of each workout, I encourage everyone to reach deep inside and find that bit of energy that helps us pull all the way through. Endurance is a strong mark of fitness and the greatest show of mental strength. As we reach the home stretch of this pandemic, tap into that one thing that keeps you going.

This something is what has always gotten me by during tough times. And I am always taking the time to tap into this strength and keep it going. Much of my reason for staying fit has to do with keeping my core strong. By the term “core”, I don’t mean my abdominals or torso muscles. I mean my inner spirit.

Exercise is my meditation. Sometimes, just going for a run or a walk, or hitting the bag helps me work through my thoughts so I can make the right decisions.

Strength training teaches focus, control and will power. I focus on my form and what my body is doing. It also keeps me strong and healthy so I’m able to handle the slings and arrows of fortune.

Yoga and stretching helps me relax my mind and body. it brings me softness and peace when I need to unwind and de-stress. It also teaches me to stay flexible and go with the flow when I am faced with events I can’t control.

Its because I practice these things that I can be strong for others.

Another thing that I have learned is how much I love what I do and how devastated I was when I realized I couldn’t be with you guys in person anymore. It has made me grateful for what I have. I promise that when this is all over, I will be more appreciative than ever of my students, my clients and for the entire wellness community for giving me the opportunity to do what I love.

I am also aware that this year has been very mixed for many of you. Many of you have confided that you have had to deal with illness or death. You have had anxiety, depression, money problems and difficulties finding ways to stay in shape and remain devoted to your health. While others have found the time to focus on things you never had the opportunity to before and really discover more about yourselves.

I just want you to know that I think about you and pray for you. I know we are all fighting some very hard battles.

The holidays this year will be much quieter and less about partying, crowded malls and travel. Think of it as an opportunity to focus on what is truly important to you and to stay with the true spirit of love, family, friends and giving.

With all my love, I want to say I miss you. I hope you are well, and please remember that there is something deep inside you that is stronger than your circumstances

I am still teaching online classes for those who are interested. It’s also a good opportunity to work out with me if you are no longer in the area. You can view the schedule on this page:

I am also teaching private personal training on zoom or skype.

If you are up for it, I have a studio where I can teach privates. I wipe everything with disinfectant and wear a mask. We would be the only one’s in the studio, though it does have security surveillance. I’m also willing to do outdoor personal training now that the weather is cooler.

I also picked up a job teaching outdoors at the Braemar country club in Tarzana. I’ve been getting about 1 or 2 people per class but the view is breathtaking. Feel free to check it out if you’re in the area.

I also have some full length yoga and pilates videos for purchase if you are interested.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions at: rhea.morales@gmail.com

PostHeaderIcon How to Cure Neck/Shoulder and Lower Back Pain Quickly

This is one of the most successful, yet simple mobility exercises for healing hunched shoulders, neck pain and lower back pain all at once. I can’t tell you how many people it has helped, including me.

The lower back will bend backwards in order to move your arms to the side or up if you lack shoulder mobility. Tightening the core can prevent this, while at the same time strengthening the transverse abdominal and correcting lower back compression. This also gradually stretches the shoulders for optimal alignment.

Also, if you feel pain while doing this correctly, use a massage ball to role out those areas against the wall or on the floor.

Here is the video:

PostHeaderIcon Why Does My Neck Hurt When I do Crunches?

For people who are not strong in their core, activating abdominal muscles may not happen automatically. For these people, you need to be taught how to do a proper crunch step by step, starting with proper core activation.

Core activation is important for protecting the spine from injury any time you move or carry something. Your abdominals are also responsible for keeping your internal organs from bulging out. A hernia (disorder where the intestines push through the weak parts of your abdominals) can be prevented with the right kind of core strengthening.

Please watch this short video on how to activate your core and crunch from your abdominals, not your neck. You can check out the link here:

PostHeaderIcon I’m Giving Away Free Fitness Videos!!!

This week, I was thinking that cardio might be harder for those of you who live in towns that have made wearing a face mask outside the law, so I have taken the time to create 3 cardio videos, one low impact video for beginners and older adults, one intermediate video and one advanced video. Links below.

I’m also giving away videos on proper push ups, one for beginners who can’t do push ups or aren’t sure if they know how to do proper push ups and one for advanced practitioners who want more variety and strength. Links below.

While the in person fitness industry is not considered an “essential” business, exercise is absolutely essential. I want to make sure that you are still getting your regular workout because exercise and proper nutrition is the greatest prevention against disease and mortality.

Whatever you’ve had to sacrifice for your country, whether it’s your freedom or giving extra hours as a medical or grocery worker, the most important thing is that we take care of ourselves and each other. I’m sending out these videos because I know its hard for some of you who are used to going out or to a facility to get your physical exercise.

Go here for the BEGINNERS cardio video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0-ft-Zf-rE
This is geared to older adults or people with joint or knee problems who can’t jump or squat without pain. It’s also geared to those who have never exercised before or who are recovering from any health condition but want to get started with fitness.

Go here for the INTERMEDIATE video:

https://youtu.be/5ixuDvQ6Ew0
This video contains squats, a few high impact moves (which can be modified for low impact) and some kickboxing moves. This workout had me sweating. 

Go here for the ADVANCED video:

https://youtu.be/Q1DBNmWyF24
This video is for more competitive fitness enthusiasts. It’s very challenging, but modifications are given. This workout had me huffing and puffing!

I hope this gift will help you bring variety to your workout during these crazy times. The videos are short, about 8 minutes long but they have enough variety that you can play them over and over again. For example, if you play the video 4 times, you will get a 32 minute cardio workout. 

The national guidelines for exercise says you should do at least 30 minutes of cardio a day, most days of the week. If you are doing very intense cardio, such as running or the one in my advanced video, 3 days a week is fine. Health professionals have been touting exercise as the magic pill that prevents most diseases and these guidelines are encouraged for people to maintain their health.

For more information on how exercise prevents disease, check out my blog, THE LIMITLESS PILL here:

https://heroestraining.com/?p=958

Here’s a instructional video on how to do proper push ups. That way, you can get strong without the need of equipment

How To Do a Proper Push Up (step by step guide)

https://youtu.be/Zg-DkPs-XnY

For those of you who already can do a proper push up but are looking for a more challenging way to strengthen, try this:

Advanced Push Ups For Strength and Muscle Gains

https://youtu.be/p-atLj35eSE

Strength training is important for maintaining muscle, protecting joint pain, osteoporosis and diabetes. For more information on the importance of strength training, here’s a link to my classic blog:

Why Women Should Strength Train:

http://heroestraining.com/?p=61

Please accept these videos as my gift to you. If you are interested in online personal training sessions or classes via zoom or skype, feel free to contact me at rhea.morales@gmail.com.



PostHeaderIcon Recipes That Fight Bad Microbes and Boost The Immune System

I really want to reach out and let you all know that I miss you and that I’m thinking of you, so I decided this is a good time to share some family recipes. This is what I eat when I feel under the weather and I never get anything worse than a common cold (knock on wood). I’m still quarantining with the rest of you. The gym industry has been temporarily shut down, so I have a little more time for cooking.

These recipes are a tasty way to get many foods that boost the immune system and kill invaders. Plus, they keep you well hydrated which is so important.

The two recipes I want to share are: “Abuelita’s Ginger Tea” and “Rhea’s Killer Chicken Soup”

When I first got married, my husband told me that his Abuelita (Grandma in Spanish) swore by a family recipe that healed any sore throat. Abuelita is a strong woman, now in her 90’s. We attribute her longevity to the fact that she takes great care of herself and always does what the doctor says. She’s even outlived some of her kids and she’s had ten!

Here’s the recipe:

Photo by Dominik Martin on Unsplash

Abuelita’s Ginger Tea

Take some ginger root and slice them into thin pieces. If you can handle stronger tea, add more ginger. The more the better.

Add hot water, dried fruit and honey. I usually add raisins. But you can add dried apple, pear, cranberry or jujube. Whatever suits your taste.

I’ve also tried this with chamomile or other herbal teas. Lemon is a great additive, as is cinnamon. The great thing about making it yourself, is that you get to flavor based on what gives you pleasure.

Here’s what I do to guarantee that I don’t get sore throats. It may or may not work for others, but it always works for me.

First, I make sure to ingest the tea at the first sign of a sore throat. If I ever get a sore throat, you can bet that I probably didn’t bother to make this miracle tea.

Second, I chew on the ginger and eat every slice. To make this less harsh, I eat it with the dried fruit. I usually chew on some raisins and ginger at the bottom of the cup. The sweetness of the dried fruit counters the bitterness of the ginger. Then I gulp down the tea to help ease it down.

Even if you don’t have it in you to chew up fresh ginger, the tea will definitely shorten the duration of a sore throat or can cure it all together.

All the ingredients in this tea are high in antioxidants which help protect against disease.

Honey is an antitumor, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular potentiating agent.

A study on ginger found that it inhibits the main microorganisms that cause oral infections. References and links to scientific studies below.

The next recipe is like a delicious atomic bomb that kills foreign invaders. But the ingredients are all foods that will promote health and boost the immune system.

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

Rhea’s Killer Chicken Soup

For this soup you need:

a head of cabbage

chicken cutlets

1 onion

1/2 to 1 garlic bulb

2 inches of ginger

vegetable oil

I cup frozen veggie mix (your choice of veggies. I usually get a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and yellow squash from Costco)

1 can of chicken broth

pepper, turmeric powder, cumin powder, dried dill weed, or any other spice you’d like to add. Cayenne pepper is optional for a kick.

This should feed a family of 5, give or take, depending on how much your family can eat.

Chop up ginger, onions, garlic, chicken and cabbage.

Sautee ginger and vegetable oil in a pot. After about three minutes, add garlic and onions. Sautee for about three to five minutes in high heat.

Add can of chicken broth plus two more cans of filtered water (If you have hypertension, check the broth’s sodium content. Some chicken broths have a lot more sodium than others)

Bring to a boil.

Add cabbage. Let it simmer till cabbage has softened a bit.

Add frozen veggie mix and chicken

Add spices.

Simmer till cooked.

While there is no cure for the common cold and we still do not know enough about the corona virus to know if garlic helps, many studies have shown that garlic does kill infectious bacteria and can significantly shorten the duration of a cold.

Cabbage and broccoli are known to combat other disease causing microbes.

All the veggies in this soup have antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which help boost the immune system and slow down the aging process. All the veggies are rich in fiber and pre-biotics which help feed healthy bacteria in our bodies which also boosts the immune system and can help fight bad invaders. All the veggies help the liver function which can aid in metabolism and detoxification. All the veggies in this soup have cancer fighting properties.

The amino acids in lean chicken are the building blocks for enzymes and catalysts in the body which build anti-bodies which fight infections.

The warm water in the soup helps alleviate nasal congestion

For bonus vitamins, add an egg or two. Egg yolks contain vitamin D, which is known to boost the immune system.

If all these veggies are not enough carbs for you, feel free to add noodles or potatoes to this soup. Just make sure you do some cardio afterwards and burn off those extra calories.

I want to make it very clear that these recipes are not cures. They are suggestions on how you can eat healthier and be at a lower risk of mortality.

Please see references below.

That being said, I know we’re all going nuts due to the quarantines and lock downs. I just want to send some healing energy and (germ free) hugs. I miss you and I hope to see you soon. Hope you enjoy the recipes.

If you’d like some information on taking classes or getting quality personal training over the internet via skype, feel free to contact me:

rhea.morales@gmail.com

References:

Curcumin, an Active Component of Turmeric (Curcuma Longa), and Its Effects on Health

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26528921/?from_term=temeric&from_pos=1&from_exact_term=turmeric

Rapid Healing of Peptic Ulcers in Patients Receiving Fresh Cabbage Juice

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18104715/?from_term=cabbage%2C+ulcers&from_pos=4

Cumin (Cuminum Cyminum L.) From Traditional Uses to Potential Biomedical Applications

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26010662/?from_term=cumin&from_pos=1

Antimicrobial Activity of Broccoli (Brassica Oleracea Var. Italica) Cultivar Avenger Against Pathogenic Bacteria, Phytopathogenic Filamentous Fungi and Yeast

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29112318/?from_term=cabbage+and+bacteria&from_page=2&from_pos=5

Assessment of Antimicrobial Potential of 10% Ginger Extract Against Streptococcus Mutans, Candida Albicans, and Enterococcus Faecalis: An in Vitro Study

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24047828/

Preventing the Common Cold With a Garlic Supplement: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Survey

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11697022/

Vitamin D and the Immune System

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21527855/

Towards a Better Understanding of the Therapeutic Applications and Corresponding Mechanisms of Action of Honey

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29101693/?from_term=honey&from_pos=3

PostHeaderIcon What is the Best Weight Loss Diet?

If you’re trying to lose weight, you might have asked, “what is the best weight loss diet?” Of course, this a misleading question, one that gets consumers to impulsively buy whatever weight loss regimen is being marketed to them. There is a more productive question you should be asking yourself, but I’ll get to that later.

Atkins, ketone, intermittent fasting, low carbs, low fat and portion control. These are some the most popular diets that have been used specifically for weight loss, though their birth may have come for other reasons. For example, the ketone diet was first created for people who have epilepsy and the Atkins diet for people who have diabetes.

But if you want to lose weight, which diet works best? My job and my hobby is to read every study I possibly can on health and fitness. I get my sources from professional journals. My certification had me reading several thousands of studies and analyzing how they were conducted. What I’ve learned is that all of the diets listed above will work for weight loss if followed exactly as directed. Some diets work better for people who want to keep up sports performance and fitness than others, which I will get to later.

To read about diets for health and longevity, check out this link:

The Best Diet For You

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

Low Carb versus Low Fat

In order to lose weight you must consume less calories than you are burning. So all the diets above are approaches you can use to help you eat less calories. Low carb diets work because people tend to eat carbs in very condensed ways. There are only 4 calories in one gram of carbs but a bun, bagel or portion of rice has so many grams of carbs condensed in it that this can add up to a lot.

Low fat diets work because there are a whopping 9 grams of calories for one gram of fat. That adds up to a lot.

While both methods are successful for weight loss, cutting carbs does interfere with athletic performance as many studies have shown that eating carbs can increase speed and stamina. Low carb crash diets work by reducing water weight (because we store water in glycogen, the body’s stored version of carbs). However, this doesn’t mean fat was lost and that weight can be gained back immediately.

Since we get vital nutrients from carb rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, it is wise to get your limited carb intake from the most nutritional sources you can.

Ketogenic Diet

Ketone diets (high fat, very low carbs) makes the body adapt to burning fat instead of carbs as an immediate fuel source. It takes about 2 weeks of being on this diet before this change takes place. Meanwhile, you might feel the effects of not having enough carbs in your body to fuel your workouts which can lead to fatigue, nausea or dizziness. While the body does adapt to burning fat eventually, you won’t be performing at your athletic best because carbs still fuel the body more efficiently than fat. A number of studies were done on this with the consensus being that athletes on high fat, low carb diets fatigue faster. (Scroll down for references below)

If you are at high risk for heart disease, check with your doctor before trying the ketone diet. Many studies have shown that it can raise your good cholesterol while others show that it can raise your bad cholesterol as well. Some studies show that this diet benefits obese individuals more.

Low carb diets are known to lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels but ketone diets are high in fat as well as being low in carbs, so the subject of cholesterol is still controversial in regards to the ketone diet. This diet is still a very new trend so more conclusive evidence should be available in the future when the long term studies are in.

Since saturated fat is more likely to raise bad cholesterol than other types of fat, it is wise to focus on consuming “good” fats rather than the bad when choosing a high fat diet.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, means going for long periods without eating, like a few hours. This is not to be confused with long term fasting (not eating for days) as long term fasting can cause starvation and severe malnourishment (sometimes heart attacks). There are many approaches to intermittent fasting. Skipping dinner or breakfast is one approach. Not eating one day and eating another day, or just eating once a day is another approach. This works because most people underestimate how much they are actually eating. If you aren’t eating anything at all, there’s a good possibility you are consuming less calories.

Our metabolism tends to be much higher in the morning so people who skip dinner instead of breakfast tend to get better results.

This diet seems to have different effects on women than on men, the health benefits swaying towards the male population.

If you are using nutrient timing to maximize strength and muscle gains, this diet could interfere with that.

Balanced but Portion Control Diets

Just eating smaller portions or eating more water and fiber while cutting out junk food have been touted for years because this method also promotes a balanced diet which means you are still getting most of the vitamins and minerals you need. Studies have shown that people on very low carb diets have several vitamin deficiencies because the source of carbs (vegetables, fruits and whole grains) are foods high in micro nutrients.

You can learn more about this method here:

The Switch Trick: How to Lose Weight Without Counting Calories

https://heroestraining.com/?p=924

What about Cutting Protein?

Low protein is hardly ever recommended. The reason being that if you eat less calories than you burn, the body starts to eat itself in order to survive. That means burning fat and getting skinnier, but it can also mean losing muscle and bone as well. Protein contains amino acids, the building blocks of tissue. Amino acids are also what enzymes, immune cells and hormones are made of and we don’t want to lose these precious catalysts that keep our body working. However vegan or vegetarian diets work for many as long as you get your protein from non-meat sources.

Know Yourself

In the end, you have to figure out what works for you. If you are a carb lover, you might prefer a low fat diet. If you crave fatty foods, low carb may work better for you. Portion control might be your cup of tea if you don’t enjoy going long periods without eating; but others prefer intermittent fasting because for them, food can be one big event that is worth waiting for. If you’re a field or endurance athlete, you should also ask yourself if its okay to sacrifice sports performance in order to lose weight. If the answer is “no” then low carb diet may not be the best approach for you.

Keep in mind that these diets are specifically for weight loss, not for increased strength or stamina. There are other nutrition approaches to these goals.

What about the other health benefits of these diets? For example, some studies have shown that intermittent fasting helps to boost the immune system. Most of the health benefits that come from dieting only helps those who were eating to much junk food in the first place. People who were already eating healthy, balanced diets did not benefit from them because they were fine to begin with. If you’re severely overweight, that makes you higher risk for related ailments such as high cholesterol and diabetes, and going on a diet can benefit you simply because you are cutting back on what was making you unhealthy in the first place, eating more than you should for your activity level. Increase in exercise also gives the same benefits and more.

The More Important Question

But what about the more important question of how to keep the weight off? The truth is, while diets work in the short term, the majority of dieters gain the weight back within six months to three years and they often gain back more than they lost. Only 5% of crash dieters keep the weight off.

I recall working for a yoga studio that charged hundreds of dollars to go on a juice cleanse. All the people who did it lost weight within days. They were stoked. Then I got to watch them gain the weight back immediately after the juice cleanse was over, which to me, seemed like a waste of money.

The reality of it is this: If you want to keep the weight off for life, you have to stick with your diet for life which is why registered dietitian, Sona Donayan, says “you need to have a long term plan, not just for weight loss but for maintenance in the future.”

To read my interview with Sona Donayan on dieting trends, this out:

A Breakdown of Popular Diets From a Registered Dietician’s Perspective

https://heroestraining.com/?p=461

Whatever diet you pick, it should be something you can commit too. Or you can choose not to diet at all, a decision I made in 1996, and I haven’t gone on a diet since. I still managed to lose weight after my pregnancy and continue maintain a healthy weight by committing to lifestyle improvement and by changing my attitude towards food and fitness. Permanent weight loss is possible, but it requires us to look deep inside and improve our awareness; but that is the subject of another blog.

Check out this related article on foods and supplements for healthy joints:

Foods and Suppliments That Heal Joints and Arthritis

https://heroestraining.com/?p=1284

Related articles:

How Many Calories Did I Just Burn?

https://heroestraining.com/?p=676

What Kind Of Exercise Raises Our Metabolism?

https://heroestraining.com/?p=886

References:

Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516560/

Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19246357

The use of carbohydrates during exercise as an ergogenic aid

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23846824

Three-Year Chronic Consumption of Low-Carbohydrate Diet Impairs Exercise Performance and Has a Small Unfavorable Effect on Lipid Profile in Middle-Aged Men

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6317154/

Consuming a hypocaloric high fat low carbohydrate diet for 12 weeks lowers C-reactive protein, and raises serum adiponectin and high density lipoprotein-cholesterol in obese subjects

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24075505

Effects of an energy-restricted lowcarbohydrate, high unsaturated fat/low saturated fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in type 2 diabetes: A 2-year randomized clinical tria

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29178536

Low carbohydrate, high fat diet impairs exercise economy and negates the performance benefit from intensified training in elite race walkers

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28012184

LowCarbohydrate Ketogenic Diets in Male Endurance Athletes Demonstrate Different Micronutrient Contents and Changes in Corpuscular Haemoglobin over 12 Weeks

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31480346

Ketogenic Diet

https://examine.com/supplements/keto/#citations

The Lowdown on Intermittent Fasting

https://examine.com/nutrition/the-low-down-on-intermittent-fasting/

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

PostHeaderIcon Recovery–Why Corpse Pose (Shavasana)

When taking care of ourselves, we often become obsessed with punishment. No pain, no gain right? We know that stress will develop us and make us stronger, but we often forget that recovery is equally important in fitness.

Stress breaks down the body. Recovery rebuilds the body, creating larger muscles, more blood vessels, greater flexibility and more mitochondria in the cells. Without recovery, we are just breaking ourselves down, making ourselves weak, fatigued or injured. There is a a lot science behind this phenomenon.

Part of recovery is getting enough sleep, which I’ve blogged about in the past: https://heroestraining.com/?p=694

Breathing properly also helps with recovery as oxygen plays a huge roll in providing us the energy we need to grow and survive. You can read more about breathing here:https://heroestraining.com/?p=318

Eating proper foods at the right time also help with recovery as food is the fuel that energizes and repairs us. https://heroestraining.com/?p=1284

On top of that, merely learning how and when to relax can not only aid in fitness, but can reduce anxiety, tension and cardiovascular disease.

No other yoga pose symbolizes the many benefits of recovery more than Shavasana or corpse pose. This pose is loved by some and dreaded by others. Today, I’d like to explore what makes this pose so important at the end of a yoga class and why some choose to avoid it altogether.

The Posture (Asana)

Corpse pose is very simple. You lie on your back in a neutral position and do nothing. If you have back problems or tight hip flexors, it might feel better to bend the knees or put a pillow under the knees. If you have kyphosis or hunched shoulders, it might feel better to put a pillow under your head. If you are further along in your pregnancy, you may have to lie on your side. Either way, get comfortable.

This pose is traditionally held for five to ten minutes at the end of a yoga class. Seasoned yogi’s can stay in this pose for as long as they desire. Master yogi’s use this pose to help them reach Samandhi, or a state of oneness with the universe. Some yogis practice this pose in order to overcome the fear of death.

While the physicality of the pose is very simple, there are many underlying characteristics that make some people uncomfortable, especially if you were taught that lying down and doing nothing is only for the lazy who have nothing better to do.

Why Shavasana?

We’re just lying there. What’s so important about that? So many people just don’t understand the purpose of corpse pose. Yet, if shavasana is so meaningless, why does almost every style of yoga implement a mandatory corpse pose at the end of every class?

One of the best reasons for performing shavasana is to heal and prevent injuries. The best explanation of this was given to me by a great massage therapist who was explaining the role of fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that sticks everything together. It sticks muscle to other muscle, bone and skin. It surrounds our organs, nerves and blood vessels. There are thick tissues of fascia that travel through our bodies, such as the thoracolumbar fascia that travels down the entire back and into the buttocks, connecting and protecting all the points in our body.

Tons of research is being done on fascia which is changing how we perceive fitness. It’s not just about strengthening bones and muscle anymore. It’s about healthy fascia that functions better.

Our fascia is full of nerves. It can tighten and relax. It can be trained to move in many directions or to become stiff and hard so it can’t move at all.

Whenever we feel stress or injury, our fascia can harden or get inflamed, causing symptoms such as frozen shoulder, whip lash or muscle knots. Essentially, it turns into a splint or a cast so we can no longer move the muscles it surrounds. While this is a rational survival mechanism to protect ourselves, when the facia overreacts it can cause lack of blood flow and flexibility, slowing down the healing process. There is a psychological element at play as well. If the body suspects future trauma, the fascia can react with tightness years after the injury has healed

I was told that if you get into a car accident, face some other kind of trauma or feel tremendous pain, the best thing you can do is lie down and do nothing. Let your body be vulnerable. Let it know that you are not in a dangerous situation and the body won’t seize from the stress. So long as the body feels it is in danger, it will harden. The healing process doesn’t start until we finally relax.

One of the biggest reasons our fascia may harden is because we over stretched. While I always advise people not to force a stretch in yoga class, it can still happen. Our connective tissue reacts to this by hardening itself, creating that natural splint. In case of overstretching, shavasana is applied at the end of a yoga class to help alleviate this reaction.

Many people start a yoga practice due to past injuries or pain. Sometimes they are recovering from real trauma like a surgery or illness. Other times, they realize that they have been over training which has led to muscle or joint pain. Pain and tension is felt most by those of us who can’t relax. When it’s time for corpse pose, these type A personalities stress that they really should be doing something. Shouldn’t I be stretching my pain or rolling it out? What they don’t realize is the best thing they can do for themselves is relax. We do an hour or two of yoga in order to align our bodies so we can finally reach that state of relaxation, clarity and healing.

Sometimes mental stress is all that is needed to harden the fascia. Our nerves don’t always know the difference between physical and emotional trauma. Shavasana helps us to ease this stress. Allowing ourselves to just melt into the mat is one way to let the body and mind know that things will be okay.

But what if I can’t stop thinking?

Some people hate Shavasana because they can’t stop thinking. In my opinion, not thinking is not a requirement of shavasana. The idea is to physically do nothing so that nothing is distracting you from what is important.

How many times do we put off making the right decision or having to find a solution to a problem by always giving ourselves something else to do? When we’re in Shavasana, you can’t do that. You are forced to face your true self. That thought you have been avoiding will manifest and if it does, I believe you should face it. Examine it. Be brave. Remember, meditation isn’t a hiding from reality but a confrontation of reality:https://heroestraining.com/?p=206

Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia

Once, I was taking a heart opening yoga class. While in shavasana, I felt this tremendous amount of grief that I had been harboring for far too long. Tears welled up in my closed eyes and I was finally able to let that grief go and open my heart again.

We live in a time where it’s almost impossible not to be distracted. We are overwhelmed with pop ups, ads and notifications. New media sources are rewiring our brains, changing how we think and interact. This makes a disciplined yoga practice more important and more difficult than ever.

Some of us hide in these distractions. If we are always stimulated by external forces, we don’t have to be comfortable in our own skin. We can avoid facing our dreams, our conflicts and our true selves.

Shavasana is your time to turn it all off and take a vacation from it all. It’s your time to truly connect with who you really are while everyone and everything around you is competing for their influence on you. As scary as that sounds to some, once you take the time to unwind and get comfortable, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to do it. It’s when we take a moment to find clarity that all the answers appear. We all need to take time out of every day to connect with our deepest selves. Remember, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything:

https://heroestraining.com/?p=438

Sometimes we fall asleep during corpse pose. This only means that you are probably sleep deprived or that you need more rest. As mentioned earlier, some of us forget that we need to recover and this is a good time to connect with what your body truly needs. Rest calms us, which is why we breath and sleep better after yoga.

Fear of Death

One of your favorite sayings is, “I’ll get enough rest when I’m dead.” You suddenly find yourself in corpse pose. That means you’re resting. Is this what its like to be dead? Suddenly, an asana that seemed peaceful starts to create anxiety.

Fear of death may or may not be a conscious thing. Its something we all deal with as we all die eventually. Corpse pose literally means the pose of death. Legend has it that Indian soldiers did corpse pose to help them deal with their fear of death so they could be brave in battle. This is not an easy thing to face, so its understandable why someone would want to skip this pose altogether.

Yet something profound happens when we face our fear of death. The possibility that we will die becomes very real to us. Suddenly, we are more willing to live. We are more grateful for what we have and we are more aware of what is truly important. To me, facing the fear of death means finding a true appreciation for life in all its glory. What is important to you? Don’t put off what you genuinely love because nothing is temporary.

Not all yoga practitioners are warriors. but we can all learn to be brave enough to live a full life. Deep down inside, we are all fighting a hard battle.

Samandhi or Enlightenment

Shavasana can also be called Samandhi which means unification. Some yogis believe it is that acceptance of universal peace that comes right before death. So when they lie still, they are trying to calm their mind so fully that nothing can distract them from reality. They become an embodiment of universal truth. Samandhi is traditionally thought of as the highest and final level of yoga, another reason why its done at the end of the class.

This illustration, is a great example of samandhi. When water is still, you can notice the smallest ripple. A mind full of waves and fluctuations is confused and undisciplined.

Awareness and Respect

Life happens. We can’t always fit a yoga class into our schedules and sometimes we have to leave early. We must realize, however that the tenants of yoga are non-violence, respect and awareness.

If you must leave yoga early, check the time. Go into shavasana on your own, then sneak out quietly with as little disruption as possible. Yoga etiquette dictates that if you leave class early, to do so before the rest of the class has started corpse pose. That way, they don’t have to hear you scrambling for your stuff and shutting the door on your way out while they are doing their best to relax.

Keep in mind that relaxation and being still is very difficult for most people and that any small distraction can frustrate them. Once everything has stopped moving, the slightest noise can sound as loud as a tree falling. The rustling of bags as you get ready to leave can be extremely irritating.

If you have to fidget during corpse pose because that helps you stay calm, I suggest you find an item that makes no noise. Maybe a rubber part of your mat. This way, you are not distracting the rest of the class.

And of course, please keep your cell phones on silent. ;)

With much respect and compassion,

Namaste

In September, I will be doing a workshop on applying the concepts corrective biomechanics to improving yoga poses. This workshop will focus on yoga alignment with more detail than is possible in a regular yoga class. For more information, click below.

Photo credit:
Photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

Photo by Hamza Bounaim on Unsplash

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash

PostHeaderIcon But What if my Knees Hurt?

Knee pain can be a daunting obstacle to success in fitness. When my clients complain of knee pain, I try to nip it in the bud right away so they can reach their fitness goals without aggravating this important joint. If an injury gets worse, it can cause setbacks or even force you to stop training. The good news is that knee pain is often just a warning that you might be overtraining or moving incorrectly. If we listen to this warning, we may be able to avoid a real injury and even the need for surgery.

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In most cases, knee pain is a sign of improper exercise form, tight or weak muscles in the legs (especially the glutes), a weakness in the arches of the feet which can cause the knees to track wrong or a simple sign of overtraining and a need for a short rest.

Weak Arches

When someone tells me that it hurts their knees when they squat, I can tell right away if this is caused from weak arches or “flat feet.” If the knees buckle inward because all of the person’s weight seem to fall to the inside of the feet, this creates tracking problems because the bones are now pushing into the inside of the joint which can create pain and wear in the bones and ligaments. This misalignment, if not corrected, can wear down the cartilage on the inside of the knee joint, causing arthritis. This condition can be sped up if we add load which is why proper form when weightlifting is imperative for longevity.

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Orthotics can help fix this condition but teaching the client to activate the arches of their feet by being aware of where they shift their weight can help build up the muscles of the feet that help protect the knees. Often, the pain goes away immediately when proper form is taught

If not, there are exercises, stretches and massage techniques that can wake up the muscles of the feet that are not activating.

Weak Hips

The gluteal muscle group (buttocks) are one of the largest muscle groups in the human body and are supposed to be the most powerful. However, our modern sedentary society has changed this. The invention of chairs, beds and toilets have taken away the need to deep squat and lunge out of our lives; and unless we constantly get up and down off the floor, we rarely strengthen and stretch our hips.

This lack of conditioning can leave us with a booty that’s too weak hold up our body weight. This lack of muscle support leads to knee pain. In cases such as this, I have clients do strengthening exercises, like pilates floor work so they can strengthen their hips without having to hold their own body weight.

Clammies are a classic example:

Mule kicks are also great, though you might have to cushion your knees:

After a few weeks, the client has built up enough muscle in their glutes to be able to squat and lunge without knee pain.

Tight Hips or Legs

Tense muscles can be an issue for athletes, runners or people starting a fitness regimen. This is simply a case of overtraining with little stretching or recovery.

Using a foam roller or massage tool to release tightness in the IT band, glutes, quads or calves, along with corrective stretching usually resolves knee pain for people who suffer from overuse stress.

Rest and icing the area also helps as does addressing any muscle imbalances. Is one part of the hip much stronger than the other, leading to it doing all the work? If so, corrective exercise can nip that in the bud.

Here is an example of using the foam roller to relieve tension that can pull on the knee joint.

There are solutions

The good news is there are solutions to most knee problems that do not involve drugs or surgery. After assessing how a person moves , listening carefully to where they feel pain and how they approach their lifestyle, we can find ways to overcome the obstacles that get in the way of being fit, healthy and functional.

Related posts:


photos by:

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

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Photo by Jan Phoenix on Unsplash

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PostHeaderIcon 14 Life Lessons Martial Arts Has Taught Me

I started studying martial arts 25 years ago and what I learned strengthened me, not only physically but spiritually as well. Furthermore, martial arts is super cool. To those of us who practice it, its a way of life and a great source of energy and play

Much of my life can be compared to the movie “Kung Fu Panda” or “Karate Kid”, but I think many of the mystical aspects are simply the result of understanding its principles or advanced training. I’ve applied its broad philosophies to all aspects of my life.

I am always reminded that it is an “art” and like all arts, how we approach and practice will grow and change as we age and mature. Here are some lessons I have learned in my incredible journey, seeking the best masters wherever I roamed.

Time and Effort:

My first lessons in martial arts were in Shoa Lin kung fu. The literal definition of “kung” is “effort” and the definition of “fu” is “time spent.” The best translation of this term is “time and effort.”

My First teacher used that term constantly and as I pursued other ambitions over my life, I realized just how important these words are. Time is interwoven with effort like a perfect soul mate. In movies, we often see a hero who goes through a short boot camp and this makes him unbeatable, but I’ve learned that this is not the formula for champions. Time is absolutely necessary.

I’ve tested it. I once thought I could train for a few months and have what it takes to be a winning cage fighter until I realized that I’d be going against people who trained every day since they were little kids.

Can you imagine trying to build five inches of muscle on your bicep in only two weeks? Or going from Kindergarten to Med school in only three years? The body and mind adapt slowly over-time so get into the habit of making long term goals and enjoying the journey.

Meditation is Powerful:

Shoa Lin kung fu emphasized meditation and breath work. The class often started with us facing the wall and doing nothing for a few minutes. This practice helped me hone in with how I was feeling; whether or not I could focus, or if my mind was racing.

We always fought better and had more focused energy after meditating.

It was my first taste of mindfulness, a lesson that has helped me in every aspect of life.

For more information on the benefits of meditation, click here:

Meditation (A Running Into Reality)

Understand Nature:

Shoa Lin emphasized animal styles. We learned how to move like cranes, tigers, eagles. In the beginning I was trained to stand in a horse stance (squat) or low bow stance (similar to a yoga warrior stance) in order to feel rooted to the earth.

Bruce Lee said to be like water because it is powerful and flexible.

Master Jeff Jedds, says to be like wind because it can move water, air and even earth without being seen.

During the Lua (Hawaiian Martial Arts) seminars, I learned to move like sharks, birds or dolphins.

Mohammad Ali used to say, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Tai chi, like yoga, emphasizes physics and how force and power are manipulated.

I have learned to study nature in all its glory, to watch how the wind moves the water and how the water moves the earth, to understand the structure of my body and how it adapts to the structure of the earth.

Power, Energy, Chi and Alignment:

When we were young, my brother and I used to hit each other’s abdomen for fun. One day, he hit me in such a way that I fell in pain. I didn’t feel my body bruise from the outside. It felt as if he sent something shooting straight into my intestines. I asked him what he did. He showed me that he didn’t hit hard at all. He actually hit me softly, but he focused on the alignment he learned in tai chi class.

This started my fascination with how alignment increases power. I realized that force didn’t come from strain but from proper posture. If the whole body is moving correctly in one piece, we have more energy, move more efficiently, and can unleash more strength with less stress.

Eventually, I moved to New York and immersed myself in work and performing arts. I could no longer go to Kung Fu class, but I tried to practice what I could on my own. My days at the conservatory introduced me to The Alexander Technique, The Linklater Method, Pilates and Yoga. Years later, I became a Personal Trainer. I continued my education in alignment by getting accredited in Biomechanics and other modalities that focus on correct posture. I can write a million books on this subject, but it all got started in my martial arts roots.

This month, I’ll be teaching a workshop on chi, alignment and energy work. For more information, click here:

Chi Kung/Yoga Workshop

It is the best way to connect with your culture and ancestors:

My first experience with traditional martial arts taught me history. I had to understand why the ancient techniques were developed and in doing so, I learned about wars, dynasties, culture and tradition.

I learned just how complex the art of war is. I’ve learned that starting a battle has grave consequences and that fighting just to defend one’s ego is one of he dumbest reason to start a battle. Humanity has a long history of destruction, murder and bloodshed and one can’t help but see the foolishness in someone who chooses fighting above all other solutions.

Now that I’m practicing Filipino martial arts,  I learned that the Filipino Guerilla fighters defeated Magellan and that they changed the face of western boxing.

Through my new friends, I’ve met people who have preserved the culture of their people by learning the fighting styles. One of these people is Michelle Manu, who has dedicated her life to learning authentic Lua (Hawaiian Martial Arts). Not only did I learn some bad ass moves, but I learned how her people think, how the Hawaiian families interact, the martial art roots of the Hula dance and how they perceive their natural environment.

Had these lessons not been passed down through a martial arts lineage, this history would be lost to foreign invaders and the intrusion of western culture.

Michelle Manu will be doing a workshop on Lua in May. More information here:

The Ancient Hawaiian Martial Art, Lua

A fight’s a fight

At some point in my life, I wanted to test myself to see if I really was as good as I thought I could be. I made the choice to try competitive cage fighting. My coach, Pat King, is a Brazilian Jujitsu blackbelt who trained directly under champion Royce Gracie. One of the things I find myself repeating are his words, “a fight’s a fight.”

This phrase can mean so many things. But mainly, what he tried to instill in me is; in a real fight, nobody cares what rank you are or how experienced you are. It isn’t choreographed and no one is going to let you get away with being sloppy out on the streets. Once you are in a fight, all they want to do is destroy you. There are no rules in war. There is no cheating. The opponent might poke your eye, pull out a weapon or two or have a friend waiting on the side to jump you. A real fight isn’t romantic or pretty. You’ll almost always get hurt. It’s never as predictable as we make it out to be in practice so be prepared for anything and do whatever it takes to survive.

Trust the technique

Pat you used to say, “trust the technique.” I still hear his voice in my head saying this. Whenever someone beats me, it’s almost always because my technique is wrong. It takes a lot of time and effort to get a technique right. Brazilian Jujitsu is extremely precise which is why it’s so effective. But you have to do the technique exactly as you are taught, or it will not work. You must master it. You can’t fake it.

Every time I couldn’t execute a hold or get out of one it was because I didn’t “trust the technique.” This was a true lesson in discipline and self-mastery.

If you are trying something that isn’t working, go back and ask yourself if you are taking all the proper steps.

Focus is everything

Pat used to say that in the sport of cage fighting, everyone knows all the moves and they know how to counter them. So who will win? The fighter with the most focus.

You have to let go of any distraction, love problems, family problems or any other frustrations must be out of your mind. You must focus only on the fight. The slightest distraction will cost you the battle.

Master the art of falling and get up fast

Pat wouldn’t rest until I knew how to fall properly and get up as fast as I could. We all need to learn to take a fall. In martial arts, it’s imperative that we don’t stay down. In life, I’ve learned not to take my failures too hard and to get up right away.

Never give up

Where I used to train MMA, there was instructor named Thor who was also a professional fighter. However, many times he would have us watch his fight and he would lose (which was quite disappointing).

One day, I met up with someone I hadn’t seen for a while and he said that Thor is now a national champion. I remember Thor keeping up after knee, back and shoulder injuries. Supposedly, people told him to quit all the time, but Thor never gave up on himself. He learned from his mistakes and eventually became champion. That’s more than I can say for myself.

I think those of us who are truly successful are those who kept it up long after everyone else decided to quit. Thor said that even when everyone else stopped believing in him, He still continued. He deserves to be champion.

We often admire or envy those who achieved success but we don’t always know the story of failures, humiliation and pain that they went through to get there.

Art is what makes life worth living

As I reached my forties, I became worn out from MMA. I wanted to go back to traditional martial arts. I reunited with an old friend from my Shoa-Lin school who went on to become a master.

There are so many styles of kung fu Adam Dayen could have taught me but he decided to teach me the style that he felt I would have the most trouble with. He taught me Baqua because my hips and back are tight, and this internal martial art requires a lot of twisting and turning. The goal is to learn to get behind your opponent. Baqua is a standing grappling art, full of throws, but its also very deceptive. You’re constantly stepping to the side and taking the opponent’s back.

One day, Adam said to me that I have been focusing too much on competition. “Fighting destroys us,” he said, “but you know this from your writing and painting- –  art is what makes life worth living.”

I never forgot what he said. I realized why I gave up on becoming a competitive MMA fighter. I never really knew why I did it, except that I stopped enjoying it the way I used to. I stopped looking at the practice as an art, to explore and grow with. I got obsessed with competition, with being the best and wondering if I was doing what it takes to outshine everyone. I forgot that the reason I started training in the first place, was because I loved how it made me feel.

Competition teaches us to excel but art teaches cooperation, taking time out for ourselves and spending it with those we love.  Can you imagine a life without music or stories; without creativity and expression? Can you imagine a life without inspiration and imagination? What would we have to look forward too?

Approaching my sport with the heart of an artist has helped me deal with how I’ve changed over the years. I’ve learned to have fun and really embrace the training. I can step back and see the beauty in it. Bruce Lee once said, “Don’t set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water.” I have learned to embrace the changes of my life as I mature and to allow my martial art to reflect that.

Master your stance. Practice stillness

During this time, I was going through some personal issues. I would sometimes show up for training feeling run down or frazzled. Adam was all about standing in holding ball posture and just sinking in that stance for about ten minutes. It cleared my mind and help me find strength. He told me that I needed to learn to stand still if I wanted to master the internal martial arts. It sounds funny, knowing how much I move around all day but standing still made a huge difference. This is another reason why I’m so grateful for learning yoga. Holding a pose and just breathing alleviates a world of stress and brings me center and clarity.

Adam had an amazing amount of discipline, stemming from our old school Shoa-Lin background. He would sit in a horse stance (squat) for a half hour or spend an hour practicing a punch across the park, as if he were jogging long distance.

He took me back to those days when we used to memorize moves and forms so we could practice them on our own. I used to go to the park and practice these forms or katas before I forgot them. I still remember the tai chi form, however. If I ever need to clear my mind and calm my body, it comes in handy.

The greatest masters become healers

One of my favorite kung fu folk heroes is Wong Fei-hung. He was an acupuncturist and eastern medical practitioner who was also a well-respected martial artist. Mastering martial arts requires impeccable knowledge of alignment and energy flow.

Our eskrima grandmaster has mastered energy so much, he can cut or burn himself and he will be healed by the end of the day. He can just look at someone and they will drop their weapon. Maybe its confidence or mind tricks but I’ve seen it myself.

Grandmaster Sultan Uldin told me about his trip to the Philippines to meet the remaining Eskrima masters. He said that most of them gave up fighting and become faith healers. When we shift our intention from harming someone to healing them, our knowledge can be used in this manner.

I’ve been helping people with health and fitness for fifteen years and I see so many people who have given their power over to our medical system. They stop moving due to some injury and assume it will never get better. I’ve seen my martial arts colleagues get hurt from getting thrown or from sparring and they always bounce back, just as strong as ever. I find myself having to give energy to those who are afraid of getting hurt. Movement and exercise give us power and strength so we are harder to hurt and kill. It’s when we move with improper posture and alignment that we get hurt.

To learn more about this art of self healing, check out my Chi Kung/Yoga Workshop

Be Humble

Adam moved to orange county and we couldn’t match schedules anymore, but I stumbled upon a Philippine martial arts group and picked up eskrima stick and knife fighting. I’ve been doing this regularly for over 3 years. I don’t get to practice as often as I did when I was young but, I realized that a little can go a long way if I stick to it.

What amazes me about this group is how humble everyone is. We all have a history of martial arts practice and are willing to hear what the other person has to offer. My main teacher, Josh, is so thankful and respectful to everyone that I look forward to practicing every week.

Over the years, I’ve watched my favorite fighters win triumphantly, and get taken down by newcomers. There is always someone who you can beat, but there will always be someone who can beat you too.

I’m pretty sure that’s what Bruce Lee meant when he said, “I have the absolute confidence not to be number two, but then I have enough sense also to realize that there could be no number one.”

I didn’t realize until now, how I have had to earn learning these lethal techniques. The more I learn, the more I realize what a gift it is. A lot of martial arts are a secret and are only passed down if the student is deemed worthy. Many martial arts moves are hidden in dance and many masters don’t teach the authentic techniques until they know you are worthy. I see how new comers are treated and realize what a strong vetting process is involved.

Often, you learn techniques that may not make sense at first, but if you have faith, you figure out the reasons for these intricate moves and why it works in a battle. Every time I learn something new, I must empty my cup and pretend I’m a newborn once again. I find that success comes from constant passion, constant innovation and constant education. But if we think we already know everything because we learned one thing, we get stuck in a rut. Being an artist, I have no tolerance for ruts.

Being humble isn’t just about staying quiet. It means you are always willing to listen and learn. If you’re always willing to learn that means you are cultivating curiosity and passion. You will always be open to what others teach and exposed to all the gifts that are available to you. Martial artists are always finding the best way to live long and not get killed, but I think the ones that continue to learn and master the art are also finding ways to make the living worthwhile.

This month, I’ll be hosting a workshop on the energetic aspects of yoga and chi kung. More information here:

Chi Kung/Yoga Workshop

I will be hosting a workshop taught by the amazing Lua Black belt, Michelle Manu on the rare and ancient art of Lua. For more information click here:

The Ancient Hawaiian Martial Art, Lua