Friday, August 23, 2013

Time to Get Juiced

As an exercise and endurance enthusiast I love being healthy and work at doing things that will keep me in shape and improve the quality of my life.  One area of focus the past few years is improving my diet.  While I have made great strides in moving from meat and dairy based foods to more plants and healthy oils, it was not until I watched the documentaries Forks over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead that I realized how much more improvement awaited me.
While these two documentaries made me think critically about my already improved diet, it made me realize I am not alone in my need for healthier living through nutrition.  Sadly, most people in our country take better care of their cars than they do their bodies.  Most nutrition experts recommend shopping on the outside of the aisles in the supermarkets to stay away from processed foods yet many shoppers do just the opposite.  Processed foods can be nutrient poor, loaded with sugar and or high fructose corn syrup, salt and unhealthy fats. 

Nutrient stripped and processed foods are mainstays of the American diet and are leading to alarming rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other ailments.  We are eating more processed food, meat and animal protein and taking in fewer nutrients. This recipe for disaster is coined “Disease of Affluence” by Dr. Colin Campbell.
In addition to eating more plants and limiting animal protein, bad fats and processed foods, juicing has recently risen in popularity.  While juice you buy at the grocery store is loaded with sugar and highly processed, juice from fresh vegetables and fruits is nutrient rich, unprocessed and free of added sweeteners, chemicals (like aspartame) and salt. The exact thing your body needs and craves yet is often deprived of.
Does Juicing provide true health benefits? According to juicing aficionado Joe Cross, founder of and creator of documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, the payback can be life changing. Cross suffering from the Disease of Affluence found himself 100+ pounds overweight and in poor health. Joe traded in junk food for juicing for 60 days to shed weight and rid himself of his auto-immune disease. Once his weight loss was kick started, Cross switched to a healthy plant based diet supplemented with juice and turned his life around. Having lost 100+ pounds Cross was able to stop taking many medications for diseases caused by his poor diet.

Juicing supercharges your nutrient intake by providing your body with pure micronutrients, vitamins and enzymes - with none of the bad stuff that constitutes processed food. By putting the most nutritious fuel into your system possible, you can kick start your metabolism, rejuvenate your cells and give your body a break from all of the strange chemicals you've been challenging it to process until now.

While I am neither a doctor nor a dietitian and recommend you consult your physician before making any drastic diet changes, adding fresh vegetable and fruit juice to your diet can be enormously beneficial for health, and can also help you lose weight as part of a balanced diet plan. Instead of reaching for that next soda, try a glass of fresh squeezed carrot, pineapple and strawberry juice.  You may just like it and your body will thank you.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Swimming Isn’t Just For the Fishes

In the movie Cocoon, several elderly adults discovered that a nearby swimming pool had the power to give them strength, improved well-being, a more youthful spirit and increased energy. While the cause of their exuberance and new lease on life was from an alien planet, it doesn’t take alien technology to reap the benefits from swimming.
For those that know me well, you probably think an article on the benefits of swimming would be the last column I would write, right up there with the wonders of yoga.  Being terrified of the water for the better part of 45 years, it has been only recently that I have conquered my fear of the water and have learned to not only love to swim, but love the health benefits a dip in the pool offers even more!
When looking to add some variety to your exercise program, consider these benefits to adopting a swimming routine.

Swimming is a great way to increase muscle strength and tone while helping build strong cardio base.  This is due in part to the resistance that water provides.  While runners have to deal with the air, swimmers gain the added benefit from propelling herself through the water.
Unlike machines in a gym that isolate one body part at a time, swimming puts the body through a broad range of motion that helps joints and ligaments stay loose and flexible.  Your arms, torso, hips and legs are all engaged and the reaching motion also provides a great stretch.
Much like running, cycling or aerobics based classes; swimming provides an excellent cardio workout and improves heart health. The better and stronger you become, the harder and faster you can swim which improves your cardio health.
For some time, people thought that because water is cooler than our body temperatures, it would be difficult to lose weight with a water workout or via swimming. Like many old ideas about exercise, this has since been revised: Swimming is now recognized as one of the biggest calorie burners around, and it's great for keeping weight under control.  Additionally its low impact and friendly on the joints and an excellent form of cardio work for those rehabbing from injuries.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, swimming is an excellent cross training workout for other cardio sports.  As a runner, I believe I became a much better runner as I became a better swimmer. First the rhythmic breathing patterns of swimming adapt nicely to those of other cardio sports. Second, swimming provides a nice physical and mental break from your normal routine.  Swimming can actually be a nice recovery workout that reenergizes and rejuvenates the mind and body.
The last and maybe most important benefit of swimming is literally lifesaving.  Water sports are becoming more popular and social in nature but can be dangerous if you fear the water and cannot swim. Learning to swim not only improves your mental and physical health; it may also save your life or the life of a loved one.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Answering The Bell!

Strength training and weight training have been around as long as man has walked on the face of the earth. While many different programs, exercises and equipment have come and gone, about the only constant thing over time has been resistance.  If you want to get stronger you have to have to place resistance on your muscles.
Like other things in life, strength training is not immune to advancing technologies.  Visit any health or fitness club today and you will see complicated, large and expensive machines that provide resistance training for improving muscle strength, tone and mass.  But is all of that really necessary?
When I think of strength training one of the visual images that comes to mind is the strong man that was a part of most circuses in the late 1800’s. The strong man was usually chiseled, bald, had a beard and could lift enormous amounts of weight with ease. So what was their secret to their overall strength?  The answer lies in one of the oldest and most pure forms of strength training and that is the old fashioned Kettlebell!
It’s interesting how workout trends come and go, and how a centuries old piece of cast iron has captured the spirit, interest and use of thousands of today’s exercisers.  That’s the way it seems to be going for the good old Kettlebell. It’s somewhat ironic that $30-$50 piece of exercise equipment can give you just as good if not better work out that millions of dollars of technology enhanced equipment.

According to Ace Fitness, these cannonball-shaped iron orbs with handles lifted in a swinging motion were developed by Russian strong men in the early 1700s as a way to quickly build strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. While traditional exercise equipment and exercise machines isolate muscle groups to be worked, Kettlebell routines are designed to strengthen multiple muscle groups and most exercises work your core and improve your balance while also improving cardio fitness.

You may be asking how such a simple piece of equipment can improve your overall strength. If you want proof rent the film epic 300 and take a look at the physique of lead actor Gerard Butler who plays King Leonidas of Sparta. Butler used kettlebells to prepare for his role in the film. But it’s not just Hollywood types who are getting into it. Kettlebell-themed fitness classes are now being offered at gyms across the country and can also be utilized in the comfort of your own home.

My recent introduction to kettlebells came when May purchased a book and began a strength training program with kettlebells. While the concept of strength training is rather simple, I was truly impressed with just how complete a workout a Kettlebell routine provides.  Not only do you have slow controlled moves, you work on your balance and receive a decent cardio workout as well.  It short, kettlebells seem to be new “super food” of strength training.

If you are looking for a great workout while improving your strength, balance and cardio, kettlebells are an affordable and effective workout.  In coming columns I will cover some Kettlebell exercises that will assist you in your strength training efforts.  While I can’t promise you will end up looking Gerard Butler, don’t count it out….if you think you can, you can!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Refuel with Protein

Have you ever experienced the dreaded “BONK”?  If you haven’t you are very fortunate. The “BONK” is when you run out of fuel while exercising and even the most normal activities become excruciating difficult and downright painful.  Most often associated with endurance athletes such as runners and bikers, the “bonk” can hit anyone if you don’t fuel properly.

If experiencing the “bonk” isn’t bad enough during exercise, it can sneak up on you while working out the day after a long exercise session. Not only is it important to fuel your body properly for exercise you are about to do, it may be even more important when and how you fuel after exercise that will distract how your body will respond to future workloads.

While there are many elements to proper fueling and hydration, one increasing important fueling strategy revolves around protein consumption within an hour of exercise. Fueling is incredibly important for endurance athletes and the following are some guidelines on protein consumption as outlined on

There are a multitude of beverages and supplements that have been designed to maximize recovery, but food remains the ideal fuel. A nutritious meal after a long workout provides a variety of nutrients vital for health, well-being and recovery.

Consuming nutrients at the right time and in appropriate amounts can take fitness and performance to a new level. The timing of “when” nutrients are consumed can be as important as “what” nutrients are consumed. You’re probably familiar with the importance of carbohydrates for refueling and replenishment, but so should protein rich foods such as lean meats and plant based proteins.

A growing body of evidence suggests that eating foods that are rich in both protein and carbohydrate directly after training can optimize muscle repair. Carbohydrate-rich foods help refuel muscle, but also naturally cause insulin levels to rise. Simply adding protein to your meal or snack helps slow insulin release and muscle breakdown while simultaneously promoting tissue regrowth. 

When it comes to protein, quality is key. Amino acids are protein-building blocks and are either considered non-essential (meaning the body makes them) or essential (meaning you need to get them through your diet). High-quality proteins (like those found in lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, plants and dairy) contain a complete package of essential amino acids. Research indicates that 15 grams of essential amino acids are optimal for muscle growth and it’s as easy as eating four ounces of lean meat. 

The optimal rate at which muscle energy is refueled and tissue repair and building can occur is within 30 to 45 minutes after exercise with 30-40 grams of protein at one sitting. Make refueling part of your training plan and include nutrient-rich sources of protein in your post-exercise meals. Recipes that can be assembled ahead of time or quickly prepared can help you fuel your recovery in time.

A proper refueling strategy can not only chase the “BONK” away, it can give you another excellent work out on successive days.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Traits for Exercise Success

Traits for Exercise Success

Now that you have had a week to digest Zig Ziglar’s “If you think you can, you can, if you think you can’t you are right” motto, I hope you have built some momentum to set those stretch goals you secretly always wanted to go for but never had the confidence to tackle.
Believing you can reach your stretch goals is extremely important but it’s only a start.  Once the goal is set you will need a mental arsenal of skills and traits to make sure you keep on track and don’t buckle when the going gets tough.  I hate to tell you but the going IS going to get tough but that is half the fun, knowing you overcame obstacles, pain and discomfort to achieve your exercise goals.
Triathlete and endurance coach Joe Friel knows the importance having a good mindset and attitude when taking on aggressive exercise goals.  He lists seven traits an individual must develop and possess to be successful at reaching their exercise goals.
Confidence – Successful athlete have respect for themselves as individuals and for their athletic abilities. Success comes in large part from controlling the small vice in our heads that likes to criticize or gets us to try and give up.  We must learn to control that voice and provide ourselves positive feedback.
Focus – During times when an important outcome is on the line such as a big race or key workout, successful individuals have the ability to concentrate their mental and physical energy on the task at hand.
Self-Sufficiency – When working towards aggressive goals, you will have to take chances and move into new territory. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t. Successful individuals take full responsibility for their actions and don’t get down when things don’t go according to plan. 
Adaptability – This may be the most important trait of all.  Be flexible with your plans and strategies and don’t be afraid to revamp your plan based on unforeseen circumstance. For example, if you are working towards a running a 10K but hurt your foot; take up swimming as way to build your fitness.
Emotional Stability – Simply put don’t get too high with the highs or two low with the lows.  Things happen and you are in it for the long haul. Getting mad or frustrated is just wasting energy. If things don’t go the way you expected, give yourself time to vent then focus your energy to move forward with your plan.
Quiet Cockiness – No one loves an outwardly cocky and brash individual, but it’s OK to know what you will need to succeed. The most successful athletes are ones that never brag out loud but have the confidence and belief they can to whatever they need to do.
Mental Toughness – When the going gets hard, mentally tough individuals hang in there. Determination and mental toughness is duct taping the switch in your mind to the ON position knowing you will desperately want to flip it off when pain ensues and knowing you just can't do it. That’s the place you must get to.
 These traits will help you develop the attitude you need to successfully reach your goals. As a friend of mine once told me, “Pain is temporary, accomplishment and Jesus are forever.”  Keep your eye on the prize and remember to enjoy the journey and stay committed, flexible and mentally tough. The prize of accomplishment is well worth it, I promise.