Monday, May 23, 2016

Healthy food: a key to an enhanced life

Recently, I had a group of clients meet me for a grocery store tour.  During our tour, the main learning lesson was “food awareness” and understanding that healthy food intake is the key element to enhanced living.  I want to share some of the guidelines we talked about at this tour:

·      I was adamant advising my “eat to be healthy” philosophy.  Specifically, I was talking about the fresh vegetables and fruits that are loaded with vitamins, nutrients and minerals that aide in our performance.  Not just sports and fitness performance but life performance.  Mindful and healthful nutrition supports an energized and vibrant life, brain health, total body wellness and immune system strength.  You eat to feel good.  You eat to limit your chances of sickness, some even deadly.  You eat to have consistent energy.  You eat to perform.  You eat to improve your memory.  You eat to improve your productivity.  And you shop for the foods that support the above reasons.  Many people eat for weight loss.  In my opinion, this way creates the wrong mindset.  This individual becomes frightened of food instead of recognizing the importance of it.  They think certain nutrients are bad for them instead of understanding how and when they should be consumed.  The idea is to be honest with yourself and start making progressive steps to creating an overall healthier way of thinking regarding food intake.  Maybe that is cutting your soda drinking down from six a week, to two.  Maybe it’s fine-tuning your macronutrient intake.  Maybe you need to simply drink more water and eat more vegetables and fruits.  Just remember, that food can be your friend and supplies the body with powerful vitamins that are needed to live a strong, long and vibrant life.  Be consistent, not perfect.  
·      As we were walking around the produce area, I made a comment that stuck with me.  I said, “This area is your supplement store.”  The surrounding fresh vegetables and fruits are the best source of nutrients, therefore should be your “supplement of choice”.  Relying on a pill or capsule to deliver your body with vitamins should not be the priority.  Do your best to consume the real thing.  Fill your cart with a variety of vegetables and fruits.  Try a new vegetable every time you shop.  Make smoothies and load them with greens, beets, carrots and a couple different fruits.  You will feel better immediately when you provide your body with these vital nutrients.  Oh and by the way, make the produce section your first stop.  And ideally, you should spend the most time in this section during your grocery store visit. 
·      Here is an important point I brought up, “Do not eliminate any particular food, rather you should limit unhealthy options and eat more of the healthier choices.”   This goes back to the mindset about fearing food.  Do your best to not think this way.  Food is a wonderful necessity and should be consumed with imagination and variety.  Building a plan that supports your fitness and life goals should happen but it’s very possible to eat many different foods, even the “unhealthy ones” in moderation, and still attain the results you are going for.  Read labels, understand portion control, be aware of your calories, periodically measure and weigh your food and identify your various habits.    Simply making minor adjustments can guide you to achieving your results. It does not have to be about following one specific diet.  The key is to build a nutrition plan that supports your lifestyle and fitness goals.  

Thanks for reading.  Please share to your friends or leave a comment of what you thought of the article.  I appreciate you!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Work hard but also work smart and results will come

Lately I have seen many social media videos of sloppy exercise technique with these various movements: muscle-ups, handstand walks, handstand push-ups, power cleans, pull-up and chin-up variations, etc. 

The above-mentioned movements are complex and difficult to master and when performed with careless technique can be harmful, even detrimental to the body.  For example, doing a poor/kipping handstand push-up can put the shoulders, cervical spine and neck at major risk.  With vital nerves going up and into the head, major injury can be caused when poor technique is utilized.  If you cannot do a smooth and fluid handstand push-up, continue to work on isometric holds and controlled negatives for a longer period of time.  Patience, consistent drill work and persistence will lead you to mastering the movement you are working towards. 

My recommendation for any exercise is to learn the progressive steps to achieve the final product.  Do not move on to a more advanced variation of a specific exercise unless you have truly mastered the step you are on.  Something I tell my clients is to be aware of what their body is telling them.  If you feel out of control and uncomfortable performing a specific movement, it may be out of your movement capacity.  Take a step back, move to the step below, continue to work on that progression and be persistent with your practice.  You will get there; you just might need more time. 

I also do not recommend any complex and technique driven exercises (power cleans, heavy squats, muscle-ups, handstand variations, etc.) to be implemented into a circuit type workout.   It is a recipe for disaster and injury when combining high degree of difficulty movements with high intensity routines.  Your technique will be compensated when your heart rate is too high.  These complex movements need focused attention during a workout routine.  Stick to simple exercises in a circuit style workout (push-ups, medicine ball slams, sled pushes, lunges, inverted rows, etc.). 

In my programs, I am always asking myself the “risk vs. reward” question.  If the risks outweigh the rewards, I will implement a safer variation.  Exercise should be about gaining performance, improving the body, staying away from pain and injury and staying safe in the gym.  This philosophy does not equate to being soft and comfortable in the gym.  It represents a more sophisticated approach, which speeds results and helps you achieve your performance goals.  When you get hurt, training stops and when training becomes inconsistent, you now cannot push to your desired levels.   

Work hard, but also work smart, you will benefit so much more!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Improve your muscle tissue

Many people walk around with tight, brittle and restricted muscle tissue.  This is caused due to aging, poor lifestyle patterns, high activity, dehydration and/or poor movement qualities.  Muscle “fascia” envelops the entire body.  Think of a layer of plastic that surrounds the muscle tissue; that “plastic” is fascia.  When this fascia is stiff and restricted, mobility is decreased, and this can cause issues in other parts of the body.  Adhesions and trigger points can form due to this restricted fascia thus causing denseness in the muscle.  This denseness then limits muscle length and joint mobility.  Simply put, when you have poor tissue quality, you lose your ability to move in a free range of motion.  Once you start losing your mobility, pain and injury begin to surface and eventually can turn into chronic issues.

Can something be done to improve tissue quality?  Absolutely.  Tissue work is a common practice amongst high-level athletes and fitness coaches throughout the industry.  A qualified massage therapist is the best option.  There is nothing better for your muscle tissue than a good set of hands.  But not everyone wants to spend $50 everyday for a massage.  There are self-massage techniques that can be implemented weekly to tremendously improve your tissue quality. 

Foam Roll: using this dense Styrofoam cylinder can be just has beneficial as a deep tissue massage.  This tool can help relieve tight fascia, decrease adhesions or knots in the muscles and improve mobility.  For our clients, this is the first thing we do to start the training session.  We first want to work muscle density before we go and stretch or lengthen the muscle.  Stretching a muscle before foam rolling is like pulling on an elastic band with a knot in it.  The knot will not go anywhere; it will just draw tighter.  Another reason to start your workout with a few minutes of foam rolling is that it will increase blood flow throughout the body, which will prepare you for the workout ahead. 

Make sure you gradually progress using the foam roll.  If you have never used this technique, you will first experience discomfort and slight pain.  Start with 4-6 “rolls” over the specific muscles you are working, and then move to another area.  Once you build tolerance, you can slowly increase the time on a specific body part. 

Other self-massage tools that can be utilized are massage sticks, tennis balls, baseballs, and frozen water bottles.  These tools can manipulate specific body parts with a little more concentration than a foam roll.  For example, the bottoms of your feet need tissue work.  Poor tissue quality of the plantar fascia (layer of muscle on the bottom of your foot) can cause extreme pain and soreness.  The foam roll doesn’t really work for the bottoms of your feet.  That is where a tennis ball or baseball can be a great tool to relieve the tight tissue in that area.  Anyone who wears dress shoes, high heels or is on their feet throughout the week needs to spend time addressing the tissue of the feet. 

The main point is that everyone needs to spend some time to improve muscle tissue quality.  The older we get, the more we need, as muscles become tight and brittle as we age. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Be obsessed with the process

Why do so many people misjudge the time it takes to achieve goals?  So many people are looking for the quick fix or the “secret sauce” or the magical pill.  If you truly want real world success, if you are looking to attain big goals and you want to do it the right way, simply BE OBSESSED WITH THE PROCESS.  This strategy can work for all areas of life.  Whether you want to complete an Ironman, run a successful business or achieve financial freedom, becoming obsessed with the process is the key component.  

Since my expertise is in fitness, let me explain…

Fitness is such a “I want it now” idea that it sometimes drives me crazy.  If I had a quarter for every time someone asked me about some sort of a quick fix or miracle program, I would be rich.  Over the past 5 years, I have logged over 4000 hours of training!  I am not telling you this to brag, not at all.  Just explaining that it takes years to achieve some success.  I still aspire to improve and change my fitness but I have become obsessed with the process and that enables me to keep the motivation, resilience and energy to train. 

If you wanted weight loss, here is what I would advise…

I would encourage you to be obsessed with the process.  Over the next 100 days, I want 85 of those days to look like this:

Daily: 65 ounces of water – Don’t skip a day here!
Breakfast: 2 eggs, ½ avocado, small handful of blueberries
Snack #1: 20 almonds
Lunch: Chicken or Steak or Fish Salad
Snack #2: Apple w/1 tablespoon Peanut butter
Dinner: Lean protein (chicken, steak, fish, etc), salad or other vegetable and a small handful of brown rice or potatoes
Once or twice a week, eat something you have been craving. 
(pizza, chicken wings, ice cream etc.)

Now I want you to become obsessed with the process.  Notice, I did not say, “be obsessed with fitness.”  That’s not the point here.  You go at your pace.  You do not need to be perfect, just be consistent.  Do not look for a quick fix.  Get to the gym 3-5 days per week for at least 30 minutes.  That equates to 42-70 workouts over the next 14 weeks.  Mix in strength training and cardio sessions.  Do this every week for the next 14 weeks.  Do not weigh yourself every week.  Instead weigh yourself every 25 days, just to keep yourself in check.  But understand that when you become obsessed with the process, the weight will come off.  If weight is the only thing you are assessing, your progress will be skewed.  Out of the next 14 weeks, 12 of those weeks you need to do some weekly meal prepping.  Simply, make a few extra chicken breasts, boil up some eggs, chop up some veggies and make some extra brown rice.  Remember, if you are obsessed with the process, the results will happen.  If you are looking for a quick fix, you have the wrong plan.

See, this direction is tough for people to take because there isn’t some day where you wake up and shout to the world, “Wow, I got lean overnight!”  or “Wow, my business is a success overnight!” Or “Wow, where did all that money come from?” (unless you won the lottery and we all know those odds)  My point is that going after your goals is hard and if you are not willing to become obsessed with the process and put in the daily grind, for years, IT. WILL. NOT. HAPPEN. 

I say all of this as I sit here now writing this article that I am obsessed with the process.  I write this article knowing that it will serve other people.  I do not write it to sell something or become something.  I understand that this is part of the process that it takes to become an industry leader and a servant of others.  I am not looking for a quick fix.  I am in it for the long haul and will continue the process for as long as I live. 

Get the point?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Nutrition Sliding Scale

This is a concept I came up with to allow flexibility in your nutrition plan.  To me, nutrition should not be about extreme dieting where you are either “on a diet” or “off the diet”.  This sliding scale philosophy teaches you to adjust your nutrition based on where you are at in life or the goals you are aiming to achieve. 

For instance, let’s say right now that 30% of your food is healthy or supportive to your goal of weight loss and 70% of your food is unhealthy or non-supportive to your goal of weight loss.  You must recognize that in order to see a physical change in your body, this needs to be improved upon.  This person would begin the process of sliding up the scale.  It would be a mistake for this person to completely overhaul their plan and go to an extreme diet that is 90% healthy and 10% unhealthy.  For most people, this is not sustainable and a recipe to fail in the plan.  Instead, this individual should take one step at time.  Over the next 30 days, the goal for this person would be to move to a 50% supportive/50% doesn’t support plan.  This is a slow process but also more likely to be sustained over longer periods of time. 

Are you following?  You might be asking how do we figure out our percentages of healthy/unhealthy food intake?  Simple, you need to food log for 5-7 days.  In that time period, count the number of total meals.  Then count up your “healthy/supportive to your goal” meals and divide by your total amount of meals.  (Liquid calories count!)  This will give you your healthy/supportive percentage.

Example: 5 day food log, 18 total meals, 10 of them were healthy and supported the goal, which is 55% and 8 of them were unhealthy or did not support the goal, which is 45%. 

Another example is the person heading to vacation in 30 days.  Say they want to tighten up their body and dial in their nutrition before vacation.  Well they would slide up the scale to 85/15 over the next 4 weeks.  Of course, vacation would slide back down, enjoy!  But once you return back from vacation, you go right back to 85/15 for 10 days to regain your healthy habits and cleanse the body.  After 10 days, this person could slide down to 75/25 because this may be their “sweet spot” in their life. 

This concept could be used the rest of your life.  You slide up the scale when you are aiming for a particular goal and slide down the scale when on vacation or life just gets in the way.  You are not aiming for perfection here.  Find your sweet spot that allows you to enjoy life but also achieve your goals.  Just remember, below 30/70 leads to many health issues like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and chronic inflammation so do your best to live above that level. 

Side note: the foundation of nutrition is WATER!  Water is the most important nutrient to the body.  Plain and simple.  Chronic dehydration leads to energy deficits, headaches, a lack of focus, digestive problems, performance lulls and many other debilitating issues.  I start many of my nutrition tips with this one simple message, if you are not drinking water consistently each day, start there and work to make it a habit.  This one strategy can snowball into other positive and healthy rituals.  You will need to have a water bottle by your side to make this happen.  So before you leave to work or school in the morning, fill up your bottle and take it with you.  Aim to drink half your weight in ounces of water (150 pound person = 75 ounces of water).  If you are an endurance athlete or someone who trains 5 or more days per week, you need to add to that number.  Make drinking water a habit. 

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