Monday, May 16, 2011

Warming UP

I wanted to dedicate today's post to one commonly overlooked aspect of training. The warm up is an extremely important aspect of your training and if you're not warming up properly, I"m sorry to say that you are not getting the most out of your workouts. I like to think of warming up as exercise foreplay. LOL! You don't really want to just jump right into your routine because the body is not yet properly prepared.

Consider the warm up as the pace-setter for your exercise routine. A good warm-up is going to ensure that the muscles are awake, the blood is flowing, and the heart is pumping. If you watch any professional athlete, the warm up is one of the biggest and most crucial aspects of their training. You will never see an olympic sprinter just wake up, head to the track, and attempt to sprint at maximum speed. His body will be sluggish and his reactions will be slow.

So why do most people get to the gym and fail to do a proper warm up? Well I guess there are a number of reasons for this, but for you reading this right now, you will have no more excuses. A proper warm up will give you the edge on everyone else. Guaranteed! Think of your body and your muscles like a rubber-band, when a rubber-band is cold it doesn't have much stretch, and less stretch produces less force. Now if you warm the rubber-band up a little bit you will find that it stretches further and snaps back with greater force. Now although I am using a rubber-band as an example, I am not implying that you stretch before you workout. In fact, static stretching, which is stretching a muscle to a point of pain and holding it, can actually inhibit your performance. So NEVER, NEVER, NEVER static stretch before you train, unless static stretching is specific to your sport. I'll get into stretching in my next post, so I'll focus on the warm up for now.

What is a proper warm up?

So the great thing about a warm up, is there are so many different options to get the blood flowing. Make sure that your warm-up involves the whole body and incorporates full body movements. It doesn't take much to get the blood flowing and a proper warm up should not be done to the point of exhaustion. A proper warm up, will get your heart pumping, the blood flowing and you may begin to break a little sweat. The minute you begin to sweat, your body has activated its cooling mechanisms. This means you're warm. keep the sweat going for about a minute and you are ready to go. Your warm up should last anywhere from 5-10 minutes, so it doesn't take too long. Believe me this 5-10 minute session will really make a difference.

What are some examples of a good warm up?

Treadmill Jog
Treadmill Incline walk
Jump rope
Body weight squats
bear crawls
mountain climbers
Jumping Jacks

The list goes on....

Literally any full body movement can be used to warm up, and you can mix and match any of these movements to help get the blood flowing.

Why Warm up?

Well think about it this way. You've probably been at work all day sitting at a desk with your body in the same cramped position. Your body is literally stiff and the muscles have no blood flow. The warm up also indirectly stretches the muscles in a safe effective way and prepares you for your routine. Use the warm up to wake your mind and body. Getting the heart pumping will let your body know, "Its time for exercise!"

Warming up will not only improve your overall performance, it was one of the biggest contributing factors to injury prevention. Stiff cold muscles are much more prone, to pulling, tearing, and training. Something as simple as 5 minutes can make a huge difference in your overall health and longevity. Be smart and take the time to do it. 5 minutes can save you weeks or even months of injury recuperation. So basically what I am saying is you are an idiot if you don't warm up! LOL! J/K. Or am I?

But seriously warming up does a lot more for your health than you can imagine. I made leaps and bounds in my physic and in my overall performance when I made the simple change of adding a warm up to my routine. DO it!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

To My Followers

This Blog is dedicated to my followers and to those of you who questioned my absence. I have recently been bombarded with life and I must admit I have lost some inspiration. On that note, I am making an attempt to redeem myself and post as often as possible. I have realized that my mind has wondered into autopilot, and this is my effort to jump into the COCKpit and take control!

Sleepy Time

I have recently realized that I have been missing one major component in my life, and it has affected me tremendously. That component is SLEEP! Since I began this grueling work schedule, I have found myself dramatically cutting into my sleepy time. In the past month I have watched my energy levels fall, my focus diminish, and my appetite spiral out of control. How could this be?

One thing I've noticed for sure, is that when you are tired, the body wants to do nothing else but sleep. So what do we do when we can't sleep and we have to perform? Well, most of us just slam in the caffeine. Its no wonder there's a Starbucks on every corner, and there are tons of energy drinks out on the market. People everywhere are trying to keep themselves awake, just so they can make it through the day. The problem with this is the inevitable compounding affect on your health! Its no wonder you exercise for two hours every day but the results just don't come. Ask yourself......."Am I getting enough sleep?" I can guarantee you almost everyone's answer to this will be no.

So What happens when we don't get enough sleep?

The affects on the body are absolutely horrendous! The body is in a constant state of fatigue, leaving your brain foggy and your body half rested. When the body and brain don't get enough sleep, you begin to produce stress hormones which increase your appetite and increase your susceptibility to storing fat. So what does this mean? You eat more and you store more fat. Even if you are working out, this will do very little, and may in fact potentially make things worse. Exercise is stress on the body, so putting stress on the body and not giving it enough rest can wear you down.

So What's the cure?

Sleep. LOL! Try to get to bed early. Think about it this way.... If you go to bed an hour earlier every day, that's five extra hours of sleep you gain per work week. Thats almost a whole nights sleep. If you get to bed an hour and a half earlier every day you gain an extra 7 1/2 hours of sleep per work week. Believe me, this makes a huge difference! Use the weekends to recharge your battery and sleep for as long as you need to. DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR SLEEP! Your success depends on it. I have a saying.... "Everything goes out the window once you get tired." Believe me this is true. You can have all the drive, will, focus, ambition and intelligence in the world; once you become tired, all of those things will not matter. You will solely be focusing on the fact that you are so tired. Drinking coffee only masks the symptoms and puts you into overdrive. Listen to your body, and give it the rest it deserves.

How much sleep should you get?

I guess everyone has their opinion on this and as we all know, experts say at least 8 hours. But in my opinion, and from what I have experienced, I say sleep as long as you need to. Some days you may need more than others depending on your activity levels, so take as much rest as you need, to feel revived. Experiment and see how much you need to function at optimal levels. Everyone is different so I don't really believe in one sleep prescription.

Use this next week as an experiment, and try to get to to bed a little earlier. Start with a half hour each day and record how you feel. Good luck!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I thought there was no cure for diabetes. Watch this!

Forget About Counting Calories

I've talked a little about diet in previous blogs but I wanted focus today's blog on one of the biggest misconceptions about food, and that is calorie counting. The problem with calorie counting is too many people tend to focus more on the calories rather than the quality of the food. Many diets will insist that the surefire way to shed those extra pounds is to restrict your calorie intake while maintaining an intense exercise regimen. The problem with keeping this formula so vague is that many people do not understand what types of foods they should be eating. What tends to happen in most cases is people continue to eat the highly refined foods they've been eating and end up on a starvation diet. You cannot expect your body to perform well in the gym if you are not providing it with the proper nutrients it needs for sustainance. Many refined foods like pasta, breads, cereals, and frozen foods are packed with calories and sugar and offer your body little or no nutrients. A single serving of these foods will limit you to such a small portion and the lack of fiber will leave you hungry. So what's the trick?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Natural foods! Natural foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and tons of fiber, leaving you feeling full and energized. For example just one ounce of pasta contains approximately 8 grams of carbohydrates and no fiber leaving you with 8 net carbs per ounce. Now mind you, people will generally eat 6-10 ounces of pasta in one sitting. Now broccoli on the other hand has approximately 2 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber per ounce leaving you with 1 net carb per ounce. In terms of nutritional content, it's a no contest. Pasta has no nutrients because it is highly refined, while broccoli contains an array of vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc, vitamins C, B1, B2, B6, PP, E, K and A, folic acid and omega 3 fatty acids. What this basically demonstrates is that all calories are not created equal. 1000 calories of pasta will not give you the same benefits of a 1000 calories of broccoli. What's going to make the difference in your diet is the quality of food you are eating. 

Obesity and weight gain are not always signs of over eating. They can also be an indicator of malnutrition. Your body becomes malnourished and it is attempting to store energy as fat for a later use. Now while, weight gain and obesity are a combination of many different factors, just changing your food intake will make the majority of the difference. Eating refined foods offers no nutrients and your body becomes very ill as a result. We all have signs and symptoms but we tend to ignore them. Some of these include weight gain, low energy levels, high-blood pressure, dehydration, headaches, indigestion, hunger, diabetes, Urinary tract infections, bloating, etc. Pay attention to your body and focus on the root cause of the symptoms. There is a reaction for all the food we put into our bodies. Making better food choices will make all the difference.  

How can this be accomplished?

Food preparation is the best way to make sure you are getting the best quality food. This takes time and a great deal of preparation,  but its well worth the work. 

But Adrian I don't have time

Bologna! We all have time, you just need to make time. It takes the same amount of time to drive 3 times a day to your restaurant of choice and wait for your food to be prepared. If it takes you 15 minutes to drive to the destination 10 minutes to get the food, thats 25 minutes for one meal. if you do this 3 times a day, thats an hour and fifteen minutes of time wasted. If you did your shopping at the beginning of the week which will take no more than 2 hours. You can spend each day at the end of your day preparing your meals for the next day. If it takes you 45 minutes to prepare all 3 meals you saved yourself 30 minutes each day, and no loss of daily productivity. At the end of the week you'll save 2 1/2 hours of time and your food quality will be at its highest. As you become more efficient at preparing your meals, you will be able to save more time. If you factor in shopping and food prep time, its still faster than going out to eat. Now this doesn't even account for food that takes longer to grab on the go and other factors like traffic. It takes a little more preparation, but your success depends on it. Don't be lazy! In addition to all of this, it's cheaper to buy your foods in a grocery store, so why wouldn't you take advantage of this? 

But Adrian I don't know how to cook?
Oh shut it! We all came into this world not knowing how to do anything. We had to learn everything we know at some point or another. Stop being lazy and go on the internet and look up some recipes. Pick something you want to make, look up the recipe, and make it! Once you learn how to do it, you'll never forget it and its a skill that is priceless! Many people spend hours a day on Facebook or watching T.V so don't tell me you don't have time! 

Focus on eating natural foods like lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and good fats. My next blog post will get more in detail about what foods to eat and how they can be prepared. I'll also make some suggestions on healthy snacks and foods you can grab while on the go. But for now, take a look at your diet and and evaluate yourself honestly. Does your diet consist of mostly highly refined carbs like breads, cereals, and pasta? Are you eating frozen foods, or eating out at unhealthy restaurants? Try to prepare your meals and store them in containers for a later time. Preparation is key. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why Crash Diets Don't Work

So you've been skipping the gym and eating the first thing that comes into your sight. You begin to notice your body becoming soft and you start to worry. The first thought that pops into most people's heads is "I'll go on a diet." Well I understand the motivation behind this thought, but the only problem is going on a diet will eventually mean you will have to come off.

A diet is not a a quick fix or a temporary solution. Your diet consists of what you eat every day of your life. If you are not eating nutritious, healthful foods the majority of the time, you're are not going to see any long lasting significant changes. While there are tons of crash and fad diets out on the market that guarantee promising results, many of the diets leave you, starving, calorie counting, or with too many restrictions. This is not only a shock to your body, it is a shock to your mind.

Have you ever been on a crash diet or been around someone who has been? They are usually miserable or very irritable. They usually sit around and complain about what they can't eat or how horrible they feel. This is usually because most crash diets involve changing too many things at once. You can't go from ingesting donuts, candy bars, pizza, hamburgers, sodas, and coffee, to ingesting, vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts, seeds and water, all in a day. It is just simply too difficult. Food works as a drug in our bodies. Whenever we ingest foods, with refined sugars, or delicious fats, we become accustomed to eating these types of foods, leaving natural sugars and fats tasting bland. In order for a diet to have lasting effects, it has to be a lifestyle change. The change has to  happen gradually and over time, so that your body can adjust slowly. A crash diet is what I call "borrowed time." While you might see immediate results, the results usually go away as fast as they come. There are no shortcuts, and no secrets to becoming healthy and fit. It takes a great deal of discipline and persistence, to achieve optimum results. If you want optimum results, you got to be willing to put in optimum efforts. This means staying focused and eating good foods all year round.

It's a hard pill to swallow because we live in a culture that demands immediate results. We all want immediate returns on our fitness investments. Unfortunately our bodies do not work this way. Change happens gradually but the effects are long lasting. Would you rather lose 20lbs in 2 months and keep it off for two months? Or would you rather lose 20lbs in 6 months and keep it off forever? Seems like a no brainer, but those crash diets that promise immediate results are awfully enticing. Stick to what works and what is long lasting. Shortcuts will only set you back and discourage you from future attempts at changing your diet. Change slowly. Here's an example of how.

Let's say you eat 4 meals a day. Now lets say all four of those meals are meals you know you shouldn't be eating. For the first two weeks, only pick one meal a day that you are going to eat good healthy nutritious foods. The rest of the three meals  you can keep normal. Now after you've accomplished this in two weeks, for the next two weeks pick another meal where you are going to eat good healthy nutritious foods. Now after just four weeks you've cleaned up 50% of you diet. Now 2 out of every 4 meals are healthy. Now keep going every two weeks until all your meals are healthy and nutritious. Once you've accomplished this, feel free to throw in an occasional treat every now and then. As long as you're eating healthfully the majority of the time, an occasional, treat isn't going to hurt.  It doesn't even have to be every two weeks. You can change the span of time so you only change one meal per month. That way in 4 months your diet will be completely healthy and nutritious. It's better to do it slowly than not at all. The first initial 2 weeks are the hardest part, but I promise you it gets easier. Just stick to it, your body and mind will thank you! Good Luck!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Why am I not losing Weight?

This is a great question, but one I hear all too often. I want to cover this question inside and out so I leave no stone unturned. This type of question can have a multitude of answers, but I'm going to break it down and make it easy for you. In this post I will cover the common reasons why you may not be losing as much weight as you like, and I will cover the best solutions to help you start doing so. Whether you've reached a plateau, or you just can't seem to shed any pounds, this post will help you get the edge on weight loss once and for all.

Common problems and their solutions.

1) Diet

This is the first and most important key aspect to weight loss. Remember that saying "you are what you eat?" Well, unless you have some type of genetic problem, this saying will ring true for most people. The human body is an amazing adaptable machine and it provides us with immediate feedback. When we are hungry our stomachs growl and we become irritable. When we are injured we feel pain, When we exercise we become sore and tired.

Food is what the body uses as fuel. The brain uses nutrients to balance the bodies hormones and keep our bodies in homeostasis. Much of the refined foods on the market are absent of vital nutrients our bodies need  to operate at maximum efficiency. Consider this: Today's produce contains 40% fewer nutrients than did 100 years ago. The reason? Modern day agriculture. Modern day agriculture has met the higher food demands, but it has lowered the quality substantially. Our soil is becoming stripped of it's nutrients because it is not given enough time to replenish itself. The use of pesticides and herbicides has also interrupted a delicate evolutionary balance that has left us very ill. I can write an entire book on food but for now I'll stick to post.

Now consider, the amount of nutrients you receive in your diet on a daily basis. It doesn't have to be exact, but just think about the types of foods you eat. Are they processed? Do they come in a package? Processed foods contain very little nutrients if even any at all. If you are consuming a great deal of your daily intake of calories from processed goods, where are you getting your nutrients from? Nutrients are what the body needs for fuel, for life. If the brain gets no nutrients, how does it operate effectively? Well, it can't, and this where many of the problems stem from. Nutrients feed our mind and body and give us energy. Eat plenty of foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals. Foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.

How much water do you drink daily? Our bodies are mostly made up of water. The average human can only live 3 days without water. What does this tell you about the importance of water? Water cleanses your body and rejuvenates your cells. 9 our of 10 head aches are caused from dehydration. Most people walk around dehydrated. This is very troubling for the body and it can cause a string of health problems. Do yourself a favor, drink more water. 8 glasses a day is a minimum. Avoid drinking coffee, sodas and caffeinated teas, because these can cause you to become dehydrated.

2) Plateaus

So you've been working out for quite some time now and for the first six months of you watching the weight come off like crazy. But for the past 3 months your weight has been like a yo yo going up two pounds then dropping two pounds. This is a very common occurrence and it is best not to be discouraged. All of your time put into the gym the last 3 months has not gone unnoticed. Although your weight may be the same. You may be significantly reducing your body fat while increasing muscle mass. Remember, muscle is about 3x's heavier than fat so its very common to stay at a certain weight, while you increase your muscle mass and decrease your body fat. The more muscle you develop, the faster your metabolism becomes. Your plateau is only temporary and patience and perseverance are your best weapons.

Maybe you haven't seen much change in your appearance and you've been persevering through your stubborn plateau. Try changing your routine. Sometimes a plateau is your body screaming at you to give it something different. Change the resistance, change the exercises, change the reps, change the duration of exercise, change something. Not everything needs to change all at once, but something different will awaken the body and give it something new to adapt to. Once the body becomes used to a given routine, it becomes less effective. Keeping it fresh will help you avoid those dreadful plateaus.

3) Stress

Stress, believe it or not can have detrimental health affects. Cortisol is a stress hormone released in the body during the "flight or fight" response. Normal amounts of cortisol can be quite helpful for the body to regulate blood pressure, insulin response, and immune system functions. However when stress levels are very high do to external pressures such as work, school, kids, deadlines, traffic, etc, the body never gets a chance to relax. This high stress environment causes many to suffer from chronic stress. Chronic stress can cause impaired congnitive functions, high blood pressure, unwanted belly fat, and a string of other health problems. Use methods to relieve stress and take time out of your day to relax. The gym is a good way to let off some steam and help bring those cortisol levels back to normal. If the gym doesn't help, try walking, listening to music, taking a vacation, meditating, etc. Do anything to clear your mind. Set aside time everyday just for you. Even 30 minutes a day of "me time" will do wonders for your psychological health.

Take a look at each of these factors. Try and find little ways each day to improve on these three things and I guarantee the weight will start coming off.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Key Aspects to Remember for the New Year

Happy new year to Everyone! I'd like to start out the new year by discussing the most important aspects of your training, that will lead you to success. Many of you will begin the new year with your new fitness goals in mind and I wanted to cover some key aspects that will help you get the most out of your training. I will make a list of these aspects and briefly explain their importance.

1) Goals- I've already spoken a great deal about the importance of goals but this is the first and most important aspect of your training. Many of you will begin your new year's resolution with goals and it is usually the driving force behind the resolutions you make. Begin the new year by making a list of fitness goals you would like to achieve. This will give you the sense of direction and keep you motivated to strive for more. Remember specificity is a key component when writing down your goals.

2) Consistency- Create a program and a set number of days per week you are going to work out. My best advice to you is to make it as realistic as possible. If you are not currently engaged in a fitness regimen, shooting for 5 days a week is going to be a bit unrealistic. Remember, you need to crawl before you can walk. Make a goal that is achievable and be honest with yourself. When you have accomplished the smaller goals, begin to add more. For example: Aim to start off with working out two times per week. Of course this is very doable, but accomplish it for 2 weeks before you add a day. The sense of accomplishment will be worth more than you think. Be consistent with your schedule. Choose specific days and times you plan on going to the gym, and even be as specific as writing down the length of your workouts. Consistency should not be overlooked. Many people do not get the results they strive for, simply because they workout sporadically.

3) Intensity- This is one aspect of training that is often overlooked entirely. Just showing up to the gym is not going to shed those pounds or tone those arms. Your intensity needs to be high! This means your heart rate needs to be elevated and you have to do more than just break a sweat. There are many ways you can keep the intensity high. I've listed a few below.

     1) High repetitions- Workout with 50%-60% of your one rep max and shoot for 20-30 reps.
     2) Heavy weight- Use between 80%-90% of your one rep max and shoot for 3- 5 reps.
     3) Time your workouts- Choose a set number of exercises and reps and perform the routine as fast
          as you possibly can. The next time you perform the routine, try to beat your previous time.
     4) Time your running- going for a distance run? Time it, the next time you run, try to beat your
         previous time.
     5) Sprints- Sprints are one of the most effective ways to trim body fat and increase cardiovascular
         performance. If you're not doing sprints, I highly recommend you mix them into your routine.
         Shoot for five 30 second sprints with 30 second rest intervals. sprints should be at 80%-90%
         max effort.

4) Exercise selection- Choose multi-joint or compound movements. Single muscle isolation workouts do little for the central nervous system and do very little to stimulate fat loss. The body generally moves with the involvement of two or more joints. Choose exercises that involve two or more muscle groups at a time. This will maximize the amount of calories you burn in the shortest amount of time. It also promotes better functionality for your everyday movements.

5) Diet and Nutrition- Eat good food! Just because you're working out doesn't give you any more right to put your hand in the cookie jar. Your body responds best when you give it good wholesome, nutritious foods. Stay away from processed or frozen goods. Try and eat as close to natural as possible. When shopping, shop on the outside of the supermarket. This is generally where all the healthier choices are.
Lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds, and good fats.

6) Write it down- Key aspect of training is writing down your workouts. This is the best way to keep track of your improvements and your plateaus. Use your data as a tool to see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Having it written down will give you a great point of reference and it will help you take your training to the next level every time.

7) Rest- Get good sleep and find ways to relieve stress. We all use different methods to unwind, so choose the one that works best for you, and use it to calm your mind and body. Tension in the mind can also cause a great deal of tension in the body. Focus on relaxation and get plenty of good sleep to help rejuvenate your energy levels.

As long as these seven aspects are a part of your workout regimen, success is inevitable. Write these seven aspects down in your workout journal and look at them daily. This will help you stay focused and keep you on top of your fitness program. Good luck!