Archive for the ‘Inspirational’ Category

This week, questionable company Beach Body, announced that they were in the process of creating P90X 3.  Having done and completed both P90X, P90X Plus, and P90X 2, one would think that I would be jumping at the chance to undertake a third round. This may only be a partially true assumption. While I am truly curious about what lies ahead for Tony Horton and the gang, I wanted to also look back at the impact this program has had on the those who are both inside and outside the fitness community.

Many people do not realize that this program was initially put on the market in 2004. I would say that it did not hit its real stride until a yr or two later. I was first exposed to the program in 2007, and I will share what it did for my life.  I began the program in earnest from day one. I was a pretty well-conditioned individual at that point, holding a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’d trained often, but my life began to get crazy (married kids, job far away) and it was limiting me to about two days per week.

P90X offered me a solution for all of this. Regardless of when I got home, I was able to use my own space, quickly change, and work out. The routines were tough, and I felt immediately, that in spite of what anyone said, I would not recommend this program to a beginner. It simply required too much base level conditioning for a sedentary person to complete. I grew to love all of the various dvd’s (except kenpo x).  P90X had allowed me to make significant gains in muscular endurance and overall cardiovascular health.

Naturally, I went on to buy just about anything that resembled this program as time moved on. I mentioned them before. I’d also completed Insanity twice. On the whole, I was a very fit person. I continued to do Beach Body programs (adding in dead lifting) until fairly recently. I have a feeling many others, like me, were able to find themselves athletically through these programs. It set me up to be an active person on a daily basis, regardless of the fact that I was starting many dvd’s at ten pm.

There came a day earlier in the year when I forced myself to stop and re-evaluate. I had been exposed to some other theories and books that started to hold a heavier influence on me. It was as if Beach Body had taken me as far as it could. I was great in the realm of their exercises and their demands, but the holes in my armor began to show themselves.

I lacked absolute strength. The kind of strength that you get by loading up a barbell and working until you are shake. I also discovered that kettle bells build a more insane core than any routine I could ever hope for. I thought I was a stud until this point. I picked up quickly, but have to admit that I felt like the new kid on the block for more than just a day here.  If anyone is looking for alternate ways to get strong, please check out http://www.dragondoor.com. I have no affiliation with them monetarily, but they offer amazing and refreshing insight into the real world of building insane strength.

In full review, P90X was a launchpad for me. I tended to stay in the comfort zone of that launchpad a bit too long, which led to a major false sense of security. They are great workouts though, and if you have not tried them, they are worth your time. Maybe they will light the same spark in you as they did for me!

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The world of fitness is truly not what the general public sees on their collective television sets each week. Hollywood has dramatized the way we view working out and the type of working out that is typically done. While this may alienate some of you, my intent is always to provide an honest assessment of what I see, and not pander to any special interests.

“The Biggest Loser” is probably my number one offender. I’m shocked that there has not been a fatal vascular incident of some type on this show. They eschew the idea of progressively breaking someone into a healthy lifestyle for the glamour of pushing a crew of highly sedentary and obese individuals to the point of danger. On top of this, one of the famed trainers loves to scream at these clients for not immediately turning into super athletes by simply stepping into her gym. This is not how professionals should act, and once again the allure of high ratings replaces the true advice on form and duration that should be given. Worst of all, are the embedded product endorsements! They openly talk about the wonderful choices at Subway, and how “good ” it is for you! This isn’t real advice, it’s recognizing your sponsor. I could think of about 100 food items that I could place ahead of Subway when making recommendations, but these so-called trainers will compromise their own knowledge for a higher paycheck.

“Celebrity Fit Club” is perhaps a bit better in a few respects, but once more the drama rises to the top, and the folks who go there in serious pursuit of weight loss are often the ones who get the least air time. I like the idea of giving the clients reachable goals, and I also appreciate the the fact that there is someone on hand who handles the mental aspect of transformation. I do feel at times though, that some of this advice is contrived or rehearsed.

There are plenty of others, but my point goes beyond all of this. How many clients do you see weight training? How many of them are smiling or enjoying the workout? How much actual training is going on? I look to the world of power lifting and see a coach like Marty Gallagher (look him up please!), who wrote a masterpiece of a book named, The Purposeful Primitive. He took five extremely obese clients, used no outside supplementation, had them eat easy-to-find normal healthy food choices, and created champions. Nearly all of them went on to place in AAU weight lifting competitions. Most of them had never done a squat in their entire lives! This is who we should see on our sets each week, but his calm and thoughtful nature don’t make for amazing shows. He has set these people up for a lifetime of amazing health.

Those within the fitness community know what the true fit life is like. My fear is that these shows have turned people off to attempting a healthier lifestyle because of their severe and over-dramatized nature. It is our charge to welcome newcomers with friendly, open arms and ensure that they are training safely and properly. Until next time, stay fit and be well!

As I posted last time, I’m trying to heal up from an injury which can be mild torment for an athlete who has tons of time during the summer. At first, I was devastated. I had visions of my body crumbling like an old statue that has finally succumbed to the oppression that time has placed on it. Immediately after the initial shock wave of extreme pain shot through my neck, I picked up the nearest item and threw it in frustration (it was a shoe, so you can bet I looked totally ridiculous as I held my neck with one hand and tossed a shoe with the other). It seemed as if the thud made against the wall acted as some time of subconscious alarm clock. 

I began to awaken to fact that feeling angry or upset about this was not going to help me mentally or physically. As I enter my twelfth year of martial arts, I thought back to all of the mild nagging injuries that I got when I was new and ended up on the wrong side of almost every sparring session. They were like battle wounds, and gave me one more obstacle to say I had surpassed on my odyssey towards a black belt. This was going to have be treated as one of those blockades to circumnavigate. I had choices; move through this with grace or trudge through it and feel badly for myself.

I could not be more pleased to have selected the former. The next step for me was not sulking in a corner, but finding the right kind of care for my injury, and in the days that passed I worked with my new chiropractor to make significant gains. She even commented on how well my body responded to the treatment. I feel as if this was no coincidence. Our mind clearly has an impact on our physical health, which is why you see people with chronic disease suffer flare-ups during overly stressful periods of time. 

Now I have heard the sedentary folks around me comment with little barbs like “See…that’s why it doesn’t really help you to work out!” or “You could have broken your neck! See what happens when you overdo it!” I have learned that nothing I say will change people of this mindset, and err on the side of “breathing through the negativity”. I don’t need to feed a negative comment with another negative comment. That doesn’t create the environment I wish to maintain in my home. 

If I were to address these comments, it would likely remain positive in nature (although I don’t because it allows them another chance to heap on negative). I would simply state that I would take all of the injuries and all of the associated pain all over again if you gave me the choice. Exercise, fitness, and martial arts in particular have impacted my life in ways that are hard to describe in mere words. I have improved my life in pursuit of what is right for my body. I hope you liked this one. Please give me some feedback, stay fit, and be well!

After many years of really good luck (including 12 yrs of mma), it finally happened to me. I was in mid-dead lift and inhaled some type of dust or other similar irritant, leading to a sudden cough, which brought on a turn of my head. The shooting pain the fired through the right side of my neck dictates the rest of the story. Under a load of over 200 lbs (it was an 8-12 rep day), I had done some type of damage here.

Most of my prior injuries were deep bruises or simple muscle pulls, but this one felt structural. Those would heal with a bit of rest, this didn’t seem to be headed in that direction. After a torturous following day of work, I was diagnosed by the chiropractor. She told me I had a subluxation of my c3 and c4 vertebrae in my neck. In simple terms, things were completely misaligned now, and the muscles were seriously inflamed.

After a week of multiple visits of cracking and popping things back into place, I began to feel like I was doing a bit better. I was still shelved for martial arts for at least another ten days and from any type of full contact engagement for longer, but cleared for light exercise. It was tough to realize that I had very limited options, as weights were out of the question.

I was given a book called “The Naked Warrior” that limits its scope to body weight work. In this program, two exercises are done without a direct or concentrated time routine. Pistol squats (look them up because they’re awesome) and one arm push-ups (it’s a slow buildup to this) are the highlight movements. They require an extreme amount of full-body bracing and allow the participant to ease progressively into the exercise.

While these movements are excellent, it’s the idea of “greasing the groove”  (GTG) that really worked for me in the scenario I’m currently facing. You only focus on two moves during a two/three week cycle, which allows you to remain focused and perfect those moves. The most interesting part is found in the frequency in which these moves are done. It is recommended that you do mini-sets of no more than five reps as often as is comfortable in your daily schedule. You should attempt to get a fairly high number of mini-sets in though. This allows you to remain fresh each time you approach the moves.

I found the mini-set idea to be a great option for my neck injury. I would not be fatiguing myself. Additionally, the author is clear that it’s okay to fluctuate the amount of mini-sets done throughout a day depending upon your physical level of wellness. I am currently working on getting a better handle on the pistol squat and one arm push-up, so I did a GTG with tricep and chest dips, as well as calf raises. I wanted to steer clear of my neck, while working on areas that have been weaknesses for me.

Pavel Tsatsouline has created a great program that lets you sprinkle your reps throughout the course of your day. I highly recommend it to anyone who is transitioning between cycles, injured, or looking to learn some great body tension ideas that will help you through your everyday lifts. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a comment. Until then, stay safe, be well, and I’m glad to be back.

As a member of the fitness community, I’m sure we’ve all heard people talk about what they wish to do with their body, and/or the current routine that they are working with. We’ve probably also seen upstarts dream big and go way too hard in the first month or two. Today’s article is going discuss the ideology behind a fitness plan, and how you should really be planning to reach the goals that you’ve laid out for yourself.

A clear objective is the first step to any exercise plan. Whether it’s adding a certain amount of weight to a specific lift, or going a further distance on runs, these flexible landmarks need to be clearly defined from the outset. I’d say the biggest stumbles that occur with objectives lies in those who create vague ones like “I want to run more” or “I want to do more pull-ups”. You can reach these kind of goals by day two if you really think about it, and since that’s not what you’re looking for, you’ll often end up lingering in the same program for far too long. This will either create imbalances or limit gains due to General Adaptation Syndrome.

The other conundrum that jumps off of the page is a goal that is totally unrealistic. Beginners are renowned for this, and it is very problematic. It often discourages the person because they continue to fall short of the goal, or it isn’t happening fast enough for them. The result usually leads to workout overload during the early weeks/months, which lends itself readily to injury. I have seen this too many times, and frequently that person ends up leaving the fitness community. They are very tough to get back as well.

I make goals like, “I would like to add 20 pounds to my deadlift”, or “I want a 3% drop in my body fat.” These are clear, and I know when I have attained them. I also can plan for success for goals such as these with clarity and understanding. If my goal is to add pounds to my deadlift, I’m not going to do that by running and doing cardio work for a majority of my time. I would have to line up accessory lifting work that traditionally benefits this lift, while allowing enough other work for my body to remain balanced. Likewise, if my goal was to reduce body fat, I better not be pounding down steaks for dinner every night and asking for dessert.

There are also going to be times when the goal is appearing further away than you wanted it to at that juncture of the workout routine. Don’t be afraid to redraft the path that you need to take to get to that objective. Sometimes we consult with someone and get some new ideas, or we see that a particular action is not bringing the rewards we anticipated it would. These things are bound to happen through your fitness career, and I find myself doing these subtle tweaks. In fact, the most successful people are the ones who set up a solid plan and are adept at knowing how and when to make the small alterations that might add up big time later.

What happens when I get to that goal? Time to reassess how you got there, and what you would do next time to extend this goal. I then begin the process of setting up an entirely new goal to reach, because fitness is a journey without an end. We just reach new and exciting landmarks along the way. Stay fit and be well!

It has a been a little while since I put out a perspective style article, and my reflective mood dictated that this day is perfect for writing one. The weather has been really nasty here in NY the past few days, and I had to pick something up at the nearby mall. I was extremely parched upon arrival and headed over to Panera where one of my ex-students work. Yes, I was going to work a free drink out the trip. I just wanted some water (which I got), but I took a minute to sit down.

I generally enjoy observing the world around me and overheard various comments and saw a few families sitting together in the booths. I heard one particular family discussing the “healthy meal” that the youngest daughter was eating. They were about a row away from me. You should have heard them touting it like they had just turned her into a gluten-free vegan who performs feats of strength. It made me realize that for those who are outside the fitness community, healthy eating can be personified by a good ad campaign, and they will happily accept it as fact. In truth, the grilled cheese that their kid was eating contains dairy, and the cheese inside of the buttered bread is closer to Vaseline in chemical structure than a protein pill. The yogurt side that the kids get serves up a lovely dose of casein, which is known to pair immaculately well with carcinogens and speed up the cancer process.

Now I’m not here to pick on Panera, it’s a situation that occurs all over America on a daily basis. There are people who buy into the ads that McDonald’s has such awesome fries because of the “high quality” GMO potatoes they use to make them. Nevermind the deadly toxin acrylamide that was mentioned in our last blog. I’ve even overheard a co-worker tell someone to feed their kids huge bottles of vitamin water to combat the illness that the child was going through. There is about two pennies worth of biologically unavailable synthetic nutrients in that drink. The sugar content is through the roof. The bottlers, Coke, even admitted misleading the public with their “vitamins + water = health+ line.

The tough part is, what do we do? I stepped in when my coworker was spouting her mouth, but that was because I knew both parties involved. I usually keep to myself though, which leads to guilt. Did I miss a chance to educate someone? They probably would have passed me off as some overconfident health nut who is losing his mind. I determined that this is a no win. I live with the understanding that I could have helped someone, but recognize that it is not acceptable in the social sphere.

Isn’t society an odd thing? We give unskilled workers cigarette breaks so they can blow smoke in the faces of passing customers, but we would be looked as insane for propagating healthy choices. My one solace in that as a parent, I can pass along the positive habits that I worked a lifetime to develop to my young one. Perhaps when she is older, things will have evolved enough for her to promote health without feeling out of place, but I doubt it. I hope these random musings kept you interested. Until next time, stay fit, and be well.

The title to this blog really says it all. I had a decent understanding on the surface level about the basic ways toxins enter our bodies. Upon hearing about environmental toxins on a health radio show, I decided to get down to business with some research. What I found was truly eye-opening for all of the wrong reasons. I will start by giving some fast facts about toxins in general, and then move on to more specific toxins that are most prevalent. Special thanks to Ray Francis for the additional information that was needed for this post.

–          Only about 8,000 of the 80,000 chemicals used in industry today have been tested in the U.S. for their role in the development of cancer.

–          Human toxic load is often ten times or more than the acceptable level for animal meat. In some humans studied they had 75 times this number!

–          In a random sampling of Americans, nearly all surveyed parties had been exposed to over 200 of the 212 chemicals tested for.

–          Women can transmit toxins to their children through the placenta and the breast milk.

PDE’’s (polybrominated diphenyl ethers)

This is chemical used to stop the spread of flames in furniture, mattresses and some newer cars. In fact, that new car smell that some people love so much, is actually the toxins in the fabrics and plastics from the car’s interior going through the process of “gassing off”. The same is true for new clothing! PDE’s lead to a variety of unhealthy ends. Sexual disorders, thyroid issues, and worst of all, cancer have all been found to have strong connection to PDE’s. The worst part about PDE’S is how easily they build up in the fat tissues of the body, thus affecting the liver and kidneys.

BPA (bisphenol-A)

Have you ever seen water bottles that say “BPA Free!” They want you to know that this nasty toxin is not hiding out their product. The most common place to find BPA is in plastic containers. It can also be found inside the lining of cans.  What is most concerning about BPA is that it does not take a massive load of this toxin to do some rather serious damage. This chemical resembles the hormones inside the body, and then creates large-scale imbalances in the endocrine system as a result. Another nasty side effect of BPA is how it can negatively impact genetic expression. Genetic disruptions created by BPA can actually be passed down through the generations. That is an extremely deep impact from what can be just a very small amount of this strong toxin. Avoid plastic water bottles without the label mentioned before, and try to skip canned food when possible.

PFOA (perflourooctanoic acid)

I would probably think again before purchasing your next nonstick pan. PFOA is highly common in cookware, clothing, and some food packaging. Among the plethora of health troubles that are caused by PFOA, one can note immune system underperformance, infertility, and once again, cancer as the worst. Do you still want that UN”Healthy Choice” dinner likely packaged in PFOA?

Acrylamide

Oh French fries, the wonders you continue to do for our health. Acrylamide can be triggered when starchy foods are heated at very high temperatures.  Fast foods tend to be very rich in this one because of the quick heating methods utilized. Cancer is heavily connected to an abundance of acrylamide in the diet.

Mercury

I know what you’re saying, “I already knew this!” I understand that dangers of mercury are pretty common knowledge at this point, but I must add a few things that not many folks consider. We’ve heard about the mercury in fish and some vaccinations, but did you know that your mouth could be exposing you to a very rich amount of mercury every single day of your life. Find out what kind of fillings you have, because chances are, you’ve got mercury or an amalgam of it. Mercury affects immune function, and it has been shown that T-cell production can regenerate 600% by simply switching out mercury fillings!

I hope this has helped a few of you realize what’s around you and how you can avoid exposure to excessive amounts of toxins in our environment. Leave me some feedback and stay well!