Posts Tagged ‘wellness’

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!

The feeling is not uncommon. Your legs ache, your arms feel extra heavy, and let’s not get into how sore your glutes are. Clearly, you’ve been through a challenging workout in the last twenty-four hours. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that we are human after all, and although we might have played Superman when we were doing those squats earlier, the real effects are about to occur now.

This is a phenomenon known as “delayed onset muscle soreness”. There are many reason behind why it occurs, but let’s talk today about how we can better deal with this temporary source of pain.  The answer is not to avoid it by working out lighter either. Usually, it’s a sign that things are repairing themselves in your body, and potentially growing. Use this soreness as your badge of honor for the day!

We live in a culture that loves to pop a pill for everything. Advil has even marketed itself as an effective form of pain relief for muscle soreness in its recent advertisements. Unless you have done some serious damage and likely need medical attention, I would not go the painkiller route. Highly esteemed pharmacist and nutritionist Dr. Hickey made it very clear on a recent radio broadcast that although painkillers remove the issue in the short term, they can actually weaken the joint that they are directed to. Plus, if we took these pills for any small thing, we’d end up building up a tolerance to these items, and perhaps having a harmful level of their bio-accumulated ingredients in your body.

What do we do then? Though there have been those that put down stretching and argued against it, I would have to say it is a necessity. If you don’t stretch, the body remains very tight, and the range of motion in each joint is lessened. That means that any activity the falls outside of this small range will create either soreness or injury. I try to stretch any muscle that I will be working, both before and after exercise. I would advise you to do a light warm-up before the first stretch of your day. It may reduce the soreness levels that you have.

Stretching is not the only weapon we have against soreness. I love the foam roller! They are cheap, easy, and effective. The key to foam rolling is to focus on areas that were worked (or are going to be) in your workout, as well as any spots that are problematic frequently. Go slow on the roller and don’t shift your weight quickly from side to side. Most people report the best results when thy either stop on the “hot spot” or slowly slide through it.

Once in a while, a trip to the masseuse is a nice treat that can help lower soreness levels greatly. I also make monthly trips to chiropractor (covered by nearly all insurances and $20) to ensure that my spine is properly aligned, and that my posture is where it needs to be. When everything is in balance here, we are in prime shape for all physical activity. One more item of note would be an “electro stim” unit which is about $30 on amazon. Apply the pads to the sore spot and let it twitch away.

I hope this was helpful in avoiding hitting the pills, and finding productive ways to ease your soreness. Until next time, be well and stay safe!

Like many people in the fitness community, I enjoy a good challenge! I was genetically given a body frame that is extremely slight for someone who is well over six feet tall. I am able to shed fat with extreme ease, but have always lacked true size. This is typically not a problem for most people, who put size on for cosmetic or pure, raw strength reasons. My case is different, as I have a Crohn’s disease diagnosis to work through, and I recently rehabbed a neck injury.

Crohn’s afflicted people are often very underweight, and will lose large percentages of their body weight when the disease flares up. Doctors fear the worst because these patients are often grossly underweight to start with, and during a serious bout…they are losing even more weight. I decided this was not going to be me. I want a bit of a cushion in the event that something goes wrong.

I began looking into an amazing book by Dan Johns called Mass Made Simple.  The exercise routines in the book and clean weight gain techniques are excellent, and this item is a steal at under ten dollars at the kindle store. Basically, each week you add a new protein/fiber source to your diet for six weeks. You also do TONS of high rep squat sequences, as doing so will aid the body in naturally releasing human growth hormone. The large size of the quad muscles is what brings this on. You also work your entire body using complexes that stress many different movements without ever putting the bar down. I also listened to some amazing eating methods from “The Mike Dolce Show”. Type that into google, listen and absorb the words of a weight/nutrition expert!

I am a very fit person, who has conquered program after program in my pursuit of better fitness. I even reached the pinnacle by earning a black belt in jiu jitsu, and I’m working on my second degree each day. Mass building was a whole new story! I could barely walk after these workouts, and I even threw up after the third workout day. This type of insane load and volume work was enough to drive me to the brink, and I love it.

It also made realize that there is no replacement for good technique. When you are on rep number 30 of a squat weight that exceeds your body weight, it better be clean. Good technique also allows you to take the most from each exercise. If you are unsure of how to do a move, watch videos, look at a pictorial progression, and read explanation. The best thing (if possible), is to have another member of the fitness community assist you.

I know this was all over the place, but I wanted to share the small piece of my journey. I’m up 5 pounds in a short period of time, and I want to try to gain ten more before this cycle is closed out. Definitely check the book out to learn more, and please give “The Mike Dolce Show” a listen. If you want help with bulking, I can let u know anything further that I know. We can go through this together!

We’ve all been up later in the night hours and run into a variety of infomercials for workout plans with wild before and after pictures. They promise to change your life and make you attain all of your fitness goals within some specified number of days. I want to help people make informed choices when ordering these programs, as many of them cost a decent chunk of cash. In my travels, I’ve done many of these. I’ll be giving each trainer a short review and then talking about the pros and cons.

P90X – This 90 day system is perhaps the most successful workout dvd set in modern history, earning $420 million dollars in its tenure to this point. That is an astounding number, and main trainer Tony Horton has become a recognizable figure in the fitness industry since its release. As a trainer, I found him to be positive and encouraging. He does a vast majority of the exercises with the group, and explains each exercise in an acceptable level of detail. People sometimes complain that he makes untimely jokes or patronizes the others on his set. While I’ve heard this from P90X grads, it never jumped out at me.

Pros – This program, when followed correctly, will get you in outstanding shape. The main focus is on body weight exercises with some light weights or bands sprinkled into the workouts.  The workouts last about an hour each, and are planned immaculately. The layout of the program is clear and direct. I also appreciate that you change things up after about each month and do a recovery week. This periodization is key for making gains and preventing general adaptation syndrome. I left this program after my 90 days in far better physical condition than I began with. I was a bit stronger, and had tons more muscular endurance.

Cons – This is not for beginners although they tell you it could be. I cannot imagine a non-athlete attempting to adhere to this plan for 90 days. The workouts are rather demanding, especially when you first begin the program. I’m a martial artist and I found the Kenpo X workout to be rather awful. It was a weird amalgam of moves, and Tony looked a bit lost during all of it. I found myself skipping it to do something else most of the time.

I would give this one a go if you have a foot in the athletic world and want some new challenges.

Insanity – This was another huge seller, and its advertising is even more aggressive than the aforementioned program. It’s hard to find flaws with Shaun T. as a trainer. He is professional, motivating, and does nearly every minute of every DVD with the huge crew he has around him. He tells you why certain moves are in the workouts, and stresses the importance of warm-ups and stretching. This program runs for 60 days.

Pros – Insanity got my cardio level to new highs, shattering my old notions of how long I could sustain myself during intense physical exercise. I like the fact that there were people on the videos who took breaks, which let me know that a minute of rest was not the end of the world in such a physically demanding set of workouts. The focus on plyometrics also helped my explosive power and I got to work both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. This program really ramps up after the first 30 days, and you truly see what you’re made of.

Cons – This is another one that would be tough for a beginner. These workouts are intense, and I know a few people (myself included) who sustained some type of injury doing them. I also know people who complained of foot pain from the persistent impact with the ground. It’s also fairly expensive for a program that only runs for the equivalent of two months. I would not have minded a bit more upper body work either.

If you need cardio or are looking to slim down a bit, this might be the one for you. If you want to sculpt a physique and lift heavy objects, you should pass.

MetamorphosisTracy Anderson comes across as a polished version of a hippie girl. It’s a weird contrast that she manages to make work for her. She is professional and succinct in what she is doing, but can have a tendency to remain too quiet at times. I am going to disclose that this review is based on feedback from a few people I had contacted who own this program, not my own experience.

Pros- The striking part of these DVD’s is how they tailor themselves to your goals. You basically pick what kind of workout setup you want because of this. Instead of the one-size-fits-all approach that was presented in the first two programs, this one attempts to personalize a bit more. It’s tough to find other programs that offer this type of thing.

Cons- Ok, so I got to view a few of these, and I was a little shocked. The movement patterns are bizarre and don’t follow any type of traditional muscular training approach. To a layman, it would appear as if she is basically flailing her arms around for an hour and then stopping. I would guess that she is trying to work small muscle groups. I could see how a start-up exerciser could hang with these DVD’s but I also don’t really know what they would gain either.

This was a little too out there for me. There are better programs or classes that would help you see improvements faster.

There you have it everyone! 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 word “plateau” strikes fear into the hearts of members of the fitness community. When we plateau, we have hit a point where gains are either coming slowly, or have ceased to occur at all. It can weigh heavily on us both physically and mentally. There is a barrier between us and the short (or long) term goals that we hope to reach.  I hope to offer tips on working through these daunting periods of time. I’ve been there and it can be difficult.

Take a few days off. It’s not uncommon for someone who is extremely devoted to exercise to be in an “overtrained” state. The body is worn down and the central nervous system can actually become sluggish because of the considerable amount of repeated similar movements. It’s quite impressive what a bit of rest can do for someone.

Add in a bit more cardio. If you are doing heavy lifting as your primary modality of exercise, this can take its toll. I’ve done cycles of very heavy weight lifting, and sometimes I found that the answer was simple. I was fatiguing late in my workouts, thus affecting the outcome of each lift. I added some cardio in place of the final set of these lifts and I felt as if the rut began to dissipate. My body was able to maintain a steadier heart rate throughout the exercise, and it was easier.

Try some kettle bells. Kettle bells are very useful items in the world of both strength and endurance training. Adding a kettle bell swing and/or snatch to your workouts can help open your hips and, increase your grip strength. I also like figure eights, as they strengthen many stabilizer muscles that can help you reach your peak. These have been a savior for me over the years.

Change your diet. Sometimes, our exercise commitment outweighs our will power when it comes to eating. The food you eat is the fuel for your body, and it can truly set the tone for the level of success that you attain when working out. Eating cleaner will definitely reap many positive benefits. For more advice on nutrition, check out the “healthy eating” section of my blog.

I’d like to wrap things up by reminding you that this is a journey without a defined destination. Fitness is a process that we develop over our lifetimes, and we must stay with that process at all times. Work through your plateaus and you will take even more pride in what you have been able to accomplish!

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!