Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How do I trim down my waist without dieting

No, the question is not absurd! Some of issues related to waist size cannot be solved by dieting or even regular "exercise" such as running, hiking, or biking.

Let's discuss the "belly" problem, frankly:

1. Large and flabby- if the abdomen protrudes beyond the bottom if the ribs AND it jiggles quite a bit as you move, then you may have a water and mineral retention issue. Usually this is the result of too much salt and plain flour in the diet. Sodium is stored in the abdomen until it passes through the kidneys and excreted. Until that time, it surrounds itself with water near the suprailiac (a.k.a. "love handles"). Solution: Drink more water, sweat more, and limit salt intake from 500-1000 mg per day.

2. Large and firm- If the abdomen is protruding but doesn't jiggle, then most of the fat is sticking to organs and not skin. Jiggly fat is subcutaneous fat, which is just below the skin and burns up faster. Hard fat is visceral fat, which sticks to organs and greatly increases the likelihood of diabetes and heart disease,  and is more difficult to burn. Solution: Good news- visceral fat is not more than 25-40 pounds, so there is hope. It will take longer to burn, but getting rid of it is essential for normal cardiovascular function and optimum blood serum balance.

3. Rock hard six pack abs- yeah, these are bad for you too. The issue is, where does the rectus abdominus muscle belong? It should slope back into the abdomen, providing a lean, sleek look. Protruding abs are distended, and distention means that the organs are falling forward into the fascia and the rectus abdominus muscle is not doing its job. Its job is to protect the internal organs and support the lumbar back. Solution: perform exercises that require supporting the back. Pilates, TRX suspension training, and single leg exercises are some examples. Even correctly performed push-ups will do the job. Abs are best being NOT seen, because it means they are doing their job.

Make sure to include core strength exercise in your regular routine for optimal health. You will start to "see" results and benefits quickly.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No More Sore Knees for Sports and Running

No more sore knees for sports and running

The link above is for an article by Justin Price, M.A. on alleviating knee pain.
Ouch! That's some serious knee pain!
The first thing to understand is knee function: the knee only functions in one plane, and that would be going straight forward or straight backward. In order for the knee to move in a different direction, other joints have to give in order to change the legs direction. Those joints that assist in angling the direction of the knee are the hip and ankle joints. If the muscles around these joints are weak or overused, then inflamation can develop, reduce range of motion to protect the area, and create unnecessary load on the knee. An overloaded knee can result in recruiting tendons for support, and the tendon most likely to suffer is the ilioptobial band (ITB), which is located on the outside of the knee.

The article mentions the benefit of using the BOSU balance trainer to increase the range of motion of the foot (and therefore movement of the ankle) to strengthen calves, and the rotational resistance will help strengthen hip and core muscles.  The variable stability of the BOSU's surface is unique in it's design. The crescent shape allows its user to increase joint angles and strengthen muscles that would not normally get worked on a flat surface. It should be noted the tight calf (gastrocnemius) muscles can contribute to both knee pain and, eventually, lower back pain due to the strain on the hamstring muscles. The primary movement to help with the hip and ankle complex to strengthen the knee is the lunge. The variations on the lunge, such as those mentioned in the article, mimic real-life challenges to the contractile and tensile strength of the glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

I teach a class with a BOSU Balance Trainer on Monday mornings, I use them regularly in my circuit training classes, and use them to challenge clients. Contact me for more information on how to get the most out of the Balance Trainer.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Medicated Nation

Psychiatric Drug Use Spreads - WSJ.com

The article above shows the trend in the US to treat more young adults with anti-depressant and other drugs.
It also mentions that there has been more awareness of the weight gain that occurs as a result of their use.
Please read it before continuing ...

I have first-hand experience with people suffering from psychological issues and their battle with weight gain.
No medication can replace our inner drive, either for good or bad. Being healthy only comes from inside. There has not been a pill invented to replace this: the medications remove impediments to our higher functions.

There is one self-evident truth:
Sometimes we all need help, and help can come from the outside.
The Talmud (Berachos 5b) relates how difficult it was for Rabbi Yochanan to get out of bed. He was suffering from illness and depression. Rabbi Eliezer visited him, and asked if he was recovering well. Rabbi Yochanan replied, "the prisoner cannot let himself out of jail". Rabbi Eliezer understood this as a cry for help, lifts Rabbi Yochanan onto his feet, and I presume to a full recovery (which is not stated explicitly in the Talmud)
This story echoes the difficulty in finding the strength and inner resolve to pull yourself out of depression or illness. We often need the support of friends and community to encourage change in ourselves.
I sincerely hope that the "Medication Nation" trend is not a replacement for the social remedies of support and encouragement.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Probiotics and how they help with weight loss

One possible change to diet can be the introduction of probiotics into the diet. Studies going back as far as 2008 have demonstrated benefits such as changes in the amount of fat around the abdomen, BMI, and imporved digestion. This article collects several of the studies that have been researched over the years to discern the benefits of probiotics.

A little bit of backgorund on probiotics: Probiotics are types of bacteria that are found in fermented dairy and soy products, such as yogurt. These bacteria can contribute to the breakdown of foods in the digestive tract, such as the small intestine, and aid the absorbtion of beneficial nutrients while eliminating many food-born ailments such as high cholesterol.

I recommend getting some of the smoothie products as a dietary supplement, such as Kefir and other yogurt smoothies. Adding some of these products may make a difference in how your body responds to food, such as making you feel more full. Try it out and leave your comments about any results you may have found.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Health and Fitness Blogging: Now more dynamic!

I have added some new features to the blog. You can review many of my posts from the past several months. Enjoy the new Blogger Dynamic view to more readily find information on my blog.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Personal Training as a Health Expense

From the IRS website:
You can include in medical expenses amounts you pay to lose weight if it is a treatment for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician (such as obesity, hypertension, or heart disease). This includes fees you pay for membership in a weight reduction group as well as fees for attendance at periodic meetings. You cannot include membership dues in a gym, health club, or spa as medical expenses, but you can include separate fees charged there for weight loss activities.
Many employers offers an FSA (flexible spending account) or HSA (health savings account) as part of their health care package. This means that you may be able to use the money from those accounts towards personal training. You need to do two things before jumping in and purchasing sessions:
  1. You need a prescription from a medical doctor, or a note from your health care professional describing your need for a personal trainer.
  2. You should consult with your tax advisor about writing off the cost of hiring the trainer.
Remember, you can always email me your questions at cagefit@gmx.com

Monday, September 19, 2011

Body weight, reexamined...

The constant battle with the scale can be unending and unnerving. Before you even consider using it as your guide to a healthy weight, you should really consider the alternatives:

Body fat percentage: this is the most accurate measure of health and fitness. It means a low weight or lean person can have too much body fat and still have the potential for many ailments associated with being "overweight" including Type II diabetes and osteoporosis, for example. A heavier person with normal body fat percentage would actually be better off. Technology allows us to measure body fat percentage through a bioelectric resistance pad, which are those silver pads you can find on some scales. Make sure you purchase that kind of scale because it really appraises you of true progress- more lean tissue and less fat. See how you fall out on the chart below:

Waist-to-Hip Ratio: this is another effective way to measure how much fat has accumulated around the abdomen. As a general rule, the hips are to be wider than the waist. This isn't hardfast: In men, the ratio should be 0.95 or less, and in women; 0.80 or less. Check out the picture below on how to calculate the ratio:
Start with these few examples to check to see that you are heading back into healthy ranges.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Genes, Self-Esteem, and Exercise

In a recent UCLA study, a variant in the oxytocin receptor gene has demonstrated different expressions of empathy and social skills. In their study, those with one type of variant were predisposed towards depression. Oxytocin is generally related to certain types of outgoing behavior, generousity, and is also known as the "cuddling gene" (from orginal tests that oxytocin made rats cuddle). The study sheds light on an issue that certain people may not have the same fundemental psychological tools to cope with stress and other life challenges, leaving them predisposed and tending toward symptoms of depression.

It's important to note that, according to this study: nobody is doomed to fail. It just means that you have to stimulate your own production of oxytocin. In a study at SUNY Stoney Brook, scientists were able to link dopamine and oxytocin production to people who had a real goal (specifically: this study was about "falling in love"). The production of these two hormones naturally compels a person to a goal, almost like hunting for food or water.

What I find fascinating about these studies is that even if the brain doesn't produce these hormones automatically, someone can still effect their production through their own vices. Obviously, it's easier to accomplish your goals if you are, as we could now argue based on these studies, "a  naturally driven" individual. For those of us who lack this drive, it's important that we recognize the importance of our goals.

Weight loss and fitness are two different achievements. To draw a parallel from a Jewish source: King David praises the righteous who are saved from calamity in Psalm 34. He draws a distinction between withdrawing from what is destructive and committing to that which is constructive. Weight loss is about preventing the onset of diabetes, heart disease, abdominal distention, and other maladies. Fitness is a commitment to preserve and invigorate the body with activity, which stimulates the "good feeling" of the goal driven person with increases in positive hormone production.

Our bodies are receptive to setting goals and pulling ourselves out of a rut. If you need guidance in setting your goals and moving forward, email me at cagefit@gmx.com to talk about yourself and how to set realistic first goals.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How blame affects your workout

I was reading a wonderful post from R. Stephen Baars titled: What is The Worst Word in the English Language?
His point rings true for many people trying to get their workouts in regularly. So many external factors to blame: I have to do this for this person, that for that person. If you can't get it done for you, then how can you expect to get it done for them? Taking responsibility for the issues that surrounds you is the first step to being successful.

If you can blame your life for your lack of time, then you will have to blame it for all of the health issues that WILL develop. How do you prioritize which jobs will get done and which won't?  As R. Baars himself notes:
If you remove blame from your life, then you have no excuse but to succeed.

Success is measured by getting the job done, not by finding excuses around it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Exercise can relieve stress, and maybe depression

There is a fantastic blog post on the New York Times Science Blog Concerning the effect of strenuous exercise on patients suffering from excessive amounts of depression.
There is very little news in this piece. The positive effects on dopamine production resulting from regular exercise has been documented by journals of psychology and neuroscience.
The importance of this study is the KIND of exercise needed to see results: strenuous exercise.
Getting on a treadmill and walking at 2.0 mph is ok for a start, but clearly will not "lift your spirits." Dopamine production is closely related to that feeling of accomplishment: wow, I just ran X number of miles or lifted X number of pounds. This is also related to greater neurosensory reception, meaning that your neurons connect better with your muscles, kinda like an upgrade from dial-up to broadband - you communicate faster.
I am not advocating that someone exercise instead of seeking professional help, but the findings are an important motivator for anyone "stuck in a rut" and need to make a life change.
Get the heart pumping and ready for a change. The parts of the brain related to emotion and heart rate are all right next to each other. Keep 'em active!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Staying Fit While On Vacation

Sounds challenging? Not really. It requires some preparation.
First off: you need to have some "me" time even on vacation. You may be with friends, family, whatever. Block out 30 minutes as "me" time.
Second: shut off or put away the smartphone. They are great for keeping tabs on business while away, but for 30 minutes, you can "get away."
Third: Locate the exercise area. Some facilities have a complimentary gym. If there isn't a gym. then you can try to find a local gym and ask about a day pass. Last resort: go for a run outside, initiate your own individual boot camp, or run up and down the stairs where you are staying.

The worst thing that can happen is getting out of the routine. Vacationing should relieve stress from work. Stress causes tightening of blood vessels that can be counteracted through regular exercise. You have got to learn to love activity on your vacation time. Find something that you like, and go at it for 30 minutes.You will learn to love it and yourself at the same time

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How much exercise is necessary?

People always ask, "How much exercise do I need to get?" There are actually different answers to that question:
  1. Average healthy adult under 65: The ACSM recommended minimum exercise is 30 minutes of cumulative activity, five days every week. That's either 30 minutes on a treadmill, walking, jogging, or whatever activity that is a) cardiovascular and b) moderate intensity. This recommendation of ACSM is approved by many national health organizations, including the American Heart Assoc. (AHA)
  2. Strength training: Strength training makes a body look strong, lean, and upright with good posture. Strength training also has the important benefit of averting lean muscle loss. Lean tissue atrophies after age 25 in both men and woman, but takes a precipitous loss in men after 35 years of age. Weight lifting and axial loading stimulates bone growth, which is important as the rates of occurance in osteoporosis have become more common and prevelent in both genders at very young ages. Strength training should occur about 2-3 times each week
  3. Exercise is cumulative: 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there, but just get it all in. Work your chest one day, back the next, and legs on another. Never forget the importance of core strength!
Need help getting your exercise routine off of the ground? I am an ACSM certified personal trainer. Email me at cagefit@gmx.com

Monday, August 1, 2011

Strike One: How Martial Arts and Boxing Can Improve Your Life

This isn't exactly a chance to fight Apollo Creed for the heavyweight championship of the world, but it is an opportunity to work on cardiovascular endurance, speed, coordination, bone density, and self-esteem.

Let's talk about each of these life-changing benefits:

Cardiovascular Endurance
It cannot be stressed enough that the best way to prevent the onset of obesity and all of its negative attributes is by engaging in regular exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes each day, five days every week. Regular endurance training enables the heart to become more efficient at pumping blood, even if there are no noticeable signs of physical improvement. The heart gets stronger with every endurance workout. Here's the great thing about martial arts and boxing- lots of continual movement equals anywhere from moderate to intense exercise.

Speed and Coordination
As a conditioning term, speed refers to how quickly you can get from point A to point B without injuring yourself. That clearly has some practical implications as well. Moving quickly increases response time to situations, improves agility, and reduces stress on joints. For example, people with a very long and slow stride are more likely to have low back, knee and foot pain from extended contact time with the ground alone. Stronger, shorter, faster strides are better for your legs and easier on your muscles (which means they can perform longer as well). One such exercise used in boxing and martial arts is jumping rope. Regular, repeated motion of jumping can be steady, changing speeds, or adjusting footwork for desired challenge and results. Read more about jumping rope

Bone Density
Wolff's Law, discovered by Julius Wolff in the 19th Century, states that the body adjusts to meet whatever challenges it faces. The converse of this law is also true- the body eliminates what it does not need. As a result, increased activity stimulates muscle and bone growth. Sedentary people have demonstrated the opposite: muscle atrophy and bone density loss (even osteoporosis in both men and women). The most significant part of the research that has continued since Wolff's time is that bone density and muscle hypertrophy occur in the places placed under most stress. Some current technology has shown tremendous bone density gain as a result of introducing external vibrations into the body. Boxing and martial arts incorpoate punching, kicking, and jumping that involve striking a surface, thereby generating vibration. Good vibrations- the kind that improve muscle response and bone density!

Signifcant research has gone into studying the psychological benefit of martial arts and boxing training. You can read one such study here. The greatest benefit is when the art is practiced in tandem with self-awareness training and being guided by a positive role model such as a coach or sensei. The environment was also non-competitive, allowing a person to reflect on their own self worth and not have to look towards someone else outside of themselves for inspiration.

There are many benefits to be found in different types of training depending on one's training goals. Martial art and boxing are an effective method of building strength, endurance, and self-esteem when conducted in a positive environment that encourages challenging oneself to be better. Check out this video about Israeli Mui Thai Boxer, Uriel ben-Homo
I teach one martial arts/kickboxing class every Thursday evening from 6:00-6:30pm in Rockville, MD
Email me at cagefit@gmx.com to find out more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Can't throw a ball or raise your arms? Let's Discuss: Rotator Cuff

Think about the following issues:
  1. Can you raise your arms above your head?
  2. Can you raise your arms above your head without arching your back?
  3. Can you raise your arms above your head without arching your back AND do not hear any popping, clicking, or feel a rubbing against your shoulder?
Without getting too technical, it suffices to say that all of our muscles are connected together via Fascia. If one muscle is too tight or too weak, then another muscle elsewhere in the body may be tugged, stretched, or restricted in movement. Due to modern posture issues, such as constant computer and desk work, our bodies tend to roll the shoulders forward, tilt the head forward, and contract the abdomen. Constant tension in these postions creates tightness in those muscles while hyperextending many back and neck muscles.

One possible solution help strengthen the back and improve posture is to hold a proper plank.
Once you master holding a plank, you may also want to add some Serrratus Push-Ups.
Serratus Push-ups involve the following steps:
  1. Hold a perfect plank
  2. Press your forearms into the floor and lift your back straight into the air, pulling through the center of your body
  3. Return to the plank position
  4. Repeat at a steady cadence

This exercise is perfect for anyone, and can be modified to being on your knees as well if you lack the ability to hold the plank in the video above. Read more about Serratus Push-Ups, but be careful with your form in the plank. You do not want a concave curve in your back.

This is a good way to start protecting your shoulder girdle, but may not solve all of your upper back and neck issues, as well as strengthen and lengthen many other problem spots. To discuss some of your rotator cuff, shoulder, and core strength issues, please email me a cagefit DOT gmx DOT com

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What's the deal with... Back Pain

Let's start with a few simple questions:
  1. Where is the pain... generally? Upper back, lower back, hips.
  2. What position are you in when you feel the pain? Leaning foward, arching backward, tilt sideways?
  3. How painful is it?
Now the tough questions:
  1. Is the pain localized in one spot? Two spots?
  2. Does it happen only at certain times of the day?
  3. Is it getting worse or getting better?
Corrective Exercise Techniques can assess just how widespread your problem may be. It's important to understand that the most common source of back pain is actually muscle tightness, especially if the pain is not chronic. According to corrective exercise specialist Justin Price, MA: "A successful corrective-exercise program includes self-myofascial-release (SMR) exercises at the beginning and throughout the program as needed." Muscle tissue is all connected through fascia, a collegen-based connective tissue that holds all of the muscles together. Fascia has a tendancy to resist too much change- that is it's job after all- to hold everything together. "Sticky" fascia can reduce the range of motion in muscle and thereby create muscle pain by restricting movement. Initiating an SMR program can release "sticky" fascia and allow for greater range of movement.

SMR by itself can help to reduce the tension in the body, but should be combined with an overall static stretching regiment to maintain the muscular flexibility. An overall program would include a warm-up, followed by SMR, and then proceed to static stretching. This alone may help to aleviate back pain, but is only part of the overall solution as many factors can inhibit or even counteract the progress made through a corrective exercise program. For more information on how to properly set-up a corrective exercise program, contact me directly.