The Pity of Tight Shorts

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the culprits

This past Monday, as some of you might know, the weather here in Portland was just amazing. There were clear blue skies, the sun was shining up high and bright, and there was amazing crisp breeze flowing through the air. Pure bliss!

I had decided that day at work, that it would be a true shame if we spent that amazing afternoon indoors in a gym. So instead, we decided to take the pup for a neighborhood hike. Sounds amazing right? It was, that was until I put on my favorite pair of jean shorts. Well what do you know, those darn leg holes fit tight. Really tight.

It had been little less than a year since I had slipped into them, and now they were tight on me. What a bummer! My high spirits quickly dissipated, and for the rest of the hike all I can think about (and feel) was my tight shorts-which I kept on anyways, hoping they’d loosen up lol

As I was wallowing in self-pity thinking, “I’m NEVER going to eat again for the rest of my life” and “I shouldn’t have eaten those crackers yesterday,” then it finally dawned on me that those shorts fit tight because I am healthy.

Well of course those darn shorts are going to be tight when I dedicate a 1x week leg-day, do 2-3 sessions of HIITs/conditioning work a week, and do plyo work in between weight training sets!! I instantly felt better.

But that also made me realize that I let something so insignificant affect my mood on that beautiful day. Right until I slipped on those stupid pair of shorts, I was feeling great. I didn’t think anything different about my body, I wasn’t self-conscious about myself at all, and I certainly would have never of thought I was going to ‘quit’ eating “forever” (ha!), yet those jean shorts had such an impact on me.
What I’m getting at is that the most important indicator of your happiness shouldn’t be dictated by an inanimate object such as a scale or a pair of smaller jeans (or shorts in my case), but on trying your very best on anything you want. Be satisfied that you have put in your work and trust yourself along the way.

Repeat to yourself what you know about yourself every day. It’s so easy for us to forget all of the positive things we already do, so do yourself a favor and remind yourself every day!

Here’s my example:

I know that I work out hard in every one of my sessions, I know that I eat healthy, I know that I lead a balanced life, I know that body weight is insignificant, I know that cheat meals are ok, I know that I am healthy, I know that I have amazing friends and family, I know that I am loved, I know that I try to be my best every day, I know that I am my own person, I know I try to enjoy the little things in life.

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Sitting the New Smoking?

It’s time to get up and start walking around!

..just sitting.

..just sitting.

Research shows that sitting for long periods of time is linked to a number of health risk factors including heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.

This certainly is a serious matter if you happen to be physically inactive and have a desk job.

From an evolutionary stand point, we were not made to sit for long periods of time. Our ancestors were hunters and gathers, not ‘sit in front of a computer all day’ kind of people.

Today’s demanding workforce has forced us to become much more sedentary than ever. According to the New York’s Times, we now sit for an average of 12-16 hours a day (50-70%). To put this into perspective, if you sleep anywhere between 6 to 8 hours and sit for the next 12 to 16 hours, you’ve only been active for a maximum of 6 of the 24 hours in your day! The same article points out how diabetes comes into play. It states, “When muscles don’t contract they require less fuel, and this surplus of fuel in the form of blood sugar accumulates in the bloodstream, contributing to diabetes risk and other health concerns.” (HOLY MOLY!)

My best advice is to get up every 20 minutes and move around. If you’re at work, take a quick break by walking to the water fountain, drop off mail, or stretch. If you find it hard to do this, set a timer on your phone or your calendar; it only takes a few days to form any habit. If you can, invest in fitness ball to sit on at work. From personal experience, I can tell you that I tend to sit less when I’m on my fitness ball at work. I’ve noticed that I stand up more when I use my ball than when I sit on my normal chair. When sitting on my ball, I’m constantly balancing myself thus recruiting more muscle activation.

Physioball aka Fitness Ball

Physioball aka Fitness Ball

At home, it’s equally important to stay active. Keep in mind that your days off of work are certainly not a hall pass for sitting around watching tv all day! The Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded, “Recreational sitting, as reflected by television/screen viewing time, is related to raised mortality and CVD risk…. inflammatory and metabolic risk factors partly explain this relationship.”

In conclusion, strive to stay active and avoid sitting for long periods of time. Add to your good health by staying active even on the weekends. Make it a point to stand up as much as you can, take walks, play outdoors or indoors, practice yoga, stretch, foam roll, or simply do housework. Whatever you decide to do, I can assure you that it will be better than sitting around!

References:
Stamatakis E, et al. Screen-based entertainment time, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular events: Population-based study with ongoing mortality and hospital events follow-up. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;57:292.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/get-up-get-out-dont-sit/

Goals and Resolutions

I’ve always felt like there’s a gap between saying what you want and actually achieving it.

It’s not uncommon for people to become disappointed mid-way their New Year’s Resolution and drop what they once had said they were going to do.

That’s why you see gyms so full in January, everyone and their mamas want in on the fitness bandwagon. People, with the best of intentions, set fitness resolutions/goals, yet they have no idea how to follow through. Without fault, many think that by showing up at the gym, the goal will automatically realize itself; they’ll be soon shedding those layers of fat! Unfortunately, without a broken down process on how to achieve the goal, they ultimately drop their resolution.

Goal setting is easy, anyone can say they want to do this or do that, but how do you follow up? How do you achieve your goals? It’s simple, let me explain.

  1. Determine what you want for yourself.
  2. Break down steps needed to achieve your ultimate goal.
  3. Be realistic. Evaluate where you are now in terms of your goal.
  4. Set a due date.
  5. Plan out what you need to do to get to your goal.
  6. Set up a timeline with approximate improvement marks.
  7. Keep a journal of some sort of your progress (calendars, phone, apps, etc)
  8. Be patient with your progress.

Since this is a fitness blog, let’s use weight-loss as an example…

 If you know you’re really on the bigger side, and then set a reasonable weight loss goal to start off with.

Set a timeline. If your resolution started in January, then set a date that you can work with, be patient with yourself.  This can look like; lose 5 pounds in 3 weeks.

Journal your meals (in detail, this will help you become conscious of what you eat) and your sleep. Make a grocery list. Avoid processed foods. Set a day in which you cook healthy foods for the week.

Set 1-2 workout days a week. If you have to skip a day, make it up the next day. Work your way up in number of workout days. Stay active on days you are off. Plan walks. Mark it in your calendar as “To-Do”. Don’t make it an option, but something you NEED to do.

Every week set a reminder in your phone to weigh yourself. Record your weight. Compare your weights, evaluate your improvements. Take progress pictures. Recognize your improvements, and be patient with your progress.

Most importantly, is that you don’t have to wait for a new year to start taking care of your own needs. If you want to lose weight, you can do this anytime. If you want to save money or spend more time with loved ones, or read more, or whatever resolution/goal you have set for yourself, you don’t have to wait for New Year’s! You, and only yourself, can make these changes at ANY given TIME. Take responsibility to take care of your wants, needs and desires because you deserve them!

Foam Rolling

Foam Rolling

I cannot say enough about foam rolling. No matter if you work out or not, foam rolling is essential to maintain your body’s functionality.

For those of you who are unfamiliar to foam rolling and are asking yourselves what the heck it is, I will explain to the best of my ability. It’s a foam cylinder that you roll on; it’s the poor man’s massage therapist. There is it, described at its finest!

In all seriousness, when you roll your body weight onto a foam roller, you basically induce self-myofascial release technique.  This simple piece of dense foam, can greatly improve your body’s flexibility, function and performance. When you roll onto the foam roller, you massage all muscular restrictions back to the normal soft tissue the way it is meant to be. And the best part of it all is that this can be done in the privacy of your home, no need for gym!

On to the science-y part of foam rolling…

Myofascia is the combination of muscle and fascia. The superficial fascia is the soft connective tissue that is right under the skin and is what connects and/or wraps the muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels all together. And with age, lack of use or injuries, the muscle tissue can get ‘stuck’ causing much pain/discomfort and soreness. This affects your flexibility and range of motion. When you roll against a foam roller, you roll out any muscle knots by applying direct pressure (body weight) on to them—kind of rolling out the lumps in dough. It may be a little painful at first, so ease into it.

Myofascia Release Technique with a foam roller can, among many, help with:

  • Improve range of motion
  • Release stress
  • Reduce soreness
  • Prevent injuries
  • Aid healing

When I had an ankle injury from playing indoor soccer, my chiropractor had me roll on the affected area for two minutes, twice a day. Doing so massaged the tensed muscles and allowed blood flow into the injury which helped speed up the healing process. Not only that, but I also went through a period of severe shin splints from sprinting—so bad that it would keep me up at night!. And guess that my chiropractor suggested…that’s right, foam rolling my calves! So you see my point, foam rolling can only benefit you.

Oh and did I mention they’re usually under $20 online? I bought mine off of amazon, but you can find them in most sporting goods.

Spend just a few minutes a day Foam Rolling to feel the difference! Click here for a list of foam rolling exercises.

Here are some key points for Foam Rolling:

  1. Roll back and forth across the painful or stiff area for 60-90 seconds.
  2. Roll the injured area at least 2 times a day.
  3. Roll everyday if possible.
  4. Avoid rolling over bony areas.
  5. Breath-exhale and inhale to manage discomfort.
  6. Drink tons of water after foam rolling.
Limber as it can be!

Limber as it can be!

Going Gluten-Free

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When people ask me how they can lose weight, I always respond with the same answer. “Stop eating bread for two weeks and you’ll see and feel the difference.”

The problem with bread, or wheat grains for that matter, is the gluten in it. I’m sure you’ve heard all about people going gluten-free and how it’s probably just a fad, but in reality it’s not.

So what is gluten?

Gluten is basically the wheat’s endosperm. Gluten is what gives the elasticity in grain based dough and once baked; it gives bread its chewy texture. Gluten is composed of two types of proteins, gliadin and glutenin.

The reality is that most people don’t have the necessary stomach enzymes to break down gluten, and this even more evident with all of the genetic engineering done to wheat/grains in the last few decades. Even if you don’t feel sick right away after eating gluten-filled foods, you may still be damaging your body.

Gluten has been linked to Celiac disease, brain inflammation, autism, autoimmune thyroid disease and osteoarthritis, depression, headaches/migraines, among many more. Here is a great tool to help you figure out if you may be gluten sensitivity or intolerance.

For me, I know for a fact that I have sensitivity toward gluten. It severely affects my mood (Jekyll and Hyde kind of deal), my digestion immediately goes kaput, my joints ache the next day (especially my hands), and I get puffy all over.

So if you’re up for the challenge, try eliminating gluten from your diet. If you decide to go gluten free, make sure you are feeding your body appropriately. Eat whole foods such as: eggs, meats, veggies, fruits, probiotic rich foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, and kefir) nuts and seeds for better body composition. You’ll notice those love-handles and that back-fat disappear all while your mood stabilizes.

But, before you rush out to buy ‘gluten-free’ labeled items at the grocery store, I do feel obligated to warn you about them. If it’s a processed food, even if it’s gluten free, it’s not that good for you. Often processed gluten free treats are filled with sugar and starchy flour substitutes to make up for the lack of gluten that makes it all stick together. Many people are allergic to corn, and guess what; most of the flour substitute in gluten free foods is CORN. So take the time to read food labels carefully.

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Anxiety

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Just until recently I have decided to take full on responsibility for my anxiety. Realizing that this behavior was, and has affected my past, I was ready to let go.

Fortunately, my case of anxiety is now very mild. But there has been a time when my anxiety has gotten the best of me. I’ve worried so much that I’ve had sharp pains in my stomach and/or broken out in sweat. Not only that, but my ability to reason has become so fogged, that it’s left me with irrational decisions that I have later regretted. I knew that I didn’t want to live my life that way; worrying all the time and not enjoying the ‘now.’

I have to say that I’m not a self-help book aficionado. But I did know that I need to find that something that would help me feel better, so I did a little research. I started to read a book called Self Coaching, The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression by Joseph J. Luciani. In which my ‘anxiety-symptoms’ were described almost verbatim.

Luciani in his book explains how the feeling of lack of control is what usually triggers anxiety. But we all know that, hardly anything in life is controllable. I mean, you can’t control things like the weather, what people think or even the death someone loved.  But what you can control is being confidant enough that you can, and have the ability, to handle life’s stresses. And it all starts with your train of thought.

Anxiety is a habit, and, habits can be broken. You can choose to give in to your negative thoughts or not. For example, a fire cannot keep going unless it’s fueled by oxygen right? Well the same goes for anxiety, you cannot have anxiety unless you fuel it with your negative thoughts. In my case, my thoughts were almost always figments of my imagination. If an issue came up, I’d immediately think the worst possible scenarios. Come to learn that type of thinking is simply a coping mechanism that would help me feel temporarily in control of the unknown or my life uncertainties. Key word here is temporarily.

The problem with all of this worrying is that it gets you nowhere. Absolutely nowhere. The book points out a way to stop these thoughts from festering in your mind. When you start to think about possible scenarios, stop and think, “Is this fact or fiction?” Learning to differentiate the two is essential for your mental health. All that worrying is mentally exhausting, believe me, it really is! This trick has been of great value to me. If I answer myself by saying its fiction, which is almost all the time, then I ask myself to move on; to think of something else. And it works! Of course I’ve ‘fed’ the habit for many years, so I might have to come back repeat myself again, but that doesn’t matter, I just don’t allow these imaginary thoughts to linger in my mind. Aside from learning to differentiate fact from fiction, I realized that I was allowing my mind to bully me in other areas of my life. My workouts were not the exception.

I noticed that I tend to talk myself down from interval training.  For example, three times a week I do HIIT’s (high intensity interval training)/conditioning, in which I do either sprint, cycle, jump rope etc. I know exactly how many sets I want to do beforehand, but I catch myself thinking mid workout that I should quit. “I’ve done enough sets,” is what I’ll tell myself. It’s a constant battle. I’ve applied the “just do it” motto, in which I don’t think, I just act. How do you not think? It’s actually quite easy. It’s by enjoying the ‘now.’

When I now do my intervals, I don’t think about how tired I am and how badly I want to quit. I distract myself with enjoying my surroundings. By acknowledging them, you start living in the now and not in your brain. Just look around look at the trees, the grass, the people or whatever is around you and then act. I’ve had to remind myself to just go and  “just do it.”

You see, your thoughts can make or break you in many areas of your life. Don’t give in to your negative thoughts; instead replace them with affirmative ones and by enjoying your surroundings. Don’t let your negative thoughts run you down with exhaustion. Worrying is like a rocking chair, it may rock back and forth vigorously, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Same goes with your thoughts, if your thoughts are not real, you’re on that rocking chair that gets you nowhere. As we all know, anxiety can be detrimental to your health, so do yourself a favor and live in the now.

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Bulletproof Coffee

Lately I’ve heard so much about “Bullet-proof coffee” around the Paleo-world, that I just had to try it for myself.

Here’s the breakdown; bulletproof coffee is black coffee with pasture butter and coconut oil (MCT oil) in it. Yes, you drink straight up liquid fat in your coffee. Now before you start to gag, let me say that’s actually quite delicious and nutritious (if done right).

You see, your body runs on of two sources of energy. These are either Fats (lipids) and/or Carbohydrates (Sugars). And believe it or not, human bodies are most efficient when they run off on fats; we actually NEED fats to be healthy!

Sure eating carbs is just fine if you are an athlete with low body fat, but let’s be honest, most of the population (over 70%) is not. If you happen to be overweight or borderline overweight, carbs are definitely not your friend. Carbohydrates are metabolized in your body as sugar, which don’t get me started; sugars create pure havoc on your body. Period.

But I digress; supplementing your diet with ‘good-fats’ is key for better body composition. Yes, you eat fats to lose fats. But before you grab that Snickers bar, I have to stress the word good fats. By good fats I mean, fats such as: pasture butter, ghee, lard, chicken fat, lamb fat, full fat dairy, coconut oil, olive oil, fish oil, grass-fed tallow, avocados, nuts, seeds. Keep in mind that the non-animal fats are to be organic, unrefined and the animal fats are from pasture-raised/grass fed and organic.

But back to the butter. Eating butter from grass-fed cows contains medium chain fatty acids, which surprisingly doesn’t enter the cholesterol cycle. In fact, even though butter is high in saturated fats, they won’t elevate the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.

Come to find out that when cows eat grasses that are alive, the vitamins that are eaten in the grasses contain more fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, E, K than grain-fed cows. Pasture butter also contains beta carotene, which gives its yellow color naturally (commercial butter makers add colors and dyes to make it yellow…toxic and eww!!) And then comes CLA -this is one is especially important if you want to lose weight. CLA is conjugated linoleic acid which is produced in the gut of the grass fed animal. CLA is an anti-carcinogen, decreases inflammation and greatly reduced stress by lowering cortisol levels in the body which in turn, trims your waistline.

Now on to the coconut oil. The original recipe for the bulletproof coffee calls for MCT oil which is straight up Medium-chain triglyceride oil. It is found naturally in coconut oil and palm oil. MCT is easily digestible since it requires fewer enzymes to break it down and it is quickly metabolized by the liver giving you tons of energy while decreasing fat storage. Unfortunately, I don’t have any at home, or even coconut oil (ran out), so I used coconut butter for my bulletproof coffee mix.  Coconut butter still has the essential fatty acids, enzymes and vitamins than coconut oil or MCT has, just less potent in a way.

Adding butter and coconut/MCT oil to your coffee is not a great leap if you already do a Paleo nut and meat breakfast. The idea of this is to fuel your body with the proper nutrients at the right time. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so giving it the fats it needs only sets you up for a great start to your morning.

Here’s my modified version of the Bullet-Proof Coffee, which is much more conservative than the original version. Blend it all together until frothy and drink up!

1 tablespoon of organic coconut butter

1tablespoon of unsalted pasture butter

12-14 oz black coffee

So here is my report after day 2 of drinking my bulletproof coffee (so far it’s a win in my book):

  • Coffee flavor is enhanced-it’s rich with a slight coconut flavor to it.
  • I feel full for much, much longer. I eat breakfast around 7:45am and I wasn’t hungry until after 1pm.
  • I was kept focused throughout tasks.
  • I wasn’t craving a second cup of coffee at work
  • I felt energized/sharp

My two cents to all of this:

Use common sense on how much fat is appropriate for you. Don’t be afraid of fats but do respect them. Follow a low-carb/high fat protein diet if you want better body composition. Here’s a rule of thumb; never combo fats and carbs by themselves. Only supplement with carbs if you are the long lost child of Lance Armstrong, and finally give the Bulletproof Coffee a try.

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My Favorite Supplements

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Being a natural athlete requires eating the right kinds of foods and supplementing your body correctly. So here are some of the supplements I can’t live without…

Carlson Fish Oil- I take 1 teaspoon every morning with my breakfast. When I’ve had a cheat day, I’ll take an extra teaspoon before bed. Surprisingly, it tastes pretty good-you can even add it to your salads. Orange flavor is my favorite.

Zinc- My favorite has been Poliquin UberZinc and Carlson brand zinc. I take about 15-30mg each morning. Among many other benefits, having an adequate amount of zinc in you will improve your athletic performance, stabilize your mood and get rid of toxic waste from your body.

Fiber-Ah the wonders of fiber! Helps get rid of waste from your body making you feel oh so good!  I alternate every week between brands/types of fiber. Right now I’m taking 3 caps of NOW Foods Psyllium Fiber every morning and evening and  I like to alternate it with Garden of Life, Detoxifiber.

Magnesium-There are a ton of different types and brands out there, but be careful because some will do absolutely nothing beneficial to your body. In fact, some will give you diarrhea. My tried and true has been Source Naturals Ultra-Mag. I take it post-workout and/or before bedtime. Does wonders to relax your body after a workout and get you ready for bed. It also alleviates muscle cramps and muscle spasms and aids muscle contraction.

Vitamin D- I use NOW Foods, Vitamin D3 in 5000IU. Where to start with this one..ok, well you need vitamin d to help you lose weight, reduce inflammation, improve mood, prevent injuries, improve strength, oh and it has been shown that women that have adequate levels of Vitamin D have leaner children! I take 1 gel cap every morning with my breakfast.

Grass-Fed Whey Protein Powder- I buy this stuff in bulk from TrueProtein.com. My favorite flavor is plain Cocoa powder with Stevia mixed in. It’s very bland, but then again, I rather have bland than having to drink a mixer cup full of unpronounceable chemicals. I take about 33g of this stuff post-workout only.

L-Glutamine- Here is something you might not know, your muscles are made up mostly of glutamine, an abundant amino-acid produced in your body. Supplementing with glutamine will aid in protein synthesis, help recover from muscle soreness, boost energy and increase levels of Human Growth Hormone. In other words, glutamaine helps increase muscle mass. Here’s more, glutamine helps reduce alcohol and sugar cravings! I’ve never, ever, gone without this stuff. I take about 1 teaspoon with my post-workout shake and when I have sugar cravings, I’ll drink a glass of water with 1 teaspoon of glutamine in it. Optimum Nutrition, unflavored is my favorite.

Glycine- It is too, an amino acid. I like glycine because it helps get rid of waste from working out and it elevates your immune system. It also calms your brain, therefore, helps you get good rest.

Other good stuff that I’ll cycle through:
Vitamin C- I take a tablet post-workout.
Organic Greens Powder-currently on it, I’ll take 1 scoop with my post-workout shake.
BCAAs
Biotin
Vitamin E

Workout hard, supplement right, eat clean and in no time, you’ll be rocking some hard core muscles!

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Disclaimer: This is stuff that has worked for me and it might not necessarily work for you. This is certainly not a treatment plan. Do your research, talk to your doctor and be smart about what you put into your body.