For today’s installment of “In Case You Didn’t Notice,” we’ll dig a little into a concept called, Earthing.  It revolves around making direct contact with the earth.  Relax, Jodie Foster.  We’re not talking about that kind of contact.  Although if we were, more people would probably read this thing…  Oh well, maybe there’s a Carl Sagan type post in me in the near future..

Alright, seriously.  Who am I kidding?  There probably won’t be.  Sorry to get your hopes up (or down), back to this Earthing business.

The Earth possesses an electromagnetic field that has an effect on our bodies.  Supposedly, we insulate ourselves from this effect with the clothes and shoes we wear.  Even building houses with surfaces like wood and vinyl keep us insulated from the Earth’s effects.  So, spending as much time as we can barefooted on grass, sand, dirt, or concrete helps us to “regain” this effect if you will.

The effect, as best explained by the experts that discovered   –or should I say, rediscovered–  this phenomenon, is that the Earth’s surface has a bunch of free electrons that can be transferred via direct contact.  The electrons then neutralize free radicals in the body, keeping, among other things, inflammation to a minimum.

Okay.  Sorry.  I have to stop right there.  I wrote everything up to this point thinking I could convince you, the reader, that this was not nonsense.  But even as I typed everything out I couldn’t help but thinking, “Wow, this sounds like complete nonsense.”

So, yes.  This all might sound ridiculously new-agey and I don’t blame you.  And if you love the explanation of Earthing, you’ll really love Paul Chek’s reasoning.

But why wouldn’t this work?  Humans have evolved on this planet, which has had its own electromagnetic field for millions of years.  Well.  I guess that depends on who you ask, I suppose.  There are people out there that think the Earth is only 10,000 years old, after all.  But if we assume that at least part of our genetic adaptations were due to some environmental factors, why wouldn’t one of those factors be the Earth’s electromagnetic field?

And why do people need all the facts and scientific evidence, anyway?  If something could potentially improve your life, at no cost, you’re telling me you wouldn’t at least try it?  I call bullshit.  There’s no scientific evidence that Facebook has any health benefits whatsoever, but the rate at which people are using it would make you think otherwise.  Okay, I admit that is a very weak argument, but you’ve more or less decided if you’re going to try this by now.  So there.

There’s really not much else to Earthing than that.  For more information, head over to Earthing.com.  I must warn you though, I get a little turned off by their official website.  They make the claim that Earthing “may be the most important health discovery of our time.”  And at first glance, this might make you want to tell them to screw off.  Again, I don’t blame you.  I mean, I think there have been some pretty major discoveries in our time.  Penicillin anyone?

One last thing before we end this.  Consider the following:  By numerous accounts, the diseases we see today more or less appeared with “modern man.”  And who were these modern men?  Humans that had colonized large areas of land that were living more comfortably than the “savages” they tried to colonize.  They had shoes to cover their feet, expansive houses and buildings to shelter them from the elements.  Some even slept in beds elevated off the ground.  They were humans that had begun insulating themselves.  This may have allowed certain diseases to thrive on bodies that were running less optimally than their “earthed” counterparts.

Now this is very, very shoddy logic at best, but it may give you at least a half decent reason why Earthing could even benefit us at all.  We used to all do it at one point and at one point we stopped.  Again, thats not to say we were actually healthier back then as “savages.”  But I also think its a huge mistake to assume what they practiced back then has no merit because they were more primitive and seemingly dumber than we are now.

So, give it a try.  Or not.  I really don’t care.  But if you do try it, I honestly hope it helps you.  And if you decide not to try it, I honestly hope you find something that does improve your well-being.

That’s it for today boys and girls.  Until next time, insert catch phrase!

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In honor of this year’s election and coupled with the fact I’ve been working on a post about proper breathing that just doesn’t want to write itself, I will be exercising my right to say whatever the hell I want in a public forum.  That’s still a freedom right?  Kinda?  Ok.  I can work with “kinda.”  And being the bit of a conspiracy theorist that I am, why not give the whole thing a cloak and dagger type of feel?  As the soon to be VP of Common Sense would say, done and done*. FOR THE RECORD:  I can neither prove nor disprove any connections between the events that I am about to describe.  The ‘conspiracy’ is all in good fun people.  It’s complete nonsense.  It’s fictional and all made up in my own head based on some anecdotal evidence, a lot of sheer guessing, and some convoluted logic.  Darts and post-its with random words on them may or may not have also been involved.  I don’t know, I’m already lost in my own conspiracy.  Anyway.  I know this may sound like a pretty stupid disclaimer, but you never know these days.

The real purpose of this post  (like all my others) is to slightly alter that box you’ve been thinking in and urge you to find your own answers.  Should I have leaked some of my sources?  Probably.  Well, here’s one I guess:  lmgtfy.com

Moving on.

Let’s start this whole thing with the USDA Food Pyramid recommended back in the late 1980’s early 1990’s.  First off, this thing was borrowed from the Swedish version.  Why?  I don’t know.  Supposedly, they also had a higher rate of heart disease than the U.S. at the time.  Maybe something to take note of.  Maybe not.   What we ended up with was this food pyramid with a boatload of grains and cereals and breads and pastas at it’s base and a minimal amount of fats at the top.  Even though modern man evolved with none of the grain and agriculture related things and ate way more animal fats, someone saw it fit to add a lot of carbs to the modern-modern man’s diet and all but take out the animal fats.  Possibly because processed carbohydrate products are cheaper and easier to make than whatever they used to scavenge and hunt for back in the day.  That’s just one theory I absolutely cannot prove.  I would still like to maintain that this may be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, causes of the health problems we see today.  But again, no real proof of that, so we’ll move on.

Around this time, the mass media stumbled onto one of its greatest discoveries of all.  Michael Jordan.  Now to their credit, I’m sure the powers that be at Nike knew how easily the public could be manipulated using social icons, MJ just confirmed and/or exceeded their wildest dreams.  They could now tell you shoes cost $100 and you needed to do whatever you had to do in order to get them, but you wouldn’t bat an eyelash because the greatest player of all time wore them.  The greatest basketball player of all time also played a game against imaginary cartoon aliens.  Anyone else does that and they get locked up in a padded room with a sleeveless robe.  By the way, has anyone seen Bill Murray since that movie?

Unfortunately, what this also showed ‘other’ powers that be was that they could now bombard you with all the crap they decided to put into the food pyramid.  And we took all of it.  Happily.  And this went on.  And it still goes on to this day.

Fast forward to the present.  More and more research has shown that high carb, low fat diets just don’t work.  Even more shocking, cholesterol may not even be linked to heart disease like we originally thought.  Oh wait no no… this just in, the LACK of fat and cholesterol (from good sources, of course) from your diet may actually CAUSE heart disease.  Whoops.  We were on the right track, just going in the opposite direction.  Our bad.  So, then the obvious question would be…  why hasn’t the food pyramid changed?

I’ll let an imaginary USDA guy answer this question:  “Great question!  I’m glad you asked!  See, we figured out that we don’t actually have to change that crap diet we recommended back in the day.  You see, we invented these things called Pharmaceutical Companies, instead.  What they do is manufacture compounds to treat your ailments that our shitty diet may or may not have given you.  But uh oh!  Sometimes those compounds give you weird side effects somewhere down the line.  Fret not, dear science experiment, we have other man made substances that we can give you to bandage those side effects and any others that may pop up, too.  So we can still cash in on advocate the same crappy diet we have been, but now we can do it completely guilt free.”

So when all that ridiculousness has settled, this is where we stand:  We have a nation of people with health

problems, possibly stemming from years of poor dietary advice.  We also have a nation of very stressed out people.  We work day and night and more hours a week than ever before, all in hopes that we can someday “be like Mike” in some way, shape, or form.  And the response from the powers that be?  Let’s get them all on medication that we invented. It may or may not be a coincidence that a nutrition plan adopted from a country with a less than stellar track record of heart disease caused a pharmaceutical explosion.  I’m not here to debate the efficacy of that statement, just to point out that this is exactly what exists as we speak.  And even if the Swedish heart disease statistics aren’t accurate, we still have scientific studies that show the poor performance of low fat, high carb diets.  Yet, the food pyramid remains mostly unchanged.

I’ll even admit that our evolutionary path as a species may have led to modern medicine being our only means of survival at this point.  But even if thats the case, until we get like, Star Trek, good at it, I think we can still benefit from finding less invasive ways to improve our health.

So this is usually where the whole proper diet and exercise shtick comes in.  But what if thats not actually where we need to start?  What if it’s simpler than that?  What if it comes down to us not knowing how to do the most basic of human functions?  What if some of us just don’t know how to breathe?

And I don’t mean that relaxing, just breathe, woo-sah thing.  I’m talking about technically knowing how to breathe and how that affects the body.

Enter Doctor Konstantin Buteyko.  His research has suggested that a lot of people suffer from either breathing too shallow or breathing too deep.  But wait, isn’t breathing regulated by our bodies so we don’t have to think about it?  Yup.  But like any other computer program, the file can become corrupted.  In a very loose sense, that’s what breathing actually is.  A programed designed by your nervous system to be executed automatically by the body when we stop consciously thinking about it.  So what Dr. Buteyko suggests is that somewhere along the line, our breathing ‘program’ becomes corrupted.  There are a number of factors that can contribute to this ranging from air quality to poor posture.

For the sake of time and simplicity, his theory is this:  The key to optimal breathing is not actually oxygen, but carbon dioxide.  Don’t misunderstand him though, oxygen is absolutely vital, but carbon dioxide is what determines how much oxygen our bodies absorb.  During normal breathing (diaphragmatic, through the nose and lasting about 4 seconds total) oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged at an optimal ratio.  When we breath into our chests instead of using our diaphragm, we run the risk of messing with this delicate balance.  Chest breathing can be identified by putting one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.  When the hand on your chest moves, you are chest breathing.  The ideal breath involves no chest movement and the expansion of the abdomen in all directions.

You’re wondering how this can make any sense, right?  I don’t blame you, the logic is pretty counterintuitive.  Here’s what the good doctor thinks happens:  During the aforementioned, normal breath, about 98% of all the oxygen you inhale is absorbed. In other words, you’ve already all but maxed out your ability to absorb oxygen.

But in this day in age, we like to think more is better, so we are encouraged to breathe deeper. Seeing as how you can’t really absorb more oxygen if you take a bigger breath, the only thing that really happens is that massive amounts  of carbon dioxide are being offloaded from your bloodstream when you exhale the big breath.  When the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood is lowered, the amount of oxygen that is absorbed is also lowered.  This leads to less oxygen to muscles, organs and your brain.  So yes, you read that right, deep breathing left unchecked can lead to less oxygen in your brain.  For more head over to normalbreathing.com.  Try the DIY test and see where you’re currently at.  See if you can improve your score and learn how it affects your body and mind.

I honestly don’t know how we got to this point with our current health problems.  As you can see, my account of how it all supposedly happened looks like a slice of swiss cheese when held to the light.  Regardless of the cause, the reality is that we’re here and something needs to be done.  While the miracles of modern medicine have extended our life expectancy, less invasive approaches may improve quality of life even further in those extended years.

This is probably not the end all be all solution, but if any of that made sense to you, try it.  How does being aware of your breathing patterns affect you? Becoming more aware of our bodies in such ways are key steps to improving quality of life.   But if you find that it’s a little difficult to learn, try something else.  There are other forms of meditation and breathing exercises that are out there, and if any of them positively affect the amount of oxygen your body can absorb, then I say job well done.

Sorry this one was pretty lengthy, but I figured I owed you guys for taking a little longer than usual with this one.  We’ll get you back to your regularly scheduled programming soon.

*I am the soon to be VP of Common Sense and I absolutely, positively, did not approve this statement.  What is this?  Someone sue this asshole!  Russell Freeman for President!  Khan Out!

Given that it’s a month that ends in ‘tober,’ today may be a bit too early for a Christmas post.  But seeing as how I literally wait till the last-minute every year to do any shopping, I think I’m going to get started early this year.  Well.  Mentally, at the very least.

Yes, like it or not, another holiday season has us in its sights and I’m here to get you ready.  Yeah.  I’m gonna get you ready for the holiday season by giving you fitness advice.  Just go with it.  It’ll be fun.  I promise.

And oh by the way, I’ve seen those crazy holiday shoppers on youtube.  You can’t tell me it doesn’t get physical out there.  It’s like trying to run the football with one of the Big Bang Theory guys as your lead blocker.  Ok, ok.  Sorry, I know you guys aren’t that bad.

Except maybe for those of you that celebrate Thanksgiving like its 4th of July in Coney Island, that is.

While it’s not full contact cage fighting, holiday shopping is one of those random activities that we can injure ourselves doing.  Sad, but true.  To be honest, most of us walk around at a greater risk to injury than we think.  It all has to do with not having proper musculoskeletal balance within our bodies.  More on that in a second.

First off, if you’re already in pain, your nervous system is telling your body to move differently whether you know it or not.  So yes, you should be slightly alarmed when you’re moving through pain.  The sequence in which your muscles fire to produce movement will be altered in order to accommodate your body’s reaction to pain.

You’ll still be able to walk and function for the most part.  But the original computer program in your head that made you ‘walk,’ was altered.  So think of it more like walking around with less than optimal programming.  You wouldn’t necessarily feel a difference either because the altered patterns are now what your brain tells you is ‘normal.’

That’s also why we see some pain occur after a previous injury has healed.  You know, the one you had a few years ago that wasn’t too bad and just let linger for a while, but eventually went away.

Well the pain usually doesn’t go away for good, it just shows up in a different place.

Sometimes the pain will move to the next part of the chain (ankle to calf) or somewhere seemingly remote (ankle to opposite shoulder).  While it is completely impossible to know 100% of the time what causes the pain, it is very possible to narrow the culprits down to a few factors.  This is of course given that there are no structural abnormalities or freak accidents involved.

One of the biggest causes of pain (other than stupidity) in the human body is, imbalance.

So, not only can pain or injury can cause imbalance; it can be caused by imbalance as well.  For some people, it starts with posture.  A good number of people exhibit what is sometimes called, forward head posture.  This means that your head and subsequently, your neck, is tilted forward, causing your body to shift forward ever so slightly.

Now your body is pretty amazing, so it doesn’t just let you completely fall over because your head sits too far forward by an inch or so.  Instead, your body turns on other muscles that aren’t meant to support your head in a standing position.  This keeps your body ‘balanced’, but it also displaces other parts of the chain because some muscles aren’t being used properly.

The result?  Each muscle group will pass the extra responsibility down the chain until something breaks down.  This can lead to things such as joint pain and damage, muscle tightness, strains or tears, or even hold you back from advancing in certain movements.  These are the types of injuries that seem to ‘come out of nowhere’ and often don’t have any warning signs as far as pain goes.

When looking at these types of injuries, you can trace a good bulk of them back to imbalances in either the hips or the shoulder complex.

Today we’ll look into what goes on with most dysfunctional hips and how we can start to make sure we start balancing them out.

One of the most common situations that results in lower back pain is something called lower crossed syndrome.  This is usually the result of having tight or overactive hip flexors that pull the front of your hips down.  At the same time, tight or overactive lower back muscles pull the back of your hips up.

This leads to tight muscles in the lower back and perceived tightness in the hamstrings.  It’s possible that most cases of tight hamstrings are caused by hip dysfunction and imbalance.

…So.  You’re saying I’m probably walking around right now like a ticking time bomb and my body is about to implode on itself?  Phenomenal.  And I’m supposed to stop this from happening… how?

I’ll refer you to this article CLICK HERE.

You should notice that I’ve already sent you to this article a few posts ago.  No, I’m not being lazy,thank you very much.

This is the beauty of having a training mindset based around quality movement patterns.  Each of the exercises described in Tony’s Perfect Warm up is designed to maximize your ability to move properly through your entire body.

“Dude.  I thought you said we were talking about hip dysfunction today?  This warm up has non-hip movements too.  What gives?”

If this was your immediate reaction after re-reading the article, you would be absolutely correct on both points.  Let me explain.

When you are performing ANY movement whether it’s a squat or whatever this stupid fucking shit is*, ALL muscles in your body have a function.  To keep it very simple, they’re either responsible for stabilizing or mobilizing your body at any given time.  The different combinations of stability and mobility in all the muscles in your body create all the movement your body is capable of.

For instance, I talked about push ups in this post CLICK HERE.  While performing a push up, basically all the muscles below your shoulder blades are responsible for stabilizing your body against gravity.  The muscles between your shoulder blades and around your shoulders, arms and chest are responsible for moving your body.

So in the warm up, doing a movement to help you move better through your shoulder blades will help you learn to use your hips more efficiently.  If you have great control of your shoulder blades, the muscles around your spine are able to stabilize your spine properly instead of being used to assist the movement of your shoulder blades.  This frees up the muscles around your hips to perform properly instead of trying to stabilize your spine because the muscles on your spine are trying to help move your shoulder blades.

See how that works?  Everything is literally connected.  This is why learning how to move and stabilize correctly are vital parts of anyone’s training program.

So remember this holiday season before you head off once more into the fray, get some quality and balanced movement into your training.  This will ensure that you make it through another tough holiday season and that you keep Fantasy Holiday Shopper team owners everywhere happy.

 

 

*This is a great example of not recognizing how mobilizers and stabilizers work.  The ball is now requiring muscles that act as movers to also be stabilizers and the last I checked, squatting with your feet not flat on the ground changes your movement patterns too.  Now, to be fair, if this is the goal of the trainer READ: TO FUCK THIS KID UP, then they’re doing a great job.

NOTE:  This the start of a recurring series I’m testing out called, “In case you didn’t notice.”

There are a lot of sources of information out there as far as… well… as far as anything goes.  Fitness is no exception.  The goal of this series is to bring to light some of the more interesting things that I find out there.  Whether it be from a fitness blog, or book, or dvd, or another discipline entirely, there might be a few things out there that you may not have noticed.

And just like anything else I post here, it may or may not be applicable to your lifestyle or goals at the time you read it.  Thats okay.  I won’t be hurt if you don’t find it useful, but you might know someone that could use the tip, too.  You might even find a use for something down the road.  Test things out and see what works for you and what doesn’t.  Most importantly, keep an open mind.

 

——

 

Part of my ongoing interest in fitness is what some people might refer to as “bio-hacking.”  Don’t worry its nothing illegal.   Although, to be honest, some of this stuff is so different from what mass media tells us that some of it may be illegal one day.

What these so called bio-hackers do is dig through piles and piles of research related to the body and the way it works and performs.  Then they’ll take what they learned and try to apply it in the most practical sense possible.  And this is an ongoing process; always tweaking and fine tuning their approaches to getting their minds and bodies to perform optimally.

Guys like Tim Ferris and Dave Asprey devote their time and energy to this process.  They do it mainly so lazy bums like me don’t have to go through hours upon hours of research and then interpret all the results.  Then they test things out on themselves and tell you what they find.  So kind of like how you got through Shakespeare in high school, consider people like them your version of cliff notes for your body.

So for the inaugural installment of “In case you didn’t notice,” I’d like to bring your attention to Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Coffee.  

For formality’s sake lets kick this off right:  In case you didn’t notice, Bulletproof Coffee might be able to give your morning the jump start it sorely needs.

I suspect there may be more than a few of you out there who only manage to get a cup of coffee before they head out the door for work.  This one’s for you guys.

Instead of berating you about how you’re supposed to eat breakfast and that there’s no excuse you and should wake up earlier just to get breakfast in because its the more important meal of the day, I’ll suggest that you give Dave’s recipe a try.*

By adding a few tablespoons of unsalted grass-fed butter to your morning cup of joe, you get much needed healthy fats for your body to use as energy.  I’ll go on the record here and say that most people aren’t getting enough levels of health fats into their system.  Upgrading your coffee can be a really simple way for people to get those fats in.

And yes, you do need them.  Good sources of fats like grass fed butter help keep your cholesterol at optimum levels and are used by your body for a number of important processes.  However, if you have cholesterol problems already, you may want to hold off on this until your body is functioning normally again.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

*Sorry, I ended up doing it anyway.

Resistance Training

Posted: October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

It’s Sunday night and once again, you find yourself on your couch.  In the moments after you’re left hyperventilating at the end of an episode of ‘Game of Breaking Mad Men Gone Walking Badly on the Throne’ and the few fleeting seconds before you start frantically posting about it on facebook; you start to hear them.

Not loud at first.  The race to come up with the funniest/wittiest/most insightful post in your social media network usually drowns them out.  But give them a moment to come back around and they come back tenfold.

The voices come back.

The ones telling you that you should be working on that business idea you’ve been telling people about.  The ones telling you that you should start taking better care of your body.  The ones telling you that you should call your mom.  The ones telling you that you should be creating your life’s work.

They’re tough to listen to.  You get the feeling that there’s something else you should be doing.  To be honest, you don’t really want to hear any of it.  But you’ve already got the solution.  Futurama is on syndication on 8 different channels till 4 in the morning.

Ahhhhhh.  That’s the stuff, yeah.

You can just fall asleep watching Zoidberg instead of listening to all those voices till 4 in the morning.

Sound familiar?  Maybe to some.  Maybe others don’t hear voices, but they know.  Instinctively, most people know.  What is it that most people know?

Most people know that they’re selling themselves short.

Most people also know how to drown out those voices and feelings whenever they come along.  Almost everyone is a pro at this.  We all have our different techniques and they all work very well.  I, for one, know that they work too well.

We go out and buy the biggest most expensive friend-impressor we can (or most times can’t) afford.  We watch 5319009 hours of TV a week.  We seek out our favorite comfort foods.  We get angry and frustrated with the people around us or the weather or whatever else we can throw anger and frustration at.

We do all of this to distract ourselves from one simple truth:  We aren’t doing all the things that we should be.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  There are many people in this world that are doing what they’re meant to do.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have nice things or even getting mad at someone.  You’re doing no physical harm to yourself or others so you can really do whatever you want.  Just take a couple seconds to understand what’s actually going on.

In his book, “The War of Art,”  Steven Pressfield calls these voice blocking techniques the Resistance.  And it is the Resistance’s job to keep you from doing your work, whatever it may be.  He also suggests that the act of justifying things to ourselves is a distraction.  We know something is amiss, but we convince ourselves everything is fine in order to keep ourselves from feeling too badly about, well… ourselves.

Everyone who’s ever been on a diet should be nodding their heads rather vigorously right now.  We tell ourselves it’s okay to cheat on our diet because there’s a wedding, or a birthday, or because there’s an overturned oreo cookie truck in our driveway and somehow the water company accidently routed milk into the fire hydrant that the oreo cookie truck knocked over.*

Ultimately, it comes down to one thing:  Fear.  It’s Resistance’s greatest weapon and comes in many forms.    For instance, we fear failure so much that we hold ourselves back.  We do this so that in case we fail, we can at the very  least  we can say stuff like, ‘eh, that wasn’t my best shot,’ or ‘it just wasn’t the right time.’

The truth is that sometimes we look at our end goal and equate the work we’d be doing at that end point, to the work we’re supposed to be doing at the very moment.  And that seems daunting.  Juggling all those great and successful endeavours seems impossible.  So we do nothing and tell ourselves that it’s too much work; that we’ll get to it tomorrow, or when we have more time (or when we finally get the external approval we’ve tricked ourselves into thinking we need).

So what do we use to combat fear?

First off, we must realize that fear and Resistance will be present in our lives until the day we die.  Every.  Single.  Day.  In order to combat fear, we must keep in mind that our battles are ongoing and have a plan of attack that shows this level of understanding.

When all is said and done, there are two solutions to this particular problem.  There’s a short answer and a long answer.  Do you have a pen and paper?  You might want to write this down:

The short answer is, work.  The long answer is… Ready for it? …. are you sure? … because its:  work!  Ta-da!

There is one other thing, though.

This is not the mind numbing, 40 to 80 hour a week job that you have so you can pay your bills.  Its the work that you’ve wanted to do your whole life.  You don’t even have to get paid to do it.  In the beginning, at least.  You just have to diligently put as much time to it as your lifestyle allows and try to get better at it.

Even if you work 80 hours a week and really only have 2 hours every other week to paint, or write, or learn how to operate a big rig (sure?), I can almost guarantee that’s going to be one of the best parts of your life.

Most of the times we don’t actually hate our jobs, or the people at them (okay maybe just some of the time).  Most of the time we just don’t really want to show up at a place and do a job that we didn’t really choose.

Sorry to those of you expecting some magic formula, but that’s really it.  But what you have to understand is that this is the work that the aforementioned Resistance is keeping you from.  Resistance literally keeps you from your dreams.  And YOU generate ALL of it.

Sucks that you can’t blame it on anyone else right?  But at least you know who’s in control of this wild ride.

Regardless of how big or small your goals are, your best asset is always going to be your mind.  Its you.  Literally.  Spiritually.  Figuratively.  Whateverly.  Followed by the thing that carries around your mind, your body.  Unless of course you happen to be the head of a former U.S. president accompanying a bending unit.  If you agree, it would make sense that the first steps you should be taking towards ANY goal is taking care of your mind and your body.  And how do we do that?

Proper nutrition and exercise.

 

 

 

 

Its okay.
If you kind of forgot you were reading a fitness blog, its because I kind of forgot I was writing one.  Sorry.

Anyway.

You can have all these dreams and goals and whatever, but you will never get anywhere near them until you start taking care of your mind and body.  Since that is the first step towards pretty much any goal, it should come before school and your job and your friends and even your family.  If you’re not healthy enough to provide for them and protect them, who will?

But I mean, its no big deal.  I guess.  No one is going to hate you because you don’t eat the way you should and exercise as much as you should.  Not a lot of people do it either so you’re in the clear.  The only person you really have to answer to after all is said and done is, of course, yourself.  So if you can honestly look yourself in the mirror and say its no big deal, then kudos to you.  You probably didn’t need to read this far and are going to be just fine (but you should finish, of course.  Please?).

As for me,  I’ve beaten resistance.  For now.  The second I press submit and this post hits the interwebz, I know I’ll have won.  But if you ask me about this post tomorrow, I’ll probably tell you its crap.  Not that I really think its crap or that you shouldn’t  read it.  Please take as much or as little as you need from this, but as far as I’m concerned, its done.  Good or bad, its done.  My next entry doesn’t get started if I sit around and admire it like my dad’s name was Ken Griffey Sr.  That, my friends, is called Resistance.

The real question is for those who look in the mirror and feel like they’re letting themselves down.  What are you going to do the instant after you read this to start combating your fears?  What’s the next step you’re going to take to quiet the Resistance?  And once you know what that step is, are you willing to do the work?

To be totally honest, it’s okay if you can’t answer any of those questions yet.  Just know that the answers are all up to you.

PS – Picking up a copy of “The War of Art” and/or “Turning Pro,” also by Pressfield, is a pretty good place to start.

*I hate that this always happens in the middle of my diets.  Never fails.  Sometimes I think the word “diet” and I get slapped in the face by a stray oreo.

Are Your Push Ups Perfect?

Posted: September 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Push ups.  Ugh.  I’ll be honest.  I did not know where to start with this topic.  At all.  I mean, other than the fact that I half expect most people to do them wrong.  Not because people are stupid, but because it’s hard to find someone that has had detailed instruction on the matter.

I mean really, how much more instruction have people received other than in grade school PE class or little league baseball practice?  Most of the time, not much.  I’m not sure if that’s the reason, but lately push ups seem to be flying a little bit under the radar in terms of their importance.

Yup.  Just lie down, straighten your elbows then drop down again.  Whoopeedoo, right?  What’s next? Please give me something harder.

But hold on there, Dahntay Jones*.  Lets see if you really got it all down.

See. Even MJ was a Spidy fan.

What makes pushups look so easy, and perhaps look less important, is the required control over your entire body.  Anyone that has complete control of their body will often make physical feats look easy.  Think Michael Jackson mid-moonwalk or when guys do stuff like this.

Okay, I’m not implying that being able to do a proper push up will somehow result in the ability levitate or make millions of people lose their minds.  I’m just saying that when people have complete control over their bodies, they tend to make things look effortless.

So what is required to make a not-so-easy movement look easy?

For starters, try to think of your entire body as a stiff board.  Essentially, you’re planking with your body while moving around your shoulder joints.  The part that most people fail to grasp is that the movement starts between your shoulder blades and not by bending your elbows.  Think of your shoulder blades like you would your hips.  In the weight room, most of our compound lower body movements (not you, leg extensions) start with the hips.  Likewise, most compound upper body movements start with the shoulder blades.

So when you’re up in your plank position with your elbows extended and up on your hands (they should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart and turned slightly out, if at all), the FIRST group of muscles to move are between the lower halves of your shoulder blades.

Your rhomboids and lower trapezius muscles play a key role in your ability to squeeze your shoulder blades down and together (scapular retraction).  This is important in any type of movement as it pulls your shoulder joints into the best possible alignment in terms of support and range of motion.  Failure to activate these muscles before any upper body movement will result in motion through a shoulder joint that may be in less than optimal position.

What also happens when you retract your shoulder blades is what I refer to as “connecting your top half to your bottom half.”  This is a common problem when observing people that struggle with pushups.  To understand this concept a little easier, we’ll have to dive into Newton’s 3rd law of motion.  Sorry, I’ve sat through physics classes, so I know what yawning sounds like.  I’ll try to make this as quick and painless as possible.

Basically, Newton’s 3rd law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  So if you’re hands are on the floor and you apply downward pressure to separate yourself from said floor, that same pressure will travel back up through your hands and arms.  At this point, if you haven’t engaged your rhomboids and lower traps, you’ll feel a lot of the pressure up around your shoulders.  The pushup may still be very doable for some people but it will be nowhere near as efficient as it should be.

The ground isn’t the only thing that can push back into your body.  It also comes from whatever weight you’re trying to move when you perform other movements.  Failure to distribute energy through your entire body indicates a “break in the chain” so to speak.  It’s in these breaks in the chain (ie. top and bottom halves not connecting) that most people struggle to perform certain exercises.

Now, had you been a good little boy or girl and retracted your shoulder blades before you actually started lowering yourself, you should feel something a bit different.  First, you should feel like you’re actually pulling yourself to the ground.  After you get to the bottom and you start pressing into the floor with those shoulder blade muscles contracted, it should feel like all the pressure coming up through your hands is being evenly distributed throughout your body.  But it is imperative to understand that this will only happen if you’re stabilizing properly through your hips as well.  Think about squeezing your butt cheeks together and locking out your knees as hard as you can.

You should also realize that knowing all of this is fine and dandy, but in the heat of competition, the furthest thing from your mind should be ‘retract your shoulder blades.’  Okay, sorry.  That’s an absolute  lie.  The furthest thing from your mind should be an image of Zach Galifinakas with no pants on, but I digress.

The point is that you don’t want to be thinking about proper body mechanics when it comes time to react in a game or in real life.  That’s why its so important to focus on proper movement with every repetition you do in the gym.  If you work on getting your shoulder blades moving first during a push up, they’ll be more likely to be in proper position when you need them most.

So if you’re pushup was not perfect before reading this, I hope I’ve given you an idea of how to start chasing down perfection.  In the meantime, stay tuned as I’ll be going into other movements in a bit more detail as well.

*As a Duke basketball fan, I promised myself I would use that clip if I ever wrote a blog about pushups.  Crap.  Cats out of the bag.  I may as well have said I use baby kittens as bait when I go shark fishing.


In case you didn’t notice  — judging by the amount of views this blog gets, many of you haven’t — there hasn’t been a post here for a while.  I’d like to offer my apologies as I’ve been on vacation the past few weeks.  I also got to spend time in some dude’s dream that was actually another dude’s dream in which we were trying to keep Tom Cruise’s samurai friend from dying and Juno and yeah, something about Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a cobra choke.


Alright.  So a good majority of my vacation may or may not have been spent watching Inception and then dreaming about dreaming about watching Inception.  In a dream.  Sorry.  My blog didn’t exist when Inception came out, so I’m a little late to the party.  I’m done.  I swear.*

Here’s something for your troubles:  a quick post about how to make your approach to diet and exercise a little more effective.

As a fitness professional, I occasionally get questions like, “what do you think about x-diet?” or “is such and such exercise good for you?” and, “when are you going to cut your damn hair?”

Truth be told, that last one is probably the one I get asked the most, but I digress.

I’m always more than happy to answer questions like these, because I realize that most people have not spent any time in the trenches training people and figuring out what actually works.

But it almost never fails to draw a slightly disappointed look when my answers start off with, “it depends.”

The truth is that most fitness questions should be answered with, “it depends.”

If we look at this a little closer, there really are a bunch of factors to consider.  Among other things, you have to take into account what a person’s goals are, what their current training level is and the amount of time they have to spend towards said goal.  If you’ve at least figured out your goal, the next thing I would say is to just try whatever it is you’re asking about.

There’s no better way to find out if something works for you than by trying it.  I don’t think there’s any way to argue that statement, but is there more to it?

There are literally hundreds of workout routines and diets out there and we obviously can’t try them all.  We just don’t have enough time.  Unless, of course, you make friends with a scientist who has wild hair and an affinity for DeLoreans and plutonium.

Not all of us are going to be that lucky, so we have to have a better way of narrowing down the possibilities.  Or better yet, is there something we can make sure we’re doing day in and day out that will keep most goals within reach?

What most smart coaches and trainers will tell you is that it comes down to enhancing function.  If we train and eat to optimize the function and performance of our bodies, our desired results are bound to follow.

A lot of fuss is made in the mainstream media about achieving a certain “look.”  Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly okay to want to look a certain way.  Although I might question your decision making abilities if that look entails wearing your pants around your bottom lip on a day thats not Halloween.  

My point is that when we merely seek out a certain look, we tend to only stick to our plans temporarily.  We see a version of ourselves in the mirror that we like to look at and let the foot of the proverbial gas.  We get pretty close to our goal and decide we can take a few weeks/months/years off, only to go back to where we started.  This just leads to a vicious cycle of on and off dieting and exercising that most of us have been through before.

By making sure we’re eating and exercising to maximize our potential each day, we create a lifestyle as opposed to a temporary diet.  Our workouts become a day by day reflection of our desire to better ourselves and our dietary habits start to revolve around getting ourselves to feel as good as we can each day.  It will leave us in a better mindset to stay the course and make it easier to get back on track when we fall off.

So how would you apply this to your own goals?  Here are a couple of suggestions:

Want to lose weight?

Make sure your body has the proper nutrients to operate at a high level both physically and mentally by getting in enough fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats.  Doing this will leave you less malnourished.  This in turn will keep you from overeating in most situations and keep your food choices within good reason.

When you hit the gym, focusing on getting your entire body to move properly will make sure you’re challenging your entire body.  This will help stimulate as much lean muscle as you can in hopes of getting yourself into an energy deficit, leading to fat loss.

Want to be faster on the field?

Using a program that challenges your 1 rep max in lifts like the squat and deadlift will improve your maximum strength which you can then translate into faster movements on the field.  By making sure we get all the nutrients we need, our bodies are able to recover and perform better on a day to day basis.  This will ensure that your workouts will continue to trend towards the positive.

Believe me, there’s nothing quite like the way your body feels and functions when you put the proper nutrients into it.  On the flipside, you begin to notice how leaving those nutrients out makes you feel as well.  Once you become aware of these effects, its hard to let yourself slide too far.

There are many ways to go about this, and the trick is finding what makes you feel and perform the best.  For some this might be the Paleo Diet or Crossfit.  For others it might be Precision Nutrition and 5/3/1.  What you’ll eventually find is that the successful nutrition strategies and programs will have a lot in common and will differ slightly in the details.  And when you consider that most people are nearly identical from a DNA perspective, this makes a lot of sense.

So what have you tried that seems to work for you?  Let us know in the comments section!

*As it turns out, I actually incepted into your brain, that “I’m done making fun of Inception,” when I was in fact, not.