Monday, September 15, 2014


“Discovering the truth of who you are is the only way to love and care for yourself.” 
― Vironika TugalevaThe Love Mindset

Who Are You?

What a bizarre question to ask someone and how many answers are there to this inquiry?  You may be one thing to your spouse, something else to your boss or friend but what are you, meaning YOU, personally.  The answer, here at least, may influence your life and what to expect of yourself.

Being a homo sapien, you are a member of the animal group, and probably one of the most complex entities in the universe. You could fill a book on who you are, why and how you function, what to expect of yourself, and how you can be "all that you could be" without becoming a U.S. Marine!

Our human family originated about 200,000 years ago in the Middle Paleolithic period in southern Africa. Whether produced by a super-natural being, or developed as part of an evolutionary process, we have component parts that help us dictate what we do, and how we do it.

Let's begin at birth and look at what we are, anatomically, biologically, and even under the microscope.  It's been estimated that a human is made of approximately 37 + trillion (that's spelled with a "T") cells.  We have approximately 206 bones, 630 muscles, 50 hormones and 243 joints.  Oh, we also have ligaments, tendons, skin, fat, muscle and umpteen million other components.  We have the most developed brain of all the animals in our group, and with a central nervous system(CNS). The CNS is composed of 24 cranial nerves (12 pairs) and 64 spinal nerves (32 pairs). It also has over a billion branches.  Each of our cells is a small chemical factory that needs nutrition to produce what we need to live.

So what's this have to do with fitness you ask?  If you want to function in health and live a vibrant life, you, Mr. CEO, have been installed in your corporation whether you like it or not.  You have a lot to learn about yourself and don't rely on your doctor because he is, essentially, a facilitator. He may help you with your pains, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis, but he cannot do your healing for you. That's up to you and how well you control your corporation, from birth to the present time. 

As you view the components of your body, you realize that the bones give shape and structure to our bodies, the ligaments attach bones to bones and tendons attach muscles to bones and joints.  The purpose and instruction our creator has given us is to use what we have, maintain our health and tend to our needs as humans.  We are a miraculous creation that thinks, understands, moves and heals itself.  We are not machines that go for service every 5000 miles.  How about daily?

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"Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep."
                                                            -Albert Camus
Improving Your Sleep

If you listen for advice on the amount of liquids you should drink or the number of hours you should sleep daily  it would be 10 glasses and 7-8 hours, respectively, as the correct answer.  There is no special number in either case that has been proven for every one.  And in some cases of people  can do well on 5 hours and some need 10 or more hours of sleep to feel refreshed.  What really counts is how well we sleep and how deep is our sleep.  The number of sleep hours also change with age and how we treat our body. Those that do high intensity workouts require more time to restore their muscles to a stronger condition after training than before their workouts began.

The National Sleep Foundation and the American Sleep Association suggests that with a lack of sleep we fall into a "sleep debt."  To "pay off" this debt you have to determine what your basal sleep need is and the amount of sleep you require to function optimally. To figure out what your basal sleep requirement is:
  1. Choose a time you usually go to sleep and keep it fairly constant, day after day.
  2. When you awaken the next day, write down what time it was and how many hours you slept.
  3. From keeping a daily record of the total amount of time you spend sleeping each day so you can average out what the basal sleep need time is.  This then becomes the minimal amount of time you require to sleep and if you sleep less, you go into a "sleep debt."
  4. If you go into debt, you have to pay your debt back for optimal health. As soon as possible you should find the time to pay off this debt and get back on track for the desired sleep routine. 

Foods To Eat To Aid Your Sleep Pattern

Some food can aid in establishing a sounder and more healthful sleeping period.  They include:
  1. Eggs: They contain high quality protein and help to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  2. Dairy Products:  Milk products and yogurt are also high in protein along with good amounts of calcium.  For deep sleep (called REM sleep) calcium is a big factor in this phase of sleep.
  3. Tea:  Try drinking herbal tea or a decaffeinated green tea as an aid to increase drowsiness.
  4. Cherry Juice:  Cherries are rich in melatonin which aids sleep.  It is sometimes called the sleep inducing hormone.
  5. Cereal:  A small bowl of whole-grain cereal with a low-sugar content contains melatonin and tryptophan (an amino acid that helps in causing sleepiness).
  6. Chickpeas:  They contain vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin.
  7. Fish:  Halibut, salmon, and tuna contain vitamin B6.  This helps the body produce melatonin.
  8. Bananas:  These are high in potassium, which helps calm restless legs and nighttime leg cramps.They also contain magnesium, which relax muscles, nerves and contributes to healthy circulation.

Watch What and When You Consume
The Following

  1.  All products that contain alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes (nicotine).  They tend to upset normal sleep rhythm.  Caffeine tends to last about a half a day so consume your cup of java with your breakfast and use decaf the rest of the day.
  2. Allow 2-3 hours after your last meal before your sleep time. If necessary, be sure it's a light snack with no sugar.  Digestion and especially a large meal, can affect the quality of your sleep.


Monday, September 1, 2014

“Earth's crammed with heaven...
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.” 
― Elizabeth Barrett BrowningAurora Leigh

Resistance Exercise & Seniors

As we age there are changes in our brains and total nervous system.  More specifically, one of the basic components of our nerves are neurons.  As muscles atrophy with age, as in sarcopenia, neurons lose size, their myelination and their ability to regenerate.  Throughout the body these changes can lead to incoordination, accidents, falls, and trauma. 

In the August 2014, vol 28-Issue 8., The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research had an article entitled Resistance Exercise May Improve Spatial Awareness and Visual Reaction in Older Adults. The authors were trying to determine if strength training had any effect on cognitive and physical impairments.  Aerobic exercise has exhibited positive effects on both cognitive and physical impairment on older adults.  Presently there are few pharmacological treatments available. Aerobic exercise has been of value in improving the cognition and reaction of older people, but to determine the results from resistance training was the purpose of this study.  

Twenty five healthy adults 60 years or older were volunteers and were free of recent surgeries, heart disease, pulmonary problems, and metabolic symptoms.  There were no musculoskeletal injuries so, essentially, they were in reasonably good health for their age group.  They were divided into two groups, a control group of 12 individuals and a training group of 13 people.

Thee training programs completed 2 days of training to become familiarized with the exercises they were taught.  They had 2 resistance training sessions for a period of 6 weeks with at least 48 hours of rest between all training sessions to allow for recovery.  Full body workouts were performed during each session with 7 or 8 exercises performed each day.  The workouts were for 3 sets of each exercise and the number of repetitions were between 8 to 15.  All sessions were monitored by a certified strength and conditioning specialist.  The program followed the recommended guidelines for older adults by the American College of Sports Medicine and the national Strength and Conditioning Association.

The exercises performed by the training group include:

  1. Leg extensions
  2. Leg curls
  3. Seated rows
  4. Lat pull-downs
  5. Modified squats
  6. Modified split squats
  7. Modified stiff-legged dead lifts
  8. Biceps curls
  9. Chest presses
  10. Shoulder presses
  11. Tricep extensions
  12. Abdominals
  13. Calf raises

Results and Interpretations of the analyses revealed that resistance exercise training was "likely beneficial" for improving spatial awareness and visual and physical reaction times.  The improvement of the training group over the control group for each of the senses are as follows:

  1. Spatial awareness; +40%
  2. Visual reaction times; +14.6%
  3. Physical reaction times; +14%
According to the authors of this study, "The results of this study support the use of resistance exercise as a means to potentially preserve or improve spatial awareness and visual and physical reaction times in older adults. Both spatial awareness and reaction are essential to accident avoidance in everyday living because they enable the individual to perceive and react to the surrounding environment."

Monday, August 18, 2014

“In the end it's not about how many breaths you took. 
In the end it's about the moments that took your breath away.” 
― Volksweisheitheit

Breathing While Exercising

If exercise is basically movement carried to a higher level of intensity, doesn't breathing change too? Yes, definitely, because you are placing an increased load on the body and when you do that, you'll have an increased heart rate, a higher demand for oxygen, and numerous other changes that occur. Some inexperienced trainees start an exercise by holding their breath, as if they were going to dive into water and swim beneath the surface.  Maybe that's for fish to do but not for a human needing a flow of air!

Holding one's air is called a Valsalva maneuver and can result in a dangerous jump in blood pressure and sometimes even bursting some of the blood vessels in your eyes and brain.  This can result in visual disturbances and headaches.  If you are a heavy lifter of weights, sometimes a temporary hold of breathing is natural.  It may result in only minor and transient increased blood pressure.  But experienced weight lifters know that a Valsalva maneuver can be harmful if carried out for longer periods of time and so they may do it only for a short time.  

As a general rule you should breathe out on the hardest  part of the movement and in when the easiest stage of the movement occurs.  To state the general rule, exhale while lifting and inhale when lowering the weight.  On the other hand, two stalwarts on strength training, namely Dr. Stuart McGill and the late Dr. Mel Siff, stated that "careful instruction as to the technique of a given exercise will automatically result in the body responding with the optimal muscle recruitment strategy throughout the duration  of the movement."  My interpretation - follow the general rule, always exhale on exertion and inhale on the easier stage of the exercise.  The important point is to allow a constant inflow and outflow of air as the intensity increases without holding your breathe for extended periods of time.

Another method of breathing that worked for me when I used to jog was to breathe in and out in cadence with the song by Disney, "It's A Small World"

it's a world of laughter, a world or tears
its a world of hopes, its a world of fear
theres so much that we share
that its time we're aware
its a small world after all

its a small world after all
its a small world after all
its a small world after all
its a small, small world

There is just one moon and one golden sun 
And a smile means friendship to everyone. 
Though the mountains divide 
And the oceans are wide 
It's a small small world 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

 "I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature."
-- John D. Rockefeller

Super-Slow Exercisings (SSE)

Back a number of years ago, a lad by the name of Ken Hutchins developed the Super-Slow protocol that differs from traditional strength training. When a muscle is contracting  it shortens and is know as the "concentric" portion of the repetition and when it lengthens it is called the "eccentric" portion of the repetition.  Example, in a bicep exercise, when you pick up the weight to curl it, the muscle contracts, and is in a concentric state.  When the weight is lowered, or lengthened, this is called the eccentric stage of the exercise. Now in traditional strength training the time to curl the dumbbell would be about 2 seconds and the time to end  or relax  the muscle, the time would take about 4 seconds.  In super-slow training the timing would be about 10 seconds to curl the weight and the same time for the eccentric movement.  When you do any movement in resistance training, you have to use a lighter weight if you hold the muscles longer in the concentric stage than if you hold it for 5 seconds. The main reasoning for super-slow strength training is to maintain the muscles in greater tension for a longer time period than in traditional strength training.  The muscles "fatigue" and the repetitions are fewer in SSE because the movements of the exercise are so slow a lower weight is necessary.

So what is the practical use of SSE?  For a senior person or as a variation from traditional strength training it has it's place.  Seniors are safer with lighter weights and the chance of dropped weights and the resulting harm it can do to the trainee, is reduced.  The total length of the workout is usually shorter as fewer sets of the same exercise are completed.  The "fatigue to failure" of the muscles exercised results from the slow movements in both concentric and eccentric stages. As explained many times in this blog exercises should be varied, with different tempos, weights (resistance), equipment (barbells and/or dumbbells), or rubber bands.

In both SSE and traditional strength training, muscles strength, size and efficiency of movements results
and you may want to incorporate SSE in your workouts.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


The Interrelated Components 
of Fitness

Let's assume you have been working out for a year or more and your progress in fitness seems to have stalled.  Weight seems to be harder to lose, the waist is bigger than it should be, and the initial change in your body has slowed to a snail's pace.  It's time to recognize what fitness is all about, how to obtain it and how to improve where you live, mainly in YOUR body.  Consider the following facts:
  1. The amount of energy in 1 lb. of fat is 3500 calories.  If the machine you use (i.e., a treadmill) has a heart rate monitor and you use it for 1/2 hour, maybe you'll burn off 300 calories.  Maybe! If you have a snack of cookies or ice cream, cake, etc., you'll realize that 300 calories amounts to next to nothing.  So exercise is not the best way to lose fat.  A proper diet is and what you have to consume so eat good food and leave the pastry at the market.  Cut your portions roughly 50% but eat smaller meals more frequently.  Six smaller meals spaced thought the day will keep your energy up and your hunger pains down.
  2. Think of exercising on a regular basis to maintain your musculature and the health of all your organs.  Exercising is like playing a violin.  When you're new to the instrument, you'll "fiddle" with it.  Keep at it and eventually beautiful "music" will be your reward.  Don't think of exercise as drudgery, but as an item like food, water, and sleep.  Weave it into your daily life and you'll look forward to each workout.
  3. Developing your muscles helps you to lose fat.  If you exercise on a regular basis you will increase your metabolic rate.  As you add muscle to your body, you'll burn more fat because muscle tissue requires a lot of energy just to be a major part of your body.  Less muscle = lower metabolic rate = less energy = more stored fat = your life as a couch potato (let's hope not)!
  4. Be sure your diet is relatively free of highly processed foods, coke, pop, candy, pastry and most fast foods.  You don't need calories without nutrition.  
  5. Have a high fiber diet.  The Mediterranean Diet is an example of a food source with adequate fiber. Also try to have some protein with each meal.  Drink plenty of fluids, but mostly water. 
  6. Do weight bearing exercises.  As we grow older, our bones become weaker and with less density.  Weight lifting, strength training, and bodybuilding are all good examples of weight bearing exercising. 
  7. Some people think that by reducing carbohydrates one will burn more fat.  The problem is that when carbs are reduced in amount consumed, the rate of fat metabolism slows down and this is not what you want.  Also, fat then is burned into acidic fat know as ketone. Ketones, in high amounts, are dangerous and are so acidic they can kill cells.  As a result, fat loss slows and muscle tissue loss increases.  This is not what you want as one of the real purposes of exercise is the building up of the muscles in your body.  The answer is to continue to eat carbs, the right kind and that includes  more of the complex carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables) and less of the sugar containing-nutritionally deficient, calorie loaded junk food.
  8. Vary your training to confuse your muscles.  This will also help you to progress up the slope of fitness and not stagnate into a plateau of, "I'm not getting anywhere in my training - why?" Increase the intensity of your workouts by doing more reps with lower weight and fewer reps with more weight.  The number of reps should be between 5 and 15.  Increase the rate of your movements and/or slow them down but always do enough sets of each exercise to warm the muscles involved, increase the resistance in following sets, and work to failure in your final set.
  9. To control blood sugar and help prevent type 2 diabetes, include some protein, fat and carbohydrate into each meal, eat smaller amounts of food, but attempt to keep the blood insulin level on an even keel.  Insulin helps to maintain a more constant glucose blood level.  That means no high sugar containing snacks, especially in large amounts. Think of regular exercise as your best medicine for sugar control!  
"We love it when she does squats"!

Monday, July 21, 2014

"You don't always get what you wish for.  You get what you work for."

Is Exercise Important for 
Weight Loss?

The three major types of foods humans eat are carbohydrates, fats and proteins.  All three of them can be used to provide energy but it's mainly the carbs that provide the fastest energy. Fats are necessary for some hormonal balance and act as carriers for the important fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and all the carotenoids.  There are unhealthy fats that consists of trans-fats and saturated fats.  There are other functions of fats but as related to weight loss fat provides 9 calories /gram and for each gram of protein or carbohydrates, the count comes to 4 calories.  So since calories are a big factor in obesity, keep the fat count down.  A diet of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30 % fat is a safe solution.  However, this can vary and it depends on a number of factors.  Is there a lot of sugar in the diet, processed foods, soft drinks, alcohol, etc.?  A more complete explanation of diet was posted on March 10, 2014.  It was called, "The Mediterranean Diet: Part 2" - this blog. The percentages given relate to a "clean" diet, without excess sugars, alcohol, processed food and most fast foods.

The proteins are the building blocks for muscle tissue, enzymes, and antibodies - pretty important stuff!

Exercise should play a very important part in your quest for a toned, firm body, devoid of excess fat. If you eat smaller portions, a balanced diet, and get 8 hours of sound sleep, you're on the right track. Dieting without exercise may reduce your weight but a good part of the weight loss is muscle tissue. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue and the more muscular you are the higher will be your metabolism.  If you are a couch potato, your metabolism is probably low meaning that whatever you eat may very well end up in more fat.  If you are muscular, you'll have a higher metabolic rate and that means you will burn more calories even at rest.

So you should have some cardiovascular exercise which causes  you to breathe harder and increases your heart rate.  This will improve your heart health and also act as an aid in burning off excess calories.

Strength training (resistance training) helps build muscle, bone density, and improve the contour of your body. You may even become an "animal" if you're a man and a "fox" if you are a female!

If you are consistent in your workouts, do them with increasing intensity, you should have no need to go on yo-yo dieting binges.  Start exercising in an "easy mode".  No need to compete with anyone. Learn the proper form for each exercise and plan to workout the major muscle groups; legs, chest, back, arms, shoulders, and abs.  Include core exercises.

Does this count as leg lifts?

Does This Count as Leg Lifts?