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Monthly Archives: February 2018

Stay Properly Hydrated

Simply put, 60-70% of your body is nothing but WATER – and this includes muscles, tendons, digestive system, everything.

You are constantly losing water through dehydration, sweating (especially if you train hard) and other bodily functions – and you need to make sure you replace the water lost on a regular basis, else your body just won’t function at an optimal level, regardless of how well you treat it otherwise.

Lack of water can affect you in many different ways. When it comes to training, a dehydrated person will never be able to achieve the same results as he would with proper hydration.

Symptoms of dehydration include sluggishness, not being able to recover well enough from your workouts, persistent headaches and much more. The exact symptoms will vary from individual to individual, but the root cause remains the same.

Despite the barrage of sports drinks, “post workout” recovery drinks etc out there, pure water is still and by far is the very best choice to stay well hydrated.

I recommend (as most medical experts do) drinking AT LEAST 8 glasses of pure water a day. This is simple enough to do, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do it. And if your training hard, or are otherwise exposed to hot, humid (or other taxing) conditions, then you may need more – maybe 10 glasses of water a day as a minimum.

Other than water, green tea is something I highly recommend. When I was in China, this was an essential part of my “diet” – I NEVER started a workout without drinking green tea before.

In fact, there were many days I did not get a decent meal throughout the workday (wasn’t that easily accomplished apparently in the factory I worked at); and was tired and cranky when I got home – NOT the ideal way to start a tough workout immediately afterwards.

But, a glass or two of green tea later, and I was raring to go – and got great results as well. Green tea has numerous health benefits which I will talk about in a later post, but for now, let’s just say it’s an instant and immensely healthy “pick me up” – so if your not drinking some green tea during YOUR daily routine, start doing so now.

Other forms of herbal tea are also great – jasmine tea, white tea, oolong, and black tea – but my personal favorite remains green tea.

Just make sure your getting high quality green tea, preferably from China or someplace where the culture mandates drinking it on a regular basis. And always use tea leaves, as opposed to tea bags – tea bags contain crushed tea, which is bad for you.

And avoid colas, coffee, sodas, and any “soft drinks” with sugar in them. These are not good for you, dehydrate you, and have no positive benefits whatsoever – so if you must have then, have them in moderation, and make sure to drink enough water to compensate for the dehydration these will incur.

Flattening Your Stomach

The following four areas of diet and exercise will help you gain the toned, flat stomach that you are craving.

1. Fat Intake

How much fat is in your diet? The American Food Pyramid says that a healthy diet is one that “Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts, and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

Following the food pyramid will help you find the fats you need in good foods like nuts and plant oils as opposed to potato chips and ice cream. You should be taking in less than 30% of your caloric intake from fat so check your labels when you’re purchasing packaged products. Many products now have the trans fats listed as well, so you can see which percentage of fat belongs to which group; saturated, non-saturated, trans, etc.

2. Carbohydrate Intake

Maybe your friends were on lo-carb diets and were amazed at the weight they lost. Maybe you tried one too? Carbohydrates are amazing in that each molecule attracts four water molecules to it and they hang out together inside your muscles. When you start decreasing the amount of carbohydrates you take in, you start to see weight loss in the form of fat loss. Oops, I mean WATER loss. No more carbs means no more four molecules of water hanging on, means lower numbers on the scale. Carbohydrate intake is essential for brain activity as well as muscle function. Our bodies feed off of glucose and glycogen which is supplied directly by carbohydrates. Eating whole wheat and whole grain is the way to go- stay away from white products; rice, pasta, bread, etc. Brown is best. Carbohydrate intake should be no more than 65% of your diet.

3. Cardiovascular Exercise

Running, cycling, swimming, aerobics; they are all using oxygen and so the prime energy source comes from muscle glycogen and fatty acids. The furnace is on and it’s burning fat. You may have heard that cardio is good for burning fat, and that is true. Cardio exercise should be done for a minimum of 20 minutes and hopefully for longer and should be done at least three times per week, hopefully more. According to the American Council of Sport Medicine, “If weight loss is your major goal, participate in your aerobic activity at least 30 minutes, for five days each week.”

You can’t melt fat off of one area specifically, but it will come off over the whole body in time. We all lose fat from different places first. Just remember that cardio is a complement to the diet and the floor work that will also do.

4. Floor Work

Abdominal exercises were once believed to be something we could do everyday. We now know that the abdominals are like any other muscle and they need time to recover and rest.

Floor work is an essential component in getting a toned tummy. There are four main abdominal muscles that we can work: the rectus abdominus, which runs from the sternum to the pubic bone, the transverse abdominus which runs horizontal all around the torso connecting near the spine, and there are the obliques- internal and external which run alongside our ribs in opposite directions.

Exercises:

Hip lifts:

Lye on your back with your legs straight up in the air. Keep your back pressing into the floor and think about tightening a belt around your waist. Slowly pull your belly button to the floor and as you do so, feel your hips lifting gently off the floor as your legs are lifted. Do not lift with the legs, but instead with the abdominals. Repeat 10-15 times.

The Plank:

Facing the floor, get on your hands and knees, keeping your shoulders over your hands. Straighten out your body and keep your toes on the floor. You should be straight like a board with your abs pulling in tight. Breathe in and out naturally. Hold for up to one minute. Repeat 4-5 times.

The Bicycle:

Lye on your back with you knees bent. Slowly pull your upper body off the floor and support your head with your hands. Activate your abs by pulling your belly button to the floor and release any pelvic tilt. Take one shoulder and turn your torso to face your opposite knee. Go to the other side. Think of riding a bicycle as you turn slowly from side to side. Repeat for 20 repetitions.

Info of Cross Training

In order to maintain the effectiveness of your workouts over the long term, you have to employ a concept known as cross training. Although there is no hard and fast definition of cross training, the basic idea is that you continually change your exercise program to work both your muscular and your cardiovascular systems in a variety of ways, forcing your body to adapt to a new stimulus. Remember that the whole idea behind exercise is to make your body do things that it is not used to doing. In response to that effort, your body naturally adapts in order to meet the changing energy demands of the activities that you engage in. This process happens with your muscles, as well as with your heart, lungs, and circulatory system – collectively known as the cardiovascular system. To ensure you get the most out of your cross training efforts, you should make changes to the activities that challenge your muscles as well as your cardiovascular system.

Challenging Your Muscles

When you are putting together the muscular training part of your exercise program, remember that the primary mission of the activities is to challenge your muscles and connective tissues – tendons and ligaments – beyond their normal boundaries. For example, if you were to pick up a suitcase that only weighed 5 pounds, it would probably not be very difficult for you. However, if that same suitcase had 50 pounds worth of items inside, it would be significantly more difficult to pick up and carry. In response to that increased demand, your body would recruit additional muscle fibers to assist with the work, and in some cases would even recruit a different type of muscle fiber. Although we won’t get into the details about the different types of muscle fibers in the human body, you do want to take away the fact that the number and type of muscle fibers recruited for any given task is proportionate directly to the difficulty of the task.

Let’s apply this concept to weight training – or resistance training, as it is often called. If you were going to do a basic bicep curl with 5 pounds, your body would engage a certain number and type of muscle fibers. Doing exactly the same exercise with a more challenging weight would cause your body to need additional resources in order to handle the increased demand. However, is that only true of picking up a heavier weight? What would happen if you used the same weight, but did a higher number of repetitions? The same basic concept applies – your body will recruit additional resources in order to accomplish the task. What can be determined from that fact is that in order to change the stimulus on your body, two easy ways to do so are are to increase the weight and/or increase the number of repetitions.

However, there are other ways to challenge a particular muscle group in addition to simply adding weight or repetitions. What about changing the position of your body when you do the exercise? Using the same example as above – the bicep curl – most people do the basic version of that exercise standing up, with their arms extended, elbows at the side, and palms facing forward. What if you were to do the same exact movement, only this time, you turn your palms to face the center of your body throughout the entire exercise? Do you see how that would change the stimulus? You would still be engaging the biceps of your upper arm, but you would also engage the muscles of your forearms in a different way, just because of the position of your palms.

Further, what if you were to change the speed at which you did the exercise? Most resistance exercises should be done as a basic count of 2 seconds during the initial phase (also known as the concentric phase), and then a count of 3 to 4 seconds during the second phase of the movement (known as the eccentric phase). What if you were to reverse that process? Count to 4 during phase one, and only count to 2 during phase two. Do you think your body would need to react differently to handle the different stress? Of course!

There are many, many different kinds of exercises for the biceps. If you normally do bicep curls, hammer curls, and cable curls, what would happen if you started using 2 or 3 of the bicep curl machines instead? Your body would have to adapt to the new stimulus! By sitting down in a bicep curl machine, you are no longer using your leg, back, and abdominal muscles to stabilize yourself like you were when you were standing up doing a bicep curl. However, by locking your body into a certain position on the machine, you are isolating the biceps, allowing you to focus more on the contraction of the bicep muscles during the movement. Does that mean that the machines are better than the dumbbells? No. It also does not mean that the dumbbells are better than the machines – it just depends on what your goal is. What you need to take away from this section is not that one exercise is better than another – just that they are different, and that is cross training.

To summarize, here are but a few of the ways that you can cross train your muscles:

* Heavier Weights

* Higher Number of Repetitions

* Change the Position of Your Body

* Modify the Speed of the Exercise

* Use Machines as well as Free Weights

Challenging Your Cardiovascular System

Just like the muscular system, your body will find ways to adapt to the cardiovascular training that you do, and before long you will stop seeing a high degree of results. Let’s try to use some of the same concepts that we applied to resistance training, and see if they also apply to cardiovascular training!

Heavier Weights

How can you make yourself heavier? Most people are trying to make themselves LIGHTER when they exercise! However, if you are able to find a safe way to increase the total amount of weight that your body is moving during cardiovascular training, don’t you think that the activity would be more difficult, and force your body to adapt? Sure it would!

A common method that people use to do this is one that you should NOT do, and that is strap on wrist weights or ankle weights, or to carry dumbbells while you are doing cardio. Although this does increase the total amount of weight being moved by your body, it also puts a stress on your joints that is not natural, and therefore, not a good idea. However, alternatives that DO work include putting on an adjustable weighted vest, or even just strapping on a backpack with some weights or books in it! The idea is to keep the additional weight as close to your body as possible, away from easily damaged joints.

Salsa Dancing

Salsa’s popularity began to percolate beyond the borders of the Latin neighborhoods in the early Seventies, spreading into New York’s ballrooms and dance halls. Although somewhat formulized when practiced by those who favor profession competitions, salsa dancing in its most traditional form is typically spontaneous and extremely energetic. Dance movements alternate between the very slow and the furious, an embodiment of its lively musical style.

From a strictly athletic point of view, a night of dancing is a superb workout. It merges aerobic and anaerobic training, working your stamina and leg strength. Any kind of dancing is a great way to build the perfect body shape. The continual movements build up aerobic stamina while steadily burning calories over the course of the evening. This helps to strengthen and tone your legs at the same time you lose weight. But salsa excels at this.

Experts say that dancing salsa can burn up to 10 calories a minute, without the negative side effects of high impact exercises such as running. You can learn salsa dancing in the privacy of your home or in a studio, with or without a partner and it’s a fitness program that can easily be integrated into your social life. By using salsa dancing to get fit, you will not only look great, but you’ll have no excuse not to get out more and improve your social life.

The sudden bursts of frenzied dancing in Salsa also can help to improve the anaerobic fitness essential to sports like sprinting, swimming and basketball. Equally important to the aerobic paybacks are the improvements in flexibility and dexterity, a commonly overlooked facet of fitness. Elasticity from dancing will help your swiftness, power and co-ordination by growing your overall range of motion.