Friday, January 29, 2010

Lat Pulldowns Behind Neck

Back to basics.
The lat pull-down behind the neck.
Look at Mikael's form & technique.
  • Upright posture
  • Chin up and head straight forward
  • Appropriate hand grip width to allow for full range of motion
  • While pulling down focusing on rotating the shoulder in towards the spine
  • While letting the weight up she is controlling it, smoothly and allowing her shoulder blades to rotate up and out... hmmm kinda like angel wings.
When doing this exercise the goal is not how much weight you can do. Rather, it's a mind-on-muscle thing. Feeling the movement. Keeping perfect alignment.

Somedays you just need to go into the gym and connect with your body. Not worry about weights, reps, speed or heart rate. Simply connect. The whole mind, body, spirit thing comes alive when you allow yourself to have one these days.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Red Bull

Here's a direction question I received via Facebook mail:
In your opinion, is Red Bull bad for the body, or neutral or like coffee (assume the sugar free kind)? Do you know much about it?

Here we go, brace yourself.

Just one can of the popular stimulant energy drink Red Bull can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. The effect was seen even in young people.
The caffeine-loaded beverage causes blood to become sticky, a pre-cursor to cardiovascular problems such as stroke.
One hour after drinking Red Bull, your blood system becomes abnormal, as might be expected from a patient with cardiovascular disease.
Red Bull is banned in Norway, Uruguay and Denmark because of health risks.
Energy drinks have been popping up all over supermarket and convenience store shelves in recent years, and have overtaken bottled water as the fastest-growing category in the beverage business.
No less than 3.5 billion cans of Red Bull were sold last year in 143 countries.
Yet questions regarding the safety of Red Bull, as well as other energy drinks, keep cropping up at regular intervals when yet another overzealous energy-addict keels over.

Some energy drinks can contain a huge amount of caffeine -- as much as 300 milligrams in a single serving. For comparison, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits caffeine in food and beverages to 65 mg a serving (energy drinks, however, are not regulated by the FDA).

Do Energy Drinks Really Really Live Up to Their Name?
When you break down the contents of one of those eight-ounce cans, the primary ingredients are caffeine and sugar (in the form of glucuronolactone, sucrose and glucose). So the answer is yes, energy drinks will
provide you with a quick burst of energy.
However, this is not a lasting effect, and drinking several in a row will not turn you into a flying superhero, no matter how hard their sinister marketing geniuses try to convince you otherwise.
According to the official website, Red Bull's benefits include:
Improved performance
Increased concentration and reaction speed
Increased endurance
Increased metabolism
However, the effects of this energy drink will be similar to that of drinking a cup of coffee or a can of soda, in that when the effect wears off you'll start feeling lethargic and will likely crave another can (or cup) to boost your energy once again. As many of you likely know, it can become a vicious cycle.

The problem with that recommendation is the fact that no one really knows the net effect of chugging Red Bull like you would coffee. Coffee has caffeine, yes, but it doesn't contain all those other artificial and energy-boosting ingredients, including no less than TWO artificial sweeteners (in addition to all the other sugar).
Aspartame alone has been shown to have multiple neurotoxic, metabolic, allergenic, fetal, and carcinogenic effects. I don't believe it is safe for anyone to drink and Dr. Mercola wrote an entire book about it called Sweet Deception.

Do Energy Drinks Have Health Benefits?
Nutritionally speaking, energy drinks are comparable to carbonated beverages like soda in that they offer little of value to your body. Yes, there are traces of B vitamins in Red Bull, and it contains the amino acid taurine, but this cannot make up for the detrimental effects of caffeine and sugar.
Although caffeine can certainly increase short term reaction speed, one major problem is that no one really knows how the combination of ingredients in Red Bull will affect your body. This is especially concerning since energy drinks are marketed toward people under the age of 30, and are especially popular among students and night clubbers who oftentimes drink several cans at a time.

Who Should Definitely Avoid Energy Drinks?
It is fairly self-evident that children should never consume these kinds of drinks, but due to the detrimental health impact of their contents, it would definitely be wise to avoid energy drinks if you:
Are pregnant or lactating
Are sensitive to caffeine
Suffer from anxiety
Suffer from high stress
Suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome
Have high blood pressure
Are predisposed to cardiovascular disease
Have any kind of blood clotting disorder

As lead researcher Scott Willoughby stated, Red Bull can be deadly when combined with stress or high blood pressure, as it can impair proper blood vessel function and raise your risk of blood clots.

Mix with Alcohol for a Potentially Deadly High
Mixing energy drinks with alcohol, which is combining a stimulant with a depressant, has become an increasingly popular occurrence at bars. When mixed with alcohol, drinks like Red Bull are instantly morphed into popular club drinks like "Vodka Bulls" and "Yager Bombs." The combined effect of these substances is unknown, but researchers say overloading your body with heavy stimulants and heavy depressants could lead to heart failure and according to previous news stories about fatal outcomes from this deadly mixture, that's not just a theory.
Countries like France and Denmark banned sales of Red Bull following several reported deaths of people who mixed it with alcohol.
The Red Bull brand has even made it into the scientific literature. The journal Medicine, Science, and Law published an article in 2001 on the effects of alcohol and Red Bull combined with yet another stimulant: ephedra.
The result? Acute psychosis.
And in the Journal of the Clinical Autonomic Research Society, an Italian case study reviewed an incident of "postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) associated with a vasovagal reaction," recorded in a young volleyball player after an excess intake of Red Bull. (Whatever that means, right? Be patient read on)
They concluded:
"Considering the widespread use of Red Bull among young people who are often unaware of the drink's drug content, this case report suggests Red Bull be considered a possible cause of orthostatic intolerance."
Orthostatic intolerance is a condition in which a change from the supine position (laying down) to an upright position causes an abnormally large increase in heart rate (more than a 30 beats per minute increase, or a heart rate greater than 120 beats per minute within 10 minutes of sitting or standing up).
POTS has also been proposed as a mechanism for symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, so if you're suffering from chronic fatigue, drinking energy drinks is likely NOT in your best interest, which is why I included it in the list above.
You also need to be aware that consuming large amounts of alcohol -- even wine -- will increase your insulin levels, thereby accelerating your risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases.

If you're drinking energy drinks for the reason most people do -- to get more energy – know that there are far superior options than artificial energy drinks. Humans are not naturally sluggish or constantly tired. This lethargic state is something that many of us have brought on ourselves.

Your lack of energy is likely due to a combination of factors including:
Poor food choices
Low-quality food
Stressful lifestyle
Negative emotions
Lack of sleep
Lack of exercise

Increasing your energy levels, then, is as easy as remedying these factors by:
Eating right for your nutritional type
Increasing your intake of omega-3 fats
Eliminating grains and sugars from your diet
Releasing emotional stress and negativity with the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Sleeping when you're tired


P.S. My short answer to drink options other than plain old water: Tea from simply water (of desired temp) and a tea bag. Also, to have citrus fruits in your water.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Definitely the best explanation of a habit that I have ever heard

So like many of us who are working on self-improvement, you want to make positive changes in your life, maybe you struggle with regressing back to your old ways. Ever wonder what could be an underlying cause or factor?

Think of your habits and how they affect your life. Are they good habits, neutral or are they destroying you?

Look, habits are a big deal and we need to keep them in check for our own personal gain as well as realize how they affect the important people in our lives. We are in control of our habits and only we can make necessary changes if needed. Evaluate your habits and determine if they are making a positive impact in your life; if not how can you modify your habits?

The following is definitely the best explanation of a habit that I have ever heard:
I am your constant companion.
I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.
I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.
I am completely at your command.
Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me, and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.
I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me.
Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically.
I am the servant of all great men; and, alas, of all failures as well.
Those who are great, I have made great.
Those who are failures, I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine; Plus, the intelligence of a man.
You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me.
Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet.
Be easy with me, and I will destroy you.
Who am I?
I am a HABIT!

- Author Unknown
*Which of all the habits do you choose to be yours?

Share your habits. What are some good habits that you have? What are your bad habits that you would like to change? What are some ways you have thought of to reverse those habits? If you are unsure on how to change them - list the habit and I will try to list suggestions to help you out.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Side Plank Combo

Can you hold a plank from every basic angle? Are you bored holding forever? What's the point if you can hold a plank for 2 minutes or more? Move on you've graduated to challenging yourself with more difficult variations.

First off, a plank is simply holding your body straight as a board. Think when you are at the top of a push-up movement and arms are straight. That's a plank. Most common mistake is letting the mid-section droop (which is a sign of weak core or abs, back and hips) or over compensating and rounding the back or piking the body up. Most common measurement of progress is how long you can hold the position.

Ok, so here's what's going on this video.

Shaun is holding a side plank on one elbow with one foot on a bosu ball, while holding his other leg up in the air to create more instability. With his other arm I have him doing a row with a light jumpstretch band.

Effect: With the progressive resistance from the band and the fast explosive pull, he's training to be powerfully fast as swimmers need. And being put into a position of instability, many various muscle groups are firing to maintain balance and control. Something to think about as when you are in the water there is nothing to brace you besides the water.

Remember this is only one aspect of a complete training program, don't just do these types of exercises. Be sure to incorporate strength, muscle stamina, cardio for heart and lungs, balance and coordination. Eat right and sleep well. Perform phenomenally!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Pomegranates have been in the supermarket for a few months now. Pomegranate season typically runs from October to January. Although a native fruit of the Mediterranean region (used for thousands of years), most pomegranates found in US markets come from California's San Joaquin Valley.

A good ripe pomegranate will have a deeply colored skin (usually reddish purple) and will be heavy for its size (i.e. juicy!).

Most pomegranates are shipped ripe, so it is unlikely you’ll get an unripe one. On the other hand, you may encounter some that are old and dried out. Avoid fruits with cracks or soft spots. The skin should be leathery but smooth. An old pomegranate will also be considerably lighter than a fresh one.

Sweet, juicy, and delicious, this exotic fruit can be daunting to anyone that hasn't used it before. However, opening a pomegranate and removing the juicy purple seeds (actually arils) is quite simple. Just check out my photo step-by-step guide to opening a pomegranate:

How to Cut and Open a Pomegranate

Next, eat the seeds as they are or on a salad or in one of these delicious pomegranate recipes:

Pomegranates have been around along time, but modern science has unlocked some of its secrets. Here's some numbers from the USDA for a medium sized pomegranate.

Water: 125 g
Calories: 105
Protein: 1.5 g
Carbohydrates: 26g
Sugars: 26 g
Fiber: 1 g
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Saturated Fat: 0.06 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Calcium: 5 mg
Iron: 0.5 mg
Magnesium: 5 m

As you can see, its mostly sugar. That's part of why its so delicious! But beyond that, one of the important factors the USDA isn't telling us about, is the antioxidants in pomegranates. View the Pomegranate Antixodidants Study in pdf form, if your brain is up to it! But if you're not interested in reading that study keep this one important fact in mind:

If you want to get the most nutrition out of your pomegranate juice, then buy industrial processed juice! It has 3 times the amount of antioxidants than fresh squeezed pomegranate juice.

Just stay clear of the "juice cocktail" versions. Typically these juices (applies for all juices) are short on the real deal and long on high fructose corn syrup cheap sweetener fodder.


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