Sunday, February 25, 2018

Vitamin D Can Help Prevent the Flu!


Everyone knows that influenza (the Flu) and colds are more prevalent during winter months, and this is not a coincidence!    People spend more time indoors which creates two problems.   First since everyone is inside in rooms together it is just a whole lot easier to transmit viruses from one person to another.    Second, we eliminate any exposure to sunshine on our skin.

While excessive sun exposure is not a good idea and can increase the risk of skin cancer, we need sunlight on our skin to produce Vitamin D.    Vitamin D is not just important for bone health – it is also incredibly important to maintain immune function!   For all of us living in the United States (with the exception of locations like Florida and Southern California) getting adequate exposure to sunlight to produce enough vitamin D for optimal health is impossible during winter months.   So this means that your vitamin D levels drop and this has a direct impact on immune function AND the associated risk of catching the flu!

To learn how to safely optimize your Vitamin D levels through supplementation go to this blogpost:  https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2017/07/how-to-optimize-benefits-of-vitamin-d.html

So is there really scientific evidence showing that optimizing Vitamin D levels can protect against the flu?   The answer is a resounding YES!   A review of 25 randomized controlled trials confirmed that vitamin D supplementation boosts immunity and cuts rates of cold and flu.     The largest boost occurs in those who start with the lowest vitamin D levels (blood levels below 10 Ng/ML).    In this group (which includes many Americans – particularly in the winter), taking a supplement cut their risk in half!    People who started with higher vitamin D levels in the normal range only had a 10% reduction in risk. 

The international research team who conducted this review stated that vitamin D supplementation could prevent more than 3.25 million cases of cold and flu each year in the United Kingdom alone.    So while flu vaccines can provide some protection – the amount of protection provided varies greatly from year to year because scientists have to guess which strains to include in the vaccine.    The potential protection from proper vitamin D supplementation is much greater, and there is no reason you cannot do both!

Make sure you click on the link above in this blogpost to a previous blogpost which gives you a step by step guide on how to optimize your Vitamin D levels through safe sun exposure and/or safe vitamin D supplementation based on simple at home Vitamin D tests that are now available.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Managing the Work/Rest Ratio in HIIT Training

High Intensity Interval Training aka HIIT training is all the rage and there are many different HIIT training protocols available, but to produce the best results it is important to understand how to manipulate the Work/Rest Ratio.    The Work/Rest Ratio is the ratio of time spent working in the high intensity interval to the time spent in the recovery interval and there is no one ideal Work/Rest Ratio. In fact there are three distinct methods you can use to design interval training programs based on how you manipulate the Work/Rest Ratio.
Fixed Work, Fixed Recovery
This is the most common method and often used for group training because it keeps everyone working together.   In this method the amount of time spent in the work phase is fixed as is the amount of time in the recovery phase.   For example the ever popular “Tabata” Protocol is a fixed work, fixed recovery protocol using 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of recovery done 8 times.    Another example is the Sprint 8 protocol which uses 30 seconds of work and 90 seconds of recovery.  In addition, all MX4 programming uses this method either for a 60/30 work/rest ratio or a 4 to 1 Minute Work to Rest Ratio during Density Workouts.
Needless to say there are endless variations of fixed work, fixed recovery interval protocols and each one feels different and allows for a different level of relative intensity.    The advantage of these type of protocols is that they are very simple to design and very easy to track using a simple timer, and if using heart rate monitoring you can adjust the actual work intensity and recovery intensity based on individual heart rate response.   Also this is a very easy way for a trainer to manage a group as mentioned previously.
Fixed Work, Variable Recovery
In this method the amount of time spent working is fixed, but recovery time varies based on heart rate response.  This method is a more individualized way to do HIIT training where each work interval begins after the heart rate slows to a predetermined point correlated with a specific level of individual recovery.  The advantage of this method is it can be customized to each person based on their goal, age and current fitness level.   An example would be doing a 1 minute work interval with a fit 20 year old and setting the recovery threshold at say 120 beats per minute (a relatively low exercise heart rate for a fit 20 year old).  So he would work as hard as he can for 1 minute then go into recovery and stay in recovery until his heart rate slows to 120 beats per minute.
Variable Work, Variable Recovery
This method varies work time AND recovery time based on preset work heart rates and recovery heart rates.   For example using the same example of a fit 20 year old you might set a goal work heart rate threshold at 180 beats per minute – meaning that you keep him working hard until his heart rate hits this work threshold and then immediately begin recovery.    Then you would keep him at a reduced work rate until he hit a predetermined recovery heart rate threshold such as 120 beats per minute.    This is a highly sophisticated and highly individualized way of exercising with precise management of work and rest customized to the individual.
Have some fun and experiment with each of these to prevent plateaus in your workout progress!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How to Create a Lower Body Band Training System


Resistance training bands provide a great strength curve that matches the lower body strength curves nicely.   Specifically, the more you stretch a band the higher the level of resistance you have to overcome.   In the case of the key lower body movements such as squats, deadlifts and lunges this matches the strength curve of these key movements meaning that the muscles are capable of producing the highest levels of force at the top of the movement when joints are extended and muscles in their shortest position.

The trick is how to apply band resistance to these movements and other functional movements such as jumps.  While there are many different techniques for accomplishing it – one of the best is to create your own lower body band loading system using a large band as a belt and smaller band/s looped through it and onto your feet to create load from the hips down.



This system puts no load on the spine,  and it is easy to increase or decrease load based on band sizes used and number of times you wrap the band around your feet.

It travels with you as you move for extra load for all lower body movements including squats, lunges, and deadlifts.    It is also a portable jump training system that is easy to create, and for facilities with the reACT Trainer it is a fantastic way to create additional overload on the reACT Trainer while keep the hands free!

Click here to see step by step instructions for how to use bands for this set-up:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkAMGtjkVm4

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Mothballs – Not Just Bad for Moths!

Most of us think of mothballs as a strong smelling, but effective, way to protect our sweaters from getting moth eaten during Spring and Summer.   People also use them to deter pests in attics, backyards and gardens.    Unfortunately, mothballs are highly toxic!

Pesticide labels, including mothball labels, state exactly how they are to be used.   Using mothballs in any other way is not only illegal – it can be harmful to pets, people and the environment.   Mothballs should NOT be used inside attics, crawl spaces, gardens, trash cans or vehicles.  

Negative Health Impact

Today’s mothballs contain either naphthlalene or paradichlorobenzene which are extremely potent pesticides.     Both are proven to cause cancer, and they can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, damage to red blood cells and difficulty breathing.

Proper Use of Mothballs

The key to safe use of mothballs is to place them with your stored items in an airtight, sealed container.   Inside a container the fumes concentrate and kill moths.   As long as the container is airtight you face no risks from the pesticides while clothes are in storage.   However, once they come out it is very important to air them out and even then residues will likely be present that have potential health effects.

Safe Alternatives to Mothballs

Machine was or dry clean your clothing prior to storage to kill any larvae that may have attached prior to storage.

Store clothing in sealed containers such as plastic storage chests, containers, and zip wool coats into sealed garment bags.

Use Cedar blocks, chips, chests, or closets.   You will need to periodically sand the cedar or apply cedar oil over the long haul to maintain the effectiveness.

Cloves, rosemary, and thyme – place a mix of these dry herbs in one or more sachet bags and add to containers with clothing and replace them every 6 months or whenever you stop smelling the herbs.

Lavender and Peppermint – fill sachet bags with dried lavender or peppermint or apply lavender or peppermint oil to mothballs and place them in Sachet Bags.



Sunday, January 28, 2018

The 1 Minute Workout

The number one challenge people to give to not working out is time.   So the question fitness professionals should be focused on is what is the LEAST amount of time for working out and still producing the benefits and results that people want and need.

The great news is that there is a lot of well done research on this subject, and there is a proven workout protocol that produces results with as little as one minute of total work time in a workout and a total workout duration of under 10 minutes including warm-up and cool-down.

The definitive work on this subject was written by Martin Gibala and is appropriately called “The One Minute Workout”.     In this excellent book he reviews all the related research and results on High Intensity Interval Training including an excellent review on the psychology of exercise as it relates to how people feel before, during and after different types of exercise protocols.     Long story short people really like certain HIIT protocols – even high deconditioned people and high-risk heart disease patients.

He and his team of researchers proved the effectiveness of the 1-minute workout to produce results and also found the specific physiological mechanisms responsible for the benefits of this protocol.

1 Minute Workout Protocol

Warm-up for 3 minutes at an easy pace on any piece of cardiovascular exercise equipment, walking, 

running, jogging or cycling depending on your preference and fitness level.

Do a 20 second sprint at your best possible pace (this is all relative to your fitness level)

Do active recovery at a light pace for 2 minutes

Perform another 20 second sprint at your best possible pace.

Do active recovery at a light pace for 2 minutes

Perform a third and final 20 second sprint at your best possible pace.

Cool-down for 2 minutes.

Total workout time – 10 minutes!

Frequency

Best results are obtained by repeating this workout 3 times per week BUT even once a week will provide benefits and help maintain a decent level of physical conditioning – the key is intensity NOT duration or frequency.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Fabulous Fiber!

Everyone has heard that they need to eat fiber, but few people really know what it is and why it is so important.     Fiber is a form of carbohydrate along with sugars and starches.      Unlike sugars and starch fiber cannot be used for energy because it cannot be broken down into sugar.     Starch and sugars both end us as blood sugar aka glucose.

Starches are simply multiple units of sugar hooked together, and we have enzymes that break them apart so we can use the sugar for fuel.   Fiber is also multiple units of sugar hooked together, but humans lack the enzymes necessary to break it down into sugars so it is not absorbed.    This is very important when thinking about carbohydrate containing foods because they are NOT all the same.

For example, a glass of fruit juice is essentially a glass of sugar water with some beneficial plant chemicals and in many cases a nice dose of vitamin C.    It can dramatically boost blood sugar, and if you consume too much it can definitely drive weight gain.     While a large serving of brocolli is mostly fiber with little sugar and starch and is also chock full of beneficial plant chemicals, but with almost no effect on blood sugar!

There are two main types of fiber – soluble and insoluble.    Ideally you want to eat both.   There is also a third type of fiber called “Digestive Resistant Starch” (see https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2017/10/digestion-resistant-starch-all-starch.html )

Soluble fiber, found in foods such as cucumbers, blueberries, and beans, has a gel-like consistency and slows down your digestion.     This helps with satiety (feeling satisfied).    It also slows the break down and absorption of cholesterol and other nutrients like starches and sugar which can help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.    Some foods with soluble fiber also help feed the good bacteria in your digestive tract.

Insoluble fiber is found in foods like green, leafy veggies, green beans, and celery.    It does not dissolve to a gel and stays intact as it moves through your colon.   By adding bulk, it helps food move more quickly through your digestive tract reducing transit time.  Insoluble Fiber is sometimes referred to as “roughage”, and it along with soluble fiber can help with constipation.

Benefits of High Fiber Intake

Fiber intake is very important for keeping blood sugar levels under control, and studies have shown that people who take in at least 26 grams of fiber per day had a much lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

There is also an inverse relationship between fiber intake and heart attack, with research showing that people eating a high fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.    High fiber diets may also help lower blood pressure.

Another interesting research finding about fiber is that for every 7 grams of fiber you consume each day your stroke risk is decreased 7 percent.      To put this into perspective this equates to about 2 servings of fruits and vegetables.

Fiber, and psyllium in particular, can help move yeasts and fungus out of your digestive system which may help prevent them from triggering acne and rashes.

Fiber can also provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome in many people.

Fiber intake may also help reduce the risk of gallstones and kidney stones probably through its action in controlling blood sugar.

Sources of Fiber

Contrary to popular opinion grains are probably not your best source of fiber.    Unfortunately, non-organic grains are chock full of glyphosate which is pesticide banned in most other countries outside the US because they have no allegiance to Monsanto who produces it.    

A high grain diet promotes insulin and leptin resistance thereby increasing your risk for Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease and Cancer. 

Better choices of fiber includes Organic Whole Husk Psyllium.     If you use this supplement it is critical to get organic psyllium as non-organic psyllium is heavily sprayed with chemicals.     Other great sources include chia seeds, berries, root vegetables such as sweet potato, peas and beans, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and celery.

How much fiber?

Experts recommend that woman eat a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day and men consume 38 grams per day.     However higher intakes may be more beneficial.     

It is important to SLOWLY increase your fiber intake and keep your water intake high to prevent potential issues caused by eating fiber without sufficient fluid.

Low-Fiber Diet

There are circumstances where high fiber intake is contraindicated and timing for fiber intake relative to drugs and supplements is important.   People with chronic digestive issues may need to remove fiber for some period of time because fiber feeds the bacteria in your gut.    Although as a general rule this is highly beneficial there are circumstances where high fiber intake can feed the wrong microorganisms such as pathogenic bacteria.


Fiber can also bind certain medications and minerals dramatically reducing their absorption so many drugs and mineral supplements should not be taken at the same time as fiber.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How to Overcome a Negative Habit



Habits are powerful.  Unfortunately, they often are created outside our consciousness and without our permission. However, we can consciously change habits. Habits shape our lives far more than we realize— they are so strong, in fact, that they can cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.

At the same time, positive habits can change our lives for the better. So how are habits created and what can we do to influence them in ourselves and our clients?

Three Parts of a Habit

The Cue: a situational trigger that is based on a reward you are seeking.

The Routine:  a physical or emotional action you take to obtain the reward.

The Reward:  the satisfaction you get by following the habit.


The Steps to Changing a Habit

Identify the Routine:  You must identify how you go from a particular cue to the routine of the habit and the reward it gives you.

Understand Cravings and Rewards

The first part of a habit is the cue, but before the cue there is some type of craving.  Cravings drive habits.   Understanding cravings is key to figuring out habits.  In a habit, there is a specific reward that satisfies a particular craving.    In other words, figure out what you are getting from the habit because you ARE getting something from it!

Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the cravings that drive our behaviors. For example, when developing the air freshening product Febreze marketers discovered that people craved a fresh scent at the end of a cleaning ritual.  They found a craving that people were not aware of.     This craving is so strong that without added scent most people do not get satisfaction from an air freshener that just removes odors from the air - they have to smell the scent!   It is exactly the same phenomenon with breath freshners which can be made to eliminate odor WITHOUT any taste/scent, but no one buys them!

Most cravings are like this: obvious in hindsight, but difficult to discern when they are in control of your behavior. It is critical to discover the cravings that drive habits to be able to change or create habits!   To figure out which cravings are driving particular habits, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards. For example, say your reward is having a cookie after studying every night.  The next time you study deliberately substitute something else for the cookie such as going for a short walk or having a cup of tea instead. 

The next time eat an apple and another time change call a friend for call, etc. What you choose to do instead of eating a cookie is not important.  The key is to test different hypotheses to determine the exact craving that is driving your routine.   Are you craving the cookie itself, or a break from work? If it’s the cookie, is it because you’re hungry? (In which case the apple should work just as well.) Or is it because you want the burst of energy the cookie provides? (And so coffee may work just as well.) Or is it where you eat the cookie and who you are with?  Do you go to a specific place to get and eat your cookie?  If so maybe the real craving may have to do with a desire to socialize.  

As you test four or five different rewards, use this technique to identify patterns.  After each activity, note the first three things that come to mind after your reward behavior. This can be emotions, random thoughts, reflections on how you’re feeling, or just the first three words that pop into your head. Then, set an alarm on your watch or computer for fifteen minutes. When it goes off, ask yourself: Do you still feel the urge for that cookie? The reason why it’s important to write down three things— even if they are meaningless words— is twofold. First, it forces a momentary awareness of what you are thinking or feeling.

By experimenting with different rewards, you can isolate what you are actually craving, which is essential in changing a habit.

Determine the Specific Cue for the Habit

This is the trigger that initiates the craving for the reward.   So it is very important to learn the cues for habits.   Common cues including being in a particular place, being with a particular person, a particular time of time of day, a specific emotional state, etc.    Asking yourself these five questions can be very helpful for identifying cues:

Where are you when the urge for a reward hits you?
What time is it?
What is your emotional state?
Who else is present?
What did you do right before you had the urge?

Have a Plan!

Once you understand the habit you want to change you need to create a plan to change the habit!   The easiest way to do that is have a specific plan of action whenever you experience the cue or cues.    For example, if you smoke when you have coffee know this and plan to do something else deliberately whenever you have a cup of coffee.   The plan is key or you will slip right back into the old routine.

Another example is having a few beers every night when you get home.  Through the first three steps you discover that having the beer helps you relax after a stressful day.    You also learned that going for a 20-minute walk or doing Tai Chi gives you that same reward of feeling relaxed.   So now you plan to either go for a walk or do Tai Chi ever day as soon as you get home (or even better before you get home!).

Sunday, January 7, 2018

How to Make sure you keep your New Year’s Resolution

As the saying goes “Talk is cheap”, and most New Year’s Resolutions end up not happening.    So here are some tips on how to make sure you actually follow through on your resolutions!   

Write Down your goal – the act of writing down goals is a concrete action and makes you more likely to follow through in taking action to achieve the goal.  Use the SMART goal format:

Specific – vague goals are dreams and dreams never happen.
Measurable – being able to measure progress and success are key for something to be true goal.
Achievable – do not set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals.
Relevant – make sure the goal is something that is important to you.
Timebound – you must set a deadline for achieving the goal – because without a deadline you are just day-dreaming.

Focus on one goal at a time – science has proven that we only have so much willpower and if we set to many goals we run out of steam.    Focusing on one goal at a time allows you to conserve your willpower and discipline enhancing your chance of reaching your goal.

Create habits that lead to your goal – when something becomes a habit it takes a lot less mental energy and willpower to complete it.   So start with small, easy to achieve habits that help you move towards your goal.   For example committing yourself to a 5 minute walk each morning or evening is a simple and relatively easy commitment.     Then when you follow through and start to do it each day you create a habit.    For more on creating effective habits see next weeks blog post on habits!

Plan Your Work then Work Your Plan
Science also shows that people who create a plan are much more likely to achieve their goal.  Part of your plan should be becoming aware of the triggers of your bad habits and planning on avoiding them.   For example, if you are trying to quit smoking and you know that going to a coffee shop is a trigger for lighting up – plan on avoiding coffee shops.   Many bad habits are associated with specific locations.

Share your goal with others
Sharing your goals with friends, family or co-workers can help provide support.   Studies have shown that people who share weight loss goals with family are 22% more likely to succeed.

Plan on Mistakes and focus on progress instead of perfection
We all make mistakes, but just because we make a single error of judgement or have a short lapse in willpower does not mean we need to give up on a goal!    If you make a mistake, such as having a high calorie meal while trying to lose weight, do not give up on the whole effort.    Acknowledge the lapse – and get back on the horse!


By focusing on progress, you put mistakes in context.   For example, if your goal is weight loss and you have a week with 6 days of following your plan perfecting and have one bad meal – realize that overall you are doing well!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Exercise and Fall Prevention

As people get older one of the biggest threats to their health and independence are falls.  A brief review of the statistics on falls provides a sobering view of the threat.

 Falls are the #1 cause of death as a result of unintentional injury among people 75 and older and the #2 cause of death as a result of unintentional injury among people age 65 – 74.

Falls are the #1 cause of non-fatal unintentional injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms in every age group except ages 15 – 24.

Fall result in the second most expensive worker’s compensation claims with an average cost of $23,929.

One out of every three people older than 65 will fall this year.

50% of the people older than 65 who have fallen will fall again in the next 12 months.

Most falls are unreported (even serious falls) because senior fear losing their independence, and many seniors would rather die than lose their independence.

The treatment of osteoporosis with drugs is very ineffective at preventing fractures because it does nothing to prevent the primary cause of fractures which is falls.

Modifiable Risk Factors for Falls

Strength (in particular lower body and core strength)

Mobility (of ankle, knee and hip in particular)

Fear of falling from previous fall/s resulting in altered gate and restricted activity levels which further increases fall risk

Poor Balance which has three systems (visual, inner ear, proprioception)

Impaired Vision

Cognitive Status/Mood

Environmental Factors (slippery floors, rugs, poor lighting, etc.

Medication Side Effects

Exercise for Fall Prevention

Exercise can help address several fall risk factors including strength, mobility, balance along with improved cognitive status.

The most effective exercise boosts lower body and core strength while including a balance component that can be adjusted to each individual’s current capabilities.   This exercise should be weight bearing whenever possible and functional in nature.

reACT – Rapid Eccentric Anaerobic Core Trainer

One of the finest ways to address the exercise component of a fall prevention program is the use of the reACT Trainer.    The reACT Trainer provides a no impact training stimulus with a self-selected range of motion and allows for progressive balance challenge to fit just about any ability level.  
The reACT Trainer is a functional eccentric trainer meaning it provides eccentric dominant exercise that is highly functional in nature with strong emphasis on integrated functional movements in multiple planes of motion with the ability to adjust movement speed to increase or decrease the challenge level.   It is also a very safe training modality.

For more information on how the reACT Trainer can help prevent falls check out the following videos:

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Solving the Weight Loss Puzzle - Part 4


If you have not read parts 1 – 3 do so now.  Now we know that the three keys to losing bodyfat are: Regular Resistance Training; High Intensity Interval Training, and managing food and beverage intake.  Let’s talk about how you get a handle on doing all three!    

First, you need to establish a baseline to measure progress against which means assessing your current weight and percentage of body fat.  There are many effective ways to assess body composition (how much of you is fat and how much is lean tissue), but the preferred method is the use of Styku Body Scan.   Styku technology (www.styku.com ) provides a completely accurate 3 dimensional body scan that takes just 40 seconds and give you completely accurate circumference measurements at every point on your body and uses this information to calculate your percentage of bodyfat.   

Complimentary Styku Scans are available at many Workout Anytime locations, but if you do not have access to one you can use a do it yourself method although it is not as accurate.    

To get an estimate of your current starting point take photos of yourself in form fitting clothing or underwear from the front, side and rear AND do circumference measurements with a basic tape measure in the following areas:

Around your neck
Around your shoulders at the widest point
Chest at largest point
Abdomen at largest point
Abdomen at smallest point
Hips at largest point
Thigh at largest point
Calf at largest point
Bicep (arm flexed but not pumped at largest point)
Forearm at largest point
You should redo photos and measurements monthly to see if you are making progress.  You know where your body stores fat and several of the measurements are key for judging if you are losing fat depending on your individual pattern of fat storage (males tend to store more in abdomen and woman in hips but it is pretty obvious if you just look at your pictures!).
The next key is adopting some method to get a handle on your food and beverage intake and there are several free apps that can help you track food intake including MyFitnessPal.
Third you need to be able to measure your progress on the activity side of the equation by using a device to monitor exercise intensity and calorie expenditure and there are several good options.   The best devices include heart rate monitoring and not just movement tracking because during your workouts your heart rate response tells the whole story!     During your HIIT training sessions you want to elevate your heart rate between 85 – 100% of your maximum heart rate for 10 – 15 minutes of a half hour sessions.   You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220, but stay tuned for another blog article describing how to perform an easy test to get a really accurate estimate of your maximum heart rate.

Fourth you need to keep a record of your resistance training exercises so that you can see whether you are making progress.   If you are not familiar with proper resistance training technique and exercises we highly suggest you find a trainer and invest in some personal training to learn proper form and resistance levels so you get the most from your resistance training. If you follow these guidelines and record your exercise sessions and food and beverage intake you will find that becoming a lean, mean fighting machine is not as hard as you thought!