Saturday, February 25, 2012

Energizing New Breakfast!

I'd been eating the same breakfast for about 15 years or so (posted on April 1, 2009 in this blog under the title "Breakfast of Artists") and, kind of all of the sudden, I started to feel that it wasn't right for me. I started wondering if having less carbs in the morning would help me feel better up until lunchtime and even through the afternoon. So I thought about creating a new breakfast that was composed of the most super duper vitamins and nutrients I could think of, and also balanced in a way that would keep my blood sugar as level as possible for as long as possible. We have a turbo charged blender called VitaMix that sounds a bit like a jet engine at takeoff, but any blender will do. I made this recently for my father and his wife, using their blender which was very small and pretty unpowerful, and it worked just as well. So here it is!

Energizer Breakfast Smoothie

Serves One

1 heaping Tablespoon whey protein powder
1 heaping Tablespoon brewer's yeast
1 heaping Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 level Tablespoon cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 to 1 inch chunk of raw ginger, sliced but not peeled
1/4 cup frozen cranberries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
2 to 4 leaves of raw kale or collard greens
1/2 teaspoon organic virgin coconut oil
1 level teaspoon natural peanut butter
1 to 1 1/2 cups cold water

Blend all ingredients together until fairly smooth and enjoy! Your cells will dance with happiness for hours!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Overtraining, Tendonitis, and the Importance of Variety in Movement

Whether you’re painting, lifting weights, running, walking your dog, or clicking a mouse, if you do the same thing day after day without fail, you will very likely end up either with an injury or with a muscular imbalance that feels just like an injury. The difference is important, and often only a physician can help you determine what your course of treatment should be.

But there are some typical signs to look out for to let you know when you’re in the state known as “overtrained”:

First and foremost, you have a pain, dull or sharp, that just won’t get better and, mostly, it would be located near one of your joints. Also, it actually feels better with movement (like when you do the same exercise that seemingly caused the pain), but it is stiff and painful when you haven’t moved for a while (like first thing in the morning). If this sounds like you, you probably have tendonitis. Tendonitis is simply inflammation of a tendon (the tissue that connects muscle to bone) and it happens when your muscles are out of balance with each other. You may be very strong, but if one of your muscles lags behind surrounding or supporting muscles, it becomes the weak link that causes tendonitis. It feels horrible because your body wants you to pay attention to it and change what you’re doing so that it can get well! Often, if the problem hasn't gone too far, you can work it out yourself with yoga or Pilates (unless that's what you've been overdoing) or even just by changing up your routine (yay for Zumba!). For more serious cases, though, physical therapy might be the ticket. It usually works like magic to heal tendonitis, and often the physical therapy will be proper resistance exercises that strengthen the entire muscle group at the location of the problem.

Some other signs of overtraining are general fatigue, accelerated heart rate first thing in the morning, loss of appetite, loss of libido, depression, insomnia, and irritability. Whenever you notice that you’re just “not yourself”, it’s time to check in with whoever you are and figure it out!

The point of this discussion is that it is important to understand that our bodies work best when we incorporate a wide variety of movements into our lives. Just like we need a wide variety of foods to be healthy, our skeletomuscular system craves change. Rest is important, but even too much resting is going to cause a problem. Balance is the key, but it’s also the hardest thing to achieve. Why? Because once you have it, it changes again. And again. And again! Forever, as long as we live.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Easy Way To Give Up Sugar Or Salt Cravings

I just learned something that is so cool and amazing that it prompted me to immediately jump up and post this and Boris' painting, Kiss My Hand, is the perfect illustration for it!

Here it is: You know how when you are trying to clean up your diet and eat foods with less salt, sugar, etc. that you might experience the cleaner food as too tasteless? Well, help is on the way. It turns out that "your tastebuds are made up of 50 to 150 receptor cells that live for only 1 to 2 weeks and then are replaced by new receptors. So after eating a cleaner diet for 2 weeks, you'll not only begin to taste and enjoy more subtle (cleaner and more natural!) flavors, you'll also have less of a craving for salt" and sugar. (Adapted from "The Salt Solution" by Heather K. Jones, RD)

This has always been my experience with my post-holiday splurging adjustments, but now I know why. It helps to know that there is a very definite scientific reason why after a week or so I finally give up my cravings for the sugar or salt that I've become addicted to. Two weeks is nothing!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The best cardio-training method!

About 6 weeks ago, Boris and I decided to adopt a beautiful little doggie from a Humane Society shelter. Her name is Izze and she's about 2 years old, American Eskimo mixed with Shetland Sheepdog. She runs SUPER FAST and loves to go everywhere with us. I haven't had a dog since I was a kid and I hadn't realized how really healthy it is to have one. All the daily walking outside is such a great exercise and stress reliever.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pyramid Power!

Aztec Serpent, copyright Boris Vallejo, 1983

Recently, someone asked me what is the best and fastest way to build muscle. During the late 80's when I was competing in lots of bodybuilding contests, this was my primary fitness goal and I made it my business to find out everything I could about it. Of course, since that time, there has been a ton of updated information to check out, but, based on my own experimentation with my own body, I still think the basic premise that I worked with in the 80's remains true--lift heavy weights, use basic exercises, and get enough volume of repetitions and sets to get your muscles as pumped up as they can get. One way that I accomplished this at the time was through the use of pyramid sets. I brought up this subject back in a February post, but here's a more thorough explanation.

Most often, I worked the Pyramid principle with 5 sets. You can do it with more sets (sometimes I would do 10 sets in my pyramid) or with less (maybe 3), but working with 5 demonstrates the concept best. Let's say you're doing
one of my favorite exercises, the basic bench press.

Set 1: Start with a very light weight, maybe even just the bar, and do 15 repetitions (reps).

Set 2: Add a little more weight and still do 15 reps.

Set 3: Add more weight and do 10 reps.

Set 4: Add your heaviest weight and do 6 to 8 reps.

Set 5: Go back to the weights you used in set 2 and do 20 reps.

I don't like to rest too long between sets so that my heart keeps going and I get a better overall conditioning effect, but if you rest a minute or more, you'll be able to handle heavier weights (assuming that's your goal).

If you're working out with the intention of really building strength and size of muscle isn't so important, you can even go heavier and do 2 to 4 reps in your heaviest set. I never recommend going so heavy that you can only lift the weight one time because if you do this regularly, seriously, it's only a matter of time before something you value (like your joints and tendons) give out!
The idea is to work up in poundage to close to your maximum weight and lift very few reps, then immediately decrease the weight and crank out a bunch of reps to flood the muscle with lots of blood.

At this point, I'm just about to turn 52 years old and my goal is no longer to build muscle with bodybuilding competition in mind. Instead, it's to be strong, flexible, and healthy for the rest of my life. I'm so glad that I built all the good quality, natural muscle (no steroids or growth enhancement craziness) that I did when I was younger. It's pretty easy to maintain naturally built muscle once you've put it on, and the more active muscle tissue you have, the better your metabolism and blood sugar regulation works. It's never too late at any age to add some muscle, so pick up something heavy and go for it!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tri-Stretch Device

I got this stretching device from Perform Better and, even though it's just a chunk of red plastic, I'm finding it to be very useful. For one thing, just owning it and seeing it sitting on the floor looking at me reminds me to actually do the stretches that I need so badly. It's easy to just feel like stretching is "extra" and put it off until later, then forget all about it. But the truth is that since I've had this great little chunk of red plastic, my back, knees, and hips have felt better than they have in years! Also, it's made to rock a little from side to side while you stretch, so you end up stretching muscles that usually don't get any action. It's true that you could just as well do these stretches using a block of wood or a rock or curb of the street, but the red plastic is just so appealing, right? Seriously, it actually is more effective with the Tri-Stretch.

The two main ways I use it are for my calf/ankle area and for my hamstring area. I'm insanely tight in these two areas and this leads to multiple problems in the knee, hip, and lower back areas. I start with the large gastrocnemius muscle in my calf by keeping my knees straight and leaning against a wall or car, whatever, with the non-stretching foot placed a little ahead of the stretching foot and pressing my heel of the stretching foot into the tri-stretch device. Turning the toes slightly in and stretching, then slightly out and stretching will hit all sides of your calf muscles in a great way.
Then I work into the soleus muscle, which includes the achilles tendon and ankle, by bending the knee of the stretching leg and continuing to press the heel into the tri-stretch device. Once again, turning the toes inward and stretching, then outward and stretching completes the stretch.

Moving on to hamstrings, just shift your stance so that the foot of the non-stretching leg is now a little behind the foot of the stretching leg. With knees unlocked but kind of straight, bend from the hips forward and stretch your hamstring. To deepen the stretch, reach down and hold the tri-stretch or your foot or ankle and let your head drop towards your knee. This opens up the back muscles and gives you a good stretch from your head all the way to your foot. As with the calf stretch, you can turn the toes inward and outward to hit many more areas of your hamstrings than you may be used to.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stretching Your Lower Legs and Ankles

It's important to remember that stretching your lower legs involves more than just the main large calf muscle (gastrocnemius), in the back of the lower leg just under the knee. The soleus muscle, located in the lower half of your lower leg, is between the large gastrocnemius and your achilles tendon at the ankle. The only way to reach the soleus muscle is by bending your knee while you stretch your calves. When you stretch them with straight knees, you'll be primarily stretching the gastrocnemius. Keeping the soleus muscle as well as your achilles tendon strong and flexible is important if you want to keep running or even walking! Think of your lower leg and ankle as your first line of shock absorbers when you run or walk. Keeping this area healthy takes a huge load off your knees, hips, and back.

In this stretch, the standing leg has a softly bent knee, thus stretching that soleus. The extended leg is getting a little stretch action in the hamstrings as well as gastrocnemius and achilles tendon. Just pull up on your toes and push your heel forward on that extended leg while pushing down into the ground with the standing leg. The more you can keep your lower back from rounding, the more you can get a hamstring stretch out of this, too!