Adios, For Now

I'm going to stop blogging for a few months to finish a book I've been working on. There's only so much time in a life, and sometimes you have to bear down to get something finished the way you want it. That means eliminating all distractions, no matter how much you enjoy it, as I do TOJ.

Happy Trails!

The Sitting Plague

This TOJ has been trying to avoid sitting like the plague - because sitting is one. I'm working on a book, which requires lots of research, and, if I'm not careful, too much sitting. So I've been standing up (as I am writing this blog) as much as possible.

Now there's another notable study, this one from the University of Leicester, showing that sitting too long leads to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. What's especially concerning is that the researchers believe exercise, in the sense that a TOJ uses the word to describe that half hour to hour per day that s/he sweats, elevates the pulse, and breaths hard by some challenging physical activity, does NOT fully offset the negative impacts of sitting on your butt too long.

Sedentary life, aka sitting on your butt, was unheard of until the last century. In the old days, only a few aristocrats escaped physical activity by having the servants to the hard work.   It’s as if our big brains cleverly figured out technology to minimize most of these activities so we could realize the highest aspirations of mankind – to sit more. Nowadays, most of us, rich or poor, live like kings (if you can call it that) and sit all day long in front of computers, eating, riding in cars, eating, playing video games, eating, watching the tube, eating. In fact, white collar jobs, where you sit all day laong, are have been elevated to such a high level of social status  that we encourage our children to go to college to get a job where they can sit, too.
Uunfortunately, we have genes inherited from millions of years of evolution, that expects our bodies to be active most hours of the day, and they do not function correctly if we’re not.

From Move Yourself by Tedd Mitchell, MD, Tim Church, MD, and Martin Zucker: “Twice as many people die from sedentary living than from viruses and bacteria, and more die from inactivity than from firearms, illicit use of drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, and automobile accidents combined.”           

Recognizing the economic and social devastation being wrought by sitting and inactivity (maybe as much as 15% of the entire health care budget!), there’s a growing new field in physiology called “inactivity studies.” Until recently, the focus for physiologists was on TOJ stuff, like physical exercise and athletic performance, in an effort to determine how exercise affects the heart, muscle growth, and metabolism. 
The problem is that prolonged periods of sitting causes a drop in the enzyme lipoprotein lipase, whose job it is to remove fat (triglycerides) from the blood. Then HDL (so called good cholesterol) levels then fall and cardiovascular risk rises. Further, electrical activity in the muscles shuts down and calorie burning drops.
Not only do your arteries clog, but your brain suffers as well. Sitting causes a drop in BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which impairs learning and memory, making a dumb TOJ even dumber.
The solution is to move. Limit TV to no more than 3 hours per day. Get out of your desk chair every half hour to fire your muscles. Do some squats or go outside and jump around. If you're stuck in a chair at work, fidget, squirm, consciously contract your muscles by pushing your hands, knees, and ankles together in an isometric contraction. It only take a few minutes of this throughout the day to fire your muscle neurons.
By moving more, you accomplish two good things: First, you'll save on medical bills, and second, you'll do your part to reverse the decline of Western civilization. Who wants to be Rome 2.0? 

Amber Waves of Grain

William Davis, M.D., is a preventive cardiologist who wrote Wheat Belly, a provocative book in which he presents the damning research he did on wheat and its effects on us. One of his most disturbing discoveries was that the type of wheat now planted and harvested in America is  a genetically-modified, dwarf, franken variety that is less nutritious (not to mention bug and herbicide resistant) than that consumed by our great grand-parents when obesity rates were much lower.
He was motivated to investigate because in his clinical practice with thousands of patients with diabetes and heart disease, he found the standard USDA, AMA approved advice to his patients to “eat more grains” was making them fatter and sicker. Something was wrong.
What he discovered is that from the moment wheat enters the body, it causes trouble, starting with causing the bowel to lose desirable bacteria that aid digestion and, rather, to promote the growth of undesirable ones like E. coli and Salmonella.
But that’s just the beginning. Wheat has a compound called amylopectin, one of the components in starch, that triggers a rapid and protracted increase in Very Low Density Lipoproteins, the ones that cause clogged arteries. It also contains a protein called gliadin, with opiate-like properties that stimulates your appetite, not for more protein or fat, but for more carbs.  Finally, because wheat is immediately converted to blood sugar (glucose) it causes an insulin spike that causes it ultimately to be stored as fat.
Based on what he found out, Dr. Davis started to withdraw his patients from wheat and immediately observed they lost weight and had much better health indicators, like lower blood pressure and an improved LDL profile. Simply eliminating wheat has reversed diabetes in many of his patients.

His book is tough medicine for people who like to eat a lot of bread and cereal. The USDA, which promulgates a "Food Plate" heaped with grains, will say no. But the evidence says yes. Over half the calories consumed by Americans consist of carbs, and many of those come from wheat.

Of course, Dr. Davis was immediately branded as a nut by the grain industry, but this has not prevented his views from getting out. Watch him on CBS This Morning - click here.


What If

Below is an exhilarating amateur video from a contest at Mark's Daily Apple, a really good website for "primal" living, that is, basic exercise and real food. There were many fine entries in their contest, but this one especially caught my eye.
What's so uplifting about it, beyond just a great song to accompany it, is you see a guy breaking out of the the confines of an office to set his body free. Many of think of exercise as a trip to the gym, a special space set aside to exert your body. But no matter how well-equipped, nothing you do on a machine will match a total body workout like he demonstrates or provide the Vitamin D he gets outside.

It would be a better, healthier, less stressed world if more people felt free (as in it's ok and they aren't weird) to take off their ties and high heels and go to a park for some exercise. Right now it's acceptable to run, but not so much the norm to exercise anywhere and anytime, and turn objects in the environment into a physical challenge.

They guy in the video is really creative. All he needs is a patch of grass, a weight from the trunk of his car, a bag with something heavy in it, his own body weight, and even a playground or some broken concrete.

This is what the world would be like if health really was a priority. We'd build more playgrounds for adults to use, too. Your employer would give you time to get out of the building and do some short Tabata workouts, like the one in the video, that would make you more focused and productive at work.

Yes, it would be different. People would value what they feel on the inside as much as what they look like from the outside. Sure people would be a little more rumpled upon returning to their office cubicles, but that's no big deal, nothing that couldn't be cured with a dab of perfume or aftershave.
And everyone would be thinner, healthier, happier.


Solid Gold

This TOJ, along with some family, had the opportunity to attend a parade in honor of Ashton Eaton, winner of the Gold Medal in the decathlon at the London Olympics a couple months ago. Eaton was raised in Bend, Oregon, where we now live.

Judging by the huge turnout of people in Bend of all ages lining the street, people agree with the marquee on the theatre along the parade route, declaring Ashton Eaton the World's Best Athlete.

Some would probably contest that feeling others are just as deserving, like the top Ironman Triathlete (bike, run, swim) or CrossFit champion, who does all kinds of weird stuff like push sleds, flip tractor tires, do handstands, and sprint or run, sometimes carrying an awkward weight. Maybe there's a Navy SEAL, who's name we'll never know, who could beat all of them.

Or course, there's no definite answer to what constitutes a greatest athlete, any more than there is what it means to be fit. That you can run an ultramarathon or deadlift 800 lbs.? Does it really make any difference? But the decathlon, which requires strength, speed, power, and skills in 10 track and field events conducted over two days, testing all three energy systems in the body to their maximums, sure puts you in the running for a title.

They say you could tell Ashton was different when he hit high school. He was very good at several sports and seemed to have a unique drive and focus found in only in champions. He was fortunate, also, to have tremendous physical abilities, mostly from good genes, that were developed further by hard work and solid coaching. Below is a picture of him walking in the parade with his medal around his neck.

They had a nice welcoming ceremony for him and gave him a key to the city. He made some simple, heartfelt remarks about growing up in Bend, how it provided the social and athletic resources to support to his development. It was sort of an "It's Takes a Village" message. He's a humble and gracious champion.

After the ceremony, he did a fun run with a horde of elementary aged children inspired by his achievement. This TOJ thought about Aston while lifting weights today, all the sweat and time he put into his training. Wow!

I guess that's what Olympic champions do for all of us. Inspire!

On Weight Lifters, Walkers, and Apes

The other day this TOJ was enjoying a nice workout with his kettlebells while listening to a podcast interview by Jimmy Moore, a guy who lost tons of weight on a low carb diet and hosts a website with some really good thought leaders in low carb living.

Moore was interviewing Fred Hahn, a strength trainer for over 20 years, about his new book on slow lifting, the kind I've talked about before where you lift a very heavy weight very slowly, for a very short time, until you reach failure and can't lift anymore. Anyone who's done this knows it's basically 30 seconds of torture with each lift. The technique seems to work for some people, if they can stand the discomfort. Hahn must be a true believer in suffering to be fit.

I was enjoying the interview until he started to criticize kettlebells because some people don't know how to use them properly and break their wrists or otherwise injure themselves. Of course, that's true with any piece of resistance equipment you if you don't know how to use it properly or how your body responds that particular equipment. It was hard to understand his point because kettlebells are a good overall strength training device.

But Hahn became really annoying when he started to bad mouth walking. There's a genus of trainer out there who thinks only bad-ass muscle building counts as exercise. It was especially strange to hear him so critical of walking when many who tune into Moore's "The Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Show" might be listening in because they're working on a weight issue.

Walking is a valid weight loss exercise and great fitness activity for people of all ages. For many people, as any good trainer should know, it's the right place for them to start, even if their goal is to do higher intensity exercise someday. High intensity is beyond their safe physical limits or may be too difficult for people if they have a health issue. Fitness is important for wellness. What's the obsession with performance? Studies have shown that people who walk everyday live longer than the rest of the population.

Below is a great tutorial on the benefits of walking. We should all get out for more walks.

There are plenty of people around the world who will live long and happy lives and never subject themselves to arcane physical training theories that require torturing yourself in a weight room.

This TOJ likes to do harder stuff too, but still enjoys a nice, long walk because it's good for body and soul. Walking up on two legs is what separates us from the apes. That, and having the brains to avoid extreme forms of exercise.

Retread versus Monster Truck Tire

You have to love it when politics gets physical, as recently happened when Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) called Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif) an old retread.

Brown took offense and challenged Christie to a contest. Check this out.

He re-challenged him last Sunday on CNN - running, pull-ups, and sit-ups. Brown is almost 75.

Christie just turned 50. He's truly representative of his generation, which according to the latest government analysis, has the highest obesity rate - 37% - of all living generations.  

Brown just ran 3 miles in 29 minutes.

Not long ago, Christie was flown by helicopter to see his son play  baseball. The chopper landed 100 yards from the field. Christie had to be carried by limousine to the field because he couldn't walk it.

Too bad the contest won't happen - Christie declined. Vegas would have taken bets.If people are dumb enough to vote for the Tea Party, they'd be dumb enough to bet on Christie. This TOJ's money would have been on Brown. Christie would lose, and I'd be rich.

Hail the Turkish Get Up

A good friend, who's a middle-aged, devoted triathlete, told me he's out of competition for a few months due to a pretty serious ankle injury. He's working hard to resume his run-bike-swim routine.

To stay fit during his rehab, he's been doing some biking and Turkish Get Ups (TGU), a smart choice because his body won't miss a beat when he's able to resume running. He sent the following request: "How about a write up - TOJ style - about Turkish Get Ups? Lace it with ancillary tidbits typical of the TOJ exercise profile."

Good idea, and anything for a friend. The Turkish Get Up (TGU) is such a powerful exercise that if for any reason you could only do one exercise, it might be the one because it is a total body exercise, strengthening muscles, ligaments and tendons from head to toe.This is truly an uber-exercise, like the yoga Salute to the Sun, only much more challenging.

The TGU has been around for a long time, maybe 300 years or more. If you Google it, you'll find it was a staple of strongmen in the old days. The TGU has risen in popularity right along with the Russian kettlebell. When you see or experience the intensity of the TGU, you get the Russian connection - simple, cheap, challenging, effective, unfashionable (like their space suits).

Grab your anatomy charts (I don't really expect you to look these up, but if you want to, here they are!). Your body has over 600 muscles. Of the prime movers that enable us to lift, walk, bend, squat, and lunge, the TGU relies on the Deltoids, Erector Spinae, Glutes, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Adductors, Trapezius, Rhomboids, Flexors, Extensors, Serratus, Rectus Abdominus, Abductors, Gastrocnemius and Soleus. In addition, the TGU enlists scores of smaller stabilizer muscles that enable these prime movers to safely and effectively accomplish their work.

There are two videos below. If you've never performed at TGU, this TOJ suggests you just watch the first them to see how they're done to gain the maximum benefits offered when done properly.

Unfortunately, some professionally-produced videos and YouTube videos show people doing sloppy TGU's, skipping some of the key movements, showing poor alignment, not fully extending, and hurrying like its a race. You want to mimic how the professionals in the videos below execute the movement. Like so many things Americans try to make easy, say frozen gourmet French cuisine, the TGU is not. You are moving directly against gravity, the greatest force on earth.

In the first video, Gray Cook, a leader in the emerging field of functional movement, demonstrates the TGU. Cook is a physical therapist who wrote an influential book called "Movement" that is very critical of the reliance on machines and fancy technology that is so prevalent in gyms because they don't really prepare people for everyday life or athletic competition - they don't build basic mobility and stability.  He writes: "People move muscles without the burden of controlling body weight, maintaining balance or managing alignment, but that is not life." All these "burdens" are in the TGU.

Note that he says he's is not that good at them. The TGU is much like a difficult piece of music that you must practice over and over again. Many times, especially at when you're learning, it's a struggle, but then it gets manageable.

Here's another excellent video by a Russian Kettlebell Association certified instructor. What's worth noting here is the full extension of his legs and back and how he stays centered under the kettlebell.
Note how during the transition from ground to single leg kneeling position, his body is held up by one leg and two feet in a rotated plank.

So why does this TOJ think the TGU is such a great exercise? It looks so awkward and easy - you just have to stand up. What's so awesome about the TGU is that 14 separate movements are incorporated into it that build the legs, core, and shoulder. This is not the typical gym machine muscle grunt in a single plane like the bench press. The TGU involves rotating the torso and sitting up (using deep core muscles like the internal obliques) and single leg lunge movements firing the glutes. From the very beginning of the exrcise, your shoulder performs one of the most challenging tasks there is for the scapula and glenohumeral joint (ever hear of rotator cuff injuries?) -an overhead press while the body moves. Finally, the TGU improves your balance in all multiple planes (up, down, sideways, forwards, backwards) . When you move through all the postures in the TGU, literally hundreds of  muscles are communicating neurally with each other and the brain with reports as to the status of the body in space, and what muscles may need to be enlisted to support other ones.

The TGU is not a beginners exercise. You must have a relatively strong core and strong, stable shoulder to do this safely. The TGU is really a good guage of your overall

If you've not done it before, train for the TGU by breaking it into three stages: the sit-up, transition to a lunge position, then the rise up. The second half is just those same movements in reverse order. At first, just do these movements with no weight, then, when you know how if feels, add a light kettlebell or dumb bell.

You'll notice that both men in the videos keep their eye on the kettlebell during the entire exercise. They do this to maintain good alignment and stay centered under the weight. The further away a weight is held from your body, the more unstable it will be. The TGU increases the challenge of keeping the weight stable overhead because the weight is loaded asymmetrically - that is, it's held in one hand on one side of your body. The challenge for the rest of your body, which is accomplished when the TGU is done properly, is to maintain your body's center of gravity in complete alignment with the weight overhead.

Here are a few other tips if you want to learn or improve with the TGU:
  • It's not necessary to do more than 3-6 reps per side of your body. At first you may find it challenging to do it on both sides because you have muscle imbalances such that one side is stronger than the other and you may need to train both sides into parity.
  • Concentrate on doing the entire movement properly, not how much weight you are lifting. This exercise is powerful even with light weights.
  • Remember to breath throughout the entire exercise. Don't hold your breath. You're going to use a lot of muscle that needs a steady supply of oxygen.
The TGU never gets easy because you'll steadily want to increase the weight and reps to keep stimulating your muscles. Yeah, it's one of those exercises you'll take a deep breath before you get on the floor to do the first one. Sometimes your arm holding the kettblebell and all the rest of your body will tremble and waver as you struggle to maintain proper form. But you will feel exhilerated like Atlas when you see the kettlebell overhead after you stand up, and you feel a wonderful sense of relief and accomplishment when you lay down the kettlebell after that last rep.

The TGU is training for real life, not building faux muscle for strutting on the beach or in the gym. The real rewards are much more important and long term - you can get out of bed, lift up your child, kneel to pick up something you dropped, reach overhead across a fence to pick an apple, roll under your car to see if the muffler is coming loose. As you watch or do the TGU, think of all the everyday physical activities that are rehearsed in the TGU.

The rewards aren't just physcial either. Sometimes life knocks you down and you have to get back up. You have a setback in your health or at work, wherever. The TGU gives you mental stamina and toughness. Do them so, like my friend, you'll get up.


Draw Your Sword

Even for a TOJ, on some days its hard to put on those running shoes, or pick up that kettlebell, or get down on the floor for pushups. It's that streak of laziness and, sometimes, fear.You anticipate that discomfort, the burn of lactic acid, a sore muscle, even pain.

When you encounter that hesitancy, remember this great Zen story:

A samurai was about to go into battle. He could see in the gathering army across the valley that his side was vastly outnumbered and he would likely die.

On top of a nearby hill, he spotted a Zen monastery. He kicked his horse and sped up the hill. When he got to the gates, he asked to see the Master. A few minutes later, a stern looking old monk stood in front of him. The samurai bowed to him.

"Why do you come to me?" asked the Master, glancing at the assembling armies below.

"I must go into battle, but I have fear," answered the samurai. "What should I do?"

The Master nodded, then answered, "Draw your sword and ride to your death!"

With that, the samurai bowed in gratitude, mounted his horse, drew his sword, and galloped towards the battle line.

So don't think, just act. Tie your running shoes, grab the kettlebell, get down on the floor in pushup position.

Heavy Steps in the Right Direction

Some people have criticized this Nike ad showing an obese young man named Nathan running down a country road. Watch it.

You can read all about the controversy in this article from Time magazine. Nike is definitely no Mother Teresa and has a mixed record when it comes to how they do business, e.g., exploiting child labor in Asia to assemble their shoes (they say they don't do this anymore).

However, watching this ad, it's hard to see what the brouhaha is about. Nike is smart to try to sell shoes to everyone, not just the skinny runners. This is especially true now that 1 of 3 people in many states are obese.

But beyond their mercenary motives, Nike has sent a great message. This kid isn't light on his feet, but he's on his feet, and that's the point. If he keep doing this and watching what he eats, he'll be much lighter on his feet before long. This TOJ admires him for being out there because running for him takes more guts than it does for a gifted athlete like Usain Bolt. You can see this is hard work for this runner.

It's surprising and disappointing to see the reaction from Dr. Katz at Yale. Somehow he (if the sample of his email is accurate) thinks the ad is derogatory to the kid because it shows him struggling. He'd rather see him playing a piano?

Not this TOJ. Katz is a smart guy and heads up an childhood obesity center. He, of all people, knows that running can have instant benefits to someone who is obese and probably pre-diabetic. After even ten minutes of running, Nathan's insulin response improves and his blood pressure will drop a few points. He's young and resilient, so he can handle the stress on his joints in a way that an obese guy in his 50's might not.

This kid is running for his life, and if he keeps it up, he'll win.

The Flame

What a fun couple of weeks watching the amazing young athletes from around the world go for Olympic gold. When you look beyond the parochial nationalism and media hype, you see the flame of desire, effort and aspiration burn bright in those athletes, beyond the sweat, blood, and tears of being in the arena.

Only a select few ever make it to that level of  physical performance, but many carry the flame. People in all countries, of all ages, of all abilities. An old friend (Thanks, Bear) provided a link via Facebook to a cool website called the Age of Happiness, where a Russian guy is featuring never-say-die TOJ's around the world.

My guess is that most of the people reading this blog (and definitely this TOJ) would be hard-pressed to physically accomplish what some of these old folks are able to do, like 86 year old, German gymnast Johanna Quaas. Look at her incredible grace and strength.

Wow! Feel the heat?

You Don't Know Squat

Not long ago, I was with a couple of doctors, chatting in the shade of an umbrella at a Starbucks, when they surprised me by their lack of knowledge of one of the most basic body movements known to man - the squat. 

We had been talking about much healthier people would be, and how they would access the health care system less, if they ate more whole food and exercised more. I mentioned how earlier that week at our wellness club at work we had explored some very basic exercises everyone could do, without a gym, without any equipment, like push-ups, planks, the squat...

When this TOJ said "squat," one of the docs said, "Oh, no, you want to avoid those. They wreck knees. The patellar shear." The other nodded in agreement. "Yeah, those can be dangerous." One of these docs was an avid bicyclist and the other a distance runner, both of which can be very hard on knees. Not only that, both were family practitioners and one of the major complaints of people coming to see them is lower back pain, often caused by not being able to do a squat correctly.

The squat is one of the basic movements that is unavoidable in daily life. If you are going to lift a child or a bag of dog food, you are going to squat. If you don't use the squat, or don't do it correctly, you risk a back injury, usually in the lower lumbar area. Injuries occur when you try to use your back, rather than legs, to lift something off the ground. A properly executed squat requires you to have a strong core and correct posture. It ain't rocket science, but there are some fine points you need to be aware of.

The "patellar shear" mentioned by the doc is caused by using the large thigh (quadriceps) muscles rather than the butt (gluteus) muscles to lift your body during the squat. It's easy to determine whether you are glute or quad dominant by doing a squat. Just do a couple. If you lift your heel off the floor, you are likely quad dominant (and may also need to work on your ankle flexibility) and more prone to knee and back injury. Your heel will be solidly on the ground throughout the entire squat when you are using your glutes.

Learn to do a good squat so it's second nature. When you're comfortable doing them, you can add some weight if you like. But if all you ever do is use your own body weight, you will get stronger and burn lots of calories because you are using the largest muscles in your body.

Here's an excellent video tutorial on how to do a squat. Don't be put off by the trainer's muscles. He knows what he's doing and demonstrates the correct way to do a squat without using any weights.

The two docs know more anatomy and physiology than this TOJ will know in ten lifetimes. But if they want to help people avoid back or knee pain, they need to go back to basics. Until then, they don't know squat.

ADL: The Killer Workout

In past blogs, we've explored exercise regimens that enlist fast twitch fibers, deplete glycogen, tear down the build muscles, maximize heart rates, etc. -- hard core exercise stuff with lots of sweat and some science.

This blog is different because it's more mundane, though just as important as any about the cutting edge, ultra, exercise theories. In fact, given some of the recent findings by physiologists, maybe it's more important, especially if your job keeps you on your butt in front of a computer much of the day or you like to watch hours of TV or spend hours reading books like the bestseller 50 Shades of Grey.

I made an unexpected discovery over the past three weeks as my wife and I moved from Colorado to Oregon. First there was the packing, then then the move, then the unloading. Then, once in the house we rented, there was fix up, cleaning, and taming (I can't think of a better word) the yard, once no doubt a thing of beauty, but that had been neglected for years.

During those weeks I formally "worked out" only a couple of times, that is, put on exercise shorts, wick away t-shirts, Five Fingers or Montrails, and counted reps or minutes. Rarely was I out of breath or my muscles burning. But by the time bedtime rolled around, I was exhausted. My body was shot  from non-stop ADL.

ADL is a physical therapist/sports physiologist/orthopaedist catchall phrase for the Activities of Daily Living, the basic physical activities we typically do every day - push, pull, lift, lunge and squat. Very important functional movements.We don't even think about them much, though they are really the basis for every exercise routine we ever do.

I was really surprised after finding the bathroom scales in a moving box and standing on them. During the move, I had lost 5 pounds, more than I did in my typical workweek when I did my usual exercise - ketttlebells, running, weight lifting, calisthenics, HIT, Navy Seal routines, etc. In the average week, this TOJ about 260 - 300 minutes of moderate to hard exercise.

And during that time of moving and moving in, I ate every chance I got and drank lots of water (yeah, beer, too). What had changed?

I grabbed my copy of Jay Hoffman's Norms for Fitness, Performance and Health and looked up the energy expenditure/minute of various physical activities, from competitive sports to yard work. The charts are based on body weight. I guessed that on average in my workouts I burn somewhere  between 12 - 15 calories/minute. During the move and taming the yard, I burned between 6 - 8 calories/min., which doesn't sound like much. So why the weight loss?

Because I was burning 6 calories per minute for a minimum of 6 hours per day, which equates to 1,500 calories per day. On a hard workout day I might burn 900. That's a 600 calorie/day difference of ADL over exercise. During that period, I burned about 4,200 more calories each week. A pound of fat (sure, throw in a little water loss) is about 3,500 calories. The math shows I should have lost about 4 pounds, which is just what happened.

My point is not to stop doing the usual hard "exercise" because it's good for our hearts, muscles, bones, metabolism and mental health. I love it.

However, ADL is exercise, too. Everyday physical labor counts. It's good for us too, more than we know.

More about this in the next couple of days...

Training Like a Mixed Martial Artist

Excuse the long break. I left a great bunch of great co-workers and a wonderful job and to move to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to family and spend more time on TOJ passions like blogging more and writing a  book about wellness.

One physical goal is to improve my overall stability and mobility, something very basic that mixed martial artists have known about for a long time. I don't plan to jump in the cage to fight anytime soon (ok, ever :-), but the way they train is useful for people of all ages and physical abilities. Many athletes, including TOJs, think because they can run a few miles or pump some iron that they must be in shape. But it ain't necessarily so.

Due to the grueling requirements of their discipline, mixed martial artists must possess strength, power, flexibility, agility and endurance -- attributes we can all use to one degree or another whether we compete in any sport or not. Everyday life offers plenty of physical challenges that result in injury, if not defeat in the ring.

I was reading the other day that the Denver Broncos strength and conditioning coach is incorporating more mixed martial arts techniques into their training routines. His goal is to help his players be more resilient and sustain a high level of physical performance throughout entire games, especially those in the last part of the season.  To accomplish this takes more than the same old, same old ten more bench presses or 40 yd. sprints.

Often mixed martial arts fighters need to attack or defend, very quickly, while exerting force, from awkward positions -- on their backs or bellies, or while twisting, or jammed in a corner holding off the weight of an opponent. To prepare for this they practice lots of explosive movements, plyometrics (jumping), and core conditioning, way beyond conventional plank positions and ab crunches. Their exercises strengthen not only the big primary muscles that make you move, but also all the smaller muscles that stabilize the entire body during the movement.

You'll find all kinds of excellent training routines, many using only body weight or dumbbells, in
MMA coach Martin Rooney's  Warrior Cardio: The Revolutionary Metabolic Training System for Burning Fat, Building Muscle, and Getting Fit. What you notice is how the exercises are designed to take you into multiple planes of movement, not just forward then backward, or one side to another. The exercises include movement in every plane, including rotation, thus enlisting almost all 600+ muscles in your body.

You don't have to be a lean, mean, macho fighter to benefit from these enhanced exercises. Check out this excellent video in which Jackie Warner demonstrates the MMA Drop Knee.

So what's the big deal? She's rotating the torso while supporting her body with asymetric points of contact. This requires tremendous strength and control, builds her shoulders and core, stimulates her nerves and muscles to stay in balance, and promotes flexibility.

Often the best exercises are very, very basic.

Stopping the Death of 1,000 Cuts

When NY Mayor Mike Bloomberg took action to restrict the size of soda pop beverages, much of the public, including the nutrition pundits, whined like a three year old being told she couldn't have a lollipop before dinner. No surprise there were lots of objections from people in the streets because in NY over half the population is obese, unlike the rest of the a US where only one-third of us are. Many of them are addicted to sugar. Do you see cocaine addicts gleefully forgo snorting cocaine?

Of course, the soda pop industry marshaled its PR hacks, many with PhDs, to remind everyone that it's not just soda  pop that's leading to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, especially among our children. What about french fries and candy and donuts and pizza and ice cream and mom's apple pie? They acted as if they had been wrongfully accused. What great actors!

Actually, there is a tiny germ of truth in what they said. Yes, it's a lot of little things we do day in, day out that are causing our slow motion health massacre. Not just one dramatic thing like millions of people lining up to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. No, it's quieter and more insidious than that. It's the death of 1,000 cuts where you slowly bleed to death. A major source of those cuts is the beverage industry, in particular soda pop.

The only way to stop the death of 1,000 cuts is to stop the cuts - one at a time. We need to change our social norms so it's not acceptable to push sugar, especially onto kids. This will not happen instantly, but over time as more people stand up to sugar profiteers and just say NO, it's not cool to drink the stuff at home, parties, and at work. That's how it will change - more and more people stand against sugar-embalmed drinks just like they did tobacco.

Mayor Bloomberg should be commended because he's doing what he can to stop the nutritional blood-letting. It might deter a few New Yorkers or get them to think about what they are doing to themselves or their kids. It's already caused debates on national television, a good thing (if anybody's watching).

The dump-soda pop movement is spreading West, too. Recently a close relative who works in a hospital in the Pacific Northwest asked why the vending machines are full of sugared crap, especially when so many patients are there because of health issues like heart disease and diabetes, diseases caused by poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles. The hospital higher ups have promised more healthful choices.

When it comes to sugar and soda pop, we all need to become Mayor Bloombergs. In our houses and workplaces, maybe we can help stop the bleeding.

All About "That"

My wife and I had lunch with some old friends that we hadn't seen for a few years. We all highlighted what had transpired in our lives and what we're planning now. Me: Uh, let's see:in a couple of days run the Bolder-Boulder, then go back home for a month to finish my job, move to Oregon, and maybe write a book.

"A book about what?" our female friend asked.

"About wellness." I told them about a Wellness Club we formed at work and how we had learned so much about diet, exercise, and health during the past year. And about every one's individual struggle to lose weight, get more fit, whatever.

The woman raised her eyebrows and said, "Everybody knows all about that and what we should do. We just don't do it." I conceded she had a point about motivation, but looking at her I had to wonder if that's really true, that is, if we all really know what we should do. Though she's a good friend from our past, I definitely didn't think she knew what she should do.  She proudly explained that she and her husband had spent $1500 on a vibrating platform that enables you to get a total body workout in 10 minutes. But I had to wonder. Up in years, she had a nasal cannula connected to a portable oxygen  bottle. In the more than a decade I'd known her, never had she exercised much.

The truth is that most of us don't know very much about "that." Many know more about how to operate a cell phone than what to eat to stay healthy. Actually, most people - educated or not, rich or not, young or old, etc. - know little about the food they put into their mouths or what happens to it once it enters their bodies. What they do know, they get from cereal commercials and FDA propoganda.

Once you start to learn about food, it can be very surprising. Take carbohydrates for example. I thought I know quite a bit about that macro nutrient until I tried to understand why so many low carb advocates, like those who've gone Paleo, are slimmer and still have high energy levels. Remember the gospel of carbo-loading for endurance athletes? It sold lots of pizza and sugary-gels, although it's mainly a myth, a harmful one.

Learning all about "that" actually starts with dispelling some of those myths, like the one that low fat, high carb diets are good for you. Or that you have to run marathons to be fit.

I saw a reference to a book about carbs, published in 2011, by Jeff Volek, PhD, and Steven Phinney, MD, called "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living."  It had received praise from Dr. Michael Eades, the well-known author of books about high-protein diets. He had paid it the highest possible compliment, saying it was the book he wished he'd written because of its scientific rigor.

I happened to be in Denver at a huge Barnes and Noble and went to the diet and health section to find a copy, but there was none to be found. Instead, what was on the shelves were books like "I Can Make You Hot: The Supermodel Diet." Dumb, and useless for a TOJ.

But I was able to get the Volek and Phinney book on my Kindle. I'm finally learning about the nitty-gritty of carbs." The research is all there and well explained. It's a great book about "that."

Back to Basics

The more I read about functional anatomy and its relationship to the typical sports/weekend warrior aches and pains like pulled hamstrings, aching knees, and limited range of motion and soreness in the shoulder, the more I think that physical therapists have it right that most of us could use a basic makeover of how we use our joints and muscles.

No matter what the sport or activity, the body really performs a few basics: pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting, and single leg movements. Because we do them so often and have done them for so long, we don't think much about them. But that doesn't mean we do them in the optimum way to maximize how our muscles perform and minimize the risk for injury. In fact, often we are our own worst enemies.

Take the squat for example, the one we use with a barbell on our backs or to drop down to lift a bag of dog food. Squats are often a source of back and knee pain if they are done incorrectly. Watch yourself  when you squat. Do your knees go forward  and your heels lift off the ground? Do you bend your back? You are what they call quad dominant, meaning you rely on your quadriceps instead of the powerful glutes in your lower back and butt. When you squat with quad dominance, you place tremendous sheer forces on the knee and ACL, and your rounded back places undue strain on the lower lumbar area of the spine.

The safest and most effective squat starts with pushing your hips backwards so that your pelvic area acts like a hinge. The back remains strait, tilted slightly forward at the hips. Your body lifts itself back up by the contraction of your powerful glutes, not the quadriceps on the front of your thighs. Your feet remain solidly flat, heels pinned to the ground.

Most of us who are a little athletic - maybe run a race every now and then or lift some weights - assume we're in pretty good shape. We get injured sometimes or have pains and figure that's just goes with the territory. But that's not really true. The real problem is that all our joints are not mobile or stable enough to do their work through a full range of motion. For instance, the 10K runner out there training will pull a muscle if he has to step quickly sideways to dodge a kid on a tricycle. Or the guy who can do 50 push ups pulls his deltoid lifting a piece of baggage into the overhead bin on an airplane. We are very one dimensional in our skills - we can run forwards, but not backwards, we can push, but not pull.

If you'd like to get a better grasp of what this is all about, pick up a copy of Pete Egoscue's The Egoscue Method of Health Trough Motion or Michael Boyle's Advances in Functional Training.

Strange as it sounds, most of us need some remedial work on posture and basic movements and less preoccupation with speed and power.


For the Rest of Your LIfe

The prestigious Institute of Medicine and several federal agencies are teaming up to produce an HBO documentary on obesity called "The Weight of the Nation." No doubt it will be well done, but you can predict that it will have lots of shots of unidentified fat butts and academic talking heads portentously announcing that, for the first time in US history, many of our children and grand children will live shorter lives than previous generations due to poor food and sedentary lifestyles.

Frank Bruni wrote an insightful piece about the documentary and obesity in the NY Times. The most important line in his article is the one with the words, "...we need to rethink and remake our environment much more thoroughly than we seem poised to do." I think what he really means is that we need to make more fundamental and rapid changes than our policymakers and institutions are ready to make because they are slow to react and pretty much under the control of agribusiness. That or they are as ignorant as many of the rest of us.

Recently I was at a conference on workplace wellness in Colorado. Knowing I'd have to battle traffic going into the conference center in downtown Denver, I skipped breakfast because they were going to serve breakfast before the opening session. I figured at a wellness conference I could count on finding some good protein sources, like eggs and sausage, because a solid breakfast goes a long way towards stabilizing blood sugars for the rest of the day.

What a surprise to find the offerings consisted of deadly choices like high carb granola and bagels, i.e., sugar once out of the gut and into the bloodstream and low fat yogurt with 26 grams of sugar! I remembered that when I read Bruni's article. I also remembered that the keynote speaker was a PhD Director from a recently constructed obesity research center that would house some of the top scientists studying the problem. He said something very odd: that we should all be patient with the fast food industry because they are trying to come up with healthy alternatives. Really?

The exact opposite is true. Yep, the obesity epidemic has many causes - sedentary lives in front of computers, kids ride rather than walk to school, the stress of long commutes, etc. - but a MAJOR cause is fast food that's laden with sugars, chemicals, and carbs. This food is carefully engineered by PhD's like the pudgy CEO to fire the dopamine receptors so people crave the food just like addicts crave cocaine.

Many of the MDs and PhDs who are experts in the obesity field are as in the grip of Big Food as a mouse being slowly killed by boa constrictor. They end up being apologists for corporations that they should condemn.

What Bruni intimates (correctly) is that there needs to be a massive shift in our social norms. A good place to start would shun industrial fast food just as we do tobacco. Industrial food should be exiled from houses, work cafeterias, and public buildings. This cause will not be lead by many academics or government institutions because their research funding and government largess depends on keeping these powerful, and often vindictive, political forces placated and fixated on their stock prices.

Don't wait for the big institutions to tell you what you need to do, which the people in them often don't do themselves. You can start to make better food choices right now. More fresh foods, more organic, more grass fed. Tell your family, friends, and co-workers why these foods are better and invite them to try it. Your example will inspire more people than any documentary with a bunch of talking heads.


God Damn the Sugar Pusherman

Last Sunday on CBS 60 Minutes, Dr. Sanjay Gupta courageously (taking the risk of losing advertising)  raised a very controversial issue before millions of Americans that has been gaining steam for over a year on You Tube.  Gupta's question is,  is this: Is sugar toxic? A pediatric endocrinologist at UC San Francisco named Dr. Robert Lustig has answered YES at the top of his lungs for years. Now Lustig's message has cracked the Media Big Time.

Watch this video and see what you think. What is happening is that slowly but surely credible evidence is mounting that sugar and fructose, in all their many forms, is at the root of most of the so-called diseases of civilization, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and many cancers, and bankrupting the U.S. healthcare system and millions of individuals and families right along with it.

It's not welcome news because we have a national sweet tooth. Sugar is addictive and addicts become very aggressive and angry when anybody tries to cut off their drug supply. Too hell with anybody who would stand between us and our ice cream, candy, doughnuts, apple pie, Twinkies, pancakes, beer, and __________ (fill in the blank with your favorite).

The problem with sugar is that we eat way to much of it. If the scientists in the video are right, it's because sugar behaves like a drug and, over time, you need to consume more and more of it to satisfy your sweet cravings. There really is no pro-sugar data to present to argue against the arguments made in this video. Witness the fumbling sugar industry spokesman. He says lamely that people will not stop eating it, but does not deny sugar consumption may be a factor in Americans' failing health.

Ironically, a few days before this 60 Minutes segment, the media excitedly reported the results of a study showing that bariatric surgery (reducing the size of the stomach) and consequent weight loss could "cure" diabetes. The study was sponsored by, guess who?, the manufacturer of bariatric surgical instruments. Weight loss surgeons are making the public case that it's cheaper to pay them $20,000 now for a surgical procedure than to pay for all the future complications of diabetes, which dwarf that number. Really?

One of the reasons healthcare costs have spiraled out of control is we have created a perverse cycle where our sedentary work and adulterated industrial food cause life and lifestyle threatening health conditions that an innovative and greedy healthcare system stands ready to "cure" with expensive interventions using exotic technologies. Forget for the moment that any surgery is inherently risky due to chance of infection or complications.

How about we just exercise more and eat less sugar? Not no sugar, just less.

Muscles: Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of

You've gotta shake your head in awe and wonder when you realize what muscles do, either when going about the regular tasks of daily life or exercising at your limits.

Truly one of the great miracles of life is how chemical energy, stored in our bodies as glucose or fat, is converted into power and motion - lifting, running, catching, kicking, throwing, etc. To accomplish these, our bodies have multiple energy systems at work, often simultaneously.

To move, muscles must contract, which requires what is called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When a single phosphate molecule breaks away from an adenosine molecule in the muscle cell, energy is released that causes a muscle to contract. Each time this happens, another phosphate molecule must replace the previous one for the muscle to contract again. That phosphate must come from delivered from outside the cell. The harder and longer we exercise, the more ATP is needed. When you run out of ATP, you stop moving.

Depending on whether you are jogging slowly or sprinting hard, a different energy system will perform the job of providing the phosphate to form ATP. If you're jogging slowly (aerobic), you use oxygen with glucose or fat. If you are doing high intensity exercise (anaerobic), you will use creatine phosphate for a few seconds, then switch to pure glucose, which won't last much longer than a few minutes.

Few of us, even in our most intense workouts, ever discover the limits of our energy systems because if we push our muscles hard enough, our willpower surrenders to the the burning sensation caused by the buildup of lactic acid and we slow down or lower the barbell. On rare occasions, such as shown in the video below, we reach our chemical boundaries, sometimes in ways that are admirable and comic at the same time. You can also learn a lot about how muscles work by watching someone, like these triathlon competitors, enter the twilight zone of muscle failure.

What you just saw was somenne who can no longer deliver phosphate to the ATP in their muscle cells. The commentator is wrong that the person has run out of calories. The energy is present in the body, but in forms that can no longer be delivered and converted fast enough. Actually these women were probably starting to produce glycogen by metabolizing their own muscle tissue through a slower process called gluconeogenesis, a last ditch effort by the body to respond to signals from the brain to get fuel to the muscle cells. But it's too little, too late. The people who finished ahead of them, through a combination of genetics and training, were able to keep their energy flowing.

What's also interesting to watch is how the body naturally recruits other muscles to accomplish a task that muscles usually used in the task can no longer perform. If you are trying to open the tight lid on a bottle of ketchup, sometimes you cannot do it just with an easy twist of your fingers, but must enlist your hardest grip and the action of your forearm muscles. Often when you watch the finish of a running race, you'll see people running in abnormal or awkward ways, throwing their arms side to side or lifting their hips to pull their legs forward. When one set of muscles fail, another set will come forward to try to get the goal accomplished. In the case of the video, these womens' leg muscles were depleted of ATP, but they were still able to recruit their fueled upper bodies, still rich with ATP, and crawl to the finish.

Shakespeare was right: we are such stuff as dreams are made of.

Seeing Red

As every sentient omnivore must know by now, red meat got butchered by the media last week. Unfortunately, it only further confuses a public in desperate need of information on what they should eat to improve their health as more Americans become obese and rates of chronic disease skyrocket.

The first story was a bona fide expose that 70% of the ground beef for sale in the local grocery store has been adulterated by "pink slime," a filler made from fat and other debris left on the killing floor in the meat processing plant. The concoction is put through an industrial process to remove some of the fat then gassed with ammonia to sterilize it.  In a comic display of corporate doublespeak, a meat industry spokesperson made the rounds on national television to say with a straight face (with no hint of humor or deception) that pink slime is beef. Nobody was fooled.

Then a second  meat blockbuster blared from every major TV station and newspaper because of the severity of the claim: The Harvard School of Public Health announced that people who eat red meat are shortening their lives by years!  What this study really proves is that Harvard's stature as a credible source of information for national policy debates on health and nutrition should itself be studied. Harvard's study is to legitimate scientific inquiry what pink slime is to beef. Read these excellent critiques of the Harvard study by Gary Taubes (warning: it's long but worth it) or Denise Minger at Mark Sisson's website.

What I find most intriguing and absent in the Harvard study is that it ignores multiple questions about all red meats that so many of us consume, which are tainted with growth hormones, antibiotics, and other additives. And what about corn? The industrial ag feed lots force cattle to fatten up fast with corn so they can be turned into $. Unfortunately, corn is a grain that a cow's their ruminant GI system is not designed by nature to digest. As a result, vital nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids are diminished while excessive saturated fats are increased. The USDA says not to worry, but more and more people do not believe them any more than Harvard University.

A TOJ always tries to keep an open mind. Right now there's a paradigm fight underway between the meat eaters in one corner, represented by the Paleo and Primal crowd, and the vegetarians, represented by Dr. Dean Ornish and former president Bill Clinton, in the other. It's possible that there's something in meat, especially if it's eaten in excess, that is harmful to our health. Dr. Gabe Mirkin provides an interesting bit of scientific speculation about a molecule called New5Gc that was discovered by Ajit Varki of the University of California and included in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2003. Spooky.

However, this TOJ will continue to eat red meat, mostly organically grown and grass fed, and not-charred. Red meat is rich in amino acids and B-vitamins. Your muscles need to be fed with high quality protein, despite what Harvard or the USDA have to say about it. Living long is great, but first and foremost you want to live well.

A Little Fortius

For many of us, the journey to fitness is a never-ending. Even people in very good shape in terms of body composition, endurance, flexibility, and strength, will for some reason, feel they need to do more. Sometimes it's to avoid boredom with the same exercise routines. But just as often it seems there's just a constant drive to do more. It's like we become obsessed with the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius, i.e., Faster, Higher, Stronger.

A very good female friend asked about doing upper body work with a barbell. Although she's plenty fit and does cardio and resistance several times a week, she's been reading some materials by body builders and is curious about standard exercises with the barbell, such as dead lifts, squats and presses. Some of her interest is driven by a desire to further strengthen her upper body (maybe a little to get a little more buff looking) and add variety to her workouts.

She's works out routinely and effectively with dumbbells, mostly high rep endurance exercise. Now she's started doing some low rep deadlifts and thinks about doing the same with presses. There are some specific benefits to pressing a barbell, but most of the benefits can also be realized with safer exercises like push ups. True, you can get stronger lifting more than your body weight, but who needs to be that strong?

My friend is a TOJ. The main reason I wonder about her getting wanting to lift significant weight on a barbell is because there is a much higher probability for injury. Lifting a weight overhead can invite shoulder or back problems if the joints aren't already strong and stable. The problem with either a shoulder or back injury is that they don't just slow your journey to fitness, they can bring it to a frustrating and permanent halt.

She's already in great shape and will do it if she decides to. Maybe she can start with just the bar with no added and see what it feels like, if pressing the bar recruits muscles she feels need more work. Or maybe she'll discover she's already doing plenty of good resistance exercises with calisthenics, straps, kettlebells and dumbbells.

Exercise is too fun and important to our health to put at risk. Whenever taking on a new challenge, ask why you're doing it and be honest about the risk. If you decide to go for it, be guided by a modified Olympic motto: A Little Faster, A Little Higher, A Little Stronger.

Born to Lift

My daughter pointed me to this hilarious video on the barefoot running craze. The book Born to Run, about a tribe in northern Mexico that run ultra distances in primitive huaraches, launched a national mania this guy captures perfectly. The book implied that the way most civilized people run is wrong and that there was a conspiracy among prominent shoe companies to torture and maim the running public with over-padded clunkers (Bill Bowerman, Oregon track coach who spent thousands of hours of making the first Nike waffle sole, and ultimately died as a result from unknowingly inhaling noxious fumes, must have rolled over in his grave).

Like something out of a Monty Python movie, the book inspired armies of yuppies running 10Ks and marathons on asphalt, who are always searching for "the next best thing" to get an edge in the next Race for the Cure. Predictably, opportunistic shoe manufacturers introduced lines of so-called barefoot or minimalist shoes, which had fewer materials, especially underfoot padding, yet cost more than the shoes offering good protection. Getting more for less, the shoe companies laughed all the way to the bank.

Meantime exercise physiologists at Harvard were hard at work producing slow motion videos showing that less padded shoes encourage a runner to land gently on the mid-foot, not hard on the heel, resulting in fewer injuries. Of course, what they didn't mention is that you also run much slower. (Following their logic, you could walk and get even fewer injuries. Duh. That takes a PhD?)

I noticed in the latest Runner's World shoe issue that the minimalist craze is tapering -- the shoes are getting beefier again. Turns out you get injured running barefoot too, and still run slower than you hope, so people are returning to shoes with more padding.

Sorry, but there are no easy tricks to faster or easier running. You have to train by logging the miles. Sometimes you will get injured. You have to build aerobic and anaerobic capacity and feel like hell once in a while.  Even then, you will still have a pre-determined genetic mix of slow and fast twitch fibers that you can enhance some but not completely alter.

Not immune to the craze, a couple years ago I got some Vibram Five Fingers. I ran about ten yards on grass when I first got them and realized immediately they would hurt my lower legs and feet. However, I discovered they are great for lifting weights because they place you in a very stable position on a flat surface. I'm thinking about writing a book called "Born to Lift" about an old TOJ in Colorado who stumbles on a long lost tribe of Native Americans who possess enormous physical strength and endurance because they wear... 

Warming Up: The Real Deal

There are warm-ups, then there are real warm-ups. If you are going for a fitness run, you're warm-up can be as simple as starting with a slow jog for a half mile then gradually picking up your pace. However, if you are going to do any load bearing exercise, like lifting weights, you need to actually work up some sweat, like you have a slight fever.

In fact, you want to get your core temperature to around 103 degrees F. That's the point at which the collagen and elastin in your muscles and tendons are able to stretch or contract, as they will under resistance, without injury. The heat also improves the ability of fluids to move through and around muscle and connective tissue, as well as the synovial fluid in the moving joints, and thus perform better.

The video below demonstrates an excellent warm-up. What you'll see is not a namby-pamby little static stretch (like you see runners doing standing one one leg and pulling back the foot of the other to stretch the quadriceps) here and there, but an energetic, dynamic sequence in preparation for a more demanding workout.

A routine like this one is a real workout in itself. If you only had ten minutes to exercise, this would be a good one. Add a few more reps of a few of these exercises, like more push-ups, jumping jacks, and squats, and you'd give your heart and muscles some useful exercise even if you didn't do anything else.

Notice how the trainer activates all the major muscle groups and joints. Also, watch how he moves his body in all directions - up, down, laterally, rotating around. He moves without smoothly and without delay from exercise to exercise.

Try the sequence with him. If you can't do it as quickly, do what you can. If you can't do all of them, pick a few of the movements and master them one at a time. When you can do them all, you'll have a really good base of stability, mobility, and core strength to build on.

He's a good benchmark. When you can match him movement for movement and keep your breath under control like he does, you've arrived at a fitness milesone. Then you can ask yourself: What next?

A Tale of Two Exercises

I've been reading strength coaches Don John and Pavel's book, Easy Strength: How to Get a Lot Stronger than Your Competition. As a TOJ, I don't worry to much about my competition (what competition?), but books like this usually have some something relevant to fitness that's worth learning. John and Pavel (of Russian kettelbell fame) targeted this book towards strength training for performance-focused athletes and sometimes it really gets pedantic, like whether it's better to do weight lifting with laddering sets of 10, 8, 6, 4 or 4, 6, 8, 10. Answer: Who knows?

That said, it's a good read with some useful information. John and Pavel take turns offering their experienced advice and insights on various aspects of weight training. I found Pavel's especially interesting because he cites the work of several top Russian exercise physiologists whose work had been concealed for decades, like nuclear secrets, behind the Iron Curtain. For decades, the Russians dominated Olympic weight-lifting because they developed unique approaches to building strength and power, including plyometrics and the kettlebell.

Ironically, Pavel gives credit to a Danish researcher who recently discovered a different approach to kettlebell training called "overspeed eccentric kettlebell swings and snatches." Looking for an innovative way to use kettelbells in cardiovascular training, the researcher discovered that if you take a lighter kettlebell than you normally workout with and intentionally accelerate it during the descending part of the technique (sort of like you are hiking a football), generating a large momentum, then explosively pull it back up using your feet, arms, and lock out of the hips, with just 4 sets of 10 reps you get performance improvements in all kinds of other exercises like squats, jumps, lunges, and even agility and throwing. The point is, a lighter kettlebell (Russians pride themselves on heavy ones) swung at a higher speed produces benefits throughout your entire body (your kinetic chain) from head to toe.

Because the horn (loop) of the kettlebell will roll harder in your hand, Pavel even passes along a very simple suggestion by an American kettlebell coach to avoid wrecking your hands by ripping the calluses on your palm. Just take a sock and cut off a few inches of the elastic tube and pull it over your hand. The sock lets the kettlebell move as needed and provides both protection for, and adequate control with your fingers.

See what it looks like in the picture below. (I could still cut off another inch or so.) It works great! I expect some American entrepreneur to start selling Kettlebell Sleeves in neon colors any time.

And speaking of exercise, watch this video, posted by Facebook friend Don Andrew. It shows George Hood setting a Guinness World Record for holding an abdominal plank for OVER TWO HOURS!

Today the Super Bowl is on TV.  Some great athletes will perform. I'm not sure who to bet on. But I would bet that none of the players who set foot on the field could pull off  the feat of strength and endurance accomplished by this 54 year old. A true TOJ!

The Food Fakers

As all TOJs know, one of the best things you can do for your fitness and long term health is eat more natural, whole foods, and eat less industrial, processed foods.

However, there are corporate armies trying to block your path by lobbying Congress for subsidies and deception on food labels. They use psychologists and chemical engineers, like the ones who work for a soulless corporation (Givauden) featured in this excellent segment that appeared on CBS 60 Minutes, to lure you into what resembles a chemical dependency, like a drug addict. What is so remarkable, as you'll see in this video, is they are shameless about what they are trying to do.

These people seem nice enough, but if you listen carefully to what they are saying, it's obvious your health is not their top priority. It's not just the problem that many artificial flavors are simply unnatural chemicals which have no business being introduced into your body, or that few credible studies exist as to the damaging long term effects of insulting your gut with them.

What is most insidious is that they use their engineering to fool your senses into putting something into your system that you would find tasteless or repellent without it. Their flavors make adulterated foods taste like something real and nutritious. They turn processed gunk into flavorful chicken nuggets and sugar water into "fruit" juice.

Humans co-evolved with food. Our senses and brains are hard-wired to seek certain smells and tastes and avoid others. Millions of years of evolution taught us what tastes bad might be bad, i.e., poisonous, or dangerous. It's no wonder the illusionists in the video use real fruits, rich in flavor and nutrients, to disguise empty calorie foods with no nutrient value whatsoever, like soda pop.

Ironically, the segment was sponsored by Lipitor, often prescribed to people who no doubt have diabetes and cardiovascular disease caused by eating  bottled, canned, and packaged fake foods disguised with their memorable flavors. A sick win-win.