Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Food for thought#3

If you had a million dollar race horse would you deprive
it of valuable sleep,give it drugs, cigarettes, alcohol,
junk food and sit it in front of a TV for a few
hours a day? How about a $100 dollar parrot? A $10 dog?
A$5 cat? How about a billion dollar body? (adapted from
Zig Ziglar)

Point being you are infinitely more valuable than any
other creature or possession on this earth-now start
treating yourself like it.

Sexy Abs in 5 Seconds?!

#1 Deep Breathing Exercise for Improving Lung Capacity, Correcting Poor Breathing Habits, and Trimming Your Waistline.

Call it the ‘vacuum’, Farmer Burns Stomach Flattener, or 5 seconds Abs. But no matter what name you affix to it the exercise I will teach you below is easily the best exercise in existence for improving your lung capacity, correcting poor breathing habits, and trimming your waistline.

Breathing is central to good health, so it only seems right to make a simple breathing exercise the foundation of your current health regiment. Farmer Burns along with many other elite physical culturists over the course of the centuries have stated;

“Breathing has made many a sick man well, and many a weak man strong.”

I think two of the best benefits of this exercise are that it cone be done anywhere and by anyone. Most abdominal exercises you are familiar with must be done on the floor or with a bulky piece of equipment. Secondly, most abdominal exercises you are familiar with are only suitable for those who have a decent base level of fitness, certainly not someone who has been bed ridden for months. Well guess what with a little practice this little exercise can be done in a full tuxedo without your bow tie getting even slightly out of place. It can also be done by a patient whose feet haven’t touched the floor in months.

This exercise can be done standing, sitting, lying down, in the shower, on the toilet, waiting in line, sitting in traffic, on a long flight, at work, on a long walk, in a restaurant, etc. I hope you get the idea. IF you can think of a situation, you can probably do the vacuum in conjunction with it. The people who have truly mastered this exercise can actually do it in conjunction with some of the other exercises they do. So instead of spending hours each week on your abs if you have five minutes or find yourself in any one of the above mentioned situations you can get a complete ab workout and oxygenate your blood stream in the process.

I will describe this exercise to you in detail before I go on to the specific benefits of it. It is best to learn the exercise from a standing position until you become familiar with the muscles being worked and the coordination needed to execute a proper repetition.

1) Stand normally with good posture. Begin inhaling through your nose and as you are doing do push your stomach out and try to direct your inhaled breath into your stomach. This will seem weird at first but with a little practice you will find you can take in much more air than a normal inhalation involving just your chest. This inhalation phase should take approximately 5 seconds.

2) Once you have reach your peak inhalation hold your breath for 5 seconds while simultaneously tensing your abs. Persons with high blood pressure should either skip this step or shorten it to 1 or 2 seconds.

3) Then through pursed lips begin exhaling slowly, while simultaneously drawing your belly button towards your spine and continuously tensing your abdominals. When your abs are drawn in correctly you may look like a malnourished Ethiopian child like we all remember seeing in World Vision commercials. You will have a ‘hollow’ and likely be able to see some if not all of your ribs. The exhalation phase should take 5 seconds as well. It should be forceful and you should be able to hear and feel the air rushing out of you in a controlled manner. Drawing in the lower abs is of primary importance. You may notice a strengthening of the pelvic floor by practicing this exercise as well.

4) This can be considered a bonus step but the feeling is worthwhile. After all the air is exhaled tighten up all your ab muscles that much more and you can even hunch forward a bit to get an extra squeeze. Try holding this for 5 seconds as well before you begin the next inhalation phase. Even the most advanced fitness experts should notice a tight feeling, almost borderline cramping in their abs within the first rep or two.

It may take a while to get this all figures out but once you have it you can often practice it while doing 2 or 3 other things-it almost becomes instinctive. Shoot for a minimum of 10 reps per session.

When holding each phase for 5 seconds becomes too easy try lengthening each phase to 7 seconds, then 10, then 15 and so on. It isn’t uncommon for breath masters to be able to make one complete rep of this exercise last for 1 minute.

Whether or not this exercise actually burns fat is somewhat debatable but physiologically speaking the main reason people do cardio is to force their bodies to consume more oxygen is to ‘oxidize’ the fat or to ‘burn’ the fat. It is the same process believe it or not. You are consuming massive amounts of oxygen by performing this exercise, which in turn reaches your tissues and burns the fat away. So in theory, skip the treadmill and do a few sets of this exercise. You will feel much more energized. I can’t actually prove it but if you try it you will begin to understand what I am talking about.

The second half of this fabulous exercise is the muscular strengthening portion. The drawing in of the stomach and the tensing portion at the end serves to strengthen and tone your abs in a different way than anything else. You see when most people train abs they focus almost completely on the six pack or the rectus abdominus muscles. While these muscles have some benefit ultimately they just add muscular bulk to your midsection. Not exactly what you want if are trying to trim down. Furthermore the majority of the exercise that work the rectus abdominus create muscle imbalance and muscle strain.

The vacuum works all your abdominal muscles but most specifically a muscle called the transverse abdominus.(TVA) The muscle does what the name indicates and runs across the abdomen creating a natural girdle of sorts. As we age this muscle becomes incredibly weak. This is why even if some one doesn’t have much visible abdominal fat they can still appear to have a belly of sorts. The vacuum tightens the TVA like nothing else so your girdle pulls everything in together giving you a slim look. Of course this takes some dedicated effort as in at least a few weeks of doing 10 reps of doing this exercise everyday. In the past it is not uncommon for me to have knocked off 3 inches from my waistline by consistently practicing this exercise and changing nothing else.

Have you ever been sitting or lying on the spot and suddenly felt short of breath or felt like you are breathing in an extremely shallow manner. I bet if you really think about it these are also the times you feel tired or stressed out as well. This is because much of the fatigue people experience is from shallow or improper breathing therefore resulting in poor oxygen intake. In addition when we are stressed or frustrated we tend to breathe more rapidly but also more shallow. This again results in poor oxygenation and an uncomfortable feeling which only heightens the stress. But when you feel these things do a few reps of the vacuum and you will instantly feel energized, or if stressed you will feel more relieved and more in control of your situation. It is often recommended you do this exercise when you first wake up to correctly set your breathing patterns, oxygenate your bloodstream giving you more energy, and it helps put you in a positive frame of mind.

You will likely find a few weeks of practice makes other cardiovascular endeavours easier because your lungs have stretched and your actually chanmber your lungs sit in has expanded allowing your lungs more room to expand. Furthermore, your breathing muscles, particularly your diaphragm, are stronger. Also note when you are panting and puffing after a tough exercise bout you will likely see your stomach going in and out rapidly.

Probably one last benefit of the exercise is that it puts us back into infant like breathing patterns. You see when we are first born we have perfectly correct breathing patterns. Most healthy infants as you may have observed are tummy breathers. You can watch as they inhale their stomach expands. Conversely with each exhale the stomach gets pulled in. Sure sounds like the exercise I just described doesn’t it. Then through laziness, mimicry, and poor posture we slowly lose these habits. Similarly most infants and toddlers have perfect movement patterns. Instead of bending over at the waist to pick something up they squat down. They have good posture, etc. Then again laziness and mimicry destroy these patterns. A mentor of mine once said the fastest way to grow old is to sit on the couch. How true. Not only are you completely non active but your body is becoming accustomed to an unnatural position. Hence why so many older people have such stiff hips. But if we maintain the habit of sitting on the floor regularly and in random positions, changing frequently we can maintain much of our youthful limberness. Another coach points out that most of his clients who have poor spinal curvature and poor squatters, were early walkers. As in they learned to walk before many of their peers. While this seems good from a motor function standpoint it is not good for spinal development and hip strength. The crawling phase of babies is what helps develop the ‘S’ curve of the spine and strengthens the hips for further activities later in life. So don’t push your kids to walk too soon.

As you can see the foundation of health can be found in childlike patterns as instinctive behaviors that gave us energy and vitality as children can do the same for adults.

So practice the vacuum correctly and consistently for several weeks and I’m sure you will be a believer. And you may notice things I didn’t even mention here. Improved digestion and elimination are 2 more common testimonies. Have fun with it!

By the way I cannot take credit for this exercise. As with all information there is nothing new but only great discoveries being rediscovered. So if you want to get the full story on this exercise and many other highly effective ab exercises that don’t even involve lying on the floor, go to and pick up a copy of Combat ABS.

Quite Possibly One of the Coolest Exercises EVER!

I have fallen in love with an exercise that is very simple yet extremely challenging. It works almost every muscle in your body simultaneously and will literally leave you shaking.

First find a decently long staircase 20 steps or more is ideal. apartments, stadiums, schools, gyms, or any other public buildings will be the best places to find such a staircase. Put your hands on the bottom stair or on the landing of where you you are starting. Put your feet several stairs above your hands (just how many stairs depends on your height and the angle of the staircase.) Now you are essentially in an incline pushup position. Now start by moving one hand up a step or two then do the same with the other. Almost at the same time you are moving your feet up one or two stairs at a time. The 2 key points during the exercise are: always keep your body in as straight a line as possible; your hips may be slightly higher but you should be able to draw a straight line from your heels to your head. The second point is that throughout the entire exercise only your hands and feet ar touching the staircase. Not your hips, legs, or chest, etc.

This exercise is only made better by alternating it with stair sprints. Now you have some great fat burning cardio coupled with a devastating strength exercise. Usually 10 sets of stair sprints per one set of stair crawls. Repeat this 4-5x and you just completed one of the best workouts of your life. If you are sadistic try doing the stair crawls going down the stairs. You think It'd be easier but it's not. Enjoy!

Money Doesn't Buy Happiness?

If you think my health and fitness views are a little unorthodox you may not be surprised to find out my financial views are quite contrary to what you may have heard as well.

While the majority of people believe wealth is evil and that those with money are just lucky I will be the first to tell you that money is not evil and those that have it have learned how money works and that's why they have it. In case you think that money does not provide at least some degree of happiness see this quote below:

The research by Stevenson and Wolfers shows that people living in households with annual incomes of $250,000 tended to report higher levels of personal satisfaction than people living in households with annual earnings of $120,000.

"We didn't look at the super-rich, so we can't really say if Bill Gates is that much happier than the rest of us," Stevenson says.

IMHO, money is like a magnifiying glass. If you are basically a good person having money can only make you better. If you are a bad, selfish person money will only make you worse.

On another note, wealth and business expert Dani Johnson is fond of saying;"Greed doesn't have an amount!" In other words the street bum who would kill for $20 is just as greedy as the millionaire who wants another million. It all depends on the intent and method for the money.

To illustrate just how belief driven money is if only 6% of American families live well above the norm for income clearly they have some different beliefs about how to handle their finances.

About 1% of American families have annual incomes of $250,000 or more, while just 5% earn $120,000 or more.

It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To!

Stop the f@#$%n pitty party fatty!

I used to be a fatty, and I know what it feels like .But I also know what it feels like to conquer it. And I know that if I can do it anyone can. Just like most of you the chips seemed to be stacked against me. Small town, virtually no decent fitness facilities. Overweight family with poor lifestyle habits, siblings included, no decent internet info at that time, busy as heck, appeared to have geneticdisorder that made me gain weight, no one to teach me, lack of supplements/healthy food, no money, etc. Name any other excuse you hear people use and I had it. But finally something snapped. After being harassed by peers at school a bit too much I made a promise to myself that I would be better than them all in a few short years. Sure enough for years later they were eating my dust in almost every athletic event and I was leading them on the wresting mat.

It started with jogging/walking 1km. Then it built up to jogging 5km over time and soon enough 10km, 2-3x per week. Simultaneously, I was doing 50 crunches per day which gradually built up to well over 500 reps of various ab exercises each night. While I hadn't made any drastic dietar changes I was at least eating less junk.

On Thanksgiving weekend we went to my Grandpa's farm upon which I found an old vinyl weight set my uncle used to use. Maybe 100lbs tops. I asked him if I could take it home and he agreed. Now almost any monkey instinctively knows how to do curls, military presses, and bench press. But I knew this wasn't enough to cause changes in my body. So I went to our crappy small town library to find out whatever I could on fitness. A copy of Beyond Built by Bob Paris and a tattered copy of High Intensity Strength Training by Dr. Ellignton Darden would be my personal guides for the next 3 yrs. I practically memorized every page of those books using whatever I could do gain another pound of muscle or drop another pound of fat.

Year by year I was exposed to more and more fitness info via the web, magazines,books, and old time trainers in whatever gym I stumbled into. Long story short I didn't find the knowledge I truly wanted until I could understand and accept what was being taught to me. As the old Chinese proverb goes 'when the student is readyt the teacher will appear.'

Contrast my story with the quote below held by most of North America's obese population:

"They feel they are regarded as lazy, self-indulgent, and blamed for the fact they are overweight, despite the fact they may have to struggle to overcome it,"

Well guess what fatty? You will have to struggle to overcome it. Nothing worth having in life is easy including your ideal body. You will have to struggle because obesity is a mental illness. You will have to build yourself up psychologically even more than you will physically.

And yes you are lazy and self indulgent because anyone who actually tries anything usually meets with some success. Millions of people have successfully lost weight and kept it off, so I think that those who aren't yet slim are either making excuses or barking up the wrong tree.

Just Do It part 2

A continuation on a previous blog about taking action Immediately versus debating petty nuances about which approach is best. Action means more than learning. Just start doing and figure it out as you go along. Let's say it takes you 3 months to arrive at you answer by experimentation, that is better than 1 yr by sitting on your duff reading countless reports and studies that will only confuse you more. Just because you find out what works for someone else doesn't mean it will work for you. Only if you try it for yourself will you come up with a definitive answer.

Who cares about methods so long as you get the correct answer. It doesn't matter if you decide 3+3=5 or 2+4=6; if 6 is the answer you are looking for then so be it.

Don't get me wrong I am all for efficiency and making well educated decisions but sometimes instead of deciding how to go around, above, or under an obstacle, why not just plow right through!

They Way God Intended

Why are people fat? why are people poor? Why are people in such relational stress?

Not living the way God created us to is the short answer. You see people question why they can't live a certain way without experiencing negative cosequences. Whether it is health, relationships or finances if you aren't experiencing joy in any of these areas question whether or not your are abiding by Biblical standards in any of these areas and I'm sure you will see a huge discrepancy between how you are living and what God intended.

While I am not perfect in this area, anytime I encounter huge resistance I simply look at the way I am living versus what God's word says. Once I reconcile the two I experience much more peace.

If you are fat you are not treating your body the way God intended. If you are poor you are not treating your finances the way God intended. If your marriage is on the rocks you are not treating your wife the way God intended.

Man does not live by bread alone...part 3

In our mixed up crazy world we have to believe that the almighty dollar has influenced all aspects of outr life including our diets. That's right; the large majority of what you believe to be healthy or unhealthy is influenced by government sponsorship of a particular industry and lobby groups so powerful they make the KGB look like kids with cap guns.

IN this third installment of Man Can't Live by Bread Alone we look primarily at the economic reasons why grains are so prevalent in our society.

Let's start with common breakfast foods. Like most people you probably enjoy a few eggs now and again. But you are limiting yourself on how many you consume because you don't want to raise your cholesterol levels and you are also consuming a lot of fat with each egg. Think again. The majority of negative studies concerning eggs were funded and published by the the Cereal Board in Canada and the US; one of the biggest pushers of grains. Again if eggs come from free range chickens they can easily be a highly beneficial source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are very heart friendly. Further more the dietary connection between regularly consuming cholesterol containing foods and having a high level of cholesterol is very weak. In fact lowering your dietary intake of cholesterol in most cases raises you blood cholesterol levels. Your body will produce cholesterol whether you consume it or not so your actual cholesterol levels are more of a genetic preset. However switching to an alkalizing diet will drastically improve your LDL cholesterol levels, but this could be a whole new blog on it's own.

Secondly, the studies didn't differentiate between the two types of cholesterol. Eggs do raise cholesterol, but it's HDL cholsterol that is raised-the good kind.

Corn is another common grain that has crept it's way in to every facet of our food chain. While technically corn isn't even good for animal feed as any meat raised on corn will be very high in omega 6 fatty acids which isn't good in the long run. Animals like humans are meant to be raised on diets that contain a high amount of live green products.

You see corn used to be dirt cheap. So not many people grew it because you would have to have a massive farming operation to make a decent buck. Then the government subsidized corn farmers to grow corn, because it was such an easy crop to grow, especially for the northern states and southern Canada. Sooner or later they had more corn than theyh knew what to do with so they began finding ways to produce different products with corn, hence corn starch, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, etc. and a whole host of other corn products that make otherwise decent foods very unhealthy because of its poor nutritional content and extremely high glycemic index. Now these corn byproducts and host of others are present on almost every food lining grocery store shelves from ice cream to breads to meat to fruit snacks.

Potatoes are yet another example of a food that was barely edible for animals yet soon began to become a staple for humans. 100-200yrs ago they weren't too bad but with the mass degredation of the food chain potatoes have become a definite no-no. Probably first becoming a regular at dinner tables with the advent of the Irish potatoe famine, but once the famine stopped people couldn't let go and so a whole host of potatoe derived products were born.

Another example of sponshorship would be that the Wheat Board in each respective country helped sponsor the food giude or pyramid and the subsequent mass education program that promoted 10-15 servings of grains. While my initial beef with the whole food guide thing is that they failed to properly educate consumers on what a serving is, and furthermore the concept of a serving has changed drastically from 50-60 yrs ago. Compare a slice of bread from 1965 to 2008 and I think you may see a 30-40% increase. Finally in the last two years the medical community has begun to wake up and at least realize that vegetables should at leat be on par with grains at 9-13 servigs per day.

My contention with grains being the base of the pyramid is that grains are easily the most dispensible part of it. Every nutrient contained in grains can easily be found in any other food group and likely in greater quantities too. IN a future blog entry I will outline what my food pyramid would look like.

In short many cultures have survived thousands of years without grains in their diet so why start now? Secondly myself and many of my clients have avoided grains for several years and not only suffered no ill effects but felt energized because of it.

Whether or not you agree witgh me is okay but if you think you need grains to be healthy and vital try 30 days without it and I bet you won't want to go back.