Category Archives: Lifestyle

Stretching 101


One of the most common areas of weakness in trainees is flexibility. People tend to be injury prone when their mobility is poor. In my opinion, there is a high correlation between overall strength and flexibility. For example, if you are attempting to perform a full squat and A) your heels come up or B) you lean forward excessively, your lack of mobility is interfering with your ability to execute the movement through a full range of motion, consequently increasing the risk of injury and reducing the potential for muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. The good news is, anyone can improve their flexibility by utilizing some form of mobility work.

Dynamic stretching is a form of mobility work that should be done before a workout as it does not significantly affect the muscle’s ability to produce power. Dynamic stretching consists of fast movements that put the muscle(s) under tension at the maximum point of the range of motion for a very short period of time. Some examples of dynamic stretches are: forward/side lunges, high knees, straight leg kicks, arm circles, arm swings, jump squats, forward/leg swings, forward/side bends.

Static stretching is a form of mobility work that should be performed after a workout or at least 4 hours before. Your body temperature should be elevated before you begin your stretching routine. Many studies have proven that static stretching before a workout significantly decreases the muscle’s ability to produce power, especially during exercises that demand high levels of explosive strength such as sprinting and Olympic weightlifting.  Despite this, it is an effective way to increase flexibility as long as it is performed at the right time. In this form of stretching, the goal is to lengthen the muscle, once again reaching the maximum point of the range of motion and holding the position for 15-30 seconds. By lengthening the muscle, you are increasing its range of motion but are decreasing the speed at which the muscle is able to contract. Most yoga poses are essentially static stretches. Some other common stretches include the sit and reach, standing hamstring stretch, standing quad stretch, butterfly, etc.

There are many other ways to break up adhesions and increase mobility (foam rolling, PNF stretching, soft tissue treatment). Whether you trying to improve strength and performance or you are just looking for a way to minimize pain and reduce the occurrence of injuries and relax, utilizing dynamic and static stretching is a very effective way of improving your overall flexibility levels and thus increasing your overall fitness levels.

 

References:

The effect of static stretching on phases of sprint performance in elite soccer players. Sayers, A.L., Farley, R.S., Fuller, D.K., et al. Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2008 Sep;22(5):1416-21.

Does pre-exercise static stretching inhibit maximal muscular performance? A meta-analytical review. Simic, L., Sarabon, N., Markovic, G. Motor Control and Human Performance Laboratory, University of Zagreb. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2013 Mar;23(2):  131-48.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Lifestyle, Training

The psychology of success


Regardless of your goals, the activity you are partaking in is primarily undertaken with the express purpose of causing your body to physically adapt to that stimulus. However, a more subtle transformation is actually taking place; one that is, in my opinion, the most overlooked aspect of training: your mental state. Once you accept that your mental state is completely under your control, you have laid the foundation for all forms of success. No one is in a better position to decide how far you are willing to go to achieve what you put your mind to.

That being said, the first stage of goal attainment is finding a goal that will evoke passion. In other words, the desire to accomplish. Of course, simply “wanting” something is not enough. Once a fundamental need is created, one can break that need into smaller, more manageable steps. A good way to do this is to set macro and micro goals.

When you are defining a macro goal, it is important to ask yourself this: “What kind of person do I want to be?” More simply put, what exactly are you trying to accomplish in the long term? (e.g. reduce body fat to x %, run the 100m in x seconds and so forth). Conversely, when you are trying to set micro goals, you would ask yourself “What are some immediate steps I can take to achieve my macro goal?” (e.g. lift the knees higher when sprinting, pull higher during a power clean, etc.).Generally, micro goals are adjusted on a day to day basis.

Once you have set your goals, there is no time to waste in applying the measures that are needed to become successful. Ask yourself “what can I do right now to accomplish my objectives?” Prioritizing is not easy but it is essential for long term attainment of goals. By constantly seeking sources of inspiration, one can maintain focus and commitment. It is equally important to maintain a positive but rational attitude. Realize that success is embedded in failure. You are going to fail many times before you succeed: accept this but understand that each failure is simply a challenge. Failures are not an outcome of inadequate effort. They are a process by which you achieve success as long as you accept the challenge to try again. Act in the face of fear. Embrace the fear of failure and use it to fuel desire, to reinforce commitment and see yourself as who you want to be rather than who you have been.

Although training is a very physical process, it is also an opportunity to build both character and self-esteem. Every battle is won and lost before it is fought. Understand that reality is subjective. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. If you are able to approach your training with certainty, clarity and conviction, you can achieve great things. Be patient and control your emotions. Unwavering ambition and confidence are the trademark of a true champion.

 

References:

Arthur. The Encyclopedia of Weightlifting: A Guide to World Class Performance. Whitestone, NY/USA: A is A Communications, n.d. Print.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Lifestyle, Motivation, Training

The importance of vitamin D


Do you find yourself feeling depressed during the long and dark winter season? Have you ever noticed why your mood is generally better on sunny days? The explanation behind this is relatively simple. If you were to step outside in the middle of July at 10 AM with no sunscreen for 15 minutes, you would be able to produce roughly 1000 IU of vitamin D3 (this will vary depending on your skin pigment, weight, age). Under ideal conditions, the human body is capable of producing upwards of 10000 IU from about half an hour in the sun. Now consider this: the minimum daily recommended dose is 600 IU and the Vitamin D Council suggests that 50 ng/ml (a measurement of the amount of serum vitamin D in the body) is the minimum acceptable level. Despite this, the Food and Nutrition Board notes that 97 percent of Americans have a vitamin D level that falls into the range of 20—30 ng/ ml and a study by Stats Canada indicates that most Canadians are also deficient in D3, especially during the winter. Here are some common risks linked to low vitamin D levels:

  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Osteoperosis
  • Insulin resistance and poor blood sugar regulation
  • Poor immune function
  • Poor cardiovascular health
  • Decreased muscular mass, strength and power development
  • Psoriasis
  • Diabetes

Although vitamin D3 toxicity is possible, it is impossible to attain from sun exposure alone. In fact, a healthy person would have to take upwards of 50000 IU per day, every day for several months. Though it is possible to get adequate levels of vitamin D3 from sunlight exposure alone, this can be difficult or impossible, depending on the season and your geographical location. Despite the fact that vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning your body can store extra amounts of it, we simply are not getting enough! In my opinion, it is not only safe but ideal for a relatively healthy person to be getting at least 5000 IU of D3.

Here are some effective ways to increase your D3 levels:

  • Sun exposure
  • Supplementation
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Organ meats

Vitamin D deficiency is potentially deadly yet it is extremely common. Have your blood work done to be sure. Make sure to go outside and get lots of direct sun exposure when it is possible, supplement when it is not and improve your health drastically!

 

References:

Salehpour, A., et al. A 12-Week Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial of Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Body Fat Mass in Healthy Overweight and Obese Women. Nutrition Journal. 2012. 11, 78.

Carrillo, A., et al. Impact of Vitamin D Supplementation During Resistance Training Intervention on Body Composition, Muscle Function, and Glucose Tolerance in Overweight and Obese Adults. Clinical Nutrition. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Rock, C., Emond, J., et al. Weight Loss is Associated with Increased Serum 25(OH) D in Overweight or Obese Women. Obesity. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Lamendola, C., Arial, D., et al. Relations Between Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Vitamin D. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Von Essen, M., Kongsbak, M., Schjerling, P., Olgaard, K., Odum, N., Geisler, C. Vitamin D controls T cell antigen receptor signaling and activation of human T cells. Nature Immunology. 2010. 11, 344–349.

Vijay, G., Milone, C., Cody, M., McCarty, F., Want, Y. Serum vitamin D concentrations are related to depression in young adult US population: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.International Archives of Medicine.  3(1), 29.

Chen, G., Kim, S., King, A., Zhao, L., Simpson, R., Christensen, P. CYP24A1 Is an independent prognostic marker of survival in patients with lung adenocarcinoma. Clinical Cancer Research. 2011. 17(4), 817-26.

Holick, MF. High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2006. 81(3), 353-73.

Ward, K., Das, G., Berry, J., Roberts, S., Rawer, R., Adams, J., Mughal, A. Vitamin D status and muscle function in post-menarchal adolescent girls. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2009. 94(2), 559-563.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog, Lifestyle, Nutrition, Supplements