“…there is no research which proves categorically that there is any need for separate stretching sessions, phases or exercises to be conducted to improve performance or safety….There is no real need to prescribe separate stretching exercises or sessions, since logically structured training should take every joint progressively through its full range of static and dynamic movement” – Dr. Mel Siff Continue reading
The 17th-century French philosopher Descartes believed in a dualistic bifurcation of the mind and body. For him, the mind and body were two separate and independent entities. I always had a problem with this dualistic view and the contemporary field of neuroscience has rightfully invalidated it. The interconnectedness between the mind and body becomes self-evident in the arena of sport and athleticism. Too often athletes and fitness enthusiasts neglect the psychological component of training; an oversight which unfortunately impedes progress and success. We know the brain controls all movement. What was only apparent until recently, is that the body directly affects and informs the function your mind and the creation of your very consciousness. Your body has the ability to transcend physical limitations, so long as your mind will allow it. Think about the grandma who lifts a car to save her grandson. Or the injured vet who, after being told he will never walk again, defies all odds by running a marathon. The expectations and beliefs our minds generate are the single biggest barriers to achievement. Once you learn how to control your perception, you can harness and unleash your inner Jedi. These mind tricks will help you move past plateaus and improve training outcomes.
Have you contemplated jumping on the butter coffee bandwagon? The original Bulletproof Coffee™ is a delicious concoction whipped up by biohacker and all around master marketer Dave Asprey. Actually, he co-opted the idea from the traditional Tibetan yak butter tea. Bulletproof Coffee™ has been a trend for several years now, gaining fast traction all over U.S. and beyond. In fact, Asprey has licensed his brand and is busy selling his own blend of coffee while also hawking a personal line of supplements, including something called ‘Fat Water’ and a $7000 ‘NeuroOptimal Personal Trainer’. He will tell you his supplements and coffee are much better quality than what you can buy elsewhere. So what exactly is Bulletproof Coffee™? According to his alternative health website, Bulletproof.com, it is specialized coffee made precisely in the manner outlined below: Continue readingby
Don’t fool yourself into believing your daily detoxing juice or pre-workout smoothie is anything more than liquid candy with a few extra vitamins. Most of these beverages are packed with tons of calories and sugar minus the all important fiber. As a healthy adult, the only thing you should drink is water, seltzer, unsweetened tea, coffee and the occasional glass of wine. An argument can be made for full-fat milk and/or maybe unsweetened milk alternatives like almond, coconut, and hemp milk – but in moderation. Everything else is chock full of empty calories and sugar or it’s straight up unhealthy. Sadly we have migrated away from eating whole foods in their natural state. We are the fast food nation. Are we just too lazy to chew or is it something else because eating whole foods is the healthiest way to pack in nutrients and sate your appetite? Take a moment to deconstruct the beverages in your life so you can make better-informed decisions regarding your health. Continue readingby
For years I was convinced acupuncture was a valid medical procedure with clear benefits backed by reams of good evidence. Although I never did believe in the meridian qi energy theories associated with this treatment, I routinely encouraged clients and friends to add acupuncture to their health and wellness toolbox. After all, the Chinese people have been utilizing acupuncture for approximately 2500 to 4000 years and it has stood the test of time, right? – turns out this is not completely true. Many U.S. health insurance companies reimburse their customers for the service, believing it brings quantifiable benefits. However, skeptics suspect this simply makes prudent fiscal sense because acupuncture is a cheaper payout than traditional medical care. In an effort to appease customer demand, many prestigious hospitals have added acupuncture to their wellness and rehab programs despite pushback from the scientific community. The anecdotal evidence was and is overwhelming. I constantly hear intelligent thoughtful people talk about the efficacy and personal success in regards to the treatment. Almost unbelievably, the United States Military started using acupuncture to treat pain on the battlefield (they also practice cupping – our tax dollars hard at work). How can all these hospitals, insurers, government agencies and smart people be wrong? After doing a deep dive into the research and talking with a few doctors and scientists I am no longer convinced acupuncture treatment is better than a placebo. As it turns out, it makes no difference where you put the needle. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you use a needle at all! In the best-controlled studies, only one thing mattered: whether the patients believed they were getting acupuncture. Even then, people responded no better than the placebo control. Continue readingby
Balance is one of those essential skills that enhances all of our movements. It may sound a bit New Age-y but it is true: the ability to balance is within us all. You just need to find it. Like most things, if you don’t use this skill, you will lose it. As we age we tend to move less, more slowly and limit our range of motion, thus inadequately taxing our balance systems. Why is this a big deal? We evolved to use our balance systems every day in multiple ways; jumping, climbing, running, hiding, playing…. Our modern sedentary lifestyle has reduced these movements, opening us up for imbalance injuries. Lack of good balance can ultimately lead to a premature death. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries for Americans over the age of 65. Frequently, an older person will lose their balance, fall and break a hip. Hip fracture in a senior citizen is akin to a death sentence. The complications that follow lead to long-term care, lack of independence and early mortality. There are many things one can do to prevent or lessen the likelihood of a fall-related injury. Balance exercises and training are perhaps the most important components for prevention but many take it to an extreme. Grandma does not need to stand on a physio ball (neither do you) unless she is preparing for the circus. Almost any type of movement training can have added ‘balance value’ if done properly. Effective balance training should look nothing like acrobatic stunts.
I have been working out since the Reagan administration. It was the Cold War and I had to be ready. ‘Red Dawn’ and ‘The Day After’ convinced me I needed to be bigger, faster, stronger. Plus I was eager to show up the school bully who tormented me weekly. Scrawny thirteen-year-old me began hitting the weights in a dank suburban New York basement. My mom never bothered me when I was in my training dungeon. The only workout resources I had were bodybuilding magazines and old Army pamphlets I found at a garage sale. I devoted myself to Arnold’s workout routine and added some Bertil Fox chest work and Tom Platz leg exercises into the mix. This happened two hours per day, six days a week, for years. I also played soccer, joined the wrestling team and ran track and field (200 and 400-meter sprint, discus, and shot put). As a teenager, I was brimming with testosterone and idealism. I could do anything. But I looked like a living string bean: 6 feet tall and 137lbs. That began to change over the coming months as I continued to lift. I quickly discovered that not only was I getting stronger by leaps and bounds but I was also calmer. I looked forward to my self-imposed torture sessions. They helped me deal with my world. There were many reasons I began my training. Some have changed but many have stayed the same. Working out became my hobby and is now a deeply ingrained habit. The why behind your actions is perhaps the strongest driver of motivation. Finding the ‘why’ is a crucial step to achieving your goals. Why do you workout? What is your motivation to exercise? Continue readingby
The fitness industry is brimming with tons of rules and guidelines that are contradictory and/or downright wrong. And there are many more ideas that are not wrong or right – they live in the gray area. The fact of the matter is there are many more complicated non-definitive guidelines than absolutes about fitness. We have the desire to oversimplify complex ideas and adhere to easy to understand dogma. Here is a list of my favorite exercise myths and fallacies: Continue readingby
For years I’ve been telling weight loss clients they need to eat every three to four hours to increase their metabolic rate and lose weight. “Eat six small meals a day. It’ll stoke your metabolism and help you burn more calories while resting” said my younger, more naive self. It turns out I was wrong. The truth is, the more times you sit down to eat the more opportunities you have to stuff yourself silly or eat the wrong thing. In fact, all that snacking may actually increase your fat stores. That’s right, snacking may make you fat. If you’re anything like me, eating also wakes up the rapacious monster in your stomach. Some people have the willpower to remain within their limits, do you? Eating five to six small meals per day is still the predominant dogma among many physical trainers and nutritionists even though the supporting peer reviewed research is spurious at best. Eating frequency has little or no effect on increased metabolism. Even though constant snacking is heavily encouraged in American society, it wasn’t always that way. My grandmother used to yell at me (lovingly) to not snack because “you’ll ruin your dinner!” Of course, she was right. The concept of ‘snack food’ was popularized in the 1950’s. By the 1970’s it really took hold and is now a multi-billion dollar industry which is arguably making us fatter and sicker. Continue readingby
People don’t get fat because they are lazy or lack willpower. Resist the urge to fat shame because it’s not as simple as “move more, eat less.” We now know diets focused solely on reducing calories don’t work long term. This is because an invisible cascade of biological and psychological responses push back and prevent fat loss. The cause of obesity is multifactorial: genetics, calories, diets, medical issues, hormones, activity levels, pharmaceuticals, stress, psycho-social elements, environment, sleep, etc… These scenarios create hormonal imbalances. Hormones have the power to drive hunger, satiety, activity levels, sleep, metabolic rate and fat storage, to name a few. The biggest influencer when it comes to fat storage and hunger is a hormone called insulin. It is known as the energy storing hormone. When insulin levels are high (like after eating a twinkie) the body will store lipids in our fat cells. When insulin levels drop our bodies liberate lipids for energy. In a low insulin environment, the body will not store fat, it will use it for fuel instead. This is not a controversial statement or alternative fact. The more one triggers an insulin response, the more likely one is to develop a pro-fat storage environment of insulin resistance. This is called the insulin hypothesis of obesity. Continue readingby
Many wars have been fought over salt. Without out, we would die. But today, we seem to be oversaturated with salt. The vilification of salt is something I remember from early on. My mom, a proud chef, never had salt shakers on the table. It annoyed her when anyone salted their food before tasting it and believed too much salt would lead to health problems. In the 1980’s she switched the family to “Mrs. Dash”, a somewhat palatable salt substitute. As early as the late 1960’s the American Heart Association, The USDA, medical journals and doctors began sounding the alarm about dietary salt. We were told it would raise our blood pressure, increase the risk of heart disease, strokes, dementia and could possibly cause kidney disease. Salt fears persist to this day. The Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines considers salt Public Enemy No. 1, ahead of fat, sugar, and alcohol. But when we look into the genesis of anti-salt recommendations, it becomes clear the data is anything but crystal. In fact, there are ample data points showing low salt diets are unhealthy too. Continue readingby
Alternative medicine is born from pseudoscience. It is an alternative to what is proven to work. Anecdata, placebos, epidemiological studies, cherry-picked data and the internet form the foundation of alternative medicine. These modalities generate the framework onto which the logical fallacies and cognitive biases supporting alternative medicine are presented.
Evidence-based medicine, on the other hand, emerges from unbiased robust data pointing to verifiable and reproducible results. Well designed double-blind randomized controlled trials are the cornerstone of evidence-based medicine; look at the Cochrane group: ‘Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews of primary research in human health care and health policy, and are internationally recognized as the highest standard in evidence-based health care resources. They investigate the effects of interventions for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation’. Pseudoscience is enticing because it’s easy to understand and offers cures. Here is a short list of alternative medicine practices that haven’t been proven to work better than a placebo: Continue readingby
Offal is a vague term used to describe parts of the animal we Americans don’t eat. It includes the liver, brain, lungs, heart, tail, tongue, intestines, stomach and marrow. In the wild, carnivorous animals eat the internal organs before any other part of the kill. The alpha/leader usually claims these prime meats first: the heart, liver, bone marrow and kidneys. Muscle meat is left for the underlings. Many hunter-gatherer tribes commonly eat offal and give their domesticated animals the muscle. Internal organs are chock full of minerals, vitamins, protein and fat. Offal is a super nutritious addition to a healthy diet. Why then is this vitamin/mineral dense food shunned in Western society and usually left for our pets? Three reasons seem most likely: Continue readingby
The multi-billion dollar weight loss industry is teeming with contradictory evidence, opinions, and charlatans looking to cash in on the answer to this fundamental question: why do we get fat and what can we do about it? The answers are not cut and dry and are different for everyone. Sorry, there is no one best damn diet for all. The average American adult attempts a new diet 4 times per year. Within two weeks 25 percent of the dieters give up. At any one time, it is estimated that 70 million Americans are on a diet. And 65 percent of those individuals are unsuccessful in keeping weight off for at least 5 years. Americans want their weight loss solution to be cheap, fast and easy. No magic diet pill (yet). Here is a marketing sample of what these authors and ‘experts’ are selling: Continue readingby