Archive | March, 2011

FIT leads the way….

30 Mar

Read this article About how FIT and FIT Buddies is leading the way in training kids with intellectual disabilities.

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Spring Break Fitness Camp

25 Mar

Get your kids involved in some fun physical activity during their Spring Break.  This camp will offer energetic exercises that promote coordination, balance and confidence.  Some examples of activities include: active warm-ups, quick foot ladder drills, and basic body weight exercises. To sign up, or for additional information, please contact FIT at 650-947-9831 or email Kevin English at Kevin@focusedtrainers.com.

Spring Break Fitness Camp is offered to children grades 1st through 5th.
Class size is limited and advance sign up is required.
Registration deadline is Friday April 8th.

Camp Sessions:
Monday            4/11   12pm-1pm

Wednesday      4/13   12pm-1pm

Thursday          4/14   12pm-1pm

Cost: $15 per child per class

Location: FIT 600 Fremont Ave (Rancho Shopping Center) Los Altos

Client of the Month Spotlight March 2011

25 Mar

Client Name: Rajesh Vashist

Age: 53

FIT member since: 2001

Goal starting your fitness program at FIT: Get Lean & Strong

Q. How do you feel about your fitness and physique after starting you exercise program at FIT?
A. In better shape/condition now than when I was 20!

Q. What obstacles, if any, did you have to over come to maintain your commitment to fitness?
A. Carving out a regular schedule and sticking to it.

Q. What would you consider the keys to your fitness success?

A. 1.    Eating right – Go Paleo! 2.    Wanting to do 20 pull-ups.

Q. Want motivates you through your workouts? And, what motivates you to come back each day?
A. I’m motivating by the thought of seeing the last of Coach Rob and I’m motivating to come back because of Coach Rob.

Q. What is your favorite workout music/song? None – I don’t need any music to have a good workout.

Q. What is your favorite healthy snack? Walnuts, cranberries and coconut milk

Q. What is your favorite non-gym physical activity? Reading & traveling

Exercise Likes: any back exercise

Exercise Dislikes: running

Personal Best: PR chin-ups: 12

Trainers Comments: From Coach Rob
Rajesh’s commitment to his fitness is an inspiration to anyone! He has been completely committed to making positive changes into his already active life style. He has changed his eating habits by following the Paleo diet, which, in combination with his 4 workouts a week, has resulted in losing 20+lbs, as well as increased muscle mass and strength levels.  Additionally, Rajesh has lowered his cholesterol, and increased his overall fitness and energy level. He has been great to work with. He is always willing to try something different and takes every challenge on with a smile.

Thanks for making my job more enjoyable Rajesh.

Balance Your Exercise with Play

9 Mar

Sometimes the activities that we ask our clients here at FIT to engage in can heighten self-consciousness.  For most people, going to a gym at all can be intimidating, let alone being asked to perform a complex movement such as a clean and jerk or being pushed to the point of physical discomfort for the sake of goal attainment.  As a team of trainers, we frequently discuss how best to appreciate what we ask of our clients.  For this reason, we opted to videotape ourselves in a Zumba class taught by a colleague, Sehin Belew.  The thought was to experience feeling uncoordinated and mildly self-consciousness in a physical pursuit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQfHZMMN5fo&feature=email

As I’m sure you too can note, some of us were a bit more inhibited than others, but the more notable observation would be how much fun everyone had.  Too often exercise is associated with work or something that has to be done.  How different would exercise feel if the mental association was fun and play instead of work?

Last year, we had the opportunity to spend time with Wes Walker, a young, Olympic-caliber runner. Wes was returning from studying the Tarahumara people of Northern Mexico who are renowned for their long-distance running ability.  While coaching us during a run, he continually asked us to think, “how can I make this easier?  What would make me more comfortable?”  I’d always viewed running as an opportunity to literally pound out my frustrations; I enjoyed punishing myself by pushing to go faster and longer.  Never once, since I began running 12 years ago, had I ever considered how to make running easier, and thereby possibly more fun.

Mark Sisson, author of http://www.marksdailyapple.com and the book, Primal Blueprint, emphasizes the importance of play in a way that resonates with me.  He discusses how play has become a bit of a guilty pleasure rather than a necessity.  For reasons that are unclear, or possibly different for everyone, ‘real life’ seems to get in the way as the drive for ‘success’ takes precedence.  In contrast, Sisson goes on to note, “Besides its stress-reducing and social qualities, play has other quantifiable benefits.”  The vacation gap study performed in 2006 showed that workers were 25% more productive following a vacation, and their sleep habits improved: averaging 20 more minutes per night and three times as much deep sleep.  The New York Times recently covered a study showing that increasing leisure activities improves immune function faster than stress can suppress it.  Although it has long been theorized that the more relaxed you are, the easier task seems, and the better you feel.  Now there is research to support it.  Couple that with the sheer pleasure that is inherent to play or the benefit of the laughter that often accompanies play, and a significant increase to quality of life is inevitable. 

While Zumba may or may not be the fun you are looking for, something is.  Finding it within yourself to laugh at yourself in place of being self critical, seeking opportunities to play with others, and, most importantly, making play a priority will not only be fun but will be as (if not more) beneficial to your health than the extra time spent at work, running errands or doing whatever else gets in the way.  This month we are speaking of balance, which means something different to all of us.  I’m not looking to define balance but I am suggesting that as you consider your social and physical engagements, prioritize those that involve laughter and fun, or consider approaching the activities you are engaging in with a playful spirit.  Fun has always been an important component of how we design and implement programs at FIT but it is a team effort.  We can’t make you have fun – that’s up to you.  Not everything in life can or should be fun, but for the activities that can be, try to let them.

For Improved Performance, Balance Your Endurance Training with Strength Training.

9 Mar

It seems intuitive for endurance athletes to train almost exclusively using cardiovascular exercise.  The truth is endurance athletes need to have a balanced training program which includes strength training for improved movement efficiency, enhanced performance, and reduced injury.

Strength training can help you run faster, longer, and more efficiently. A study published last year in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that runners who added three days of resistance training exercises to their weekly program not only increased their leg strength, but improved their running economy or efficiency.  This means they were able to run at their desired race pace for longer durations with less effort or even increase their race pace.  The added strength also increased sprint speed, giving them the kick often needed at the end of a race.

Getting in the gym and lifting weights not only increases strength, but will also increase your joint stability which can reduce the risk for repetitive stress injuries. Lower body exercises are particularly important when it comes to reducing injuries around the knees and hips, two of the most problematic areas for runners.  Incorporating exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges into a workout may help prevent these lower-body injuries as well as speed up the recovery process after strenuous runs.

An additional benefit of strength training in an endurance athlete’s training program is the maintenance or the addition of lean muscle mass.  The addition of lean body mass raises your metabolism and keeps your body burning more calories after a workout and at rest.  This helps maintain optimal weight for both competitive endurance athletes and recreational runners.

So You Want to Move Effortlessly?

9 Mar

The body is a magnificent example of mechanics and physics at their best.  In order for the body to function at an optimal level, it needs to move in the way it was designed to.  A balance needs to be forged between support (both dynamic and static) and movement.

Motion takes place at very specific points – the joints.  Each joint serves a crucial function in movement.  Even a basic physical task, such as writing this article, involves many different joint actions throughout the body.  Some joints are moving freely, while others are holding steady and supporting a desired posture.  In this case, the wrist and finger joints are very mobile, while the intervertebral joints are used to create an upright posture in the chair.  This concept, called the Joint-by-Joint approach by Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, and others, explains the equilibrium that a body must reach for movement efficiency and decreased risk of pain or injury.  Taking a broad look at the body, these two characteristics alternate.  For example:

  • The ankle joint (sub-talar) is a very mobile joint, especially in up/down motions, accounting for ability to walk forward through rocking onto one’s toes.
  • The knee joint then is a stable joint only able to hinge the lower leg.
  • The lumbar spine is made up of several stable joints that help to transfer muscular force from the lower body into the upper extremities.
  • The thoracic spine alternately needs to be very mobile to allow for full motion at the shoulder, as well as rotating the trunk.

When these characteristics are not taken into consideration, we are left with dysfunctional movements, which inevitably lead to pain or injury.  As an illustration, think of the volleyball player who has sprained her ankle.  Common medical practice is to splint or brace the ankle while healing to return the joint’s structures to health.  If proper attention is not paid during rehabilitation to restore normal ankle mobility, the joints immediately above and below the ankle will need to become more mobile. With the simple hinge joint of the knee, this is just not possible, so people are often left with knee pain from an old – and otherwise healed – ankle injury.

So how does someone build a training program – or just move – to ensure that all of the joints throughout the body are performing their intended functions?  Well that’s the easy part.  Move the joints that are supposed to move, and don’t encourage movements at the joints that are supposed to stabilize.  The joint with the greatest promise to improve this balance and promote better movement is the hip.  The large ball and socket joint allows for almost unlimited motion of the leg about the pelvis.  But as society is spending more time sitting and becoming increasingly sedentary, the hip joints are not being asked to move as they should.  This has led to the high rates of lower back (lumbar spine) and knee pain that are ubiquitous in people trying to improve their health by exercising.  How to improve this? Move the hips.

  • In a lunge position, stretch and gently bounce to improve the front of the hip socket and let the pelvis sit more evenly, taking stress off of the lower spine.  Moving back and forth and up and down allows for a subtle stretch of the supporting soft tissues around the hip joint, as well as lubricating the joint to allow for better movement.
  • Cross your legs.  Sit on the floor cross-legged, sit in a chair cross-legged, stand and pull one foot up to your opposite hip.

All of these movements will pull the hip forward and out away from the joint socket, improving the space in that joint socket and promote smoother motion.

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  The greatest thing you can do to improve your movement is move.  Find the balance between too much movement at stable joints and not enough movement at the mobile joints, and watch your pain decrease and your function improve.

Probiotics and Their Uses

9 Mar

Probiotics are a group of live microorganisms and yeasts that may beneficially affect the body by improving the balance of microflora (i.e. bacteria that are naturally occurring in the small and large intestine, mouth and vagina). The scope of this article will focus on the benefits of probiotics for a healthy and balanced digestive system.

Thus far, scientists suggest that a healthy human digestive tract contains about fourteen various genus of microorganisms, making a grand total of approximately 400 types of bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. The largest group of probiotic bacteria in the intestine is lactic acid bacteria, of which Lactobacillus acidophilus (found in yogurt) is the best known. However, there are other species of Lactobacillus that have also been shown to be beneficial, such as L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, L. casei and L. bulgaricus.

The Function of Microbes in the GI Tract
The gastrointestinal tract of animals represents a complex ecosystem in which a delicate balance exists between the intestinal microflora and the host. The host and microflora live in a synergistic environment – the host providing a comfortable environment for the microbes to survive while the microbes thrive and produce beneficial metabolic byproducts that aid the host’s GI tract and immune system. This synergistic relationship begins to develop while we are babies, starting at delivery and continuing during breastfeeding and receiving kisses from family and friends.

The inhabitation of microbes in a developing GI tract has been hypothesized to not only be important in the neonatal period and during infancy, but also in an individual’s health throughout life. The small intestine is lined with lymph nodes that support our immune system. The byproducts and metabolites of the intestinal microflora developed during infancy are important for maturation of the immune system, the development of normal intestinal form and structure, and to maintain a chronic and immunologically balanced inflammatory response. The microflora reinforce the barrier function of the intestinal lining, helping to prevent the attachment of pathogenic microorganisms and the entry of allergens.

Some members of the microflora may contribute to the body’s requirements for certain vitamins, including biotin, pantothenic acid and vitamin B12.  Alteration of the microbial flora of the intestine, which may occur with the use of antibiotics, disease, and aging, can negatively affect its beneficial role. This is where the potential benefits of supplementing with probiotics may help to balance or re-balance what has been destroyed.

When to Use Probiotics
If you believe that probiotics may be beneficial for your condition, but you do not know what to look for on a product’s label, here is what the current research suggests:

Diarrhea
Among the probiotics, only S. boulardii, Enterococcus faecium and Lactobacillus species have been useful in preventing antibiotic-related diarrhea. S. boulardii appears to be the most superior form of treatment when diarrhea is caused by Clostridium difficile, a bacterium often associated with antibiotic related diarrhea. The results of some early studies suggest that probiotics found in yogurt may help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics. However, more studies are needed to confirm that yogurt is effective. To offer benefits, the yogurt must contain active cultures.

Anti-Inflammatory for GI Conditions
Because of a reduced fecal concentration of various probiotics in individuals with active ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, active pouchitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome, researchers have noted that probiotics may be beneficial for individuals with these conditions. However, thus far, the
results have been inconclusive and more research is needed.

Allergies
Some lactic acid bacteria, including L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus, L. casei and L. bulgaricus, have demonstrated immuno-regulatory effects that may help protect against some allergic disorders. There is some evidence that some of these probiotic strains can reduce the intestinal inflammation associated with some food allergies, including cow’s milk allergies among babies.  Research has shown that breastfed infants given Lactobacillus significantly improved atopic dermatitis or eczema, compared with infants not exposed to this probiotic.

Anti-Carcinogenic
There are in vitro studies, as well as animal and some preliminary human studies suggesting that some probiotics can bind and inactivate some carcinogens, which can directly inhibit the growth of some tumors and inhibit bacteria that may convert pre-carcinogens into carcinogens.  L. acidophilus and L. casei have exhibited the latter activity in human volunteers. There is some preliminary evidence that L. casei may have reduced the recurrence of bladder tumors in human studies, although confirmatory trials are needed.  Animal work has suggested that some lactic-acid bacteria may help protect against colon cancer.  Again, more research is needed.

Summary
The effectiveness of probiotics is dependent upon their ability to survive in the acidic stomach environment and the alkaline conditions in the upper small intestine, as well as their ability to adhere to the intestinal lining and to colonize in the colon.  Some probiotics, such as L. casei, L. rhamnosus, and L. plantarum, are better able to colonize than others.  A major problem is that there are many probiotic products available, and not all of them have been tested for every potential treatment listed above. These products contain various Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains and combinations of probiotics and prebiotics. Additionally, typical doses of probiotics range from one to ten billion colony-forming units (CFU) a few times a week.  Because of the inconclusive data of probiotics, the optimal number of CFU’s for a healthy GI tract is unknown. Trial-and-error may be needed to find the most beneficial dose, but there is very little risk in overdosing.  Usually probiotics are well-tolerated, unless you have a prior condition that may warrant caution.  Discuss the use of probiotics with your physician or healthcare provider.  The animal and in vitro studies continually show there may be more benefits of probiotics to help with the delicate balance of our bodies.

Balance your “yang” workout with Yin Yoga

9 Mar

Thom has been balancing his “yang” workout routine with a weekly  “yin” yoga class.  Join him Tuesdays at 11:00AM at FIT’s fitness partner Yoga of Los Altos.

Yin Yoga tends to be very meditative and emphasize body and breath awareness. 
The poses, primarily seated postures, are held for a long period of time (3-5 minutes per pose).  The goal of Yin Yoga is to work the connective tissue in the body allowing for deep long stretches to increase the flow of energy in the body.  Janya’s classes are gentle yet challenging and a great compliment to a more active workout routine.

Tuesdays 11:00am – Yin Yoga with Janya

Fridays 5:30pm – Yin Yoga with Janya

Yoga of Los Altos | 377 First St. | Los Altos, CA 94022 | www.yogaoflosaltos.com | 650.941.9642

From the Kitchen of Kevin English

9 Mar

What’s for dinner?

Dinner Menu

Grilled Pork Chops with Ancho Chili Coffee Rub
Gourmet Brussel Sprouts
Mixed Green Salad with sliced pears, golden raisins and toasted pecans.

RECIPE: Gourmet Brussel Sprouts

This recipe has converted more than one person who has said “I hate Brussel Sprouts”

Ingredients:

2 pounds Brussel Sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 cup drained brined capers
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 oil packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1/2 to 3/4 tsp.  red chile flakes
1/2 lemon

Preparation:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add brussel sprout and cook just until tender and bright green, about 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, blot capers on a paper towel. Heat oil in large frying pan over high heat.  Add capers and cook, stirring carefully (mixture will splatter), until capers start to open and are brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer capers to a paper towel to drain.
  • Add garlic and anchovies to pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add brussel sprouts and chile flakes and stir to coat with oil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with capers and a squeeze of lemon.
  • I usually chop bacon or pancetta and saute until crisp, remove to paper towel to drain, and use some of the grease with the olive oil to saute the garlic and anchovies.  Then add the bacon/pancetta pieces at the end along with the capers.