Archive | May, 2013

How the Trainers Eat, vol. 5

15 May

Sometimes you just feel like a little Indian food, right?  Well that was the case for me this past Sunday.  While nothing beats a good dahl, I like to keep my Indian food free of grains and legumes as well.  Instead, you get something like this:

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Curried Chicken with Kale and Broccoli with Indian Spiced Beets

Curried Chicken with Kale and Broccoli

Serves 3-4

1-2 T. virgin coconut oil

4 large chicken thighs, chopped

1/2 large yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

Hot Madras curry powder (I used McCormick brand)

2 bunches lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped

2 stalks broccoli, chopped

1/2 can coconut milk

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large pan, warm the coconut oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped chicken pieces until starting to brown.  Sprinkle liberally with the curry powder to taste.

Once the chicken has turned white, add the onions and garlic, and continue to cook, 5 minutes.  Add the vegetables and stir to coat.  Turn heat down to medium and place a lid on the pan to steam the vegetables.  Occasionally stir.  After about 5 minutes, add the coconut milk and stir to mix.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Once the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are soft, dish is ready.  If you want a less “wet” dish, take the lid off, turn the heat to high, and boil off some of the liquid.

Indian Style (Yellow) Beets

Courtesy of Catalyst Athletics

 

Total cooking time for this fantastic Sunday night feast?  About 45 minutes.  What are your favorite ethnic dishes?

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What is your Spark?

9 May

Twice a year, all of our staff get together to read and dissect a book; these are usually not directly related to fitness, but instead subjects that will get us thinking.  At the end of the day, though, we DO become better trainers and coaches because the topics help us improve our skills as: goal managers, psychologists, motivators, and health promotors.  Last month we discussed the book, “SPARK: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,” by Dr. John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman.

 

Generally speaking, Dr. Ratey discusses the connection between physical activity and cognition.  While very science forward, this is an approachable book that should be required reading for anyone who wants to think and reason clearly, and stave off the mental decay brought on by aging, mental disorders, and inactivity.

 

The biggest take-aways:

1 – All stress is not bad.  Proper stress – even at the cellular level – is actually beneficial.  It is what helps to stimulate the body.  Judicious and properly applied stressor will make us healthier and more able to handle dangerous and debilitating circumstances in our futures.  Miniscule amounts of toxins in the foods we eat actually make us more capable of fending off disease.

 

2 – Age is not a deterrent.  We can improve at the cellular level and increase brain size at any age.  Aging really at its most basic view is the body’s cessation of regeneration and growth.  By exercising, we are not only improving our muscular and cardiovascular systems, but increasing neural connections and positive hormonal and neurotransmitter levels in our brains.

 

3 – The same general principles apply to most of everything we do and how we can change, correct, or influence our circumstance and environment to improve our lives.  Whether it’s dementia, anxiety, depression, or addiction, exercise, both physical and mental, can help ameliorate and control these problems.

 

4 – Inactivity is the ultimate killer.  Lack of physical activity will rot not only our bodies, but also our brains and cognitive abilities.  Just like slowing aging, physical activity helps to (re)build pathways in our brains that make us more productive and improve focus and attention.

 

5 – Exercise is a great way to bolster our mental faculties, regardless of the task at hand.  The hormonal and neurotransmitter cascades that occur after exercise help to “grow” our brains and leave them in an environment more capable of learning and retaining information.

 

Now before you get intimidated by thinking that this means that you have to go out and train for a marathon or throw 1,000 pounds over your head, know this: a little is better than nothing, and every little bit more is beneficial.  Taking your current state, adding just 30 minutes of brisk walking daily is enough exercise to make improvements – in your physical health, but also in your thinking and mood.  Try a new sport, add an after-dinner walk with your spouse, or come in for an additional 30 minute session each week.  These will all help you on your path to improving your life and vitality.

The Cure for Gray, Not Far Away

6 May

A couple of months ago, I was laying face-down on my [then] nine-year-old daughter’s bed and she climbed on my back. She began to run her fingers of both of her hands through my hair and said, “Wow, Daddy, you have so much gray hair!”

“You do realize how it all got there, right?” I replied.

“No.”

“Well, before you were born, I didn’t have any. After you were born and as you have gotten older, it has increased. So clearly, it’s your fault,” I sarcastically replied.

“Daddy!”

Good thing she understands my sense of humor.

However, there really is some good news in the world of science that was recently published. It appears that the reason we get gray is because of a tremendous accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in the hair follicle that causes our hair to bleach itself from the inside out. A topical treatment of narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB) phototherapy-activated compound called PC-KUS (a modified pseudocatalase) appears to do the trick and get rid of the gray. Catalases are natural enzymes that breakdown hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen.

Even better, this same treatment may appear to benefit people with vitiligo, a condition that causes depigmentation of sections of the skin. Exposing the skin to UVB light from UVB lamps is the most common treatment for vitiligo. Therefore, it did not seem too far fetched to see if the PC-KUS might benefit people with vitiligo besides helping those get rid of the gray in their hair.

To read more about this potential treatment of gray hair and vitiligo, please click the link below:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130503132958.htm

And regardless of what my daughter said about my gray hair, I STILL get carded!

The Power of Rest

1 May

Here at FIT, we are always encouraging clients to set goals to work towards.  In the busy world that we all live in, however, these goals are unfortunately often undermined by “life events” and other time constraints that derail us.  It’s amazing though, that sometimes these life events are just what we need to help push us over the edge in our performances and other goals.

Be it fat loss, a faster 10k time, or bigger numbers in the gym, it is important to set realistic and attainable goals.  All of us are familiar with the S.M.A.R.T method goal setting: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.  We systematically help our clients work towards these goals with what we do in the gym, as well as guidance for the other 120+ hours per week outside of the gym (and sometimes even with homework).  Recently though, we had a client who took a three week vacation and still managed an incredible feat when she returned to her workouts: a 15% increase in her deadlift!

 

This client had just gotten back from a 3 week vacation overseas, with nothing more than the occasional run as her mode of exercise; along with lots of eating, drinking, and touring through western Europe.  What wasn’t astonishing was her admission that she her body weight hadn’t changed at all while gone – this is actually pretty common – but rather her performance that day.  She warned me that, “this is my first workout back, so be gentle on me.”  If any of you know me, you’ll know that I’m always looking for the best possible performance out of our clients (the best of what they’ve got that day).  We started slowly with the deadlift, but gradually she started to put more weight on the bar, and get closer to her prior 1 repetition max (1RM).  When all was said and done, she had surpassed her old 1RM of 100kg (210lb) and topped out at 120kg (242lb)!!  That’s an incredible improvement any day, but after being gone for three weeks?  That’s amazing.

 

This performance really got me thinking, and my response was, “That’s the power of rest.”  While that got a good chuckle out of the rest of the Crossfit class, it was very true.  While exercise enthusiasts often use exercise to “destress” from the daily bombardment of emails, errands, kids, etc., we coaches are keenly aware that exercise is itself a stressor.  Now, it can definitely be a beneficial form of stress, but as far as the body is concerned, stress is stress.  What this normally hardworking client didn’t totally recognize, was that by taking those 3 weeks off to relax, recharge, and divert her attention to other endeavors, she was lowering her total stress load.  What that meant was that upon returning to the gym, she was totally re-invigorated to workout, and her body was ready (and able) to take on the stimulus of a hard workout and make extraordinary progress.  In physiological terms, this is what is called super-compensation: resting after a period of intense training results in improvements beyond the previous trajectory from the training stimulus.  Translation: allowing one’s body to rest after continued bouts of hard training may result in even better results than expected.

This client definitely benefited from super-compensation, but there are other “feel good” reasons for her improvements: she was more enthusiastic to hit the ground running upon returning to the gym, and her body wasn’t stiff, sore, or tired from recent workouts.  It’s a common thread that I try to repeat to clients: you can’t just keep beating the body up and hoping for improvements.  Rest, recovery, relaxation; these are all important aspects to making gains (whether increases in weight lifted or decreases in pant size).  Our stress levels have a chance to return to normal, all our bodies’ aches and pains subside, and our enthusiasm to challenge ourselves increases.

 

So…next time you are sitting down with your coach to discuss your goals or upcoming plans, keep the power of rest in mind.  Good luck with your next challenge!