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Skratch is Here!

11 Feb

If you are an avid endurance athlete, hiker, recreational athlete, or you just feel the need for a sports drink to stay hydrated and help your athletic performance, then you may be interested in trying Skratch by Skratch Labs. We asked the developer of Skratch, Alan Lim, why do you call it Skratch? He said that it is because it is made from scratch. It is quite possibly the most all natural sports supplement on the market. Just mix it with water and it is already to go.

Check out more information about Skratch at their website, http://www.skratchlabs.com/.

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Is There Such a Thing as Type 3 Diabetes?

30 Mar

The short unconfirmed-by-the-scientific-community answer to the Title of this article is: YES.

According to a paper published this past January in the journal Drugs written by Dr. Suzanne M. de la Monte, Type 3 diabetes is otherwise known as Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia in North America. Growing evidence supports the concept that Alzheimer’s is fundamentally a metabolic disease that results in progressive impairment in the brain’s capacity to use blood sugar (i.e. glucose), because the brain cannot respond to insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) stimulation. Insulin is an important hormone that behaves as “the gatekeeper” to get glucose into our cells, including brain cells. Insulin in the brain not only modulates glucose uptake, but also promotes the health of brain cells — their growth, survival, remodeling, and normal functioning.

De la Monte presents a plethora of data that strongly support the notion that there is clearly a similarity between Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) that could not be ignored. The biochemical, molecular, and cellular abnormalities that precede or accompany AD neurodegeneration, are characteristically common, yet they lack a clear origin. Reevaluation of the older literature revealed that impairments in brain metabolism occur early as the symptoms of AD develop. This led de la Monte’s team to develop the concept that impaired insulin signaling has an important role in the pathogenesis of AD. Because this is similar behavior of muscle cells prior the onset of Type 2 diabetes,  de la Monte proposed that AD represents “type 3 diabetes.”

Type 1 diabetes mellitus  is “juvenile” diabetes that is diagnosed early in life as the pancreas does not produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, is caused by insulin resistance in peripheral tissues, but not the brain necessarily. However, Type 2 diabetics have a 50% chance of developing AD.  Individuals with Type 2 have high blood sugar and high blood-insulin because the insulin and glucose are not properly absorbed into the targeted cells.

Therefore, Type 3 diabetes is suggested to have similar physiological symptoms as Type 2 diabetes, however it is only specific to the brain, not necessarily in the rest of the body. A diagnosis of Type 3 diabetes would suggest that the brain alone does not absorb insulin properly. De la Monte’s hypothesis gained more support this past week as another study showed that insulin resistance in the brain precedes and contributes to cognitive decline above and beyond other known causes of AD.

Because we know that lifestyle and dietary choices influence the development of Type 2 diabetes, perhaps the same should be suggested for Alzheimer’s disease. Diabetes is a disease defined as an inability to properly utilize insulin. This would suggest that we should monitor our dietary choices that keep insulin at a low-to-moderate level and participate in regular activities. Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of AD and/or diabetes and what you may be able to do in order to minimize developing either of these.

The WattBike

18 May

FIT is happy to welcome, what FIT founder Thom Downing says is, “the most dynamic, functional and smart piece of metabolic conditioning equipment to come onto the fitness scene since the Concept2 rower in 1976”, the WattBike.

FIT will be offering a free clinic on the WattBike, featuring FIT’s in-house Pro cyclist, Taylor Tolleson on June 2nd from 630-8pm at FIT.  Free spin scans will be given so come prepared to ride!

The WattBike was developed over 7 years and is the world’s first affordable indoor bike that accurately measures power (Watts). It has a unique, patented measurement system and ground-breaking software.

Launched in 2008, the machine was signed off by the English Institute of Sport as being accurate, and is now fully integrated into British Cycling’s Whole Sport Plan at all levels from performance through to participation. It is the first indoor bike that has ever been endorsed by British Cycling and it is now used as their frontline Talent ID screening tool.

Key features that make the machine stand out from others include the fact that it feels like ‘real’ cycling – on the flat and climbing – and it delivers accurate, repeatable and comparable results. The bike can be used for rehabilitation, general fitness, high level training, scientific testing, cross-training and competition.

It features a unique ‘polar display’ that provides immediate feedback on the cyclist’s technique and all bikes are factory calibrated identically, allowing them to be linked together for accurate racing. It delivers a new level of depth and accuracy of data all of which can be viewed in real time and saved for later analysis.

At one extreme, it is an exercise bike, and at the other, it’s a highly sophisticated sports science analysis bike, making it suitable for everyone from recreational cyclists through to Olympic champions.

The Wattbike provides safe, 24/7 gym use and can be used for regular exercise, group exercise or competitions in gyms across the UK. It is also available to buy for the home and offers a great alternative to a turbo trainer or an upright bike.

Beyond cycling, the Wattbike has broader appeal. It is a superb cross-training and talent ID tool for a wide range of sports that want a high quality training alternative, delivering objective data. It is currently being used as an initial screening tool for Girls4Gold and Pitch2Podium – UK Sport’s Talent ID programmes for girls and released football players.  British Cycling also see the Wattbike as becoming a fundamental feature within secondary schools as a gateway activity to the sport of cycling, and as part of the solution to the lack of physically active lifestyles in society today.

FIT’s Head Cycling instructor Taylor Tolleson got his start racing in triathlon at the early age of 14. In 2005 after 4 years of racing in the ITU, Xterra and National circuit attending 3 triathlon world championships and 3 duathalon world championships he decided to pursue a profession in road racing. After only a few months he got picked up on the US National team where he raced and lived in Europe. Shortly thereafter he received his first professional contract to start in 2006. While racing on prestigious professional teams such as BMC and Garmin-Chipotle, Taylor was able to work very closely with the best coaches in training and power analysis, Max Testa and Alan Lim.  After a tragic hit and run accident in 2009 he has decided to focus on coaching and wattage training.

Career Highlights:

(2008) 1st Tour de Leelanau

(2007) 1st Stage #6 International Tour de Toona

(2006) 2nd Best Young Rider Competition Tour of California 2-Time X-Terra World Champion

2009

2nd Merco Cycling Classic Road Race

2008

1st Tour de Leelanau

4th Stage #2 Ronde Van Brisbane

8th Stage #7 Tour de Georgia

1ST copperopolis

2007

1st Stage #6 International Tour de Toona

2nd Stage #3 Tour of Elk Grove

2nd Red Trolley Classic Criterium

5th Under-23 National Criterium Championship

10th Under-23 National Road Race Championship

18th Stage #6 Amgen Tour of California

19th prologue Amgen Tour of California

2006

2nd Best Young Rider Competition Tour of California

16th Prologue Tour de Normandie

2005

1st Collegiate National Mountain Bike Short Track Championship

1st NCAA National Team Time Trial Championship

1st Stage #5 Cascade Classic (Bend, OR)

3rd Stage #6 Cascade Classic (Bend, OR)

6th MIPS Technologies Mt. Hamilton Road Race

6th NCC Road Race National Championship

7th Copperopolis Road Race (Milton, CA)

2004

1st X-Terra World Championship

1st X-Terra U.S Championship

1st Collegiate National Mountain Bike Short Track Championship

3rd Trek Bikes Collegiate National Criterium Championship

3rd Trek Bikes Collegiate National Team Time Trial Championship

About FIT

The F.I.T. experience is unique from the level of coaching, to the attention to your individual needs, to the support that is palpable as soon as you walk through our doors. Located in the heart of Los Altos, California, F.I.T. is a school of fitness, focused on all factors of health, with the intention of living a longer and better life.  Through a variety of services we offer, ranging from personal training to group CrossFit classes, we focus on functional training through optimization of the physical competencies in each of the 10 recognized fitness domains:

Cardio-respiratory endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance and Accuracy.

The F.I.T. coaches adapt to the fitness level of their students while providing instruction, guidance, and support.  Our student body is extremely diverse ranging from ages 10 to 93, in experience from novice to elite, and in life, from executives to stay-at-home moms to children to athletes of many varieties.

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.

Brain and Brawn

10 Feb

I can’t remember the last time I spoke to someone who was excited at the prospect of getting older.  People fear different things, but it’s safe to say most concerns surround declining physical and/or mental well-being.  For years, the medical community has promoted cardiovascular exercise as the best for the prevention and intervention of disability and disease.  Aerobic exercise was said to keep the heart and lungs strong as well as aid in neurogenesis, or the creation of new neuronal cells in the brain, especially in those portions of the brain associated with memory and thinking.  While this recommendation still holds true, recent studies are showing that resistance training is as effective, if not more, at stimulating neurogenesis in the same areas of the brain.

Recently, a few studies examining the effects of exercise on the stimulation of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in November.  BDNF is part of a family of proteins responsible for the growth, survival and differentiation of nerve cells, and maybe the underlining factor responsible for exercise induced effects on cognition and mental well-being.  In one study, researchers from Brazil secured weights to the tails of a group of rats and had them climb ladders for five sessions a week.  This study, which measured the levels of BDNF, found that the weight lifting rats compared favorably to the rats that ran on a wheel.  The sedentary rats showed very low levels of BDNF.  The other study presented studied rats that ran on a weighted wheel (resistance being equivalent to 30% of the rats body weight) compared to rats that ran on an un-weighted wheel.  Not only did the rats moving the loaded wheel pack on muscle mass but they also showed significantly greater gene activity and levels of BDNF within their brains.  Although these results are not definitive proof, it is, at very least, an indication that further study is warranted.

One such study is underway at the University of British Columbia where principal investigator, Teresa Liu-Ambrose, has found that older women who lifted weights performed significantly better on various tests of cognitive functioning than women who completed toning classes.  Ms. Liu-Ambrose has hypothesized that the beneficial effect of strength training on cardiovascular health accounts for some of the improvement in function, but also stated “resistance training at first requires an upsurge in brain usage.”  She goes on to mention the involvement and stimulation of the brain during exercise using proper form and technique could contribute to greater cognitive functioning.  In addition to increased cognitive demand, the brain is responsible for activating the appropriate muscles, the necessary type and quantity of muscle fibers (efficiency) and activating the various energy systems that need to be involved.

One word to the wise, conventional wisdom often suggests that if some thing is good, more is better.  When it comes to exercise, this is not always the case.  Another study recently published showed that excessive exercise in postmenopausal women was linked to lower cognitive function.  Although this study was assessed by questionnaire, not known for their reliability, we do know that overtraining stimulates the release of cortisol.  Cortisol in excess has been linked to depression and lower levels of neurogenesis.

Sharon Begley’s January 3, 2011 Newsweek article “Can You Build a Better Brain?”  presented a review of what neuroscience has learned, and has yet to learn, about improving cognitive function. Supporting additional research regarding strength training and the brain is a statement by Columbia University’s Yaakov Stern that “the research so far suggests that cognitive training benefits only the task used in training and does not generalize to other tasks.”  Stern’s input begs the question, if training cognition doesn’t help, what does?  In answer to that, Begley quotes Art Kramer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studied the effect of aerobic exercise.  Kramer found that “A year of exercise can give a 70-year-old the connectivity of a 30-year-old, improving memory, planning, dealing with ambiguity, and multitasking… fitness training [stimulates] the molecular and cellular building blocks that underlie many cognitive skills.  It thus provides more generalizable benefits than specifically training memory or decision-making.”

In relation to anti-aging, the adage of ‘use it or lose it’ is a good guide for the maintenance of movement and cognitive function, and it appears these are no longer unrelated.  These studies suggest that you can engage both the brain and the body by learning and practicing new or complex movements under a safely prescribed load.  My recommendation would be to start with body weight exercises and focus on learning how to move properly and then progress to greater loads.  The other implication of this study is that checking out during your exercise routine and simply going through the motions to just  ‘get it done’ may not be as beneficial.  Practicing movements with the intent of getting better not only improves your physical health, but also may contribute to your mental well-being

Aerobic and Anaerobic

10 Feb

I often hear the same question from clients, “Should I do more cardio/endurance or strength training to reach my weight loss and general fitness goals?”  It always depends on the individual, but the best answer is, you need to train using a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

What is Aerobic and Anaerobic Training?

Aerobic literally means “with oxygen.”  Oxygen is required to keep muscles in motion for a long period of time.  Muscles use oxygen to metabolize carbohydrates, protein and fat to generate energy through an aerobic or oxidative metabolic pathway.  Aerobic exercise includes activities that can be sustained for longer periods of time, such as running, jogging, swimming, cycling, or skiing.  Just as aerobic means “with oxygen,” anaerobic means “without oxygen.”  While you obviously need oxygen to perform anaerobic exercise, your muscles are not using oxygen during high intensity exercise to generate energy.  Instead, the muscles metabolize creatine phosphate and glycogen through the anaerobic metabolic pathways.  This supply is limited and therefore can only sustain short, however intense, bursts of activity.  Anaerobic exercise includes activities like sprinting and weightlifting.

Why we train using aerobic exercise.

Most of us are familiar with the benefits of aerobic exercise.  Just 20 minutes of low to moderate aerobic activity can improve your heart and lung function, blood flow, immune system, and lead to a healthier life.  Aerobic conditioning improves endurance, which enables you to train for longer periods of time at higher intensities. Moderate intensity exercise sustained for longer periods of time can result in greater energy expenditure, which contributes positively to weight loss.  It’s because of these benefits that many people opt to train only the aerobic metabolic pathway.

So why add anaerobic exercises to my training program?

Most daily activities encountered in sport, work, and life require a combination of energy pathways.  During a tennis match you may need to sprint to get to an opponent’s shot and return the ball.  To be efficient in the sport would require anaerobic training, such as sprinting drills and power training exercises.  Additionally, research has found that repeated short bouts of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running, rowing, and jump roping, not only improves aerobic capacity but also provides greater health benefits when compared to moderate intensity exercise (Swain & Franklin, 2006).  What about everyday activities like lifting several heavy grocery bags into the back of an SUV, or getting your carry on bag into the overhead compartment on a flight?  These tasks don’t take much time but require short bursts of strength and power.  Weightlifting can make these tasks easier and safer.  So, whether your fitness goals are for greater athletic performance or improved health you can benefit from anaerobic training.

FIT Client of the Month, Sept. 09

15 Sep

COM Leo

Client Name:  Leo Cunningham

Age:  49

FIT Member since:  02/07/2008

Goal:  Run distance events without injury; Build strength and power everywhere

Results:  Leo successfully trained for and ran a half-marathon that he completed in December.  He knocked 10 minutes off his previous time, and, more importantly, he completed the training and the race without any pain in a knee that completely sidelined him a year earlier.  Leo also leaned up; dropped about 25 pounds; and improved his strength and work capacity.

Likes:  The positive (healthy, supportive, analytical, constructive) culture that pervades F.I.T.; the feeling when Herm has made me work harder than I thought I could; my new appreciation, through working with Rob, for the athleticism involved in Olympic weightlifting.

Dislikes:  Herm’s embarrassing scream of complete “flabbergastedness” when I shocked him with a muscle-up: dude, be cool!

PR 500 meter row:  1:35.7

PR chin-ups:  Leo is past chin-ups… he can do 3 muscle-ups in a row!

Key to your (client’s) success: Goal setting, consistency, zone-like diet (eating for performance)

Summary Paragraph:

A year ago I hurt my knee and was unable to run.  My physical therapist (Marc at Agile) rehabbed me and convinced me of the need for a well rounded conditioning program.  Herm and Rob have put me through a program that has done more than I ever expected, and they–and the whole F.I.T. culture–led me to re-examine and improve my nutrition and lifestyle.