Category Archives: fitness

Swimming Upstream with Diets

bears fishing

Podcasts often make me go introspective to my daily habits. The topic du jour was diets. So here goes. (quick read? — scroll down for tips)

My body type is a mesomorph. Since I was young, I could eat whatever I wanted and still have a six-pack. I was super active and weight was never a problem. However, this also means I never learned how to eat. My grandpa lived to be 89 years old, yet he smoked, drank, and ate very poorly. When we had chili at his house, it came wrapped in butcher paper like a brick of fat. It melted in the pan as you cooked it. A slab of Colby cheese and a sleeve of crackers often accompanied it. And I loved it. I thought I had genes like his, so I could get away with eating poorly.

I think for most of us, our 30’s is when your metabolism starts to go into conservation mode. I was a Senior Army Drill Sergeant at 32 years old when I started to fall back in a run. What the heck? I was a runner and a pretty good one at that. I gained 10 pounds and it wasn’t coming off. Even when I became an ultramarathoner in my 40’s, I pretty much maintained weight and didn’t lose much. But the key that was missing was diet. I still ate like a horse.

Fast forward to years later. My ultramarathon days were starting to come to an end. I began doing CrossFit and made lots of changes in my life. But I didn’t change my diet. Not long before, my wife had her gall bladder removed. So I suppose I was next. After my diagnosis, the doctors were ready to schedule an appointment with the surgeon. I’m like “wait a minute, let’s think about this first”. I mean, I’m a scientist myself. There has to be a better way. I started doing some research and found that gall bladder disease is mostly a side effect of gluttony. It can be connected with a host of other issues from diabetes to gout to liver disease. My research led to a gastroenterologist back in the 1950’s who put together a diet with many names. It was the Diabetes Diet, Alzheimer’s Diet, Parkinson’s Diet, … In effect, they were all autoimmune diseases where autoregulation is halted. Come to find out, it is also the basis for the Paleo Diet.

So despite my mantra of “exercise all you can so you can eat what you want”, I needed to change. I went cold turkey and jumped on the Paleo bandwagon. We stripped the cupboards bare of all processed food, especially flour, pasta, and other starches. The same with sugars. Within two weeks, I was free of the painful heart-attack like symptoms that I suffered from my gall bladder. My blood lipids were completely back to normal and I was losing weight and bodyfat. It was amazing what it did for my life.

Since those days, I’ve moderated my views and overlapped other concepts into my life. I am still mostly Paleo since I pay for it when I go back to the Dark Side. I used to be the bonehead at the party who was vocal about what I “wasn’t” eating and would preach all the facts about the bad foods that were there. I’m more sociable now. I’ll graze on fun foods knowing that I’ll eat clean 98% of the time. During the work week, I’m essentially a Warrior Diet advocate. Here are some ideas that I abide by:

  • Breakfast consists of coffee with a half-teaspoon of creatine and a tablespoon of coconut oil which provides energy and muscle cell hypertrophy. I’m not very hungry anyway in the morning because of what I eat before bed.
  • I skip lunch but may snack on a protein bar, a spoonful of peanut butter, or maybe a protein shake to keep my energy, prevent muscle catabolism, and maintain low insulin levels for fat burning.
  • I usually do Olympic lifting in the morning, yoga over lunch, and a CrossFit WOD with bodybuilding after work. Then I eat dinner.
  • Dinner is the largest meal of the day. Caveman drag food home to cook and eat! I get my daily dose of calories at this time. Although, I’m usually not starving because I haven’t faced insulin spikes from what the FDA and others would recommend with small meals throughout the day. It is balanced with lots of protein, fat, and veggies.
  • Currently, my pre-bedtime ritual is to take Progenex Cocoon. It has amino acids like tryptophan to help you sleep. It also has other proteins that aids muscle building and recovery. I take creatine with this too. Your highest levels of testosterone and other growth hormones occur as you sleep. Your cortisol levels drop and serotonin increases. So you do some fat burning as well as opposed to fat storage. Your fat is being used to make new cells and aid in hormone building (which are made of fats).

So far so good. I still enjoy a few cheats along the way. I’m not perfect. If I get really hungry or if I know I am teaching an intense yoga class or hot yoga, I’ll eat lunch or a snack hours before. I still stick to a mostly Warrior/Paleo styled diet and it seems to work for me. The bonus of not planning breakfast or lunch is I never worry about what I’m going to eat. And I can really enjoy a savory dinner and a nice sleep at night. I also got to keep my gall bladder.

Represent

david

I used to take a yoga class now and then from a teacher who was “real”. I mean, she wasn’t the type of yogi you see on magazine covers. In fact, maybe she didn’t look like what a yoga teacher looks like in your mind’s eye. And she is a great yogi.

It is unfortunate that we have these stereotypes in our minds of how people should be. We should accept people as they are. If they can perform and do their jobs, then that should be enough.

Or is it enough?

I was an Army Infantry Drill Instructor in a previous life. Our duty was to “Lead by Example”. So we put up an image that went far and above what is required of a normal soldier. No wonder the divorce rate is so high among the Drill Sergeant ranks. We spent half of our time grooming, exercising, asking for extra starch on our uniforms at the cleaners, and shining boots to look like mirrors every night. Actually, most of us used two uniforms a day and at least two sets of boots. If we got scuffed or dirty or sweaty, we’d change into a new uniform so we always looked “perfect”. We were toy soldiers who taught people to be like us. And it was impossible for them to keep up. But soldiers looked at us like infallible gods. We were what they were to strive to become. It can’t work any other way.

As a yoga teacher, I represent “yoga”. I represent my studio or gym where I teach. I hope that when people look at me, they’ll think “that’s what yoga can do for me”. They say “Practice what you teach, and teach what you Practice”. I have to live by example. I can’t preach about Ahimsa and then go off honking my horn and yelling at people who drive too slowly. Everything I do hopes to meet that standard. At least that’s what my Inner Drill Sergeant tells me.

I know we need to give ourselves grace. Humility has its merits too. I often share if I’m tired or tweaked a knee or something. When I am a student in a class among my peers, sometimes I’ll take child’s pose or the easier variation of a pose. I am human…maybe more than people know.

But I still strive to be the best yogi I can be. I want to be a shining example of what yoga can do. When people say its just for the stereotypical cover girl, I like to show it can be for beefy, older guys and real people like me. Though it is still important for me to project my brand. In many ways, I’m selling a product. I’m promoting a lifestyle. I feel responsible to my diet, to my svadhyaya (self-study), to my cross-training, and to my yoga practice. Maybe it will inspire others to commit to something special themselves.

Be the best YOU that you can be. It’s always good enough!

So it begins – Rocket Yoga training

larry schultz epk

I will be attending a 5-day Rocket Yoga training soon. A minor hiccup in the process is that (on a whim) I signed up for the CrossFit Games Open as well. So I’ll need to submit my video Friday morning after the announcement of the workout before I begin my travels. What’s life without a challenge? 🙂

So, being an older yogi…and despite being relatively fit….you can’t overlook one thing. This is gonna sting…possibly badly. I packed Epsom salts for nightly and morning baths. I have a Rumble Roller, massage stick, back buddy, and lacrosse ball packed for self-therapy. I tried to find a place for a massage, but most don’t have weekend hours. And I understand my training schedule may be fluid, so I couldn’t cancel if I needed to.

Regardless of the uphill climb I describe, I am very excited for this opportunity. I’ve been teaching Rocket Yoga classes for 1.5 years and attended Ashtanga and Rocket classes over several years. I have many limitations flexibility-wise. But I teach many who have similar or greater limitations. I emphasize doing what you can and having fun. So teacher do likewise. I keep my mind open and my body fresh.

Namaste!

Building Bodies

arnold-cable-row

So, my upper back, lats and such, have been sore for 3 days now. No worries because its a good soreness. One that comes from revelation.

I’ve been focusing more in the past 10 or so years on athletic performance and functional fitness. I’ll occasionally dabble into the dark side of narcissism and do some body work. But for the most part, my body work is an afterthought. If what I do makes me look good, then so be it.

Sometimes, if I am a little tired or I have a few minutes to spare, I’ll grab the cables on a machine or maybe I’ll do some isolation work with dumbbells. And sometimes, I do it even though I think its a waste of time. I mean, I know its not necessarily going to help me clean & jerk another 5 kilos or add to my squat. But I do it anyway.

Well, back to my soreness. I keep a fairly detailed log of my workouts. I mark down weights and PRs and how long it took to do a MetCon WOD. Three days ago, I found I was running out of time, so I thought I should do a few pulls on the cables since I was too tired to do pullups. I started with lat pulldowns while I was fresh. I usually do this with lighter weight and focus on form. But it was the close-grip pulley rows (picture of Arnold above) that got me. The weight was still light since it was the first set. I pulled back strictly until my elbows were fully back. Then, I only came forward half-way. So I did 3 half-way pulls to elbows back and then released all the way forward for a rep. Then pulled 3 half-way again and did that for a few sets. Lastly, I released all the way forward allowing my shoulder blades to pull far apart from each other getting a good stretch. Then I pulled back and pinched my shoulder blades together.

Know what? I almost didn’t count these in my training log. I ran out of time and only did one-set. But I’m glad I did because my back is jacked. I really need to rethink this and start doing more body work. I’m certain it will do wonders in building mass and hopefully that will translate into strength.

Live and learn!

I Like Big Butts…

Over and over in podcasts and my readings, everything comes back to the butt. Think about the major places where bodies bend: elbow, knee, ankle, wrist, shoulder, hip. The hip is where the largest and strongest bend occurs in the body. The largest muscle in the body is the gluteus maximus and all the associated muscles in the buttal region. At the cellular level, mitochondria is the engine of the cell. It is where energy conversion takes place. Bigger muscles, mean bigger muscle cells, means more mitochondria, means more fat burning, means less fat on your body.

Long story short—

If you want to burn fuel, build more ass muscles!!

I’m not saying that is all you should do. But everything starts with the squat. If you don’t have time for anything else, do squats and lunges. Everything else will fall into place after that.

I’ve heard excerpts from Christmas Abbott’s book “The Badass Body Diet”. She has a very ass-centric view on health and fitness. And people like Cory Gregory, President of MusclePharm, are advocates of Squat Every Day. You can see my previous post on Lunge Every Day for more on that. Think of Olympic weightlifters who squat every day because it is the primary mover in getting weight from the ground to overhead. And when you get old, do you know how you die? You die when you can no longer get up off the toilet (aka squat). It is very unhealthy to not be able to squat anymore.

See dudes walking around with a bony butt with a ghost-like presence in their jeans? Don’t be that dude. And girls, yeah you may get a bigger butt by squatting a lot. But guess what, keep doing it and the fat will melt away leaving you with a toned, leaner-than-ever, bikini butt.

It all starts with the butt! So get after it! Get up and do a few lunges and squats. Right now!

Feb: Lunge Every Day

Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out.

I listened to Cory Gregory for about the 5th time this morning on The Barbell Life podcast. He espouses the Squat Every Day axiom along with several others. I think he went 600 days squatting every day, hard and heavy! Now, Travis Mash, an elite powerlifter, and others follow similar guidelines. The book by Matt Perryman “Squat Every Day” is an excellent reference for these ideas. But many are talking about it.

But before you think this is a fad, hear me out!

A story is told of Milo of Croton who, when he was young, saw a calf in the field and hoisted it onto his shoulders. Every day he would go out and lift the calf. Only over time, the calf grew larger and eventually was a full-grown bull. Regardless of the story’s truth, there are people who actually work hard every day. They swing a 10 pound sledge hammer every day in rain and cold and heat. Nobody says “you need a rest day”. Nobody says “you need to swing your sledge on alternate days”. Roofers roof; miners haul; mothers pick up toddlers; and some kids may walk a mile to school every day. Nobody will tell you to take a break from your duties. Weider and Atlas developed ideas for lifting since the 1950’s and we claim their ideas as fact. When they are not really based on science. But people still take rest days, which is fine, but they aren’t always necessary. Olympic weightlifters lift 6 days a week for hours twice a day. And they only see steady progress. We adapt. We survive.

Perryman, in his book, talks a lot about soreness, fatigue, overtraining, and all these other things that we’ve concocted in our minds to avoid doing the hard work. I hate to sound like some muscle-headed Neanderthal, but most of our excuses are fluff. There is a French speaking man (sorry to forget his name) who says “Burn the questions”. Don’t ask, should I do this today? Am I too sore to workout? Why do I have to do that? Just do it. My softer side will say, keep moving. It rushes synovial fluid to your joints, it lengthens muscles thereby releasing scar tissue, and it moves lymph to usher healing hormones and growth factors to speed the process of healing, recovery, and strength building.

Over the years, I have dedicated a month, usually in July and November, to Squat Every Day. I always gain so much from doing that, not only physically, but mentally as well. Cory not only talks about squats, but he also Lunges Every Day. He started doing lunges for a quarter of a mile. And sometimes, he’d work up to a mile of lunges. If you have ever done lunges, it doesn’t take too many to make your buns so sore that its hard to sit down or stand up. That’s how good they are. Cory and Travis also talk about if you have a hole in your fitness, if you want to get your heart beating without running, if you have back or sciatic pain, then lunges are for you. And if you want to build buns for Spring Break that are shapely and strong, there is nothing better.

So lunges it is. I have an Advanced Rocket Yoga training coming up in the end of February and a CrossFit competition in April. The timing is perfect for Lunge Every Day!

Running from the Road

Most runners have had incidents of wild beasts or, even worse, untamed people during their running journeys. I’ve had people yell expletives at me and throw things like beer bottles and cans in my direction. But two incidents put me over the edge.

One early morning at dusk, I was not even a half-mile from home when I approached an intersection. I was just moving off the sidewalk on the right side of the road. I saw a car approaching from my left turning right but didn’t quite make the turn. He jumped over the rumbled median and came directly toward me in my lane. I had to race to the curb to get out of the way. I looked directly into the driver’s face and he was completely stone drunk. I watched as he nearly bounced from curb to curb as he drove away. I lived in my first starter home in a fairly nice neighborhood of working class people. I was in grad school at the time and I wanted to build equity instead of losing money on rent. My street led back to a not so nice “projects” that always concerned me. People would stop in their car right in front of my house with the subwoofers booming. They would eat their fast food and then politely dropped their trash into my yard. But I still cherished my home. So I ran home from my near collision to make sure my home and my wife and dog were OK. He could have swerved into something or someone special to me.

Another early morning with only the streetlights illuminating my path, I was running away from home again. This home is my current home in a very nice neighborhood with very nice neighbors. I call it Pleasantville since nothing can possibly go wrong. People are polite, they pick up dog poop, and wave hello to relative strangers. We are mostly University folk or other professionals in our community. But, as I cross the tracks into an older section of town, I pass through a thoroughfare of sorts. It is a two-way street that is double wide for parking along the side, only nobody really parks on the street. So, I am on the right side of the road again, even though I’m usually on the left. But when I feel most safe, I run on the right. It was a wide road. A car was approaching with lights on from the opposite direction. It stayed in its lane the entire way, that is, until it got to me. There wasn’t another car anywhere to be seen, yet he swerved all the way over forcing me to race off the road and roll into a fence. I could see what looked like two older males. They must have had something against runners or society in general. It was obvious that they were hell bent on being mean that morning since there was no reason for them to turn into me.

Those two incidents were the icing on the cake. It forced me to swear off of roads completely. I’ve run in all of the lower 48 U.S. States and Hawaii and abroad. And these bozos ended my road journeys. I already preferred trail running, so I hung up my road shoes for good. That’s not to say that I haven’t had experiences on the trails. But animal encounters, stinging nettles, and cactus are not out to get me. Evil people are just evil. In backpacking, they say the most dangerous parts of the trail are trailheads. Miscreants are too lazy to go far down a trail. Its only the idiots who sit at trailheads who are out for no good.

I love the trails. I enjoy sharing with friends, but I prefer to go alone. All I hear is the wind in the trees, babbling brooks, birds singing, and the pitter-patter of my running huaraches or bare feet. I have this connection with the trail that I love. Its led me to ultramarathons and experiences that nobody gets to see but me. I’m obnoxious that way. I know others have seen it, but I imagine in my dreams that I am the only one.

Yoga Is Good Enough

For people who practice yoga, and for those who don’t, I’ll say “Yoga IS good enough.” If you want to get better at yoga, do yoga. There are no tricks or shortcuts. And for general health, there is something in yoga for everyone. Its not just stretching. It is strength, flexibility, cardio, balance, mindfulness, and spirituality, all wrapped up in one practice. BUT, with that being said…

I come from a multi-athlete, CrossFit kinda background. I am very into all things fitness and sports. A little variety is just the spice that some of us need. So if you want to add to your traditional classes, here are some options:

Yoga wheel – there are several wheels out on the market. My first intent with using a wheel was for greater back flexibility. But I’m finding so many ways to use it. You can do it in front of the TV, or I will even sequence it into a workout.

Aerial yoga – Talk about reversing gravity. It almost places yoga in an opposing force. Think of doing a suspended backbend. It is a totally chest opening experience. Hammocks, slings, silks, trapeze bars, rings, oh my! Lots of options.

Hot yoga – You can do your own hot yoga. If it is hot outside, spend some times in the sun on the beach or at a park with yoga. Find your muscles lengthening with this wonderful assist. Be careful though because you can find yourself in much deeper positions than normal putting your connective tissues in a predicament. You can practice forward folds in a hot bath. I’ve even gone into a hot attic in the Summer (if safe for you) and did entire flows.

Hand weights – Kettlebells, dumbbells, wrist & ankle weights – these can add resistance and more balance in any posture. You can do sun salutations, warriors, side planks, almost anything with weights in hands. It can be mentally stimulating too. If I’ve done a side plank while holding 54 pounds, I feel invincible when I do it in class without weight. For people with wrist issues, dumbbells may be a good way to get away from some of your issues. See how it feels for you.

Office yoga – I get creative. I put my lower leg up on a desk and do a wide variety of pigeon poses, twists, and folds. In an arm chair, I’ll press into tolasana, lolasana, or an L-sit. You can hold books for chair pose or warriors.

Weight vest – Put on a weight vest for sun salutations and standing poses. Seated balances like boat pose can be a neat challenge. Planks and arm balances will really get cranked up.

Self-massage – I’m a huge advocate of massage. Going to a professional for deep tissue or Ashiatsu is invaluable in opening fascia and removing scar tissue. Search “Mobility WOD” and find Kelly Starrett. He is the CrossFit guru who take physical therapy to a whole new and personal level. Foam rollers, therapy balls (lacrosse ball is my fav), roller sticks, thera-canes, and many other possibilities. You can have these tools alongside your mat at home. Try rolling your hamstrings and glutes prior to doing a seated forward fold. Or rolling a stick on your hip flexors and inner thighs while seated in lotus. It will open you up in new and different ways.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your home practice. It won’t substitute your regular practice at the studio or home. But it may add the spice that makes your practice creative and enjoyable.

Yoga Strong

In fitness, they talk about adaptation and specificity. Our bodies are remarkable in that they respond to stimulus in order to survive. If we walk or run longer, lift or stretch more, we begin to adapt to those body movements. And this adaptation takes place in very specific ways. If we change the stimulus, even slightly, then our bodies must then again respond to that change. If we always do 5 sets of 5 reps of a bench press, and we switch to 3 sets of 20, our bodies will likely be sore and will eventually adapt to that new rep scheme.

“Outlift a runner; Outrun a lifter”

That is what my t-shirt says that I bought while working at a CrossFit Games Regional event. It follows the CrossFit definition of fitness “Constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements performed at broad time and modal domains”. It means that maybe we’ll not be the Master’s of any sport or fitness activity, but we can adapt pretty well to anything that pops up. If you say run 10 miles and then lift a 200 pound generator into the back of a truck, we could probably do that at the drop of a hat. We are generalists who can do almost anything.

I’m attending Rocket Yoga training at the end of February. So the goal I have is to be Yoga Strong! Using the specificity model, I could focus only on yoga and get there without doing anything else. But then I sacrifice other areas of my life. There are yogis out there who do amazing things. Their strength-to-weight ratio is remarkable. But that is only one kind of strength. Their specificity is yoga. If you asked them to run 2 miles for time or lift a refrigerator, their specific strength may not lend to those activities. They are Yoga Strong. And that’s what I need to be too. But I am a different kind of athlete. I need the quality of life that allows me to do other things as well.

So I am on a program. I love Olympic weightlifting and I think that lends to so many areas of life. I am doing a lot of rowing and skiing on my new Ski Erg by Concept 2. So strength and cardio are there. I am using gymnastics tools like paralletes, rings, and high bar. And I am certainly doing plenty of yoga. This is not a lot different from what I normally do, but my mind is focused on Rocket Yoga. I am also running. I think my waistline impedes my ability to do twists and folds comfortably and, for me, running is the fastest way to reducing body fat. But at the top of the list are bandhas, which I will describe more later. The fitness world would call it “core”, but Ashtangis would refrain from saying that. It plays a huge role in yoga strength.

I wish you well in your goals and pursuits for 2016. Remember, it is good to have specific goals, but your primary goal should be quality of life. Enhance your well-being, both body and soul.