Sunday, December 27, 2015

Move of The Week: Lateral Kettlbell Swings

As person who likes to incorporate new moves into my workouts, I get it can be hard to come up with ways to keep your workouts fresh. If you're the type that doesn't mind the same thing all the time, great! In all honesty I sometimes wish I didn't get bored. Truth is though, most of us do. So Weekly I'll be posting a new exercise or move that might help for those looking for new ideas. Sometimes they'll be basic, sometimes more complex. But the aim will be to expand my repertoire, and everyone else's.

With that said, this week I'd like to share a move I incorporated into my workout today which really made me enjoy my workout, plus I feel it took it to the next level.  It's called the Lateral Kettlebell swing, though I've also seen it called a pendulum swing. Not sure what the actual name is, but it's one bad ass move. This move in particular is great for your core, rotational movement and power. Like almost all kettlebell exercises it will engage other muscles as well so you get a lot of bang of your buck. Just note, two exercises are shown in this video, I am referring to the first one, though I've done them both and loved them. Check out this video by Australian Kettlebell Instittue for a demonstration and subscribe to them on Youtube for more awesome videos.

Hope you'll incorporate this move into your own routines if you're into kettlebell training. Word of advice, this is not necessarily a beginner move, so if you're a novice please be careful, use light weight, and if possible work with an expert to get this move down. If you're more advanced and are confident, still be careful but swing away.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tracking fitness

Fitness Tech......

Activity trackers and fitness trackers are all the rage these days. It seems like every other day there is a new device on the market. Are these wrist worn devices worth your time and money? My answer to this question is yes. In my last post I said I would be reviewing some of the devices that I have used, but first I wanted to make a post about why you should get one, if your thinking about it.
Let me be clear in saying that fitness trackers/watches offer just estimates. There is no device on the market today that will give you exact numbers of calories burned. If you are using a tracker with no heart rate monitor you are just basing your calorie expenditure on an algorithm, as opposed to actual heart rate data. Heart rate data will offer a much more accurate figure in terms of calorie burn.

Why would you want to purchase one? 

The best answer to this is that you would be able to trend your own data over time. You can see how many days of the week you are active, at what time of the day you are most active, least active, etc. I like to record specific workouts and use a heart rate monitor to see how my endurance is improving... this leads me into the next section:

What type of tracker should I purchase?

I do see the value in counting steps if you are a couch potato. For me, that doesn't really matter. There have been days that I have taken less than 1,000 steps and burned over 600 calories in a workout, doing hundreds of heavy kettle bell swings. For me, the most actionable data comes from measuring your heart rate during activity over time. Trending this type of data will show you how you are improving over time.

Optical heart rate or chest strap?

There are a lot of new devices coming out with on board optical heart rate sensors. Unfortunately, they all suck (except for one, review coming soon -stay tuned!). I do a lot of strength training, including  kettle bell work, and unfortunately optical hear rate sensors do not do well when there is a lot of dynamic arm movement during exercise. For cardio based workouts (running, elliptical machine, stair master etc) most sensors work just fine.
I love the idea of an optical hear rate sensor, if it is accurate.
The benefits of optical sensors are many:

1. less equipment to carry to the gym, or wherever you work out.
2. You can virtually track a work out anywhere , anytime if you are wearing your wrist worn device.
3.No uncomfortable chest strap!

The good news is that the technology is improving quickly. At the moment I am not ready to give up accurate data for comfort, so I will continue to be married to my chest strap.

Here are a few reasons to jump into this fitness wearable tech frenzy:

It will keep you accountable:

Let me explain... the device itself will probably not keep you accountable, but every time you think about ho much money you spent on the device it should motivate you to be active, these things aren't cheap. I remember when I was not so motivated to work out, remembering that I was paying $75.00 / month for my gym membership always motivated me to get up and work out.

A tracker will give you a better estimate of how active you are and how many calories you are burning. If you couple this data with a good food tracking program like Myfitnesspal (review coming soon) you will be able to meet your goals with a lot less guess work, whether you are trying to gain muscle or lose a few pounds.

Trackers will motivate you:

Literally.. a common feature in a lot trackers is a move reminder. If you are sedentary for too long you will get a light vibration and message asking you to get up and move.

Social pressure (peer)

Some of the current platforms, for example fitbit, offer a lot of opportunities for friendly competition. So if you and your buddies have the same tracker you can compete to see who takes more steps, or burns more calories in a week.

I hope this brief snap shot of a very broad topic helps to shed some light on what type of tracker  suits you best. I will be posting information about the device that I am currently using and ones that I have used in the past. Like always, we thank you for supporting our site and podcast! Look out for a new podcast episode, coming this week!!!!


Sunday, December 13, 2015

fitness technology review

Fred and I are always talking about how we can improve our  healthy living lifestyle. One of the things that I have incorporated in my life is fitness tracking. I  have been using fitness trackers for over two years and I have pretty much narrowed down the type of tracker and features that work best for me. I am in love with fitness and technology, so from time to time I will be posting some reviews of products that may make your fitness journey a more manageable one. I Will be describing how I use technology to keep track of all my fitness/nutrition metrics. Look  out for my post , should be up in the next few days. If anyone has any questions about a tracker that they are considering shoot me a question. Chances are I have done extensive research on it, or have owned it.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Meals For Muscle Or General Health, Just Take Control.

Since my campaign to put on more muscle began some weeks back, I have been doing a lot of thinking about nutrition lately. Particularly around cooking my own meals and eventually getting into the idea of doing meal prep for a few days in advance the way bodybuilders and other athletes do. This idea may seem like a bit much to some, and even for me it seems like something I might struggle with. But like any challenge, I feel the first step to overcoming it is to understand it. One night a few months back I listed the top 5 reasons preparing meals for a week would be an issue for me, which are:

  1. Time (it can take half to an entire day)
  2. Consistency (would I be able or willing to do it week after week?)
  3. Monotony ( to keep it simple, I'd have to be willing to eat the same meal or similar ones very often, could I do that) 
  4. Am I a good enough cook? ( Kinda goes with # 3 but I'll elaborate soon)
  5. Would it be worth it?
For the moment, I'd like to skip questions 1,2, and 6 because the other two were pretty simple to answer. Well sort of, the thing about number is 3 I could absolutely eat the same or similar meals all of the time. Two reasons for that are that it makes it easier when you're looking to be in control of your diet, and in all honesty it sort of just naturally becomes your habit. Even if I'm not packing my lunch for work, I rarely find myself deviating from some sort of grilled meat, carb and veggie combo from the same place I get lunch nearly every day at work. For example, Grilled steak or chicken, Sweet potato or brown rice, and broccoli or spinach. See below for pics.

Even with the meals I make at home, they're pretty similar to one another and I don't often try new things, for examples of my home cooked meals see below.

Let me be clear, these are just some of the images I had readily available, I do vary things from time to time, like a healthy variation of Shepherd's pie made with green plantain mash instead of regular potatoes, or a turkey and vegetable lasagna with the middle layers of pasta being replaced with spinach. But those are every once in a a blue and typically something I cook up on the weekends when I have more time.

Now as far as me being a good cook, my friends and family who've tried my food have all enjoyed it. While my skill level is faaaaar off from master chef, I have to admit I do well enough. So saying I can't cook or cook well enough is not really a challenge anymore.

So this leaves me with the remaining challenges of time, consistency and value. I still can't really answer the first two since I've yet to try it. Now do I see the value in it? Of course I do, I wouldn't be writing this otherwise. Now while I'm not a competitive athlete, let me just mention that I think the biggest benefit of "meal prep", as it's known to fitness buffs, is the fact that you'd be able to adhere to an eating schedule. You don't have to be training for the Mr. Olympia or a marathon to do this, in fact it is a staple of being healthy, promoting a good metabolism and feeding a growing body. You have to eat well, often, and enough. I like many have been victim of long periods of time without a good meal due to the burdens of a hectic job or school schedule. But having your meals with you and ready to eat so you can squeeze them in is a good way to stop that and mitigate the issue of settling for a less nutritious or flat out bad meal,

In addition, while spending an entire Sunday cooking meals for the week may seem like a lot of work, when you have a crammed schedule you may find that coming home and having something pre made you can quickly heat up and eat so you can focus on chores, homework, family, or even best of all making time for exercise, is just invaluable. Think of the reason TV dinners took off the way they did when those horrifying dietary atrocities were introduced to the market. It was all about the convenience of them. Instead if a some time is set aside early in the week, you can have well made, balanced, natural, and actually nutritious meals ready to go.

Something to note here is even if you're not thinking about eating for growth like I'm currently doing, there are other benefits to this idea of focusing so much on your food. I don't want to go on and on about this, but instead I'd like to propose something before getting to my point and offering an alternative. If you're reading this and thinking it would be too difficult or too crazy to try meal prep. I say try this, think of 3-5 reasons meal prep would benefit you. Maybe weight loss? Maybe for better energy? You've already noted the reasons you couldn't do it, so now think of reasons you should. In fact, share them in the comments below.

Now to my closing point, while I don't feel I'm quite ready to try the meal prep thing let me leave you with this, at least make your own meals. Even if you don't know how to cook, the internet has some pretty simple recipes one can follow and as you do it more and more, like anything else you'll get better at it. I don't just credit my 60lb weight loss to hard work, it was mostly good and consistent eating habits which I reinforced by cooking for myself more often. Handling my food own food more often absolutely gave me a better picture of how to adjust my diet to maintain a healthier weight and life. It's been almost two years now and the only time my weight went up was when I wanted it to. And even then it's been good lean muscle. I take pride in my healthier body, and what goes into it. Shouldn't we all?


Friday, December 4, 2015

A Strong Mindset To Overcome Setbacks

In anything one sets out to do in life, there will hardly be an easy path. If there is, maybe it wasn't an endeavor worth the time. Even if the challenges once faces aren't the hardest, they still arise. But then there are the ones that do slow us down, maybe even stop  us in our tracks. So what is the best way to get past these obstacles? Is there some sort of trick one can have in the bag that can be applied at any sign of trouble which will solve all? Not really.

So by now if you're still reading, you may be wondering where I'm going with this. In all facets of life, I've been encountering some difficulties lately and it's what prompted this entry.Well, if I'm being honest not all areas of life, but at least the ones I've been hoping to make the biggest strides in. I've talked on the podcast and in previous entries about my injury which has slowed my progress in terms of fitness. And I have to admit at times it gets frustrating, in fact more than that, I can't help but to get pretty upset about it. But I've talked about how trying new things has kept things fresh for me, and has allowed me to find other avenues to stay the course despite having certain limitations. Some of the things I've done to keep up have been discussed in the first few episodes of the podcast, but I'll discuss some more in the upcoming episode and future entries..

In fact it has payed off, I recently saw an orthopedic surgeon to follow up on my Type 1 SLAP tear (See image below), and though I was prepared to hear not so good news, I was cleared to start pushing in my training and that surgery may not be in fact required for my type of injury. It was also good to hear I've made pretty good improvements without surgery, as much as some make with it. This was very vindicating, as I chose to believe that if I kept working I could get better. I can' lie though at times I was convinced I'd need to go under the knife, but I had mentally prepared myself to do what was necessary both before and after to bounce back.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia
So this brings me to my final point for this entry, which as cliche as it sounds, it's just plainly the truth. It's all in the power of the mind. This whole thing started with a choice to not stay down, to not allow myself to slip away into being another part of the obesity or chronic disease statistics. But even more important than that choice, were all the subsequent choices that have kept me going for almost two years now. The choice to build better habits, to not give up, and to stand back up every time I fell. And like my muscles through all my training, my mind grew sharper, stronger, and more flexible. Strong enough to not be broken through the tough times, sharp enough to recognize when I am faltering, and flexible enough to seek other avenues when I reached roadblocks. After all as set back is just something that sets you back, not that stops you. Unless you let it.