Viewing entries tagged
exercise

Change This One Variable to Immediately Improve Your Workouts

2 Comments

Change This One Variable to Immediately Improve Your Workouts

He’s on the last rep, and Jimmy’s face is bright red.  He’s pushing so hard, his cheeks are puffing outward, and he looks like he may explode at any moment.  “Breathe Jimmy, breathe!” he hears, but all he can focus on is moving the weight.  Breathing is the last of his priorities right now.    

Many people new to strength training tend to hold their breath as they approach maximal effort.  Breathing is typically an action regulated by the autonomic nervous system--it’s automatic.  In a light exercise, the breath automatically begins to speed up.  The body senses excess carbon dioxide and tries to get rid of it in exchange for oxygen, in turn speeding the breath and increasing the depth of it.  Yet in a state of emergency, somehow the natural tendency is to sometimes override the autonomic functions and to focus solely on the task at hand, in this case moving large amounts of weight.  

What Breathing Does for Your Health

What’s ironic is that this halt in breathing is actually detrimental to the success of the lift, and it is also a lost opportunity for some of the great health benefits from breathing properly.  In fact, one of the primary sources of the health benefits from yoga or meditation may be attributed to the practice of controlled breathing (1).

Another recent study (2) even showed that the immune system can be voluntarily controlled.  Two groups (one trained in a particular controlled breathing practice and one untrained) were given a toxic bacteria.  The trained group, who used meditation and breathing practices, experienced far less symptoms and recovered faster.  

Other Advantages of Breathing Properly

With the right type of breathing, we can increase our mindfulness, understanding the experience of lifting and learning how to cope for the future.  We can improve our focus, and give ourselves that extra push at the end of a set.  We can even influence our hormones, like epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, which not only helps us during our lift, but triggers a stimulus for all kinds of adaptations after our high-intensity bout.  To put it simply, breathing is a crucial tool, especially in the middle of a strength-training session.  

Breathe Right for the Situation

Okay, so maybe we should put more focus on our breathing during a lift.  But then, naturally the question becomes, how should we be breathing?  Typically during heavy lifts, one is taught to breathe in on the eccentric motion (like lowering the bench press), and then breathe out as you push the weight back up (the concentric movement).  However, when we’re doing a super slow set as advised in the Platform program, this would require very long breaths in and out, and this becomes a bit impractical in such a high-intensity situation.  

With this in mind, the best approach is to breathe deep, with your diaphragm, and fast.  This becomes somewhat of a controlled hyperventilation, if you will.  Continuous breathing in this fashion increases the state of acute stress during our workout, which is one of the main sources for all the health benefits of exercise.  And in addition to all the other benefits already discussed, we can alleviate some of that pressure we’d be experiencing in holding our breath (no one wants a hernia).  

So focus on your breathing when you exercise, especially during a high-intensity workout.  And let us know how it goes!

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

2 Comments

Why Jogging May Be a Waste of Your Time

Comment

Why Jogging May Be a Waste of Your Time

I wince when I hear how a person needs to "go on a run" so he or she can "burn off the dessert."  "Going on a run" for most translates to as much as an hour or so of slow jogging, either on a treadmill or around the local area. I can get behind the idea of being outdoors and getting the blood pumping, but the unrealized truth of the matter is that an hour of jogging burns less calories than the amount in a typical breakfast for most Americans.  And in fact, not only is low-intensity jogging not the best way to lose fat, but it's more likely to cause injury, impose muscle loss, and it's not even the best choice for heart health.  Whether your goal is to cut down some body fat, or live longer, long-distance is likely a waste of your time.

Running Causes Injuries

An epidemiological study on running injuries reports that runners are at between a 37% and 56% risk for having a running-related injury within a given year (1).  An earlier study of 3,000 recreational and competitive runners even showed runners are at a 60% risk of getting injured in general (2).  I know if someone told me I was at a 60% risk of getting injured if I were to partake in a given exercise, I'd probably take a pass.

Running consists of repeated impact loads to the muscles and joints throughout the body, ramping up inflammation, and generally leading to some kind of serious injury that makes any sort of exercise impossible for some time.  Often, serious runners are training multiple times a week, never really letting the related inflammation subside.  On top of that, chronic inflammation is agreed to be the most direct cause of aging and disease out there (see previous blog post!).

Muscle Breakdown

When exercising for long durations (as in low-intensity, long distance running), the energy stores in your muscles (glycogen) become depleted, and your body looks for energy anywhere it can find it. Unfortunately, this energy may come from places you don't want it to, like your own muscle.

For most people who are living on a carbohydrate (glucose) based metabolism, the body is even more likely to break down muscle into the preferred energy source, glucose.  

What’s also ironic is that it takes more calories to sustain muscle then it does fat cells, and so losing muscle actually slows down your metabolism and makes you burn less calories in a given day.  Additionally, the loss of muscle means decreased insulin sensitivity and a correspondingly increased susceptibility to metabolic diseases like diabetes.

And decreased muscle mass means even more likelihood of getting injured!  Sounds like a lose-lose-lose situation in these respects...  

Aerobic "Cardio" Exercise and Heart Health

But what about running for a healthy heart? Most people believe that aerobic exercise is the best exercise for a healthy heart and for health in general. But what does the term aerobic exercise actually imply?

Well it basically means you're only tapping your aerobic metabolism, and your intensity is not high enough to make your body access full metabolism in your muscle cells.

Think of electrical conduits that only need to get electricity to a small group of people (in this case energy to your muscles).  This would imply only a small group of generators are required to create the energy, and small inefficient power lines can be used just fine.  This is low-intensity exercise. However, what if this same electrical line is now required to fuel a huge city?  Suddenly a whole new system of delivering electrical power is required, along with a more robust and efficient delivery system as well (even if for a short time, like in high-intensity exercises).  

This is analogous to what happens in high intensity exercise, where aerobic metabolism and  anaerobic metabolism are tested to their full capacity.  In fact, the way glucose metabolism works is that glucose must go through anaerobic metabolism to get to the aerobic pathway in the muscle cells, so it’s not possible to only trigger aerobic metabolism without the other.  In a high intensity environment, the whole system is forced to work more efficiently, and your heart becomes better at delivering nutrient-rich blood to your muscle cells too!   

Conclusion


We cause adaptations when we can tap into the “fight or flight” response of our body.  We can do this effectively in high intensity exercises, but unfortunately many runners sink into a comfortable pace that they get used to, and this beneficial adaptation never comes.  Running can be beneficial with this concept in mind: our advice would be to try short intense sprints, with only a little recovery time in between, rather than long steady-paced runs.  Now let us know how much harder your heart’s working when you run in this fashion!

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

 

Comment

The Little-Known Exercise Recovery Tool You're Not Using Yet

Comment

The Little-Known Exercise Recovery Tool You're Not Using Yet

http://goo.gl/c1dXW2

We know you know how important sleep is. Good sleep will not only help you reduce your risk for obesity and diabetes, it’ll help you recover from your workouts too. But what if there was something else you could do to help you recover that took little to no effort?  Well, that tool is here, and you probably already have it.... you just haven’t used it to your advantage yet.

Two weeks ago I did a Full Body Workout.  This workout is extremely tiring and exhausting.  So exhausting that I literally have trouble walking after only one set of leg press. That night I wore compression leggings (tight full-length spandex pants) to sleep.  The next night I woke up and for the first time in months I wasn’t sore in my legs!  I figured, ‘oh what the hell,’ and wore them the next night.   Keep in mind that soreness typically hits me the second day after a workout much worse than the first day after--this is what’s known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS.)  Despite this, the next day my legs weren’t sore either...so what gives?  Could this mean I actually recovered faster?

Well before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s be good critical thinkers and bare in mind a few things:

  1. This may be correlative and not causative (if A occurs and B occurs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that A causes B)

  2. I ate a ton that night and that may have aided recovery (more nutrients for rebuilding and repairing)

  3. There could have been several other unknown factors that sped up recovery (playing devil’s advocate)

With that said, it has been shown that compression does, in fact, aid in recovery. In one study it was shown that compression garments not only decreased perceived muscle soreness post workout, but helped the fast-fatiguing/fast-twitch muscles recover quicker as well.  These are the muscles that take the longest to recover so the fact that compression garments sped up recovery is very worthwhile. A meta-analysis also found similar findings across twelve different individual studies.

So we have evidence that it works but many times why something is effective is much more important than that something is effective.  Knowing the why many times can provide way more clarity and allow connections to be made between seemingly disparate subjects of interest.  Knowing this, what is the mechanism for compression speeding up recovery?  Well, it’s not entirely known but one theory is that blood flow may increase, thereby providing more oxygen and nutrients for repair and rebuilding.

Armed with this knowledge, try using compression when you lift heavy or do powerful movements (like sprinting or jumping.)  When performing these powerful movements or high intensity exercises, you are using your fast-fatiguing/fast-twitch muscles.  These muscles take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully recover! (seems like a good idea to get a head start on recovering, right?)  So after your next high intensity workout, wear some compression clothing and let us know how you feel!

 

In Excellent Health,

Garrett & Luc

Comment

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Forgot? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
My Profile Not a member? Sign up! Log Out