Fitness at 30,000 ft: How to feel your best when traveling

Since we’re getting close to the holiday season and many of you will be traveling, I’d like to share some helpful hints for staying fit and healthy while on the road!
I recently went to Japan for some martial arts training. With no time to waste feeling jet lagged, here’s how I stayed sharp physically and mentally with a 16+ hour flight.

1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I can’t stress this enough. For every hour you’re in the air you lose about 1C water from your body. Combine this with forgetting to drink water on the plane and you’ve got a recipe for dehydration and feeling like garbage.
As soon as I went through airport security I bought 2 of the biggest water bottles I could find and proceeded to drink them throughout the flight (having a little extra right before landing).
I wasn’t shy about scooting past my neighbor to make multiple trips to the restroom. It’s a pain, but worth it to feel great on the first day of your vacation.
Drinking alcohol on the flight will make things worse. Even if it helps you fall asleep, it won’t be a restful sleep.

2) Bring your own food on the flight. Most of what you find in the airport and on the plane is fast food with questionable quality. Take some time the day before you leave to make a few easy to travel with meals. Choose simple, healthy foods that you are accustomed to digesting. There’s nothing like an upset tummy to put a damper on your travels. For this trip I brought a few containers with turkey burger patties, baked sweet potato and raw green beans.

3) Sleeping on the plane. This one can be tricky especially for those of you who have trouble sleeping while flying. There are a few things you can do to stack the deck in your favor.
Have a positive mindset. If you continually repeat “I can’t sleep on planes” you’ll prove yourself correct.
Get some earplugs to help combat the jet engines and crying babies you encounter
Use a sleep mask to block out excess light
Have a pillow or neck pillow handy to make the seats a little more accommodating.
Even if you can’t seem to doze off, close your eyes and try some deep breathing relaxation exercises. This alone with have you feeling more refreshed.

4) Boost brain chemistry. I got this tip here from Charles Poliquin who has plenty of frequent flier miles from lectures around the world. Around landing time have foods that will boost dopamine and acetylcholine. He suggests caviar and macadamia nuts. I opted for beef jerky and nuts (caviar was a bit out of my price range).

5) Exercise as soon as you get to your destination. As soon as I get to my hotel I exercise for about 15-30 min. I don’t know exactly why this works but it feels like I ‘reset’ my nervous system. Here’s what I did in my tiny Tokyo hotel room.
5 sets of 15 reps
Bodyweight squats
Pushups
Tuckups
Ending with 7 or 8 min stretch

After all of that I showered and felt fantastic the rest of the afternoon! It also helped me adjust to Tokyo time quickly. In short, don’t waste precious vacation days feeling ‘blah’. A little planning will have you feeling fresh as a daisy!

Happy training!

Light Weight, High Rep Myth. Progressive Overload Fact.

A guest post by Dave Adams, a Boston-based writer and very tall gym enthusiast.

Light weights for countless reps can’t hold up compared to progressive overload. Before you pick up those five pound dumbbells for a set of 10,000, you should know that it might not get you very far. Sure, Ron Burgundy claims he busted out 1,000 curls, but did it really work for him? To this day, no one has signed up for the gun show.

progressive overload, bodybuiilding, ron burgundy, dumbbell, mark samara, fitness, trainer, boston, massachusetts, lift, weight

Some fitness trends are pushing – and pulling – the light weight, high rep myth to the ultimate limit. You thought Ron Burgundy’s 1,000 reps were a joke, right? Well, some people thought it was the real deal.

Sure, a light weight and high rep workout plan could help you achieve your lower body fat dreams. However, the results will likely not be due to your time in the gym.

Typically, these types of workout routines achieve results because of what’s happening in the kitchen. These gym schedules are usually paired with a lower carb, shred style diet plan. That’s why you’re going to see muscles start to showcase themselves. A shred diet is typically lower carb and will reduce your body fat percentage enough to highlight those beachy abs and cut up arms.

Before you start hitting any sort of shred diet plan, you need to put on the muscle. You want to be able to displaying that hard earned strength once you strip away body fat. To do that, please put the five pound dumbbells down…forever. The answer: progressive overload. Another answer: squats.

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress on the body during exercise. To make it even more clear, you should be pushing yourself harder in each successive workout. Let’s say on Monday you bench press 175 for 8 reps. Two Mondays later, you bench press 185 for 8 reps. You monster, you. You’re progressing. Assuming your form remains largely intact, you’re getting stronger. Your new base is 185. Beat that in two weeks or less and keep the upward trajectory going.

Not to say high reps and light weight won’t work for you. More importantly, you’ll want to up the up either the weight, number of sets, intensity, or a few other variables in every gym visit. Even if just by one pound, an increase is an increase. Use the progressive overload theory and you’ll notice the improvement. And that means gains.

Here are a few tips to achieve progressive overload:

1. Increase the weight

Well that’s pretty straight forward.

2. Increase your sets.

If Ron Burgundy did one set of 1,000, it would be expected that he does two sets of 1,000 next week.

3. Increase reps.

So you think your 10 pull ups were impressive? Congrats. Get 11 tomorrow.

4. Increase frequency.

Hit those muscles just as hard, but with less recovery time.

5. Increase the number of exercises.

You’ve incorporated push downs, kickbacks, and dips into your tricep workout. Now add a few diamond push ups while keeping the rest. Boom, arm growth.

6. Shorter rest periods.

Just like you always tried to do with homework, don’t procrastinate. Hit the weights again with shorter rest periods to activate gains.

 

Use some or all of these tips to take your body to the next level. Also check out a few other fitness myths you’ll want to avoid. And remember, Ron Burgundy’s workout plan is not effective. You stay classy, muscle friends.

The Power of the Squat

A guest post by Dave Adams, a Boston-based copywriter and very tall gym enthusiast.

A powerful squat will not only make sitting on the toilet easier, but the results are worth writing home about.

But you should know that squats aren’t easy. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Rome also wasn’t built by people who avoided squats. This lower body, multi-joint movement will have you crying tears of both pain and joy. The pain because – well – it’s damn hard. The joy because you’ll be thanking squats when you’re beach body arrives in July.

Squats don’t just work your mental toughness…they do it all.

arnold squat tall hard exercise fitness trainer mark samara

nattyornot.com

  1. Glutes

That booty doe. It’s all about the booty. Well, squats are your booty’s best friend. Not only will the squat help you burn body fat, you’ll likely see an increase in booty coupled with a decrease in waist.

  1. Core

Any time you need to use stabilizing muscles to perform a movement, you’re using your core. Multi-joint means multi-abs. While getting low for deep squats, you’ll want to keep your chest out and butt out. Flex your core and get down till those hammies are parallel to the floor. Feel your core working? Yes, it’s getting paid overtime.

  1. Hamstrings

When you get low on your deep squats, you’ll feel a stretch in your hamstrings. The muscle is ready to deploy its fibers. Explode back up and get ready for more. Hamstrings are some of the biggest muscles in your body, which can yield extra benefits. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

  1. Calves

You’ll be looking and feeling better than ever when you’re wearing shorts around town. Most women love a hunky pair of calves on a guy. Indulge in squats to not only be ready for beach season, but also for shorts season. Use your calves to keep you stable and firmly positioned throughout the entire movement.

  1. Every muscle in your body

Like most multi-joint movements, there is a benefit of “creating an anabolic environment.” This isn’t a fictional environment where you ride around the jungle on the back of a lion. Although that’s how it might feel after you put up 3x your bodyweight on squat. The anabolic environment creates a place where all of your muscles can grow. Sometimes, you might feel an extra confidence kick after some deep squats. You could even feel stronger than you look, but if you keep at it, your looks will match the feeling pretty soon.

Learn to love the squat. Maybe even lower your toilet seat a few inches to get that extra range of motion.

Mark Samara can totally show you the power of the squat.  Hit him up anytime right here.

5 Gym Familiars That You Know All Too Well

A guest post by Dave Adams, a Boston-based copywriter and very tall gym enthusiast.

If you’ve ever stepped – or lunged – into a gym, you’ve probably spotted a few of the familiar gym rats. There’s definitely a variety, but just like genus and species, all can be categorized.

I consider myself a master gym taxonomist so here’s a handy list of your typical barbellers and treadmill warriors.

1. Ellipt-iPad

Not only is he/she capable of a spontaneously sweaty selfie, but they’re also likely not going to get their heart rate up. Unless, of course, the e-book they’re reading suddenly takes a furiously surprising twist. When you bring more technology muscle than human muscle to the gym, you’re probably not going to get a good workout. The gym is not for reading things other than workout logs.

2. “Lift together, stay together”

Sometimes you’ll see couples workout out. If you swivel your head to the left, you’ll see me puking at the sight of couple curls. I’m not saying that it doesn’t make for a good workout. But I am saying that PDA isn’t appreciated in the gym or outside of it. Maybe a kiss after a push pull superset does have relationship building powers. I tend to think it just makes you focus more since you don’t want to be caught looking at some other cute guy or girl under the squat rack.

3. Mirror Selfie Star

Let’s be honest, we’ve all done it before. Shirt up, camera up, ego up. Pictures in front of the gym mirror are as common as imperfect deadlift technique. Not to say photo documentation of your hard work isn’t important. As a matter of fact, honest before and after pictures (week 1 to week 8 for example) can be extremely motivating. Those types of pictures are better in your own private home though. And you probably want to save those to your camera roll because I know your gym mirror selfie is heading straight to Snapchat where it’ll die in four seconds.

mirror selfie, gym, model, picture, fitness, health

http://i.dailymail.co.uk

4. Curling Creeper

This applies to girls too, but in my experiences, it’s been mostly guys. It’s tough being surrounded by Lululemon spandex. Is it such a crime that you notice a good fitting pair of yoga pants? Well, no. But it is incredibly unnerving and creepy. Focus on your workout, see results, and you’ll make yourself more attractive. Maybe in a few weeks people will be lustily – and creepily – staring at you. And you’ll probably find you don’t like it.

5. Know It All

Sometimes you’ll find these gym familiars leading a pack of workout newbies. They instruct and they deconstruct. They consider themselves trainers. Last time I checked, trainers are in shape. Usually these pseudo muscle connoisseurs are in need of a coach of their own. It’s great that they’re getting to the gym, but not so great that the coaching is more like guessing, which leads to gym techniques that are more like guidelines. Guidelines usually result in injuries, not muscles.

 

There are many more gym familiars. The list is infinite. I’ll be back in my taxonomy lab until the end of time classifying where the rest of them fall. Don’t even get me started with spin class heroes.

3 Things That Only Skinny Guys Hear

A guest post by Dave Adams, a Boston-based copywriter and very tall gym enthusiast.

Skinny guys can be found hitting the gym hard to fight off the people that call them skinny. As you might not recognize, skinny guys – and girls – tend to face lots of criticism about being too skinny. These criticisms are usually what gets them to the gym, in the squat rack, and sweating buckets.

Here are 3 things that skinny people hear on the reg and how they should respond.

1. “Are you eating enough”?

Hold on, let me remove these 18 burgers from my mouth so I can answer you.

patrick burgers spongebod

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2. “Have you tried hitting the gym”?

Come again? I’m too sore to turn my head to hear you. Pain. So much pain.

fight club

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3. “One day, you’ll with you were skinny again.”

Um, no. One day, I’m going to wish you’d shut up. I want to be big. Like Stewie Griffin big.

gifbay.com

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At least skinny guys have an automatic 6-pack in the summer. Especially with beach season upon us.

Skinny or not, a personal trainer can totally help you figure out a training, fitness or diet program.  And that’s what Mark Samara, personal trainer does at Commonwealth Sports Club in Boston, MA every day.

Make Mother’s Day Swell and Swole

A guest post by Dave Adams, a Boston-based copywriter and very tall gym enthusiast.

Mother’s Day is less than a week away. Keep her healthy and active with some health and fitness gifts.

Here are some goodies that she’s bound to love.

1. Cook her dinner (and breakfast…and lunch…and snacks).

Turn the tables on mom and provide her with a plate full of good-for-you foods. Make sure to show off your knowledge of leafy greens, lean meats, and health carbs (yes there is such a thing). Don’t forget to give her a bit of chocolate for a sweet dessert. Make it extra dark, of course.

2. Take her to the gym

Spot up, mom. It’s time to get swole. Well, she might actually prefer something not quite as intense, but either way, hitting the gym together is great for relationship building. No, you’re not trying to date your mom. But it makes sense that hitting the gym together can actually help strengthen couples’ relationships! Consider taking mama to the gym as practice for when you take your girlfriend/boyfriend.

3. Buy her a massage

After a day of eating like a queen and crushing squats, let mom get some alone time. Nothing says, “Love you, mom” quite like a one-hour muscle rubdown. She’ll come out stress-free, relaxed, and, most importantly, happy.

Make sure that some time between the steamed spinach, burpees, and head massage, mom gets a hug. She deserves it.

mothers day

The Voluptuous Vending Machine

A guest post by Dave Adams, a Boston-based copywriter and very tall gym enthusiast.

It’s hard to resist snacks. Health and nutrition consistency is not always easy.

We know that abs are made in the kitchen. Knowing the nutritional value of your food can go a long way…like from your chest to your tapered waist.

We can safely assume that vending machines are not commonly found in kitchens. But apparently they can hide anywhere.

vending machine camo 2

Maybe one day we’ll have vending machines packed with fruits and veggies. “Press C7 for carrot sticks.” Until that dreamy day is upon us, we’ll need to make smart snacking decisions. The vending machine doesn’t have to be an evil, fat-storing, candy-chamber. Flip it on it’s head. Well, actually, flip it around.

Try to look past the shiny label that begs you to make a muscle depleting decision. Think about what’s on the less pretty nutrition label. It will feel good to be informed about your food. You’ll be making a good decision for your brain and your biceps.

vending machine nutrition label

Fortunately, it looks like that dreamy day of nutrition information on vending machines is quickly approaching. VendScreen, a leading developer of vending industry cashless payment technology, is working to make it happen!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has laid down a set of regulations that will require point-of-purchase consumer food options to list caloric information. VendScreen is looking to do more. Basically, you’ll be able to see the full nutritional information of any product in the machine. So. Much. Information. I’m. So. Excited. You should be too.

Unfortunately, this FDA regulation won’t apply to everybody. Owners and operators of the anti-muscle food dispenser (aka vending machine) must own more than 20 machines. That’s a lot sinful snacks.

The key takeaway here is not to be fooled by the pretty packaging. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies not only to dating, friendships, but also…vending machines. Oh, and keep those biceps happy.

Will I Get Too Bulky

I can almost hear the collective forehead slap of trainers everywhere as a new client tells them “I don’t want to lift heavy weights because I’ll get too bulky.”

 If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard some version of this, I could buy a really sweet pair of lifting gloves (just kidding, I like my callouses).Many new female and a good number of male trainees have the idea that they will turn into Hulk shaped women and men who can barely fit into regular clothes if they so much as look at a ‘heavy’ weight.  This misconception is somewhat understandable. Most images we see in the media related to weight training are extreme examples of competitive male and female bodybuilders and powerlifters. People start to believe that this body type is the norm for anyone who begins strength training.

Countless frustrated trainers have attempted to explain the science and reasoning behind such muscle gain to put their clients minds at ease.

-Men have roughly 10x more testosterone than woman. It is just about impossible for a woman to gain that amount of muscle as a man (let alone gain it quickly).

-Are you taking thousands of dollars worth of performance enhancing drugs? Oh you’re not? Then you won’t have to worry about waking up next week with bulging biceps.

 -Unless you’re training twice a day along with weighing and measuring everything you eat, you won’t outgrow your current wardrobe.

Despite all the rational reasons, many clients are still skeptical and hesitant to work with heavier weights and miss out on all the wonderful benifits like…

-Greater bone density

-A boost in metabolism

-Increased imunity against illness

Just to name a few.To help overcome people’s strength training fears, I’ve come up with a simple analogy that has helped a great deal.  I’ll ask “If you’re stopped at a red light in your car, are you worried about going 100 mph when the light turns green? No of course not.  You speed up to 20, 30, 40 mph and then ease up on the gas. The same goes for strength training.  We’ll gently press the gas with a few weighted exercises, you’ll see some gradual progress and if you feel that you’re starting to gain more muscle than you like, we’ll simply take our foot off the gas and do less work with heavy weights.”This explanation is often just what they need to hear in order to put their mind at ease so we can introduce the squats, deadlifts and presses they need to have a well balanced training program!

Happy lifting

The Fountain of Youth

When a fitness professional who hasn’t even hit middle age yet (such as myself) tells someone that strength training can add an abundance of vitality to a senior citizen’s life, it’s hardly seems credible. “Oh just wait until you get older.” they say, “You wont be bouncing around like you used to.”

 Hogwash I say!  Study after study shows beyond a doubt that strenuous exercise in one’s golden years keeps pep in your step and wards off illness.  It is in essence preventative medicine! But guess what?  You don’t have to take it from me, just listen to what this near-centurian has to say! Age should not be an excuse for an inactive life style. And just in case you need more proof…

http://youtu.be/rGgoCm1hofM

Happy training!

Health, Exercise and a Book: Vol.2

Health: Let’s talk about seaweed!

If you’re from the New England coast like me, most of your exposure to seaweed comes from jumping in the ocean and coming out looking like Swampthing!

swamp-thing-auburn2

But guess what?  You can eat seaweed too…and it’s good for you!

 The Pro’s:

-Seaweed is very nutrient dense.  It contains a multitude of vitamins and and more minerals than you can find in almost any other food.

-It is chock full of antioxidants and calcium as well.

-Seaweed can aid in reducing inflammation.

-It contains iodine which is important for thyroid health.

-On top of all that, it helps regulate the hormones estrogen and estradiol.  There’s evidence that it plays a role in reducing the risk of breast cancer.

 The Con’s:

-A serving doesn’t provide a significant amount of some vitamins.  But taking multiple servings isn’t the answer either.  Too much of a good thing (such as iodine) can be a bad thing and have some negative side effects.

-Seaweed Pills aren’t regulated by the FDA.  There’s a chance that it could have been grown in water containing toxic chemicals.  It’s a good idea to stick with the food form.

-For some, it’s an acquired taste.  It can take a little getting used to, although I find it delicious!  (But then again, I’m a bit weird.)

 A few servings a week would be a great addition to a healthy diet.  Whether you’re going with kelp, dulse, arame, wakame or kombu, give it a try as a snack or with your next meal!

 

Exercise: Keeping a Neutral Spine

spine

This week’s exercise isn’t really an exercise per se, but rather how to maintain a neutral spine which actually applies to the majority of exercises we do.

Whether you’re performing a squat, deadlift, bench press, lunge, curl etc. etc., keeping a neutral spine will help keep you stable and injury free.

 Here are the basics of getting into neutral spine position:

Stand nice and tall.

Engage your quads, glutes and abs (core).

Keep your chest high, shoulders down and back.

Chin slightly tucked.

 This is the position we want to maintain.  How much your muscles are engaged depends on the exercise.  A body weight squat might require 10% engagement whereas a heavy 3 reps could call for 90% engagement.

 Check out the video demo (by yours truly) for a more detailed explanation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIdctw3SdYg

 

 

A Book: The Rise of Superman

by Steven Kotler

superman

 

Ever wonder what’s going through the head of an athlete just before skiing off a cliff?  Or surfing an 80 foot wave?  “The Rise of Superman” takes an in depth look at the psychology of extreme sport athletes.

 Our first reaction upon seeing someone put himself in a life or death situation for fun is, ‘That person’s crazy!’,  ‘They are just adrenaline junkies.’  or ‘He must have a death wish.’

This is actually far from the truth.  When putting their life on the line, the athlete gets into a state of intense present moment awareness, sometimes called a ‘flow’ state.  Their minds are clear.  Their bodies relaxed and responsive without impeding thoughts.  It’s a state of awareness that is so focused it acts like a sixth sense.

 This is a highly desirable state for EVERYONE although athletes and artists see it most often. It’s where we perform and feel our absolute best.  Time disappears. Creativity peaks.  Our best work comes out.  The big difference is that for extreme athletes it’s ‘get in the flow’ or die…literally.

 The author provides a great mixture of stories and science to illustrate his ideas.  The only point I took issue with is when the author claims that ‘flow’ is an alternative path to mastery and can circumvent the 10,000 hour rule (which says it takes 10,000 hrs to master an activity).  The athletes he highlights in the book have certainly put in those hours before attempting their life or death activities.  None of them got up from a desk job and free climbed a mountain.  They put in the groundwork just like any piano player, chess grandmaster or martial arts master.

 All in all, this is a fantastic read (or listen)  full of great stories and insight into peak performance!