What to eat and cheat day

You can train and exercise all day and all night but if the food you eat isn’t right, isn’t healthy, then you’re not going to look as good or be as healthy as you want. I love educating myself about the human body, how we move, and different types of training techniques, but when it comes to food science, I’m in the remedial class. Trying to learn about calories, and fats, and all that stuff, its enough to put me to sleep.

Because I have no will to learn about food, I instead follow a much more basic philosophy, I eat what I know to be good, and stay away from what I know to be bad. The food industry doesn’t always help in this regard. Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, is perhaps the father of modern advertising, and modern advertising makes it hard for ordinary people to know what to eat. Bernays used psychoanalytical ideas for PR and advertising. Beforehand, goods were advertised based on utility, “this is what it does”, while todays advertising targets your emotions and aspirations, “want to be cool – buy this phone” – “want to be healthy and slim like the celebs you love – then eat this”. You’re being sold a narrative that more often than not, the stuff you buy can’t deliver on. Check out the ingredients list on the “healthy snack” below, its massive, and sugar is mentioned 4 times!! Contrast that to the ingredients list on the banana, there is none, its a banana. Stay away from food that is marketed and packaged as healthy, and eat what you already know to be good for you.

Healthy Snack vs. Banana
Healthy Snack vs. Banana

Its unfortunate that our bodies have evolved to crave sugar for its positive effects in small quantities. For millions of years, our cravings and digestive systems were exquisitely balanced because sugar was rare. Modern technology has made sugar bountiful and we don’t seem to realise that our bodies are not adapted to large amounts of sugar and it’s making us sick.

I don’t “diet”, partly because I don’t like the word, it invokes imagines of starving oneself. I eat lots, I enjoy my food, and I eat healthy. But we’re all only human. Its hard to resist the constant media bombardment of delicious sugary foods and our own evolutionary inbuilt cravings. I have one cheat day a week, and on cheat day that Coca-Cola tastes incredible!!

My advice, have one cheat day a week, it doesn’t always have to be the same day each week, and stay away from foods with too big an ingredients list.

Leg Raises

This is a great exercise for the lower abs. Leg raises can be done hanging from a bar, hanging from the rings, supporting yourself on a vertical bench, or, as in my video, supporting yourself on the rings.

The idea is to keep your legs as straight as you can and lift them up in front of you as far as possible, hold, and then lower them back toward the floor. When in the lowered position, your feet should be hovering above the ground but not touching the ground.

Keep your movement slow and controlled. The effort of hanging or supporting your body is not really part of the exercise, and moving too fast will cause your body to swing which we don’t want, since the focus here is on the lower abs.

Doing this exercise with bent knees will enable you do to more reps, with a longer range of motion. The bent knee version is good if you can’t to full leg raises, or if you’re exhausted from full leg raises but still want to keep going.

runDisney

One of the best things you can do when exercising is, “have fun with it”.

For me, I could think of no better way to “have fun with it” than to take part in a runDisney event, “where every mile is magic” – as Disney say.

The runDisney events take place in the Disney theme parks. I’ve done two runDisney half-marathons so far, one in 2012, and more recently in 2014. As per everything Disney theme park related, the runDisney events are organised down to the last detail. It race starts on time, with every runner in the correct place relative to their finishing times, and you finish before the parks open. There is road side entertainment and refreshments throughout, and the finishing area has food and buses to take you home. You’ll not find a better organised event.

Running down mainstreet toward Cinderella's castle
Running down mainstreet toward Cinderella’s castle

I took up running in 2012 in order to run the 2012 Walt Disney World Half Marathon because I saw it as a great way to combine my love of training with my love of Disneyland. The runDisney spokesman, trainer, and former US Olympian Jeff Galloway has very useful training guides to make sure you peak on race day and finish the race in an up right position, and still have the energy to tackle a day in the theme parks. His training programmes consist of three runs per week. Two 30 minute runs during the working week, and a gradually increasing distance run at the weekend.

Me and runDisney spokesman and US Olympian Jeff Galloway
Me and runDisney spokesman and US Olympian Jeff Galloway

I’m not suggesting that everyone sign up for a runDisney event. I’ve built two great holidays around runDisney races but it might not be for everyone. I suggest that you find something that you love, and try to incorporate it into your exercise routine, even just once in a while, it will help to keep you interested. As for me, I have an ever expanding catalog of runDisney events to choose from. As soon as I find the time and money, I’ll be back.

Donald Duck medal, doesn't get much better.
Donald Duck medal, doesn’t get much better.

 

Rice Milk Porridge

A nice porridge to start your day out right. Porridge is so easy to make, for this one, one cup of Porridge Oats and one cup of Rice milk in a saucepan, heat for 10-15 mins, add some honey when its done to make it sweeter, and some granola on top and your done.

Porridge
Porridge

Rice Milk is nice to use once in a while because it has the least amount of fat compared to all other milk alternatives. There is only 1 gram of fat per cup of rice milk. Rice milk contains lots of manganese and selenium to give your immune system a boost.

Granola, as a digestive aid, is almost unmatched and the fiber in granola makes the body feel full, because it bulks up food and absorbs water so you won’t be hungry again until its time for lunch. Granola is also a concentrated form of energy, many hikers take granola on their trips, and will help give you that extra boost without the energy crash that comes with sugar.

Knee and Ankle Stabilisation

Leg stabilisation is important for almost every upright human movement, be it gymnastics, martial arts, running, dance, etc. Knee and ankle stabilisation is important not just for sports, but also for general day to day activities like walking and standing. Two exercises I use to build stabilisation in my knees and ankles are the side scale and the weighted row.

For the side scale, stand with feet together either on the floor or a raised surface. Raise one leg out to the side as far as possible and hold for 10 to 15 seconds, and then repeat on the other leg.

Side Scale
Side Scale

For the weighted row, learn forward while allowing your leg to raise behind you. The rear leg should stay in line with the torso. From here, preform a row, bringing your elbow back around your spine and using your other arm as a counter balance. The added weight puts extra pressure on your stabilisation muscles.

Weighted Row
Weighted Row

These exercises are best performed barefoot. Most conventional runners have high sides that act as ankle stabilisers, this will prevent you from building up your own stabilisation muscles.

No Excuses

One of the hardest parts of trying to stay fit and healthy is winning the mental battle between the part of your brain that wants to be in shape, and the part of your brain that wants to rest.

Travelling is a great excuse not to train. This week I travelled to San Francisco for a few days and the excuses I came up with were:

  • I’ve travelled so far its okay to take a break
  • I’m in the wrong time zone so I’m tired
  • Its a short trip so missing a few days is okay
  • I don’t have access to my normal equipment / routine / food

I came up with these excuses to trick myself into taking it easy, but I also knew that I’d be annoyed with myself if I didn’t train. You have to find ways around the mental obstacles, you may not get the same workout as at home, but you can certainly do your best.

In my case, the timezone change was a disadvantage in the evenings, but an advantage in the mornings. I could get my workouts done in the early hours of the morning. I didn’t want to run around streets I don’t know at 4am, so I used the hotel gym. Normally I prefer the outside world to the human hamster wheel that is the treadmill but in this case, its okay to make an exception and use the hotel gym treadmill. A typical hotel gym with typical hotel gym equipment is not the type of place I like training in, but all I needed to do was move some equipment, make some space, and now I have the room needed for some bodyweight training.

This mirror will do for some bodyweight training
This mirror will do for some bodyweight training

Its also good to not deprive yourself. I’m in America and I want a big American breakfast, so I went for it, more than once. Its not the healthiest but life is for living as well as exercising. My workouts were not as intense as they would normally have been, so maybe a few excuses did creep in, but I can go home happy in the knowledge that I’m still on track and ready to return to normal with only the smallest of interruptions.

Indulgent Breakfast - yes please!
Indulgent Breakfast – yes please!

Barefoot Running with Champions Everywhere

My second pair of Vivo’s arrived this Christmas. Much nicer looking than the first pair I purchased 18 months ago when I decided the cheapest pair would do me just fine. Vivos are “barefoot footwear” – even though conceptually I’m not so sure you can stick those two words together and form a sentence that makes any sense. Vivos “simulate” barefoot running as close as they can with their barefoot technology, technology such as 3mm soles and wide toe boxes, among other elements. Barefoot technology is important because sensory feedback from your feet is important, to get maximum feedback, barefoot or barefoot technology is required.

My new Vivos
                      My new Vivos

For me, long term use of inappropriate footwear (which is most footwear) left my feet soft and weak. By switching to barefoot technology I began the restoration of my feet and their functions. I’ve strengthened my feet and ankles, improved the mobility and proprioception of my feet and the resulting improved reactivity to the ground has lowered my risk of injury while running. I’ve not even had so much as a sore knee (a common problem for me after long runs) since switching to barefoot technology shoes.

My switch to barefoot came when I met Jason of Champions Everywhere at a running expo (www.championseverywhere.com). I’d heard of barefoot running and read “Born to Run” but I didn’t really believe that I was running incorrectly, or that running could even be taught, surely its a natural movement that we all can just do. It was when Jason showed me the dexterity of his toes that I thought, “hang on, my toes are not nearly as strong or nimble as that, I need to know more” – so I signed up for a weekend running course with Champions Everywhere. To cram everything I learnt from the Champions Everywhere coaches Jason and Rene into an single blog would be unrealistic, but I’ll say this, they changed everything about the way I run; my posture, my stride, the way I land, everything! As it turns out, running is a skill like any other, a skill that can be taught, and a skill most of us have lost because of the footwear we choose.

Rene of Champions Everywhere working on my running posture
Rene of Champions Everywhere working on                      my running posture

If you want strong feet, and injury free running, my advice is to switch to barefoot technology, but also, don’t think you can just strap on some barefoot running shoes and go running. Do what I did, find some barefoot running coaches and they will help you to unlearn your bad habits and re-learn the way a natural human runs.

Rushfit Review

Rushfit is a home fitness DVD from former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges Saint Pierre (GSP). As a long time fan of GSP I wanted to give this a try, and also, I consider GSP to be one of the most athletic individuals in the world, in any sport. Obviously I’m aware that GSP’s fitness and conditioning comes from more than a home training programme but I was eager to get even a taste of what GSP does.

jm08_0326_st-_pierre_09_8868003-e1341114101680
The man himself, George Saint Pierre

I started the 8 week Rushfit programme with the intention of doing it in addition to my usual gym routine. The big mistake I made here was the “in addition to” – Rushfit by itself was so intensive, that I very quickly decided that the gym was off the cards for the next 8 weeks. The results I saw after 8 weeks were amazing. I considered myself to be in good shape already, but Rushfit taught me otherwise. I dropped from 80kg to 73kg. My goal had always been to get bigger, with Rushfit I got smaller, more shredded, and would you believe, stronger. Some muscles even got smaller, and then re-grew, only this time with more functional strength. The results were so good that after the 8 week programme, I didn’t bother going back to the gym, I just started the 8 week Rushfit programme again. By now my gym membership has long since expired and I’m still doing Rushfit, 8 weeks on, 1 week rest, and then 8 weeks on again.

As for the programme itself, it consists of a nutrition plan, and 5 DVDs; Strength and Endurance, Explosive Power, Fight Conditioning, Abdominal Strength and Core Conditioning, and Full Body Strength and Conditioning. Each DVD consists of a warm up, followed by 5 rounds of exercise which are 5 minutes long each, and then a cool down. GSPs trainer Erik Owings does most of the talking and leads the workouts, explaining all the different movements. GSP is more of a participant and interjects from time to time to give his thoughts. All the workouts are tough but enjoyable (once you’re done). All the DVDs have the same warm up and cool down, it would have been nice if there was some variety in these. And while I thought Erik Owings leads the workouts extremely well, I can imagine some people would have liked it if GSP had more air time, if it was GSP who motivated the purchase. Overall, I don’t see myself stopping Rushfit anytime some, its become a core part of my training. I also got a cool t-shirt once I sent Rushfit a before and after photo, and other details of the progress I made. I highly recommend.

IMAG0022
I went 8 weeks with GSP Rushfit and didn’t tap

The Low Shuffle

The Low Shuffle is a Plyometric exercise. Plyometric exercises are maximum effort exercises, but in short intervals of time. Plyometrics usually involve jumping of some sort, and the aim is to exert as much force as possible in a single movement. They stretch the muscles out, and then snap them back. These are explosive movements, with the goal of increasing speed, and explosive muscle power.

The Low Shuffle looks simple, almost like a lunge, but its a lot more. As demonstrated in the video, you have to do your best not to jump too high, or raise your hips too far off the ground. Maintain a low position, and when going through the motion, try to keep your lead thigh parallel to the ground.

The low shuffle will increase explosive power in the hip flexors and legs. For me that extra explosive power comes in handy at the end of the long race, and I’m close to a personal best but need a little burst to get me over the line.

 

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