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Author: Stacy Gallagher

My name is Stacy Gallagher. I have been involved in the fitness industry for over 25 years. I began the fitness education of a lifetime when I met and married my husband, Marty Gallagher. He is both World Champion powerlifter/coach and a prolific writer on all things fitness. I travelled with him to the top bodybuilding and powerlifting events for several years and gained a vast array of training knowledge that I utilized in my own competitive bodybuilding goals as well as with my clients. This was a formative time for me when I established nutirition and training habits that are my foundation.
peak athletic performance

Peak Athletic Performance with the BOSU Elite

Balance is the key to all movement requiring the center of gravity over the base of support.  Peak athletic performance comes from being able to improve balance, strength and proprioceptive awareness creating greater functionality.  The unique dome shaped design of the BOSU ball creates a training stimulus that safely upsets balance and challenges the center of gravity over the base of support at a reflexive level. The BOSU Elite is the next generation of the BOSU balance trainer both created by David Weck. The BOSU Elite is not about instability training as its predecessor, but resistance training.

The original BOSU balance trainer’s dome is made of a pliable material that creates instability.  The BOSU Elite’s dome is made of a high-density material that is not as pliable.  It provides a powerful dynamic elastic resistance when pressure is applied to the dome that combines the benefits of stability and resistance training.  This excites untapped muscle fibers taking the muscles to a max force limit.

WeckMethod Training Overview

WeckMethod training focuses on improving both internal and external balance to improve body biomechanics that aid in better functionality and athletic coordination.  It combines innovative equipment and specialized training to enhance the body’s vertical and rotational movements.

Why Is This Important? 

A properly functioning balance system allows humans to see clearly while moving, identify orientation with respect to gravity, determine direction and speed of movement, and make automatic postural adjustments to maintain posture and stability in various conditions and activities.

This is achieved and maintained by a complex set of sensorimotor controls that include sensory input from vision (sight), proprioception (touch) and the vestibular system (motion, equilibrium, spatial orientation).  There is an integration of the sensory input coming from these three balance systems with motor output to the eyes and muscles.  Many different factors can disrupt or impair our balance from injury to aging or even psychological factors.  For more information on the role of these three balance systems see “The Human Balance System.”

How Does WeckMethod Training Improve Balance and Coordination?

WeckMethod training is based on four principles: bone alignment, fascial integration, spiraling and optimizing symmetry/asymmetry.  It utilizes a somatic approach which emphasizes internal physical perception and experience.  The term is used in movement therapy to signify approaches based on the soma, or “the body as perceived from within.”  The key to internal balance is tensegrity which refers to the balance and suspension of the bones within the soft tissue.

peak athletic performanceStanding on the surface of the dome challenges sensorimotor controls and safely upsets internal balance connecting strength to the centerline.  Both hemispheres of the brain are forced to communicate with each other and work in better harmony.  The left side of the brain is responsible for controlling the right side of the body and performing tasks that have to do with logic.  The right side of the brain is responsible for controlling the left side of the body and performing tasks that have to do with creativity.  When there is synergy between both halves of the brain the body can work more optimally.

BOSU Elite’s New Design Features

The BOSU Elite maintains the dome shaped design of the original BOSU ball, but the material composition of the dome has changed.  The new high-density material creates resistance between your feet and the dome or your hands peak athletic performanceand the dome.  This intensifies feedback to the feet or hands and gives a more powerful exchange of energy between the two.

The BOSU Elite’s high-density dome also creates more stability than the original BOSU balance trainer.  There is a dimension of instability to the dome, but because of the upward/outward resistance from the dome material it is easier to find a balanced position.  This aids the user in targeting and maintaining specific training positions that would be difficult to perform in the more unstable environment of the original BOSU balance trainer.

The new high-density dome design also includes features that aid the user in how to position their body and feet on the ball for maximal results.  Different foot and hand positions on the dome create different force vectors and training stimulus.

peak athletic performanceThe Power Zone with its honeycomb design creates a non-slip work zone.  It guides the user to the optimal training area on the dome to promote proper loading throughout the body and maximize the dynamic resistance.

The numbered Power Line guides the body positioning of the hands and feet on the dome for different variations of feedback, tension, ranges of motion and alignment.  A narrow foot position (place toes on the 2’s) will create a different training result than a wide foot position (place toes on the 6’s).  This allows for many different postural variations to be trained.

WeckMethod Compression Training

With a new training tool comes a new training focus.  This new training methodology focuses on resistance and compression.  It not only conditions your body for overall performance, but also helps to target the glutes and the dual function of the adductors as flexors and extensors.  By compressing the BOSU Elite’s dome an intense resistance is created that excites the nervous system to fire more force faster.  This builds TRUE core strength and primes your body to be lighter on the ground, faster on the floor and more powerful under the bar.

peak athletic performanceI was recently introduced to this tool and compression training protocols by its inventor.  This innovative training strategy opened a door to a tangible physical awareness and fluidity.  A very exciting thing happens when you jump off the dome after engaging it.  The feet feel light and bouncy and the body becomes more engaged.

This new innovative technique is called muscle priming and is a great way to prep the body before any athletic endeavor.  Priming sets are performed in less than 30 seconds.  The effect on the nervous system is profound as this method aids the user in harnessing the full power of the posterior chain balanced through the balls of the feet.  Previously untapped muscle fibers deep within the largest muscles of the body are engaged.  This enables the user to lift heavier weights, run faster and jump higher.

Check out David Weck’s video on Compression Training!

BOSU Elite Rating

I would give the BOSU Elite a five star rating.  David Weck’s innovative training dome has aided me in healing poor movement patterns created by a stage 3 spondylolisthesis.  The Elite’s unique training stimulus is helping me fix and access proper rotation of my right hip.  The soft tissue in response to the spondy rotates it out of alignment on a regular basis.  By accessing 4th/5th metatarsal on right foot the right hip stays in place longer.  I also practice wiggling those toes while driving which seems to help mitigate sitting for my long drives to and from clients.  The soft tissue wants to curl me up into a contorted position when I am tired.  It has been so great to be able to fight against these forces and improve my daily squat form.

peak athletic performance

 

Health Benefits of MCT Oil Powder

5 Health Benefits of MCT Oil Powder

I was introduced to the benefits of MCT oil a little over 15 years ago as a natural bodybuilder through Parrillo Performance Nutrition.  John Parrillo was one of the first to promote this super lipid to his clients as a product called CapTri.  The chemical properties medium-chain triglycerides make MCT oil different from other saturated fat sources.  Unlike long-chain triglycerides which can be stored preferentially as body fat medium-chain fats are digested easily and sent directly to the liver as fuel. This means that the liver utilizes MCT oil like a carbohydrate for energy.  As you can see from the graphic a lot of metabolic work comes into play when digesting a long-chain triglyceride as opposed to a medium chain triglyceride.
5 health benefits of mct oil powder
This unique chemical process makes MCT oil highly beneficial for 5 main reasons.

  1. Aids in weight loss or maintenance
  2. Aids in protecting brain health
  3. Aids in protecting heart health
  4. Improves energy levels and mood
  5. Improves digestion and nutrient absorption

MCTs aid in weight loss or maintenance because of their unique ability to be processed by the liver directly into energy making it a great carbohydrate substitution preventing spikes in insulin used for glucose processing.  In the absence of carbohydrates the liver breaks down stored fat or MCTs to produce ketones as a substitute fuel.  In addition the fat provides 9 cal/gram of energy compared to only 4 cal/gram for a carbohydrate.   This means that energy levels can be increased using the same amount of fuel.

benefits of mct oil powderThere is evidence to support that MCTs can have an incredible effect on brain health specifically reversing the effects of Alzheimer’s.  The brain accounts for 20% of energy expenditure of the entire body and metabolic activity is constant over time.  Aging reduces the ability of the brain to process glucose as brain food making brain cells insulin resistant.  Alzheimer’s damages the ability of brain cells to take in the glucose needed for proper functioning causing cells to die.  MCTs can bypass glucose metabolism getting energy directly to the brain and provide instant energy to brain cells without the assistance of insulin.  For more information on MCTs and brain health check out this article.

benefits of MCT oil powderMCTs have beneficial properties that could play a role in preventing atherosclerosis.  It may help to lower lipids, oxidized LDLs, fat deposition, triglycerides and inflammation while raising HDLs.  This may yield a net protective effect on overall risk of heart disease despite potential increases in total cholesterol and total LDL.  In animal studies researchers have found MCTs have anti-coagulation effects that have been shown to lower serum cholesterol and reduce levels of cholesterol in the liver and other tissues.

MCTs are beneficial for balancing gut bacteria.  This has positive effects on digestive symptoms, energy expenditure, and the ability of the gut to absorb vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat. Healthy fats are required to absorb fat-soluble nutrients such as beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A found in plants like berries, squash and leafy greens), vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and lutein.  The lack or absence of healthy fats in the body impairs nutrient absorption.

MCT Oil vs. MCT Oil Powder

This supplement is a perfect addition to the ketogenic and paleo nutritional approaches which favor low carb eating.  Unfortunately, one of the downsides of this oil is gastric distress which has prompted manufacturers to create MCT oil powder.  MCT oil in powder form has many advantages.

  • Convenience – The powder form of this supplement is much easier to take on-the-go and incorporate in any beverage or meal.  The oil can be cumbersome and overwhelming taste wise.
  • Better Digestibility – The powder is easier on the digestive system which allows you to consume more at once.  This leads to higher energy and ketone levels.  A preliminary study on animals also suggests that the powder can improve nutrient digestibility.
  • Cooking Advantages – The powder is easier to add to recipes than the oil.  It adds a creamy texture to whatever it is added to instead of an oily texture.
  • Overall Health Benefits – When the powder is created using high quality fiber like acacia, it can contribute to normalized bowel movements, reduced inflammation in the gut and a longer sense of fullness.

Keto Zone MCT Oil Powder

Not all MCT oil powders are created the same.  Generic powders have a better price tag but have quality tradeoffs as a result.  These tradeoffs diminish or negate the ketone driving potential of the MCT powder.  Higher quality MCT oil powders have the following characteristics.

  • The manufacturer uses a combination of C8 and C10 but does not use C12.  C12 is still an MCT but takes much longer to be converted into energy.
  • The manufacturer uses acacia fiber to create the powder form of MCT oil.  A low quality fiber such as corn fiber, maltodextrin and liquid glucose can spike your blood sugar and stop ketosis, effect your energy levels as the result of a blood sugar spike and trigger digestive problems.
  • The manufacturer avoids using fillers (corn fiber and maltodextrin psyllium husk), emulsifiers (soy/sunflower lecithin, monoglycerides and diglycerides), preservatives (BHA, BHT, TBHQ, sodium benzoate and citric acid) and thickeners (xanthum gum and glycerol).

Keto Zone MCT Oil powder by Divine Keto adheres to the highest quality standards in the production of their supplement for maximal results.  The ratio of C8 to C10 is 70% to 30%.  The manufacturer uses acacia fiber as its carrier powder and adds no extra additives or fillers.  See the nutrient facts below.

benefits of MCT oil powder

 Keto Zone Founder – Dr. Colbert

Dr. Don Colbert has lived on the Keto Zone diet for the last 5 years and has seen results first hand.  He is a board certified physician in anti-aging and a best-selling health author.  Check out this video on the Keto Zone Diet!

 

strength training workouts at home

Crosscore – The Best Suspension Trainer for Strength Training Workouts at Home

When it comes to strength training workouts at home, the CrossCore Suspension Training System is a superior tool to all other suspension trainers on the market.  For the first time a home trainer using a portable training device can replicate the results derived from barbells and dumbbells by allowing the body to perform and move naturally strength training workouts at homewithout limitation.  By being able to replicate the motor pathway and payload used in barbells and dumbbells the trainee can replicate the positive benefits of strength training.  This is huge!  Instead of being restricted by static straps as is the case with other suspension trainers, the CrossCore Suspension Training System uses all three planes of motion for real movement that produces better results.

This Wikipedia definition gives a good summation of the physical process and benefits of strength training.  The greatest truth for me (In the definition) is “strength training can provide significant functional benefits and improvement in overall health and well-being.”  The CrossCore system gives the user a greater ability to tap into the functional benefits of strength training.

Dynamic Stabilization

The unique, patented pulley pin engagement system gives the CrossCore a leg up on the competition.  When the pin is in the CrossCore mimics other suspension trainers.  However, when the pin is removed a greater level of instability strength training workouts at homeis created, forcing the body into dynamic stabilization.  Dynamic stabilization occurs when abdominals, spinal extensors and gluteal muscles work in coordination with each other and intra-abdominal pressure is regulated by the central nervous system.

A CrossCore workout produces better results in strength and power because it taps into this state.    The core instability helps the user maximize their training efforts.  As with other suspension trainers resistance for most exercises can be increased or decreased in “micro increments,” simply by moving the feet forward or backward a few inches. The CrossCore is an ideal portable resistance training tool useful for both beginner and advanced trainees.

Training Posture

meditation tipsThe first thing I work on with any new trainee on the CrossCore is how to use the breath to stabilize their core.  Helping people learn how to change from a chest breathing pattern to a belly breathing pattern gives them the ability to find a better postural position.  This practice helps the trainee achieve optimal posture prior to executing a movement.  If the body is stacked properly a better mind-muscle connection can be achieved during each rep.  See “How do you find breath?” in blog post.

Training Exercises

The instability created by leaving the pin out on the CrossCore forces the core to activate to a greater degree than static straps.  Additionally the patented rope adjuster system lets the user easily shorten or lengthen the pulley rope depending on the exercise performed.  Below are video clips showing the key upper/lower body exercises that I use as the foundation of my CrossCore workout.  I will also demonstrate how to use the pulley system to work on muscular imbalances by focusing on only one side of the body while keeping the other side stabilized.

Back Exercises

strength training workouts at homeThe following graphic illustrates the muscles being used in pulling exercises. Grip width and hand position determine which back muscles will be isolated to the greatest degree.  For this demonstration I will show a wide grip pull (handles apart/palms facing down), narrow grip pull (handles clipped together/palms facing each other), and a wide grip pull combined with a one arm rotational pull.

 

 

Check Out Video for Pull Variations!

Chest Exercises

strength training workouts at homeThe following graphic illustrates the muscles being used in pressing exercises.  Again grip width and hand position determine which chest muscles will be isolated to the greatest degree.  For this demonstration I will show a chest press (handles apart/palms facing down in push up position), fly (handles apart/palms facing each other), and a one arm chest press.

 

 

Check Out Video for Press Variations!

Leg Exercises

strength training workouts at homeThe following graphic illustrates the muscles being used in these leg exercises.  For this demonstration I will be reviewing a basic squat, side lunge and one legged squat/lunge.

 

 

 

 

Check Out Video for Leg Training Variations!

The flexibility of the patented pulley design allows for a multitude of exercise variations.  The ones demonstrated above are but just a few.  The pulley also makes CrossCore an excellent tool for training both mobility and flexibility in multiple movement planes as well as strength.  It can be used across many disciplines from martial arts to baseball to golf to pilates to yoga.

Recap of CrossCore System Features

  • Pin Engagement System™ can be locked to stop the rotation of the pulley wheel when stable movements are desired
  • Unlocking Pin Engagement System allows pulley wheel to rotate freely and enables CrossCore® to act as a pulley machine by attaching a counterweight, such as a kettlebell, dumbbell or sandbag, to one end. Using two counterweighted CrossCore units spaced eight feet apart makes for one of the smoothest cable crossovers on the market
  • Rope Adjuster Device™ allows for true self-leveling handles / foot and arm cradles. No more readjusting the height of your handles in the middle of your workout
  • Handles/foot and arm cradles pad the feet and arms when performing certain exercises like knee raises and hamstring curls. These cradles open and close for a snug fit on the hands and feet so the user won’t slip out while exercising
  • The mountain climbing grade rope used for the pulley is rated up to 1,200lbs. The anchor strap with cam buckle is rated up to 1,800 lbs. The adjustable handles / foot and arm cradles with ergonomic grips and webbing are rated up to 1,800 lbs. Each handle has heavy-duty climbing-grade carabiner rated up to 2,000 lbs. The CrossCore is built to withstand any load.  The cam buckle is rated up to 750lbs.
  • Take it with you! Your CrossCore® system weighs about 4 lbs. (1.8 kg) and can go with you to the park, to the gym, on vacation or wherever for a change of pace, and it all fits into a convenient carry bag
  • Warranty: Pulley Unit 2-Years | Everything Else 1-Year
  • Ship Weight: 4 lbs.

 

CrossCore Ratingstrength training workouts at home

I would give the CrossCore Suspension Training System a 5 star rating for its versatility and portability.  It is the priciest suspension trainer on the market, however its patented pulley design and easy rope adjuster give the user many more training options compared to those of static straps.  The tool can be installed one of two ways:

  1. The anchor strap has a cam buckle on it that easily goes over a door. Putting the cam clip and webbing over a door and shutting the door on it towards you provides the easiest, most stable option without any strength training workouts at homeadditional installation.  When you pull the door shut towards you over the webbing with the clip on the other side you have complete stability.
  2. The second option is to install something like the Dimok X-mount Wall Bracket to the wall.  It must be mounted to the studs for stability.  Once the bracket is installed a carabiner can be attached to the webbing with the cam buckle.  Click it into the bracket and you are ready to go.

  Check out what Amazon customers are saying about this tool!

strength training workouts at home

Check out the Cadillac of suspension trainers to take your training to the next level!

 strength training workouts at home

For more training information on utilizing the CrossCore Suspension Training System.  Please contact me at stacygallagher@functional-strength.org.

make homemade bone broth

How to Make Homemade Bone Broth

I am not much of a cook and rely on my husband heavily for his role as head chef.  He has morphed his cooking to suit my food allergy restrictions making creative meals for me within a limited range of foods.  Recently, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and make homemade bone broth.

Why Make Homemade Bone Broth?

Bone Broth is an ancient elixer that has transcended time and made a resurgence into the American diet.  Out of necessity and survival Ancient man used all parts of the animals they killed.  They boiled what they could not use for clothing or tools extracting the maximum amount of nutrients from their prey.   make homemade bone brothOver the centuries Bone broth has become a staple of many different cultures who tout its digestive benefits.

Sally Fallon’s first book, “Nourishing Traditions,” and the Weston A. Price Foundation were responsible for changing my views on food.  It was finding these resources a little over 10 years ago that started me on a journey to gain control over the severe food allergies that had appeared as an adult.  Ms. Fallon is a leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting the benefits of preindustrial food and cooking. Dr. Price was an early-20th-century dentist who became preoccupied with the effects of traditional diets and postindustrial diets on dental health, as well as health in general.  The foundation was the first to provide cutting edge nutritional information that defied the conventional food pyramid recommending a ridiculous 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta and conventional wisdom concerning the dangers of saturated fat.  make homemade bone brothAlthough there are few reliable studies on the medicinal effects of broth, the foundation has done analysis that shows it may provide benefits for inflammatory diseases, digestive problems and even dopamine levels.  This group is truly independent as it does not rely on any government funding for its research.

How to Make Homemade Bone Broth in a Slow Cooker

make homemade bone brothMy broth of choice is made from beef bones, but the procedure outlined below can also be used for pork, chicken or fish bones.   The only difference would be the amount of cook time required to leech all the nutrients from the bones.  The rule of thumb is the larger the bone the longer the cook time.

  • Pork bones – simmer for 12-24 hours
  • Chicken bones – simmer for 12-24 hours
  • Fish bones – simmer for 4-6 hours

Step 1

make homemade bone brothFirst thing to do is to find a great local butcher who can help you with your bones, especially the beef and pork bones.  Our butcher cuts a great big knuckle bone for me at $.50/lb and then I add rich marrow bones at $1.99/lb.  Total cost for the bones is $6.54.  Making broth and using it in everyday meals is a great economical way to amp up nutrition.  There is a fat cap that coagulates when the broth is refrigerated that can be used as a cooking lipid.  Also the broth itself can be used as a base for many other dishes.

Step 2

The next step in the process is to roast the bones to release more flavor into the broth.  I roast my bones for 40 minutes at 450 degrees flipping the bones at the 20 minute mark. make homemade bone broth While the bones are roasting I cut up the vegetables I plan to add to the stock.  These include: 2 carrots, 1 leek, 1 medium onion, 3 bulbs of garlic and thyme.  I am a huge garlic and thyme fan.  You can cut back on the garlic and add any other herb that you like.  The vegetables that are added will melt down to mush by the end of the cooking process and strained out of the final product.

 

Step 3

make homemade bone brothNow it is time to assemble the individual parts into the crockpot.  I place the roasted bones into the pot with 2TBS of apple cider vinegar (helps break down bones).  Then I add 6-7 cups of water just enough to cover the bones.  Lastly I add the veg.  I use a Crockpot, make homemade bone brothSmartpot, 6 quart slow cooker with preset cook times.  It makes the process of making stock super easy.  There are two high settings for 4 or 6 hours and two low settings for 8 or 10 hours.  I start my broth on a 4 hour high setting and then 4 subsequent 10 hour low setting sessions.  When a setting is done the Crockpot will go into warming mode.  I found this helpful if I miss my timing somewhat as it keeps the cooking going.  According to comments on Crockpot’s site this model runs hotter than most which was a detriment to their cooking goals but an advantage for mine.  A better Crockpot model for this task would probably be the Crockpot, 6 quart programmable slow cooker because it gives you more flexbility in your timed cycles.  It is considered a Amazon Best Seller.  Check out the link to the right!  Either will get the job done.

Step 4

make homemade bone brothSo now that my broth has cooked for 48 hours it is time to strain out both the bones and veggies.  I let mine cool for a couple of hours before attempting to pull the crock out of the warming sheath.  I use a bowl with a pouring spout to make filling my half gallon canning jars quick and easy.  My strainer is 8 inches in diameter which gives me a good amount of capacity in the straining process.  I remove my bones with tongs and set them aside.  The bones should look somewhat disintegrated.  I use a slotted spoon to remove the veg and put it in the strainer.  I can get a cup or more of broth just from the veg.  My recipe yields almost a full gallon of broth.

Step 5

make homemade bone brothPour the nutritious and delicious broth into half gallon canning jars.  You should let the broth sit and come down to room temperature before putting the lid on and refrigerating.  When you pull the broth from the fridge you will have a combo of broth and a thick fat cap.  As I mentioned earlier the fat cap creates an amazing cooking lipid that can be used to saute.  I have found the fat is infused with a deeper flavor than the broth itself.

Some Products to Consider When You Make Homemade Bone Broth

Making homemade bone broth can be a fairly easy process if you have the tools available from start to finish.  I love the idea of set it and forget it!  I mentioned the programmable slow cooker above as a better choice to my crockpot.  If you want to give broth a try you may also want to consider these other tools as well.

make homemade bone broth
make homemade bone brothmake homemade bone borth
How to Unlock Your Hip Flexors Review

How to Unlock Your Hip Flexors Review

“Unlock Your Hip Flexors” is a comprehensive program designed to strengthen and loosen your hip flexors.  Hip flexors are a group of muscles that work together to lift your leg or knee towards your torso or allow your body to bend forward at the hip.  These muscles include psoas major, iliacus, rectus femoris, pectineus, and the sartorius muscles.  The psoas muscle is a deep muscle that connects the spine to the leg and is the only muscle that does so. It runs from your lower back through the pelvis, passing to the front of the hip where it attaches to the top of your thigh bone.  The other muscles support the main stabilizing activity of the psoas helping us to maintain good posture.  When the hip flexors become tight the balance between anterior and posterior muscles is disrupted causing the pelvis to no longer be properly aligned.

Typically an anterior tilt of the pelvis is created when the psoas major muscle becomes tight.  This tightening can be the cause of many aches and pains in our body.  The psoas major is the only muscle that connects the upper and lower body.  It attaches to the diaphragm which connects it to your breathing.  In addition your major internal organs sit upon it.  tight hip flexor symptomsExtended periods of sitting or standing in a flexed position cause the hip flexors to shorten and become overactive inhibiting the glutes from firing.  When the glutes are not firing properly they weaken and lose their functionality.  This causes a dysfunction where the surrounding muscles take over compromising extension and rotation of the hips, stabilization of the pelvis, and movements of the thigh away from and toward the body.  The body’s kinesiology is negatively impacted when the range of motion in various joints becomes restricted.  Over time the body will compensate and shift its structure.  In severe cases this will lead to what is known as Janda’s Upper and Lower cross syndromes.  See article on the Janda Approach.

How Can Tight Hips Hold You Back?

I learned first hand the impact the hips have on the whole body when it was discovered that I had a stage 3 spondylolisthesis after a terrible car accident in 2012.  This is a spinal disorder in which a bone (vertebra) slips forward onto the bone below it.  The spondy was an old injury however it had taken its toll on my posture causing an extreme anterior pelvic tilt.  I suffered from many of the common symptoms of tight hip flexors.

  • Nagging joint pain in the legs, lower back and hips
  • Walking with discomfort
  • Bad posture
  • Poor digestion
  • Trouble sleeping

Other tight hip flexor symptoms identified in the Unlock Your Hip Flexors Program are:

Bulging belly syndrome – Studies/Experts agree that the psoas functions as a stabilizer and helps keep good posture.  It’s a common myth that bulging belly is due to weak abdominal muscles. The real cause is likely to be tight psoas muscles, which cause the lower back to curve, pushing out the stomach. When the psoas works properly, it pulls the abdomen back, tucking the tummy in, adding to the appearance of a strong, flat stomach.

Fat Loss Inhibitor – As the body’s “fight or flight” muscle, your psoas is deeply connected to our natural survival instinct. It instantly tightens in moments of danger to either protect you (in a fetal position) or help you run, fueled by the release of adrenaline. However, with your psoas constantly tight, it’s as though you are in constant danger. When your body is stressed, it often switches into fat storing mode in anticipation of danger. [34-36] So, if fat loss is an issue for you, tight hips might be to blame.

Uncomfortable Sleep – Sitting all day causes your hips to become stuck in a forward thrust position. This leads to pulling on the lower back and decreased blood flow and circulation through the hips. This tightness results in physical discomfort, making it more difficult to fall asleep and more likely to wake up throughout the night. [30]

What to Expect from the Unlock Your Hip Flexors Program

This program goes beyond the simple static stretching so often recommended to solve tight hip flexors and introduces the reader to additional techniques including PNF stretching, dynamic stretching, fascial stretching, 3 dimensional core stability exercises, mobility exercises and muscle activation movements.

  • PNF stretching – PNF is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. This is a technique used to activate a specific muscle in order to relax the muscles around a joint so you can decrease the stiffness around a joint.
  • Dynamic stretching – This is a technique used to activate the muscle around a joint and then moving that joint through its full range of motion in a progressive manner.
  • Fascial stretching –  This is a technique used to stretch the fascia which is the connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, and joints.
  • 3 dimensional core stability exercises – These exercises target the muscle in all planes of movement so the core and abdominal muscles have good activation, endurance and strength.  This leads to a decrease in unnecessary damaging stress on joints
  • Mobility exercises – These exercises target movements and that help the joint function optimally. This allows a joint to move more freely.
  • Muscle activation movements – Due to all of our sitting and daily technology use, many of our muscles are not working properly. These techniques target those muscles that have turned off and reactivate them to help the body move more efficiently.

The key to success with these techniques is the sequencing.  Excerpt from Manual: “Done effectively the sequential flow works with your body to help relieve chronic pain, improve flexibility and increase strength and vitality. [38-45]”  The time-compressed simplicity of the 10 step program makes daily adherence easy.  In 63 pages Rick Kaselj and Mike Westerdal provide a comprehensive explanation of how the psoas functions and why it is considered one of the most important muscles in the body.

Creators of the Unlock Your Hip Flexors Program

I chose the Unlock Your Hip Flexors Program based on the two very well credentialed professionals who created it.  Rick Kaselj is a certified specialist in sports injuries and Mike Westerdal is a sports nutrition specialist, personal trainer and the founder of the popular strength training site, CriticalBench.com.  See Ricks bio below.

Rick Kaselj, M.S. (Exercise Science), B.Sc. (Kinesiology), PK, CPT, CEP, CES

Rick Kaselj specializes in exercise rehabilitation and fitness. He works in one-on-one and group rehabilitation settings, educating and training people who have been injured at work, in car accidents, and during sport activities.  He has combined his rehabilitation experience and passion for research to develop a variety of courses and presentations for fitness professionals, Kinesiologists, and healthcare providers. Rick has given over 302 presentations to 5897 fitness professionals across Canada and USA.

Where to Begin?

Have you answered “yes” to any of the symptoms above?  If so, then the Unlock Your Hip Flexors Program might be for you.  This revolutionary program can change how you feel about your body by increasing your range of motion and improving your posture.  This provides a synergy to combat inflammation and increase energy levels.

What’s Included?

The Unlock Your Hip Flexors Program includes a 63-page guide in pdf format and two videos. The combination of materials both educate the reader on why hip flexors are important and gives expert instruction on how to perform the recommended loosening and strengthening exercises.  The videos are very helpful.  The first one is instructional with the second video containing routines that you can follow on your own. Two bonus offers are included but optional:  “Unlock Your Tight Hamstrings” and “The Ultimate 7 Day Anti-Inflammatory Diet.”

Where to Purchase?

You can purchase the materials discussed above and make a real change in your health and body for just $10.  This program usually sells for $50, which means that you will receive almost an 80% discount. This promotion is only for a limited time. The good news is that this program comes with a 60-day money back guarantee.  If for any reason these resources don’t work for you, you can ask for a full refund, no questions asked. This risk-free warranty allows you to return the product within 60 days if you don’t see any change to your well-being.  Consider also purchasing the two bonus offers “Unlock Your Tight Hamstrings” and “The Ultimate 7 Day Anti-Inflammatory Diet” to amp your results.  Check out this link for “Unlock Your Hip Flexors.”

Program Rating

I would give the Unlock Your Hip Flexors Program a rating of 4 stars. It’s a good solid program that will guarantee results for people who actually perform the movements, it’s also relatively cheap and comes with a full 60 day money back guarantee.  I would not give it 5 stars because of the pushing of the add-on items after purchase (these could be all made into one more broad book). There are also too many unproven claims about the benefits of a well-stretched psoas.  However, this does not take anything away of the effectiveness of the actual program.

If you found this blog informative, check out another recent post on the benefits of doing squats everyday!  It gives step-by-step instructions on the key components of a proper squat and is a great adjunct to the Unlock Your Hip Flexors Program.

get a good night sleep naturally

Get a Good Night Sleep Naturally with Integrative Therapeutics Cortisol Manager

Do you suffer from insomnia?  According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as many as 30-35% of adults complain of insomnia.  There are two types of insomnia based on the regularity and duration of the sleep disturbance and daytime symptoms:

  • Get a Good Night Sleep NaturallyShort-term insomnia:This type of brief insomnia lasts for up to three months. It occurs in 15 to 20 percent of people
  • Chronic insomnia: This type of insomnia occurs at least three times per week and lasts for at least three months. About 10 percent of people have chronic insomnia.

Chronic insomnia can have a negative impact on your health causing fatigue, inability to focus/concentrate, poor memory, mood disturbance and low motivation/energy increasing your risk of depression and high blood pressure

Why Are You Having Trouble Sleeping?

Many studies show that the hormone cortisol can play a major role in preventing you from getting a good nights sleep.  According to pubmed “Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening.”

Get a good night sleep naturallyCortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone.” It is produced by the adrenal cortex in response to signals from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, as part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. When the body is exposed to acute stressors, cortisol secretion can generally help maintain homeostasis in the body.

What Happens When There Is Too Much Stress?

Our body signals the fight or flight response when under duress.  Prolonged stress exposure taxes the sympathetic nervous system and hinders the ability to return to a parasympathetic state.  The parasympathetic state is necessary for good sleep and a deep sleep state is necessary for our body to repair and heal itself.

Adrenal fatigue results when the adrenal glands are overworked and exhausted.  This causes the function of the adrenal glands to become impaired and unable to bring the body back to balance.  Signs and symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include:

  • Mild depression or anxiety.
  • Multiple food and or inhalant allergies.
  • Lethargy and lack of energy.
  • Increased effort to perform daily tasks.
  • Decreased ability to handle stress.
  • Dry and thin skin.
  • Low blood sugar.
  • Low body temperature.

Quiz: Do you have adrenal fatigue?

What Is the Solution to Get a Good Night Sleep?

get a good night sleep naturallyIntegrative Therapeutics has formulated Cortisol Manager with stress-reducing ingredients and botanicals to promote relaxation, help alleviate fatigue, and support healthy cortisol levels. By balancing cortisol levels, Cortisol Manager can help reduce stress, which supports a restful night’s sleep without diminishing daytime alertness.

Cortisol Manager features:

  • Ashwagandha
  • L-theanine
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Magnolia

Integrated Therapeutics takes great pride in providing strong scientific-based products.

Ingredient Sourcing:  Potential suppliers are required to submit a sample of their potential ingredient to the company for rigorous testing.  When an ingredient is received, it is quarantined.  Their laboratory tests samples for identity, microbial impurities, heavy metal content, pesticides, potency, and bioavailability.  This testing is repeated every time a material enters their facility, and at multiple points in the manufacturing process.

Formulation Development:  Their evidence-based approach and meticulous process focusses  on investing time and resources into developing formulations that have the support of today’s scientific community—not the latest ‘nutritional craze.’ This process includes months of research, rigorous ingredient testing, and quality assurance testing before a product is ready to be released.

Get a good night sleep naturallyGood Manufacturing Practices:  The company invests in cutting-edge equipment and manufacturing controls to ensure the safety of products and employees. This includes controlled security card access, temperatures, humidity and air pressure controls, HEPA filtration, and defined operation rooms to prevent cross-contamination.  Get a good night sleep naturallyThe company submits their products for review with both the NSF and Emerson Quality Program.  The supplement industry is NOT regulated by the FDA so this extra step is incredibly important for ensuring high quality standards.  See link for more information on NSF and Emerson Quality Program.

Truth in Labeling:  All product claims are verified.   Integrative Therapeutics established a process that requires published human studies to substantiate any outcome before ever making a claim about a product. It is a tedious process but necessary to ensure that clients will never be misled.

Customer Testimonials

I am an Integrative Therapeutics customer and have found their products highly beneficial for me.  Their potent, proprietary blends have provided support to both my endocrine and digestive systems helping me to get quality sleep.  On Amazon Integrative Therapeutic Cortisol Manager has received 757 reviews with 631 of those reviews being 5 stars (71%) and 4 stars (12%).  Below are some of the top reviews.

get a good night sleep naturally

It did receive 62 1 star reviews primarily from those that felt the product did not work for them.  There was one 1 star review that I wanted to emphasize that referenced a strong adverse reaction in people with autoimmune disorders.

get a good night sleep naturally

Conclusion

Insomnia can cause some serious side-effects to our circadian rhythms.  This disruption reeks havoc on our waking lives.  Consider determining if adrenal fatigue is contributing to your inability to get a good night sleep naturally.  If so, then Integrative Therapeutic Cortisol Manager might be a useful product for you to use to help better balance your endocrine system.

meditation tips

How to Meditate for Beginners – The Art of Breath

About 20 years ago I was introduced to meditation through the book – “Zen Mind, Beginner Mind.”  It opened me to the idea of using my breath to control my state-of-mind.  meditation tipsI spent 30-45 minutes, 6 days a week sitting on a zabuton (meditation cushion) and zafu (meditation pillow) for about 4 years.  meditation tipsThis was the beginning of the awareness that breath control was the key to relieving my mind of its perpetual overthinking state.  Check out these meditation resources using the Amazon links!

It was a tumultuous time in my life and each day of my practice took me further away from mental preoccupation and helped me to live in the present.  This awareness allowed me to combat negative patterns and move forward in an open way to the experiences of the day.

 

How Do You Get Started?

First you need to achieve a good posture so that you provide your breath an open pathway.  There are many postural positions to try depending on your flexibility.  Sitting in a chair with grounded feet and a straight spine can be just as successful a position as the more extreme lotus.  All six pictures to the right show a straight spine with relaxed shoulders.

Awareness Exercise:  Let’s take the easiest posture – sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor.  It is important to completely connect the sole of the foot to the floor feeling heel, big toe pad and pinky toe pad.  When your feet are grounded on those points you should feel your body sit more upright and be able to relax your lower back against the back of the chair. When the lower back is stabilized then the shoulders can drop down.

How Do You Find the Breath?

When discussing breath with clients I find that most of them lean towards being chest breathers and not belly breathers.

Chest breathing is when the chest expands by drawing air into the chest area using the intercostal muscles rather than throughout the lungs via the diaphragm.  This is an inefficient and detrimental breathing pattern to overall health.  It reduces blood oxygenation and causes lymphatic stagnation.  See article on chest breathing and how to change the pattern at Breathing.com .

Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the thoracic cavity and abdominal cavity. Air enters the lungs and the chest rises and the belly expands during this type of breathing.

Awareness Exercise:  Let’s focus on belly breathing.  meditation tipsReturn to a stable, grounded chair posture.  Place your hands on top of one another right below your belly button.  This gives you a reference point of where to direct the breath.  As you take your breath in gently allow your abdomen to expand and fill up your hands.  Gently push back with the hand to have the exhale come from the lower abdomen and not the chest.  This exercise can be done anywhere you are sitting.  I use it when I need to be in the car for a long time.

How Do You Harness the Breath?

The mind cannot think about more than one thing at a time.  There are techniques you can use to keep the thinking mind occupied while gaining the great benefits of the breath.  Once you have developed breath awareness it is time to harness it in your meditation.  In my early practice I found counting to 10 in sequence with each breath or chanting through the chakras the most effective at silencing thought.

Counting technique:  In the meditation posture start your belly breathing.  Count 1 on inhale and 1 on exhale, then 2 on inhale and 2 on exhale …. to 10, then repeat the sequence.  By counting on both the inhale and exhale you combat stray thoughts from interrupting your practice.  If thought intrudes while counting stop and begin at 1.  Over time you can tame the brain from intruding by using the breath.  For an in-depth discussion on this topic see “Breath Counting Meditation: How to Build Mental Power.”

Chakra techniqueIn the meditation posture start your belly breathing.  Inhale and on the exhale you will chant the sound associated with the first chakra then the second and so on.  On the seventh chakra there is a moment of silence and then the cycle repeats.  This is an effective method if counting is difficult because the chanting of the chakras can become song like giving further distraction to the brain.

meditation tipsmeditation tips

How Can You Benefit from Meditation?

Daily practice can give you both neurological and psychological benefits.  The breath can lead  you to an oasis of sanity when faced with any stressor.

  • A study from UCLA found that long-term meditators have better preserved brains showing that meditation can be an anti-aging tool for the brain.
  • A pubmed study discusses the positive effects on psychological well-being that extends beyond the meditation session.  The research shows that meditation can be helpful in reducing symptoms of a number of disorders including:  anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and chronic pain.
  • Since strong focus of attention (on an object, idea, or activity) is the goal of meditation practice.  The immediate benefits of meditation are increased focus and concentration for every aspect of our lives.  The breath can be used like a light switch to turn on awareness/psyche and tune out negativity.  See blog post “The Brain and Transformation – Willpower, Enthusiasm and Synergy.”

Conclusion

After years of working with meditative breath I have developed a pathway easily accessed in a 10 breath count.  My body and mind crave the peace that come from taking to time to JUST BREATHE.  I hope you find inspiration from this blog to start your brain train journey.   It can be a real life changer.

health benefits of doing squats everyday

5 Health Benefits of Doing Squats Everyday

Squat mastery is an important longevity tool. As we age we lose our flexibility and mobility creating a cascading effect of physical decline in our lives. This physical decline leads to poor posture as the body’s guide wire system becomes weaker and less able to hold the body upright. By squatting everyday using proper squat form a trainee can reverse the effects of this natural decline.

The negative effects of our sedentary lifestyle are now characterized as “sitting disease.” Sitting disease symptoms include poor posture, chronic fatigue, increased blood pressure, weight gain and a slower metabolism. These side effects of sitting for too long increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. See Dr. James Levine’s article.

He is an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic who studies societal obesity and recommends that people should get moving more often with multiple small goals during the day. Doing squats everyday can help to combat this inactivity. The 5 health benefits of doing squats everyday are:

  • Improve hip and ankle mobility
  • Strengthen the muscle slings of the core
  • Improve upright posture
  • Increase overall strength and power
  • Improve cognitive awareness of the body
  • Squat Posture

    5 health benefits of doing squats everyday

    Proper squat form is essential for reaping the immense benefits from this one compound multi-joint movement. A baby intuitively understands how to squat perfectly.

    Over time the body loses this functionality through multiple factors such as:

    Compensatory movement after an injury: When we injure one part of the body other parts of the body are required to pick up the slack often causing us to contort ourselves in different positions to escape the pain or move around the injury. Even a week’s worth of contortion can cause the body to move differently.

    Prolonged sitting: The more we sit, the more we naturally slump. This slump contributes to the head forward position as the muscles in the upper back and neck become stretched and less engaged. The chest muscles shorten and the head is now held forward. In addition the hip flexors and psoas in the front tighten and shorten while the low back becomes stretched and less engaged. I often refer to it as "turtle back posture." For more information on Forward Head Posture see Dr. Erik Dalton's site.

    “For every inch of Forward Head Posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.”   -Kapandji, Physiology of Joints, Vol. 3

    What Are the Basics of Good Form?

    Use good squat technique to combat this degradation.  First it is important to reawaken the connection of the feet to the ground and find a comfortable stance width between the feet. Feet shoulder width apart or a little wider is a good place to start.

    There are three points on the feet that establish our balance – heel, pinky toe pad and big toe pad. Ranked in emphasis the heel is 1; the pinky toe pad is 2; and the big toe pad is 3 .

    To gain better foot/ankle stability give the foot tripod exercise on Kelly Doyle's site a try. She is a certified Fitness Professional with a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology.

    Secondly when a comfortable stance width is achieved the hips should be able to slightly rotate through when squeezing the glutes (butt muscles). This will help the upper body to find better postural alignment combating the forward head position described above. My goal with clients is to help them find their best posture prior to learning how to squat. When performing this body awareness task everyday and then initiating a squat program the trainee can begin to replace old detrimental postural habits and improve overall strength.

    Squat Technique

    Once a solid, rooted posture is established it is time to get to work. Note the squatting baby.  His knees are over his ankles with vertical shins. His torso is in a neutral position without an arched or rounded low back. The baby will rise up using leg power alone.

    proper squat form

    How can the average person relearn this primordial skill?

    proper squat form

    Start by learning to squat using a door frame or post using the stance established above.  Once facing the door frame with your comfortable stance reach your arms out in front of you about chest height and grab the molding or post on either side with your fingertips. Take a moment to squeeze your butt feeling it rotate under. Now let your knees drift wide and start to sit down not leaning forward using the frame or post to keep your torso upright. When the trainee learns how to stabilize their body in a more upright position they engage their lower abs. This is lost functionality when sitting for long periods of time in a slumped position.

    proper squat form

    Walk your hands down as you lower your body. As the body lowers the knees CANNOT come over the toes. Make sure to push the knees away from each other to create more mobile hips and take the pressure off the knees. This will allow you to sit deeper. Take time to develop better hip/ankle flexibility and don't force sitting too deep too soon. Flexibility will come with daily practice. Engage the three balance points of the feet discussed earlier to push back up walking the hands back to the start position for stability. Stay connected with the feet through the whole range of motion.

    proper squat form

    Incorporating this movement into your daily routine takes about 15 minutes. I recommend starting off with 2 sets of 10-12 reps daily to ingrain a new neuromuscular pathway. As your strength and mobility improve vitality increases. My clients find that tasks that seemed overwhelming or unattainable all of a sudden become easier to perform. The body finds a new synergy that allows it to overcome and improve overall movement. To take your squats to the next level check out - 5 Phase Squat Mastery Blog.

    Success Story

    Dawn Massey is one of my personal training clients. She is a 73 year old mother of 4 and grandmother of 6. We began working together 4 years ago. She now trains legs using a suspension trainer as well as kettlebell sumo deadlifts and goblet squats. Her flexibility and mobility have soared through consistent, focused practice. She can pull a 72lb kettlebell for 8 reps and a 35lb kettlebell for 8 reps in her goblet squats.

    Below is a video of her squatting using a suspension trainer called CrossCore using pristine form. This suspension trainer is superior to others on the market because of its patented pulley pin engagement system. When the pin is removed a greater level of instability is created, forcing the body into dynamic stabilization. Dynamic stabilization occurs when abdominals, spinal extensors and gluteal muscles work in coordination with each other and intra-abdominal pressure is regulated by the central nervous system.

    strength training workouts at home

    Click here for more information on the Crosscore Suspension Trainer!
    It is a game changer for home training!

    The question is: Are you ready to get off the couch and combat your sitting disease?

    Fight back against the tide of aging and get moving with good squat technique. This exercise performed daily can ignite and prolong your life force.

    Take your squat to the next level check out Marty Gallagher's Purposeful Primitive Squat Progressions performed by Phil Scarito of DV8 Fitness!

    heart rate monitor

    3 Reasons Why the Use of a Heart Rate Monitor Is Important

    The heart rate monitor is an important tool.  It helps to give important data to determine the efficiency or lack of efficiency of the cardiovascular system.  It monitors the number of times the heart beats per minute and then you can use that data to determine things like – how long it takes for the heart to return to its resting heart rate: how long you are in your target heart rate zone: and how many calories are burned during a cardio session.  Why is this information important?

    1. Monitoring resting heart rates daily can provide a window into external stressors such as overtraining, prolonged stress (over triggering of sympathetic system), sleep deprivation, dehydration and illness. According to the American Heart Association the greatest stressors on the heart are high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating.
    2. Monitoring target heart rates gives the user an idea of the cardiovascular exertion of their exercise protocols.
    3. Using a blended average of the heart rate during a work session can give a general idea of how many calories are burned supporting weight loss goals.

    Resting Heart Rate

    A good resting heart rate is an indicator of good heart health and fitness and typically falls between 60-80 bpm for the average person.  According to the American Heart Association a healthy resting heart rate ranges from 60-100 bpm and a resting heart rate above 100 bpm is dangerous and defined as tachycardia (See AMA article).

    By taking daily reads of the resting heart rate using a heart rate monitor it gives the user a powerful tool.  Diligent tracking of spikes in the resting heart rate can be a helpful diagnostic.  When spikes occur in a healthy resting heart rate then the user can review activity leading up to the spike to discover what caused it.  Some typical causes of a spike could be excessive coffee, lack of sleep, overtraining, psychological stress or the onset of illness.

    Here are 3 strategies to consider to reduce your resting heart rate.  The quicker the heart returns to its resting rate the greater the efficiency and health of the heart.

    1. Consider modifying your diet moving away from refined carbohydrates and sugar.  (link within link to intermittent fasting).
    2. Consider establishing a good sleep pattern tapping into the body’s circadian rhythms.  When the sleep cycle is disrupted or inconsistent it makes it difficult for the body to function efficiently.  See NIH article on Circadian Rhythms.
    3. Consider learning how to utilize meditative breathing.  The breath is a powerful tool that can be harnessed to bring down the heart rate preventing a huge cortisol jump from the adrenals that sets a negative chain reaction off in the body.

    Target Heart Rate

    Your target heart rate gives you a guideline for the intensity of your exercise on the cardiovascular system.  A good, simple way to determine your maximum target heart rate for your training efforts is to subtract your age from 220.  The number identified becomes the maximum target heart rate and is considered the heart’s 100% effort.  See sample table below.

    Name Age Height Weight 100% Max 50%-60% 60%-80% 80%-90%
    Connie 39 5’3” 148lbs 181 91-109 109-145 145-163
    Ron 48 5’9” 175lbs 172 86-103 103-138 138-155
    Betty 61 5’2” 264lbs 159 80-95 95-127 127-143

    Working within different heart rate ranges provides different health benefits.  There are two kinds of cardio activity – aerobic and anaerobic.  Aerobic activity indicates that oxygen is involved as a fuel for the activity.  Anaerobic activity indicates that oxygen is NOT involved as a fuel for the activity.

    • 50%-60% Range – This is the range in which the body begins to use oxygen and fatty acid as primary energy sources for the activity.
    • 60%-80% Range – In this range the body begins to utilize glucose for energy in addition to oxygen and fatty acids. In the 60%-70% range you are in the fat burning zone.  When you reach the 70%-80% range you are in a cardiovascular conditioning zone.
    • 80%-90% Range – In this range the body taps into stores of glucose called glycogen to fuel activity. This range is good for interval training using burst cardio and then returning to the lower target heart rate range.

    The 60%-80% range is the prime range for cardiovascular training.  The 50%-60% range is a good initial start point for those who are completely untrained or coming off sickness.  Both ranges are aerobic.  The 80%-90% range is utilized by athletes who achieve higher intensity, shorter duration muscular contractions using more intense conditioning protocols.  This range is considered anaerobic and is used for interval or burst cardio sessions.  For more information on burst cardio see Cardiovascular Training Plan.

    Working within the prime range is where an average trainee will gain the greatest benefit.  In our work with obese folks we found that the 60%-80% range was easily achieved when they walked at a normal pace.  They didn’t need to run or beat themselves up.  Just moving their mass by walking was enough to trigger a sufficient elevated heart rate to assist them in their conditioning and weight loss goals.

    Heart Rate Blended Average for Calories Burned

    Heart rate monitors only indirectly estimate calories expended during certain types of exercise.  For greatest calorie counting accuracy you must be able to include VO2 max along with HR max, VO2 max, gender, age weight and HR rest.  The VO2 max measures the maximum amount of oxygen the body utilizes during intense or maximal exercise. It is measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight.

    Does that mean that the estimate of calories expended is not useful unless you know your VO2 max?  This is not necessarily true.  If you are consistent in monitoring your activity using a heart rate monitor the calorie data gathered is accurate unto itself.  Combine this information with a structured nutrition plan to manage weight loss goals.  Typically it takes 3,500 calories burned in a week through exercise to lose a pound of fat.  It is important to know generally how many calories you are taking in so you can find the tipping point where your metabolism works for you and starts to burn bodyfat stores.

    Which Heart Rate Monitor Is Best for You?

    There are many heart rate monitor options available to consumers these days.  How does one pick the right option for them?

    Chest Strap Monitoring

    Chest strap heart rate monitors measure electrical signals generated by your heart when it contracts.  Because of its direct contact over the heart a chest strap tends to be more accurate.  See breakingmuscle.com blog comparing chest strap and optical wrist sensor accuracy. However, the downside of the chest strap is ease of use and comfort.  If not wrapped tightly around the chest it can easily slip out of place.  It is difficult to reposition while moving.  The chest strap is primarily used by runners and cyclists, but is not practical for long-term monitoring of resting heart rate.

    So which chest strap heart rate monitor gives you the greatest bang for your buck?

    Check Out My Top Chest Strap Options!

     1.  Polar H10

    Polar is the leader in chest strap heart rate monitor accuracy.  This model is an upgrade to the Polar H7.

    heart rate monitor

    • Improved electrodes make the H10 the most accurate heart rate sensor in Polar’s history.
    • Improved battery life of 400 hours.
    • Improved strap design to prevent slipping and provide more comfort while running.
    • 5kHz transmission for underwater heart rate monitoring.
    • Compatible with top fitness apps, gym equipment and many other bluetooth devices
    • Built in memory for heart rate data from one training session.  It stores full heart rate data, shown in a chart, including max and average heart rates, workout time, calories burned and fat burn percent of calories that can be transferred to Polar Beat (free fitness and training app)

    Cost:  $89.95

    2.  WahooTICKRX

    heart rate monitor

    • Automatic rep counting in high-intensity circuit workouts when used with the Wahoo 7 Minute Workout or Pear Sports app.
    • Built in memory gives you the freedom to train without a phone, capturing data and syncing it to your phone later; Strap Length: Adjustable from 23″ to 48″ (stretched);Water Rating: IPX7 (waterproof up to 5 ft)
    • Personalized Heart Rate Training – Workout efficiently – view real-time heart rate, training zones and calories burned on your smartphone or tablet with compatible training apps. Official HR Monitor of Team Sky, defending champions of the Tour De France.
    • Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+ compatibility allows TICKR to connect to smartphones and tablets,  as well as GPS watches by Garmin, Polar, and more.  TICKR works with iPhone 4S and later, and with select Android devices using Android 4.3.
    • Works with Wahoo RunFit + 50 Smartphone Apps including Nike+ Running, MapMyFitness, Runkeeper, Strava,  Apple Health, and more.

    Cost:  $79.95

    Optical Wrist Sensor Monitoring

    Optical wrist sensor monitors are the most common pulse sensors.  Heart rate data is measured using photoplethysmography.  This is a process of using small LED lights to refract off of blood flow to determine pulse readings.  There can be periodic connectivity issues to the watch.  Overall, this is a far more comfortable way to monitor heart rate especially for long-term monitoring of resting heart rate.

    So which optical wrist sensor heart rate monitor gives you the greatest bang for your buck?

    Check Out My Top Optical Wrist Sensor Options!

    1.  Fitbit Charge 2

    • PurePulse continuous, automatic wrist-based heart rate tracking to better measure calorie burn all day
    • Maximize your workouts using simplified heart rate zones (Fat Burn, Cardio and Peak)
    • See call, text & calendar notifications on the OLED display; Automatically track how long and how well you sleep and wake with a silent vibrating alarm
    • Get a better understanding of your fitness level and see how you can improve over time with a personalized Cardio Fitness Score; Use Connected GPS during run mode to see real-time stats like pace and distance on your wrist
    • Track all-day activity like steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed and active minutes;Find moments of calm throughout your day with personalized guided breathing sessions based on your heart rate, Like all heart rate tracking technologies, accuracy is affected by physiology, location of device, and different movements.
    • Sync stats wirelessly & automatically to computers and 200+ leading iOS, Android and Windows devices.
    • Operating temperature: 14 degree to 113 degree fahrenheit, Maximum operating altitude: 30,000 feet

    Cost:  $119.95

    2.  Fitbit Alta

    • Get the power of continuous heart rate in Fitbit’s slimmest design yet-all day, during workouts and beyond
    • With heart rate, you can better measure calorie burn, and use zones (Fat Burn, Cardio, and Peak) to find the right workout intensity for your goals.Fits wrists 5.5″ – 6.7″ in circumference
    • With sleep stages powered by PurePulse heart rate, automatically track your time spent in light, deep and REM sleep and take steps toward a better night’s rest.
    • See how working out more can improve your health by comparing your resting heart rate trends to your activity, Sync stats wirelessly & automatically to computers and 200+ leading iOS, Android and Windows devices.
    • Automatically track your steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes with up to 7 days of battery life
    • Tap to see your stats, time & notifications on an OLED display, plus customize your clock face.
    • Operating temperature: 14 degree to 113 degree fahrenheit Maximum operating altitude: 30,000 feet

    Cost:  $119.95

    Where are you at in your fitness goals?

    Consider adding a heart rate monitor to your gym bag or your life.  Whether you are an active athlete or an average person trying to shed body fat this is an essential tool for physical transformation and overall health.

    A fitter heart is the key to longevity!

     

     

    life force

    Can Intermittent Fasting for Women Help or Hinder the Transition Through Menopause?

    Recently I turned 51 years old.  Like women my age I am going through the process of perimenopause on my way to menopause and experiencing the negative side effects of night sweats, mood swings, etc.  This life change can bring about many negative consequences in our physiology as the fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone decreases and becomes erratic.  The question for me was:  Can intermittent fasting for women help or hinder the transition through menopause?  Could a 16 hour fasting diet help me to gain more control over the erratic fluctuations of hormones during menopause reducing their negative side effects?

    What is the HPG Axis?

    hpgaxisTo answer this question I first had to gain an understanding of how the HPG feedback loop works.  During puberty the HPG axis is activated by estrogen from the ovaries causing physiological and psychological changes.  This axis becomes deregulated leading to menopause.  HPG represents the hypothalmus, pituitary and gonadal glands located in the brain.  The HPG axis is signaled by kisspeptin to secrete follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH) that are responsible for the creation of estrogen and progesterone.  During the menopause transition FSH and LH levels rise because the number of ovarian follicles becomes fewer and the body produces less of the hormone called Inhibin B.

    Females have higher kisspeptin levels than men.  Fasting drives kisspeptin levels down causing ghrelin levels to rise.  Ghrelin is the hunger hormone and alters classic dopamine signaling. Dopamine signaling in the hypothalmus is linked with feeding behavior. As ghrelin levels rise leptin levels decrease.  New science shows that obese women are more resistant to fat loss when there are increased leptin levels or leptin resistance.   Improved dopamine signaling can improve cognitive functioning of the brain.  A healthy HPG axis is important for intermittent fasting to be successful.

    What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

    Intermittent fasting is a diet strategy where you fast for an extended period of time followed by a shortened eating window.  Within your eating window you must significantly reduce and eliminate any carbohydrates as this will negatively impact the diet process.  Fasting increases insulin sensitivity which allows the body to preferentially use fat stores for energy.  This strategy takes advantage of the fasting that occurs while you are asleep and gives you a 6-8 hour jumpstart into the fast depending on your sleep cycle.  This may seem like a daunting task.  Consider by starting with a food awareness week where you fast for 12 hours and eat for 12 hours.  Then add a couple of hours each subsequent week until you get to your desired fasting time.  The table below outlines 3 potential fasting strategies.

    Fast Eat
    16hrs 8hrs – 2p-10p
    18hrs 6hrs – 3p-9p
    20hrs 4hrs – 4p-8p

    What are the Benefits of IF?

    IF helps the body take advantage of increased insulin sensitivity that occurs in the last 1/3 of day.  Increased insulin sensitivity has many positive effects.

    • Increase in human growth hormone (HGH) = increase muscle
    • Increase in lipolysis = increase fat burning (decreased insulin levels tell calories to go to mitochondria instead of fat cells)
    • Increase in cellular autophagy = recycle proteins/clearing away of damaged cells
    • Decrease in insulin levels = pancreas does not have to raise insulin levels to store nutrients

    During the IF eating window meals must be high fat with little to no carbohydrates.  Fat sustains and balances blood sugar and when not eating enough fat the body can revolt with a condition known as reactive hypoglycemia. Carbohydrates are insulin spikers for the pancreas.  When insulin is high the body can’t burn fat.

    Why You Might NOT Benefit from IF?

    IF as a diet strategy requires that the hormones need to be stable and balanced so the body doesn’t perceive 16 hours as a stressor.  A lot of women have spent their adult lives eating low fat, low calorie meals starving themselves in pursuit of weight loss damaging the metabolism.  In addition menopausal women are suffering from a natural fluctuation of hormones that brings about symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, etc. that further throws the metabolism off.   In my research I found that intermittent fasting for women can sometimes have a negative impact on a female’s hormonal state.  This strategy is not good for people with low blood sugar, active thyroid or female hormonal issues.  It is important to make sure that the adrenals, female hormones and thyroid are functioning properly if you want to pursue intermittent fasting.  Adrenal fatigue contributes greatly to the imbalance of hormones.  A hormone balancing product I often recommend to clients to help with this imbalance is called Integrative Therapeutics Cortisol Manager.

    How to Prepare the Body for IF?

    Optimizing nutrition will help to restore proper blood sugar levels that are essential for balancing hormones within the brain.  If not eating enough calories in 8 hour window during the fast the hormonal cycle will be altered.  A good transition to intermittent fasting would be to follow the recommended foods of the ketogenic and paleo diets.  These two diets help to identify healthy carbohydrates.  The reduction of carbohydrate levels as we age is the key to a healthy lifestyle.

    Ketogenic Food List/For additional help purchase the Ketogenic Cookbook with meal plans

    Paleo Food List/For additional help consider the PaleoPlan Special Offer for New Members

    In order for IF to be successful a good control over carbohydrate levels is necessary.  Once this goal is achieved consider Crescendo fasting.  This is a great way to prepare the body for IF.

    Crescendo Fasting Intermittent Fasting
    Fast 3 non-consecutive days per week.

    (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)

    Fast 7 days per week.
    Fast for 12 hours increasing fast time by 1 hour per week to reach desired IF time. Fast for 16, 18 or 20 hours.

    For a great overview on the rules of intermittent fasting, please see the following video.

    Conclusion

    After my process of discovery into intermittent fasting for women I decided to give it a try.   I utilized Crescendo fasting for the first couple of weeks and found that it was not difficult by the end of the second week to achieve the 16 hour fasting period.  In one of the videos I watched it was recommended to use butter coffee as a pure fat bomb to help food cravings in the last 4 hours of the fasting period.  It helped to initially to take me through hours 13-16 of the fast.  I then expanded to a full intermittent fasting technique.  I am absolutely experiencing the positive effects of IF and plan to continue my experiment.