W.T.F. (What To Fear)

19 10 2014

When I decided to apply for a spot on American Ninja Warrior (click if you don’t know), I had watched the participants swing through the air, tiptoe across unstable objects, and scale high obstacles and felt comfortable knowing that I could do all of those stunts. Little did I know, when I started training for the show a month ago, memories of a traumatic event I had back in 2008 would resurface creating such an intense fear that it would  prevent me from completing one of the more critical obstacles on the show: the Warped Wall.

Warped Wall

Back in 2008 while living in the Adirondacks, my buddies and I set off to climb a side of a mountain that one of them had mentioned he’d climbed before. Since we trusted his knowledge of the area we were about to scale, we had no fear of scrambling up the rock face. For anyone unfamiliar with the term “scrambling,” it’s where one climbs a mountain side without any equipment.

We made it to the point where it was time to start climbing up the face of the mountain. About one hundred feet up, our friend who had said he knew where we were going mentioned to us that this wasn’t the face of the mountain he had climbed. We couldn’t climb down the way we climbed up, so we decided that the only way out was to get to the top; only an extra fifty to sixty feet up. While climbing, I grabbed a small ledge and my feet slipped. I hung on with only one hand while my feet did everything they could to stick to the rock face. An image of me plunging to my death on the rocks below came into my head and I yelled for help. One of the guys ran to my rescue like the rock face had magically provided him foot holds. He crouched down and extended his hand. My adrenaline rushed throughout my body and I literally climbed up his body and onto a small stable ledge. However he got to me, there was no way of retracing his path. All possible routes kept going up. He and I ended up on a ledge with no possible way of climbing any further. The others were able to find a way down while the two of us stayed up on the mountain. Sitting on the small ledge, accompanied by a shrub growing on the side of the mountain and a hawk circling above us, we waited for our friends to come to the rescue with equipment. During this time, vertigo started to kick in and my fear of heights increased to new levels.

Sitting on the ledge (top right) as the others come with rope.

Sitting on the ledge (top right) as the others worked on getting rope to us.

Fear is a emotional response triggered by the amygdala in the brain (Menting, 2014). Within a tenth of a second, the amygdala can heighten the senses of the body, leading to the fight, flight, or freeze response. Even though we don’t like to have fear in our lives, and we sometimes associate fear with being weak, fear is an important part of being human. We need fear to know where our boundaries are.  The effects of fear can be very different for each person and situation. It can allow a mother to lift extraordinary weight off her trapped child or make an individual cower to the floor. Fear can stop a runner from reaching his fastest time; an Olympic lifter from obtaining her maximum weight; or an overweight individual from losing those few extra pounds. For some, fear limits a person from doing something normal like going into an elevator or being in the mix of a large crowd. It’s time to take action and refocus our efforts when fear becomes debilitating and prevents us from trying to get close to our limits. Due to my traumatic event, I was bound to the ground.

That brings me back to the Warped Wall. At first, every time I would run up the wall, a flashback of the event on the rock face would prevent me from jumping up to grab the ledge. Having my legs hang and my fingers grip only a small lip at the top of the wall was too close to home for me. That fear of falling from such a height, even if it was only fourteen feet and not a hundred, terrified me. Fear hinders all forward progress and with it, we are never able to reach our goal. Working those fears out in small increments and with a support system can make all the difference in the world. After a few weeks of having my fellow teammates encourage me and working on reassuring myself that falling from the wall would not kill me, I was able to break that fear and move forward.

Conquering fear is not an easy task, but with some work it can be done. Dependent upon the situation and magnitude of fear affecting the person, the individual may find a way to reduce the fear to a level where it is manageable. Reaching this level allows the person to participate in the activity without any negative reaction. Some psychologists help their patients create a new response to a stimuli that is safe rather than the fearful response that was associated with the stimuli  (Menting, 2014). Over time, the patient was able to engage in the activity without fear. In my case, by experiencing a safe return to the ground each time I went up the wall, the fear that caused me to freeze was reduced, and eventually I was able to conquer the wall. This accomplishment allowed me to build up my confidence and in turn set my goals to new heights.

 

Reference:

Menting, A.M. (2014) The Chill of Fear. Harvard Medical School. Retrieved on October 15, 2014 from http://hms.harvard.edu/news/harvard-medicine/chill-fear





Pushing Through Your Workouts: Overloading vs. Overtraining

21 09 2014

A couple weeks ago, I woke up with a bad headache, felt lousy, and my energy was very low. My wife wasn’t able to sleep all night so I was up a lot trying to help her fall back to sleep. I got through my day at work and the time came for my workout. I wasn’t looking forward to it since my energy level was still sluggish at that point. However, I felt that if I didn’t do something, I would start off my week down a day. So I warmed up the best I could and went to the weight stack to tackle my first set of squats. My muscles felt like they were fighting  against each other rather than working together on the first set. My body didn’t communicate with each muscle group making 20 pounds feel like 100 pounds. I struggled though the first set and re-racked the weights and sat down. I started to think what my game plan should be for the rest of the workout. “Suck it up, get pumped, and push through the fatigue,” I thought “or take the day off and reset so I can come back to it fresh tomorrow?” This choice doesn’t seem to be a hard decision to make, however, some gym goers and athletes feel that if they push harder, they will break though that fatigue.

To make improvements in your body, you must work your muscles just beyond the normal demands of your body. The stress of the work must be challenging for the body resulting in adaptation to the difficult task and thereby allowing the body to endure and eventually overcome the same stress the next time it is encountered.  This concept is referred to as the principle of overload. A couple reasons many gym goers don’t see results after two to three months of beginning a new exercise routine, which ultimately leads to quitting, is because they don’t want to push their bodies to this state of exertion, or are afraid because they don’t know how hard to push themselves.

Those afraid of pushing themselves too hard are smart and should not proceed without proper guidance from a certified personal trainer. There is always an outcomes spectrum of benefits and consequences with everything we do related to health and fitness. Too little done and the benefits diminish but too much of the stimulus can also lead to diminished results.Results

When the spectrum is applied to our workouts, as mentioned before, too little stress on our muscles results in our bodies staying stagnant and improvement stops. Too much stress on the body will also lead to diminished results which could have fatal consequences such as injury. This principle is known as overtraining. If our bodies are subjected to constant stress and breakdown of our muscles, more time is needed to repair that muscle. If the time needed for repair is not present and the exerciser continues to add more stress to the damaged site, the stress becomes too great and injury may occur. Consistent balance between workload stress and repair time must be provided to generate safe and timely improvements.

So coming back to my workout a couple weeks ago. I knew that my body needed more time to rest and even if I pushed through my workout, the demands imposed on my body might have been too great which would have left me with an injury and caused me to miss more than just that one day. I could have gone easy on the weighs but the improvements would have been minimal in my state. Knowing all this information gave me the answer I needed. I cleaned off the bench and went home.





Catch of the Day

10 08 2014

Fish is a great way to receive  your dietary needs of healthy fats. In addition to Omega-3’s, fish is a great source of protein. Here is an easy recipe I found in “Simple Suppers” by Gina Steer. This was easy to make and it tasted great. One recommendation is to reheat any leftovers in the oven rather than microwave to prevent softening of the pastry border.

Fish Puff Tart – (Cook time: 35 minutes) Fish Puff Tart

Ingredients:
3/4 lb. prepared puff pastry, thawed if frozen
5 oz. fresh cod
5 oz. smoked haddock
1tbsp. pesto sauce
2 tomatoes, sliced
4 oz. goat cheese, sliced
1 large egg, beaten
freshly chopped parsley, to garnish

Prepare:
 1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into an 8 x 10 in. rectangle.
2. Draw a 7 x 9 in. rectangle in the center of the pastry to form a 1 in. border. (Be careful not to cut through the pastry)
3. Lightly cut crisscross patterns in the border of the pastry with a knife.
4. Place the fish on a chopping board, and with a sharp knife, skin the cod and smoked haddock. Cut into thin slices.
5. Spread the pesto evenly over the bottom of the pastry shell with the back of a spoon.
6. Arrange the fish, tomatoes, and cheese in the pastry shell, and brush the pastry with the beaten egg.
7. Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 20-25 min. until the pastry is well risen, puffed, and golden brown. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

 

Reference:
Steer, G. (2011). Simple Suppers. essential recipes; Flame Tree Publishing. p. 48





5 Ways to Train Smarter with Your Smart Phone

26 05 2014

Looking at the past week, I must give credit to my phone for helping me stay on track with my workouts. There have also been other motivators like my wife and friends who have kept me on track. However, when the busy work week comes upon you, the excuse “I have no time to exercise” can be very real. With the help of my smart phone, I was able to keep my workouts and nutrition on track. Since it was able to help me, I wanted to share with you the 5 ways of how just keeping your phone nearby can keep you on track.

1. Use Your Calendar
This app can be very helpful to make sure that you find that time in your busy work life. We all have appointments, so why not make one for your workouts. I also set an alarm for my workouts to remind me that this is as important as my client’s training session.

Keep your own workout appointments!

Keep your own workout appointments!

2. Bring Along The Tunes
The fact that your phone is also your Walkman (anyone even know what those are anymore?) is enough reason to get pumped up and get moving. Everyone should have a go-to playlist or station that gets them revved up for a good walk, run, or lift. Streaming music sites like Pandora, iTunes Music, and Beats Music, allows listeners to choose a genre of music and the station will choose music that falls within that genre. This gives you an endless supply of tunes to keep you going strong. Check out my go-to Playlist below. Plug those earbuds in and start training.

Doug’s Go-To Playlist

  1. “Good Feeling” -Flo Rida
  2. “Timber” -Pitbull (ft. Ke$sha)
  3. “Sweat” -David Guetta & Snoop Dogg
  4. “Numb” -Linkin Park
  5. “Remember The Name” -Fort Minor
  6. “Not Afraid” -Eminem
  7. “I’m a Machine” -David Guetta (ft. Crystal Nicole & Tyrese Gibson
  8. “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up)” -Fall Out Boy
  9. “Anxiety” -Black Eyed Peas

3. Track Your Progress
There are a myriad of nutrition apps nowadays out there for free or a small cost. These apps are great because they tell you if you’re getting the correct nutrients to meet your goals. The one that I have found to be useful is “Lose It” by FitNow Co. This app is easy to use and sets calorie recommendations based on your weight goal. I’m not trying to lose weight, the opposite in fact, and this app still keeps me inline with this goal. It allows for me to add in my exercise to calculate if I’m eating enough to see an increase in weight or under and thus my weight will continue to drop. The nice feature of this app is the barcode scanning function which allows you to take the product and scan it to get all the nutritional facts, rather than searching for the food.

Lose It App IMG_0815

4. Take A Video
This is not the time to take a selfie. Taking a look at your form is a good idea when you don’t have a friend or mirror close by. Placing your phone on a bench while you perform squats or a chest press allows you to see what you’re doing right or provides valuable feedback so you don’t wake up the next day with a strained muscle. Even placing it behind you while you’re on the treadmill can show if you’re walking or running gait is off. Professional athletes use video analysis all the time to keep their technique in check and progressing forward. Flip your camera on and use it to improve your results and not your status “likes.”

5. Post It
Telling your friends about your workouts on social media sites is a great way to stay motivated and accountable for your actions. My friend and I have agreed to keep each other motivated by sending each other weekly reminders of our goals. By sending him my progress through text messages and social media sites like FaceBook, I have another way of keeping true to my workouts. Post your goal on your status bar or text it to a friend. Then get them to keep you accountable by asking them to check in with you on a weekly basis. My clients will send me pics of them working out when they’re away to show me that they’ve held up their end of the deal. It’s an easy way to grow your support group and highlight the progress you’ve made.





Dazed and Confused

18 05 2014

I stopped receiving the morning paper last week which made me believe that someone had been swiping my paper before I got to it. My wife pointed out that we live on the second floor, in the corner unit of our condo complex, and the neighbors across from us are not the newspaper type. She also noted that there was no one living next door to us and that the next neighbor was at the other end of the unit. So in order for someone to steal our paper, they’d have to make the effort to tip toe upstairs, make the grab, rush back downstairs and into their unit at 6:30am which would be too much energy for our 65+ neighbors downstairs. In addition, we were sure that they had better things to do than plan an early morning heist. So I checked our account and it turned out my credit card on file had expired and I failed to update the info, resulting in a suspension on my subscription. Makes sense.

I’m glad to know that no one was catching up on yesterday’s news at my expense. I updated my card on file and was happy to see a fresh paper outside my door the next day. Fast forward one day later and I was still glad to find a Sunday paper outside my door. I pulled it out of the plastic bag and was surprised to see the front page main article (only exercise professionals and health nuts would get a kick out of articles like these).

From the Sarasota Herald Tribune

From the Sarasota Herald Tribune

The line that bewildered me was the end of the second sentence in the title (third if you count “Overmedicated?”), “Doctors would like to change that, but where to begin?” Really folks? We’re still confused about the direction we need to take to stay healthy and drug free? Maybe some of these docs are also tapping the drug supply. The article goes on by stating that of the 10 medications that the average 75 years old American is prescribed, a 100 percent chance of an adverse reaction from one of the drugs will be encountered. The average number of adverse effects is four. The result of these reactions only leads to decrease quality of life.

However, we know that daily physical activity has been shown to reduce comorbidity risk factors leading to a reduction in medication use. Regular exercise and gentle stretching exercises such as yoga have been evident in relieving chronic pain in patients. Even the article highlights ways to reduce pain without medication (see picture to right, click picture to enlarge).

From Sarasota Herald Tribune What is similar in all of these remedies?

From Sarasota Herald Tribune
What is similar in all of these remedies?

The article states that 40 percent of adults 65 and older take NSAIDs and 10 percent of them are prescribed an opioid for pain relief. So don’t you think that the first place to start is by letting these patients know that regular moderate exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, infused with gentle stretching for 10 minutes a day, 2-3 days a week can improve many of their conditions. Throw in the statement that the only side effects of physical activity when done properly as prescribed are positive effects such as, improved range of motion, reduced chronic pain, enhanced daily function, and improved quality of life. Let’s also inform patients about this alternative form way before we’re signing the prescription pad for medication number 10. It’s apparent and we must face the truth; exercise is medicine!

References:
Smith, B. (2014, May 18). Overmedicated? Herald Tribune. p. A1, A5
Landmark, T, et al. (2011). Associations between recreational exercise and chronic pain in the general population: Evidence from the HUNT 3 study. Journal of the International Association for the study of Pain. Retrieved on May 18, 2014 from http://www.painjournalonline.com/article/S0304-3959(11)00290-9/abstract





Low T? Not for Mr. T

17 05 2014

Mr.T If you grew up watching Mr. T on television, you might have wondered what the initial “T” stood for. “Tough” always came to my mind. After being plagued by low testosterone medication commercials during the other night trying to watch my show, I thought of Mr. T and his line. Then it clicked that Mr. T should stand for Mr. Testosterone!

Studies have linked obesity  to low testosterone levels in men. This link is a result of the decrease in the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular (HPT) axis pathology which controls testosterone levels. Physicians point out that testosterone supplements shouldn’t be the first line of action since our bodies create the hormone DHEA, which converts to testosterone naturally. Taking testosterone boosting supplements might not be appropriate for this demographics and DHEA supplements don’t really work. Sounds like Mr. T should pity those men. Luckily research shows that proper nutrition and physical activity can elevate testosterone levels. High intensity interval training (HIIT) or heavy strength training is a great way to spike up your testosterone levels. Working up to 85% of your 1RM should be your target. Physicians also state that too much exercise (long bouts of endurance exercise) can drop t levels, so make sure you rest long enough between exercise days for your body to recover.

References
http://www.webmd.com/men/features/can-you-boost-testosterone-naturally?page=2
Metzel, J. (2013) The Exercise Cure. Rodale, New York, NY
Asian Journal of Andrology. 2014 Mar-Apr; 16(2): 223–231. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955331/





Sweating It Out

26 09 2013

It slowly emanates from deep within my body. It’s caused by my internal temperature rising. I feel the droplets form on my forehead as my arms begin to glisten in the light. I know I’m working hard and sweating is the cause of my efforts. I continue to push on as sweat appears from the pores of my body. I will get through this no matter how much I sweat; fatigue will not get the best of me.

Rep after rep my arms extend and retract as my body stays in a squatted position. “A workout this will be,” I think to myself. Droplets from my forehead beads into my eyes, but I keep working harder. I don’t let a little sweat stop me. In fact, I invite sweat to come. I know that sweating is the mechanism which cools my body and without it, I would overheat and fatigue will have won.

My back begins to signal that it’s getting weaker and I brace my abs to help my core stabilize. “A couple more reps and I can rest,” I reassure myself. This motivates me to work harder. Controlling my pace, I work on my technique to get the benefits of the labor.

I return to thinking of the other benefits of sweating. Like the elimination of harmful toxins and improved skin tone. I know that sweating also is a sign of increased caloric burn. This leads to weight loss, which is not my goal.

Taking my mind off the task made the last few reps bearable and I hunch over to catch my breath. Sweat drips into my eyes and I wipe them away. I slowly raise my body up and reflect on my hard work. The bathtub, now clean, sparkles in the light and I think to myself, “My wife better be happy with this request.”