10 Easy Ways To Give Mother Earth Some Love (A “guest post” from Kat)

First of all, let me just say that I do not, in anyway, care at all about the “royal wedding”.  And I can’t wait for it to be over so there is something else for people to talk about.  There, I said it.  I can move on now.

Believing that this earth is a gift and that we should take care of it, my wife and I do our best to live “green”.  With Earth Day being a week ago and today being Arbor Day, my wife wrote up some easy ways to live a greener life on her blog.  I thought they were definitely worth sharing, so here you go:

I know Im a dork, but to honor Earth Day and Arbor day I wanted to share some of my favorite green tips. Making changes can be difficult but once it becomes a habit, it is much easier. We love our planet’s beauty and take for granted that she will always be beautiful. We use and abuse her every day, so why not show her some love…

1.) Recycle…Check to see if your county/city offers recycling pick up. Ours doesn’t so we collect it in our garage and a few times a month drop it off at a recycling center.

2.) Don’t use styrofoam… if possible. It doesn’t break down and takes up approx. 30% of landfills worldwide. I hate it so much that at gas stations, restaurants, etc. I will ask if they have something else I can use. I get weird looks sometimes, but I’m ok with that.

3.) Don’t leave your car running when you aren’t driving…ex: If you are at a drive thru and will be waiting for longer than 30 seconds, turning your car off and restarting it when you need to is better than letting it run. Plus, you will save gas.

4.) Turn the sink off while you brush your teeth…you will save about 4 gallons a minute…(200 gallons a week for a family of 4)

5.) This one may be a little much for some, but ….Don’t flush the toilet every time you go #1. I know I know. I had a friend growing up who’s family did this and I thought it was really weird at first too. But the average person uses 19 gallons of water per day flushing the toilet. Think about what you can save and I promise it’s not as gross as it sounds.

*Note from MG: Its sterile…get over it…*

6.) Use cleaning products that are “green”…like Seventh Generation and Green Works. They can sometimes be more costly, but we buy them in bulk when they are on sale or use coupons. There are also books and resources that teach you how to make your own. (one more little hint…in your kitchen if you pour lime juice down the drain every once in a while it will help with clogs. Products like Drano are pretty bad for the environment)

7.) Use florescent light bulbs…I hate having to change light bulbs. These are awesome b/c they last a really long time and…If every house in the United States changed all of the light bulbs in their house, that would be equivalent to taking one million cars off the streets.

8.) Buy Local Produce…Consider how much energy it takes for produce from China or any other country to come here. If you have the option to buy local, do it. (And I know how much we all like our dependence on China)  Also, try to buy organic b/c you don’t know what kinds of chemicals/pesticides they have on them.

9.) Consider reusing bags or bring your own reusable bags… I am horrible at remembering to bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, so this is a challenge for me too. You can also reuse when shopping at the mall. Each department store you go in usually gives you a really big over sized bag. So what I do is tell them I don’t need a bag and stuff as much as I can in as few bags as possible.

10.) If you have a baby, consider using cloth diapers…We are taking on this challenge and I am very nervous, but my husband has said that we will have to remind one another the benefits and why we chose to do it. They are nothing like they used to be and very absorbent, plus I’ve heard that cloth diapered children usually potty train at much younger ages.

All these tips may not be for everyone, but we can all find ways that work for us to reduce our carbon footprint.

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Q and A: Are Push Ups Enough For The Upper Body?

I got a question yesterday from a guy I went to high school with.  He basically wanted to know if push ups were OK to do every day or not.  And if not, what were some good options for upper body workouts at home.

As far as push ups go, they are a fantastic upper body exercise.  If I was forced to choose between push ups and any other chest exercise, I would choose push ups every time.  Not only are they a great movement for the chest and anterior shoulders, but they are also great for core stabilization strength and shoulder health.  The problem comes when they are the only thing done for the upper body.

Push ups are a horizontal pushing exercise, which, like I mentioned above, strengthens the chest and front of the shoulders. This can cause those muscles to shorten, which pulls the shoulders in and creates that not-so-good hunched over look.  You know those guys in the gym who only bench press?  This is the reason their shoulders are so rounded and they have horrible posture.  Due to the fact that we sit so much in our daily lives, and most of us sit in that hunched position, we need more horizontal pulling exercises (think rowing type movements) than we do horizontal pushing. This will not only help balance out the pushing we do, but it will also help combat crappy posture, by pulling the shoulders back and opening up the chest.

I always, program more horizontal pulling than horizontal pushing.  People’s chests just need to be opened up more, and increasing their strength through horizontal pulling movements is the best way to achieve this.

As far as what he could do at home, I sent him these three videos, from Bret Contreras and Nia Shanks, and myself respectively:

The rowing movement is the last one in this video, at 1:13.

The video from Nia wont load on to the page, so click here to see rows at a playground, at 0:55.

Or, he could even invest in a pair of dumbbells and do some good ol’ bent over rows:

The bottom line is that while push ups are a fantastic exercise, they need to balanced out by pulling, pulling, and more pulling.  And even if you’re stuck working out at home, there are some good options to keep you balanced and feeling good.

The soil and the seed

For the most part, I try to keep all the content on this blog related to fitness, health, and such.  Today’s post gets a bit off course from that, but I think it’s definitely worth your time to read it.  As always, feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section.

A couple weeks ago I had some back to back cancellations in the morning.  So instead of pouting about the fact that I got up two and a half hours earlier than I really needed to, I decided to take those lemons and make some lemonade…that’s right party people, lemonade.

The first thing I did was clean out my e-mail inbox.  Since I get all my e-mails on my phone, I don’t spend a ton of time actually on my e-mail.  This is a blessing and a curse.  I like that I can check and respond to e-mails no matter where I am.  On the other hand, I don’t delete them nearly as often as I should.  I had let my inbox build up to 300+ and figured it was time to get rid of most of them.  In short, it felt good to get clean my inbox out.  A detoxification of the electronic soul, if you will.

After that, I decided to do some informal continuing education. (Which, by the way, I believe is a ton better than the formal stuff.  I seriously learn more reading a few blogs a day than I do earning 2 CEU’s.)

I had an e-mail in my inbox (one that had been lost in the midst of the many) of an interview with Gray Cook.  If you don’t know who Gray is, he’s basically a physical therapy samurai, as well as the author of The Functional Movement Screen, and Movement.   He’s got a great approach to movement, how to groove proper movement patterns as well as how to assess a client for dysfunction.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to listen to this interview.

During the interview Gray mentioned the concept of “preparing soil and planting seeds”.  He was basically making the point that any farmer who is worth his salt doesn’t just throw a seed in the ground and hope it grows, but he takes time to make sure the soil is properly prepared for the seed to take root, receive the proper nutrients and grow to its potential.  While he was using this concept to discuss physical therapy techniques and approaches, I found my mind applying it to what I do on a day to day basis.

The soil and the seed.


I see the two elements like this:

-I see the soil as the foundation.  Mainly mobility and proper movement patterns, quality dietary habits, etc.

-The seed is the progression of an exercise in both difficulty and weight, changes in body composition, weight loss, strength gain, etc.

Let’s take a specific example: the deadlift.  Many people I train do not come to me with the mobility or body awareness to perform the deadlift from the ground properly or safely.  (They don’t have soil that’s been properly prepared.)  So why would I attempt to have them perform or even attempt a deadlift (the seed) if I haven’t taken time to prepare the soil, or at the very least see if the soil is ready for the seed.

Before I ever have someone perform the deadlift with any kind of significant weight, I teach them how to push their hips back/set their shoulder blades/pull through their heels/keep proper spinal alignment/squeeze their butts tight.

I prepare the soil.

This way, when it comes time to actually perform the lift, (sometimes this is minutes later, sometimes it’s months) they know what they are doing.  They have a good idea of what it means when I tell them to sit back or tuck their shoulder blades.  Otherwise, they are unprepared and getting set up for an injury.  Does this mean that they will perform the lift perfectly the first time they actually perform it or never injure themselves? No, sometimes things happen, but it does mean that I wasn’t lazy or negligent, and it dramatically increases the likelihood that they will perform the lift well and safely.

While this concept works great for me to illustrate the importance of assessing and progressing appropriately, it doesn’t just pertain to physical therapy or training.  It applies to us as human beings in our every day lives.

Ever know someone one who rushed into a marriage and wound up divorced a few years later?  What if they had taken time to see if this person was right for them, or at least taken time to develop the relationship into a healthy and mature one before they got married?

Or how about someone who bought a house they couldn’t really afford and wound up losing it? (Hello 2009!) What if they had taken an honest look at their finances and waited until they were in a position to actually afford the house?

What if either one of these had actually taken time to prepare the soil before planting the seed?

People aren’t patient.  We want what we want and we want it now, right?  People want to lose 20 pounds so they do something stupid like the Hollywood Cookie Diet or the HCG diet.  Their bodies can’t handle it, so they put all the weight plus some back on.  People want a new car, so they go get one.  Then they hide from collection agencies because they can’t make the payments.

My wife and I are expecting a little baby girl any day now.  We could have spent the last 8 and a half months unconcerned with our expected arrival.  We could have spent our free time doing plenty of other things besides reading books on how to be good parents and take care of a newborn. 

Instead, we’ve been doing everything we can to ensure that when we bring her home, we have some sense of how to give her a healthy, happy and supportive environment to grow in.

The point I’m trying to make is this: somethings are worth preparing for.

I don’t mean to get all deep here, but take a moment and look at your life.  Are you taking care of yourself physically?  Are you nurturing relationships that matter to you?  If you have dreams and goals for your life, are you taking the steps you need to to make those dreams a reality?  Are you taking the time to prepare the soil or are you just throwing seed at the ground hoping it will take root?

Is it easy?  Not always.  Sometimes it seems like you’re taking the most indirect route possible, but it makes it worth it.  It makes your efforts long lasting.  And it keeps you healthy and happy.

A Shift In Focus

After a session the other day, a client and I got to talking about her fat loss progress.  She’s done remarkably well and is super pumped about the way her body has transformed over the last several months.  The interesting thing is that she hasn’t been focused on losing fat.  In fact, she told me that she’s been paying very little attention to her weight and hasn’t been at all concerned with losing pant sizes or dropping inches.

Wait, wait, wait.  You’re telling me that someone wasn’t trying to lose fat, but did it anyway?

Yup.

Here’s what she did focus on: getting stronger, eating healthy, drinking plenty of water and getting good sleep.  That’s it.

It’s interesting isn’t it?  It’s also something I see quite frequently.  People can get very obsessive over things, especially when it comes to weight/fat loss.  Their days are literally made or ruined by the scale or by the way their pants fit.  Think that might create a bit of a stressful situation?


Here’s the thing, when people are trying to lose weight they try to eat healthy, train hard, drink water and get rest because they want to lose weight.  Weight loss is the ultimate (or only) goal for them, not the benefits of any of those other things.  What my client was telling me, and what I’ve seen with many other clients, is that when the goal is to eat healthy, drink plenty of water, etc., solely for the sake of being a healthy individual, weight/fat loss comes along for the ride. 

If you’re only doing those things to “use them” for other means, what happens when you aren’t seeing the progress you want?  You tell yourself it’s not worth it to eat like this and be this disciplined when you’re not seeing the scale move right?  So you stop, because eating right and drinking water was a stupid idea in the first place.  Sound familiar?  The piece that people miss is that doing those other things is making them a much healthier person even if the weight isn’t coming of quickly enough for them.  It’s providing them with nutrients, vitamins, hydration and recovery time.  In short, it’s helping their insides be a little less like a garbage heap and a little more like a human body.  (That comparison isn’t as much of an exaggeration as you may think.)

So here’s my challenge to you:

-Eat lean meats, veggies and fruits because they provide your body with tons of nutrients, and they give you good quality calories to keep your body fueled.

-Drink a ton of water because it keeps your body from becoming dehydrated, stressed and from functioning less than optimally.

-Get stronger because it repairs imbalances in your body and makes you able to live life free of injury.

-Get plenty of sleep because your body needs to repair itself and you’re not a jerk to your co-workers and spouse when you do.

If you do these things for the sake of the benefits they bring to your body, it makes it much easier to stick with them.  Fortunately, it just so happens that fat loss is a natural by-product of a healthy life.

If you found this post helpful, feel free to post on Facebook or forward it to a friend.  Your support is greatly appreciated!

Good Reads

To say that there has been some amazing content written this week would be an understatement.  I’ve read several posts by several different people that have been full of great content.  Here are some things that I think you should definitely spend some time reading:

Tony Gentilcore had a great post titled “What’s Your Sentence?“.  Tony also had a guest post by Precision Nutrition coach Jason Bonn on the simplicity that is often over looked as we trouble shoot our lack of progress.

I’ve been frequenting Kellie Davis’ blog titled Mother Fitness quite a bit lately.  I found this entry on how doing copious amounts of crunches can ruin your curves to be pretty interesting. (You all know my disdain for crunches/sit ups.)  In addition, Mother Fitness is a great resource for women on all kinds of topics from fitness to health to beauty.  Definitely worth checking out.

I don’t want to get political or anything, but I think this is important.  The EPA is currently deciding on whether or not to outlaw a commonly used pesticide that is a known carcinogen and neurotoxin, methyl iodide.  It is currently being sprayed on our food and then eaten by ourselves and our children.  This link is to a petition you can sign encouraging the EPA to strongly consider outlawing this toxin.  Go do it now.

That’s it.  Have a good weekend!

An Exercise You Need To Try: Stir The Pot

It’s been a few week since I’ve done “An Exercise You Need To Try” post, so I figured, why not today?  And since I couldn’t give myself a good answer as to why not, here you go.

I saw Stir The Pots over on Tony Gentilcore’s blog a while back, gave it a shot for a bit and then had some of my clients try it.  In short, it works…well.

Here’s what they look like:

Here’s how to do them:

-Place your elbows on a Swiss Ball and get your feet wide.

-Brace your abs tightly.

-Make small circles with your elbows, moving the Swiss Ball with them.

-Don’t stick your butt up or let your hips sag.  Keep a straight line from your shoulder to your ankle.

A couple of things to note.  Start with fairly small circles, and begin to make larger ones if you’re able to maintain good form.  Also, this is an advanced exercise and much harder than it looks, so if planks are challenging for you, this would not be something you should give a shot at this point.

I like to start clients with 6 circles (1 is over and back) and move up from there.

Try them out and let me know what you think!

The Biggest Myth In Fitness

Before I get into today’s post, I want to give you a recipe.  Actually, I’m not going give you the recipe because I haven’t asked for permission from the author of the cookbook it’s from to publish it.  But Eric Cressey did, and you can get the recipe off of his blog here, about half way down the page.  The recipe is for chicken fingers.  I made them last night and was pleasantly surprised.  I realize that a breading made from Bran Buds and oatmeal sounds a bit strange, but they were really good.  And even better, they were super easy and quick to make.  Be sure to check it out.

There are a lot of myths in the fitness industry.  There are even many flat out lies.  The trouble is, it’s hard for people to know what is and what isn’t accurate.  One of these myths is the “fat burning zone”.  If you’ve stepped on a treadmill or hopped on a stationary bike anytime in the last several years, you have most likely seen a little chart depicting where your heart rate needs to be to be in the fat burning zone.  The magical place where fat drips off your body like fat drips off of bacon.

The concept behind the fat burning zone is this: when your heart rate is lower, you burn a greater percentage of calories from fat.  So, treadmills charts tell people that if they keep their heart rates around 60% of their max, they are in the magical zone and they are burning fat.  This statement is 100% TRUE.  No, that wasn’t a typo.  It’s a true statement.  When your heart rate is lower you burn a greater percentage of calories from fat.

So where’s the beef…I mean myth?

Let’s jump on the logic train and take a little trip, shall we?

If the lower your heart rate is, the higher percentage of fat calories you’re burning, then what does that say about things like walking, eating and emptying the dishwasher?  A very high percentage of calories burned during those activities come from fat.  The trouble is, you’re not burning very many overall calories during those activities.  In fact, you’re burning the highest percentage of calories from fat when you are flat on your back, asleep at night.  If that’s the case then sleeping must be the ULTIMATE FAT BURNING ZONE!  That’s it everybody, sleep your way thin!  In fact don’t get out of bed at all, and almost all of those calories your burning while doing the laborious job of lying down will come from fat.  Look out Thin Town, I’m sleeping my way to you!

Obviously, I’m being sarcastic.  If you didn’t pick up on that, you might want to hit yourself in the head with a hammer.  (I actually have video of a friend of mine hitting himself in the head with a hammer…multiple times.  I really want to put that video in here but, alas, I swore I would never share it.  Stupid promises.)  And obviously, there are some serious holes in the logic behind the fat burning zone.  Yes, you burn a greater percentage of calories from fat, but you don’t burn even close to as many overall calories. 

Maybe this is less of a myth and more of a tiny bit of truth that has been twisted into something much bigger then it really is.  Kind of like tracking down a leprechaun who is supposed to give you a pot of gold, but when you finally find him, all he really gives you is belly button lint.  The results are pretty disappointing, and your efforts didn’t pay off.

Your best bet is this-work as hard as you can, burn a ton of calories, and don’t be fooled into thinking that working at a moderate level all the time is going to strip fat off you.  Your heart and your body will thank you for it.