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4 posts from August 2010

08/29/2010

Seven Reasons to Laugh More

By Matt O'Neill

Everyone knows ‘laughter is the best medicine’. Now research shows exactly why a good chuckle can boost your health. Here are seven good reasons why you should laugh more:

Boosts your immunity – Laughter may defend against colds, cancer and other conditions affected by a weakened immunity. The blood of patients who watched a humorous video contained higher levels of antibodies and natural killer cells after the viewing.

Reduces pain – It’s harder to feel pain when you are laughing. Studies have reported less perceived pain from burns, surgery and other conditions during and following a mirthful bout of laughter.

Relaxes your muscles – Vigorous laughter provides a form of internal massage and exercise for your diaphragm muscles. After laugher you’re likely to feel more relaxed.

Expands your lungs – A hearty chortle can enhance respiratory function. In one study, the long sigh following laughter induced by funny videos increased oxygen intake.

Improves blood flow – Laughter can increase blood flow to the heart. When volunteers watched a funny movie that made them laugh, their arteries dilated in a similar way to that caused by aerobic exercise. Blood vessel dilation was 50% better after the comedy than after a depressing film.

Reduces stress – A good giggle can counteract the release of stress hormones. When a group of sixteen men watched a funny video their levels of cortisol fell by 39% and adrenaline dropped by 70%.

Elevates your mood – Laughter-induced endorphins can calm the mind and induce positive emotions. When the men in the study above were told they would watch the funny video in three days time, they experienced an anticipatory increase in endorphin levels. Looking forward to a good laugh appears to be just as important as laughing itself.

08/18/2010

Cross Training Improves Fitness & Reduces Injury

You consider yourself to be in better than average shape. You run several times a week for health and fitness and maybe do an occasional fun run on the weekend. Some friends come into town for the holidays and you decide to go skiing. No problem, you're in great shape, right? Wrong. After a day on the slopes you feel like you've been run over by Santa's sleigh and all his reindeer. What's going on?

You may be in great shape, for the sort of exercise you do routinely. But if that's all you do, day after day, you may be setting yourself up for injury or mental burnout and that is not a good way to get fit. What can help prevent injury and burnout? Cross training.

Cross training is a great way to condition different muscle groups, develop a new set of skills, and reduce boredom that creeps in after months of the same exercise routines. Cross training also allows you the ability to vary the stress placed on specific muscles or even your cardiovascular system. After months of the same movements your body becomes extremely efficient performing those movements, and while that is great for competition, it limits the amount of overall fitness you possess and reduces the actual conditioning you get while training; rather than continuing to improve, you simply maintain a certain level of fitness. Cross training is also necessary to reduce the risk of injury from repetitive strain or overuse.

The term cross training refers to a training routine that involves several different forms of exercise. While it is necessary for an athlete to train specifically for their sport if they want to excel, for most exercisers cross training is a beneficial training method for maintaining a high level of overall fitness. For example, you may use both biking and swimming each week to improve your overall aerobic capacity, build overall muscle strength and reduce the chance of an overuse injury. Cross training limits the stress that occurs on a specific muscle group because different activities use muscles in slightly different ways.

Benefits of Cross Training
•    Reduces exercise boredom
•    Allows you to be flexible about you training needs and plans (if the pool is closed, you can go for a run instead).
•    Produces a higher level of all around conditioning
•    Conditions the entire body, not just specific muscle groups
•    Reduces the risk of injury
•    Work some muscles while others rest and recover
•    Can continue to train while injured
•    Improves your skill, agility and balance

What exercises should make up a good cross training routine?

Cardiovascular Exercise (Think about adding three different exercises from the list below):
•    Running
•    Swimming
•    Cycling
•    Rowing
•    Stair Climbing
•    Rope jumping
•    Skating (inline or ice)
•    Skiing
•    Racquetball / basketball / other court sports

Strength Training
•    Calisthenics (push ups and crunches and pull ups)
•    Free Weights
•    Machines
•    Tubing and Bands

Flexibility
Stretching
Yoga

Speed, agility, and balance drills

Circuit training, sprinting, plyometrics and other forms of skill conditioning


With cross training, you can do one form of exercise each day, or more than one in a day. If you do both on the same day, you can change the order in which you do them. You can easily tailor cross-training to your needs and interests; mix and match you sports and change your routine on a regular basis.

Exercise can strengthen the cardiovascular system, bones, muscles, joints, reduce body fat and improve flexibility, balance and coordination. But if you want to see all of these benefits, you'll need to start cross training. What better time to start than now? I hear your friends have taken up snowboarding.

08/09/2010

Stress & Cortisol Link

By Matt O’Neill – Metabolic Jumpstart

You may be aware that cortisol is the "stress hormone" but how exactly does it affect body fat levels?
And what can you do to stress less for success?


Stress > Cortisol


No matter what the source of stress - emotional, physical, diet restriction or over-exercising - one physiological response is for certain. Levels of the hormone cortisol will increase. Cortisol is designed to help release energy from body stores when stressed. Cortisol sounds good for fat burning, but it often backfires due to some negative effects.


Cortisol > Cravings

When circulating cortisol reaches your brain, it stimulates another chemical neuropeptide-Y, which can trigger your appetite and cravings. If you are stressed and experience persistent food cravings, cortisol could be the culprit.

Cortisol > Abdominal Fat

Research has also found a link between cortisol and greater amounts of abdominal body fat. So, being stressed could be contributing to a plateau or the inability to budge that last few centimetres.

Stress Less for Success

There is now a clear case for managing stress and therefore your body's cortisol production to maximise your results.


Being more patient about your progress, allowing yourself the occasional slip-up and becoming comfortable being a healthy weight, rather than the lowest weight, may be an approach that gets breakthrough results. What steps will you take to manage stress?

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08/03/2010

Weight Lifting for Skinny Guys

By Harry Hawkins

So you hate that scrawny marathon runner body. You would prefer to have the sprinter body that has lean, strong, dense muscles.

However, try as you may, you can't seem to gain any significant amount of muscle. Whether it is genetics or just wacky hormones that are out to get you, one thing is for certain, and that is that you need to train a little differently. It's good that you are learning about how to gain more muscles so you know, you won't be knocked over by a strong gust of wind.

Being a hardgainer, you need to weight train a little differently than the guys that are genetically gifted and can put on muscles in a short period of time. The one crucial thing you need to do is avoid volume work at all costs.

Rule #1 - Because you're a skinny guy, you have to make the most out of your workout, and that means getting in the gym and getting out! You can't afford to mess around in the gym doing long duration workouts and expending large amounts of calories in the process. With your body type, you need to conserve some calories or you won't grow.

You will need a lot of rest, more so than other guys since you only grow when you are resting.

Now I'm not saying that you have to wait a week in between your workouts, but what you should be doing is going in the gym, exhausting your muscles, and get out. You have no time for sissy, light-weight workouts of 20 sets and then stopping to check out the hot girl, then doing another sissy 10 sets that takes 4 hours.

Rule #2
So if you can't do the sissy light-weight sets, what DO you do? Compound workouts. If your workouts currently include, bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, neck rolls, cell phone talking, and checking yourself out in the mirror, then stop. You can only be in the gym for a short amount of time, you can't afford to let that time go to waste. The best way to get the most bang for your buck is to do compound workouts. Workouts such as squats, bench presses, deadlifts, rows, anything that requires more than one major muscle group to complete.

Make these exercises your focus and you will soon have nice new muscles in no time.

Rule #3
Cardio

Don't do it. I know you don't want to be fat, and for health reasons it's great. But, for muscle building, and especially skinny guy muscle building, doing cardio is going to hurt your progress. You're already burning calories at an accelerated rate, you don't want to take that through the roof by doing cardio. Save those calories so that they can be used to build muscles. If you really want to do cardio, limit it to 2 or 3 20 minute sessions of low or moderate intensity, anything more than that and you'll be hurting your progress.

Rule #4
You need to rest. As mentioned in rule #1, you only gain muscles when you rest. This is especially important for a scrawny guy like you. Make sure you get your beauty sleep of preferably 8 hours, 7 hours minimum. You can't afford to be partying all night with your friends. The less sleep you get the less time your body has to repair itself and the less time your body can build new muscles. Resting is as important if not MORE important than working out.

Rule #5
Proper technique. I'm sure you've seen the guy that swings his arm in a huge arc to get that bicep curl. He's using momentum to help with the lift and so his bicep isn't getting a good workout. The right technique not only prevents injuries, but also increases muscle mass by recruiting the maximum amount of muscle fibers to help with the lift.

If you're not sure how a lift should be performed, hire a trainer or look at reputable videos.

Conclusion
Okay so what do you need to change? To summarize, get in there, train hard with proper technique, get out, eat and rest. Rinse and repeat and within a few short months that hot girl will maybe glance back at you too....maybe.