Archive | September, 2013

Food As “Fuel”: Is This Part of The Problem?

30 Sep

tumblr_mniqdoAudd1rq6lflo1_500A couple of years ago when I first began blogging, I wrote a couple of articles on the topic of “normal” eating habits. Since the beginning of that series of posts, I’ve begun to think a lot about the “food as fuel” mentality that a lot of people tend to have, and how it can negatively affect their relationship with food.

There is no doubt that food can have a strong hold over us mentally. Especially for those of us who have been, or are currently battling with emotional eating. We all know that eating certain foods triggers that endorphin-like rush, and feelings of safety. This is why we call these foods, “comfort foods”.

This can create problems down the road if a line isn’t drawn. However, I see those who hold the strict “food as fuel” mentality to be the kind of people who are afraid to indulge in foods that are made solely for the purpose of making the taste buds dance.

I do say this out of experience, having been in that position before. It might be that they are prone to overindulging. Or it might be that they feel as though in order to be completely dedicated to their sport, activity, or goal, they must eat only for the purpose of keeping their body running at full capacity.

Now, there are a couple of points I can agree on. Food is not love. Food does not equate happiness. Food cannot mend our broken hearts, fix our problems, fight our battles, fill empty spaces in our lives, or provide a long-lasting calm to our troubled minds. Food is, simply, fuel.

But is there a time where we can take this mentality too far?

watch-a-movie-copy

I dunno, man. I find the process of cooking and eating extremely entertaining.

Food provides us with energy to perform daily tasks and activities. No matter which way you want to look at it, that’s what food is and always will be. But be wary as to what measure you implement that knowledge. I only stress this because people have completely damaged the way they view food. They cannot find the balance that comes from eating for health, enjoyment, and satisfaction, versus eating to “fuel the machine”. They believe that in order to be healthy, and in order to achieve their goals, and in order to prevent binging, they must completely eliminate the enjoyment that that comes from eating. They must eat only to stave off hunger, and to keep themselves alive. Likewise, the other party will eat beyond what their body needs or is comfortable with, and have an all-or-nothing disposition with food. Overindulgence is their downfall.

At the same time, treating food as nothing but fuel disconnects us from one of our most powerful, and enjoyable senses. Good taste is bliss. There is no denying that food which is flavorful has a huge impact on us mentally and emotionally. Food that tastes good makes us feel good. We feel most alive when we take full advantage of all our inborn senses.

So while treating food like it’s the love of your life is not the solution, neither is treating food like coals on a fire. I see too many people eating for the sake of staying alive rather than actually enjoying what they put into their bodies.

Flashback: My mom is a wonderful cook. She was always quite ritualistic about the way we ate our dinners, for as long as I can remember. We ate at 6:00pm every day, we all sat down at the same time, served ourselves, and talked about our day. She would remind me to eat slowly, put down my utensils between bites, and have a little of everything, focusing on vegetables. According to her, they would someday make me “big and strong” (joke’s on you, mom! It was donuts all along).

Now, I distinctly remember enjoying those times we had, and usually enjoying my meals, so long as the spinach was placed at the far end of the table. In those moments, I’m not even sure I was 100% positive what a carbohydrate was. I knew vegetables were good for me, but I also knew that mashed potatoes tasted so much better when they were drizzled with gravy. I couldn’t care less how many calories were in my pasta, so long as it tasted good.

Food-QuoteIt wasn’t until I grew older that the idea was put in my head that in order to excel with my health and fitness, I needed to stop eating things that made me happy, and instead eat blandly, cutting out entire food groups and macronutrients. I didn’t know how to find a balance. And unfortunately, many still don’t.

We need to get back to our roots. We were born with intuition. Gluttony is learned, not inborn.

I think most of the problems start when you take extremes, and forget to think of food as a separate activity from the rest of your daily tasks. We eat while we cook, read, watch TV, talk, walk around the house, etc. Or we eat too fast, gulping everything down at warp speed so as not to taste it’s bland flavor and texture.

Food becomes “fuel”, or an add-on to whatever other activity we are currently participating in.

What we have long failed to realize is, eating should be its own separate activity. A lot of people like to combine eating with other things, and sort of condense it into one thing. This might seem more convenient for those with extremely busy schedules, but that takes most if not all the enjoyment out of eating in the first place. So even if you have taken the time to prepare yourself something that tastes great, it can’t be fully enjoyed when it’s inhaled.

As much as possible, I encourage you to put time aside for your meals rather than try to multitask. This becomes especially important when you have developed poor eating habits and a negative relationship with food. A positive bond is formed through appreciation and patience.

Just like a positive body image can only be formed through self-love and taking time for yourself, a positive relationship with food can only be formed through slowing down, enjoying yourself, and understanding your body’s needs.

If for whatever reason you feel you don’t have time to sit down for 20 minutes to eat a meal, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

“Am I eating too often?”

“Am I working too much?”

“Am I stressed?”

“Am I lazy?”

Yes, it is possible to “eat too often” for your schedule. No one says you have to eat 15x per day. If it’s inconvenient to sit down for 20 minutes every time you have something to eat, it might be time to rearrange your schedule. I believe this is crucial, especially when it comes to regaining a more positive relationship with eating.

Remember what it feels like to trust your body. To not think of anything but the moment. To savor your food. Slow down, and really taste it. How many times have you made something, shoveled it in your mouth, and wondered, “Why the hell am I still hungry?”

Chances are, you need to take a deep breath and relax.

Just don't hold it too long.

Just don’t hold it too long.

Not sure how to go about reviving your meals? Here’s a few tips to help you get started:

  • Buy a cookbook. Or five.
  • Look online for a new recipe to make every day.
  • Learn how to incorporate spices into your foods.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment.
  • Revise your schedule to make room for meal times.
  • Rotate your foods. Don’t eat the same thing every day.
  • Eat with someone else.
  • Set a timer (if you need to), to help teach you how to slow down.
  • Chew your goddamn food. Seriously.

Remember. You owe it to yourself to enjoy every day you have that is spent in good health. Don’t waste time worrying about things that, when it all comes down to it, are unimportant.

Like. You know. Obsessing over numbers and stuff. Don’t do that.

Eat healthily. Not too much. Mostly fresh stuff.

– C.M.

Training Session: 9/24/13

24 Sep

Training felt decent today, despite some slight shoulder discomfort. Also my left erector was acting up somewhat so I wasn’t arching much with my benching. The sets felt solid though.

All assistance exercises were done with very low rest periods.

Benchy bench:

bar x bunch

65×5

80×3

95×2

105×5

110×5

115×5

120×5 (PR!)

Incline DB Press:

25’s x12x4

Diamond Push-ups:

BW x 10 x 3

CGBP: (skipped because my shoulder was irritated)

Tricep Push-Downs:

some weight x 4 x12

DB Curls:

15’s x 12 x 4

Training Update/Rambles: 9/19/13

20 Sep

So to clear up one thing, since I have been asked recently by a few people….

No, I’m not on The Cube anymore.

This isn’t because I thought The Cube was a bad program. Or anything of that sort. It’s because I wanted to try a different style of training.

Personally, I find that I respond best to training programs the beat the living shit out of me. I need to have heavy weight to work with on a weekly basis. Low(er)(ish) percentages just don’t seem to work as well for me.

I realize that this isn’t the method for everyone…however, it has worked for me in the past, and still seems to work for me now.

At the moment, I am working together with my friend/mentor Alyssa Smith. She has been helping me get stronger every day, and I’m amazed at how much more I can push myself, and how much stronger I have gotten over the last 2-3 months.

(For those who don’t know who she is, the video below should clear things up…)

Today I was supposed to do a lighter bench session, but it didn’t quite go as planned…I am experiencing some clavicle/shoudler pain, which I think may be due to tight pec minors and some shoulder slippage on the bench. I did a bit of light assistance work, and stretched/did yoga for about a half hour and called it a day.

BODY STATS/DIET UPDATE:

I’m currently fluctuating between 133 and 135 lbs on an average day. Glutes have gained another half inch (wut wut!!), probably due to all the crazy high volume squats I’ve been doing.

…Probably.

I have noticed that I am feeling a lot stronger since my choice to add fish back into my diet. I’m not going to attribute it entirely to that (I am also eating more than I was when I was vegan), but I do feel somewhat better, despite some pre-existing, nagging health issues.

In theory, I do miss veganism. But I am glad to have made different choices that will coincide as much as possible with my beliefs, as well as not take away from my training.

——–

Very heavy squats tomorrow. Videos to follow. And a post regarding high vs. low bar squatting is going up this weekend. Yup yup.

I’m excited. And nervous. And…hunrgy.

I should eat something.

MontyPythonMrFatAss

Training Session: September 17, 2013

17 Sep

Forgot to log yesterday’s.

Pretty good bench session today. I am happy with how it is progressing lately. Could go along faster and I wouldn’t complain…but at least it’s moving!

 

Bench:

bar x bunch

65×5

80×3

95×1

105×1

115x5x4 (all fairly easy; video of last set coming soon)

 

Wide-Grip DB Press:

25’s x 12×4

 

Close-Grip Bench Press:

90x5x4

 

Incline Push-ups

3×10-12

 

DB Curls:

20’s x10

17.5’s x12

15’s x15x3

Training Session: September 14, 2013

15 Sep

My legs and glutes feel Satan just pushed me down a flight of everlasting stairs.

I’m sore.

Was a little apprehensive about yesterday’s workout, having just rolled out of bed and already needing to get ready for the gym. However, no reps or sets were missed, and I wobbled out alive.

This session took me a little over 2 hours, including my old lady warm-up in the beginning.

Only thing I missed was KB swings, because they were locked away in the PT office and I couldn’t access them *grumpy face*.

Skwatz:

bar x bunch

95×5

135×3

165×2

185×1

205×1

215×8

225x8x3

Vid:

 

Box Jumps (lower box)

4×8

 

Bulgarian Split Squats:

20’s x 15 x 4

 

Decline Sit-Ups

3 sets (don’t remember the reps; sue me)

Training Log: September 11, 2013

11 Sep

Did some supposedly “heavy” benching today…but surprisingly enough, it didn’t feel all that heavy at all! I am finding that the micro increases every set have really been helping me make “sneaky” PRs. When the jump is smaller from set to set, the weight doesn’t really feel all that much heavier than the first set!

Lots of stretching post-training. I’m pleased with how the day went, seeing as I felt like garbage yesterday.

BENCH:

bar x bunch

65×5

80×3

95×1

100×8

105×8

110×8

115×8 (rep PR)

 

WG DUMBBELL BENCH:

20’s x12x4 (slow descent, pause, fast press)

 

PLYO PUSHUPS

(forgot to count these…whoops. Jumped from wide to close grip)

3 max sets

 

CG BENCH:

65×5

75×3

80x6x4

 

DB CURLS:

20’s x12

15’s x12x4

 

Squatting With Cookie Monster: Part 1

5 Sep

wallpaper_de_cookie_monster_by_melyssa222-d533sp7

As many of you probably already know, my little 2007 Toshiba is finally giving up the ghost.

Last night when I got home from work (11pm), I sat down to write this post and it began to freeze up every time I tried to open a webpage. This computer freezes with pretty much everything other than word document.

So I was stuck writing a post on form, with no video to refer to like I said. Go figure.

Now, I am writing this after having watched the video on my phone, and I am hoping it is as accurate as possible (since watching it multiple times can really eat up the data). A part of me hopes that the laptop will finally just crash, so I have a justified reason for throwing it against the wall. The other part of me is scared that it will, because then…well…I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything.

Anyway.

The main purpose of this post is to go over some common form errors in the squat, and how to fix them. I thought the best way of demonstrating would be to use the video of someone who possesses some of these technical issues. A reader/subscriber named Chris (whom I met in Detroit) happily lent me the use of his videos. Thank you, Chris!

MeWithCookieMonster

At first I was going to diagnose Chris’s deadlift, but then had recently been getting more requests for something on squats, so I thought we’d start with that first.

Keep in mind, this is for educational and improvement purposes only. Chris was nice enough to allow me to use his videos as demonstration, so I ask that you view them in such as well. We can all learn something here.

Chris – I hope this post is helpful to you! Please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email if you have other questions!

THE VIDEO:

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THE SET-UP

One very important thing to keep in mind when you want to get tight and stay tight from the beginning of a squat, is to not rush the set-up.

When Chris gets under the bar, his shoulders aren’t locked back and down properly. His upper back is not tight enough, so when he un-racks the bar, he is already at a disadvantage. Remember that there is no hurry for performing your squat. I realize that some of you may not especially like getting under the bar, and just kind of want to get things over with. But don’t rush that part of the set-up.

Go slow to get under the bar. Don’t be a sloth. But make your set-up mechanical if you must. Set your hands. Draw your shoulder blades back and down. Lock everything into position. Without losing tightness in your back, bring yourself under the bar, and lift your chest up. Bury the bar into your traps, look up, take a deep breath, and stand straight up.

Always let the weight settle for a moment before walking out.

THE DESCENT/ASCENT

One thing that I do like, is that he stays in his heels the whole time, and begins the descent with his hips.

However, this is something I see in a lot of other squatters as well – you have to remember to arch your back, and use your glutes.

In this video, he only has 135 on the bar, so it’s a pretty easy weight for him. Had the bar been loaded more, his back would likely take a big hit from the way it is positioned.

(NOTE: Chris mentioned to me that he has tight IT bands and hips, which would definitely make sense given the way his back is positioned. Another indicator of very tight hips is the inability to arch during a bench press. I will give some mobility/warm-up ideas at the end of this article that can be used by anyone who is having a difficult time getting and keeping an arch in the back.)

The arch is important because it allows your back to be fully contracted during the movement. With no arch, the likeliness for becoming loose in the low back when the weight gets heavy is much higher.

Having an arch will also allow you to engage your glutes more, and really sit back into the squat.

If you cannot feel your glutes totally contracted on the lock-out, and if you cannot feel them moving on the ascent, that means they aren’t fired correctly, and chances are, you’re not using them much at all.

The glutes are the LARGEST muscles in your body. And the strongest. To not incorporate them in a squat wouldn’t make sense. But it goes to show that sometimes, staying in your heels does not always indicate that you are using your glutes and hamstrings. The squat in this video is still very much quad-dominant.

While the weight is in his heels, much of the lock-out power is coming from his quads/knees.

Which brings me to saying, DON’T LOCK OUT WITH THE KNEES!

You literally have to think of humping the air at the top, and squeezing your glutes as tight as you can. This is made easier once the glutes have been properly activated prior to squatting.

As a final pointer, always remember to keep the knees OUT. Force them to the sides. If you find that this is difficult, maybe try changing your stance up. Your knees may not be properly tracking with the feet. You can find out what foot width and toe point is best for you when you get into a bodyweight squat. If the knees track in line with the feet, you’re good to go.

ANOTHER BIG THING: Breathing

It’s important to breathe through the stomach when performing squats. The tendency is to take a deep breath through the chest (while thinking “chest up), but this limits the amount of oxygen, and also the length of time you have holding it. If you have to grind through a heavy squat, you want to make sure you don’t pass out from lack of oxygen (since you are holding your breath during this time).

Always remember to breathe deep at the beginning of each rep, contract your abs, and hold the breath throughout the movement. One exception is letting out a little air with a “tsss” sort of sound to release pressure on the way up, or when you get stuck (hope that makes sense). This way you are ensuring that you don’t pass out from the pressure build-up.

Don’t let out all your air at the top, because this can also pre-exhaust you. Breathe normally, and always take air before you descend. Otherwise you can get loose at the bottom, since you’re like a deflated balloon at that point.

STRETCHING, ACTIVATON AND MOBILITY WORK

Much of the issues with having a quad-dominant squat can be solved with frequent stretching, mobility, and activation work.

Before squatting, try to take your time warming up. The following exercises are fantastic for activating the glutes, and getting to know what it feels like to really squeeze the glutes throughout the movement:

  • Banded clamshells
  • Banded good-mornings
  • X-band walks
  • Single-leg glute bridges
  • Glute thrusts (between two benches)

For reference, Bret Contreras has some excellent videos and material on youtube if you want some ideas for different exercises. My general recommendation is 1-3 sets of 15-25 reps per exercise.

Yes, per exercise.

I take my glute warm-ups quite seriously these days.

As for mobility work, this is the video I refer to constantly when it comes to warming up my hips:

I’d say at least 5-10 minutes of hip mobility drills is necessary pre-squatting. I also recommend 10 minutes of mobility work first thing in the morning for you plywood folks.

“What about foam rolling?”

Foam rolling is okay. Most people can afford to skip it, and save it for after squats. Use it if you are quite sore or stiff. But don’t over-do it.

ALL static stretching should be left for after you are finished squatting.
If you have flexibility issues, make sure to stretch for a minimum of 10 minutes post-training.

As a final side-note with warm-ups, please…for the love of everything good in this world…STOP FOAM ROLLING YOUR IT BANDS!!

I know. Shocking.

I advocated it in the past. Lots of fitness gurus advocate it. But my RMT would chop my head off if he ever saw me doing it again.

The reason being, your IT bands are just that…bands. They are not muscles. When you do soft tissue work on a muscle, it breaks up scar tissue and helps loosen up the stiff muscles. However, when you try to do soft tissue work on your IT band with a foam roller, you are only compressing the band even further, causing more tightness and more pain in your hips. The IT band needs to be stretched, not compressed.

If you are suffering from very tight IT bands, please keep this in mind. As tempting as it is when they are sore, don’t massage them or roll them with a PVC/rumble roller. Stretch them out.

Thank you!!

(NOTE: Sorry I have to cut this is a little short. I’d love to go off on a tangent, but I have to get to work.

If anyone has further questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them in the comments section below. Give me your thoughts, and I’ll see what I can do with em!)