SURVIVING THE APOCALYPSE (OR AN OBSTACLE COURSE)

levi clampitt obstacle course

Shit will become cray-cray.

Regardless of how you think it will go down (or *if* it even will), we will need to prepare for it.

The truth is, we will all have our own personal apocalyptic moments far before the zombie insurrection or nuclear holocaust. While mine might be a grizzly bear encounter, yours might be something as common as just having to rush to the hospital.

We can call these “obstacles to life”.

Having completed 2 actual obstacle courses this summer, I can honestly say these simulate “when the shit hits the fan” moments pretty well.

My team and I recently ran the Dirty Donkey Mud Run. We registered for the elite category (Kick Ass) and our captain donned a go pro to capture the footage.

 

This isn’t a post to sell you on why you should run these, however, but rather on how to prepare for when you do.

THE 2 SURVIVAL TECHNIQUES

Obstacles courses are generally 5 km in length, have anywhere from 10 – 20 obstacles, and are a great tool to uncover your weaknesses.

If all you do is run for preparation, however, these will suck. Along the same token if all you do is strength train, once again, these will suck.

Here’s how not to suck:

BALANCE STRENGTH AND CARDIO

To run an obstacle course without dieing requires us to not only have good control of our own weight but be able to lift external weight as well. For the former, I am referring to relative strength (i.e pushups, pullups, jumping, running) and for the latter, absolute strength (carrying logs, pressing pipes and such, and pulling things such as crates).

To develop this strength, following a program that is a hybrid of gymnastics and strongman will yield the most results.

While you will need strength to bypass many obstacles, it is actually your levels of cardio that will make or break you (and by “cardio”, I mean simply how well you can breathe).

Like I discussed in How to Win a Race (Without Running), we don’t necessarily need to run long distances to develop our cardio. In fact, I haven’t ran further than 400 meters this year yet I took 4th in this last race (despite wearing a #20 pound vest). I credit this to 3 things:

  1. My training consists of short, very intense workouts
  2. ZMA supplementation
  3. Using stimulants pre-workout

Note: I explain these more fully here.

The one exercise that will stress both these attributes beyond belief is hill sprints. Not only are these a great upper-body and core exercise (surprisingly), but they will give you insight into whether your lungs are up to par or not.

LEARN HOW TO SHIFT GEARS

When we do high-intensity exercises such as sprinting, an all-out set of pushups, or we are simply excited / nervous before a race, our heart rate increases.

It does this in large part so that it can pump more oxygen to our cells. This is a good thing. It becomes a bad thing, however, when it is allowed to stay high. When this happens, we can overheat.

With regular running (see: steady state) we typically don’t have to worry about this since we run at the same pace and our HR tends to mirror that. And with strength training, our heart rate sky rockets, but since we rest a lot more, it is allowed to recover. With obstacle courses, however, we don’t get this rest since we are doing both running and strength exercises.

2 ways we can face this:

#1 Ignore it

The faster you can address your high heart rate, the better (and more comfortable) the rest of the race will be. You don’t, however, even have to pay attention. I have ran many races where I allowed it to stay high and didn’t focus on my breathing. Did I feel like crap afterwards? Absolutely. I think I probably even killed some brain cells.

#2 Calm yourself

Obstacle courses are largely stop-and-go. It is when we are at “breaks” (the slower parts of the race), that we will want to slow down our breathing as well. This will become especially important sometime near the start of the race. During this time, we naturally run faster and may or may not be hyped on caffeine.

 

As you can see, I started the race like a bullet. If I wanted to survive the next +4 km, however, I needed to take a moment to steady my heart rate. I did this once I hit a straight stretch of running and by simultaneously slowing down my speed (slightly) while focusing on big, slow belly breaths, I was able to shift to 2nd gear (or “second wind”) within a a minute.

This isn’t anything new but once we become stressed out and totally embroiled into what we’re doing, we tend to forget about this little breathing aspect. Even as I write this, I notice my breathing is shallow. Breathe, Levi, breathe…

The best workouts to practice this “shifting” will be Crossfit as many of their workouts combine running, high reps, and strength exercises with little or no rest.

 

DID YOU SURVIVE?

Have you already ran an obstacle course?

What helped (or what didn’t)?

GYMS: Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!

Having to decide on appropriate clothing to wear…

Driving there…

Waiting for machines and exercise areas to open…

Battling off interruptions and distracting behavior…

Driving back….

Traffic (shit!)….

AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!

BEST NUTRITION ADVICE EVER?

best nutrition advice ever

Forget everything that you’ve been told about nutrition, eating healthy, and dieting.

For the vast majority of us, all it has done is create confusion.

So wipe the slate clean.

This is the best advice I ever heard:

#1: EAT WHAT ENERGIZES AND SATISFIES YOU

Our body is smarter than us. It knows which nutrients it needs and it will lead us there if we let it. We crave for a reason and to continually deny these cravings (for saturated fat, sugar, and salt) will do more harm than good.

Pay Attention. So we fell asleep after eating breakfast. What and how did we eat?

How do we feel after a muffin? sausage and eggs? lentils and broccoli? 3 bowls of ice cream? (There is a nugget to be found in these answers…)

Our energy and satisfaction will show us if these foods are for us.

#2: TRY A LOT

We don’t know what we don’t know, so we have to experiment.

Try a lot of different foods. Try eating a lot in the morning. Then try it at night. Try fasting. Then try eating all the time.

Find (and apply) what works and discard all the rest.

Once again, follow your energy and satisfaction.

Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.

Bruce Lee

That’s it.

It doesn’t have to be harder than this.

As technology grows, however, and information flows, it’s just going to get more complex.

More studies, more diets, more gurus pointing to such and such food as the next best thing,  it’s all going to be vying for our attention.

So be critical.

Listen to your body, not the authorities.

No Pain, No Gain” in the dieting realm will make your life miserable.

Instead, make it enjoyable.

Eat what you like, when you like, how you like, and most of the time, keep your future energy and well-being in mind.

DOPAMINE, SEROTONIN, AND HOW WE BECOME ADDICTS

your brain on dopamine and serotonin

[ ADDICTION NATION ]

Why are we so extreme?

Why do we either under-do something or we overdo it completely? Why do we work out too much and too hard or choose not to exercise at all? Why do we say we are going to make a whole bunch of change all at once or none at all?

For many of us, it is tough to find the middle ground (this isn’t just limited to health and fitness), and for a lot of us, these addictions can ruin certain aspects of our lives.

We are out of balance so-to-speak.

More specifically, it is our brains that are.

WHERE IT ALL BEGINS

The balance I am talking about is a chemical one, and the chemicals I refer to are called neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters communicate information throughout our brain and body.  They relay signals between nerve cells, called neurons. The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.  They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance.

There are many different neurotransmitters, but there are  two that I will discuss which have a heavy influence on how we become addicted to things and which impact our behavior greatly.

 Dopamine, Serotonin, and How We Become Addicts

Dopamine is our main focus neurotransmitter. As I’ve already discussed here, it is responsible for our drive or desire to acquire – be that food, sex, an achievement, or a drug. When you drink coffee or receive a text message, dopamine is being released. It tends to make people more talkative and excitable, which often leaves them wanting more. With dopamine and high dopamine individuals, desire begets desire.

Serotonin is our well-being neurotransmitter. It is the chemical that allows us to be content and happy. It seems to help keep our moods under control by helping with sleep, calming anxiety, and relieving depression. With serotonin and high serotonin individuals, satisfaction begets satisfaction.

An easy way to think of the relationship between dopamine and serotonin is to think of 2 glasses of milk. In total, the 2 glasses of milk make up 100 units of liquid, with each glass half-filled at 50 units each.

 Dopamine, Serotonin, and How We Become Addicts

Because there is only 100 units total, in order to increase one glass we must “borrow” from the other.

So in order to increase the units in the dopamine milk glass, we have to take some from serotonin glass. And in order to feel  more “well being” ( more serotonin), we take some from the “drive and acquire” glass (less dopamine).

When we are living a healthy, balanced life, both these glasses sit at about 50 units each (40 / 60 is still pretty good). But the more imbalanced these glasses become , 30/70 or worse, the more likely this translates to imbalance in our life and is a recipe for addiction.

 

RECIPES FOR ADDICTION

In total, there are 3 major imbalances that can cause someone to become addicted. They are high dopamine/low serotonin, low dopamine/high serotonin, and low dopamine/low serotonin (all the milk has been drank!).

In my experience, 1/3 to half the people I’ve met in my life have a noticeable imbalance. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself below. I’m the first one.

DOPAMINE DOMINANCE

Because serotonin levels are low, we are not happy. We are not content. Instead of feeling proud of our accomplishments, all we can think about is what we haven’t accomplished. When these levels are low, we can see problems with our life everywhere. Being naturally high in dopamine, we seek to escape these painful problems and increase the pleasure in our life.

So if we don’t like what we see in front of the mirror?  We eat.  Or we shop. Or we say we are going to change ourselves, and we start a new diet.

The result?  Food’s pleasure effect is fleeting. We must continue to eat to delay the withdrawal. Shopping’s pleasure effect is fleeting as well. We must continue to spend to delay the withdrawal. And the diet and motivation to change? It goes out the window. Dopamine doesn’t have time to wait for results. It demands results now! Or perhaps though, we stick with the diet and lose weight.  We will still never truly be satisfied with the results because the finish line will just stretch that much further.

 Dopamine, Serotonin, and How We Become Addicts

The bottom line is when dopamine is high and serotonin is low, we will always feel that urge to try to get the carrot.

We think to ourselves: “If I lose 50 lbs, I’ll be happyorIf I have a million dollars, I’ll be happy“  orIf such and such wasn’t such an ass, I would be happy

After we lose the 50 lbs, we say “If I get rid of these stretch marks, then I’ll be truly happy“.  After we have the money, we then want more to stay happy.  Once someone is done being an “ass”, we simply place a new expectation on them that they have to fulfill to keep us happy.

The target (of happiness)  is always moving. As a result, we cannot hit it.

NOTE: OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is characterized as having brain levels that are high in dopamine and low in serotonin. Symptoms of this include perfectionism (once again, you can never get the carrot) and a total lack of flexibility (it’s your way or the highway).

SEROTONIN DOMINANCE

Because dopamine levels are low,  the ability to focus and organize is almost non-existent. We no longer have that “drive” so lack of energy is a common symptom here.

A person with low dopamine levels will also have low pre-frontal cortex activation. Areas like decision making, impulse control, learning from past mistakes, and monitoring oneself will be severely lacking.

aslide24 Dopamine, Serotonin, and How We Become Addicts

It is because of this mental deficit, they we will be more inclined to make rash decisions without thinking of consequences. Not only that, to self medicate, they will naturally drift towards stimulants. Stimulants like coffee and adderall will increase the levels of dopamine in the brain helping restore dopamine-serotonin balance.

People with this nature will seem to keep making the same mistakes in their life unless their imbalance is corrected.

 Dopamine, Serotonin, and How We Become Addicts

Self medication gone wrong?

NOTE: ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is characterized as having brain levels that are low in dopamine and high in serotonin. Many people who have ADD are labeled as dreamers, goof-offs, slackers, troublemakers,  and they are generally “bad” students.

DEFICIENCY IN DOPAMINE AND SEROTONIN

When you abuse drugs too long and don’t provide the necessary nutrients and recovery to let your neurotransmitters build up, a deficiency occurs.

A naturally dopamine dominant person could burn through all his or her dopamine reserves simply by engaging in a lot of dopamine activities ( exciting/stressful events) over an extended period of time.

You can only rely on 4 hours sleep, a diet of sugar, and 10 cups of coffee a day for so long until you crash and the depression hits.

When you do hit this bottom – a brain state of low dopamine and low serotonin – there will be no significant drivers in your life nor will there be any happiness.

 Dopamine, Serotonin, and How We Become AddictsWhat’s the use? We all die anyway.”

We can still experience reward (such as the “high” of junk food) but it will be extremely fleeting. Since we are depressed, we will not care of its ill effects so it will be a “no holds bar” whenever we consume it.

 Dopamine, Serotonin, and How We Become Addicts

NOTE: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is characterized as having brain levels of both low dopamine and serotonin. Many war vets, after returning home from a high stress atmosphere (burning out their dopamine reserves), develop PTSD.

 

THE CURE(S)

All 3 of these brain profiles can be recipes for addiction and if you have erratic exercise and eating behavior, it could mean one of these is behind it.

While we are not in control of our default brain profile, we become in control once we are armed with the knowledge to do something about it.

What we get addicted to and if we choose to exhibit extreme, sometimes dangerous behavior — that’s up to us now.

If you are dopamine dominant, you need to increase your serotonin. If you are serotonin dominant, you need to increase your dopamine. And if you are deficient in both (or on your way there), you need to give your body what it needs: proper nutrition and rest.

 

ACTION PLAN

High Dopamine/Low serotonin High serotonin/Low dopamine Low in both
Smart diet Smart diet Smart diet
Early morning sunlight Stimulants such as coffee and adderall Sleep/rest
Exercise! Exercise! Exercise (low intensity)
Supplementation: 5-htp, L-tryptophan, or St. Johns Wort Supplementation: L-tyrosine and/or DLPA <– Both
Abstain from drugs
* By no means is this list comprehensive. Just meant to get you moving in the right direction.

 

Some Thoughts:

– Adopt a smart diet

  • Moderately high in protein and healthy fat/ low in sugars
  • Keep alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs in check
  • Supplement with fish oil, antioxidants, and a multivitamin.

– Exercise: Double edged sword. Too much and too hard will burn through both reserves: Dopamine and Serotonin.

– As I discussed in my last post, exercise is what balances me out (increases serotonin). If I do too much, however, I can burn through my dopamine. And if I do this enough, serotonin becomes zapped. This is commonly referred to as overtraining and one of the main symptoms is depression.

– For the chronically depressed individual, it’s imperative to stay away from stimulants, emotional conflict, and burning the midnight oil to allow your supply of neurotransmitters to build up.

– Antidepressants, by increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain, will make you happy. It will also kill your libido (craving for sex) by way of decreasing dopamine.

– To build your neurotransmitters up, consume the building blocks (precursors).

  • L-tryptophan –> 5-HTP –> Serotonin
  • L-Phenylalanine –> L-tyrosine –> L-dopa –> Dopamine

Note: On top of the precursors, vitamins such as the B’s and C will be needed to facilitate the creation.

Note #2: If it starts with L, it is an amino acid. And if its an amino acid, it’s in meat.

– Think of your body as car. Dopamine is the gas and the peddle, while serotonin is the brakes. When you have low dopamine, you can’t go very fast or very far before you need to stop to fuel up again. People come to think of you as a lazy driver. When the dopamine is high, however, you can go very fast and have enough gas to last awhile but if your brakes are shot (low serotonin), you can’t slow down. Your life becomes a scene from Speed and the only way you can stop is for the gas (dopamine) to run out or for you to crash. Usually, its the same thing.

– It really is a balancing act. Being dominant in either neurotransmitter can lead to draining your reserves, and thus, depression.

 

CONCLUSION

Back to the glasses of milk:

 Dopamine, Serotonin, and How We Become Addicts

The more we fill up the dopamine glass, the more we will think we NEED stuff to be happy. And the more we fill up our serotonin glass, the more we will be satisfied with what we have.

It doesn’t matter if you are the richest man in the world, dopamine will drive you to become richer. And it doesn’t matter if your health is in the toilet, serotonin will teach you to be complacent with it.

Obviously, rather then try to dominate in either arena (high dope or high serotonin), it would be wise to even it out. When we become balanced, not only do we keep our drive, but we can be happy about what we have as well.

To me, that is Health.  icon smile Dopamine, Serotonin, and How We Become Addicts

—-

PS – The science above is how I understand it. I’ve had OCD-like behavior since my teens so I spent a lot of time reading up on it (this combined with introvertism and being primarily left brained has created what I call The Perfect Storm). What has made the greatest impact on changing my behavior has not been drugs, but Awareness. Being aware of the silly things I am doing (like the inflexibility that my mind produces) has allowed me to become more flexible. I still have lapses almost daily but such is life. On top of just observing my behavior ( “Why do I want to do xyz?”), what has made the biggest difference has been introspection, meditation, and surrounding myself with positive people, thoughts, and environment. Even the smallest things, like listening to stimulating techno music can rile up my mind (exciting/stress = increase dopamine) so I now I just reserve them for times when they are useful (like workouts). I have enough excitement in my brain, what I found is I need more chill stuff in my environment. Others will be the exact opposite. In the end, you got to find what works for you.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET SICK

probiotics

Our goal when we get sick is to feel better (often, as soon as possible). For this to happen, however, we need to play ball with our immune system. We need to give it the tools to perform.

What we should know first before we can do that is –

Our immune system is a bunch of bugs (good and bad) in our gut. When the bad guys are increased relative to the good guys, bad stuff happens (of course). Not only can it weaken us so much that we easily become  sick, but it can make recovery long and slow once we do get sick as well.

Here is how we can help the good guys win to prevent that from happening:

A) SLEEP

  • Tack on at least 3 more hours onto the amount you already should be getting (3 +8 = 11).

B) CONSUMPTION

  • Drink a lot of water while cutting back on coffee, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • Eat probiotic containing foods (like yogurt) to feed our good bugs and anti-bacterial/ anti-viral foods such as coconut oil (my go-to) and garlic.
  • Supplements: ZMA, probiotics, and vitamin C will help.
  • Drugs: Do what you have to do (be critical).
  • Limit or stay away from immune system depressing foods such as sugar-laden foods, diet sodas, things that you are allergic to,  and pretty much all junk food. Also stay away from fiber-rich foods as well as our digestive system is not in a position to process these efficiently.

C) EXERCISE

  • Do what you can do. If the sickness is below the neck or you have a fever, sideline yourself. If you have a cold or strep, however, you can probably get away with doing low to moderate intensity exercise such as walking, yoga, and mobility exercises.
  • Will exercising extend the recovery? Maybe, maybe not. When in doubt, do easy things. Working out while sick is not about setting personal records, it’s about giving your mind it’s medicine.
  • And please, exercise @ home.

How close you follow this outline depends on how sick you are. When I am really sick (fever or flu), all I do is sleep and eat yogurt. When I have a cold, however, I go for walks and pretty much eat normally (which means I drink coffee, but less of it).

The sicker you are, the more help your immune system will need.

Be prepared to give it.

THE BEST SUPPLEMENT FOR ATHLETES

best supplement for athletes zma

Athletes play hard and if they are smart, they rest hard as well.

It is during this rest (this sleep), that hormones are released to help athletes adapt to the stressors that they faced during the day (like weight training).

The main hormone that helps with this adaption is called Testosterone.

This is the hormone largely accountable for muscle growth, freaky athletes, and home runs. And while women only have 1/10 the amount that males do, they still depend on it for a lean, tone figure.

It makes sense then that not only do we want to sleep well to facilitate the creation of this hormone, but we want to release more of it when we do.

zma

Enter ZMA

ZMA is conglomerate of the most bioavailable forms of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin b6.

Zinc is the most anabolic of all minerals while magnesium is the chief mineral that allows us to handle stress and be able to relax. B6 is added to promote the efficient absorption of the two.

WHY

  • The problem is over 90% + of the population is deficient in these first 2 minerals. The percentage grows even higher if you are athlete.

WHAT

  • Because we are more than likely deficient in these minerals, when we supplement, we see measurable benefits such as: Better sleep. Quicker recovery from exercise. Improved Immune and Cardiovascular function ( ie you have more wind). And a host of benefits that come with having more T (like boners and muscles).

HOW

  • While you can buy all the ingredients separately, you still have to be wary of which forms of the mineral you buy. Because of this, it can be a hassle getting the formula down. An easy way is just to buy ZMA (like right here).

WHEN

  • Before bed.

ZMA fills a hole that today’s food supply cannot do. Because of this, it reigns supreme over all other supplements. Move over protein shakes and fish oil softgels, we have a new king in town.

THE “SECRET” ABOUT IMPROVING WITHOUT A GYM

It’s a no brainer: We are in this for results.

If we want to keep the “results train” running, however, we will need to find ways to up the intensity. We don’t need a gym for that, just creativity.

This creativity opens up once we realize it’s about Making Things Harder (some secret, huh?) and not about the gym itself (there is nothing inherently awesome about a treadmill or machines).

Here are the 3 ways I  (and my clients) do just that:

1. MASTER THE BODY WEIGHT EXERCISES

These include:

  • Legs: Squats, lunges, step ups, and others
  • Pushups, planks, and other core exercises
  • Chinups/Pullups
  • Running and jumping

To make more challenging: tweak  grip/stance, use more ROM, and go unilateral.

2. MAKE THEM HARDER WITH A WEIGHTED VEST

Vests are an ideal option as the weight is distributed closer and more natural on the body which will help produce LESS injury-producing shear stress.

 

3. KEEP PROGRESSING BY UTILIZING THE IRON

Add more resistance in the form of pipes, water jugs, tires and sledgehammers, or more traditional weight to up the intensity. This will open up the exercise toolbox and allow you to do:

  • Pressing
  • Deadlifts
  • Farmers walks and carrys
  • and arm work ( curls and extensions)

If results stagnant it’s often because our body has adapted to the exercise. To prevent this (and keep your body guessing), make them harder.

=> More weight, more reps, more sets, less rest, faster, quicker, better, BETTER!

And please, stop searching for the latest new diet pill or fad diet. We know the secret. We’ve known it for centuries. What’s left now is action…

HOW TO POOP IN CHINA

Could you poop in that toilet?

If you are like most North Americans, probably not. To be able to would require us to squat.

But you we can’t squat. Unlike the Chinese, we don’t do it anymore. We have lost contact with “all things squatting“. And because of this, we are getting terribly immobile (which makes getting fat really easy).

Thankfully, we can (re)learn…

HOW TO SQUAT

Squatting, essentially, is what happens between our legs.

So how to do it?

  1. Take a comfortable stance (for most, this means shoulder-width apart).
  2. Keep feet forward (or slightly outwards depending on how wide you go) and pressure on the outside of the foot.
  3. While lowering down, show your crouch (use your elbows to push knees out if you need to).
  4. Keep chest up and be proud.
  5. While coming up, squeeze your butt. HARD.

That’s it. Here is a video to show what it looks like as well.

If you are like most people, however,  you were all sorts of funked up.  That is, you probably couldn’t sit back on your heals, your feet were turn way outward, and your upper body was horribly rounded.

2 REASONS WHY YOU STILL CAN’T SQUAT

1) You are too tight

Most people squat as if they are wearing snow boots (the “boots” are their stiff and inflexible ankles). These people simply don’t have the flexibility to get low on their heals so if they do manage a squat, they end up on their toes and with their feet turned way out. The solution is here is simply more ankle mobility exercises like these HERE.

If your ankles are not tight and you still cannot squat, it is probably a problem with your hips.

Let’s face it, we sit a lot. That is, we spend a lot of time in hip flexion. Now if we don’t balance out this hip flexion with hip extension (standing and walking), they become tight and our hip extensors (like our butt) fall asleep. The solution here is to stretch our hip flexors (video) and start activating/waking up our booty (video) .

If you still do not know what is your limiting factor, this may help:

2) You are too tall

First off, many tall people have seriously tight ankles/calves so this right here is a big limiting factor.

To add insult to injury, tall people have much longer levers than short folk so this means they have to go a further distance to achieve the same end goal (which is popping a poop squat).

For tall people and those with disproportionate long legs, they will need not only need to do more mobility, but find ways to shorten their levers as well. This generally means widening the base of their squat and in some cases, using box squats or placing their heals on weights or boards until they reach enough mobility to do it without.

RECAP

Let’s make this simple:

  1. For mobility, put your ankle and hips into positions every day that they are not used to. Use the sources in this post as a solid place to start.
  2. Implements tools (boxes, chairs, heal board, and other stuff for assistance) to help you squat with good form in the meantime.

You may not be able to poop in China right now, but you’ll be well on your way if you follow these 2 pieces of advice.

WARM UP OR DIE

running zombies

Okay, well, not really.

You won’t die if you skip the warm up, but your results will.

And your goals will.

And your joints and muscles and performance will.

And if you skip it long enough, you’ll no longer be able to work out.

Wouldn’t that suck?

sweet jesus yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

So please don’t skip it.

And here are 3 ways on how to do it correctly:

 

1. HONOR YOUR JOINTS

The joints in our body alternate functions. The two functions are Mobility and Stability. Mobility means to produce a desired movement while stability means to resist an undesired movement.

Each joint then serves a purpose. When a joint (such as the ankle) cannot perform it’s purpose (mobility), it gets passed off to the nearest joint(s) (in this case, the knee).

When joints are forced to take over functions that they are not meant for, injuries occur. So take someone with stiff ankles. When they squat, their knees are taking over more of the movement. With time, this will cause wear and tear on the knee and most likely an injury.

So what should we stretch/mobilize to prevent this?

==> The joints meant for mobility.

They are primarily:

  • ankles
  • hips
  • thoracic spine (ie upper back)
  • shoulders
  • wrists

2 other critical areas that we have to activate (or wake up) are the glutes and the scapulae. When we “turn on” the glutes they help save the lower back and when we do scapulae work, they in turn become more stable, which then allows the shoulder to do its job (move through full range of motion).

Here is a youtube playlist to help with all of this.

2. GET THE BLOOD MOVING

Increasing blood flow to our muscles is actually where the term “warming up” came from. You can do this by doing any of the following aerobic activity: walking, jogging, jump rope, jumping jacks, etc.

or….

You can foam roll.

 

A foam roller is a simple bar of elastic foam.

When the body lies on it, it pushes against the body and provides resistance. When the user rolls up and down on the foam roller, they experience a kind of pressure-facilitated massage. When the pressure is applied, it works to temporarily push blood through the various avenues of the body.

More blood to muscles =  better transport of oxygen and nutrients = MORE ENERGY!
Note: You can use medicine balls and PVC pipe as rollers as well. And with this exercise, pain is actually good.

3. PRIME THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

dubstep

If we are planning to do a high-intensity workout or want to set a personal best, our results lie in our ability to “get up“. This “getting up” or ability to get excited leads the way for how fast and strong we will be in our workout.

Contrary to popular belief, becoming strong and resilient to fatigue isn’t a muscular thing; it’s a neurological one.

That is, it’s in our brains.

So how do we bring our brain up to speed for a workout?

  1. Drink coffee
  2. Turn on exciting music (dubstep anyone?)
  3. Start your sessions heavy

This last one is critical. Even if we are planning a high-rep bodybuilding type workout, we want to start our workout lifting heavy singles  and greasing the proper movement patterns.

When it comes down to it, we can only do 1 rep at a time. If we can make that 1 rep better, then that whole 20 rep set is going to improve.

Note: You do not have to lift external weight to achieve this. Complex gymnastic moves such as hand stands and static frogs work just as well.  Resistance is Resistance.

RECAP

  1. De-stiff your joints
  2. Feel the pain and get the blood flowing
  3. Practice before you go “bawlz out

It should not take longer than 15 – 20 minutes and the workout itself should be no more than 40 (on average).

In the end, failure to address the warmup will cause just that: FAILURE.

Skip at your own demise.

THE SCIENCE OF AWESOME

1

Knowing about myelin changes the way we see the world.

The Talent Code

In short, talent (and inherent awesomeness) is bogus and research into myelin (pronounced just like it reads) is proving that.

Myelin, insulation that wraps neural circuits, is showing us that when this grows (such as with practice), our skills grow as well. When it shrinks (such as with disease and age), however, we become less capable and our skills (or talent) are diminished.

Myelin is showing us that, in large part, what we want to achieve is NOT fixed and who want to become IS possible.

This is what it looks like:

  1. Every human movement, thought or feeling is a precisely timed electric signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of nerve fibers.
  2. Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal, strength, and accuracy.
  3. The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

So the more we fire a circuit (say practice a cartwheel), the more myelin is created to make that movement smoother and natural.

This reaffirms something we already know: Practice makes us better.

Just practicing something, however, is not enough to become awesome at it.

It’s not about how many pitches we can throw, how many reps we can do, or how far we can run. We have to take into account the quality of our action as well.

Did you know every time we do a deadlift with horrific form, we are growing our myelin (to make that bad form more natural)? And every time we check facebook, we are growing our myelin (so that next time it will be easier to log on)?

We are training ourselves, both in good and bad action. Because of this, we have to be smart about how we grow our myelin.

IN STRENGTH

You want to become a strong mofo? When in doubt, practice the methods of olympic lifters and gymnasts. By this, I mean follow a high frequency program (every or every other day) of exercises that are quite heavy (70 – 90% of 1rm), high in sets ( 20 +), but low in reps (1-3).

This is how I managed a body weight military press, a #140 turkish get up, +25 consecutive pullups, and how I am currently training my handstands.

To ensure that the myelin growth is the growth you want, use a video and/or a coach for feedback.

IN THINKING

Love, gratitude, empathy, and other forms of positive thinking are a skill. And in today’s world, this is not a natural skill to have as it often goes against our “dog eat dog” capitalist attitude.

For this, surround yourself with positivity: Read books, watch documentaries, and listen to people as they share their own love and passion.

It’s contagious. :)

IN MENTAL PERFORMANCE

Are we really bad at math? Or have none of us really made an effort to become good at it?

I thought I was bad, that is, until I started doing math problems in my head (on long drives and just for fun). Now I am pretty damn good (…because of pretty damn good practice).

Challenge yourself in reading, writing, speaking, and arithmetic.

Our mind needs exercise too.

IN COMMUNICATION

How well we are able to sell ourselves (both as a human being and a business person) as well as our ideas will have a phenomenal impact on our life.

Whenever you hear someone say something such as “It’s political” you can guess that someone got passed up, didn’t win, or (insert whatever) because they were not able to sell themselves as effectively as the other person. Now obviously this “selling” can go beyond interpersonal matters ( like money or connections), but communicating still has a large say on it.

So learn how to communicate (understand our shared psychology and human nature) and apply ( talk 1 on 1, groups, different mediums, etc.).

To neglect either one could result in a failure to sell.

RECAP

  1. Nerve firings grow myelin => myelin controls impulse speed => impulse speed is skill
  2. We decide how good of form we are using and if this myelin growth is for our exercise habit or for smoking.
  3. We know how to do it. It’s on us now.

Struggle is not optional – it’s neurologically required. In order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit suboptimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to these mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit.

Note: All the science and the quotes are from chapter 2 of The Talent Code.

THE AUTODIDACT WAY OF LEARNING ANATOMY

[Autodidactism means self-directed learning. As an autodidact, you teach yourself. In learning anatomy and physiology, no where else will this be more needed.]

The way we typically go about learning Anatomy and Physiology (i.e. in a school setting) is, and I don’t mean to offend anyone with these words, funking retarded.

It’s all-theory and all-mind.

And because it’s usually “learned” through cramming, it is information that is easily forgot.

If we want to train ourselves (and everyone does), however, we have to learn these symbols (words like “internal rotation of the humerus” and “latissimus dorsi“) that we are playing with.

Failure to do so will not only have us being the person 20 years down the exercise road who still points to muscles and mimics movements when discussing their program, but also still has to rely on trainers (to design proper programs) and physios (to repair thesmelves from following unbalanced ones).

The truth is, no one is going to be a better trainer than you or I. We all have an innate intelligence that only we can tap into. Dipping into some objective science, however, will be required first.

HOW TO LEARN ANATOMY

Step 1: Exercise

Our brain was built for movement. Need I say more?

 

Step 2: Buy an anatomy book

First and foremost, our best companion will be Dr. Google. After we feel a little comfortable with terms, however, buying an anatomy book and/or poster will be recommended. I like the books of Frederic Delavier.

 

Step 3: Ask Questions

The key to learning is not so much learning for the sake of learning, but learning because we need to learn (more emotion = more retention). How we start this process is simply by asking about that which we must know.

Here are some examples of the “down the rabbit hole” process I use.

#1 – You may notice that you have a tight muscle on your back:

  • “What muscle is that?”
  • “How can I stretch it and relieve the pain?”
  • “What is the function of this muscle and why might it be tight?”
  • “What muscle(s) are it’s antagonists (i.e do the opposite action)?”

#2 – You may suddenly want a bigger booty:

  • “What muscles make up the glutes?”
  • “What muscles are it’s antagonist and may be preventing the glutes from firing?”
  • “What exercises work the glutes and how do they grow best?”

Make Your Butt Bigger Intro

#3 – You may have a grand dream to do a deep squat:

  • “What muscles and movements are involved?”
  • “What typically prevents someone from doing a squat and what are the fixes?”
  • What exercises (regressions) can I do that will help me squat while I work on my limitations?”

 

You probably won’t care until….

I received high 90s in my A & P courses, but I can’t say I really learned anything. It wasn’t until I got hurt and worked with those that were hurt, that I had real motivation to learn. It will probably be the same for you.

When we are fit and healthy we take this movement thing for granted. When we lose the ability to move pain-free, however, than that is when the questions start. Rather than defer those questions to someone else, I challenge you to take them on.

Good luck.