Along with warm weather and guidos in tanktops, summer also brings longer days. These longer days are great, don’t get me wrong, but they can have a negative effect on the quality of your sleep. Humans are just like any other animal; we are all controlled by a circadian rhythm, which is an internal 24-hour cycle of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes. We are programmed to recognize blue light as daytime, thus it has a waking effect on us. Not only do we no longer sleep and rise with the sun, but our brains have no way of differentiating from the blue light of the sky and the blue light which emanates from electronic devices such as your computer monitor, television, or even that blue LED of your DVD player. When this blue light enters our eyes at night, it disrupts the production of melatonin and thus one’s overall sleep cycle and circadian rhythm.
Sorry folks, but eyelids just don’t cut it anymore. Sleep experts recommend that you stay away from blue light electronics an hour before bedtime, that means no late night surfing of television or YouPorn—I mean YouTube. They also recommend sleeping in a pitch-black room. The easiest way to obtain this? Sleep with a mask on. I highly recommend this one I got off Amazon a month ago for $15. It’s done wonders to limit those groggy mornings and a quality sleep provides much more energy throughout the day.
I have simply replaced my pre-bed ritual of movies and net surfing with reading (a little fiction before bed puts you to sleep in no time), but if you really need late night movies on your laptop before bed, there’s a program called F.lux which adjusts your computer’s light depending on the time of day. I’ve yet to try it, but heard good reviews. It’s free to download here.
Bathroom in the middle of the night? If you have a weak bladder and don’t want to take a chance with your aim in the dark, experts say that dim red light has little to no effect on your melatonin, so perhaps a red light bulb in the bathroom might be worth the investment for an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
Beyond a better sleep and a more energized day, several studies over the past decade have suggested that artificial light at night increases one’s chance of breast or prostate cancer (due to hormonal disruption). Now, I’m not one for the old “you’ll get cancer” scare tactic, but if it provides lifestyle benefits and potentially lowers your risk of disease, why not practice safe sleeping?
First off, I’d like to recap my month of Paleo and Crossfit. It was an interesting 30 days and of which I managed to shed 5lbs of Mass March and bring my bodyfat from 15% to 13.5%.
I have a mixed review of the Paleo diet and wasn’t completely true to it (it’s quite hard to maintain such a diet when on the go, at work, etc.—but I tried to keep it relatively strict). Without any rice, grains, cereals, breads, etc. I found it very difficult to fill myself up and have energy. Eating a meal of only meat and veggies caused my body to think I was starving it, leaving me very unsatisfied. I’m a fairly active individual, so carbs have always helped me meet my desired caloric intake and provided energy throughout the day. Sorry cavemen, but pizza and pasta are just too good to say no to.
Crossfit definitely kicked my ass. After the first session, you realize that working out at your school gym or rec centre isn’t even comparable. As far working out and fitness go, Crossfit is king, no doubt about that. You will do more in a half hour session then 5 hours at a rec-centre. My favourite part was the Olympic lifts, engaging the whole body in one motion. What I personally didn’t like was how you do a different workout every day (although some people love this, so it’s all a matter of personal opinion). I like setting a routine, working to get better at it, then changing it every month or so—it keeps me consistent and forces me to be disciplined. I also enjoy the social aspect of working out, and as one critic wrote about Crossfit “I play real sports, I don’t need to be the best at working out,” which does hold a grain of truth in my books. That being said, it is awesome, but a little overwhelming. I’ll definitely be back at it, but may take a month off to enjoy some good old-rec centre workouts with friends, followed by a hot tub and steam…
So what is the lifestyle change that will help elevate your heroic status this summer?
Enter: The ICE Age
I first read about the benefits of ice and cold therapy in Tim Ferriss’ book The 4 Hour Body. I started taking the occasional cold shower and began to grow a liking for them. I began further researching cold therapy and discovered several studies, which compiled numerous health benefits. For generations ice water has been a staple for heroes; from the athletes in professional sports to samurai warriors themselves. Needless to say, I haven’t taken a hot shower since and have an ice bath 2-3 times a week (sorry testicles).
7 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD BE TAKING COLD SHOWERS
1) It wakes you up and makes you feel like a hero.
If you don’t believe it, try it.
2) It improves circulation. Warm water makes blood rush to your skin, cold water makes blood rush to your organs. It is best to switch back and forth a few times in your shower (I switch to hot just before soaping up), but make sure to end in cold. Ice cold.
3) Speeds up recovery and reduces muscle pain after intense physical activity. It is a widely accepted practice for professional athletes to hop in an ice bath after a game or workout. The principle effect is that the ice repairs and strengthens muscles through muscle hypertrophy. The coldness also restricts blood vessels and flushes waste such as lactic acid out of the affected tissues.
4) Healthier skin and hair
Cold water closes your pores, preventing them from being easily clogged by dirt and oil (the cause of the dreaded bacne). In a similar fashion, cold water closes the cuticle on your hair, making it stronger, while also looking healthier and shinier.
5) Burns fat
Cold stimulates your “fat-burning” fat, also known as brown adipose tissue (BAT). In cold environments, your BAT will begin to burn other fat and glucose as heat, saving you hours on the treadmill.
6) Increased immunity
Acute cold exposure increases levels of circulating norepinephrine. In English? A cold shower a day, keeps the doctor away.
7) Mental clarity and purification
The ancient samurai warriors would shower themselves in the glacial river water every morning in a practice they called Misogi. It was a purification ritual which they believed to cleanse, energize their spirit. Even today, cold showers are used as a treatment for a depression.
So, there you have it; get fit, healthy, and sexy all at the same time. Summer is the perfect time to try out cold showers in your daily ritual. Start out by simply ending your showers with cold water, until your ready for the full 5-10 minute treatment with only brief stints of hot—and ice baths are simply a must for the athlete or fitness enthusiast.
Happy. Healthy. Heroic.
Truth be addictive and the mind-changing effects of capacities including rest craving agony strolling and wellbeing
It’s finally Spring time and with the warmer weather and occasional sunshine we all feel a little inclined to throw on a pair of headphones, some Top Guns Charity shades and go for a jog outside.
We all know running will help us shred some pounds for beach season, but the real question is: What should we be wearing (or not wearing) on our feet?
For the past year I’ve been intrigued by the Barefoot/Minimalist running revolution which has taken the world by storm. In fact, the barefoot/minimalist industry has grown to a worth of 1.7 billion dollars and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. The movement can be greatly credited to the National bestselling book “Born to Run” by Chris McDougall, chronicling the life of the Tarahumara tribe who run for days without injury on bare feet.
Last year, I got caught up in the craze and thought that simply changing my running shoes would be the cure to all my running ailments (stiff IT bands, shin splints, etc.). I picked up a pair of Nike Frees and started running the chip trail like I was Steve Prefontaine the 2nd. Of course, within a week the splints were back, I was stiff as a cadaver and promptly returned to cycling and hockey to get my cardiovascular fix. My problem wasn’t so much my shoes as it was my style of running.
The entire notion of running shoes is actually quite ironic. I tried to find actual studies supporting the science behind cushioned heels, arch support, etc. that were boasted by the running shoes we grew up on. I remember being told that you should replace your running shoe every 3-6 months, once the cushion in it is gone, to avoid injury. The findings were simply not there, there was zero science behind it; just a marketing-driven industry which was growing out of control. I’m no expert, but my theory is that these cushioned, high-tech shoes killed the natural technique, which exists in all of us. If you’re like me, then you do a heel-toe strike and can be heard from up the block. Throwing on a pair of minimalist shoes isn’t going to help if I’m running like that; in fact they’ll only make things worse. What minimalist shoes do help, however, is encouraging that light and natural running style.
These are a pair of Nike Free Trainer shoes. They’re very thin and flexible, but still possess a little bit of cushion and form. I think they’re a great shoe to begin running form correction, before transitioning to something more minimal like Vibrams
So, how do I use minimalist shoes and return to my god-given natural way of injury free running?
Well, like I said, I’m no expert, but luckily my man Jairus Streight is…
It’s true that running minimalism has become an overwhelmingly popular theory amongst recreational and competitive runners in the past few years, but in order to part take in this “fad” in a way that is of benefit to you and your health, a fundamental understanding of how we got to this idea in the first place is needed:
1. Running is a natural movement to human beings, and one of our greatest evolutionary strengths (Did you know, there is no land species on the planet that can outlast us in running ENDURANCE?). Our muscular system and cardiovascular abilities as humans are what lead us to become dominant hunters, and in places like Africa (where farmers don’t have horses….ever think about that?), being a strong runner was an important evolutionary trait to becoming a successful farmer, and rounding up your cattle on foot. The idea of “minimialism” comes from the attempt to move as much as possible ‘in tune’ with our body’s natural physiological attributes that give us this ability to run longer than most species. To run well, you need to be efficient, and what better way to develop efficiency, than to run as naturally as possible? So…. the question remains: Can minimalist footwear running help your run better? In short, yes. It ‘can’ help to promote more efficient stride biomechanics, which will in turn help you to be a more ‘natural runner’. The problem is, as grown young men/women, we look to make this transition too quickly. Often times, our bodies are not ready for such a drastic change.
2. Heavy heel striking is generally bad. It causes a lot of force on the knee join, and is one of the leading causes of knee pain in runners. In order to become a more ‘biomechanically sound’ runner, it would be beneficial to avoid heel striking while running. While this can be accomplished through “barefoot” style running, which forces you to land more on the “balls” of your feet; it can also be accomplished by CHANGING the way your foot interacts with the ground, without the need to downgrade in shoe technologies. (See point 3) While a knee injury can be a hard one, making the shift to running on your forefoot too quickly has a higher probability of causing you chronic Achilles Tendon issues, from which you may never fully recover….
3. (Most of us) have grown up for 20+ years with “diapers” on our feet. What makes us think we can go about changing that all of the sudden? An instantaneous change in structural support to the foot would certainly not be the answer. If you are interested in transitioning to minimalist technologies for running, you need to be PATIENT and a mindful of the degree to which you make the change. Volume, intensity, and surfaces you run on are all things to be moderated, and taken into consideration when making a transition to running in less ‘support’. Look to avoid concrete and asphalt surfaces, and stick to softer surfaces such as grass, woodchip, and park trails.
4. The running is simple. No really, it’s actually SO simple that often times people who aren’t as natural at it are simply OVERTHINKING it. The basic movements: You extend your knee in front of you, and perform a ‘sweep’ of your foot that lands as close to beneath your pelvis as possible, plant the MIDDLE of your foot- not the heel, nor the balls of the toes, you then apply muscular ‘force’ against the ground, pushing off your hips, extend your leg behind you in a spring-like movement. After leaving the ground, you allow your leg to recoil under you by initiating a knee drive that again lifts your (now opposite) knee back out in front of you- in essence, a series of “timely bounds. Ta-da! You are running. Don’t overthink it! If you are figuring out how to run, keeping it simple will be best practice to becoming a better runner.
5. Your body’s functional strength is important to preventing injury- one of the ways we get ‘stronger’ is by running MORE, but without ‘overdoing it’. I work with Olympic level athletes, as well as my own college age athletes, and the one of the greatest ‘tricks’ is knowing how much to run that will keep you getting stronger, but avoid you from getting injured. Believe it or not, building strength in your CORE can help with this (when you run, what are you pushing off of? The ground! And what does the ground push back against? Your core! Think about it like pushing off against a wall), thus making sure you keep your core strength maintained is key if you hope to be running more often.
Thanks for having me, and if you have any specific questions, fire them off on to me on Twitter! @jairusstreight
You know the craze, we’ve all seen those Reebok CrossFit commercials, branding themselves as the “Sport of Fitness.” You’ve probably encountered a CrossFit enthusiast, telling you how awesome their workouts are, or how much better they are than you (kind of reminds you of vegans). Well, I’m never one to give up meat, so vegans, the score will not be settled anytime soon. As for a new and supposedly life-changing way of working out? That I can try. As of Monday, I will be starting my own CrossFit 30 day challenge. I’m curious to see what it’s all about, if it’s as amazing as its hardcores say it is and if I’ll really never go back to a normal gym after I’ve given it a shot.
So what exactly is CrossFit?
I wish I’d done the research before my introductory class on Wednesday and I would have known it’s far more intense than a Thursday pre-bar workout at good old Ian Stewart Complex, a.k.a. the ABC’s (Abs, Biceps, Chest). I showed up, got a brief rundown on the CrossFit culture and then was thrown into action.
A 400m sprint with a 20lb medicine ball, max pushups in 1 minute, max sit-ups in 1 minute, max pull-ups, and then finishing things off with the brutal Tabata Squats.
Less than a 30-minute workout and I was seconds away from ralphing and my legs are still the sorest they’ve been in recent memory. It should be an interesting month…
For your convenience, I have taken the definition of CrossFit from its website:
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program using functional movements (no isolation exercises, i.e. bicep curls) that are constantly varied (no routine) and executed at a high intensity. CrossFit focuses on 3 modalities, Gymnastics, i.e. pull-ups, pushups, dips, medicine ball throws, plyo-box jumps, handstand pushups etc., Cardiovascular conditioning, i.e. running, jumping, swimming, biking, rowing, etc., and Weight Lifting ,i.e. squats, deadlifts, clean and jerk, snatch etc. CrossFit believes that the ultimate athlete is equal part, gymnast, sprinter, and weight lifter.
In CrossFit there are 10 domains of fitness: endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.
I’m definitely looking forward to the variety that CrossFit brings forth. With its signature WOD (Workout of the Day) you do a different workout with different exercises every day. It’ll be a nice change-up from that gym routine, which we all know gets stale fast—but I will miss those casual conversations between bench press sets…
I’ll give an update at the halfway point and at the end of month, complete with photos and bodyfat calculations. We’ll see if it gets you both jacked and healthy.
As for diet, I’m going the whole nine yards and doing the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet for the next 30 days. I’m going to try my best to stick to it, but will be including dairy (I couldn’t possibly get by without my milk). For those who want to know more about the Paleo Diet, Deep Dan will be providing an in-depth post on the “Caveman” diet next week.
Well, it was a long and gluttonous March for both Deep Dan and myself, but at the end of it all there had to be a winner and a loser. With a total gain of 11.8 pounds versus Deep Dan’s 8 pounds, I managed to take this challenge by a 3.8 pound decision.
Now I have never gained anything even close to that amount in one month, but in the pursuit of New Age Heroics, I stuck to a strict regiment of approximately 4,000 calorie days, only 1.5 hours of gym time, and consistent sleep patterns. I knew Dan was pushing hard too, but luckily I had a little more weight to gain in the first place. I have provided before and after pictures, as well as weight and bodyfat measurements, so that you can get an idea of how much muscle we gained compared to sheer fat.
February 29th 152lbs
March 30th 163.8lbs (11.8lbs gained)
15% bodyfat (.2% lost)
February 29th 190lbs
March 30th 198lbs (8lbs gained)
15% bodyfat (.7% gained)
One of the most surprising results of bulk-up was the change in bodyfat (or lack there of). Now, I’m pretty certain that my “.2%” bodyfat loss is simply a degree of error in our home caliper testing. However, with Deep Dan’s similarly minimal change in bodyfat percentage in comparison to the weight gained, it can be inferred that our bulk was considerably clean. We stayed away from bread, and fast/fried foods (with the exception of a double down on my part, but hey, a cheat day never hurt anyone), obtaining most of our calories from dairy, eggs, nuts, meat, grains, etc. By staying true and consistent to our workout regiments, we ensured that our muscles stayed hungry and elicited gains dominantly in the form of muscle mass. The before and after photos may not be staggering, but I did go up a size in jeans.
So, there you have it, the end of Mass March. Thanks for following, get ready to take part next year, we might just make it an annual event. For now, I’m glad to return to a normal diet without force feeding, digestive naps, and raw eggs before bed..
Stay tuned as we bring forth new heroic frontiers!
This month Deep Dan and myself will be attempting different, individual challenges, to be announced this week.
We have one month to eat, train, drink–do whatever it takes to bulk up. Some call it a dirty bulk, others call it gluttony; we’re just looking to put as many pounds as we can on our ectomorphic body types and share with you what worked and what didn’t. We will be using different training regiments, different diets, and documenting every step of the way.
The winner will be the one who puts on the most pounds (bodyfat % is simply there to see how much fat we gain during our bulk).
Bear Johal February 29th
Anyone who has known me, will likely know that I used to drink gatorade religiously. It was the greatest compliment to the college lifestyle–it rehydrated after workouts and sports and also combated those inevitable hangovers.
After years of consuming the sugary sweet beverage known as gatorade, I’ve finally made the transition to its naturally superior* replacement.
It’s all natural, has no food colouring, and no added sugar. It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than gatorade. Marketers have been calling it “Mother Nature’s Sports Drink,” and they may just be on to something. I’ve taken the liberty of investigating a few recent studies and have compiled FIVE reasons why YOU should be drinking coconut water.
1. Coconut water has more potassium than a banana.
Most North Americans don’t meet their daily requirement of potassium intake, don’t get left in the dust.
2. It contains naturally occurring elements such as Chloride, Magnesium and lauric acid.
Chloride is an electrolyte which brings alkaline levels back in balance. Magnesium maintains bodily nerves, muscles and bones. What’s lauric acid? Well its a substance present in breast milk, so you know it’s going to get you jacked.
3. Natural vs. Artificial.
This was the main selling point for me. As long you don’t buy some cheap imitation from concentrate, coconut water is 100% natural. The main reason it can pull this off without additives and preservatives is its sterility. When the water is produced, it permeates through the filtering husk. Furthermore, the sugars that are found in it are 5mg of naturally occurring, compared to gatorades 20mg of altered sugars.
4. Coconut water has successfully been used for intravenous hydration.
It sounds absurd, but here’s the proof. It is naturally isotonic, possessing the same balance as the plasma in human blood. Next test, inject gatorade into our blood and record the results…
Well, there you have it. The taste may not be as tantalizing as a melted freezie, but give it a week and I guarantee you’ll prefer its nutty sweetness over that of a sports drink. Whether its post spin class or post bar night, it’ll rehydrate you and keep you one step ahead of the game.
*Now, don’t get me wrong, gatorade is still a very effective drink, in fact its higher sodium and engineered electrolytes are sometimes more ideal for very high calibre athletes. But unless you’re working out like Mike Cammalleri, coconut water will more than meet your needs. On top of that, the food dyes used in gatorade are not great for your health.
1) Simply put: it will increase your overall health.
It is packed with polyphenols (most notably EGCG) which possess an array of health benefits including antioxidant qualities and other biochemical activities. Studies over time have only revealed more benefits, most notably in cancer fighting and cardiovascular disease. Want to live longer? Drink 3-5 cups a day. Try a cup in the morning, 2-3 throughout the day, and a nice cup of decaf before bed.
2) It will make you smarter
Didn’t know this one, but it probably explains why my GPA skyrocketed after I jumped on the green tea train. Two different studies have revealed that green tea increases cognitive function. A more recent one concluded that regular green tea consumption may enhance learning and memory ability.
3) It burns fat
That’s right, green tea boosts your metabolism, energy expenditure and fat oxidation; effectively controlling your weight and–with proper exercise–making you SHREDDED. Sound too good to be true? Check out this recent study.
4) It will increase exercise endurance
As an added bonus, green tea will also bring you one step closer to that 4-minute mile, VO2 max, or beep test high score. The catechins in green tea increase both metabolic activity and the utilization of fatty acid as source of energy in muscles during physical exertion. Need that extra push? It’s a cup of tea away.
If you’re still not convinced, then check out this article to read all about its other marvellous benefits including:
UV protection, lowering cholesterol, diabetes and blood glucose levels, heart protection, anti-hypertension, stroke prevention, reduction of CNS disorders, prevention of osteoporosis, bone-loss, and teeth decay, antimicrobal activity, and finally, for all those party-goers, liver protection.