Sunday, May 10, 2015

Skólahreysti: Building Strong Kids in Iceland

I came across the VICE News piece about Iceland's culture around strength and fitness.  I got into the story because I have been focusing on strength training for the last few months.  I was impressed with another aspect of Iceland's commitment to fitness though. 

The reporter met up with family that runs a national physical competition for kids called the Skólahreysti.  This is a televised event similar to Ninja Warrior or the Crossfit Games.  Sölvi Fannar appears to be the mastermind behind this initiative for Iceland.  His comment that training to be better at this style of obstacle course will benefit athletes in any other sport.  I agree.

Unfortunately the trend today for kids in the US seems to be towards focusing on a single sport.  While there a host of reasons why I don't think this trend is postive, maybe something like the Skólahreysti, Crossfit or Ninja Warrior could take hold more broadly to help balance out the physical imbalances that single sport athletes might develop.  Maybe training for a fitness as a sport event could empower us to see lifelong physical fitness as a goal.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Smoothie for starting the day off right

I'm not a real disciplined eater so I've looked at ways of sneaking in as many good things as possible into my diet.  The right nutrients can help us function and look better.  Unfortunately we don't have an overwhelming consensus on exactly what to eat but a few trends seem to be emerging.

Adequate amounts of fiber, water and protein are important.  As is consuming foods that reduce general inflammation in the body.  With this in mind, I created a morning smoothie that fits the bill for me.

Green Tea (cold for liquid base)
Frozen spinach
Frozen berries
Banana -- 1 whole
Ground flax seed -- 1 tbsp
Chia seeds -- 1 tbsp
Greek yogurt -- 1/2 cup
Whey & hemp protein powder mix -- 1 scoop
Coconut oil -- 1 tbsp
Cinnamon -- 1 tsp
Ginger (ground) -- 1 tsp

I've added Turmeric as well but I'm not sure consuming it this way will absorb into the body in the intended way.  I've read that combining it with black pepper and possibly heating it is required to make it more bio-available.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tabata Fitness

Tabata training is a specific protocol within the broader classification of High-intensity interval training (HIIT). Tabata is sprint training where short bursts of activity (20 seconds) are broken up by even shorter rest periods (10 seconds) and repeated over a pre-set number of repetitions (8). The promise of this style of training is greater physical benefit in a shorter period of time. Compare the body type of elite sprinters with elite distance runners and you'll see for yourself the metabolic effect of training in these different way. You can apply the Tabata protocol to almost any exercise but my favorite is running sprints Tabata-style.
4 minutes of pain for a lifetime of benefit

The two ways I do Tabata sprints are on the treadmill and outside. Warm up with some callisthenics and light jogging for about 10 minutes so that you get your legs ready for full-out exertion.

On the treadmill, I set the incline to 12% and the speed to be around my 5k race pace. For a 25 minute 5k, the speed should be 8 mins per mile or 7.5mph (5 mins per kilometer or 12kph). Hop on the treadmill for 20 secs then off for 10 secs holding the side hand rails and straddling the moving belt. I like to wait for the treadmill timer to hit a minute mark before beginning so I don't have to do much math in my head. Leave the belt running between sets. Repeat 8 times.

Outside, I like to use music that has Tabata time built into it. Google Tabata Songs and you'll find a ton of options. The music tells you when to work and when to rest. I sprint at max effort and then walk during the breaks.
Sprinting builds muscle unlike slower jogging

Running outside is more realistic and enjoyable but I think the steady pacing of the treadmill is advantageous too. Mix both into your weekly workout schedule and be prepared for extreme exhaustion in a short period of time either way.

There are claims that Tabata running alone can prepare your for longer distance running but sport or race specific training is always necessary for a particular sport or race. I put Tabata in the General Physical Preparedness (GPP) category not as a replacement for work towards specific goal accomplishment.

- Intensity is key to achieving a metabolic benefit for your body

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sitting on the Floor

Sitting still on the floor comfortably takes practice
I'm a fan of capturing small moments throughout the day for a little bit of movement and mobility training. I live is a city so I default to walking as much as possible. I take the stairs when possible. Another easy example of this would be to sit on the floor as much as you can.

Floor sitting is incredibly simple yet particularly difficult for many of us due to modern life. Sitting comfortably in a cross-legged requires hip girdle and leg flexibility along with low back and neck strength. You engage your core in a way that builds in intensity rather quickly if you aren't practiced at floor sitting. Chair sitting, as we normally sit, works at odds to all of the components that go into floor sitting.

Practicing yoga asana (postures) was originally focused on making the body more comfortable in a seated position for meditation. Sitting quietly on the floor is literally grounding--you become directly connected to the ground which has calming mental benefits.
Kids can do it and so can you
Sitting on the floor also connects you to children better because you meet them on their terms. You can participate in their play and learning more directly. Kids love it when adults get "silly" by getting down on the floor with them.

There are many examples of different ways to sit on the floor. Mix it up. Sit with your knees tucked under you. Sit wide legged. Sit with one knee tucked back and the other crossed in front. Sit with the soles of your feet together. Variation will allow you to go longer stretches of time without having to get up. Holding a deep stationary squat is also a great way to open your hips to allow for a more comfortable seated position.

Start by sitting a few minutes at a time while watching TV; maybe just during the commercials at first. Your knees, low back and neck may become sore but consistent practice will minimize this with time.

- Master the basics before charging ahead to advanced exercise and there's not much more basic than sitting quietly on the floor.
MovNat has a number of great ideas for helping you to sit better