Friday, January 7, 2022

Attaining Health Quickly: What To Do

 There is not time to get healthy.  I heard this a lot a few years ago.  Health is not something that can be attained in a few weeks or even months.  You can't rush your fitness or health, but are there things that can actually make you healthier instantly?  More specifically, are there things that can be done today, that will make you healthier today or tomorrow?

"The best time to plant was 20 years ago.  The second best time is today."

If you walk for 30 min at a comfortable pace outside your Natural Killer cells and your T-Cells go up.  Simply put, your immune system is raised up and has shown to have less overall sick days and respiratory illness over a winter.  Several studies support this.  This is immediate.  Can you imagine if this was a pill, how many people would be clamoring to take it!

Staying with walking, as little as a 10 min walk after eating, has been shown to keep your glucose levels down.  Regulating blood glucose levels is how we can go from pre-diabetic state to a healthy range.  This is regardless of what you eat.  It's not even saying, change what you are eating, just walk a bit afterwards!  (Side note:  The words comorbidity has been thrown a lot around recently, pre-diabetic blood sugar levels, is a comorbidity, you may look and feel great, but your body is essentially rusting.) 

Speaking of dietary changes.  You can change your gut biome in as little as 4 days.  A fast food diet of burger and fries were compared to a Mediterranean diet for 4 days.  There was 4 days in between each diet.  Fast food diet showed an increase in the bad bacteria in the gut and Med. Diet showed an increase in the good bacteria.  This was after 4 days!  Imagine what a month could do.  A few more fruits, vegetables, olive oil and quality protein.  Dump the fried foods. 

Vitamin D levels is a very important parameter for overall human health.  Immune system, muscular recovery and mood are just a few but important areas it impacts.  10 min in the sunlight on your skin is about the equivalent of 10,000 IU of vitamin D.  Supplementing with Vit D can serve as a great adjunct on days there is no sun or you are stuck inside.  

Sleep is a big deal.  A good nights sleep drives a healthier innate immune system.  It enhances recovery.  Your biomarkers that fight infection are improved.  Your inflammation goes down (or up if you sleep poor).  The response to vaccines is improved after good nights sleep! (what do you think this means if you sleep pretty poor consistently?).  A lot of what we know on how to attain a good nights sleep drives from understanding the circadian rhythm of our bodies.  Here is the easiest guidelines.  Let your eyes see the sun in the morning.  It basically is the physiological wake up signal.  Light on the retina.  Eat something.  Have some movement in your day.  Stop caffeine before noon (for most people).  Cut out your phone and blue light 2 hours before bed.  Blue light stops the melatonin hormone.  Yea, you say you can fall asleep but your sleep is disrupted, which means you wake up!  Your sleep was disturbed.  Take Magnesium an hour before bed.   This has been a game changer for so many patients of mine.  Go to bed at the same time, yes even on the weekends.  

Breath deep for a few minutes.  Inhale through the nose, hold for a few second.  Exhale for a few seconds. Hold for a few seconds.  This is called box breathing.  Repeat for a few minutes.  This will literally drive you into a parasympathetic state.  Less cortisol, which means less inflammatory response to stress.  Breathing is like the remote control to your nervous system.  It works that quickly.  

Drink water with some electrolytes.  We are water.  We are electrical beings.  Better hydration is better function.  

Socialize with people you like.  This I found quite ironic.  Social isolation or a perceived social threat produced more inflammation and decreased anti viral qualities.  While the opposite was also true.  Positive social interactions showed decrease inflammation, and bolstered anti viral responses.  

There is time, there was time.  Today can be that day.  Acute can become chronic.  Your body will change, wether you do something or not.  You can decide how.  Health can be improved today.  Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.  

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Breaking Down the Formula...F=MA

 This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Functional Range Seminar Internal Strength.  If you have never attended one of their seminars (functional range release, conditioning, assessment)  I would highly recommend it.  

I won't summarize the whole weekend, but I did want to hash out a talk, that really made some of my thoughts much more clear in programming.  The talk was given by therapist John Quint.  John works with some of the strongest people on the planet at Westside Barbell.  

We have all heard the formula F=MA.  F is force.  M is mass.  A is acceleration.  There are a few ways to think of training but they all fall under these methods. 

1.  ME. max effort. 90-100%

2.  DE.  dynamic effort. 50-60 percent of ME

3.  RE.  repetition effort. 40-50 percent of ME

4.  REF.  repetition effort failure (hypertrophy)

Force will be ME.  Once we get an exercise to the ME we desire, lets say 405# on trap bar deadlift, we can then address other issues.  Most athletes are not looking to get bigger.  Runners, bikers, weight class athletes actually improve if they get stronger, but remain the same size.  Hypertrophy is usually not the goal.  REF is not used then in the purpose of bigger muscles.  So M in the F=MA will stay RE for maintenance of the ME or F.  A in the F=MA will the DE.  Moving the weight fast with intent and acceleration.  

This allows you to maintain what you have built in the 405# trap bar deadlift.  Over time, this may well bring negative adaptations in hip quality though.  Continually pushing weights in the same movement pattern is not the recipe for keeping a healthy human being.  

Enter the REF for the M in the F=MA equation.  Repetition effort to failure using CARS (controlled articular rotations) as your exercise (in this example doing the hip) to help the trap bar.  CARS at intense level is designed to get you access to new tissue.  This new tissue will need to be trained to keep it.  It will also be weaker.  So using a percentage in the ME or DE allows you to integrate that new tissue into the programming of the F=MA for the trap bar (any exercise).  

Running this equation this way over and over allows the athlete to not hit a plateau.  Even though the weight (405#) stays the same.  The athlete is continuously integrating new fibers, new recruitment around the hip to keep improving and also not allowing the exercise to ever create negative adaptations.  

Practically what would it look like.  Get the athlete as strong as you think is necessary.  I'm 195 pounds and have decided I want to keep a 2x bodyweight deadlift.  I have worked to get that number.  Now I'm going to work intensely on Hip CARS as part of my workout and my pair then with a percentage of the deadlift done with speed aka DE work.  I could also pair CARS with ME work, again supersetting hip CARS with a few reps at 95 percent of my 2x bodyweight deadlift.  

Quint did a great job of explaining this and made my thinking of this concept so much more clearer for me.  I hope my quick synopsis creates more direction for your training and also more curiosity for theirs.  

Stay strong, stay healthy.  

Coming Back Around to the Warm Up

 "We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing."

My last year of chiropractic school presented with an opportunity to compete to make the USA National Bobsled team.  One of the biggest aspects of training was running fast.  Training to run fast was the goal for the next few months.  One problem it was winter.  I found one indoor running track that allowed me to train on it from 5-6am.  

Me and the old folks.

I had a sprinting background from years in high school and college.  So a standard warm up was between 45-60 min for about 3-8 quality reps that lasted between 3-6 seconds.  Drills, drills, drills.  

"Don't ever stop doing that stuff and you won't ever have any problems like us!"

I remember those words from the same guy that would shuffle around the track every morning while I was there.  My life at the time was train, school, rugby, study.  Day in and day out.  My reference point was training.  My only thought when hearing those words, why would I?  Why would I stop warming up?

Fast forward a decade plus and I know have my own business and a kid.  The shift wasn't training, it was working out.  There is a huge difference. No plan, just get a work out in as time permitted.  The first thing to be lost was the warm up.  I no longer had to operate in the 95-99% of maximum efficiency.  

What was lost?

Warm ups are designed to expose the body to gradual increase in temperature.  10 min has been designated a minimum.  Think of it as gradual body perfusion of increased blood flow.  Blood flow is how things heal.  Cutting out the warm up is cutting out opportunity for helping little niggles to get better.

Warm up use multiple movements in multiple planes.  This is simply doing lots of different movements then what we have done on a routine basis.  Squatting, lunging, reaching, tumbling, gradual exposure into lengthening and loading tissues that haven't been active all day.  Joints have rotational capabilities that need to be expressed daily or they begin to stiffen.  Capsules need synovial fluid to stay healthy.  Synovial reaches the capsule through movement.  If you don't expose the joint to angles it doesn't drive synovial fluid into those spaces.  Cutting out the warm up cuts out the maintenance of joint range of motion.  

Warm ups allow gradual practice of the skill of the movement.  Rep after rep.  Regardless if it's a sprint, a squat, a deadlift or a push up, sprinting and lifting have a skill component that needs to be constantly kept fresh.  Skills that are practiced generally get better.  Cutting out the warm up cuts out the opportunity to practice skills.  

Warm ups allow us to take inventory of body parts and body movements that don't quite feel right.  Maybe, we spend a few extra minutes exploring those.  If something feels off after several days, perhaps we seek help, even if it's just a YouTube search of the area from a trusted source.  If you don't know your shoulder hurts when you do a table top stretch maybe it festers into something worse months later.  Cutting the warm up cuts out that screening process.  

For the general person adding or keeping a quality warm up for 10-15 min can bring many health and performance benefits.  Even if you only had 20 minutes, a 10 min warm up still allows ten minutes for high quality one or two movements.  Allow yourself the opportunity to keep giving your body a chance to move and improve.  Don't let that body get to old to play.  

Thursday, October 28, 2021

What Can We Learn From the Potato Blight

 Reading through the fascinating book 1493 by Charles Mann has been a learning experience about how foods like the potato have been influenced by the Colombian Exchange.  Put simply, with the "discovery" of the New World by Columbus, a complicated and world altering exchange of goods, services and ideas from and into Europe, Asia, North and South America was created.

One of the more interesting exchanges was the amazing potato.  Most researchers agree that the potato was cultivated in the Andean area, most likely Peru.  In fact, hundreds of varieties of potatoes exist.  Over the next few hundred years the potato was brought to Europe.  The potato is credited for allowing Europe to grow and not to starve.  For the first time the common man had a surplus of calories.  In a way, you could make an argument that the potato saved Europe.  

Fast forward a few hundred years into the late 1700s and another Columbian Exchange product is becoming worth its weight in gold, guano.  Bird poop.  Guano has been discovered to be the ultimate fertilizer for the soil, for growing better crops.  It is now agreed that somewhere and sometime in the late 1700's a little parasite called P. infestans aka the deadly potato blight, was hitching a ride in the guano.  It was laid into the soil in Europe and slowly spread over the next 50 years to trigger what we now call the Great Famine. 

It is not the potato blight I found interesting though, it was what were the conditions for which allowed such spread.  Why Ireland and what can we learn from this?

First, Ireland was heavily reliant on the potato, more so than many of the other countries.  It had become a mono culture.  The climate of wet cool areas certainly played a part.  The third was the change in growing methods.  This holds the most interest for me.  

Ireland had developed a growing method over the years very similar to the Andean way of growing potatoes called Wacho.  It had become known as Lazy beds in Europe.  They took up the sod and stacked them on top of each other.  This created ridges with a small trench nearby.  Because the ridges were raised up, they heated up in the day earlier and retained heat.  They were dense roots so they held onto the nutrients in the soil and because of the grass resisted erosion.  The densely packed Wacho also resisted weeds.  Because the soil held more nutrients, they didn't need fertilizer (guano).  The fallows from where the sod had been dug up acted like natural drains when it rained.  

This method had been perfected and used from most likely Inca times in Peru and used successfully into Ireland hundreds of years later.  Until, they are told differently.

"Activist like Andrew Wight and Jethro Tull wanted farmers to release soil nutrients by deep thorough plowing, to plant every bit of terrain, to change the land with fertilizer, use ruthless weeding, and maximize yields by efficient harvesting.  Believers in technology, they viewed the newest factory made harrows, drillers and harvesters as God given tools to accomplish these goals."

They got rid of the Wacho growing methods, a decade later the potato blight all but destroyed the potato.  It is quite a harrowing story reading about the Great Famine. 

"During the next forty years, researches attributed the blight to ozone, air pollution, static electricity, volcanic action, smoke from steam locomotives, excessive humidity or heat, gases from the recently introduced sulfur match, and emanation from outer space, various insects..."

New technology and wanting efficiency replaced common sense and experience.  Even giving the name Lazy beds also makes it seem like they were subtly looking down on this growing method, instead of using the name Wacho.

It is interesting seeing the blame placed on various ideas because the real cause was unknown.  It is interesting to see how science was espoused over experience.  This can still be seen in coaching/therapy and almost every profession.  There must be a balance in, this is the way we have always done it and science says we should do it this way.

One quote that has stuck with me, " was simply the latest and worth pathogen to take advantage of the new scientific agriculture, ...on a terrain shaped for technology and not biology."

Makes me wonder how modern life is shaping the biology we call the human body.  

Friday, September 17, 2021

Why You Should Care About the Letter NrF2

Every now and then there will be a headline about how taking a multivitamin can actually be bad for your health or that high dose of this vitamin can be counterproductive.  

On the other end we see all the time how this food or vitamin is an antioxidant.  This supplement ORAC value is the highest ever!  Oxygen radical absorbance capacity.  Does this matter?

Between these two headlines, there is another.  Inflammation is the start of most disease and problems that make you feel less then how you really want to be feeling.  What is inflammation?  

The type of inflammation we are concerned about is not the inflammation that comes to mind.  When you roll your ankle there is some redness, some heat, some pain and some swelling.  This is not what we are taking about.  Para-inflammation is our target.  

""Para-inflammation is an adaptive response of the immune system to low levels of tissue stress (i.e., a low-degree of “danger” stimuli), such as in aging whereby oxidative stress accumulates bit by bit for many decades. The physiological role of para-inflammation is to maintain homeostasis (or re-set the homeostatic threshold of the tissue) and restore tissue functionality."  Medzhitoz 2008.  

In layman's terms, think of para-inflammation as the area between a healthy state and an inflamed state on a time line.  All of us are on this time line in some fashion.  A stress comes along, remember stress can be physical, mental or emotional.   How "healthy" we are determines our response to this stress.  The stress can trigger the para-inflammation into full blown inflammation.  Visualize hot coals that are no longer creating a fire, but stress comes along and blows on them, and boom the coals ignite back up into a full fire.  

Now enter the letters NrF2.  This is the master regulator to protect the cells against stress, to keep them from becoming inflamed.  It is the guardian.  Lets list what NrF2 can do.  Improve cell function, remove toxins, increase mitochondria, eliminates cells beyond repair, protects against cellular stress.  Regulates almost 500 genes!

Addressing the first question of antioxidants.  This old theory was about targeting outside the cell.  It's hard for an antioxidant to have an effect across the cell membrane, gut wall and blood brain barrier.  So it is ineffective for internal cell influence, the cytoplasm.  To target inside the cell we need the NrF2 system.

How do we prime then the NrF2 system?  Phytonutrients.  Plant chemicals.  It only works well if we have a surplus of these.  The best ones studied are: sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts, curcumin from turmeric, resveratrol, carnosol from rosemary , Ginkgo extract, polyphenols from green tea and sulphur from garlic.  

The old way was to take a lot of one vitamin or a supplement that has a high ORAC value to target free radicals outside the cell.  One molecule of vitamin C can in theory grab one free radical, one molecule of superoxide dismutase grabs one billion!  There lies the difference.  Antioxidents are outside the cell.  Priming the NrF2 system gets to the inside cell to get enzymatic activity going.  Which can be constantly renewed.  

Enough phyochemicals can keep the NrF2 pathway primed.  It can block the stress of life from taking our bodies from para-inflamed to inflamed and help keep us on other end of the homeostasis that we call healthy and feeling good.  

I am going to link a recipe for Turmeric Chicken with Garlic and Broccoli.  Now you know what getting these phytonutrients can do
for your body, it is always easier to eat a little better.  

PS.  NrF2 stands for nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Racing to Learn

Signing up to do a race can mean many things to many people.  Perhaps it was a goal that forced you to train for something, a deadline that dictated preparation.  More commonly, maybe it is just for fun.  (maybe thats the best reason).  A final test per say for the training or studying that you did.  Trying out new training ideas or nutrition concepts can be tested out.  Racing strategies can be implemented.  

I have always thought that most coaches and therapists should race or compete at something every now and then.  A reminder of the emotions and ideas that percolate.  Empathy.

The night before.  Worried about getting enough sleep.  Being annoyed if it doesn't work out that way.

Waking up feeling a little more nervous then a day of hard training would invoke.  Checking your watch frequently.  On time.  Working backwards from the start, warm up. bathroom, nutrition, breakfast or meal.  Feeling a little more on edge if something disrupts the pattern. 

The jitters at the start.  Trust your plan or go with pace.  Pace to slow or to fast?  A gap forms, do you go with it and risk blowing up.  Can you trust your training to match the attack, do you trust yourself.  Legs feel good, legs feel bad, does it matter?  Should it matter?  If you know your training is there, what do you believe?

Focus.  Don't let the mind wander.  Focus is a superpower.  Pay attention for gaps.  Pay attention to the pack.  The ebb and flow. Let the mind wander and gap formed before you can react and the energy cost of closing it is to much.  

Focus is so important I have been wondering if a supplement for improving focus is a performance enhancer.  Like most things, practice and experience is probably all that is needed.  I noticed significant improvement with making that my primary goal from race one to race two this summer.

The race becomes a teacher, a reminder, a test, and through it all, hopefully some fun was had.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Framing Challenges and Threats for Better Health

 How we perceive a situation plays a larger role then what we sometimes consider.  We have always been told that a positive outlook is important, but why?

Why would how I look at a situation potentially dictate the outcome, if my actions remain the same?

These are important questions, for not only the patient/athlete but also the clinician/coach.  It is more then just bringing "positive thinking" to the situation.  It will also show the importance of the psyche of the  collective team or the trendy modern phrase "culture" of a group or organization.  How does challenge or threat effect our health?

Challenge or Threat?

When faced with a task or situation do we classify this as a challenge or a threat.  A challenge invokes a chance to learn, potential increase from the outcome,  and while hard either physically or mentally, we believe it will turn out well.  There is generally a sense of control.  

A threat is very similar but just perceived very differently.  A challenge will be high stress/excitement but will reside.  A challenge ends.  Exposure to these will make us better.  A threat has the physiological impact that lasts a long time.  Chronic load, weakens and undermines are health.  


As you can see, there is a sliding scale.  Not everything is a massive threat or massive challenge.  There will always be a scale involved.  

Lets look at the physiology differences between the two and why they have such a different outcome on our health.

A challenge will stimulate something called the SAM pathway.  Sympathetic adrenal medullary.  SAM will have different hormone production depending on if its more a mental challenge or physical.  Mental tasks, will stimulate adrenaline.  This will cause an uptake of the brains use of glucose.  It will prompt the liver to produce glucose and will increase heart rate to drive more glucose to the brain.

A physical challenge will dictate more of the hormone noradrenaline.  This drives fatty acids into the blood stream so the muscles can use this for energy and uses an increase in blood pressure as the method of choice.

The primary driver for this is the neural system.  This allows for the SAM to be shut down very quickly.  The half life of released adrenaline and noradrenaline is 2 min.  This means it is fairly quickly out your system.  This is important.  

A threat is very different.  It will start with SAM and then go to what is called the Pituitary Adrenal Cortical system.  (PAC).  PAC rolls in around 20 min later.  Some big threats to our human psyche are social embarrassment, shame and biggest of all, a sense of loss of control.  

The PAC will ultimately cause the hormone corticotropin releasing hormone and cortisol to come into play.  The hypothalamus release the CRH, CRH ultimately causes cortisol to be released.  If the cortisol gets to high, receptors in the hypothalamus detect the high levels and stop CRH from being released.  Thus ending the cycle.  (Hopefully). 

If we continue to experience threats this keeps going.  

Cortisol will cause the release of fatty acids into the blood stream.  A source of fuel that the brain can not use.  It has a role in limiting inflammation.  It can play a role in breaking down protein, which will ultimately lead to muscle loss to secure enough glucose for brains fuel.   PAC and cortisol will be also involved when you diet or are in a fasted state.  

Cortisol will also dampen the effectiveness of insulin.  More and more insulin requirements can lead to Type 2 diabetes.  Long lasting cortisol can have some immune suppression and digestive issues. 

Not all is bad.  It's the dosage.  Low levels will cause some good things to happen including helping noradrenaline with brain arousal.  It can help with dopamine release to deal with the threat that started the PAC cycle.  The downside is that it can by a few physiological steps to get the amygdala to create anxiety and stress.  

Why have we evolved these cortisol receptors in the hypothalamus and brain?  Good question...the body is pretty cool.  Moderate levels of cortisol help to consolidate memories.  Thus we are learning what to do with a threat and how to cope.  Low levels and high levels do not trigger or help consolidate memories.  High levels,  essentially panic, do not do well with learning.  

Physical activity doesn't help with the threat that would usually would trigger the PAC pathway, but not doing physical activity has big downsides.  The body just released a bunch of fatty acids into your bloodstream.  If it stays there and isn't used in exercise it can contribute to plaque forming in the arteries.  Also, letting negative emotions linger can potentially cause the PAC pathway to keep running.  With a half life of 90 min, it is already lingering in a sense.  Remember the SAM pathway half life was 2 min.  This also gets worse the older we get.  

You can have SAM and PAC together.  Overall SAM increases heart rate or cardiac output.  PAC causes blood pressure elevation without the cardiac output.  Thus challenge can increase CO, but threats increase BP.

We know now that PAC arousal has been shown to increase tension and anxiety and puts you into a fear state quicker.  SAM arousal may enhance a positive or negative state.  This is crucial.  SAM pathway can be thought of an enhancer of what every cognitive state you bring to the situation.  

What are some takeaways we can implement?  

Exercise when you don't feel like it.  Exercise is SAM neutral, but can limit health risks that can accompany PAC.  Try to see activities as challenges.  Even if I fail, I learn.  Mindset.  Stop self focused behavior.  Essentially when we have a negative thought we create self focused thinking.  This interferes with learning and for performing tasks.  I recently watched Thug Rose win her UFC title belt fight.  Before the fight, you can hear her saying loud "I'm the best,"  over and over.  Creating positive emotion to a task at hand.  

These are essentially my notes for a few chapters of the book, "Building Resistance to Stress and Aging."