HEALTH & FITNESS: Cardio Overload

(Article by Nash A.)

I’m sure the feeling of euphoria would have won over the fatigue that grows on you after the 42nd kilometres on the road. Completing a marathon somewhat at times boosts one’s self-esteem and makes us feel good about our accomplishments. Besides, knowing that it is for the development of fitness, we tend to think that the heart is also going to get stronger each time we finish the race so we should go out there and conquer as many marathons and runs as possible. Well, that could be a grave mistake.

A recent study actually measured the vascular functions of avid runners after their runs, the result is really shocking.

By measuring cardiac enzymes and taking ultrasounds, the researchers were able to measure the acute effects of extreme exercise on the heart.

They found that:

  1. Right ventricular (RV) function diminished after races
  2. Blood levels of cardiac enzymes (markers for heart injury) increased
  3. The longer the race, the greater the decrease in RV function
  4. 12 percent of the athletes had scar tissue in their heart muscle detected on MRI scans one week after the race

Although exercise reduces your cardiovascular risk by a factor of three, too much vigorous exercise, such as marathon running, actually increases your cardiac risk by seven, according to a study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 in Montreal. This is a powerful lesson to anyone who engages in large amounts of cardio exercise, because as it turns out, excessive cardio may actually be counterproductive.

The Solution:

1) Mix it up

Do not cancel your runs just yet. Long-distance running should not be stopped totally. Instead, frequency could be reduced, making way for interval training, which allows you to capture peak cardio activities without superficial strains. Right amount of stress, for the right amount of time.

2) Super-Slow Resistance Training

The objective of superslow resistance training is to create more tension in a muscle for a given workload. This is accomplished by decreasing the speed of movement. The amount of force or tension a muscle can develop during a muscle action is substantially affected by the rate of muscle shortening or lengthening.

In Conclusion

As you would diversify your financial portfolio, please do diversify your training portfolio.
Physiological development should be holistically done to ensure a sound and functioning body, with no signs of over exertion.

But of course, go easy on the diversification. 😛

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What Are the 5 Levels of Breath?

(Exclusive article as shared by one of our Personal Trainer friend – Mr Herman Chauw)

There are many ways to breathe. Some better some worse. Some good some bad. Some safe some dangerous. In this article we’ll introduce some of the common types and arrange them in order.

We’ll also answer once and for all the question of “How to breathe during (weight training) exercises?”

Why is this so important? Breathing properly during your exercises can make or break you. It is one of the components of proper technique (remember the 7 Key Components of Structure). Done properly, your breath can maximize your performance. Done improperly your breath can kill you.

The 5 levels of breath are summarized in the Breath Mastery Scale (adapted from Prasara Yoga by Scott Sonnon):

1) Fear Level Breath: passively (reflexively) inhale and brace on perceived effort

2) Anger or Force Level Breath: actively inhale and brace on perceived effort

3) Discipline Level Breath: actively exhale on perceived effort/discomfort; passively inhale on cessation of effort/discomfort

4) Flow Level Breath: passively exhale on compression; passively inhale on expansion

5) Mastery Level Breath: control pause after exhalation on activity

For all intents and purposes, i’ll only cover what is important to you, ie the layman, and not give exhaustive explanation of the hows and whys.

The breathing techniques #2 are not to be used at any exercise. The reason being the breath holding would increase your blood pressure. And if the pressure increases to very high, it can cause stroke or heart attacks. It can be argued that for maximal efforts such as powerlifting you need to hold your breath, but remember that we are a health first fitness system. Performance at the expense of health is not real health.

As an aside, even when you encounter fear or anger, you should not inhale and brace either. As prolonged exposure to this type of breathing would increase your overall muscle tension (read upper thoracic breathing, tight upper traps, forward head posture etc.), which would lead to poorer health and performance. You should instead exhale and do some exercises to release the tension (ala RESET).

Discipline Level Breath (#3) is the one that you should employ in most of your strength & conditioning exercises. The exhalation causes activation of the core muscles that serves to stabilize the body and in that manner you tie the body into one unit to create linkage for force transfer from limb to limb or one part of the body to another.

Flow Level Breath (#4) is the one you should employ when the effort level is low enough that you do not need the exhale to create sufficient stiffness in your core. An example of this is during joint mobility exercises in Intu-Flow. Another example would be in endurance efforts where energy conservation is a primary concern, like marathon running.

Your breath would evolve from Discipline to Flow as you get better in a particular exercise. The evolution fromDiscipline to Flow cannot be forced. It happens subconsciously as your nervous system gets more efficient in a particular skill. As you make the exercise more difficult through increased resistance, volume, sophistication etc, you may need to go down to Discipline again, going back and forth as needed.

Sounds complicated? If you can’t remember anything, just remember these:

1) Exhale on effort

2) Exhale on compression

3) Exhale on impact/contact (with the floor, punching bag, your opponent etc.)

~~~

Additional notes from editor: While most of you reading this are probably runners or newbie runners, this article serves 2 purposes –

1) Knowing how and when to breathe while running is crucial. It allows your body to function more efficiently as you run. That is to say, to give your body the most efficient amount of oxygen intake at ever step you take. Afterall, running shouldnt be a chore for your body nor should it stresses your body out to the extent of you panting heavily and feeling like passing out at the finish line.

I know cause i’ve been in that state before and it wasnt good. Panting heavily just indicates that your body needs more oxygen to be circulated in its system. Had i took note and breathe properly during my runs back then, i would not be suffering from such post-running heavy panting. And no, thats not me in the picture. Duhh?

2) Most runners that i know of personally, would hit the gym to train. Train what? Train their legs, run on treadmills etc. That’s fine cause im guessing that you all know your stuff well. But the other half of you might not even train in the gym at all. You know, good solid runs are backed with good strong core muscles as well as leg muscles. Well, if you plan on hitting the gym (after inspired by this), its time to take note on how to breathe right while carrying out your weighted exercises.

And no thats not me either. I’m not that hardcore, really. Not yet. 😉

Till then, Guten tag!

SAFETY TIPS ON RUNNING (Part 2)

by Guest writer – Farhan Juan M.

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With just days to go before the penultimate running event of the year – Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2011, kicks in, its about time to review and refresh our minds with some safety tips on running! 🙂 In my last article I talked about three things: Medical & HealthMeals, and Warming up/ Stretching. You can read them here: SAFETY TIPS (PART 1). Today in the part II of my safety tips on running feature, I would like to share 4 more things to take note of when you run.

AWARENESS & PREPARATION:

Being aware of the surrounding is necessary for your safety. Many of us like to listen to our iPod or <insert your mp3 player name here> while we go on our runs. While there is nothing wrong or unsafe about that per se, having the song blasting into your eardrums can make you become less aware of the things that are happening around you; for instance, a car honking or a bicycle bell ringing. Avoid running in poorly lit or secluded areas for your own safety, especially if you are running alone. Always let someone know where you are running.

In cases when you do trail running, be careful of uneven terrain and keep a lookout for dangerous animals like snakes. Wear all-terrain shoes for better support. These shoes are also able to withstand heavier damage from rough terrains; therefore lasting longer.

You should also check the weather before you start out on your run. DO NOT RUN if there is a thunderstorm, lightning, or a haze of more than 100 points.

SET REALISTIC TARGETS:

When you just started out running, it is not unusual to feel excited and expect to improve rapidly over a short period of time. There is a tendency to over-exert because of the strong determination to pursue your new-found passion in running. While the improvements can be massive at the start, it will slowly plateau as your body gets fitter. It becomes harder to improve as significantly as when you first started out. A reasonable target is to increase your mileage by no more than 10% every week.

It is also important to know when to stop. In running, there is no such thing as No Pain, No Gain. This is because you might aggravate a minor injury into a problem so serious that it can prevent you from running ever again. Make sure you rest well before and after your runs. If the injury persists after a week of rest, you should visit the doctor.

REMEMBERING R.I.C.E TREATEMENT:

R – Rest

– Ice

C – Compress

E – Elevate

Most running injuries respond well to the R.I.C.E treatment. The value of REST is underrated; it is often one of the most effective ways to treat any aches or pains that you experience after a physically demanding exercise such as running. ICE the area where you feel the pain as soon as possible for 20 minutes for every 4 to 6 hours. Usually inflammation should be gone after 72 hours. COMPRESSION is done to limit swelling and provide minor relief to the pain. You can wrap the ice pack around the affected area with a bandage, but ensure that it is not too tight, and not for too long to prevent frostbite. ELEVATE the injured area above your heart, whenever possible.

STRETCHING:

Stretching a lot increases your flexibility and your range of motion. Flexible athletes have a lesser tendency of getting muscle injuries. Therefore I would like to highlight again the importance of stretching, even after your runs. Post-run stretching can help lengthen the tight muscles and will reduce the likelihood of injuries. Not to forget that it also feels very good.

To summarize ALL the safety tips for running:

  1. Check your medical & health status
  2. Have proper meals
  3. Warm ups & stretches
  4. Awareness of the surrounding and Preparation
  5. Set realistic targets
  6. Remember R.I.C.E treatment
  7. Stretching 🙂

Well that’s the end of my safety tips on running feature. If you all have more tips to share, do post in the comments section! Let’s help one another so that we can improve and enjoy our running experience together!

 

SAFETY TIPS ON RUNNING (Part 1)

by Guest writer – Farhan Juan M.

 ~

According to the last National Sports Participation Survey, jogging is ranked the most popular sport among Singaporeans. What makes running so popular? Well, we all know how to run. My first memory of running was probably to run away from my mother when I got myself into trouble. Running is also cheap, all you need is a pair of shoes and you’re set for a fulfilling workout. We can run at any time of the day, alone or in groups, and anywhere. Singapore also has a couple of wonderful running trails, including the various parks, stadiums, gyms and even at the reservoirs (maybe not at Bedok Reservoir during the night for now)! My personal favorite running trail is at Pasir Ris Park, where I usually do my 10 kilometer jogs during late evenings to behold the beautiful sunset that awaits me there.

It is a good sport for those of you who are thinking of getting yourself in shape, but before you start running, there are some things you should do before you begin your healthy lifestyle:

1) MEDICAL & HEALTH:

If you are above 35 years old and have been leading a sedentary lifestyle for quite some time, it will be good to have a medical checkup. This is especially recommended for those who have had a history of medical or fitness problems (including asthma, diabetes, heart problems, and injuries). The doctor will be able to highlight the problems you might encounter and advise how to deal with them.

Get yourself the right pair of shoes (if you do not already have it). You should always wear the appropriate footwear for your type of foot, and the type of shoe. There are three types of foot: Normal Arch, Flat Arch and High Arch. There are also two types of shoe: Racing and training shoes. For new runners, it is advised to choose training shoes as they typically have more cushioning and have thicker outer soles. Always buy shoes that fit you comfortably.

2) MEALS 

A common mistake by new runners is that they feel the need to starve themselves before a run. This is not recommended as your body needs its fuel to run. There are three types of fuel for exercise: Carbohydrate, Fat and Protein. Consume carbohydrates as it is the most immediate source of energy for the body. It is also good to give your body at least 2 hours to digest the food that you eat before you begin running. Ensure that you keep yourself hydrated – before, during and after any physical activity.

3) WARMING UP / STRETCHING

You are almost ready to run now, but your muscles are still a little cold. A common misconception is that warming up equates to static stretching, but this can increase the likelihood of getting injuries too. What I usually do for my warm-up is either cycling/light jogging for 5 minutes before I do my stretching. You can also do some jumping jacks (50 counts of four) or light skipping. Another alternative is to do some dynamic stretching.

Now you are all set to run, I welcome you to the wonderful world of running. Let’s get those muscles pumping, the endorphins flowing, and most importantly, HAVE FUN! 🙂

What do you think of kettlebells?

(Exclusive article as shared by one of our Personal Trainer friend – Mr Herman Chauw)

Since the kettlebell boom in English speaking America in recent times in early 2000s, many other English speaking first world countries have also been partaking in the “kettlebell revolution”.

A lot of the marketing materials give the impression that and say things along these lines:

-Kettlebells are better than cardio.

-Kettlebells are better than conventional weight training / lifting.

-Kettlebells are better than conventional weights.

Etc.

Kettlebells

There can be other claims but to keep things simple, let’s just use these broad categories of statements as examples.

Now, let me burst your bubble. These statements are not fair comparisons. They are comparing apples and oranges. In some sense they can be true, but as in all things, there is no hard and fast rule, aka “it depends”. Allow me to explore in greater detail the claims made by these statements and their implications.

But before i go further, you need to have a background knowledge of: the Time is more important than the Techniquethe Technique is more important than the Tool.

Kettlebells are better than cardio

This is an illogical statement. Kettlebell is a Tool, cardio is a Time / Protocol. Can you say “dumbbells are better than cardio” or “barbells are better than cardio”? It doesn’t make sense.

Yes i know that it refers to “kettlebell training” rather than the equipment itself. But still “kettlebell training” is a very vague statement. Just like the barbell can be used for Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, Weightlifting and many other purposes, the kettlebell can be used for these same purposes.

“Kettlebell training” makes as much sense as “barbell training” or “dumbbell training”. It does not give you the slightest hint of the fitness goal(s) being trained for nor the Time / Protocol of the training. The same Tools can be used for fat loss, muscle gain, strength & conditioning and many other purposes. Any of them can be used for 5×5, 3×10, 3×5, 10×3 etc. If you like, kettlebells can also be used for cardio or other nonsensical training Protocols, like “toning”, “shaping”, “slimming”, etc.

More on cardio

The majority of people’s idea of “cardio” is “long slow distance (LSD) cardio”, aka “steady state cardio”.

While there is nothing wrong with LSD if it fits your fitness goals (e.g. to run a marathon), if you are looking for efficient fat loss, it is not that efficient. There are much better suited training Protocols for fat loss, like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).

The problem is not that LSD is not good. The problem is that people do not know what Protocols to use for their fitness goals. Blame it on improper programming, not the Protocol. The body only knows how to adapt to the demands imposed upon it by you (SAID). You choose the Protocol based on your fitness goals.

Kettlebells are better than conventional weight lifting

Again, same point like the one above, an illogical statement. Kettlebell is a Tool, weight lifting (whether conventional or not is not the matter) is a Technique.

I do agree that the “classic techniques” of kettlebell lifting (eg. swing, clean, snatch) differ from barbell or dumbbell based systems, but beside these, both kettlebells and dumbbells / barbells can be used for the same exercises (eg. turkish get up, any variations of presses and other pushes, rows etc.).

In other words, you can use dumbbells for “kettlebell lifts” or kettlebells for “conventional weight training”. You can even use kettlebells for curls if you like.

Granted the Technique varies to a degree when using different Tools. But if you are not a professional athlete who needs to perform with that specific Tool, then it really does not matter so much as doing the Exercises specific to your needs.

More on conventional weight training

What the majority of people know as “conventional weight training” is isolation exercises, possibly an overemphasis of the bench press and using machines, which are “non-functional”.

Most people cringe when told about the real lifts: squats hurt your knees, deadlifts hurt your back, overhead lifting hurt your shoulders. But these lifts the real thing about “conventional weight training”. Of course there are many more good exercises in “conventional weight training” and they are not to be shunned. It is because of some “rehab gurus” or some misinformed “fitness experts” that these ideas get into the mainstream and giving real weight training a bad rep.

Couple that with improper Protocols and other programming variables and the public will be tricked into believing that “conventional weight training” does not give them the results they want.

Blame it on misinformation, not on “conventional weight training”. This is NOT real “conventional weight training”, this is a misrepresentation. This is improper weight training. There are many good “conventional weight training” systems and programs out there, only if the public care to find out about them. There is nothing bad nor wrong about “conventional weight training” that needs to be replaced with “kettlebell training”.

 

Kettlebells are better than conventional weights

A weight is a weight. As long as it has mass and therefore exerts weight on the user, it has fulfilled it’s purpose. Does it matter so much what shape it is to you? It does matter to a degree, but that is outside the scope of this discussion.

A tool is just a tool. A tool is useful for what it is intended for. It is not useful for what it is not intended for. You wouldn’t use a screwdriver to drive a nail, would you?

Which mode of transport is better? Walking, bicycle, motorcycle, car, ship, plane? Neither. Each is better in its own way depending on what it is used for. You wouldn’t walk halfway round the globe, would you? Neither would you take a plane to the shop round the corner. Yes you could (i.e. effective), but it is a stupid idea to do that (i.e. inefficient).

So whether the weight is shaped like a kettle, or it is simply a rock, a bag of sand, a bar etc. it does not matter so much. It depends more on the Exercises you are doing. Some Exercises are done better with a kettlebell than dumbbbell. Some the other way around.

Conclusion

The kettlebell is just a tool in the tool box. There is no magic in the kettlebell. As if owning one would instantly turn you into a superman. Same applies to barbells, dumbbells, Clubbells or any other fitness tool.

No matter which tool you use, the key to fitness (whatever fitness means to you) is the same: HARD WORK.

WhyWeRun’s “Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon Tip #1

Avoid eating spicy foods before running and the night before your long runs. It can give you stomach cramps and makes you wanna go to the toilet.

Last thing you want is shit dripping from your shorts as you cross the Finish Line. Gaaah! (Don’t say we didn’t warn you!)

WhyWeRun’s “Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon Tip #1