Fitness Articles : The Fighter Within Part I

Martial arts, once thought of as the domain of the aggressive and violent actually is a good workout in itself. In ancient China, Shaolin monks were pacifist and practice martial arts as a form of strengthening of the body rather than for use against bullies (though it helps in standing up to oppressors). Martial arts are also thought to build physical strength and character through hardship, instilling virtues like humility and self control.

“The Sweet Science” is not just violence, but endurance, strength, strategy, forethought and all “heart”. Life has always been compared to a fight, and rightly so, because its never easy and to win we need to take hits and keep on fighting.

Contrary to popular belief, the better a fighter a person becomes, the calmer and more self-controlled he/she is. Because swinging blindly into a fight would only get you knocked out from a well timed punch. Most fighters naturally learn that self control and techniques as well as relentless strengthening of the body quells their anger, and naturally makes them better fighters and people.

The physical benefits are also astounding.

Cardiovascular - One of the most important exercise benefits is cardiovascular health. A weak cardiovascular system usually  results in shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, in worst cases a heart attack. One of the best ways for cardiovascular health is doing prolonged and (slightly) strenuous activity. Not most people love jogging as it might be too solitary and slow paced. While group sports require alot of coordination as well as meeting the timing of all participants before it can happen (joining a class helps). Martial arts training is solitary and includes the benefits of being more interesting than jogging and less dependent on the timing of others like group exercises and games. Plus, its always fun to kick or punch at something. 30-40 minutes of light/medium activity like shadow boxing or heavy bag boxing does wonders for the cardiovascular system.

Increased muscle tone -  Martial arts combines cardiovascular activity (moving around ) with anaerobic activity (punching hard and fast). The anaerobic effects of martial arts are very suitable for women who do not want to gain excess muscle mass because of the relative intensity and requirement for full body movement (compound exercises). So usually a muscle like the arms or leg would not be dominantly trained like it would be for weight bearing exercises. And the requirement for agility and speed would also ensure that a good martial arts program wouldn’t see you packing on muscles like a body-builder. For men, the workout can be also made more challenging by using heavy punching bags and complemented with weight training for increased muscle bulk and punching power, and can improve muscle tone as well as be a terrific core workout as well.

Weight Loss -  One pound of fat equals to approximately 3,500 calories. To lose one pound of fat a week, we must eliminate 500 calories from our diet. An hour of moderate martial arts training would burn equal or more than 500 calories a session. And 7 days of training would easily blaze through a pound of fat. Together with the learning component and the thrill factor, keeping interested and committed to martial arts is easy and would aid you greatly in weight loss.

Improved reflexes and hand eye coordination -  Fast reflexes are required for martial arts training. There is no doubt about it and research also shown that martial arts not only improve your reflexes for martial arts related activities, it helps in daily activities in your life as well that require reflexes and co-ordination and might even save your life when you drive a car.

Improved moods -  There is nothing so satisfying that the dull thud of a punching bag with a well executed punch and the deep breathing and body slick with sweat kind of feeling when you participate in martial arts training. Researchers have also found out that a regular exercise routine is one of the best ways to improve your mood. Punching and kicking at life’s problems is not only a good way to relieve stress and frustration, but will make you happier. The endorphins released by physical activity from martial arts training or intense physical activity can be active in your body for as long as four hours. Its better than coffee !

Mind Article : Fitness and Kindness

I think the two really are like chalk and cheese. Fitness and kindness are quite different things. But are they ? Recently i was listening to a French Monk (Matthieu Ricard) talk about happiness. He was talking about basic philosophies of happiness or well being, it seems no one wakes up thinking they want to suffer the whole day. Consciously or not, whatever we hope and dream its related to a profound desire for happiness. There is incredible diversity in happiness, fleeting or vague and each of us to define it in our own terms. But if its something to determine our destiny and what we feel , then we need to know what it is, when we seek it we want to know we are running to it.

Matthieu Ricard, philosopher on the state of happiness.

Is happiness pleasure ? Pleasure depends on an object, its very fleeting and it always diminishes in value, i mean its fun if you do it once, exhilarating, and a cheeseburger or chocolate cake would seem to be less pleasurable as time passes. So as much as we think that junk food makes us fat, it stems from an innate desire to be happy but this happiness is short lived and expensive. Conversely, a fit body would only be as beautiful until we begin to point out flaws no matter how perfect it would be. We need a deeper sense of fulfilment than just looking good and being fit, we need to push boundaries and be better versions of ourselves in mind and body.

I think that happiness is a deep sense of fulfilment, called Eudemonia. A sense of well being, a sense of kindness. Matthieu Richard says the mind translates things into pleasure or pain, and we would do well to train it. Because if we do not build the inner conditions, no matter what your outer conditions are, you would not be happy. We have heard of people who have auxiliary happiness but their mind is unable to translate this happiness to them, they have the nicest house or best spouse and children and health but they are not happy. They are successful but not flourishing. If you give them paradise, they would probably find a way out of it because they cant translate this paradise into happiness.

I feel happiness is a sense of calmness, a way to transform our mind, a way to change the destructive emotions into constructive ones. We need to proceed with positive emotions, finding inner freedom, exercising loving kindness towards hatred. Finding a general cure for our problems inwards. If we spend a large portion of our lives to study and exercise to get successful and fit, then maybe we should take more care of what matters even more, the way our mind functions.  A way is by being completely open and kind towards ourselves and others. By making someone happy without recognition, having a sense of integration with our deep nature.

Being aware, or in Buddhism, being “mindful” or in a state of “mindfulness”. Being more cognitive, and understanding of our own emotions is important, because if we could not identify our emotions, then what different are we from a stone. When we look around we see people obsessed with how their body looks or performs, if you can lift 100 kg and if I lift 110kg I am stronger than you therefore I am better. If I win, you lose, if i can’t hit my goals i lose.

You life is a miracle. Why not make the best use of it ?

We must be aware of such destructive thoughts and emotions that seek to break our calm, telling us we are “less than” and giving us a lot of pressure, allowing us only meagre happiness when we achieve our goals, we must be kinder to ourselves. We should proceed in life with mindfulness with a kind of happiness and sense of duty with deeper sense of happiness in who we, what we are becoming and where we are moving towards, that is the only thing that can sustain and withstand the hardships and adversities in life, having a stronger frame of mind.

What I am saying is that we should look at our rules and make things kinder for ourselves, we never lose per se, but we do become less calm and confident and when we are not mindful. Goals push us, but only in being better people and not just being better at things. Maybe the reason why you run is fighting a battle with yourself, putting pain and discomfort on the line, pushing boundaries, for YOURSELF. You are not lesser off by not having the dream and athletic body you prefer, but rather you would be poorer off if you gave up being a better person because it was hard to achieve.

In the end, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about reaching your limits. Being kind to yourself, playing for the ultimate victory, the victory over yourself, becoming the best version of yourself. Being the kindest, calmest, most confident and ultimately the happiest version of yourself.

Mind Article : The Perfectly Imperfect You

We are constantly bombarded by perfection, we see bodies of models who had undergone serious diets or steroids paraded as though it is the norm. And told that a herculean or lean and toned body is the way to go, that the only place to get fit is an expensive gym and that the admiration and acceptance of others can be earned by a rock hard body, that being beautiful on the outside would make us beautiful on the inside as well.

Valeria Lukyanova, a real life person who painstakingly built herself to be a real life Barbie through plastic surgery, makeup and photoshop.

Well its a bitter pill to swallow but in this age of mass media creating a wave of aneroxia and self obsession creating a singular goal which is that of a beautiful body by the standards of the media. Not by our OWN standards but by other people’s standards. If there is a single muscle that we could train to make ourselves happier, its not the muscles on the outside that matter but the world on the inside.

Anthony Robbins once said : “The only true security in life comes from knowing that every single day you are improving yourself in some way, that you are increasing the calibre of who you are and that you are valuable to the people around you”. This is what I feel is the key to true happiness, by stilling the surface of a pond full of ripples can we than actually know and feel what we really want.

Ask any person who has undergone a serious makeover (with or without plastic surgery. And most of the deepest reason why the would do it is because they want to gain acceptance. Acceptance from themselves to some arbitrary idea of beauty of acceptance from friends or family or a potential spouse. The largest and most compelling reason why people would want to improve their bodies resorting even to go under the knife or drug use is to gain acceptance. But what use is acceptance of others when we don’t accept ourselves ? 

If there is one thing i would like you to remember if you forget anything else on this website or article is that we need to accept ourselves for who we are. If we don’t take that first step, then the best fitness plan or plastic surgeon could never make us happy. We have to accept the perfectly imperfect us first before we take steps to make changes. Once we achieve that any upside would be pleasure and joy and the journey would be an educating and fulfilling one. On the flipside, if we don’t accept ourselves and subject ourselves on some far flung and media portrayed standards on what is beautiful then every step is a downside, with each painful step leading you to realise how far you are from your goals, filling you with frustration and self denial.

Inspiring and motivating people, with a heart bigger than most

Nowhere is this more clear in the book by Nick Vujicic “Life Without Limits” when he illustrated his experiences in public speaking when he said these simple words to kids who listened to him speak in schools, who do not know him at all. Who like all of us have their little imperfections. He said a few simple words:

” I love you just as you are. You are beautiful to me”.

And the reaction he got was described as ” a muffled whimper or a smothered sniffle… Then the powerful emotions would sweep across like a contagion. Tears will flow down young cheeks. Shoulders will shake from stifled sobs. Girls will huddle together. Boys will leave the room to hide their faces”.
All this he got from a simple and honest and heartfelt word to them. God forbid that we be able to say this to ourselves, but what if we could. What if instead of having a stranger tell us that we are beautiful. We allowed ourselves to tell ourselves these few words:

” I love you just as you are. You are beautiful to me”.

How would our lives change. And how would we see ourselves ? You have to stand up for yourself love yourself for who you are and live the life that you feel is right for you. Beauty is blind, Vanity is Hilarious, but you are REAL. So take what’s real in yourself and make it better. WE are all perfectly imperfect human beings, with all our painful flaws and histories. But having a perfect face wont bring you happiness, being admired wont do that either. You already have what it takes to be loved and valued, and it just takes a bit of reaching deep inside into the wells of strength, to find that kindness, love and accepting ourselves for who we are and working our way up from there.

 

 

Fitness Article : The Ultimate Diet (Happiness and Longevity) Part III

To explore the impact of diet on our lives. We would normally try to look at longevity and quality of life. One of the oldest and healthiest populations on earth are the Okinawans, who on average live up to 78-86 years of age. And they get older in a much better state. The statistics reveal a significantly lower risk of heart attack and stroke, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimers. And improved quality of life, living with full functionality like a person 30 years younger, with lucid minds, physically strong bodies and active sex lives (without the use of Viagra). So what are the secrets of the Okinawans ? I would venture a guess its 50% based on the food they eat and exercise as well as 50% (maybe much more) on their outlook in life.

Diet

We have seen most faddish diets, that promote low carbohydrates, high protein and sometimes even ridiculous one like the grapefruit diet and many other fad diets that are difficult to stick to. The traditional Okinawan diet of consists of about large and frequent portions of vegetables,  fruits, cereals and soy products. Okinawans take fish weekly and meat and dairy products very sparingly. Their diet is low in calories and contains a lot of vegetables with carbohydrates, protein, and fat providing 85%, 9% and 6% of total calories. This is in huge contrast to the average consumption of meat in the United States, which averaged 224 pounds in 2010 compared to the average Okinawan who consumes around 40 pounds of meat.

I am not eschewing a vegan lifestyle, but maybe our consumption of meat and calories are in excess comparably. And it isnt that the Okinawans are genetically long lived. In the 20th century, 100,000 Okinawans migrated to Brazil, where they adopted the Brazilian diet which rich in meat. This actually reduced their average lifespan by 17 years.

Also, fast foods started appearing with the set up of American Air bases in the 20th century, the obesity levels, cardiovascular diseases and premature deaths of the young reached higher levels in Okinawa.

Exercise

Cardiovascular disease and hypertension, symptoms of a developed countries woes are highly prevalent. Whereas healthcare has moved in tandem, we seem to forget that the quality of life is what counts, not how long you live.

Exercise is of paramount importance, yet now in todays cubicled rat race, many people are hardly getting enough exercise with the rich diet, making it a recipe for disaster. Looking back at our intrepid Okinawans. They practice tai-chi, the art of respiration which is found to greatly reduce stress levels and promote well being and aids in stress reduction.They also walk several kilometers daily, travel on mountain bikes (Yes, even the 70 year olds), practice karate, kendo, dance, and work on their personal gardens.

All these provide a stark contast to the gym environment, where people achieve a merciless efficiency in training their bodies and constantly pushing way past their limits to get the perfect swimsuit look and what we think is beneficial to us might be done in such a stressful way that it might bring more harm than good.

Outlook in life

Finally and most importantly, I find that the main indicator of a healthy, long and fulfilled life like that the Okinawans achieve is through the simple things, their outlook. The people of Okinawa are linked in an intricate social network (not Facebook), that makes them feel connected to the environment and people they are with. They achieve a sense of importance and spirituality and awe of life that we often take for granted. When they take part in physical activity,it is not an isolated-something-you-have-to-prove-kind (like run a marathon under 4 hours thingy), but activity them makes them feel as part of active members of the community instead of old dull people.

They form supportive links and have a positive outlook towards life. Resulting in  low levels of stress and low depression levels. Their lives revolve around connectivity (not of the virtual sort) with real connections with people who love and encourage them in life. This I find is the crucial thing that might be missing in our aim to strive always to be the best looking body.

It might not be the best body or best brains that we want to possess. But at the end of the day,its the meaning we attach in our lives reflected by the importance we have in other peoples lives that matter, that really makes us feel and look good.

I feel the purpose we diet is not only to look good, but more importantly, to make us feel good. With our activity levels, what we eat and our day-to-day happiness all playing an integral part. Our outlook in life greatly determines on whether we succeed or fail and its far greater to be quietly happy than successful and wanting.

 

Fitness Article : The Ultimate Diet (Psychology) Part II

The data isnt pretty wikipedia states that
“The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 1994 indicated that 59% of American men and 49% of women had BMIs over 25. Morbid obesity—a BMI of 40 or more—was found in 2% of the men and 4% of the women. The newest survey in 2007 indicates a continuation of the increase in BMI: 63% of Americans are overweight or obese, with 26% now in the obese category (a BMI of 30 or more). “

This is probably not the way you would like to evolve

With growing obesity, many people are resorting to diets and get thin quick wats to lose weight. Diet is fast becoming a mainstream dirty word, normally associated with losing weight, and waif like anorexic women or beefy men exhibiting 6-12% hyper low bodyfat achieved through a cocktail of chicken breasts, tuna, steroids and powerful fatburners.

Many people view diets as ways to manipulate the body into burning high amounts of fat, but there is a good news and bad news, the good news is that its possible to lose weight rapidly if you employ hardcore techniques that involve starvation, drugs and improper eating and then theres the bad news, that it doesnt last, one year or even 5 years down the road, you are going to have a damaged body and face struggles as you body tries swing the pendulum back to your original state.

My point is that you cant diet without permanent changes to your lifestyle, and dieting is eating more of the right things instead of eating less. We all intuitively know what is the right things to eat, toufu or burger, brown rice or white rice. But we normally take this with an attitude of invincibility, thinking that we can shrug off the chocolate bar or the extra burgers. Or even relishing in the comfort that such food brings.

The Psychology of Over Eating

We have heard of binge drinking where people drink themselves silly. But theres also binge eating where people drown (or rather down) their sorrows in food. It doesnt help that ALOT of the odds are stacked against us by food producers who spend millions creating the perfect and most addictive foods that you would like to put into your mouth to maximise the gratification and sense of addiction to fat, salt and sugar. There is no doubt that much of what we eat in restaurants or what we can find in supermarkets is fat on fat on sugar on fat with salt. Even the salads are drenched with thousand island dressing and liberally sprinkled with bacon bits, because this is the thing that makes food SEXY.

Never let your Food be your Drug

If losing weight seems like a huge task to you, chances are that the greater your sense of shame you link with your appearance, the more you’ll be inclined to feel hopeless about losing weight. When you find you cant break the hold of food over your life or cant seem to take the effort to exercise, this breaks your confidence and spirals into other areas in your life.

That snickers bar just had the last laugh.

Psychology and Proper Eating

The best way to learn how to control our urges is to realise that eating creates positive emotions. There is no doubt about it, when you reach for that Hagen Daaz ice cream after your break up, you are reaching for an instant lift me, a sense of power and certainty that when you have the first bite you would immediately feel good. Its an instant Prozac, just that it kills your confidence and youself ultimately in the long run.

Emotional eating is not the way. One way to prevent that is to change your perspective about food. Do you eat to live or live to eat, make distinctions about food. Is food a fuel or is it a drug to you. Would you want high performance petrol in your vehicle or would you want sloppy oil coursing through your veins. Choose a positive way to view eating and youself, merge a positive self image with proper eating. Associate health and vitality with overeating instead of pleasure.

If you are guilty of emotional eating. Here are some ways you can prevent it.

  1. Learn to recognise when you are overeating and where you do it most. In the office, or on your couch.
  2. Determine the situations and feelings that you go through that precede the bouts of overeating 
  3. Ask yourself HARD questions and try to find out why you are doing this, the answer is usually deeper than because this tastes good so i would like to eat it. If proper thought be given, your reason should be more of “Finding solace or comfort in food” , or “venting frustrations by eating”. 
  4. Allow the feelings to sink in, and learn to recognise them. Appreciate that they are giving you the message and that you are doing what you think is best at that time to make yourself feel good.
  5. Also realise that you have to let go of the feeling and find methods to prevent yourself from getting into such situation. Choose alternate behaviours or avoid going to places that you think you would over-eat. 
  6. Reinforce and reward yourself for the positive action that you take, one less chocolate bar per day, cut down take small steps in reducing your overall intake. 
  7. Find support groups and exercise groups and learn from people who have taken massive action and succeeded, and learn from the ones that most resemble your situation. 

It isn’t easy but its definitely worth it


The only true way that you can lose weight and make it stay off is making adjustments to the way you think and the things you do. According to Einstein ” You cant solve a problem with the same mindset that created it”. Similarly, we need to create a new mindset, that would install the habit of binge eating and the cycle of obesity, hopelessness and low self-esteem.
Learn to eat things that are good for you and develop the discipline to eat them. You will reach a stage where your body would reject the junk food physically (in some cases people would feel nauseous when consuming foods that are high in oil, fat, sugar or salt) and start accepting the healthy foods you eat are tastier. That is when you have installed the proper eating habits and it would be easier to carry on eating healthy permanently from there.  It isnt easy but it worth doing.

Fitness Article : The Ultimate Diet (Energy and Happiness) Part I

Its very intuitive, that you are what you eat. And recently studies have proven that foods affect our mood as well. The study which was done by in 1983 which involved 184 adults that either consumed a protein-rich or carbohydrate-rich meal. After two hours, their mood and performance were tested.

The effects of the meal differed across gender and age. For example, females reported greater sleepiness after a carbohydrate meal whereas males reported greater calmness. In addition, older participants (40 years or older) showed a decline in tests of sustained selective attention after a carbohydrate-rich lunch.

Are you getting enough energy or are you going to crash and burn ?

Food affects our energy levels

Food mainly affects our mood and energy levels as well. Our sleep cycle (circadian rhythms) influence our energy levels and memory. Most mammals are diurnal, however we show clear preferences for energy levels during certain times of the day according to preference, this is affected by food choice. “Early birds” feel most productive the first part of the day and their food choices become particularly important during lunch and throughout the afternoon. “Night Owls” feel most energetic later in the day and should pay attention to their breakfast choices as they can increase or decrease energy levels and influence memory.

An important factor to consider is also the glycemic index as well, which is how quickly the food gets transferred to energy. This is on a scale of 1-100, at while the higher the scale the faster it gets absorbed by the body. Pure glucose has a glycemic index of 100 which means it immediately can be used as a source of energy for the body. Eat too much of foods with high glycemic index and experts at the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance , or DBSA, note rapid changes in blood sugar often cause elevations in mood and energy levels. These elevations tend to be in short bursts of of time, and are followed by a crash which produces lower mood and loss of energy. And all mothers can attest to that after their kid goes crazy then cranky after a candy bar.

Food Affects our Moods

There are many foods that affect moods of such a few are interesting

Chocolate is like Cannabis

Chocolates contains a number of potentially psychoactive chemicals which stimulate the brain in the same way as certain drugs (like cannabis) does.  Nevertheless, these substances are present in chocolate in very low concentrations. However, chocolate can serve as a powerful mood enhancer amd as an ultimate comfort food, which might explain why it is the food of choice for people when they are unhappy. Bas thing is that it causes a insulin crash that leaves you feeling fatter and worse.

Caffeine the most socially acceptable “drug” or stimulant. Coffee is regarded as a  stimulant (in the same class of amphetamines). They enhance alertness, vigilance, and reaction time but also increases anxiety and nervousness. Caffeine helps in promoting alertness, memory and is a strong antioxidant but has a host of effects including anxiety, loss of done density and rapid heart rate increases. (Top 15 effects of Coffee)

Omega 3 Fatty Acids influences mood, behaviour and personality. According to a study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, low levels of  omega-3 fatty acids are linked to depression, pessimism and impulsivity. They can also play a role in major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse and attention deficit disorder.

Iron and Folic Acid - Iron deficiency as a result of anaemia can result in depressed mood, lethargy and problems with attention and decreased ability to exercise. A low iron status is most common among menstruating women , children, vegetarians, and people who follow a diet.

Originally posted on Takbo Printipe... Takbo!:

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