Category Archives: Fitness Articles

The know-how of being fit. The A-Z from Nutrition, Workout Routines and Advice. I believe in a simple non-technical form of explanation, easy to understand and easy to execute.

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.

Fitness Article : The Abs-olute Truth Part II

There are always people who are out for quick fix solution , that miracle pill and that miracle drug. But honestly, the body is just like the mind, its the effort that you put into it that determines how it would end up.If you don’t read and don’t study there no real way you can get brilliant, sure, there are ways to study smarter, but studying smarter takes effort too. If you want results, you have to practice and use effective tools to practice with. This is the same with fitness.

If we can expect to achieve something something significant, we need an effective exercise and diet plan. There no two ways about it, fitness is not something you pop and fizzle in your drink and not some contraption you can use while reading the newspaper. Achieving fitness might take effort but it is worth the effort because the journey there would transform the way you think, your determination, confidence and energy levels. A six pack is just a by product of this.

What’s are six pack abs  – does everyone have it ?

A six pack is basically a thin sheet of muscle that covers your stomach. Note the word thin, so in order to have a rippling six we need to eliminate the fat covering it – a lot of it. A six pack is basically a muscle you already have becoming more visible with less body fat.

A six pack is a misnomer, meaning that not everyone has a six pack. It doesn’t mean if you have a eight pack you are awesome and if you have six pack you are cool, a four pack means you need to diet or train. No, actually genetics play a big role in the number of abdominal muscles you have. An example would be the reigning Mr Olympia, Ronnie Coleman who has a four pack but builds it with quite abit of definition. While others would have a mind boggling eight pack.

You cant control how many abs you have but you can control how much they can be seen with a low fat percentage

So how do I develop visible Abs ?

The answer is deceptively simple.

Purpose

Imagine two people working in the same job, one views a promotion as a good to have, while the other sees a promotion as a big part of the goals in his life and achieving that would open doors. It would be easy to guess who would wake up earlier and put more hours at work to get the promotion. The stronger and more compelling a purpose is, the more you can ensure that you don’t give up in your fitness goals.

Having visible abs should not be your end-all purpose. IF it is, it would be a weak motivation and wouldn’t motivate you to train that much. To motivate yourself fitness it should be a “must do” instead of a “good to have”. Focus instead n a healthier body and fitness level, and a visible set of abs is just an affirmation of that.

And then there’s the Diet

If there’s anything worth noting, its that diet is PARAMOUNT. To having visible abs. People think dieting is a dirty word, and usually think of it as fat people eating less. But its actually more about eating right than eating less. What’s the difference between a banana and a cookie, in terms of nutirtion and coloric value, alot. Learn these differences and learn how substances inside you body can generate a boost your energy levels and fat as well. Here are some basics.

Drink water (Lots of it) : Most people do not drink enough water, the recommended intake is 8 glasses about 1.5 litres. According to WebMD, a reasonable water intake can help with weight loss. We need around half a cup of water for every 100 calories we burn. Furthermore, water is a much needed catalyst for a lot of the chemical reactions in our body and is essential in flushing out waste it also fills our stomach so we get less hunger pangs. One thing you might not know is that sufficient water is needed so that you wont get retention, as the body would tend to hold on to water more tenaciously if we do not drink enough of it.

Think about what you can add to your diet: Not what you should take away. Add fruits to your diet. Green leafy vegetables and fruits possess a lot of plant chemicals (phytochemicals) that will aid in combating fat loss. Most fruits have fibre that slows down the absorption of fat, Grapefruits contains nookatone which  could help increase fat burning. Find out more.

We tend to overestimate our appetite and underestimate our potential weight gain

Think about how much you need to eat : Most people overeat, obesity is a great indicator of overeating (supposing no genetic or metabolic disorders). So eating less will definitely help. When you’re done eating, you should feel better — not stuffed, bloated, or tired. Use what the Japanese (who are seldom overweight) do, they even have a name for its as this blogger describes, its called Hara Hachi Bu ( Cool Name) but simply means eat until you are 80% full. Though I am not quite sure how you measure in terms of percentage, it means eat until you don’t feel bloated. Read more about sensible eating here, under summertomato’s post of eating mindfully.

No Night-time Snacks: We are creatures of habit and it would be important to notice your bad eating habits especially at night. Sometimes we resort to comfort eating and pull out chips or snacks while sitting in front of the TV. Its a kind of eating amnesia and bad habit that we should correct. Eating foods late at night is a sure way to get fat because your metabolism is at its lowest at night and any chance of the food being burned is very low and it most likely would go to your gut. So throw away the night snacks and take a low calorie skimmed milk drink or something light before you go to bed.

Eat what you like but in MODERATION: Putting foods off lead to a huge rebound effect after we think the diet period is over. And we end up putting on more than what we lost as we eat what we are deprived of. Start sensibly, eat your normal and leave small portions untouched, the restaurant may not like the food wastage but it does winders to your body and still gives you the ability to eat what you like. Do minor changes like less sugar in your coffee or cut out the creamer and you would be surprised how much these changes will cost you. (1.4 punds in 18 months).

Eat protein if you can help it: Protein is more “filling” than carbohydrates or fats, and thus may be your new weapon in weight control. Diets higher in protein with less carbohydrates are good. This is due to the fact that your body needs basic carbohydrates to survive, but not so much hat it makes you fat. So using protein to make you feel full, satiating you, would be a sensible diet pla. Not to mention that protein would help repair muscle damage. Bear in mind that the protein should be in moderation, and the Atkins diet is not recommended. Heres why . So be sure to include healthy protein sources, like yogurt, cheese, nuts, or beans, at meals and snacks as well as some carbohydrates.

Ice cream in bed is not the best way to get over stress and depression

Change how you cope with stress, use physical activity instead of food: I guess its a common scenario when a woman breaks up with her boyfriend and ends up eating tubs of ice cream in front of the TV. We usually deal with stress using food, and it manifests itself in sinister ways. Food provides instant gratification with a sugar rush, but post sugar rush, you would feel more depressed and sick. Studies show that sugar addiction affects the same region of the brain as drugs. Use another alternative, exercise. Exercise DEPLETES stress hormones (cortisol) and releases feel good ones (Endorphins). Slowly change the way you deal with stress and depression, run or punch a punching bag, walk and take a long hard stroll. Your body will thank you for it and it beats waking up one day fat and miserable.

More on Fitness Article: Abs-olute Truth Part III (Exercises for Abs).

Related articles

Fitness Article : The Abs-olute Truth Part I

I guess the centre piece of every well defined body is the abdominal muscles, a bulging set of six packs which show superior genetics, discipline or dieting. And in fitness, many people would like to train to get that centre piece and see that as the end-all in the training.

It isn’t that difficult, but it also requires hours of dedication per week as well as a sensible diet plan. And you can stow away the myths that some hi-tech equipment would help you achieve abs with 8 minutes flat, or some diet mix would help you.

Well, there’s this one equipment that will DEFINITELY help you get an instant six pack, except that its a bit ridiculous and would be only good for a laugh.

Instant Six Pack Abs – For about 10 minutes

But seriously, you cant buy fitness instantly, though you can fake it. But why deprive yourself of the joy of exercise and go through dubious shortcuts. It defeats the purpose of the journey – its like telling people that you can become an expert on a subject matter by reading just one book. Like I always say, fitness is the journey, you have to enjoy the journey and all the benefits would come naturally. And now on to the “short cut” methods and their efficacy.

The Lowdown on these “Short-Cuts”

TV Advertised , Ab-cruncher type machines

These come in many forms, and they all promote a rocking motion of the body to enhance the flexion of the abdominal muscle and cradle your neck, making the exercise easy and giving you a nice tight feeling on your waist, and all in 8 minutes a day.

What you dont see is the fine print that says this should be conbined with a sensible diet a an hour of exercise 4 tims weekly in the box, which would make the money back guarantee almost impossible to get back unless you expend real effort. But by buying this product you dont expect to put in any substantial sweat meets the ground (1-2 hour hard workout) kind of effort would you ?

These exercises work by creating an easy abdonminal exercise, but you dont need easy abdominal exercise to get stronger abs. Lifting weight or running would use your abs in substantially more useful ways than an ab specific machine. The abs are not powerful muscles but rather muscles that are quite fatigue resistant and strong by themsleves. They are not visible because they are covered by fat and not that they are weak.

The only real and compelling reason to strength your core (not just abs which i will explain later) is to have greater back support and stability which will help in all aspects of movement, sports and daily life, and there no specific one exercise to do it. Over-strengthening the abdominal muscles would only cause potential for more injury if the rest of your muscles are not strengthened in proportion. Which leads us to the next point.

Diet Pills and Powders 

They have been around for some time, each diet powder promising that you will lose 5 kgs of weight if you follow their strict diet plan and take their miracle powder – which is made from safe herbs and ingredients. Basically, its like paying for overpriced dubious vitamins and a diet plan.

Like exercise equipment, these diet pills and powders come with a nice disclaimer, which says that you have to follow the strict diet plan (which is at a restricted 1000 Kcal or less). Meaning even without the diet pills and powders, you can lose 1kg per week or more. Maximum weight loss recommended is about 1 kg (2 lbs) per week. To lose 1 kg, you theoretically have to cut back on 3850 calories per week or 550 calories per day. But these diets make you cut about 1000kcal per day. (Normal Intake is about 2000-2500 Kcals).

Essentially, you are paying to starve.

Furthermore, alot of the ingredients in these diet pills are not tested, diet pills are not FDA regulated because they are viewed as supplements and not drugs. Thus, they could get away with claims like lose 100kg in 1 day and still get your money. Alot of the ingredients contain substances which might not be good for your liver, there are documnted instances which led to liver failure and death.

Popular Fat busting drug Hydroxycut under big brand name Muscle Tech

“Hydroxycut is the most popular brand of weight-loss supplement, selling approximately 1 million units per year. On May 1, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration(FDA) issued a warning after some Hydroxycut products were linked to liver damage, rhabdomyolysis, and at least one death. The manufacturer then agreed to recall the products. Shortly after the recall, Hydroxycut was “reformulated” with reportedly some different ingredients and placed back for sale.

Many more of these untested drugs by smaller companies up for a quick buck are making huge claims with harmful substances. So before you put these in your body, ask youself.

“Would i waste time and money and health on untested diet pills and powders that will only make me rely on them in the long run, or should i stop relying on quick fixes and start putting in the time and effort on the things that i know will work and will be beneficial for me in the long run”.

More on Fitness Article: Ab-solute Truth Part II (How to get a six pack and keep it).

Fitness Article – The Science and Art of Running Part II (Final)

If you run 100 miles a week, you can eat anything you want — Why? Because
(a) you’ll burn all the calories you consume,
(b) you deserve it, and
(c) you’ll be injured soon and back on a restricted diet anyway.
–Don Kardong

First off, humans are great when it comes to running. Author of the ground breaking book – Born to Run explains (Do take a few minutes to listen, if you are a runner this will benefit you immensely).

You are more than what you think. Far greater.

Running – Our latent potential

Running causes overuse injury and somehow we link running long distances to a sure ticket to chronic injury and pain. Yet if we were to go back 10000 years, running injuries were unheard of. And marathons according to some prehistoric tribes (which currently still exist) were no big deal when they were doing 100 mile runs for hunting and gathering. An exerpt from wiki pedia on our latent athletic prowess – Do note that the Tarahumara still exist as a tribe in North-western Mexico.

“The Tarahumara also use the toe strike method of running, which is natural forbarefoot running. The long-distance running tradition also has ceremonial and competitive aspects. Often, male runners kick wooden balls as they run in “foot throwing”, or rarajipari competitions, and females use a stick and hoop. The foot throwing races are relays where the balls are kicked by the runners and relayed to the next runner while teammates run ahead to the next relay point. These races can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days without a break.”

Why aren’t we great runners ?

In short we have awesome and kick-ass latent stamina. More so than we think we are capable of. So why do we huff and puff after a run down a block of steps or a short jog to catch a bus ?

Avoid running injuries, strengthen your feet

Because we don’t have to run in modern society and the pain we associate with running. Imagine in school when you were forced to run, in whatever gait possible under a certain timing which you never trained for in your sedentary years as a student, This would probably shape your perception of running, its painful and extremely tiring. And most of us would not run unless we are forced to.

Our  tendons and muscles are not developed from young, so our bodies are not well developed for distance. Running on concrete in high-tech shoes can change our biomechanics in running, increasing the risks of injury, so a marathon in heavily cushioned shoes and concrete floors with a weird heel-strike gait using heavily cushioned shoes is a sure ticket to messing up your body. This explains why we are not great runners, we are not trained and equipped to run long distances. So ……

Throw away your shoes

Have you ever seen a toddler walk, they probably would walk with a mid-foot strike, meaning that it would be the most natural form of running. Traditional running shoes create a problem of ineffective gait.

Yes, Nike and Reebok pulled a fast one on you. Their impeccable studies on running has actually led them to conclude that to protect the feet they decided on stiff soles and arch supports. Stiff soles and arch supports are great in encouraging heel strike and weakening your feet. Weak feet and heel strikes promote crappy running posture, when you land on the heel you over-pronate, it causes rotation on the tibia and causes pain on the knee (In layman terms heel strike causes you feet to rotate and grind your knees to injury).

There’s tons of literature on the evils of the heel strike. Yet, Nike, Reebok and Adidas are making tons of money promoting shoes that are meant to make running comfortable but end up making it very painful in the long run. That’s commercialisation for you, with expert knowledge thrown around like Godiva announcing that mil choclate reduces weight.

The advantages of throwing away your shoes or getting minimal shoes are many. Which include

Stronger feet especially in the arch. A healthy foot is a strong foot, one that pronates less and is less liable to develop a collapsed arch.

Develop strong feet and grace But try not to balance on your feet like that.

Less energy used. as the forefoot strike uses the natural springs in your foot and calf muscles more to store and release energy. Instead of pounding the muscles and making them act as suspension for the impact, use your body as a spring to efficiently recycle energy from each stride (its like bouncing on a ball).

Minimal forces on your feet, running actually becomes more enjoyable. Shoes weigh a lot, multiply it by the number of times you lift your feet and the wasted energy from heel strikes and it makes running like swimming with a tugboat strapped on you.

In conclusion, you do not need cushioning for your feet, when you barefoot run, you automatically reduce the impact that your feet makes with the ground (or your will learn minimise the impact to because its very painful). Forefoot running is optimal in reducing impact by using natural mechanics of your body provided you have sufficient protection from abrasions (use minimal shoes if you are not a sucker for pain, otherwise developing hard calluses is a painful process).

Perfect your form 

Essentially running as about cadence, posture and technique. Perfected running technique has been described as effortless, fun and playful. It is almost an ART-form and a beautiful expression of our physical prowess (No we are not born cubicle dwellers, we were once proud hunter gatherers who now dominate the world). Anyone seeing a ballerina dance would easily identify the grace that efficient and effortless running entails.

Cadence – I mentioned previously about cadence, which is important because if you take less strides per minute, you would probably be placing more force and friction on one leg, to minisie it, increase the speed at which you move your feet and minmise your stride.

Posture – Its important not to slouch because unless you are looking for a back injury, a arms relaxed shoulder blades back and straight posture would benefit you more in the long run, it also opens up your lungs when you keep a straight posture enabling you to breathe deeper.

Technique – Mid-foot strike leaning in to generate momentum. Running should feel more effortless as you perfect this (and you should feel like you are running on springs).

Here are a few good sites to learn more about barefoot running

Good Form Running – Intuitive and easy to understand, all in one diagram-type of explanation. Recommended.

Beginners guide to long distance running – A good and sensible approach to running when you are starting out.

The Human Body is built for distance – On why we are the most kick ass runners, and why people running on sandals had less injuries than us when they did twice the distance.

Balanced Running – Learn more about running from a professional physio. Sensible advice.

Fitness Article – The Science and Art of Running Part I

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”
Jesse Owens

Running can be liberating and fun

Running is one of the most popular sports in the world. Very much so because, you just need a pair of shoes and a good route, and you are off. Running is very liberating and it is like a not-so-quiet meditation we have with ourself, when we pant and sweat burn off the stress while subdue the raging maniac within us to find peace within ourselves. Running is a very credible and enjoyable sport in itself. IF we do it in our own pace and IF we do it correctly.

Why Running is Good 

1) It makes you breathe stronger – Long distance running helps your breathing capabilities. It enhances your lung capacity. Also do note that using proper breathing techniques like the Pranayam breathing techniques together with running also helps immensely as most of us simply don’t breathe deeply enough. The more oxygen in your blood, the less fatigued and more mentally alert we feel. We normally use shallow breathing in daily life and this does not exercise the diaphragm and lungs enough.

2)Your heart literally gets stronger from running, which makes sense because your heart is a muscle as well as the most important muscle in your body (you can live without a bicep but not a heart).A stronger heart improves your resting heart rate, which in the long run would mean that you will tire less easily. Your heart rate after a slow jog would be that of a person sitting down and playing the piano. In short – Very important for vitality.

3) Reduce blood pressure, Increased red blood cells and Increased energy levels , these all work in tandem, as you heart gets stronger and pumps blood more effectively, it conditions a reduction in blood pressure (and with it all the diseases related with a high blood pressure). Red blood cells also increase making you more efficient in carrying oxygen with less blood. These work to increase your energy levels and ability to sustain straneous activity for a longer period of time.

4) Running makes you smarter, according to scientists Cambridge and the National Institute of Ageing, running generates new grey matter in the brain. This means running can literally improve your memory. Also, physical benefits like the release of endorphins (“Runner’s high”) and reduction of stress hormones also are good reasons why you should start putting on your running shoes.

Running Makes You Smarter ? Maybe NOT in this case.

How to run correctly

Starting a running program is tricky because usually when we start running we punish and push ourselves to incredible lengths. Most times only to give up when a debilitating injury hurts us. Running is most dangerous for the beginner and most precautions should be taken when you start running. It isnt as simple as hitting the track and running your guts out and hoping to be slim  and achieve a six pack ( a diet and eight training could help you achieve that in no time).

Running is more of an Art and you have to approach it carefuly. Theres alot of noise about the pushing and never-give-up mentality and pound the ground with nothing but pure frustration and a better timing. But hold your horses for a while because …………………

Running is a high-impact activity

It has a strong potential to cause injuries from overuse, and this is especially dangerous for beginners who are high in enthusiasm and low in fitness. Beginners have lower bone density, joints and muscles that are ill suited or adapted to the stress of impact. A normal 5 km run would see your feet strike the ground at about 3-5 times your body weight for about 6000-9000 times, once off alignment, You would be asking for injuries in the long run. Thus it is important to ease gently into running and proceed cautiously.

That’s because running is a repetitive high-impact activity. Consequently, it has a strong potential to cause overuse injuries, especially in beginners whose bones, joints, and muscles have not yet adapted to the stress of repeated impact. Therefore it is important to ease gently into running and proceed cautiously. Otherwise you will surely get injured and have to take a break and start over.

Ease into it 

Start with brisk walk (or based on higher fitness level, a slow jog ) to mobilise major joints especially the lower body such as your ankles, knees and hips before moving into a sustainable and moderate or easy pace. From here gradually increase the jogging segment until you are able to jog for 20 minutes straight with proper warm up. (Aim for time first then distance)

Program Yourself 

Try not to grind yourself into the ground by working out everyday, chances are that your muscles and knees would likely give out before you do. Your legs need a good 48 hour rest between runs to repair and get stronger (especially if you have not been running for some time). Alternate runs with non impact exercises, such as weights and cycling or swimming. Over a period of a few weeks, try to increase the duration and/or frequency of each run, until you are at a comfortable and challenging position.

As below are a few running schedules for Beginner and Advanced levels

1) Couch to 5K Running Plan – For the ultimate beginner , a good guide.

2) 5 K Race training – For speedier 5K runs for beginners.

3)Advanced Marathon Training – For those who would like high levels of progression and probably end up in a marathon some day.

More in Fitness Article – The Science and Art of Running Part II (Get the right shoes!)