Sunday, March 22, 2009

Never Judge a Book By Its First Chapter

I just finished the book Tai Chi classics by Wasun Liao. I spotted this book on an end cap last week while I was in Borders book store. I read a few pages then took the book into the coffee shop for a slower, better review. After reading and contemplating a couple of chapters, I purchased the book and took it home.

What I didn't notice upon first review became apparent as I got further into the book: information is covered well, but often repeated. And repeated. And repeated.

The first chapter was titled "Historical and Philosophical Background." This was a great chapter. Not only did it discuss the handing down of the art as most books do, but it went on to discuss the role Tai Chi played in the history of China, going as far as speaking about the wanted power of Tai Chi by the royal family of the time.

The second chapter of the book introduced the internal energy known as chi. It included information about the proper breathing to create chi and included plenty of visualization techniques and metaphors in that gave the reader a good set of working tools with which to practice.

I thought, "Wow! how have I not found this gem before?"

Then I went to the third chapter -- which was more of the second chapter. I was still excited and thought it would pick up. Maybe the author needed to reinforce his hot points.

Farther and farther I delved into this book, but alas -- all I found was the same stuff: more metaphors and examples on how to create and transfer chi.

Seven chapters of material could have easily fit into four. By the time I neared the end of the book, I said to myself, "Alright already, I get it!"

The last chapter was great. It described in pictures and written direction a 37-movement form based on Master Cheng's 108 movement form, along with other movements the author considered signifcant.

There is plenty of good stuff here. This book belongs in most martial arts libraries as a quick-glance reference book.

It is a very fast read, especially if you skim over all the redundant matertial.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Taming of the Shoe

During the past couple of weeks, I have been uncomfortable. My right knee has been causing me pain and my right calf has been very tight.

Just like a trainer, I have stretched the hip and the calf most days of the week to alleviate the pain — with little to no success.

Since today was such a pretty day, I decided to risk the hip and go for a run. (Sounds disastrous, I know!)

To get ready for my run, I changed into my running shoes and walked about 50 yards to the corner. By the time I reached the corner, I realized that my hip and knee no longer hurt.

That is when it dawned on me: I have been working out in my street shoes all week. Apparently the shoes have been the cause of my discomfort.

Chris always speaks of the importance of a good running shoe. It's not that I didn't believe her, but I always thought as them as just that: running shoes.

We are going to have a burial for the street shoes. I just hope the EPA doesn't find where I buried them (although the dead foliage within a 100-foot radius may be a give-away).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sample Meals for Weight Loss

Last week, a young lady in my kickboxing class asked me about proper dieting for losing weight.

She understood the concept, but wanted samples of low-calorie meals. This is not the first time I've been asked for tips and tricks on eating, so the topic is obviously of great interest to my clients.

My recent recommendations for female clients is to shoot for 250-300 calories five times a day. This gives them 1,500 calories a day maximum.

I do not recommend going below this level because there's little leeway: 1,200 calories is the minimum for basic body function. If you do not meet that minimum level, your body will not perform at a level conducive for health or weight loss and will slow your metabolism down to keep from starving.

Those who work out a few times a week will burn more calories; we always can adjust a little later if needed, depending on the activity level and nutritional needs of the client.

For men, my recommendation is 400-500 calories five times a day. Men also should avoid going below 1,200 calories a day, and should watch carefully how they function at that level; if needed, adjust higher to maintain basic body function.

Here are some ideas for meals. Calorie count is approximate.

  • low-fat yogurt (80 calories), a banana (105 calories) and a dollop of peanut butter (85 calories)
  • two packages of oatmeal (300 calories)
  • multi-grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese (320 calories)
  • two eggs (140 calories) plus two pieces of whole wheat toast with a dab of butter (200 calories)

  • Cheese sandwich: two slices of low-fat cheese and mustard (150 calories) on two slices of bread (100 calories)
  • Lunch meat sandwich: two slices of meat and mustard (150 calories) on two slices of bread (100 calories)
  • Soup (300 calories per can) (note: watch sodium content)
  • Half a sandwich and half a can of soup
  • Tuna (80 calories per can) (note: every tablespoon of mayonnaise is 100 calories, so use at your discretion for sandwiches, salad with crackers, etc.)

  • Whole wheat pasta (175 calories per cup) with marinara sauce (60 calories per half-cup)
  • Bean burritos (120 calories for beans, 120 per tortilla) with low-fat cheese (50 calories)
  • Meat (150 calories for three ounces of meat) with steamed vegetables (35 calories per cup) and cooked rice (120 calories per half-cup)

  • Your choice of fruit and vegetables, including salad (most of your calories will come from dressing); apples are about 75 calories each, pears are about 80 calories each, cherry tomatoes are 27 calories per cup, lettuce is negligible (so unless you're eating a forest of it, don't worry about the calories)
  • Include nuts in your snacks and salads — they're a healthy fat. (Other good fats are fish and virgin olive oil)
  • Trail mix (150 calories for a palm-full of the snacking goodness)
  • Cereal bar (110 calories each)
  • Granola bar (140 calories each)
  • Protein bar (up to 300 calories)

Be sure to count your calories for any beverages you consume with your meals. For example:
  • Coffee is roughly a calorie per ounce, plus sweetener (25 calories per packet of sugar) and creamer (20 calories per tablespoon)
  • Tea is two calories per 8-ounce cup
  • Skip soda, Gatorade and other sweetened packaged drinks

When you start counting calories, keep a food journal to make counting easier and more accurate.

Mix and match: toss a little trail mix into your salad, eat a tomato with a little vinegar for a snack, substitute rice for the cheese in your burrito. Don't let calorie-counting become difficult or cumbersome.

Share your low-cal food ideas with me, and I'll share them with the rest of the class.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Eating Before You Work Out

This has become an issue lately.

Clients of mine (and of other trainers I speak to) who want to lose weight have been acting like it's a good idea to not eat before they work out, thinking it's a good way to lose weight.

This creates many, many problems.

First of all, under great stress, your body will not burn fat. Instead, it will hold onto that fat.

Secondly, cutting calories too drastically will cause your body to think it's being starved. Your body will slow down your metabolism to a crawl to protect you against the famine. (And that's before your workout.)

More importantly, without having the nutrients in your system, you will not have the strength or stamina to make it through your workout.

Now let's take a look at how that affects your workout. Without the proper energy in your muscles, your heart rate will increase to a dangerous level, your blood pressure will rise substantially, your body temperature will rise to the point where you feel clammy. Your blood sugar will drop and you will feel dizzy, possibly even pass out.

If you faint with weights in your hands, think about where they might land — on you or some innocent passer-by. Imagine losing consciousness while sitting on a stability ball or standing on a BOSU ball. Or while jogging on a treadmill.

You get the picture.

Ideally, the largest meal of your day should be two hours before you work out. If you can't manage that, at least make sure to eat something substantial two hours before your workout.

Include carbs in this meal or snack: carbohydrates, when they break down, turn to glycogen — the fuel source for your muscles. (Remember, carbs include fruits and vegetables.)

So, make sure your vehicle is properly fueled before your workout.