Monday, December 31, 2012

Get Moving in the New Year

Now seems like a good time to make good decisions regarding your family's heath and well-being.

Make the decision to get moving.

X-Box, smartphones and other electronic devices can stop us in our tracks (and, realistically, should not be used when moving too fast if you want to avoid injuries). However, sitting is one of the most dangerous habits to cultivate.

Sitting leads to slouching, especially while you're reading or on the computer. Ergonomics experts remind us to stand up and move around at least every 45 minutes or so, but few of us actually do it. Try this: consciously sit up straight at least every 10 minutes. Stretch your back and straighten your spine; imagine a string at the top of your head pulling you up tall.

Once you leave the office or classroom, dedicate at least an hour of your evening to play.

  • When the weather allows, go outside to play. Many fields and some parks have lit courts and tracks. Check with local schools to see when the fields are open for public use. A bike ride in a lit parking lot or a brisk walk around the neighborhood count.
  • When weather doesn't permit outside activities, look to local gyms, schools and rec centers. They often offer drop-in programs for just about every sport, or just use of the facilities.
  • At home, put that Xbox or DVD player to good use: play Wii sports or use a video exercise program. Try something new, like Bollywood dancing or Dance Dance Revolution
Think you don't have time? 

Do yourself a favor: for a week, keep track of how much time you spend on the computer or watching television. You'll be surprised just how much time you spend sitting still. Trade that time for a healthy activity.

Finally, if you're not sure how to start, contact a personal trainer — they often offer group services as well as one-on-one training to put you on the right track.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Green Tea Extract: Does it Burn Fat?

Bodybuilders are the biggest target audience, but everyone can be intrigued by the claim: green tea extract helps the body burn fat.

But does it really?

Supporters claim the key compounds in green tea is Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), what the New York Times calls "a potent antioxidant thought of by some as a sort of kryptonite to body fat." Proponents of the extract claim reduces fat gain and enhances fat-burning. 

However, simply drinking green tea won't provide EGCG in high-enough concentration, say extract manufacturers. Hence the need for the extract.

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews published a study this month in the American College of Sports Medicine's Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise

In this study, 31 men were divided into three groups: one given the extract in a dose equivalent to eight cups of green tea a day, one given a placebo, and yet another given lower doses of the green tea extract plus placebos. The men were given similar diets and exercise regimens.

After a week, extensive blood tests revealed little difference between the groups. The conclusion: EGCG did not offer the benefits touted by its fans.

Don't rely on supplements for the the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise. There is no magic bullet or shortcut. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Ten Steps on How to Start Practicing Tai Chi

Give Yourself the Gift of Tai Chi

WikiHow offers 10 easy steps to begin learning Tai Chi. Here are the highlights:

  • Talk with your physician if you have any medical issues or current injuries. While virtually everyone can practice Tai Chi, some injuries or medical conditions may need to be taken into account when deciding when and how to begin.
  • Choose the style of Tai Chi that best fits you.
  • Choose an instructor that best fits your style.
  • Practice daily.
  • Try it for a few months before making any judgments.
  • Read up on the subject.

Tai Chi is excellent for all ages and physical abilities. Give it a try!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Don't Go It Alone

There are plenty of DVDs and television shows, YouTube programs and books to help you start your path on Tai Chi.

But don't stop there. And don't go it alone.

You aren't the only person looking to improve health and flexibility using this martial art, so don't do it by yourself. And you aren't the only person at your current skill level, either, so don't worry about how you compare to others.

Find a shifu you trust. Find a supportive class. Find people who share your curiosity, your passion, your interest. If the first class you choose or the first shifu you meet isn't quite the fit you sought, keep looking (and keep practicing as you search).

Once you find that right fit, let these companions spur you on, engage you, challenge you. Guide each other. Chances are, you'll find a friend, and that's always a good thing.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fitness Gear Gift Ideas

Active friends and family members are easy to shop for this holiday season. Here are a few gift ideas for the fitness fan in your life (with some help from the Seattle Times).

Hula Hoop — Never underestimate the power of play. Hula-hoops tone your thighs, hips, glutes and arms. There are plenty of routines on the Internet, including one from Real Simple, you can use to mix it up and make it fun. Hoops are not that expensive, and you can even take them with you when you travel and work out with the Hoopnotica TravelHoops.

Fitness classes — What do you want to achieve? There's a class that can help you get there: check the nearby community center, city recreation program, gym or nearby college. Nia provides relaxation and liber movements. Tai chi improves flexibility, oils joints and tones muscles. Get some aerobic action and lose weight with help from Zumba or spinning. Tone up with Pilates. For an added bonus, take the class, too: it's more fun with a companion.

Insanity — Stay home and get fit. The fitness company Beachbody offers a number of fitness programs, including Chris' personal favorite, Insanity. She and I have spent plenty of time with Shaun T. and his crew. Our fitness level and strength are demonstrably better after only a few weeks of diligent work with the crew. Other BeachBody programs include PX-90, Hip Hop Abs and Brazil Beach Butt. Choose the one they'll stick with, or let them choose.

Personal training package —Learn better, newer and fresher way to achieve your fitness goals with a professional. Even a few sessions can make a difference, and many gyms and fitness centers offer specials around the holidays. Choose your trainer carefully and be sure to communicate: talk openly, listen and be ready to try something new and different.

Tell us about some gifts you've received that have helped you meet your fitness goals or just made it more fun to work out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Tai Chi and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Tai chi is a perfect exercise for many people with various capabilities and health issues.

How about those who have rheumatoid arthritis? Just ask the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the National Health Interview Survey (2007), tai chi has several advantages that make it suitable for people of all ages and those who have some physical limitations:
  • Gentle movements of tai chi preclude sudden or vigorous movements.
  • Individuals move at their own speeds and can easily adapt the practices to their capabilities.
  • Tai chi improves balance, coordination and flexibility — especially beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Check out ExMax's article on the subject here.

CDC specifically cites tai chi as an excellent source of exercise for those with arthritis.

Don't hesitate: start today on good health practices. Find a tai chi class near you that will help you remain flexible, healthy and mobile.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fitness Friday: Impossible? Ask Arthur.

This video proves that we can achieve what some call "impossible," as long as we're willing to try ‚ and to never give up.

It features Arthur Boorman, a disabled veteran who was told by his doctors he would never be able to walk on his own again. He tried a yoga program by Diamond Dallas,  a professional athlete and motivational speaker and — well, Arthur proved a lot of people wrong, and he changed his life.

Never give up. Do your best. Reach your goals. Be your best. Those aren't just words, they're challenges you can meet, if you try.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Can You Give the Gift of Fitness?

Everyone wants to give the perfect gift for the holidays. But can someone give the gift of fitness?

The more important question is: can someone receive the gift of fitness?

No one can be forced into fitness or health. You may want Mom to eat healthier or your husband to start working out — but that doesn't mean they want to do it. In fact, giving someone a gift that suggests they need improvement could be insulting and, ultimately, could backfire.

Listen, and ask questions, even if you're an expert in the field. In fact, especially if you're an expert in that field, listen carefully. Find out what the person wants to achieve, then help them find the best way to do it.

Ask an expert: find someone at the gym or sporting goods store for recommendations. Consider taking them to the store or the gym to look around and ask questions.

Always include a gift receipt and don't take it personally if the gift is exchanged. If you're giving a gift that cannot be exchanged, consider giving a gift certificate, or take the person to the site to purchase the class or equipment.

Don't make them do this alone: join your friend or family member in this endeavor. If you buy your friend a hula hoop or baseball mitt, get one for yourself. Both of you will benefit, with the bonus of spending time together. Barring that, hire a coach or personal trainer to help them identify how to achieve their goals.

What recommendations would you add?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Benefits for Fibromyalgia Patients

Tai Chi Makes Life Less Painful for Fibromyalgia Patients

Shifus may have told us for years about the benefits of tai chi for people who experience the pain of fibromyalgia.

But what happens when the New England Journal of Medicine joins the party?

According to a report in The New York Times, fibromyalgia patients in a clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center in 2010 were found, after 12 weeks of tai chi, to rate better when measuring pain, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than other patients who were given stretching exercises and wellness education.

And the improvement continued three months later.

The New York Times defines fibromyalgia as

a syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Fibromyalgia has also been linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.

What makes tai chi such an optimal choice for pain relief, fatigue, depression and other fibromyalgia symptoms? As an exercise, tai chi emphasizes flexibility, focused breathing and mental clarity. It can be dialed down to low impact or dialed up for a higher impact.

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, talk to your doctor, and consider finding a shifu to help you manage your symptoms.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Yang Style Demonstration

Here's an excellent example of the 24 forms of Yang-style Tai Chi. Watch how beautiful the forms can look when done by a true master.

Many of my student may already have seen this — but even so, it's worth watching again, and often.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Bad Martial Arts Moves

Despite what Stephan Kesting says, these have worked for me in the past.

I jest.

I hope you got as much of a chuckle out of this as I did.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: I've Got Your Back

Why should you tuck in your tailbone when practicing Tai Chi? Because the muscles of your back should be treated as a single muscle.

Find out more in this excellent video:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fitness Friday: Just the Facts

Excellent reference and —depending on your speed, weight and fitness level — you may be able to improve these numbers. Ask your trainer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Sitting, by Ben Sterling

There is so much good information in this posting I had to borrow it.

The article comes from Ben Sterling, who manages a website for Richard Clear of Clear's Tai Chi. You can find some of Richard Clear's videos on YouTube.

I had the opportunity to meet Shifu Clear in June. He truly is a good person and a great martial artist.


Sitting causes all kinds of health problems.

Even 4 hrs per day is far too much.

If you haven’t seen the articles and research that’s been making it’s way into the news and online then go read this:

Don’t worry I’ll wait. 

Forbes: Research Shows that the More You Sit, the Less You'll Live

Okay, so not sitting is obviously the first step.

...but we can do better than that.

Here’s the first 4 steps to standing properly.

1. Stand up tall with your feet close together.

2. Then relax and drop about an inch or two (no more) as if you were sitting down on a high stool.

3. Imagine there’s a small weight tied to your tailbone. so the tailbone sinks and the lower back relaxes, straightens and opens.

The more you actually feel the lower part of your spine open and stretch the better.

This may take some time. All that sitting has reduced the flexibility of your lower back. This creates the sharp curve most people have in their lower back. The weight of the upper body is all focused on a very small part of the spine.

Lift with your legs.

This principle is just as important when you're simply supporting your own body weight.

If you don't practice it all day every day then you are constantly putting too much stress on your lower back.

All that stress keeps adding up.

As you practice step 3 you will be able to relax your lower back more and more.

This will take all that stress off the lower back and move it down to your legs.

Your legs will complain at first.

...but this is what they're designed for and they'll get stronger.

As your legs get stronger you can relax them more and more.

When you relax your muscles your tendons and ligaments have to pick up the slack.

...and they'll get stronger and stronger...

...and then you'll be able to relax even more.

This is how 90-year-old Tai Chi masters stay mobile and active long after their muscular strength has faded.

4. Pretend there's a bungee cord attached to the crown of your head. Directly above your spine. 

The same relaxing, opening and stretching you felt in the lower back should be happening in your neck and upper back.

Relax and feel your flesh melting downwards as your spine is pulled gently upwards.

The goal is to take your entire spine from the top of your head to your tailbone and gently let gravity stretch and straighten it while you relax.

In Tai Chi they call this “the straight in the curve.” A slight curve throughout the entire length of your back without any sudden dips or bulges anywhere.

Wow, I didn’t mean to get so long-winded.

...but if you practice and make that posture a habit then you’ll get a lot more benefit out of standing than you would from simply not sitting.

If you feel like this puts too much stress on your knees then you are holding tension in them and/or they are not lined up properly.

- Let your knees relax
- Turn your toes slightly forward.
- Make sure your knees are NOT inside of your big toe. Ideally they should be directly over your middle toes and you may feel a very light spiral / twisting / corkscrew through your entire leg (not focused on the knee.)
- Build into this slowly. It will take time for your body to adjust and grow stronger.

So that’s a start...

...but we can do even better.

If you train yourself to stand in the Wu Chi posture you can get even more benefits:

-- It builds energy and circulates Chi.
-- It aligns your spinal column.
-- This Improves Respiratory and Vascular Circulation.
-- Increases blood oxygen levels in the body.
-- Enhances Proper Nervous System Function and Combats Neuropathy (loss of nerve function and feeling).
-- Properly standing in Wu Chi can aid in Alleviates Arthritis and Arthritis symptoms due to the the flow of Chi energy heating up the synovial fluid between the joints.
-- Enhances Mental Concentration and Focus 
-- Facilitates Recovery and healing time by helping you to relax the Internal Organs and the External Muscles while building and circulating the energy

Here’s an article on The 10 Keys to proper Wu Chi Posture:

Take these principles and make them a habit.

They should be present when your standing, Sitting or doing anything else you do during the day.

Ben Sterling

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Discover a Quigong Blog

Discover a Quigong Blog

While perusing Pinterest, I came across some great images that were part of the blog What is Quigong Vitality.

The most recent blog entry, "Qigong (Chi Kung) and Tai Chi are Both Well-Liked Activities," begins with the following paragraph:

Qigong (Chi Kung) and Tai Chi are both well-liked activities, one of the world's first form of exercise. Qigong and Tai Chi is having a renewal in our stressful modern world. You wouldn't guess that a disciple thousands of years old could increase in popularity. But Qigong and Tai Chi is currently being prescribed even by many medical doctors for a range of disorder and illnesses, as a stress reliever and to complement other health programs.

Check out this blog and let me know what you think.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Working Out on the Road

Working out while on vacation can be a challenge. It is not always easy to find a gym or to make extra space in a hotel room.

However, it's an important habit to develop and maintain. Combine extra calorie consumption with non-consistent workouts and you have the potential for weight gain while you are away from home.

My favorite recommendation for travel workout tools are resistance bands with handles. They are relatively inexpensive, they are light and they don't break. This makes them the perfect travel equipment.

A similar tool to the resistance bands is a nylon loop with a knot on the opposite end. The nylon loop, available at fitness stores, is about six inches long and mostly flat. The knot closes firmly on to any doorjamb. The resistance bands then fits into the nylon loop. This allows for the bands to be doubled so there is a handle for each hand. This setup is ideal for chest work, back work and tricep work.

Another good option, since most of us now travel with our laptops, is to bring along your favorite workout video. Flat DVD cases travel well, or download it onto your computer for easy use.

One big advantage to these suggestions is that workouts can be done indoors — which means weather does not interfere with our workout.

Hopefully now you can have your vacation and workout, too.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fitness Friday: Motivation Required

Some days you're the dinosaur, some days you're the human.

(Courtesy Hoist Fitness Systems.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gentle, Lifelong Exercise For Every Age

Health professionals around the world call Tai Chi a "gentle" and "lifelong" exercise — including Harvard Medical School.

For some people, "lifelong" is code for "older." Don't be that person: Tai Chi is beneficial for people of all ages, health levels and athletic abilities.

The benefits you will experience right away include:

  • Muscle strength
  • Flexibility
  • Balance

Think of how those benefits can be an advantage in your current exercise and sports activities.

Find a class or instructor this week and start reaping the benefits of this low-impact exercise.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Find Me at the Whole Health Festival 9/23

When thinking about your own health, you have to take in to account the entire person, not just the part that isn't healthy or you want to improve.

If you're in Fairfax today, you have a chance to do that very thing at the Whole Health Festival — and to stop by, say hello to me and watch my Tai Chi demonstration.

The festival will be from 1-4 pm at the Stacy C. Sherwood Community Center, 2740 Old Lee Highway. My demonstration is scheduled for 2:40 pm — click here for the program schedule.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Make Social Media Work for You

Most of us find ourselves on the Internet at some time during the day. Often it's for work, but sometimes it's for ourselves. How many of us spend hours on social media, with little to show for it?

Make your time of social media work for you: find resources that will help you with your fitness goals.

A good place to start is with Get In Shape With David, which is on the following social media sites:



Put Get In Shape With David into the feed on your social media sites and it will be right there whenever you look for it.

Be sure to share the information you like and offer suggestions for posts, videos, articles and more.

See you on the Web.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fitness Friday: Time is On Your Side

Time will pass, no matter what you do — so why not use it the way you want, the way you know is best for you?

And if you're not sure how to start, ask an expert: make an appointment with a personal trainer. What have you got to lose, except doubt and confusion?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Grandmaster Defies Age, Expectations

Here is video of Grandmaster Lu Zijian demonstrating the  Enei form of Tai Chi (from the Szechuan Province).

In this video, he is 93 years old.

Lu Zijian was born in 1893. Read more about his long, amazing life here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why It's Better to Eat Small Meals

The human body takes anywhere from 12 hours to 72 hours to process food. The bigger the meal, the longer it takes to break down.

What does that mean for you?

After a few large meals in a week, the body is burdened with the burning of all the extra calories that it does not immediately break down.  Because all available blood is used to transport broken-down food, the body's metabolism actually can slow down.

Even those who consume the proper calorie amount each day may gain weight. 

Therefore, eating many smaller meals during the day helps boost the body's metabolism and keeps the body running more smoothly.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Sharing Information

Finding a valuable resource is important. Sharing it is important, too.

I met Shifu Loretta Wollering at the Tai Chi Gala in Albany this summer. She is the organizer as well as a presenter.

Her knowledge of Qi Gong and Tai Chi is extensive and thorough, and her instruction methods are easy to follow and interesting. She runs Internal Gardens Tai Chi, which offers excellent instruction both in person and through its resources.

Check out this video of her studio classes:

I hope to continue to learn from Shifu Loretta, and I hope to see her again at next summer's Tai Chi Gala.

Have you found an excellent teacher? What do you like most about her or him?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tai Chi Tuesday: Relaxation is the Key

Welcome back to Tai Chi Tuesday.

Here is a tip I have been sharing with my advanced students: it's the meditative relaxation of Tai Chi that makes it a formidable martial art.

Even if you have not reached  the stage of being able to produce Jin, you still gain more power by being relaxed than by being tense.

Also, with Chi, awareness comes the ability of feeling your opponent's intentions before they happen. This makes it much easier to guide an opponent off his /her center in order to counter-attack.

Tai Chi classics say, "Move a thousand pound with four ounces." If we tense our bodies, we already have exceeded the four ounces.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fitness Friday: How to Deadlift Correctly

The folks at Fitsugar have excellent instructions on how to deadlift:

  • Hold the barbell (or two dumbbells at your sides) close to your legs, almost touching them.
  • Keep your arms straight and knees slightly bent.
  • Slowly bend at your hip joint -- not your waist -- and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back. 
  • Keep your back straight; a good way to do that is to look forward, rather than at the ground. Keep your spine neutral with a natural low-back arch, shoulders down. 
  • Squeeze your glutes to pull yourself up at a quicker pace than it took to bend down (Fitsugar recommends four seconds to bend down and two seconds to pull up). Don't use your back. Do not round your spine.
  • Using a weight that allows you to do three sets of 12-15 reps, keeping your form strong and correct through to the end.
Be sure to read the article, and not just because it concurs with what I have told clients for years: deadlifts are great for your core, glutes, posture... pretty much every muscle group.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tai Chi in Sculpture

This past spring, Peking University hosted repeat Olympic tai chi sculpture exhibition.

According to the Global Times:
In this exhibit, 200 sculptures depicting different tai chi maneuvers and forms were displayed on the grass west of the Qiubade Gymnasium, the location of the table tennis events during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The university hoped that drawing attention to tai chi and other outdoor activities would engage visitors to become more interested in sport.
(Photo credit pending.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Shaping Up with Social Media

What tools do you use to get in shape? How about a keyboard and monitor?

People are using their computers for nearly everything these days, from address books to maps, from books to stereos. So the use of computers for fitness isn't a surprise.

Which computers, however, is a situation that's evolving: tablets, e-readers, smartphones, laptops  — there's a style and brand for everyone. I use a laptop and tablet. Chris uses a Kindle, laptop and BlackBerry. You might have an Android or iPhone.

Fitness enthusiasts can Get in Shape With David from many sources, available both on mobile devices and the Web.

If you already use any of these social media, be sure to connect with me, too:

Now, don't worry: information is shared between the resources. You'll see the videos on Twitter and Facebook, too, and graphics from Pinterest will show up on the blog and other social media. In all likelihood, you won't miss something because you read only one or two resources.

If you're there already, invite your friends to join us.

Finally, please feel free to leave comments and share information on these resources. When we share, we all learn.

See you — not only in the gym, but on the Web.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fitness Isn't Free: It Has to be Earned

Earn the Downhill courtesy motivationtohabit.tumbler

What do you want to accomplish on the fitness front? Make Fitness Friday the day you make your goals for the weekend.

Start today to make tomorrow better.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Muscle Groups, Higher Dividends

Boy, was I glad when I read the article below in the July-August 2012 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. The article states that using multiple large-muscle groups creates a larger after-burn with your muscles. 

By expending more energy (which translates to calories), your burn more calories. This leads to more effective muscle-sculpting and weight loss.

As I have said repeatedly, keeping the body off-balance gives us better results, and we need to learn — and apply — new techniques and practices in our workouts. It also reinforced the message I bestow on my clients: Don't be afraid to try something new in your workouts. More often than not, it will pay off.

What's your favorite multi-muscle workout? 

Energy Expenditure During 1-Set and 3-Set Training Protocol

Many fitness professionals incorporate strength training routines into clients’ programs in part to incite postworkout elevated energy expenditure. But how many repetitions and sets are enough to generate extended periods of afterburn? Probably many fewer than you think.

A small study of eight young overweight males pitted the traditional 3-set strength training protocol against a 1-set program. Participants completed 1 set of 10 exercises, at 10-repetition maximum (RM), targeting all major muscle groups. During a separate intervention, they completed 3 sets of the same exercises, also at 10-RM. Exercises included leg press, leg curl, calf raise, bench press, lat pull-down, shoulder press, biceps curl, triceps extension, abdominal crunch and back extension. 

Movements were divided into three circuits, with 4 minutes’ rest between them. Energy expenditure was then tested 24, 48 and 72 hours after the exercise session.

The researchers discovered that the 3-set protocol resulted in significantly more energy expenditure during the workout than the 1-set protocol. “However, within protocols, both the one-set and three-set protocols were significantly elevated for resting energy expenditure expressed in absolute amounts at 24 hours post, 48 hours post, and 72 hours post, compared with baseline,” said the authors. “The results of this investigation support the current American College of Sports Medicine recommendation for resistance training, which is one set of eight to 10 exercises focusing on the major muscle groups. 

Although this recommendation is most often cited for overall muscular fitness, the fact that a single set can elevate resting energy expenditure for 72 hours may be an important modality for weight management.”

The study appeared in the European Journal of Applied Physiology (2011; 111 [3], 477–84).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Series on Martial Arts Includes Tai Chi Tip

Check out the blog's new series: Tai Chi Tuesday.

Stop by on Tuesdays to pick up a tip, trick or idea related to Tai Chi and martial arts.

Also, feel free to share your ideas, experiences — even links you found helpful. Leave them in the comments below or e-mail them to me.

This week's tip is something I tell my students every week:

Don't get too hung up on the actual Tai Chi form when you practice. 

Good rooting, chi development and relaxation are every bit as important as the form itself and the self-defense aspect.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Go Organic When Buying These Four Foods

Before you take a bite of that onion or apple, is it clean? I don't mean scrubbed of dirt, but free of dangerous pesticides, hormones and other chemicals.

AARP has a "top ten" list of suggested organic purchases, and Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a "Dirty Dozen" list (and clean list) of foods affected by hormones, pesticides and other chemicals.

Whether you go "organic," "hormone-free" or choose other other "-free" foods, know what you're purchasing. Know what "organic" means (and seek guidance from reliable sources, such as the U.S.D.A.) AARP offers an easy-to-understand definition:
organic standards prohibit use of most conventional pesticides, irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified materials, while animals must be given no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Don't be afraid to ask questions of vendors at farmers markets (or even grocery store managers with "local" food sections). Know your definitions, whether something is "spray-free" or "hormone-free."

  • Apples — EWG notes that 98 percent of conventional apples contain pesticide residues.
  • Milk — Consider milk from dairy cows not fed rBST, a manufactured hormone that boosts milk production. While there's no solid evidence that rBST causes cancer in humans, it does cause udder infection in cows — which, in turn, are treated with antibiotics — which, in turn, are passed on to the human drinker. If you're trying to avoid antibiotics in your food, keep this in mind.
  • Canned tomatoes — Chances are, your canned tomatoes contain Bisphenol_A (BPA). The Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and  U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) all worry about BPA's effect on the developing brains of fetuses, infants and young children.
  • Celery — EWG lists it as number two on its "Dirty Dozen" list with nearly 96 percent tested showing evidence of pesticides.

What foods would you add to this list?
— Chris

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How To Better Stretch The Quads

Too many people stretch ineffectively and dangerously.

Click on the video above to view a proper technique for stretching the quadriceps.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Should We Exercise if We're Sick?

It shouldn't be a struggle for a normal person: if you're sick, you take a break from your fitness routine.

Notice I qualified that sentence. "Normal person." I don't think I'm in that camp.

So, I have a sinus infection. (Again. I know. I know!) However, once the "can't move my head without wishing I was anywhere but in my own body" ends and the "feels miserable but not enough to stay home and curled up in bed" begins, I have to ask myself: Am I working out today?

Some days it's easy to answer that question. It's those days where I think I might be able to pull it off that are tougher.

My trainer would tell me to sit it out unless I was better. Of course, my trainer also eats breakfast before he works out (even first thing in the morning! At dawn!) and uses tools of destruction like Bosu and resistance bands. I can more easily sift through his recommendations and decide what works for me.

What he would tell you is the same thing he would tell me: if you don't feel well, don't work out, period. And eat before you work out.

And yet... I know this sinus infection is not forever. During that healing time, if I start to feel better, I want to take advantage of my new-found strength. I want to go to the gym, climb on my favorite machine and watch (bad) television for an hour. ("Bad" is not my choice, but the offerings by the management.)

Plus, what if healing takes longer than I would prefer? I've "started over" with running more times than I want, and it's less pleasant each time. I don't want to hurt like that — so if it won't kill me, shouldn't I go ahead and do a little? I'm not contagious. I'm going to be feverish anyway. Plus, I know the difference between feeling punk and being sick enough to go to bed (despite evidence to the contrary).

Should I stay on the sidelines until I'm fully healed? Or do I take to the road or gym and push just enough to make it worth the laundry?

- Chris

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Food Swaping: Choosing The Lesser of Two Evils

For fun, I picked up Eat This, Not That from a used bookstore recently. It made sense to encourage choosing healthy foods for unhealthy ones, and I wanted to see what kinds of suggestions they offered in this self-professed "no-diet diet."

I was surprised to see the editors steering people not to what's healthy, but what's less unhealthy, based on changing criteria.

Let me give you an example:
Don't eat Lay's Classic Potato Chips. Eat fried pork skins instead.

I kid you not.

The rationale for eating three extra grams of saturated fat and more than triple the sodium? Why waste calories on nutritionally void chips when you can get 16 extra grams of protein for the same amount of calories?

Some of the suggestions were not as jaw-dropping as this, but they weren't much better: one trail mix has "less chocolate," go for the smaller, baked cracker — oh, and try the pastry with less pudding crammed into it.

I understand the philosophy: swapping out "better" food with little effort chips away at bad eating habits. Next thing you know, you're eating fried pork skins and Goldfish every time you stop for snack food at the gas station.  And that's not a bad thing.

While that kind of life change isn't a bad thing, it isn't the best thing.

We live in a land where processed food is cheap and plentiful and requires no thought at all, where every day is a splurge. Swapping a pudding pie for a cake may be a good choice, but it's not the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.

Maybe if we put more thought into what we put in our mouths, we can eat better and feel better. String cheese may be available at that same convenience store. Sunflower seeds, sugar-free juice, even an apple or banana are available at convenience stores these days.

In a world where our entire lives are splurges, let's choose to splurge less, so our decisions are easier to make.

— Chris

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Video: Train Like MMA Fighter

Mixed martial arts is a popular sport, and it can provide great fitness. Here is an A.C.E. video, "How to Train like a Mixed Martial Arts Fighter."

Do you plan to try any of Doug's favorite exercises? I do.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Do it Right: Lunges With Knees Over The Toes

Many health professionals advise to not have the knees extend over the toes while exercising. Lunges are a prime example of this position.

From a kinetic standpoint, the knee is a hinge joint (just as the elbow is a hinge joint). They both are designed to flex past 90 degrees (knee flexion 0-130 degrees, elbow flexion 0-160 degrees).

If the knee has 130 degrees of flexibility, why, then, are we told to keep it at 90 degrees or less?
Logically, this would mean bicep curls should not go past 120 degrees, or that we should not touch our shoulders.

Let's look at this from an athletic point of view: whenever we jog, run, bike or climb stairs, our knees extend beyond our toes. This is a natural movement for the knee.

This position is not what causes injury. In most cases, what causes injury is a deceleration with a change of direction.

If I stop short with one knee over my toes and attempt to turn, the ACL experiences extra force from the pressure of the leg trying to slow movement. Then the knee attempts to turn as I change direction.  If the knee turns either before or after the foot, the ACL can become damaged.

Ideally, the foot, knee and hip should rotate in unison to avoid injury.

In order to do proper lunges with more range of motion and less risk, follow this procedure:

  1. Take a large step forward with your front leg just slightly bent.  (Do not step into a deep lunge position, as this will cause a deceleration. If your balance is off, the resulting change of direction can cause injury.)
  2. Make sure your balance is secure and your feet are firm on the ground.
  3. Drop down so your back knee is at 90 degrees. This will put your front knee over the toes.
  4. Straighten the legs and repeat to the other side.

Let me know what you think: comment below or visit my Facebook page at (Be sure to "like" me while on Facebook!)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cross-Training: Take it Outside

Now that spring and summer are here it is much easier to cross-train. Take your workouts outside.

Good cross-training exercises include beach volleyball, swimming, baseball and the like.

Cross training lessens the chance of injury, gives better post workout calorie burn and increases vitamin D intake from being outside.

Make sure to remember that being fit can be fun, too.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day: April 28

For those who live in the DC area and want to participate in World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day April 28, go to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Va.

Festivities begin at 10 a.m. and continue through 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, please visit the event website.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Tai Chi Sensation Link

Read this chart by Professor Yu Yong Nian, which shows possible sensations you may experience while practicing Zahn Zhuang.

Zahn Zhuang is a series of breathing exercises intended to teach how to cultivate Chi.

These exercise are widely used for Tai Chi and Ba Gua practice. it is also used for medicinal purposes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why We Should Not Arch the Back During Weightlifting

Anyone who has taken a Pilates or Yoga class has heard the term neutral spine.

Neutral spine is when the spine is in its most natural position:
  • Slight Lordotic (inward curve) at the cervical spine (neck);
  • Kyphotic curve at the top of the thoracic( upper back/chest); 
  • Lordotic curve at the lumbar spine. (lower back); and, finally 
  • Kyphotic curve at the sacral spine (hips).

The spine is designed this way to help distribute weight and stress throughout the body.

This means that by arching my back when lifting weights, I am taking away the optimal positioning for my natural support system and adding stress by using extra weight.

The spine may be strong enough to handle some of this extra burden, but as we go up in weight or compensate by arching our backs even further, we increase the chance of injury.

So, the next time you are bench pressing and your back arches off the bench, put the weights down,  rethink your technique — and lower the weight. Your back will thank me later.