Saturday, December 13, 2014


Don't underestimate the power of your mind to grow your muscles.

Anyone who has survived beyond his 10th birthday knows the road to success is usually a tortuous, obstacle-laden single track with plenty of opportunities for failure, not to put to fine a point on the journey. Beyond the manned and unmanned obstructions, often the most influential effect on your behavior is what happens in your head. Self-sabotage can undermine even the best talent, and containing that wild hair of doubt separates the boys from the legends.
Sports psychologist Jason Selk, M.Ed, owner of Enhanced Performance Inc., knows this all too well. He has worked with professional athletes in most major sports and his new book 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental-Training Program For Winning Before The Game Begins is the synthesis of his experience helping our greatest athletes overcome mental hurdles. Selk's program for developing mental toughness is separated into three phases and requires just 10 minutes a day to master. The result, he believes, is individuals who are more focused and driven, and aren't handicapped by self-doubt.
The first phase is called the Mental Workout. It's a five-step process that Selk says is the crux of his entire routine. Master this phase and the others fall in step. Selk talked with M&F and explained in detail how to implement each step into a daily routine. Once committed to memory, Selk says phase one will take about three and half minutes to complete every day. The payoff will be a step toward understanding what it means to use your head to get ahead.
"This is just a biological way to control your heart rate. When an athlete experiences pressure, his heart rate elevates. The average golfer's heart rate, for example, is between 70 and 75 beats per minute (bpm) when he's practicing. In a competitive situation, that same golfer's heart rate may be 85-plus bpm. Many athletes aren't aware this is happening or more importantly how to control it. That's where the centering breath comes in. Simply breathe in for six seconds, hold for two, then breathe out for seven. That's the first exercise in the Mental Workout.
2. The Performance Statement
"I have athletes tell me their top three tasks in terms of competition. Let's say it's a pitcher. He might be asked to hit, field and pitch. Once I've identified the top three tasks, I want him to identify the No. 1 task. For a pitcher it's obviously pitching, so I have him identify the top three things he needs to think about before he throws each pitch. It may be, What pitch am I going to pitch and where? Then he's going to think, Weight back, arm on top. This way he knows no only where he's trying to put the ball but also that he's in a position to keep it down in the strike zone. The performance statement is important because that's what we try to focus on. In the gym it can translate into targeting a specific bodypart, whether it's your core, chest or biceps."
3. The Personal Highlight Reel
"This is an advanced form of visualization of three one-minute clips. For the first one I have athletes come up with specific instances of past success, where they did a nice job of emphasizing the performance statement we talked about. For the next 60 seconds we focus on an elevated-pressure game, a playoff-caliber game. I ask them to picture themselves in 3-5 different highlights, pitching well by emphasizing the elements of their performance statement. Then the third part of the reel is a clip where they imagine the next day's game or practice, again focusing on the performance statement."
4. The Identity Statement
"This is centered on two elements: The athlete's No. 1 strength and one of his ultimate goals. It might be something like, I'm a strong and confident pitcher and I'm a hall-of-fame-caliber player. It's really something he has strength in and is trying to accomplish. It emphasizes developing the self-image."
5. The Centering Breath
"I have them finish with another centering breath because as they go through the visualization, their heart rates may become elevated. So we want to control that heart rate again before we go out and take the field or enter the gym."

Forest Conservation

Forest Protection CERCOPAN Rhoko Forest
Nigeria has already lost approximately 90% of its forests, and according to the FAO, the country has the highest primary forest deforestation rate anywhere in the world; approaching 20% per year between 2005-2010. 
Over half of the country’s remaining forest is located in Cross River State. Cross River National Park (Oban Division) includes 3,000 square kilometres of forest, and is the heart of the answer to long-term endangered species survival in the region. 
However, for as long as the communities that surround the Park do not recognize its boundaries, the protection the Park offers is entirely theoretical. CERCOPAN’s Forest Conservation programme, works with three neighbouring communities on the north-west periphery of the Park. 
The forests of these villages encompass 400 square kilometres. Each community has agreed voluntarily to a ban on commercial logging, primate hunting and other destructive practices in their forests and CERCOPAN provides support, training, education programmes and patrols to ensure compliance. CERCOPAN’s community-based conservation model provides the incentive that has brought about these agreements.

An even more ambitious initiative is to provide for total protection of all the community forests surrounding the Park through the United Nations REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) programme. Ambitious? Yes, but look at the results to date. Less than a handful of viable environmental conservation NGO’s operate in Cross River State, yet through our collective example and lobbying, the region’s environmental credentials have been transformed. 

A state-wide logging ban, vigorously enforced, has now been in place for over 4 years. In Oct 2011 the United Nations approved Nigeria’s REDD policy document, providing a $4M grant over two and a half years to build the support structures for a future full-scale REDD programme. One of the three pilot projects envisioned within the policy document incorporates the forests of Iko Esai and neighbouring villages to the North and South. But the implementation will be fraught with difficulties, and success will require flourishing NGO’s that can ensure impartiality, practicality, and dedication to the goals of conservation.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Fitness Trends in 2015

Curious about what’s going to be hot in the wellness sphere next year? Well, you’ve come to the right place. I put my sneakers to the ground to find out what fitness trends could be making their way into your gym in 2015. Happy sweating.

Body weight training According to an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) survey of more than 3,000 fitness professionals worldwide, body weight training is predicted to be the next big thing. “Expect to see it continue to expand in all movement experiences including both group and personal training,” says Carol Espel, Senior Director, Group Fitness and Pilates at Equinox. “Look for the comprehensive incorporation of gymnastics, adult jungle gyms, workout spaces that are uncluttered with weight machines and open for training, greater suspension training options, primal movements, and more programming that is less focused on standard weight lifting protocols.” In other words, those tried and true exercises that don’t require equipment—like lunges, squats, push-ups, and burpees—are here to stay, so embrace them.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) OK, HIIT (think P90X) did take a hit over the past year dropping from the number one spot on the 2013 ACSM survey to number two this year. But we assure you that this technique, which alternates intense bursts of exercise with short, sometimes active, recovery periods, isn’t going anywhere. The reason: It’s super effective. “People are exercising in shorter bursts and they are still seeing results,” notes Donna Cyrus, Senior Vice President of Programming at Crunch. This should be no surprise, though. After all, who wants to slave away at the gym for hours each day when you can blast fat in as little as 20 minutes? Exactly.

Treadmill training Boutique studios that specialize in one specific fitness genre—be it underwater cycling or trampoline workouts—will continue to rise in popularity. However, within this group fitness sector, indoor group running has been steadily gaining momentum. From big gym chains like Equinox and Crunch to smaller studios like Mile High Run Club, treadmill-based training is poised to become the new “it” workout. Yes, many view this piece of machinery as a torture device (I know I’ve called it a dreadmill on more than one occasion), but these classes are truly beneficial, helping to improve your running through speed, incline, and interval-based drills.

“There is a trend in fitness to return to simplicity, and running is the oldest form of exercise,” explains Andia Winslow, a fitness expert and coach at Mile High Running Club. “With indoor treadmill training, participants are in a controlled and yet challenging environment where they can, regardless of fitness level, keep up with class while running on industry elite commercial equipment. With less strain on bones, joints and tendons, runners can focus instead on form, specialized and programmed intensity and being wholly engaged with their runs.” Even better: You will never have to worry about it being too cold or raining too hard to log those miles.

Recovery efforts Don’t you just love a super intense workout? The way it pushes you to your limits, leaving behind a reminder (read: sore muscles) of all the hard work you put in. Here’s the deal, though, too much intense training can throw your body out of whack, leaving it open for potential injuries, which is why recovery is essential. “A balanced body is key, which means all of your muscles are working correctly, not just some of them,” says David Reavy, PT, owner of React Physical Therapy and creator of the Reavy Method. “Weak muscles will fatigue quickly, and you over train muscles that are already strong. The compensation and overuse of muscles and not the work brings the need for recovery.” This is why “we will continue to see the rapid expansion of group formats that include self-care protocols for self myofascial release (SMR), such as foam rolling and therapy balls, core strengthening and dynamic stretching, full recovery days and clear focus on sleep as an integral part of one’s fitness regimen,” says Espel. “And of course restorative yoga formats will continue to become a much more prevalent part of programming.”

Digital engagement In our tech-obsessed world, this one seems like a no-brainer. Just take Nike, for example: I learned at their Women’s Summit last month that 9 million women have downloaded the Nike Running app and 16 million women have downloaded the Nike Training (NTC) app. And that’s just one company—think about all of the other fitness apps and cool trackers out there that put a wealth of health info at our fingertips. The reason we’re still obsessed with these modalities is because “they provide inspiration, guidance and coaching,” explained Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport for Nike at the summit. Not to mention the social factor. Adds Espel: “We will continue so see an even greater level of engagement of the use of multiple devices to track and log movement, nutrition, sleep and all aspects of activity,” she says. “The challenge for all will be determining what data is pertinent and then how providers and health care experts take the most relevant information and make it continually meaningful to users.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Standing Strong

When things go wrong and everything you touch seems to go bad, as one decision after another just back fires on you, it is time to make a change. Like any athlete that needs to push the envelope to improve we need to change was has become a habit. Bad luck starts and ends with attitude even if it is only a change in your attitude to your bad luck you will have made a change.

The first step is to find your centre or 'chi' as the Japanese call it. That is where your spirit sits and it is the fulcrum in any movement that you perform. Holding your back straight and your knees bent looking straight ahead you will find your 'Chi' after that concentrate on your breathing and start having a conversation with your body. Tensing and relaxing your various muscle groups you can access your 'Chi' by focusing the source of the strength that allows you to tense and relax your muscle groups the way you are doing is because of your centre your 'Chi' which is just below your belly button. In Pilates they use a movement o help increase this core strength or Chi.

Go Vertical with these core exercises.

A strong and stable core is the best foundation for improved strength, endurance, balance and agility. No matter what type of class you teach, you’ll enhance the experience by helping students engage their cores more effectively. These simple exercises can be used in any type of class because they’re performed while standing and do not require equipment. Try them in your warm-up to activate core muscles for a more effective workout, or use them in your cool-down to practice core control. You can even add resistance and make them part of a core-strengthening class!

Standing Hundred

Position. While standing in neutral-spine position (maintaining lumbar and thoracic curves), lift your left foot slightly off the floor. Arms are at sides with palms facing backward.

Movement. Engage deep abdominal and pelvic-floor muscles to maintain neutral spine, and begin pumping arms quickly forward and back. They should travel just barely in front of and behind hips. Switch sides.

Purpose. The more stable your core is, the faster you will be able to move your arms. This exercise will tell you immediately which of your students have good core control!

Side Hinge Position. Stand on right foot and abduct left leg slightly. Extend right arm overhead to form a line between left foot and right hand. Lean right as far as you can while maintaining form and balance.

Movement. Reach left hand up to touch right hand, and return left hand to hip. Repeat until you feel fatigue in left side of back (or “waist”). Add medicine ball in right hand for more advanced training. Switch sides.

Purpose. This will effectively activate and strengthen the quadratus lumborum muscle, responsible for lateral flexion, as well as the hip stabilizers on the standing leg.

Hip Dip Position. Stand on right foot, neutral spine, hands on hips.

Movement. Dip left hip down and back up to neutral without bending at the knee or hip. This is a small movement, but you’ll feel it in your support leg after a few repetitions. Switch sides.

Purpose. Your deep hip stabilizers will love you for this one! This move works a highly overlooked area that, when strengthened, improves the performance of daily activities and of all leg-strengthening exercises.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Exercise and Adaptability

Since the start of the popularity of personal trainers in the 1980's sports scientists have seen the value of creating and changing a personal workout program. Clinical studies have proven that adaptability when designing a specific program for a specific objective is the best alternative.

Personal trainers all over the world know that when they design a program for a client they need to be able to adapt it to suit the response that they get. It is this adaptability which has not been fully understood by the weight-loss and muscle gain industry.

If a personal trainer is designing a program to get their client to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, the results that the trainer gets will be directly proportional to how strictly the client adhered to the program. But this problem is excluded by personal trainers who know how to design a program that includes the specific somatotype of the client.

Nobody is a pure 100% Mesomorph, Ectomorph or Endomorph but rather a mix of sometimes all three types. However a good program will include the specific adjustments that are needed when an ectomorph is exercising to when a mesomorph is doing the same exercise.

Gaining muscle is all about gaining strength and the stronger a muscle is the bigger it is however the way that this size is achieved will be different depending on the somatotype. For example any tall thin ectomorph will not respond to the same sets and reps of a given exercise as a mesomorph who puts on muscle very easily will.

This means that the program should be designed and adapted accordingly. Even if you are training by yourself and following a specific program you need to make sure that you are changing it at least every 6 weeks. If you do not do that you will fall into the dreaded training plateau where you stop improving no matter how hard you train.

The only way to break through any training plateau that all bodybuilders reach at some time or another is to change the way you are training. The body is built to survive and survival is about adaptability. As soon as your body is able to adapt to a certain way of training it stops adapting.

If we are training to reach any specific objective we should use everything at our disposal and using somatotype to design a specific workout and nutrition program makes perfect sense. Over the years it has become a prerequisite for creating a good workout program because we know that it works.

It is usually the predominantly endomorphic people who live with a higher body-fat but that can easily be changed with correct nutrition. Any workout program relies on the nutrition that is given to aid the process. Changing the lifestyle in order to achieve this new way of eating is more important than just sticking to a diet.

Any adaptation that the body is able to achieve from doing regular exercise is only achieved with nutrition. The food we eat is what enables our body adapt whether it be to stress of the mind or the body. The truth is that we are what we eat and we always have been.

The increase in cancer over the last 100 years and diabetes now the fastest growing disease on the planet, are all because of the diet that we eat which has changed from organic to highly processed and that has reduced our immunity. If we train on a regular basis and eat correctly we will be giving ourselves the best chance to adapt to the unknown future.

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Time Under Tension (TUT)

All bodybuilders know very well that the only reason any hypertrophy is achieved with progressive resistance is because of the time under tension (TUT). Sports science has now conclusively proved that the only reason a muscle is able to grow in size is because of the time spent under tension.

Unfortunately many people who start going to gym to gain muscle land up doing 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 10 reps without considering the actual time spent under tension. The average time it takes to do 10 reps on any movement is between 15 to 25 seconds.

When TUT can be increased the resulting growth in muscle can be seen, which has now been seen in many clinical studies. If you are simply able to increase the time it takes to perform a set of ten repetitions then you will increase the results that you get from your training.

In order to increase the time under tension that you put your muscles through when you are training there are a few fundamental requirements that should be taken seriously if you want to get the benefits of TUT.

The six points are listed below. • The first is to always be aware of the reason why you are training a little bit slower than normal and that means making sure that you do not lock out. Whether you are doing bench-press or squats you need to make sure that the tension is always maintained and that you never relax by locking out your knees or your elbows which reduces the tension. You need to spend more time in the difficult portion of the lift and not the easy part of the lift.

• Tempo is important and you should stick to a 2/4/0 tempo which means that 2 seconds for the lifting (concentric), 4 seconds for the lowering (eccentric) and 0 seconds on the pause which means no rest or stop is done when training with TUT.

• Sports science tells us that we are 60% stronger on the eccentric (lowering) part of a lift and this is why the tempo puts more time on the eccentric part of the movement. Any eccentric lift will cause more muscle damage on any isolated muscle group which results is faster muscle building for size when the correct rest and nutrition are combined.

• When training with TUT you will reach a point of fatigue a lot quicker so you need to always concentrate on form/technique to always make sure that your form remains perfectly intact at all times. Cheating while doing TUT is counter productive and doing partial reps when trying to increase TUT is not going to improve results.

• When training with TUT and you have selected a weight that you cannot finish off the last few reps on a set you should do drop sets. This simply means that when you reach the point of failure in the middle of the set you can reduce the weight and continue. Whether this is done by selecting a lighter set of dumbbells or simple reducing the weight on a machine press or bench-press it will avoid you needing to start cheating your form.

• Sports science has proven to us that intensity is everything when it comes to getting results in muscle growth. If you simply lift the weight or do the movement until the buzzer goes it does not guarantee that you will get stronger. Making sure that you are always going to get the maximum results in muscle gain when training with time under tension means that you should always strive to increase intensity. This means a minimum requirement of 60% of 1RM when you are training like this. If you are training with time under tension (TUT) you should use no less than 60% of the maximum amount that you can lift for one repetition of that movement, then increased muscle gain is guaranteed.

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