Stay healthy this winter

Winter is here. For some of us it's an exciting time of the year that means, trip to the snow, hot chocolates, fireplace and hearty meals. For others it means that it's the return of the infamous flue that will make them feel terrible for days or even weeks.

There are actually some good ways to avoid getting sick or to recover quickly from a bad cold or flue infection. Let me share with you some of the best tips to stay healthy and enjoy the winter season.

1.     LOOK AFTER YOUR GUTS AND BOOST YOUR IMMUNITY:

What happens in your digestive track has a huge impact on how well you are able to fight against gems and a direct impact on how quickly you can recover from illness. Our digestive system contains over 70% of our immunity, from saliva in the mouth to probiotics in the intestines.

·      Probiotics and Prebiotics:

Both pre and probiotics help balance bacteria in the guts. Prebiotics can be found in Vegetables (asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, artichokes), Fruits (apples, bananas, citrus, kiwis and berries), Fats (chia and flax seeds) and Carbs (barley, rye, quinoa, beans, oats, wheat, yams and potatoes). Aim for 2-3 servings a day. The best sources of Probiotics are in Dairy (yogurts, cheese and kefir) and Fermented Products (pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, soy sauce and wine). Aim for 1-2 servings a day.

 If you are already sick, you should consider taking supplements available at the chemist. 

·      Foods that you should increase in winter:

Vitamin C is well known to help fight the cold and can be found in strawberries, capsicums, broccoli and kiwis.

Garlic contains allicin, a strong antibiotic than can lessen the severity of the cold

Ginger has anti-viral compounds useful in treating inflammation. Add it to your juices.

Green Tea helps boosts the production of B-cells anti bodies to protect against pathogens invasion

Real Chicken Soup (not the canned one) contains anti- inflammatories and zinc and rich in electrolytes, proven to soothe and hydrate our body.

Honey has anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties on top of being a cough suppressant.

Supplements like Elderberry Extract, Stevia, Ginseng, Beta-Glucen, Quercetin (found in apples) and Selenium may also help reduce symptoms of cold and flue.

2.     SLEEP WELL AND AVOID STRESS

As the temperature drops, we rug up, shrug our shoulders to fight the cold winds outside. You may not notice it but this tensed position where your neck seems to sink in between your shoulders doesn’t allow you to take deep breaths. It is not relaxing and actually may increase your stress hormones like cortisol. It’s also the end of the financial year and the stress from work will have a negative impact on your immune system. Make sure you acknowledge when you feel stressed and reconnect with your body by resting, taking deep long breaths and sleeping at least 7hrs per night. If you don’t rest, your body won’t be able to reset and rebuild, leading to more chances to get sick. 

3.     MOVE WELL, OFTEN AND OUTSIDE

Exercising is the best way to keep you warm and also keep the immune barrier working. Saying that, over exercising will create the opposite effect so make sure you take on activities that are not making you feel weaker. Taking long walk outside (good to get some Vitamin D), swimming or taking on movement training like yoga and Animal Flow will help boost your immune system. If you are sick, forget about strenuous activities as it will weaken your immune system. 

4.     STAY HYDRATED 

You’ve heard it before and for all the good reasons. Hydration is the key since 70% of our body is made out of fluids and over 95% of our cells is composed of water! Try keeping a bottle of water at your desk and refill it each time it’s empty (another excuse to get up and move anyway!). If water is unappealing to you, try squeezing some lemon juice or drink some hot green tea (it will help loosen the mucous too). 

         IN A NUT SHELL:

·      Eat nutrient dense food

·      Rest and recover

·      Manage your stress

·      Avoid under/over exercising

·      Avoid over/under eating

·      Wash your hands

·      Feed your healthy bacteria

Animal Flow: The practice that will change the way you move.

If you have recently tuned in the Fitness world, you may have noticed that Bodyweight Training is back to the top; and there’s a simple reason for that: we don’t know how to move properly anymore.

Most of us are spending way too much time sitting behind a desk, in a car and on the couch as soon as we get home. Then, we go for long runs or hit the gym to lift heavy weights. How do you think your body is going to respond to this drastic change? Let me give you a hint: physiotherapy, massage or chiropractor… Yep, that’s where you’re most likely to end up with niggling or sharp pains, locked back, muscle tear, tendinopathy, chronic headache and more. We need to rethink what movement is about and how it applies to our physical activities. Bodyweight Training, such as Animal Flow,  allows you to gently load the different body joints and move in all three different planes (sagittal, frontal and transverse) to get a physical and neurological response that improves strength, mobility, flexibility, stability and is extremely complimentary to any other sport or activity.

Benefits and science behind Animal Flow:

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            Animal Flow focuses on multi-planar and functional movements using body leverage, tempo changes, form specific stretches, transitions, activations, traveling forms and eventually flows. It is a great assessment tool that can highlights postural asymmetries, strength deficiencies, muscle tightness and weaknesses but also allows the participants to reconnect with their bodies. Each step has a progression/regression mode so you can work towards your own goal while still having fun. This discipline combines ground-based elements from various bodyweight trainings (yoga, parkour, breakdancing, martial arts…) to create a fun and challenging workout that takes the participants through multi-planar fluid combinations.

I was hooked as soon as I saw a video of Mike Fitch (the creator of Animal Flow) demonstrating a Flow. He looked so light and effortless yet he was twisting, kicking, arching, bending his body and even adding handstands. I just wanted to try so I enrolled in the first instructor certification in Australia and I left feeling stronger, more flexible, challenged and eager to practice.

Taking it back to our roots:

Since you spend a lot of time in a quadrupedal position (all four limbs touching the floor), gravity is now pulling the body in a different way, which challenges the neurological system. In this bodyweight type of training, you are constantly connected to the ground by at least one limb, moving and pushing your body around it. It is called a closed-chain exercise. The benefit of closed-chain exercises is a greater motor unit activation and synchronisation. You move multiple joints throughout multiple planes, which creates a more functional exercise that recruits more muscles and decreases the risk of injury. The hands and feet are packed with sensory receptors so closed-chain exercises stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) in a very unique way that makes this type of training extremely functional for normal daily activities and sports.

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The different moves and poses also offer a unique stretch and load on the body’s fascial web. Fascia is a connective tissue that holds us together and has 10 times more sensory nerve endings than muscles. For this reason, the changes in positions, tempos and anchor points during the Flows provide great benefits for improving the way we walk, stand, run or move. I have already introduced some moves to one my trainees who is 72 years old and she told me she stands taller, has better balance and feels more flexible and stronger.

How Animal Flow can help you:

            The practice of Animal Flow is complimentary to what you are already doing. If you think you have reached your limit in a squat then try the loaded Beast to increase hip movement. If you are tight through your chest, abs and hips then try the Crab Reach pose. If you’re back is tight or you need more stability in your shoulders then throwing some side kick-throughs will make you feel better. Saying that, the real fun starts when you put all these moves together and create your own Flows; the possibilities are endless. At the moment I’m working with a trainee who it coming back to run a half marathon after a big knee issue. Last week we played with the Forward Traveling Beast to increase his core activation while improving his arm-leg sync, which is beneficial to avoid energy waste while running.

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 Animal Flow can be used for stretching, warm up, cool down but when used in a very dynamic training (HIIT, plyometric), study shows that exercises using both upper and lower limbs require more energy expenditure and therefore burn more calories than training techniques using one or the other.

 

If you are curious about trying it or want to know how it could benefit you, contact me on gee@altifit.com.au to find out where the nearest class (group and one-on-one) takes place. 

What keeps you going?

This morning, instead of going to the gym I decided to head back to the park near where I live for some Animal Flow and outdoor training. After all, it was such a beautiful morning so why would I spend it between four walls with bumping music when I could enjoy the view of the Iron Cove Bay. When I got there, I thought I’d warm up with a light jog before moving into my exercise routine. Since December I have had Achilles’ tendinopathy and I haven’t run for over 3 months afraid that it would flare up again. That’s when I started thinking…

 

As I warmed up, I noticed my ankle was fine and thought why not running today? I started to feel this desire to test myself and see how far I could go. Screw the training, I can do that anytime, this was the perfect opportunity to run and push my limit a little bit more. Of course there was an element of fear, the uncertainty that I could do it without pain, the what if I make it worse feeling, but the sensation of pushing to be better was overwhelming. I needed to know if I could run 5km at whatever pace without pain. Some may call that a gamble, I call it knowing my limit and my body.

 

I continually try to push my clients just over their limit so they can get a glimpse at their amazing potential. Our bodies are unreal and capable of doing some of the most extreme things when we connect with our inner selves. There are endless stories about people achieving amazing things like Asa Long who became the oldest US checkers champion at 79, Paul Spangler who finished his 14th marathon at age 92, Teiichi Igarachi climbed Mt. Fuji at age 99, Christine Brown climbed the Great Wall of China at 80 years old, John Glenn (77) is the oldest person to have gone to space, and the list goes on and on.

 

There is no reason why you should stop challenging yourself. One of my trainees in her late 30s came up to me and wanted to be able to stand and squat on a Swiss ball. Well, I first had to figure out myself how to do that before teaching her! Within 4 weeks, she was on it with a massive smile, and that face was the expression of the glimpse to her unleashed potential. She wanted more as if we had opened Pandora’s box. Once you’ve touched that potential, it’s hard to stop and this is your brain firing up and releasing the endorphin and other happy hormones throughout your body.

 

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Think about it for a second. Do you remember that feeling the last time you did something out of your comfort zone, something that you trained or studied for, something that you didn’t think you were capable of doing but yet you managed to do? What kept you going is the sense of achieving a goal, taking the chance to make a difference in your life and be better than you were the day before. That’s because success triggers our brain to release a chemical called dopamine and when dopamine flows into our brain’s reward pathway (responsible for pleasure and motivation), we want to experience it again. Setting small goals that you succeed at helps release dopamine and makes you successful in the bigger picture. That’s why it is important to set goals then break them down to more achievable ones regardless of what they are.

 

If you ask me, my long-term goal is to stay healthy and be able to move normally. I want to be able to use my body as long as I can in its normal functionality. I want to be 80 and be able to go for a jog, ski, ride a bike and walk to the grocery store. I don’t want to be limited by the incapacity of moving because I didn’t look after my health in my younger years. We only have one body and we often take it for granted but it is never too late to get moving again and challenge it. At the beginning of the year I decided that each day I will do one single thing that makes me better than the day before, no matter what it is. Each day I find a new challenge and I reward myself for it. This is what keeps me going.

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Now, I’m asking you: do you see yourself running with your kids in 20 years from now? Do you want to say that you dared to do something you thought impossible? Do you want to tick those boxes and have that big fat smile on your face? Well, it’s not too late and with a little help, motivation, practice, consistency and determination you can do whatever you want. So get a piece of paper and write down what keeps you going and make it happen. You’ll see, it feels good, real good!

12 days of Christmas Workout

Here we are again at this time of the year and since we have 12 days to go till Santa comes around, here's the 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS WORKOUT to keep you fit while waiting for the presents delivery.

There are so many exercises you can do but we chose a workout that doesn't require any gym or equipment. If you have weights available, you can use them for some exercises (see notes). The workout can be done at home or outside so there's really no excuse for not doing it!

Here it is:

1 10 seconds sprint (5 or 10’ one way and 5 or 10’ return)

2 Lateral Burpees (jump sideways)

3 Sit through on each side (hip touching the ground)

4 Plyo Lunges

5 Lateral Push Ups (move right hand to the left between PU and vice versa)

6 Jump Squats (you can hold a weight in front of your chest)

7 Shoulder Press (bodyweight or with weights)

8 Return Walking Lunges (holding a weight on shoulders/in front of chest)

9 “V” Sit ups (reach high with your hands)

10 Triceps Dips (use a bench, chair…)

11 Climber Plank (bring knee to elbow and across)

12 Box jumps

The way it works:

Perform 1 sprint, 2 lateral burpees, 1 sprint, 2 lateral burpees, 3 sit through, 1 sprint, 2 lateral burpees, 3 sit through, 4 plyo lunges, 1 sprint, 2 lateral burpees, 3 sit through, 4 plyo lunges, 5 lateral push ups...

Complete the workout until you have done all the exercises. The number in front of the exercise is the number of reps for each exercise. After each exercise, start back at the beginning and work your way up until you reach the last one. To make it even more challenging, once you've finished you can work your way down!

Guaranteed to bring your heart rate up and get all your muscles pumped! Perform this workout with other peoples it's a great way to motivate each other to push through.

Let it flow, let it flow...

Each year we see new trends rising in the Fitness Industry aiming to keep the population entertained and promising to change lives and make you leaner than ever. Some last, some don't and sometimes we even get a good laugh at a few of them. Saying that, there are some people out there researching how new tools and types of training can help change the increase rate of obesity as well as reduce the time we spend at the physios, chiros, osteos, massage therapists and whoever is able to fix our niggling pains.

One thing is sure though, we spend way too much time seating and not moving enough. Human beings have regressed from their ability to move and this leads to developing chronic pains, poor posture and more injuries. One of the solutions to this ongoing crisis is to move more but move efficiently. We need to get back to the roots of primal movement and learn again how to push, pull, twist, bend in all three different planes (sagittal, frontal, transverse).

Please let me introduce you to ANIMAL FLOW, the new fitness trend coming out of the United States and created by Mike Fitch, a well recognised fitness guru and founder of Global Bodyweight Training. The program, which blends gymnastic, capoeira, parkour, yoga, martial arts and even breakdancing movements is guaranteed not only to make you sweat but also to increase mobility, flexibility, stability, power, endurance, skill and neuromuscular communication.

By mimicking how animals move and making the different poses "flow" into one another, Mike has created a full-body workout based on fluidity and energy transfer. In all honesty, I doubted the methods at first and kind of laughed at the name too but then I tried it and believe me when I say that the videos look way easier than doing it yourself! My heart rate went up after only a few reps and my arms and abs started to get tired too. 

I’ve always been interested in non-traditional methods of exercise, but was inspired to seek out new ventures when I was just no longer feeling challenged in my day-to-day routine. So I began using my own bodyweight for strength training. I tried gymnastics, adding tumbling, acrobatics, and hand-balancing to my workout. I was so impressed with the results that I kept exploring more non-traditional disciplines like Parkour, Capoeira and breakdancing. While each has its unique strengths, they also complement each other and share even more in common. Each uses bodyweight as its basis for building muscles and skills. I’ve been able to synthesise the best components of each into my own bodyweight training program. I’ve found that animal movements in particular translate really well into nearly every style of bodyweight training.
— Mike Fitch, Animal Flow Workout

Of course, like any other training, you need to start with the basics where you'll hold intense, full-body positions with your hands and feet, transition between them and move across the ground. Once you learn these basic "animal forms" you can get more dynamic by travelling rapidly, slowing down suddenly and balancing between all those forms to take your athleticism to new heights.

For most of the people, the basic moves will instantly increase their flexibility, strengthen their core, increase strength and open up all these tight joints to feel lighter. As you progress into more challenging moves with more fluidity, expect to:

  • move better
  • get a cardio kick
  • increase mobility and stability
  • gain more balance and control
  • enhance athletic performance
  • lose weight

It is also a really good way to connect with your body and be more aware of the tightness and restrictions so you can fix the issues yourself. Just like yoga, the benefits are almost instant after the first session.

With names like "the ape, "bear crawl", "crab reach", "beast activation", you will soon find your primal instincts! Although this is not a new trend, what makes the Animal Flow Workout different from other bodyweight routines is the fluidity between moves and the ability to use all your limbs at the same time through multiple planes of motion.

I am getting certified early in 2015 and will be able to offer group classes as well as incorporating movements into training workouts. If you have any question, contact me at gee@altifit.com.au

 


Summer Cleanse

It's the end of the year and you can feel the stress in the air with all the deadlines to meet, the parties and the events planning. How about starting to cleanse that body from all the stress before you power through the festive season? Here is a simple way to stay hydrated as the weather heats up and get rid of any toxins lurking in your system. This refreshing blend of foods and flavours will satisfy everybody's tastebuds and is guaranteed to be a success on the any table this summer!

What you need:

WATERMELON/CUCUMBER, LEMON/LIME, MINT, WATER

Watermelon (or cucumber): Watermelon helps the body flush out toxins because it contains the organic compound citrulline, which is an amino acid that has been shown to help the liver and kidneys filter and get rid of ammonia. Ammonia comes in external forms, but is also a by-product of the proteins our bodies are burning up constantly for energy, and it’s quite damaging to our cells. Cucumber also contains citrulline, but not as much as watermelon. Watermelon may also just give the liver an overall boost. 

Why water: H20 is just plain good for us since our bodies are composed of about 70% of water, but it’s thought that it helps flush nasty toxins and waste through our system, giving organs like the liver and kidney an easier time doing their job.

 

Lemon (or lime): Lemon or lime juice helps stimulate and regulate the digestive track (which is why it’s so helpful with constipation, heartburn and gas), stimulates bile production, and thins out bile, which allows it to flow more freely. Bile is produced by the liver and ends up in the small intestine to break down lipids (fats) that we’ve consumed.

Mint leaves: Mint leaves are a nice refreshing flavor to add to your drink. On top of that, it can help you digest more effectively, improving the flow of bile from the liver, to the gallbladder, to the small intestine, where it breaks down dietary fats. Mint also helps relax cramped up stomach muscles.

How it's done:

- 1-2 litres of water, depending on how strong you want it to taste
- Part of 1 watermelon or 1 cucumber
- 1 lemon or lime
- A handful of fresh mint leaves (approximately 10-13)
- Ice cubes

Directions

Slice up a good amount of watermelon into cubes, rind and all, and put them into a jug or pitcher. Cut 1 juicy lime into wedges and toss in with the watermelon. Add a handful of fresh, fragrant, mint leaves and pour in 2 litres of cool water, filling the jug all the way to the top. Let this sit overnight in the fridge and let all the yummy flavors steep and infuse the water. When you want to drink it, put in a generous helping of ice cubes, pour, and enjoy daily.

Tips

• Try substituting a lemon for the lime, cucumber for the watermelon, or a combination of all of them.

• Pour water in first and then add the ingredients. I feel like there’s more of a burst of flavor when the water gets poured in and everything swirls around, but there’s something to be said for letting it gently infuse itself as well (the water tends to stay a bit clearer as well.)

• Don’t add ice to the entire jug, and leave it on a cup-by-cup basis. If you plan on drinking it over time, this can help prevent it from getting diluted as the ice melts.

• Start with 2 liters’ of water steeping overnight, and then experiment with longer/shorter times and more or less water.

• Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime and/or lemon and then slice up another and add that to give it a little extra citrus kick.