Archive for the ‘Diet & Nutrition’ Category

What is the best way to…?

2012 London Olympics

For over a decade and a half of writing about working out and acing fitness tests primarily, I often get questions that start off with, “Stew — what is the best way to (insert event)?  The most common one is “run faster in timed runs”.  Or “do more pull-​​ups, push-​​ups, sit-​​ups” is often asked.  And, of course, there is swimming times related question — “What is the best way to increase my swim speed /​ decrease swim times per given distance?”  Or a very controversial topic — “What is the best way to build muscle?”

The reason why I bring up this topic is after reading an email from a young man trying to ace his situp test, I got distracted.  He is seeking a goal to keep a pace of one sit-​​up per second or scoring 120 situps in 2 minute period.  This is a great goal!  It is not uncommon in the Spec Ops candidate world to see 120+ on 2 minute sit-​​up tests and there is a way to build up to get there.  Is MY way the BEST way?  I do not know — depends on how you define BEST.  Here is the question:

Situps“Stew — I have a sit-​​up test that a scored near the minimums on the first time (60 in 2 min), acceptable a month later (90 in 2 minutes), but I want to master this event as it once embarrassed me.  The sit-​​ups — I overestimated my abilities and did not practice (like you said) and was ranked last in our group on sit-​​ups.  Now I want to max it and not far away from it.  What is the best way to get that max score in sit-​​ups?”

 

How do you define BEST? I Digress…

It’s Getting Spooky Out There

pumpkinhead

Every once in a while, I feel the urge to unplug from the news, social media and technology.  Recently, after a two year hiatus from the news, I decided that enough time had passed to re-​​engage.   I’ll admit that the timing couldn’t have been worse.  It’s getting really scary out there, isn’t it?  From rampant viruses to political turmoil, the news isn’t very encouraging.  Fortunately, we, as a country, can still cling to some simple yet powerful truths — we have a strong military to protect us, the most advanced scientific achievements to make our lives better, and the resilience and fortitude that makes us all Americans.  As Americans, we also have the freedom to take care of ourselves and there may be no better time than now to do that in a big way.

How to Hit the Pause Button

BLT 1/4 hits paradise for Exercise Tropic Thunder

This weekend I’m pulling some self-​​imposed overtime.  With everything going on in my life at the moment, I have to put in some extra hours to catch up with paperwork and correspondence which I hope will get me ahead for next week, or so I choose to believe at this moment!  Does it ever feel like you’ve got too much on your plate?  From your service/​career demands to family obligations and a lengthy list of must-​​dos, it may feel like you’ll never get on top of it all.  Maybe we can all take a cue from nature as summer is officially over and autumn begins.  In the fall, everything seems to take a pause — the grass stops growing, leaves begin to turn, and flowers fade.  If your world is spinning, check out these tips to help you take it down a notch or two. 

Weird Workout Hacks that Actually Work

Capture

It’s not hard to find hundreds of search results for workout tips when searching the internet. That’s why I was on a mission to find quick and easy workout tips that actually work, proven by scientific studies.  Below are my findings:

Gut Check

Gut Check Obstacle Course

Have you ever heard that expression, “I had a gut feeling”?  Maybe you’re about to make an important decision and you stop to do a “gut check.”   For those of you in combat situations or as first-​​responders, you may find yourselves going with your “gut instincts”.   The phrase “gut check” is even defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “an evaluation or test of a person’s resolve, commitment, or priorities.”  Merriam-​​Webster calls it “a test of courage, character, or determination.”  It’s no accident that our gut seems to have the ability to guide us through challenging situations.  You may be surprised at just how important your gut is to your physical stamina, mental sharpness and emotional health.  

Peak Your Performance…Now!

Kuono Paddle Series Image 1 (2)_212x124_thumb

Have you ever enjoyed a summer day that you wish would never end?  Labor Day was one of those days for us here in Maine.  Usually, by this time of the season, the crisp chill of autumn has set in and I’m reaching for my fleece.  Instead, this week has ushered in steamy, hot weather and brilliant sunshine.  So, you guessed it, I’m spending as much time as possible outdoors to soak up every ounce of warmth before it becomes a fleeting memory in a few short months.  Last week we talked about peaking your performance with a better approach to sports nutrition.  Whether you’re at the gym, on a bike, in the water or at home, this week we’ll continue to shed the light on overcoming inflammation to keep you moving. 

Sports Nutrition — A Game Changer

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Sarah Wolff-Diaz)

As summer winds down, I’m noticing an interesting trend that has developed over the past few months — my pension for all things water-​​related.  From swimming to kayaking to paddle boarding, I’ve been on a mission to stay on or in the water as much as possible.  I now officially have the SUP (stand up paddle board) addiction!  Put me on the water with a paddle in my hand and I’m content for hours.  If you haven’t checked it out, SUP-​​ing is an awesome full body workout engaging your core for balance, increasing flexibility, upper & lower body strength and decreasing stress…seriously, is there anything more calming than dipping your paddle into a clear, tranquil lake or the invigorating rush of catching the surf?  My newly discovered passion has made me even more aware of how to tweak my nutrition to keep me on the water as long as possible this year. 

Crushing Cortisol

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Last weekend I returned to my parent’s home for a reunion with my mom’s family.  We spent our days relaxing by the lake, talking up a storm and laughing until our sides were about to split!  It took a couple of years for my mom to pull off this reunion as everyone’s schedules and circumstances were decidedly chaotic and stressful.  I’m sure my family will agree that it was one of the most fun times we’ve had together in a long while. In fact, any stress we may have carried into the weekend was quickly diminished.  When I left on Monday, everyone looked relaxed and happy.  It made me realize that stress can take its toll on all of us and yet there are simple ways we can all crush it.  

What Does It Matter?

STARS_NASA-IMAGE_605

I am an unabashed space nerd — galaxies, black holes, matter and anti-​​matter — you name it, I’m in especially when it coms to science fiction.  From reruns of Star Trek to my ongoing obsession with the Star Wars super saga, the whole idea of “Space, the final frontier…to boldly go where no man has gone before” blows my mind.  Whether you love to geek out over sci-​​fi, or not, isn’t it fascinating to imagine space travel?  If we could get to the moon and back on the equivalent computing power of a tiny little hand-​​held calculator, imagine what we are capable of when we tap into the “strange new world(s)” between our ears!  

Focus In

cameralens

I’m a bit of a photography buff and often find myself framing out pictures in my mind when I pass by a perfect sunset or a flower in bloom.  A few years ago, my family gave me a really cool camera with a 64X zoom lens.  That kind of focus gives me all kinds of creative freedom to capture images that I may otherwise miss.  The key to a perfect shot is a steady hand and a lack of distraction.   The same is true when it comes to our mental focus and sharpness.  As we continue to delve into a healthy brain, optimizing your focus and concentration can lead to a very pretty picture indeed.

High School and High Cholesterol

bloodtest

It seems this is the time of year when high school students and graduates get physical screening tests for their sports, future military service, or college health screenings.  As the American population increases in girth, it is not surprising to see many younger adults /​ adolescents exhibit typical problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and pre-​​diabetes in some cases.

Recently a young man (age 16) who plays football and runs track for his High School teams, but also serving in the Civil Air Patrol and does very well on his PT tests emailed us with a concern about the results of his pre-​​sports physical. He states, “I went for my annual check-​​up and found out I am close to High Cholesterol.”  Receiving the information I thought it was a joke (I weigh 141, BMI under 20, 5 feet 8 inches tall) I am very athletic and in great shape physically. Now my diet is all red meat, ice-​​cream, vegetables, lots of 2% milk, rice, ground beef. As you can see my diet is pretty bad but I eat a normal amount of junk food compared to my peers. Any tips?”

Forget Something?

Brain

Has this ever happened to you?  You’re about to walk up to a friend you’ve known for a long time and suddenly your mind goes blank.  You’ve forgotten his or her name — I’m talking deer-​​in-​​headlights blank.  While at first you are mortified and embarrassed that you’ve suffered what feels like a complete brain dump, you then begin to wonder what exactly is wrong with you.  No matter your age or health, everyone experiences a mental gap once in a while for numerous reasons.  This week I met with CogSports Group who specialize in cognitive testing for Navy SEALs, corporate leaders and sports teams.  Their focus on mental toughness got me thinking (yes, I said that) about how to keep our brains as healthy as we keep our bodies.  Over the next few weeks we’ll explore tips and tools for the proper care and feeding of your gray matter.

A Berry Good Summer

berries

I’ve been in a really good mood lately.  It may be the long summer days, the post-​​vacation relaxation or just the fact that it feels good to feel good, right?  Even in the midst of a hectic work schedule, I still feel pretty darn good.  A little bonus that put an even bigger smile on my face was when I saw the sign at my local farm stand shouting “You Pick Raspberries!”  Now that’s what I call a great summer message.  It got me thinking about how fun super foods can be to add to your day.  Here are three simple ones that will have you kicking up your heels and whistling a happy tune.  

7 Fitness Hacks That Could Change Your Life

male-military

There is so much to learn about workout properly, it can be as confusing as you want to make it. However, there are some simple tips, tricks and hacks that anyone can do to make working out easier and more effective. Below are some simple fitness hacks that you can incorporate today to take your fitness to a higher level.

Optimal You

blueman

When I was a little kid, I was convinced if I concentrated hard enough, I could take off on a magic carpet and fly around the world.  Dragging my brother along for the “ride,” we laid one of my mom’s area rugs out on the front driveway, sat cross-​​legged, closed our eyes and visualized ourselves lifted off the ground.  As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for my brother to lose interest and my mom to demand her rug back!  Fortunately, I’ve managed to channel that misguided imagination and adventurous spirit into other endeavors along the way.  Although I have yet to levitate anything, I have learned a lot about defying gravity in other ways.  A recent article by my friend and colleague, Tina Van Horn, shines the spotlight on a superior you and a truly “magical” formula to help you soar.

United We Stand

HonorGuard

I come from a family of patriots.  We all support our Veterans, our military service men and women and our country regardless of the date on the calendar or the status of world events. My grandfather is part of the Greatest Generation as a WWII Veteran. My uncles are Veterans of the Vietnam War.  I am a the spouse of a GWOT Veteran who served our country valiantly during a career that saw both peace and conflict. So, during a time when we celebrate our Nation’s birth, it seems fitting to also thank those who graciously and unselfishly support our troops, respect our flag, and serve our Veterans.  This week, while we’re spending time with family and friends,  I want to introduce you to a couple of patriots & patriotic organizations that have inspired me. 

Lose Weight /​ Get Fit to Serve

2012 Obesity

As the Military Gets Pickier With Recruiting, showing up to see your local recruiter out of shape, overweight, and/​or with less than average ASVAB scores will quickly crush your dreams of serving.  During the past 15 years of writing about military fitness, this is not a new problem (overweight /​ out of shape recruits), however in a period of downsizing, the military has the ability to select only those who are ready to go and fully qualified.  Here is a very common email from a young man seeking to serve his country but knows he has a journey to get there:

I want to lose weight to join the Navy however, I barely workout now, and I’m over 300 pounds. Any advice? — Rob

Sun Secrets Revealed

Apply-Sunscreen1

Yesterday I spoke with my friend Louise and found out that she just celebrated her 90th birthday by zip lining in South America!  When she was 79 she realized that she felt old and didn’t like it so she decided to make some changes.  By 80, she had taken up jogging again after a 40 year hiatus.  At 85, she started a lecture series and wrote a book.  It’s no surprise that everyone wants to know her secret to living such a long, youthful and energetic life.  Our conversation got me thinking about the choices we make every day, both good and bad, and how the accumulation of those choices will dramatically affect us in the future.  I know it feels lame for some to talk about prevention, but stick with me. You may learn a thing or two that will help you keep pace with Louise…that is, if you can catch her!

All Flared Up

solarflare

A couple of days ago there was word that solar flares might disrupt the precious electronics that we rely upon to survive on a daily basis.  Solar flare, which are basically explosions on the Sun’s surface, happen all the time yet most don’t carry enough electromagnetically charged particles to do much harm.  Although I never lost any connectivity or found my car inoperable, I did marvel at how powerful and potentially dangerous our Sun can be.  With the summer solstice fast approaching it seems fitting to take on that fiery ball of gas and determine once and for all how to tame its rays while still enjoying a short sleeve summer. 

A Cool Trick to Redirect Calories to Muscles Instead of Fat

glut4Want a cool trick to help your body decide how to use those calories you just ate? Exercising right before and shortly after a big meal can help to activate a protein inside your muscle cells called Glut4. GLUT-​​4 is a protein that, when increased, tells your body to put calories into muscle tissue, instead of fat cells.