Categories
Exercises

The Power of a Good Warm Up

The proper warm up should increase your core body temperature and help increase blood flow to your muscles. This will help prepare your body for strenuous exercise by stimulating the nervous system. It will also activate muscle groups and improve joint mobility and flexibility. Using the correct warm up sequence for your workout can even increase your muscle’s ability to produce force and power.

The Best Warm-Up Exercises

There is actually no set warmup routine that can be considered “the best.” Your plan should be to warm up specifically for whatever activity you are working on that day. This means your warm ups should change with every workout. 

As a rule of thumb:

  • use the correct stretches to go through the range of motion that you’re going to be working through in your workout that day
  • reinforce proper movement patterns
  • it should last anywhere between five to fifteen minutes

Not warming up can pose a risk for injury, so take the time to research the dynamic moves and stretches that are specific to your workout before you head out to the gym.

5 Key Components of a Strong Pre-Workout Routine

The video I’ve included in this article is my latest Youtube video created to help you increase your mobility and range of motion in order to execute a precise and powerful roundhouse kick. You can use this video as both a dynamic warm up and as a progression workout to increase coordination and balance, to practice precise placement of your feet and to maximize the height of your kick.

For all other workouts, you can create your own warm-up routines by following these guidelines:

  1. Raise your pulse —think three to five minutes of aerobic exercise (walk, bike, jog, skip rope) to get your blood pumping.
  2. Use controlled dynamic sequences—for leg days think leg swings, hip rotations, inchworms and other lower body movements. For upper body days, go for torso rotations, dive-bomber push-ups and arm and shoulder rotations. 
  3. Incorporate minimal static stretching—static stretches are best for after your workout, since static stretching before your workout can lead to poor workout performance according to research. However, there are one or two sport specific static stretches that can help increase your range of motion for a particular workout. i.e. 20 second quad or calf stretches for runners.
  4. Run through sport specific skill drills—i.e. Shooting, dribbling and passing drills for ball sports. For weightlifting, do warm-up sets of no weight or lower weight and resistance before you increase load and volume.

Static or Dynamic: What’s the Difference?

Keep in mind that dynamic stretching is used to improve mobility (often done in the manner of the activity or sport that is going to be performed) while static stretching requires that you hold the stretch without moving (usually the muscle is at the end of its range). 

Although there is no long-term evidence of direct harm from static stretching prior to a workout, you will temporarily decrease your ability to produce force. Whereas dynamic stretching has been shown to significantly increase the ability of your muscles to produce force, according to a 2005 study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Times have changed, you no longer hold 15 stretches for 20-60 seconds each before jumping into a rigorous workout. The proper warm up can have huge implications for improved muscular performance throughout a muscle’s entire range-of-motion—all the while protecting the body’s joints during activity. 

To staying positively strong, powerful, and flexible,

Sunny

Categories
Exercises

Punch Strong: The Benefits of Correct Martial Arts Technique

Why Learn Properly?

My guess is that most of the members are cardio bunnies interested in a quick cardio workout. They do not imagine themselves ever using the punching and kicking movements in a real self-defense situation. If they only knew of the real psychological and physical benefits to taking the time to learn proper, basic martial arts technique before jumping in. They’d be hooked! Correct technique for self-defence is just the tip of the ice berg, the other benefits include:

  1. Reducing Injury. Knowing how to execute a technique correctly will prevent you from throwing haphazard strikes that could lead to injury.
  2. Getting Faster. Over time, executing good technique will raise your comfort level in the movement and allow you to increase your speed.
  3. Combating Sarcopenia. Once you have a hang of proper movement and begin to build speed, you can then focus on building explosive power. Explosive training activates type II muscle fibers and is very beneficial against muscle loss (Sarcopenia).
  4. Building Confidence. As you start to polish your technique and build good habits, you will start to gain confidence in your abilities.  The more you repeat good habits, the more confident you will be the next time you enter a class.
  5. Improving Reaction Time. You will have better ability to react and improvise when needed, based on the fundamentals you have learned. Whether it be to learn new fitbox class drills, or to anticipate an opponent’s next move and react accordingly.
  6. Strengthening the Body and Mind. There is something to be said for the mind-body connection that comes from being immersed in learning challenging martial arts technique. The very process of learning martial arts can put you into a meditative or Flow State (Flow State refers to when a person performing a challenging activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and enjoyment, according to positive psychology and research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). Modern neuroscience has associated a meditative or Flow State with changes in the electrical function of the brain that can relieve stress and positively affect your sleep, feelings of depression and anxiety, pain, breathing pattern, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Get to Work

So don’t jump into a cardio kickbox class and just follow the movements blindly. Instead begin by attending a martial arts class or watch videos that break down the movements for you. It may not be a quick solution, but there is such beauty and power in having the discipline to try and practice something correctly, over and over again.

I find this next quote by Bruce Lee to be very inspiring—no matter your starting level or interest in martial arts—as it can pertain to many different interests, fields and disciplines.

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

-Bruce Lee

I don’t like hitting the gym just to cross daily cardio off of my list. I’d rather work towards something bigger. My PositivelySTRONG Hit All Body Interval Training (HABIT) videos start by introducing basic fundamental movements and building on them. With repetition, you should aim to get better and better.

This week’s video places the focus is on the humble punch as performed in two basic stances. I’ll break down some of the basics for you until you can get to an actual class, then end with a 7-minute interval training session that you can repeat as many times as possible.

As always with my videos, be sure to warm up, rest in between sets, set out to execute techniques properly, and make the workout as difficult as you need by adjusting intensity.

To starting with positively strong basics,

Sunny

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Health Informational Uncategorized

Practice Gratitude to Help You Lose Weight

Were your lungs helping you breath today? Were you able to walk yourself to the bathroom and brush your teeth? Did your fingers help you deftly button up those favorite jeans of yours?

If the answer to all three questions is yes, then you are one lucky duck. I hope you realize how truly blessed you are to have working organs, limbs, and fingers.

Now close your eyes, take (and release) three big breaths, thank the universe for such good luck, smile big, and give your body a big, virtual hug for always having your back, and then go about your day as usual.

Why do this? Well science tells us that the effects of gratitude on the brain are long lasting. Practicing gratitude everyday—or even just once a week—can help:

  1. increase energy levels
  2. improve exercise patterns
  3. get better sleep
  4. decrease anxiety and depression
  5. lower stress levels
  6. increase self-love and empathy
  7. show reductions in physical ailments and pain
  8. improve optimism

A 2004 study by Emmons and McCullough even showed that keeping a gratitude journal increased determination, enthusiasm, alertness, and energy.

In effect, by practicing gratitude you could have more energy in your day to exercise. You can reduce the stress in your life to curb stress eating and emotional attachments to food. Better sleep as a result of gratitude journaling can also help you with muscle synthesis and increase energy levels to get you the best results from your workouts. All of these would work together to help you move more and eat less—the two proven ways you can shed those unwanted pounds without constant dieting.

How to Practice Gratitude

It only takes a few minutes a day to recognize, acknowledge, and practice gratitude everyday. Start with taking just a moment to jot down some notes on a notepad or on your phone. Try doing this once a week at the minimum. Keep it up for at least three months to see best results.

If you need some prompts on how to keep a gratitude journal, try choosing one topic a day from these journal prompts listed below:

Just remember, acknowledging gratitude is not about comparing yourself to how other people may be worse off than you are. Take time to really appreciate the smallest aspects of your current situation. This is where a gratitude journal can come in handy as it is something tangible that you can go back to and reflect on.

I always tell my clients that losing weight is not complex, but it is definitely complicated. Losing weight is about getting adequate exercise while eating just the right amount of calories from nutrient dense foods. The complicated part comes from daily stress, lack of sleep, lack of self-love and motivation, and physical, economical and psychological barriers. Gratitude journaling is a great tool to help you make sense of some of the complicated stuff that makes weight loss so difficult for many.

Categories
Event Exercises Health Informational

Intermittent Fasting, Client Spotlight, and the Must-Try Shoulder Workouts of the Month

Intermittent Fasting: Fad Diet or Effective Weight Loss Method?

Every few months a new fad diet pops up that promises an incredibly easy and effective way to shed those unwanted extra pounds, fast. While most of these types of diets shock your body into losing weight quickly (usually due to the high caloric deficit caused by eliminating whole food groups) they often deprive you of much-needed nutrients and of your sanity as well. The end result is that most people will yo-yo back to their previous weight once the restricted food groups are reintroduced back into the diet.

Sunny’s Take on the Situation: What’s the Deal?

At PostivelySTRONG Health Solutions, we don’t believe in fad diets. Eliminating whole food groups is frowned upon unless you have a food intolerance or history of food allergies. It should also be noted that calorie restriction is not seen as the only way to lose weight. In fact, most clients are quite surprised to see that eating a varied and colorful diet without eliminating whole food groups is the norm. This includes dairy, bread, and even (gasp!) sugar. 

However, there are certain methods to nutrient timing that have scientific backing, and some forms of calorie restriction are necessary for weight loss. One such method is Intermittent Fasting (IF), which is a diet that I sometimes recommend to my clients.

IF is an eating pattern where you either: 

  • A) eat how you would normally eat for 5-days out of the week while vastly restricting calories for two nonconsecutive days out of the week.

OR 

  • B) you only eat all of your daily required calories in two to three meals in an 8 to 10-hour window and fast the rest of the time (usually fasting while sleeping and in the morning).

Here’s why IF is a trend I can get behind:

IF can help you lose weight while encouraging your body to burn stored fat as energy to fuel your body. Benefits include cranking up your metabolism and balancing of hormones. This is accomplished through a reduction in your caloric intake and nutrient timing to get your hormones to fire correctly (i.e. decreased insulin resistance + increase in growth hormones = an increase in the fat-burning hormone Leptin). IF has also been credited with improving heart health.

Here’s how IF can turn on you:

IF can’t fight the good fight against junk food. So don’t expect to lose weight if you are eating everything in sight in those eating windows. Also, it’s definitely not a diet for everyone. There are reports of women experiencing changes in their menstrual cycle after starting IF.  Also, individuals with chronic illnesses, advanced diabetes, or prone to eating disorders, I encourage you to explore other lifestyle and nutrition changes that may better suit your individual needs.

Client Spotlight: Kendra J

Sunny’s Client Kendra is a travel expert who has been working with PositivelySTRONG health solutions for the past 4 years. Her contagious smile and warm personality make her a delight to work with. Her strong self-drive and consistent work ethic make her the dream client. We recently caught up with Kendra and asked her a series of questions to better understand how she enjoys working with Sunny at PositivelySTRONG Health.

Hi Kendra, can you describe your health and fitness regimen before you started with PositivelySTRONG Health?

Before I started working out with Sunny, I was a person that focused a lot on cardio and how much I weighed. I would go through spurts where I was doing kickboxing, running on a treadmill, anything cardio-focused. Which is funny because I really hate cardio—and probably why after a few months I would be over it. 

I would also lift light weights with the fear of gaining too much muscle and didn’t go into the gym with a set workout so I would often wander around with no direction or what body part I should be focusing on. Eating-wise, I would go through periods where I would eat low-carb salads with protein to quickly lose weight, and then politely gain it back once I hit my target size.

What problem(s) were you trying to solve by signing up with PositivelySTRONG Health? 

I wanted to figure out a long-term solution to what I should be feeding my body and how I could incorporate working out consistently and with purpose.

What made you happiest about working with PositivelySTRONG?

Uh. Everything? I love that you challenge me with each new workout (or try to kill me. However you want to see it). Most trainers get weird and don’t acknowledge any disability and your workouts are mindful of my limits but also incorporate moves that will strengthen my arm. Also love that you know life happens and you don’t expect me to eat celery on my birthday, your 80/20 rule is the bee’s knees, and I love how your page gives me more ideas on how to switch up meal prep.

What have you been able to achieve since using our services?

Definitely a lot stronger and I love lifting now! I’m also mindful of what I’m putting in my body and I feel that I figured out what foods make my body happy. You made me rethink my relationship with food.

What has exceeded your expectations since working with Sunny?

Everything! You have been such a joy to work with. You don’t judge my heart if I disappear, but you also call me on my sh*t in a loving encouraging manner (don’t know how else to describe that lol).

What’s the main reason you recommend PositivelySTRONG Health?

Sunny is a thoughtful trainer that encourages her clients to push their bodies, don’t judge their own progress, and make taking care of yourself a priority and a mandatory thing.

What would you tell someone who’s considering working with PositivelySTRONG and/or Sunny?

To be prepared to be changed. You are going to be pushed/warmly shoved out of your comfort zone but it’s definitely worth it!

Thank you Kendra, we definitely appreciate your feedback and enjoy guiding you on your health and fitness journey!

Two Best Shoulder Boulder Workouts To Try Today

For maximum strength, body symmetry, and proper posture, look no further than these two shoulder workouts demonstrated in this video:

Categories
Food Health Informational

Ancient Superfood: 7 Health Benefits of Barberry

If you’ve never heard of the barberry, it’s probably because you haven’t had the chance to try the popular zereshk polo or tahchin of Persian cuisine.

In zereshk polo, tiny red berries (the barberry) dance on a bed of aromatic basmati rice and turmeric saffron chicken. Tahchin on the other hand is a savory rice cake where plain yogurt and chunks of succulent meat have been folded into saffron basmati rice, then baked to golden perfection.

But I digress. The purpose of this particular article isn’t to share a recipe or to make your mouth water, it is more to tell you about the health benefits of the Berbers vulgaris — or the Barberry.

The Barberry

Barberry shrubs grow in abundance in the mountainous north-east region of Iran. The small ruby-like berries contain the alkaloids berberine and oxycontin (alkaloids are nitrogenous organic compounds with pronounced physiological effects on the human body, i.e. many drugs contain alkaloids such as morphine and quinine.)

The Health Benefits of Eating Barberry

In recent history, the medicinal properties of Berberine has been studied at length. However, the use of barberries in Eastern and Western medical traditions goes back to at least 3000 years.

Recent research has found that berberine can:

  1. Increase immunity and fight infection
  2. Ease inflammation
  3. Improve digestion, reduce gastrointestinal pain and treat diarrhea
  4. Control blood sugar to aid in preventing and treating diabetes
  5. Improve hypertension and heart health
  6. Reduce oxidative stress
  7. Effectively cleanse the liver and act as a gallbladder flush agent

In traditional Eastern medicine, the barberry has a cold and dry nature. Historically, barberries in large quantities were used as a sedative by Iranian physicians, while in India they were used to treat diarrhea. Ancient Egyptians used barberry and fennel seed to cure fever and in northern Europe, the barberry is still used to treat disorders of the bladder, liver, and gallbladder.

How it’s Done

There are a few different ways you can incorporate the barberry into your diet.

A consistently balanced and healthy diet of varied fruits and vegetables, including the fruit of the barberry shrub is always going to be your best bet. My number one recommended method is to use it in real foods, like in the dishes I mentioned in the beginning of this article. As I’m not a seasoned recipe creator and do not want to copy and paste someone else’s hard work, I will refer you to someone who really knows their stuff… Try this delicious chicken, barberry and saffron frittata as shown by lovely chef/blogger Maryam Sinaiee, on her website The Persian Fusion. She has many other recipes for using barberries, some are very traditional, some are more fusion types. All seem delicious!

I am also partial to soaking dried barberries in boiling water, adding honey, then drinking as a kind of hot tea.

Where to Find Barberries

You can find Barberries at most Persian grocers, or you can also order online. Click the affiliate image below for my fave brand of barberries. Be warned that once in a while, small stones and stems are normal, and they should be thoroughly picked through and rinsed before use.

Dried-Barberries

Of course, it can be easier for some to take a high dose of barberry compounds in capsule form. So another way is to take berberine supplements. If I’m at the point where I HAVE to use supplementation, Thorne Research products are in my top 5. I’ve also included a link to the Thorne Research capsules in the affiliate image below.

Berberine

Let me know if you decide to make any Barberry recipes you find that I should know about. I make zereshk polo at least once a month, if not more, so I’m always looking for new ways of using Barberries as a part of my healthy diet.

To a berry positively strong week,

 

Sunny

Categories
Food

Living Sugar Free – Part 2

Sugar-Free-Protein-MuffinssAs you may remember, my last blog post was all about taking the plunge and kicking the sugar habit; as promised, here is part two on the matter. Last time, I spoke about all the many reasons to quit sugar and how to go about getting past the addiction, but in this article, I would like to discuss little tricks that will help you keep up with a sugar-free diet in the long run. I have also included my own recipe for an all natural, sugar-free, protein muffin that I make in lieu of post workout protein shakes or bars that claim to be “sugar-free”.

1st Step: Don’t replace real sugar with artificial sugar

Artificial sweeteners were created by manufacturers to provide us with the sweetness that we carve without all the calories that come with them. Unfortunately, a 2013 study in the Diabetes Care journal found that artificial sweeteners can actually alter the way your body metabolizes sugar. Sweeteners can actually affect the glycemic and insulin responses in our bodies (insulin is also the hormone involved in nutrient breakdown and fat storage in the body). Studies show that replacing regular sugar with artificial sweeteners is almost like switching from cigarettes to cigars. You still get the sweetness you’ve been craving, so you never get your taste-buds and body used to living without the sweet taste and insulin spikes. This means that you will either go back to the real stuff, or will just keep substituting with sweeteners (which are just as bad for you). After three months on a true, no-sugar, no-sweetener plan, your taste-buds and cravings do actually change and you will start craving more nutrient dense foods when you are off sugar and sweeteners. That means that it is actually possible to crave salmon over Skittles, as crazy as that may seem.

2nd Step- Create a sugar-free meal plan

Following a low-sugar meal plan that is hearty and allows you to eat foods you like will help you adhere to a long term, no-sugar lifestyle. Swap breakfast cereal for an omlette and substitute your midday sweet cravings of brownies and cupcakes for almonds, berries and yogurt. Eating often through out the day will help curb those sugar cravings, this means at least three meals and two snacks. If you have trouble figuring out what to eat, just check out my online packages for nutritional meal planning, catered to suit your personal tastes and weight loss needs.

3rd Step- Keep healthy snacks close by

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Uncategorized

Living Healthy: Balance It Out

Deep Lunge living a healthy balanced life

Let’s face it, life can get pretty hectic at any given moment. Just when you seem to think that all is well, something pops out of the blue to hit you smack dab in the middle of the throat. Yup, life can be a pain in the neck sometimes, but it’s these ups and downs, swerves and curves that help us appreciate all of the beauty in life. We should all be seizing the day, but it can be a little hard to do when most people put themselves at the bottom of the priority list.

As I plan a major move to a new city in three weeks, I find myself being torn in what feels like a million different directions. I have to pack up our jam packed bungalow, find a new dwelling in Chicago, continue with my clients and the work that I do here, search for new work opportunities in my new home town, over-think the unknown, spend time with family and friends before I go, plan my sister’s baby shower, prepare for my April trip to Europe, keep my standing appointments at the gym, continue eating well, take the time to shop organic, keep cooking healthy meals, read up on all of my fave blogs and of course also find the time to research and write on this lovely blog. Whew, it’s exhausting just to think about it all, but at the end of the day I’m be happy to know I tried my best to keep the balance in my life by not compromising on the things that are really important to me.

To me, finding balance means that you have a handle on the the various elements in your life and don’t feel that your heart or mind are being pulled too hard in any one direction. More often than not, you feel calm, grounded, clear-headed, and motivated when you are able to find the balance between all the elements of your life. Finding that balance can be a key to minimizing anxiety, sadness, body image concerns, work difficulties & relationship issues to feel balanced, peaceful & empowered.

How do I find my balance?

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Uncategorized

Using The F Word Helps Build Muscle

GoodFatsI want to build muscle. Why? Because muscle holds its shape so much better than fat does, helping me look more toned while burning calories even at rest… meaning that I can look strong, be strong and eat strong! And boy, do I ever love to eat.

To build muscle, I know that I need a few things in my arsenal. One, I need to lift weights, preferably heavy weights at that. Two, I need to meet the correct Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat amounts for my body type and exercise level. Three, I need motivation and patience to get up and keep going. Unfortunately for most people, they don’t realize that this muscle building formula requires that you follow all three steps to a tee. They try to skip over some of the steps, and that just isn’t going to work.

Most people assume that getting lean means eating a ton of protein and cutting all fats from their diet.  This is such a huge mistake to make and can actually set you back a bunch. Believe me, it took me years to understand this concept and I hurt my progress by not getting enough fats in my diet. If you don’t eat enough healthy fats, your body will use your protein intake as your main energy source. This is a huge problem for someone trying to add lean muscle mass as you want the protein you eat to go towards building and repairing the muscle tissue you worked so hard to workout. If your body is using protein as its main energy source, you may not reach your anabolic potential.

What is the proper amount of healthy fats to build muscle you ask?

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Uncategorized

Motivation Monday: Fitness For Survival

HandstandsWhat would you do if you knew you were going to have to outrun a vicious dog on the way home from work tomorrow? Could you sprint away or climb a tree to get a way from it? Now what if you also had to carry your grandmother on your back as you ran away?

The other day, I was at the gym practicing handstands. It was the 87th time that I had attempted to do a free standing handstand after my workout, and I was excited to hold the stance in the air for the three seconds that I did. As I tumbled down, a gym regular asked me why I wanted to learn to handstand in the first place.

I just responded “why not?” but it really got me thinking, why do I want to do a handstand so bad? Sure it makes a great party trick, but I’m too old to join the circus and no one is going to offer me a fitness training job solely based on my handstanding ability. For me, I think it’s because I love knowing that I have conditioned my body to do things it couldn’t do before. I like knowing that my core muscles are strong, that my shoulders are getting stronger, and that I can build trust in my body not to let me down. The same goes for why I want to squat and deadlift 315lbs, and why I am pushing myself to do unassisted chin ups and pull ups… I am motivated by being a stronger version of myself. I like to know that I can take care of myself, that I can carry my grandmother as I run from a pissed off stray dog or that I can possibly save myself from ailments and disease if I work on being physically strong.

Of course, not everyone is motivated by the same things. Many can’t imagine a dog running after them, or ever being in a situation where their life is in danger and the only way to save themselves is to jump, kick or pull themselves up. Many also think that diseases won’t actually happen to them, assuming that tragedy only strikes others. Unfortunately, I bet you know at least one person hit by ailments like high blood pressure, knee and joint pain, diabetes, gout or hormonal imbalances and so on… all easily controllable or even preventable with diet and exercise.

For many, the physical aesthetic positives are simply not enough incentive and if being strong doesn’t motivate you, what about just being able to simply keep up with your kids? What about going up a flight of stairs without feeling out of breath? What about living a long life without aches and pains?