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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

Maximize the Long-Term Cognitive Benefits of Physical Exercise

When most people think about aging gracefully, it’s often about keeping the wrinkles at bay or doing a weekly sudoku puzzle to stay mentally sharp.  Since the wrinkles are rapidly creeping up on me as well, I don’t have much advice on that front— other than suggesting that a healthy and varied diet of fish, fresh produce, and tons of water is what seems to slow them down.

I can, however, provide you with some interesting research on how varying up your usual routine can have long-term benefits for your cognitive health.

What’s at Play

Our brains store memories inside nerve cells. Multiple nerve cells communicate with one another through the release of chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Even though we lose some brain cells and our brains generate fewer neurotransmitters as we age, we have the ability to produce natural growth-promoting molecules called neurotrophins. Neurotrophins signal particular nerve cells to develop, grow, function, or survive and it is the release of these neurotrophins that can help fight off the effects of mental aging. 

To start the flow of neurotrophins, the brain must be stimulated by novel experiences that disrupt our usual routines and engage the senses and emotions, according to research compiled in the book Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory Loss and Increase Mental Fitness,” by neurobiologist Lawrence C. Katz, PhD and author Rubin Manning. 

Brain Aerobics

Neurobics is a term coined by Dr. Katz, to literally mean “aerobics exercises for the brain” and the book suggests that practicing different neurobic exercises can act as novel experiences for the brain. Neurobics can be done anywhere, anytime by performing simple tasks in what seems like offbeat ways.

For example, you can try closing your eyes while unlocking your front door, simply brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, or walking backwards on a treadmill.  Our senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch) all have their own sections in our brains.

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

Categories
Exercises

Exercise in the Time of COVID-19: Positively Strong H.A.B.I.T

This virus has reminded us of the importance of eating well and exercising in order to maintain a healthy immune system, but it’s definitely not easy to workout when the gyms are closed, the weather is cold, and the kiddos won’t give you a moment of peace.

We may be spending more time at home since we are also working from home, but that is not all that we’re doing. We’re all trying to cook three meals a day at home, homeschooling, making 433 snacks a day for the kiddos (who else knew that 3 year-olds eat like teenagers?), entertaining little ones, staying on top of the ever dwindling groceries, and still trying to stick to our old exercise routines and maintain healthy habits. No wonder feelings of anxiety are at an all time high.

Short Bursts of Training for Maximum Results

Pre-Covid quarantine, I would normally hit up my karate club to teach a class and also get in some martial arts training. Then, on alternate days I would drop my daughter off at daycare and go straight to my local gym for a strength training workout. Now that both the dojo and gym are inaccessible to me, I have had to pivot and create quick and effective Tabata home workouts (that combine my passion for Karate and strength training) to deliver maximum results in minimum time.

The Tabata Protocol

Tabata training or the Tabata Protocol is a type of interval training that was studied by Dr. Izumi Tabata, a professor at the Faculty of Sport and Health Science at Ritsumeikan University in Japan. In the study, athletes performed 20 seconds of a very high intensity exercise (e.g., squat jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, etc.), followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated for a total of 8 times. The athletes were able to improve their VO2 max (the body’s ability to use oxygen more effectively) and overall athletic performance, according to Dr. Tabata’s study published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise.

My workouts use a variation of the Tabata protocol to create a combined Karate and strength training workout. I call it the Positively STRONG Hit All Body Interval Training (HABIT). My dojo is Youtube. Each week I focus on different body parts and techniques to deliver workouts that hit the lower body, upper body, and total body. I teach Karate techniques and drills for the interesting and dynamic cardio training, and use basic Olympic weight lifting and accessory exercises for the strength training portion.

H.A.B.I.T Tips

Before you follow along with my youtube videos, please be sure to do the following:

  • Get thoroughly warmed up. You should spend about 5-10 minutes jogging on the spot, skipping, or doing dynamic warm-up exercises prior to starting the video.
  • If you decide to repeat the video in order to do more than one set, be sure to rest about 60 or more seconds in between sets.
  • Monitor your intensity. These workouts can feel super easy if you do not push yourself to go fast during the karate cardio cycles. Once you know the drill, try to execute the technique as fast as possible. On the same note, the strength training movements should not be performed quickly, but instead the aim should be to go as heavy as safely possible.
  • Remember that intensity is accumulative. As you go through each cycle, the level of intensity peaks as you reach the end of the workout—when muscles are fatigued— which is the time that your form usually gets sloppy, making you more prone to injury. Constantly monitor your form.
  • Depending on your fitness level and number of sets performed, these Tabata style workouts can be done 1-3 times per week, with rest days in between in order to avoid overtraining and injury.
  • Don’t be afraid to extend your recovery time or take longer breaks between rounds.

Overall, I find that the workout just flies by. I love that the intervals are so short, yet you burn tons of calories and can really feel the burn towards the end of each set.

Stay tuned and subscribe to my Youtube channel for new fitness videos as I release new workouts week after week.

To building Positively Strong habits,

Sunny

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Uncategorized

Fighting Rising Health Costs

Breaking_Bad_Habits I don’t usually go so long between writing these blog posts and I promise not to make it a habit, it’s just that enrolling in a full-time Master’s program while working full-time might have been a little more than I can neatly chew. Not that it hasn’t been amazing, interesting and full of fun, it really has, and so today I want to give you little taste of what’s been keeping me so busy.

The focus of my research this term is engagement, or better explained, the meaningful involvement of patients in health care. Still not sure what that means exactly? Well, it can mean a lot of things, starting with creating solutions and ways in which to encourage adults to actively take charge of their own diet, exercise, medication, treatment and overall health care while cutting overall health care costs. What is really exciting for me, is that it goes hand in hand with what I hope to achieve with my clients each and everyday. I want my clients to take charge of their own lives, learn new skills and take into account all the different factors and options that affect their health and health care costs, and have the confidence to seek the right care to live happy and healthy lives.

Since people who lack the skills or confidence to manage their own health care cost the system 21% more, it is in everyone’s best interest that we all fight to become better consumers of health care. How does one become a better, more engaged and more informed health consumer? Below are some tips to get you started:

How to be a more informed health care consumer, save money and experience better overall health: