Weight Loss Plateau? Try This French “Scale Shocker” Program

Nutrition, Strategies, Weight Loss 1 Comment »

Sometimes the numbers on your scale stop going down.

And it’s super lame.

You’ve been following your diet plan faithfully, exercising, taking your supplements, and staying motivated… but then your weight just refuses to budge.

flat plateau

This is your “drop-out-of-the-diet” danger zone.

When your weight loss stagnates, your motivation drops.  And when your motivation drops, temptations become much more tempting.

A lot of people hit a plateau and then give up.  Or they fall off their plan, gain some weight, start dieting again, hit a plateau, fall off their plan, gain some weight, and on and on ad infinitum.

Every time you gain the weight back it’s going to want to come off a little slower next time.

stop giving up

So breaking through this weight loss plateau is critical to your success.

As soon as your scale needles starts moving again, your motivation will come back and you’ll be ready to keep going.

The following comes from The Dukan Diet: 2 Steps to Lose the Weight, 2 Steps to Keep It Off Forever, which is billed as “The Real Reason The French Stay Slim.”

  • 4 Days of pure lean proteins without any deviation
  • Restricting salt intake as much as possible
  • Minimum 2 quarts of water with a low mineral content
  • Getting to sleep as early as possible (sleep before midnight is much more beneficial than after)
  • Adding a gentle herbal diuretic to eliminate any hidden water retention
  • Walking for 60 minutes a day for 4 days

This shock/blitz/jumpstart/kickstart program is a great way for you to break through your weight loss plateau.  And it’s totally paleo-friendly :)

help scale

Just a few more tips from me:

  • Organic and grassfed lean proteins are going to work much better for you on this plan
  • Mrs. Dash is your friend when you can’t use salt
  • Distilled water seems to increase the power of the kickstart
  • Check out this post for tips on improving your sleep: Sleep, Weight Loss, And Health
  • My favorite gentle diuretic is a salad made from Dandelion Leaves, they’re bitter but they work great (Check your organic produce section, eat them raw)
  • Walking is the final key to this strategy, don’t skip it!

Now remember, this isn’t the long term final solution… It is a tool to get your weight loss moving again.  Follow the 4 day prescription to the letter and then get back on your normal weight loss diet.

EDIT: Someone asked if this would work to use right before a big event where you want to look your best.  Well… yes, but that’s not what it’s designed for.  If you do use this as a get-ready-for-a-big-event plan, promise me that it’s a one-time deal and you’ll do your best to get in shape so that you’re always ready for a big event, ok?

think about why you started diet

Building Up To A True Handstand Pushup

Exercise, Strategies 1 Comment »

Handstand pushups are a phenomenal exercise.  Unfortunately, most people don’t make a serious effort to improve their handstand due to the challenge.

Maybe you don’t like being upside down, maybe you’re worried about looking silly, or maybe you’re worried about hurting yourself.

child doing handstand outside

But if you persevere, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best exercises you can do.

Now, what do I mean by the title of this post?  What’s a “true” handstand pushup?

Well, most gym-goers (heck, most trainers and coaches) confuse the headstand pushup with the handstand pushup.

The exercises are the same except for the range of motion.

A headstand pushup involves your head touching the floor, when your hands are in line with the top of your head:

A handstand pushup requires your hands to lower all the way to your shoulders, a full range of motion.  This means you’ll need to use something to put your hands on: rings, parallettes, parallel bars, chairs, stacked weight plates, aerobic steps, and benches all work as ways to increase your range.

Also, all of your handstand/headstand training work should be done with your hands shoulder width apart, as this will let you transition into freestanding movements later on.  That said, most people find headstand pushups are easier with a wider hand position.  Only go wide when you’re competing with a friend for the most reps ;)

Now, a note of warning: IF you’re scared of falling, work with a coach and spotter to get you over your fear.  Hesitation in an exercise will lead to form breakdown and possible injury.  Get totally comfortable with kicking up into a handstand, wall walks, and pike pushups before working on headstand pushups.

And if you’re not yet able to do regular pushups with good form, master those first before moving on to handstands.

First step to a handstand is to get your shoulders warmed up right.  I start every handstand workout with at least 20 reps each of the YTWLI Shoulder Fixer series, foam rolling for the back/chest, and a few regular pushups.

How To Use The Exercises Below

I’ve been to gymnastics for adults seminars, I’ve got books/courses/DVD spilling off my shelves, and I read training info all the time.  And guess what?  No one has agreed on the perfect method of teaching the handstand/headstand to everyone.

So what I’m going to do is share a list of exercises in a rough progression from easiest to hardest, and tips for each.

Find what works best for YOU.  Just be consistent and diligent in your training and you’ll be surprised how fast you will make progress.

The exercises are grouped into three sections.  First is headstand pushup progressions, then handstand pushup progressions, and finally a mix of moving handstand variations.

Have fun :)

Headstand Exercises

Headstand Exercise 1: Pike Pushup With Feet On Box

When you do these correctly, you will develop shoulder, core, and arm strength without being crushed by your full bodyweight.

Put your feet on a box (ideal height for the box: feet are horizontal with the hips when your hips are piked 90 degrees and arms are straight).  Make sure that your hips are in line with your shoulders.  Now just bend your arms and touch the top of your head to the ground between your hands, then return to starting.

pike handstand pushup with feet on box

Common mistakes are letting your shoulders get out of line with your hands, letting your hips fall out of line (then the exercise becomes more of an “incline press” than a “shoulder press”), and not keeping your head between your arms.

Variations/progressions for this exercise: shortening the range of motion by bringing head to mats between hands (instead of all the way to the floor), having only one leg supported by the box, placing feet on large swiss ball, using one foot on swiss ball.

ball pike exercise

Headstand Exercise 2: Kicking Into Bent Leg Handstand Against Wall

This exercise will help you get over your fear of being upside down, and will help you build the body awareness you need to progress in your handstand training.  After you have done a few sessions with this exercise the upside down position will be nothing to fear and you’ll be able to concentrate on the strength and form of your handstands.

Start in a modified sprinter position with your hands about 2 feet away from the wall and shoulder width apart.  Have one leg bent and the other almost straight behind you.  Now, just kick up into the bent leg handstand by pushing with your bent leg and swing over your straight leg.  Kick hard enough to swing you all of the way over until your feet touch the wall.

bent leg handstand

Put a lot of force into your kick-over.  Most handstand newbies won’t put enough umph into their efforts.  Use enough to swing you over (just don’t smash a hole into the wall).  As you gain more body awareness, you’ll be able to kick over perfectly and just lightly touch your foot on the wall.

VERY IMPORTANT: Keep your arms locked the whole time you’re kicking over.  It’s tempting to bend your elbows and roll into a ball instead of pushing yourself into the strange new world of being upside down.  Locked, strong arms will help protect you from injury.  Bent arms collapse more easily… which can lead to a bump on the head.

Use a spotter if you can find one.  Have them stand just to the side of you while you’re in your “sprinter start” pre-kickover stance.  They can put one arm under your hips and gently guide your feet back to the ground if you don’t kick had enough or your arms start to get tired.

Practice this until kicking up is second nature, when you have no fear of going upside down.  I like to switch which foot I kick with each practice set.

You can progress by adding more reps (more times kicking over), by holding the position longer, or by straightening out one leg.

Headstand Exercise 3: Kicking Into Straight Handstand (Hands Away From Wall)

Since you can now easily kick over into a handstand against the wall, your next step is to work on your form.  This next variation is more difficult because you’ll put more weight on your arms, core, back, and shoulders and less into the wall.

First, kick up with your legs bent and then straighten them both out against the wall.  Now try to straighten your body out as much as possible.

Next, kick up and straighten both legs as you go around, keeping them straight as your feet land against the wall.  Keep working at it until you can keep your body straight from hands to heels (this is difficult because your hands are away from the wall).

Progress by doing more reps, and spending more time in the handstand.

Headstand Exercise 4: Kicking Into Straight Handstand (Hands Close To Wall)

This is a lot like exercise #3, except that you’ll start with your hands closer to the wall.

The reason this is more difficult is that you’ll be supporting a higher percentage of your bodyweight and have to develop more balance and body awareness.

As you get comfortable, progressively move your hands closer to the wall until your fingertips are touching it.  Make sure that your back is as flat as possible and you aren’t bent at the waist.

Again, add more reps and more time in the handstand position to progress.

fingers against wall handstand

Headstand Exercise 5: Wall Walks

Wall walks are different for two reasons: you won’t be kicking over and instead of your back to the wall, you’ll have your chest to the wall.

Start in pushup position with your feet against the wall.  Now walk up the wall with your feet and walk your hands back towards the wall.  Keep your body tight and walk up as far as possible.

If you need to bail out, just bend your arms and somersault forward.

This is a great training tool because you’ll be developing more strength in your arms, shoulders, and core as you move.

Practice until you can touch your chest and your nose to the wall, then you can progress by adding more reps and spending more time in the handstand on each rep.

Headstand Exercise 6: Negative Headstand Pushup

This is THE exercise for building strength in the headstand.  Simple and effective.

From a wall handstand (with your back to the wall), simply slowly lower the top of your head to the ground.  The slower you go, the more strength you’ll build.

When your head touches the ground come down off the wall, straighten your arms, kick up, and do it again.

You can progress by adding more reps and going more slowly.

bottom handstand pushup

Headstand Exercise 7: Sideways Wall Walk

Adding some movement to the the handstand will make it harder to keep your balance.  On this exercise, the closer your hands are to the wall, the more difficult it will be.

Kick up into a handstand against the wall.  Now walk yourself sideways along the wall using only your hands and arms.  Spread your legs for balance if you need to.  And remember to travel the same distance in both directions to avoid imbalances.

Progress in this exercise by adding more distance to each walk.  A fun way to do these (especially if you have a short wall), is to go back and forth for time.  In this case, add time to the set as you improve.

Example: 3 steps left, 3 steps right, repeat for 45 seconds.

This is a good exercise to mix in with exercise 6.  (The reason these are here instead of in section 3, is because they really help body awareness and are a great way to accumulate time in the handstand)

Headstand Exercise 8: Quarter Pushup

Kick up into a handstand against the wall.  Now do the top 1/4 of a handstand, just a few inches in the range of motion.

A good starting point is 4 sets of 5 reps.  Add both sets and reps until you can get a total of 30 reps each training session.

Once you can do 3 sets of ten reps you can move on to the next exercise.

(While training these partial variations, it is helpful to keep practicing the negative pushup from headstand exercise #6)

Headstand Exercise 9: Half Pushup

Like exercise #8, except you’ll bend your arms halfway.

Progress by aiming for 40 total reps of the half pushup. (ex: 4 sets of 10 reps)

Headstand Exercise 10: Headstand Pushup

You’re finally there!  A headstand pushup!

This is the full headstand pushup, where you kick up into a handstand, lower the top of your head to the floor, and press yourself back up.

Make sure that you keep your torso tight, as it’s easy to lose your balance on the way back up.

handstand exercise 1

Handstand Pushup Exercises

Now that you’ve gone as far down as possible with the headstand pushup, it’s time to extend the movement.  In order to increase the range, you need to start elevating your hands.

Aerobics steps with risers are the perfect tool for this, as you can incrementally increase the depth of your handstand pushups.

aerobics step for handstand pushups

Stools, benches, or high parallettes work as well, though it’s more difficult to grade yourself on depth.

If you’re using parallettes or steps, use panel mats or a stack of books between them to act as a substitute “floor.”  As you get stronger, remove a book and go deeper.

In order to increase your strength over the full range of motion, you’ll want to take small jumps instead of big ones, since only a few inches deeper will make the exercise substantially more difficult.

A good basic guideline is to try and increase by one inch each month – this will allow you to completely master the movement.

Handstand Pushup Exercise 1: Small Elevation Pushup

Place you hands on a low steps shoulder width apart, kick up into a handstand, and perform slightly larger range of motion handstand pushups.

You can progress these by adding reps or adding depth.

Handstand Pushup Exercise 2: Full Range Negative Pushup

Use higher blocks or two benches shoulder width apart.  Place your hands on them, kick up into a handstand, and slowly lower the top of your head to the ground.  Come down, straighten your arms, then kick up into another handstand for your next rep.

These are good to mix in with handstand exercise number 1.  While you work on increasing the range for your full movement, build full-range strength with the negatives.

Progress the negative full range pushup by going more slowly and by adding reps.

Handstand Pushup Exercise 3: Full Range Cloth Biting Pushup

Place a cloth on the ground between your handstand boxes.  Now, when you do a handstand pushup, pause long enough to bite the cloth and push yourself back up all the way.

This is a brutal exercise because you lose any muscular rebound while you pause in the bottom position.

Progress on these by adding more total reps (not by using a heavier cloth!).

Handstand Pushup Exercise 4: Straight Bar Handstand Pushup

Instead of using parallel bars (or steps, or boxes) for this exercise, use a straight bar.  You can use a parallette turned sideways in front of the wall, a parallel dip bar with a spotter, or – if you’re really hardcore – on a high pull-up bar like this guy:

Progress by adding reps.

Handstand Pushup Exercise 5: Underhand Straight Bar Handstand Pushup

Perform just like handstand exercise #5 above, but use an underhand (supinated) grip.

This will help you build the strength you need for doing handstands on the rings later.

Progress by adding reps.

Handstand Pushup Exercise 6: Bulgarian Pushup On Parallel Bars

Using gymnastics parallel bars or parallettes, kick up into a handstand with your hands about 45 degrees offset from each other.

Descend into the handstand pushup and let your elbows flare out to your sides.  Return to handstand to finish the rep.

Progress by adding reps.

Handstand Pushup Exercise 7: Ring Pushup Using Straps

Set your gymnastic rings close to the ground, this will make it easier to bail out than if you are six feet up in the air.

Place your hands on the rings, set your arms, and kick up into your handstand with your legs straddled slightly in order to catch the straps.  Lightly wrap your feet around the straps and perform your full range handstand pushup.

feet wrapped on straps handstand

A spotter is recommended at first :)

Initially, the added difficulty of being on the rings will make it unlikely for you to perform a full range pushup from the position.  Go as deep as you can and use negatives (like exercises 1 and 2 in this section) until you can do a full range handstand pushup with your feet on the straps.

Progress by adding reps (and working on perfect form!).

Handstand Pushup Exercise 8: Bulgarian Ring Handstand Pushup

Kick up into a regular ring handstand.  Now as you lower yourself down, let your arms go out wide.  On the way back up pull the rings back into starting position.

Progress by adding reps.

Handstand Pushup Exercise 9: Freestanding Ring Pushup

This is like exercise 7 above, except your feet aren’t sliding up and down the straps, you’re freestanding on the rings.

The intensity of this exercise is incredible, as the rings are unstable as hell.

Kick up into a handstand on the rings.  Now remove your legs from the straps and turn your hands outward (this is why you mastered the underhand grip handstand pushup in exercise 5).  Keep the straps clear of your forearms.  Lower yourself into the bottom position under control, allowing the rings to turn inward as necessary.  Pause, then press back up into the handstand.  At no time should your legs or feet touch the straps.

freestanding handstand on rings

Progress by adding reps and perfecting form.

Moving Handstands

A fun way to train handstands is to add movement.  Handstand walking is just the beginning.  Stairs, hopping, and obstacle courses can all be done.

These aren’t really progressions, just a variety of exercises you can add into your training.  Movement adds a lot of balance and coordination to your handstands.

Moving Handstand Exercise 1: Walking With Partner Holding Feet

This one is simple.  Kick up into a handstand and have a partner catch your feet.  Now just walk forwards and backwards with your spotter just helping you balance, not taking your weight.

james bond partner handstand

Progress by adding more time walking forwards and backwards.

Moving Handstand Exercise 2: Unsupported Handstand Walk

Just like exercise #1 above, except this time you’re on your own.  Kick up into a handstand and walk around.

Progress by adding time/distance.

Moving Handstand Exercise 3: Partner Handstand Hop Walks

Just like exercise #1 above, except you move by doing a partial pushup and “hopping” yourself forwards and backwards.

Variation: Keep elbows locked and hop with just the shoulders.  You won’t go as far, but it develops great shoulder strength.

Progress by adding time/distance.

Moving Handstand Exercise 4: Unsupported Handstand Hop Walks.

Same as exercise #3, except you don’t have a partner helping you balance.

Progress by adding time/distance.

Moving Handstand Exercise 5: Step Ups Onto A Platform

As you get more advanced, you can do these unsupported, but for now do them against a wall or with a spotter.

Kick up into a handstand in front of a low platform.  Now, raise your right hand and place it on the platform.  Now push hard through your right hand and bring your left hand up to the platform.  Finish pressing up if you haven’t already.  Now reverse the motion to come down.

You might find that one side is significantly easier than the other.  Train the harder side more often!  Maybe an extra rep or two each set – this won’t make you unbalanced, rather, it will bring you back into balance and improve all of your other handstand exercises.

Progress by adding reps or by stepping up to a higher platform.

Moving Handstand Exercise 6: Head Taps

This one is fun!  It’s the handstand version of the chest tap pushup.

These can be done against the wall, with a partner spotting your feet, or freestanding/unsupported.

Kick up into your handstand.  Now shift your weight over your left hand and touch the top of your head with your right hand.  Repeat other side.

As you get better at these you will minimize side to side movement waste and be closer to performing a one-handed handstand.

Progress by adding reps and removing balance support.

Moving Handstand Exercise 7: Handstand Walk On Stairs

These are handstand step ups taken to the next level.  Start with a spotter and progress to doing them unsupported.

It’s easier to go down the stairs, so start with that to build comfort.  After that, see how many stairs you can climb in your handstand.

You can either lead with one hand for the whole set and switch next set, or you can alternate hands at each step.

Progress by finding higher stairs ;)

Moving Handstand Exercise 8: Build An Obstacle Course

Use your imagination…

Handstand Conclusion

Headstand pushups, handstand pushups, and moving handstand will transform your upper body.

You’ll gain strength, endurance, balance, coordination, and confidence.

Plus, they look really really cool

handstand exercise 2

Improve Your Run Times By… Running Less?

Exercise, Strategies, Study 2 Comments »

If I told you there was a way to shave 48 seconds off your 5k time… by running 54% less, is that something you might be interested in?

is that something you might be interested in bob ryan

Well, a study published in the Journal Of Applied Physiology shows you how to do exactly that.

The researchers wanted to see what effect switching from traditional endurance-type training to an interval training scheme would have on runners’ health, muscle, oxygen uptake, and race performance.

Training for the interval group looked like this:

  • 30 seconds jogging (less than 30% intensity)
  • 20 seconds running (about 60% intensity)
  • 10 seconds sprinting (higher than 90% maximum intensity)

This was repeated 4 more times, then followed by 2 minutes of recovery.  And the whole thing was done 3-4 times total.  (I actually detailed this training plan back in 2009, here it is: A Simple Plan To Run Faster)

interval training race

For seven weeks the study group did this training protocol during all running sessions, while the control group continued their standard steady-state endurance training.  The crew doing the 30-20-10 plan did 54% LESS running than the control group.


The interval training group:

  • Improved VO2max (oxygen uptake) by 4%
  • Dropped 21 seconds off their 1500m run times
  • Dropped 48 seconds off their 5k times
  • Lowered their systolic blood pressure
  • Reduced both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

The endurance group:

  • No changes!

Keep in mind that the interval group was running less than half as much… and making much better progress.

Interval training takes less time and since you’re not running as much there is less overuse wear-and-tear on your body.

And it wasn’t shown in this study (because it wasn’t tested) but interval training is better for burning fat.

AND since you don’t have to log tons of miles, your appetite will be easier to control.

You can use the exact 30-20-10 training protocol for any endurance sport: biking, swimming, running, cross country skiing…

Plus the idea behind the study – interval training – can be used in any type of workout for better health and fitness results.  Instead of locking yourself into a comfortable steady pace, push yourself into all out “sprints” followed by recovery.

run like thief sign 5k

Here’s the reference for the study:

The 10-20-30 training concept improves performance and health profile in moderately trained runners.
Authors: Thomas Petursson Gunnarsson and Jens Bangsbo
Journal of Applied Physiology May 3, 2012

Simple Health And Weight Loss To Do List

Health, Nutrition, Strategies, Weight Loss No Comments »

Small changes made and sustained over time are a much easier way to lose weight than crash diets.

Sure, you might not lose weight as quickly as your friend who is eating only 2 apricots a day, but you’ll lose the excess weight painlessly, and the results will last (no more rebounding after a crash diet!)

With the overarching goals of being stressless and sustainable, here are some simple changes that will help you transform your body and your health:

  • Cook more, eat out less.
  • Think about good things to eat. (Instead of worrying about bad things to eat)
  • Eat what’s in-season for maximum flavor and value.  Availability doesn’t equal quality.  (Eating in-season is better for the environment as well)
  • Explore farmer’s markets, co-ops, and ethnic markets.
  • Take the stairs.  Park farther out.  Add as much non-exercise movement as you can.
  • Don’t watch much TV. (Or spend forever on Facebook)
  • Experiment with herbs, spices, and other taste-makers to discover new flavors and make meals seem new.  (I never used coriander or cardamom before making Paleo Butter Chicken, now they’re two of my favorite spices)
  • Eat smaller portions of more things, instead of larger portions of fewer things.
  • Eat more vegetables.
  • Eat more fruit.
  • Drink more water.
  • Walk everywhere you can.
  • Present your food appealingly, even if you’re just serving yourself.
  • Don’t eat “fat free” or “sugar free.”  Stay away from artificial flavors.  Instead, enjoy the real thing in moderation.
  • Indulge healthfully – see this post: Coffee, Chocolate, And Red Wine
  • Drink lots and lots of water.
  • Plan meals in advance.
  • Choose your own indulgences and compensations.
  • Don’t follow media fads.
  • Laugh more.  (True laughter leads to positive hormonal changes)
  • Use all five of your senses while you’re eating and less will seem like more.
  • If you choose to exercise in addition to moving more, choose something you enjoy that motivates you.
  • Use clothing and the mirror to keep track of your body shape, not the scale.
  • If you slip up on your plan, just come back.  Don’t focus on the negative.
  • Don’t snack all the time.
  • Never get too hungry.
  • Never get too full.
  • Never eat standing up, walking, in front of the TV, in front of the computer, or while driving.
  • Train your taste buds.
  • Sleep more.  But not too much.
  • Get more sunshine and fresh air.

Sleep, Weight Loss, And Health

Health, Strategies, Weight Loss 5 Comments »

Lack of sleep and chronic stress come together.

Not sleeping makes you stressed and stress makes you lose sleep (which leads to more stress…)

Here’s some bad news: sleep deprivation and stress both play a role in struggling with weight loss and health problems.

Most people who are trying to lose weight never stop to think about the effects that missing sleep can have on their body.

Some people think that staying up longer can help them lose weight because they might be able to burn more calories. In fact, the opposite is true: a good night’s sleep actually helps you achieve a healthy weight, while a lack of sleep makes losing weight more difficult. (And people don’t realize one of the clearest truths about sleeping – when you’re asleep, you’re not eating!)

Not only does sleeping refresh your brain – so you can make clear decisions about food choices the next day – sleep (or a lack thereof), affects your metabolism, your hormones, and your immune system. All together these have a powerful affect on your health and weight.

Consider the following:

– A large study that followed more than 68,000 women for 16 years showed that women who slept less than 7 hours per night put on more weight than those who slept at least 7 hours. Additionally, women who slept only 5 hours per night were 33% more likely to gain significant weight (33 pounds or more).

– Sleep deprivation impairs insulin sensitivity, impairs carbohydrate tolerance, increases ghrelin (appetite hormone), decreases leptin, and increases cortisol.

– Research has shown that about 7 hours of QUALITY sleep are necessary for weight control and good health. Chronic sleep deprivation accelerates the onset and increases the symptoms of aging – including memory loss, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

– Less than 4 hours of sleep in one night, or chronic sleep loss, has been shown to have a negative effect on carbohydrate metabolism. Put simply, carbs make you fatter if you’re missing sleep!

– A study found that adults who slept 4 hours or less per night are 73% more likely to be obese than those who slept between 7 and 9 hours per night. Sleeping between 5 and 6 hours per night leads to a 50% greater risk of being overweight and a 23% greater risk of being obese.

Missing sleep occasionally can be overcome, missing sleep every night (or almost every night!) is what starts to damage your body.

What you need to do is make a plan for getting at least 7 hours of restful sleep every night. Here are some tips to help:

  1. No TV near bedtime and ABSOLUTELY no TV in the bedroom
  2. Make sure your bedroom has good window coverings (for darkness), is uncluttered, and well ventilated.
  3. Create a “wind-down” ritual before bed.  Try herbal tea, dimmed lights, journaling, or a warm bath.
  4. Take calcium and magnesium before bed.
  5. No working or studying in bed.  Beds are for sex and sleep.
  6. Try aromatherapy – lavender helps with relaxation.
  7. Avoid eating right before bed, and try to have 3 hours between bedtime and your last big meal.
  8. Alcohol lowers sleep quality, so limit or avoid alcoholic drinks within a few hours of bedtime.
  9. A cooler room helps promote deeper sleep.
  10. Leave your worries outside the door – make your bedroom a stress-free zone.
  11. Guided imagery, progressive relaxation, meditation, and breathing exercises can all help with sleep.
  12. Caffeine interferes with sleep (it is a stimulant and also affects your production of the sleep hormone melatonin).  Time your intake so you can fall asleep easily.  This might mean no caffeine after 3pm, or it might mean no caffeine after 11am.  Everyone is different.
  13. Try using a sleep mask for perfect darkness.
  14. Invest in a comfortable pillow and mattress.
  15. Get a quality alarm with a back up battery so you won’t stress about sleeping in.
  16. Have white noise.  A fan, air purifier, or white noise machine are all good choices.
  17. Put blue light filters on all electronic screens in your home.  The blue light from monitors, laptops, and TVs simulates sunlight and blocks the release of melatonin.
  18. Paint and decorate your bedroom with serene and restful colors.
  19. Practice regular rhythms of sleep.  Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  20. Keep your room dust-free.  Keep pets out of the bedroom at all times and consider getting an air filtering system.
  21. Get exposure to sunlight on your body and face as soon as possible after waking.  This helps tell your body it is time to wake up and enhances your sleep rhythm.
  22. Use a hot rice pack on your solar plexus (just below your rib cage) – this helps trigger your body chemistry for sleep.  (Cuddling a partner works too)
  23. Try herbal supplements before bed: Valerian Root, Kava Kava, Passionflower, Chamomile, and Lemon Balm all help with sleep.
  24. Get tested.  The most common and underdiagnosed sleep disorder is sleep apnea.  If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, fatgiue, snoring, or have been seen to momentarily stop breathing during the night, get tested by a sleep lab.  (Sleep apnea greatly raises your risk of hypertension and heart disease)

Getting enough quality sleep will not only make you healthier, help you de-stress, and speed up weight loss, it will recharge you so that you can enjoy everything that life has to offer.

One Powerful Breakfast Tip

Nutrition, Strategies No Comments »

Here’s a great tip for when you’re just starting out on your diet: Choose just two breakfasts.

In the first few weeks of a new eating plan, we get all excited and enthusiastic about how great things are going to be. We study all of our options and make a beautiful, varied, delicious menu for the week.

Stop it right there!!

Enthusiasm is great, but don’t sprint start only to run out of energy from all of the planning, shopping, and thinking of it all.

See, sometimes tons of choices just make things more difficult.

You can find a way to make it simple, delicious, and interesting all at the same time… Without losing your mind keeping track of everything.

Just choose two breakfasts from your new plan and practice them.

Alternate them or have them a few days in a row, either way is good.

What DOES matter is that these two breakfasts will become a part of your new eating mindset. Something that happens almost automatically so that you don’t have to expend any energy thinking about it, you just eat a healthy breakfast.

You can vary your choices once you’ve become a pro at breakfast – changing with seasonal foods or as your tastes change.

Eventually, you’ll have a few good breakfast choices that work for YOU and your eating plan. This makes planning and shopping easy and stress-free.

Since people always want to know what I eat, I have essentially the same thing for breakfast every day:

6-8 eggs scrambled (local, free-range, organic)
3-4 cups of sauteed greens (usually kale or chard, with dandelion greens mixed in)

Now, obviously I’m a big guy, and very active, so this breakfast would be too much for most people, what’s important here is that I don’t have to plan a complicated menu, and don’t have to expend any mental energy on preparation.

On weekends – when I have more time – I go ahead and experiment with new recipes. Pork loin and apples, exotic sausages (ostrich, anyone?), paleo muffins with local honey. These experiments are fun, but during the hectic week I stick with the basics.

The take-home message for today is to: Find a breakfast or two that you like, and hang with it – don’t make things complicated early in the day :)

Must See Video: Minding Your Mitochondria

Health, Nutrition, Strategies 2 Comments »

Imagine going from being a tae kwon do champion to having stage two multiple sclerosis and being confined to a wheel chair.

Now add in chemotherapy and extensive drug treatments only to keep getting worse…

What if you could fix yourself and reverse your disease with… food?

That is exactly what Dr. Terry Wahls did.

This video is definitely a must-see if you want to take care of your health, your energy, and your vitality.

Please check it out:

I watched it twice, the second time to take some notes for you:

2000 diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis

Took the latest drugs.

By 2003 it had progressed to stage 2. She took the chemotherapy and got a motorized wheelchair.

Tried more drugs, became more diasbled.

Afraid of becoming disabled.

Found out that brains with MS shrank.

Started finding more research about shrinking brains, found that the mitochondria don’t work well, which leads to shrinking brains.

Found studies that showed mouse brains and mitochondria had been protected by using fish oil, creatine, and co-enzyme Q 10.

Slowed her decline by translating the mouse-sized doses into human sized ones.

Was happy, but was still declining.

There are a billion cells in our brains, with trillions of connections. All of those connections must be insulated by myelin.

In order to make myelin, your body needs B vitamins, especially B1, B9, and B12. It also needs omega 3 fatty acids and iodine.

For your body to make neurotransmitters, it needs vitamin B6 and sulfur.

The energy for each cell in your body comes from mitochondria. Without the energy from your mitochondria, you would be no larger than bacteria.

In medical school, Dr. Wahls learned all about mitochondria, but she wasn’t taught what her body could make compared to what she needed to consume to make those mitochondrial systems run properly.

She found that out mitochondria need lots of B vitamins, sulfur, and antioxidants in order to thrive.

First, she added in the nutrients with supplements, then came to the realization that getting her nutrients from foods would provide her with hundreds, maybe thousands of trace compounds also needed for health.

Medical and nutrition textbooks didn’t tell her food sources, but internet research led her to design an eating plan that would support her brain and mitochondria.

She then quizzes the audience on how many fruits and vegetables they ate.

Then she shows how Americans are eating too few nutrients and too many starches.

“We are all starving ourselves. We are alive because of complicated chemical reactions. If you’re not providing the building blocks – that is the vitamins, minerals, essential fats – those reactions cannot happen properly. Leading to the wrong stuctures being made… or structures simply not being made at all, which sets the stage for chronic disease.”

Due to lack of nutrients children are born with smaller brains and smaller jaws that lead to crooked teeth.

This is why blood vessels become stiff as you age.

This is why children will become obese or diabetic as children or young adults.

This is why the number of children with learning problems and behavior problems are becoming more common each year.

For 2.5 million years humans ate what they could hunt and gather – leaves, berries, meat, and fish.

Hunter-gatherer foods were locally obtained, fresh, in season, and of course, organic.

People in the arctic ate differently than people on the savannah, but both groups exceeded the RDA of nutrients by 2 to 10 fold.

“These ancient peoples know more about eating for optimal health and vitality than we physicians and we scientists.”

The hunter-gather diet has more nutrition than any modern health diet.

Dr. Wahls started on a paleo diet, but she structured it to make sure she was supporting her mitochondria and brain health.

Here is her diet: 3 cups of green leaves, 3 cups of sulfur rich vegetables, 3 cups of bright color, grass-fed meat, organ meat, and seaweed.

3 cups is a dinner plate piled high.

Greens are high in vitamins B, A, C, K, and minerals. Kale has the most nutrition per calorie of any plant.

Plus, a plate full of greens will dramatically lower your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

3 cups (plateful) of sulfur-rich vegetables every day to support your brain, mitochondria, and to remove toxins.

The cabbage family is rich in sulfur – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussells sprouts, turnips, rutabegas, radishes, and collards.

Onions, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, asparagus, and chives are also all rich in sulfur.

3 cups (plateful) of colors, preferably different colors.

Colors are flavonoids and polyphenols. These support your eyes, mitochondria, brain cells, and toxin removal.

Get colors from vegetables like beets, carrots, peppers, and red cabbage.

Or get your colors from berries and brightly colored fruits.

Eat high quality protein that is rich in omega 3 fatty acids. This will help build the myelin to insulate your nervous system and is essential for proper jaw formation (straight teeth).

Good sources are wild fish – salmon and herring in particular – and grass fed meat.

Ancient societies all valued organ meats. Organ meats are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and coenzyme Q.

Organ meets are very potent for supporting your mitochondria.

Seaweed is a valuable source of iodine and selenium.

Your brain needs iodine to make myelin.

Iodine also removes toxins – particularly mercury, lead, and heavy metals.

Plus, iodine lowers risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.

80% of Americans have low iodine, so eat seaweed at least once a week.

Eat the fruits and veggies BEFORE you eat any grains or starches.

Eating fruits and veggies will dramatically lower your risk of food allergies.

Grain and dairy allergies are associated with a wide variety of health problems including excema, asthma, allergies, infertility, irritable bowl, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, chronic headache, neurological problems, and behavior problems.

It will cost more to eat veggies and berries. But you’re going to pay the price either way. Wither you’ll pay the price now for food that restores your health and vitality or you will pay the price for doctor visits, prescription drugs, surgeries, time off work, early retirement, and nursing home care. The choice is yours.

With 3 months on the hunter-gatherer diet Dr. Wahls could walk with only one cane.

A month after that, she could walk without a cane.

After 5 months on the paleo diet, she got on a bike for the first time in a decade and rode around the block.

Nine months into paleo and she rode her bike 18 miles.

No Rest For The Wicked: How To Cut Down Your Workout Time With Supersets

Exercise, Strategies 1 Comment »

If you’re short on time and want to lose weight, forget the old school method of resting between exercises.

At the gym, we call doing an exercise, resting, then doing another set “straight sets.”

While straight sets have their place, especially in strength and power training, they aren’t the most effective way to train… and certainly not the most efficient!

It’s time for you to try something called Supersets.

What Is A Superset?

Supersetting is a bodybuilding term that involves pairing two or more exercises with little or no rest between sets.

Straight sets usually call for one to three minutes of rest between sets, but with supersets there is almost no break, allowing you to get more done in less time.

(For a look at the science behind supersetting, check out this post: Inside Luke’s Head – Hacking Your Workout For Faster Results)

The simplest way to superset is to simply pair an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, such as squats and rows.  You would do a set of squats, then a set of row, then back to squats again until all your sets are completed.

While you’re doing the squats, your back is resting.  While you’re doing the rows, your legs are resting.  So you manage to get more work done in less time.

And, since the cardiovascular system only responds to muscular demand, it is actually better training for your heart and lungs than jogging on the treadmill.

There are seven basic ways for your body to move.  They are:

  1. Squat
  2. Bend (or Hinge)
  3. Lunge
  4. Push
  5. Pull
  6. Twist
  7. Gait (or Locomotion)

All exercises can be broken down into these movements.

Superset Strategy One: Fundamental Movements

If you want to try supersetting, here is a simple way to start: Choose two fundamental movements and pair them together.


Superset A:

1. Kettlebell Goblet Squat 3×10 (Squat)

2. Cable Woodchopper 3×10 (Twist)

Superset B:

1. Kettlebell Swing 3×15 (Bend/Hinge)

2. Push Up 3×10 (Push)

Superset C:

1. Lat Pulldown 3×12 (Pull)

2. Lunge 3×10 (Lunge)

In each superset, you would go back and forth between the exercises until you have completed all three sets for each, before moving on to the next superset.

And since each pairing works different parts of your body, your heart will be pumping blood up, down, left, and right, which gives it a great workout as well.

Superset Strategy Two: Opposite Movements

Another type of superset is the Reciprocal Superset, where you pair muscles on the opposite sides of a joint.  Quads and hamstrings, triceps and biceps, or chest and back are all examples.

The benefit of a reciprocal superset is that your nervous system charges opposite muscles.  If you do triceps pressdowns before a dumbbell curl, you will be stronger during the curl, which lets you use more weight (do more work) than straight sets of curls.

This is a huge advantage when it comes to transforming your body, as each workout you do will count for more.

Protip For Supersetting At The Gym:

If you work out at a busy gym, getting two stations can be difficult.  You do your squats and then toddle over to the cable row machine and someone else has taken it over, totally slowing you down.

So what you want to do if you’re at a regular gym is plan supersets that can be done in one place.

For instance, if you’re pairing barbell squats with dumbbell overhead presses, take your dumbbells over to the squat rack with you, so you can do them right away after your squats, and no one will take your squat rack.

Instead of machine chest flyes paired with deadlifts, do ValSlide chest flyes on the deadlift platform.

You get the idea, pick two exercises that can be done in the same place so you don’t have your workout interrupted.

Superset Strategy Three: Pre-Fatigue

This is a plan that will really kick up the intensity of your lean-muscle-building workouts.  With a pre-fatigue (also known as “pre-exhaust”) superset, you first tire out a muscle with a single-joint exercise and then immediately move on to a multi-joint exercise for the same muscle.  Some examples:

  • Triceps pressdown paired with close grip dip
  • Biceps curls paired with chin ups
  • Leg extensions paired with hack squats
  • Side dumbbell raises paired with overhead press
  • Chest flyes paired with wide grip bench press

To REALLY kick up the intensity of your workout, superset two pre-fatigue supersets together.  Something like this… Biceps curls then chin ups paired with triceps extensions then dips.

(And did you notice I made that one a reciprocal superset as well?  Craziness)

Superset Strategy Four: Post-Fatigue

A post-fatigue superset is a great way to “shock” your body into a new level of fitness.

The technique is just like it sounds, you perform a compound exercise, and then an isolation exercise that uses your target muscles and you really finish them off.

A great example would be squats paired with split squats – it will make your quads burrrrrn.

Post-fatigue training is something to use occasionally, when you want a tougher workout.  Not something to do every day!

Benefits Of Supersets

I told you that supersets are a great way to get more done in less time, which is a huge benefit to supersetting.  Some more benefits are:

  • Increased intensity, a key to making progress
  • Train hard without using maximal weights
  • Makes things more interesting, so you don’t get bored


Do You Have Crunchy Knees?

Exercise, Health, Strategies No Comments »

I always joke that I listen to music during workouts not to get pumped up, but to block out the crunching in my knees :)

“Crunchy knees” is the popping and crackling sound from inside the knee joint.  If you want to get a little more technical, you can call it crepitus.

Knee crepitus is a noise or vibration during knee movement.

You can get crepitus from a cartilage tear, arthritis, joint degeneration, scarred bursa, or adhered joint capsule.

Now, pain inside your knee joint is a bad thing, but if you have crunchy knees and no pain, crepitus isn’t that big of a deal.

Still, there a few things you can do to get rid of some of that crunching.

(Note: If you DO have pain inside your knee, see an orthopod or chiropractor before starting an exercise program)

A lot of times, loosening up your calves will help.  You’ll want to use a mix of stretching and foam rolling.  Here are a few things to do:

Straight Leg Calf Stretch (gastrocnemius):

Bent Leg Calf Stretch (soleus):

Wall Ankle Mobility:

Calf Foam Rolling:

Plantar Fascia Release:

You also need to loosen up the outside of your legs (lateral side) to keep your IT band and vastus lateralis from pulling your kneecap out of alignment.

Again, stretching and foam rolling are what you should be doing.

Illiotibial Band Stretch:

TFL Stretch:

Vastus Lateralis Stretch:

Foam Rolling:

Now the biggie: Strengthening your hips.

Whenever there is a problem in one of your joints, you need to look at the joint above and below it for issues.

If your hips are weak, they will not be able to keep your femur in alignment, which will result in knee issues.

Things like fire hydrants, hip circles, lateral band walks, etc. are great for strengthening your hips, but once you have that taken care of, you need to develop coordinated strength through your whole leg.  The way to do this is through exercises like lunges, split squats, pistol squats, and 1-leg deadlifts.

The Take Home Message is: You need to fix your whole leg to fix your knees.  Most of the above can be done at home and don’t require anything more than a tennis ball or foam roller.

5 Tips For Switching To A Paleo Diet

Nutrition, Strategies 1 Comment »

This post is for those of you out there who have heard about the paleo diet and want to give it a shot.

It can seem like a huge huge HUGE deal to switch over to paleolithic foods from a modern diet, but I’m willing to bet you’ve already eaten paleo and just didn’t realize it.

Ever have a veggie stuffed omelet for breakfast?

Ever had a salad with sliced chicken and nuts for lunch?

Ever had steak and a salad for dinner?


Now just do all three of those on the same day and you’re eating paleo.

Coooool :)

And here are 5 little tips to help you make the transition even easier:

1) Remember why you’re doing it.

Switching to paleo will eliminate most modern health problems (diabetes, obesity, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc) and make losing weight a snap.

Reminding yourself of the terrific improvements you’re going to make in your health and well-being will make switching to the paleo diet… exciting!

Whenever you need a reminder, look at all the success stories posted on Mark Sisson’s website (author of the Primal Blueprint): Paleo Success Stories

2) Don’t worry about getting your carbs.

With years and years of a high-carb diet being pounded into our brains, beginning paleo eaters freak out about not having enough carbs to fuel their bodies.  Don’t worry – we actually aren’t designed to eat grains or legumes, and they’re making us sick.

If you feel weak or light-headed and worry your brain isn’t getting enough fuel though, you’re probably right.  Most people drastically under-eat when they go paleo.  Just think, if you’re used to getting 100 grams of carbs from grains at each meal and then just drop the grains, you’re going to come in 1200 Calories low at the end of the day.

The trick to avoid light-headedness during the switch is to eat wayyy more protein and fat then you’re used to on a modern diet.  That way you get enough calories from good sources and never get the dreaded “low-carb flu.”

3) Learn how to cook.

I had a 43 year old mother of three join my boot camp a while back.  Here’s the thing… she had never learned to cook!

She raised her kids on microwaved meals and fast food.  Period.

I had to help her find youtube videos of how to scramble eggs, and guided her on cooking chicken.

The more you cook, the better you look.

Cooking is an adventure.  Learning how to prepare delicious paleo meals feels great!

I used to HATE cooking.  I mean, food is just fuel, right?  Who cares as long as it’s edible.

Well, I’m glad to say that since embracing paleo eating I now LOOOOOVE to cook.  It makes you feel awesome when you make a delicious meal from scratch and can say, “wow, that was freakin’ delicious!”

You don’t have to go all Julia Childs, either.  A cast iron skillet is about all the tools you need.  Start small if you’ve never cooked before.  Scramble some eggs.  Barbeque some chicken.  Do more as you grow more confident.

Always remember this rule: The more you cook, the better you look.

4) Clean out your pantry.

If it’s in your house, you’re going to eat it sooner or later.  (Probably sooner)

Get rid of snacks and treats first.  Then do a deeper cleaning and get rid of anything made with grains, sugar, dairy, soy, or legumes (beans).

Give it to your friend’s kid in college, students will eat anything.

And now…

5) Stock up on the good stuff!

Have plenty of choices.  Don’t try going paleo with an empty fridge.

Make it a rule to try one new vegetable a week.  (Smaller markets are great for this)

Try meats you’ve never had, like elk or duck.

Experiment with new (old) fats, like macadamia nut oil, avocado oil, or duck fat.

Get lots of meat and always have some cooked for when you’re hungry, so you’re not tempted to go out and find a bad-for-you snack.  Here’s a list of sample paleo snacks that you can use for ideas: Primal Snacking Rocks

Transitioning to paleolithic eating from modern eating isn’t that hard, all it takes from you is the decision to do it!