The fitness industry is fraught with products, pitches and dogmas that are completely false. People are forever hopeful that they can just take a pill to lose weight or find one piece of exercise equipment that will make them look like a bikini model with just 20 minutes a day. Buyer beware: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, there are several trends and “dogmas” that make me want pull-out my hair! Since I don’t want to go bald, I decided to do the next best thing and rant about them in a blog post. Enjoy!
Popularized by Kim Kardashian and other celebrities with hour glass shapes, these garments purport to “train” your waist to be narrow. This is absolutely ludicrous and there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that you can make your waist smaller by wearing a corset. It is true that while you’re wearing it, your waist will be smaller, and the change can even be semi-permanent as floating ribs and organs get moved, however, once no longer worn your waist will return to its normal size. Also, you are liable to eat less while wearing a trainer, though this is not guaranteed as pregnant woman have less room in their stomachs due to a growing baby, yet many still manage to eat copious amounts of food.
Wearing Spanx or a corset for a few hours to look good in a dress is one thing, but wearing a trainer for hours on end to try to train your waist small, is bad for your organs, posture, breathing and abdominal muscles. The big trend in wearing these garments while working out is ridiculous, as you are putting your natural core muscles to sleep, which will only make your abdominals weaker. If you are wearing a waist trainer, your natural core muscles are not supporting you! It’s like trying to make your arm stronger while wearing a cast. Have you ever seen someone’s limb after they’ve been in a brace or cast for a few weeks? It is noticeably smaller as the muscles have atrophied. If you train your core properly you can use your own natural corset muscles, the transverse abdominals, to keep your posture strong and stable. Of course, if you have a layer of adipose tissue covering your abs, you won’t have a lean waist. Eat appropriately and exercise to naturally trim your waist. I’m a huge fan of Pilates exercise protocols for teaching you how to properly activate your core muscles. I don’t even do traditional ab work (e.g. crunches, planks, etc.) when I do my own workouts, though I do them when teaching Group Ex classes, as I engage my power house muscles whenever I lift, and I like to lift heavy.
Note: There is one time where I approve of waist trainers or corsets to “shrink” a tummy and that is post childbirth. After both my pregnancies, I wrapped my torso very tightly to help shrink my uterus. This, coupled with the fact that I only gained about 30 pounds with each pregnancy, allowed me to wear my jeans within a few days of giving birth. However, in this instance I wasn’t “training my waist”, I was shrinking my uterus.
When I started in the fitness industry back in the early 1980’s there was no such thing as “pre-workout”. The body building legends of the 1970’s, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane, drank coffee before they trained. In researching this post, I also learned that some people at the time also used Niacin (B3), which helps your blood vessels dilute, to get an extra pump for demanding workouts. Then sometime in the late 80’s I became aware of some of my fellow gym rats taking a product called “Ultimate Orange” which was basically ephedrine mixed with Tang. This blend gave you a carb boost coupled with a strong stimulant. The next phase I remember was body builders taking creatine before workouts to get water into the muscle cell. In the late 90’s manufacturers started to blend creatine supporting nutrients into pre-workouts to enhance the creatine effect of pulling water into the muscle cell. This helped give body builders the “swole” look. From there I remember ever more elaborate blends, that used amino acids such as Arginine designed to deliver more nutrients to the muscle cells by opening up the blood vessels. This delivered a “pump in the gym”. Next up, manufacturers decided to add caffeine to boost energy and (hopefully) the quality of your workout. Unfortunately, this stimulant craze led to pre-workouts that were pretty much legal meth, flavored with artificial sweeteners. It is the opposite ofhealthy, and though unhealthy is pretty much embedded in the professional world of body building (as is the case with many sports), I’m hoping amateur athletes are focused more on health and longevity than chasing the pump. Here are some natural ingredients to use for making your own pre-workout. I’m also including a few formulations I use for endurance sports, such as running. Some I’ve tried, and some (for legal or other reasons) I’ve only heard about. The goal here is to provide you with supplements that help you meet your training goals and minimize harmful additives and extremely high quantities of stimulants.
- Caffeine: You can go as basic as having a strong cup of coffee (my favorite) or make a smoothie with cold coffee and some other ingredients listed below. Finally, you can also, just take a caffeine pill. I recommend 100 to 200 mg (depending on your body size).
- Nicotine: Nicotine gets a bad rap because of its delivery system, cigarettes, but the substance itself can give you an energy boost. I tried chewing some gum before a lifting workout (2 mg) and had great energy without jitters, but I still preferred caffeine. Then I coupled nicotine (2 mg) with coffee (100 mg). This left my heart beating a bit too fast and also killed my appetite for a while. Not good if you are trying to bulk, but definitely a handy hack if you’re trying to lose weight.
- CBD: I have not tried this as I live in Florida and though medical marijuana was legalized, our legislators are imbeciles and haven’t made the process easy. Once the kinks are worked out, I want to experiment with high-quality CBD oil, which doesn’t cause the “high” of THC, for endurance exercise, such as my long runs.
- Niacin (B3): Helps your blood vessels dilate, which increases the flow of blood in your body. This will help you get an extra “pump” in your demanding workouts. I take a B complex daily, which includes B3 so I don’t use it in a pre-workout. Note: Niacinamide is NOT the flushing form of vitamin B3, rather niacin (nicotinic acid) is the FLUSHer.
- Creatine: I take 5 grams daily as creatine has been proven to boost mental sharpness as well as physical performance. I make it part of my morning smoothie, but it can also be used in your pre-workout regimine.
- Taurine: If you are an endurance athlete and take electrolytes (magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium) consider including the amino acid taurine in your mix as it is vital to the proper functioning of the electrolyte minerals. Here’s my special conconction for long runs on hot days:
- Coconut water (I read it was similar to the fluid used in IV rehydration)
- ¼ teaspoon of salt per 8 oz of coconut water
- 1 tablespoon per 8 oz Natural Calm Calcium/Magnesium Powder
- Approximately 2,000 mg of taurine (note recommended dosage is 27-58 mg per kg of body weight)
Running is Bad for Your Body
I would be rich if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say running is bad for your knees. Humans are meant to walk/run. We have a better endurance capacity than virtually all other mammals. However, it is true that almost half of all runners report an injury at least once a year making it statistically one of the most dangerous sports. My personal belief is that these numbers a deceptive. Because running is a relatively easy activity: You put on shoes and go. In meta-analysis studies on running injuries, novice runners were two and a half more likely than recreational runners and TEN TIMES as elite runners to get injured. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4473093/
De-conditioned people are more likely to try running as an exercise than say CrossFit, which in my opinion is WAY more likely to cause injury (and it does have a fairly high injury rate). Also, the reporting of running injuries can depend on medical coding. For example, you get bit by a dog while running. Is that a running injury or a dog bite or both?
At the end of this section I give you tips on how to embark on a running program without getting injured. First, here are several studies to prove how good running is for you:
- A Bringham Young University study showing lower markers of inflammation in the knees of six young adults after a run. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00421-016-3474-z
- Female marathon runners have lower coronary plaque build-up than non-runners. http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/women-who-run-marathons-have-lower-coronary-plaque-buildup
- Extreme runners have a stable, healthy coronary plaque build-up https://www.runnersworld.com/sweat-science/heres-the-latest-on-whether-running-hardens-your-arteries
- A meta-analysis of studies encompassing 75,000 runners showing running decreases risks of osteoarthritis and hip replacement. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23377837
If you have no physical limitations, and are just scared of running because of the danger “myth”, start by walking four minutes and running one minute for 30 minutes. Once that is easy, walk for three minutes and run for two minutes. Keep going until you can run for five minutes total. After that you can decide if you want to stay with a walk/run interval program or attempt to get up to running thirty minutes non-stop. In my opinion, running more than a 5K (3.1 miles) isn’t necessary for health reasons, however, some people are naturally adept at running and might want to go for longer distances. You can actually get your DNA tested to determine if you have the endurance gene (ACE I/D) variant. Finally, make sure to add one to two days or strength training and/or Yoga to your weekly routine to minimize repetitive stress injuries. As I noted in my blog post http://bewellwithmel.com/whats-the-perfect-exercise/ , there’s no such thing as a perfect exercise routine and variety reduces boredom and risk of injury.
Many products sold in the name of health, fitness and wellness are backed by entities with no desire other than to make money. However, if you do your research, you will find supplements, equipment and information created by people who have a passion for well-being and want to improve the world. Find those people and support them. They will give more than take and be very transparent as to how they make their money. I strive to be one of the good ones my friends.