Friday, September 1, 2017

Can Cold Therapy Hurt YOU?

Cold temperature therapies are trending now, but there's an important factor many don't know about to be able to practice it safely: Omega fat ratios.

I just got used to the idea that fat is good for me, 
and now you're telling me there're ratios I need to concern myself with?

Our bodies are supposed to have a 1:1-3 ratio of Omega 3:6/9, meaning for every part of Omega 3, you should have a maximum of 3 parts of Omega 6 and 9 in your body, otherwise you are considered systemically inflamed. 

Ha! I'm not inflamed. I'm just big-boned...

In naturally-available foods, this ratio is easily sustainable. With a conventional diet that includes processed foods and oils (yes, that includes olive oil used in cooking!), the typical ratio is around 1:50 (yikes!!!). Even conventional produce and protein sources have been altered to the point the nutrient content is so far off what they were just 2 generations ago. Spinach now does not do the same for our bodies as spinach did 50 years ago. And unless you get your salmon sourced from places like Bluff, New Zealand or Norway, your salmon probably has fewer Omega 3's than you think. 

This means you're most likely systemically inflamed. 


Instead of getting lab tested to see how your levels are, one cool (pun intended) trick to monitor whether your levels are ok is to submerge yourself in cold water (around 45-55 deg F) for a couple minutes. When you come out of the water, if your skin is cherry red (almost like in the picture below), you're good. It means your body can regulate circulation and energy to warm the extremities (not in sympathetic "fight or flight" survival mode).

On the contrary, if your skin turns white, then your body cannot budget its resources to regulate circulation to the extremities and is just focused on keeping the core alive. In this state, you are much more susceptible to getting hypothermia. 

To correct this dangerous state, just decrease your intake of processed foods like breads/pastas, junk food, and even microwavable meals (even if they're healthy!), and increase your non-starchy vegetable and natural-sources Omega 3 intake (like avocado, high quality fish oil or cold water fish like mackerel, cod, or salmon). Do the cold water test every couple weeks to monitor progress. 

I swear this is two pictures merged into one and my legs aren't really that long....
Also, I'm not sunburnt in the bottom picture...that's the cherry redness of my highly circulated legs ;) 

The more diligent you are with your diet, the faster you will see results. You may also notice that your circulation and energy in general will improve, you're less bloated and puffy, your brain might work a little better, and you might just be a little more happy. 

The Beaten Path Is Overrated

Do credentials really matter?

In today's society, we still seem to judge people and their professional competence/ability based on their credentials and titles. But what does having credentials and earned titles mean? Does it mean they are better than someone with fewer credentials? How do you determine the quality of two professionals if they have the same credentials? Experience? 


So then does that mean the amount of experience is a better determining factor of a professional's quality? 

Well, no. Just because you've done your job for a long time doesn't mean you're any good at it. I'm sure we know many people who fit that bill. 

It's the people who go above and beyond what is deemed to be "necessary" by the industry who actually excel in what they do. It's the people who put in their blood, sweat, and tears into their craft, with the want and intention of getting better that will actually get better. It's the people who leave their brains and their passion into their work, not the ones who let their brains and passions fade in presence. 

Often, these types of people recognize that the traditional way of getting to where they want to go is not for them. Some recognize it early, some recognize it later. 

I work in two different industries: health/fitness/wellness, and pain resolution/rehab. There are many people in both industries who are successful, but not good, and vice versa. Let me be clear: success in a business/making money does not equate to quality of the work done. It just means you're good at business and marketing yourself. 

The higher quality professionals I know in my industries for the most part are considered "self-taught." Yes, there are a few with PhD's and academic resumes that would impress the Pope, but I'm finding that there are many more without the traditional academia background, and more of a forged, smart-choiced bushwhacked path exploration that tend to do well. They think out of the box, and they do it often. There's something in their personalities that has them waking up with this passion to improve as much as possible *again* that day, and the next, and the next. They meet like-minded people through various environments, learning opportunities, and networking. They don't buy into ideas easily, but they'll entertain them until they figure out what parts of those ideas to keep and what to discard. They form their own ways of doing things. They have their own reasons. 

Some of the best therapists I know have the simple licensure or certification of massage therapist, personal trainer, or even yoga instructor. Some have not graduated from a university. Some did not even begin university. Yet they have gotten better results than medical doctors, physical therapists, orthopaedic surgeons, and other what have traditionally been considered as the "go-to" people when you have pain. They do what those classically trained professionals are not trained to do: think out of the box. Look at the bigger picture. 

How did they get to where they are? Why will they be better tomorrow, when others will be the same? They attend carefully chosen courses, they not only absorb information but they actually process it and think about it. They don't believe everything they see, but they don't discount it, either. They refuse to be stuck in a "this is the only way" mentality. They believe there is almost ALWAYS another way. And they'll either find it, or they'll refer you to someone who already found it. 

The next time you ask about someone professionally, instead of asking about their credentials, ask about their results. Ask about their success rate. Ask about their WORK, not their ability to pass tests. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How Old Are You?

Person: Do you mind me asking how old you are?

Me: Uh... *pauses, looks up, face scrunches up*

Person: Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to offend don't have to answer, I was just wondering.

Me: Oh, no, it's not that at all. I don't mind. I just never remember how old I am. I'm just trying to do the math...

Person: What? *thinks "that's strange...everyone knows how old they are..."*

This is a piece of a conversation I have frequently with people (even if I have it multiple times in the same day). And yes, I honestly never remember how old I am, nor do I care to. I make myself do the math every single time, and then I immediately forget it.

Why would I do such a thing?? Isn't it easy to remember a simple number that changes every year with your birthday? I mean, I remember when my birthday is, and what year I was born. Why not my age?

Because it doesn't matter. It really doesn't. In fact, many times, it is turned into a negative thing.

Why do people want to know your age? They want to compare. They want to know what to compare you to. They want to put you in an organized category in their brain. They want to know where you're supposed to fit on the "normal" timeline.

Are you in your 20's? You should be either in university or getting yourself a really good job right out of college. Lots of partying and drinking. You are unaware of how little you actually know.

30's? You should be married and probably have a kid or two. A house. Stability. A good career. You should like craft beers and wine.

40's? Definitely married, with kids, house, cars, 401k, and stock options. Successful in your life. Debt-free. Lots of wine, for some reason.

50's? Kids should be graduating from high school, maybe even college. You should have a ton of money saved up, enjoy the finer things in life, despite paying for your kids' college tuitions, go on a nice vacation every year. Cigars and whiskey are a thing now.

60's? Retired, traveling, playing golf, fishing....

Oh shit, you're still 0.4 kids. 
And where's the dog and the white picket fence??
C'mon, Jones', get your shit together!! 

You get what I mean. It's all pre-conceived bullshit that we are conditioned to believe as reality and truth. But the thing is, who actually lives their life in this timeline? And why would you? Does it make you happy? Does it serve YOUR purpose in life? What do you WANT in life? Why does it matter WHEN you achieve it? Why does it matter what other people think you're SUPPOSED to be/do at "this time" of your life?

When there are comparisons involved, there's always a winner and a loser. It's easy to get caught up in being either. Most often, there are more losers than there are winners. People are envious of someone else's life at particular age, even though they were perfectly happy with their lives before they made the comparison. If you don't fit where you think you're supposed to be on the timeline, you may also get a bit depressed and feel a little less self-worth, even if you enjoy your current lifestyle.

People will use age as an excuse to do or not do things:

"You're 80, you're not supposed to be able to get around that easily"
"You're 25, you're not supposed to have a good job that makes good money yet"
"You're 37, you're not supposed to travel freely yet"
"You're 32, you should be married and having kids"
"You're 18, you should be in university, studying"
"You're 41, you should have a solid retirement fund and stock options"

All negative. All based on what people THINK you should or shouldn't do. Not what you WANT for your life.

Oh, you're 70? You're definitely NOT supposed to be doing stuff like pullups. 
But you ARE supposed to have conditions like Parkinson's. 
And that's definitely supposed to stop you from living your life like you want to.

Unless you're able to use age as a POSITIVE association (like "I'm 80 and I can STILL climb 5 flights of stairs without stopping!"or "I'm only 22 and I already have $10k in my retirement fund!"), I'd say forget your real age. Pick an age or an age range where you mentally and emotionally felt like you were the best. Be that. Think you're that.

I'm somewhere between 22-26. I had a lot of fun during that time. I felt great physically, mentally, and emotionally. I did a lot of dumb things then, too, but that doesn't matter. I just felt awesome. So now, since I think I'm still in that time of my life emotionally, I can allow myself to continue feeling like that mentally, emotionally and physically. I mean, I don't do all the dumb things I did back then, I just have the self-appreciation I had for myself back then. Applying that with the amount of maturity and sense of responsibility I've gained in the X number of years since that time allows me to "be an adult" but still think of myself and life as when I was on top of the world. I can continue to be on top of the world :)

Life is all about perspective. How old are you? Who cares? You're happy, you're healthy, you're good to yourself. That's all that matters.

PLAY on, my friends.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

JET LAG: How to Prevent and Minimize

I cross time zones a decent amount. Sometimes it's just a couple of hours as I go from coast to coast in the US. Other times, it's across the Pacific to Asia, where there's a 15 or 16 hour difference. Whenever I'm traveling (or just in general), I don't like wasting days on being tired and exhausted if I don't have to. I've tried various strategies, all that have been recommended by various sources of various degrees of credibility. 

Grounding (walking barefoot on dirt, grass, or beach)
Sunshine/light manipulation 
Wait it out
Sleep a lot
Fast (don’t eat)
Keeping busy and staying awake despite feeling like shit

When I need sleep, my body does this thing where it gets cold, I get headaches, and my brain stops working for anything other than keeping myself alive and operating at irritated zombie level. No amount of caffeine will help, and in fact makes feel ill on top of feeling discombobulated. This can be a big issue if I am traveling for work (which is often the case), and just plain annoying if I'm traveling for fun (who wants to spend their vacation feeling like shit?). 

I'm having so much fun on this vacation, 
I swear I've spent so much quality time with my family....I think.

The only thing that has consistently worked for me is simply to manage my energy so that it is appropriate for the time I arrive at the new time zone. 

For example, if I'm flying from San Diego to Washington D.C., there's a 3 hour time difference where I lose those hours. No matter how long it takes me to get to D.C., I manage my energy so that I am somewhat tired if I arrive at night, or fully rested if I arrive in the morning/early afternoon. 

Or, if I'm traveling from San Diego to Taiwan, there's a 15 hour difference, and the travel time can range anywhere from 12 hours to 19, depending on layovers. I normally like to plan my flights so I arrive at my destination in the late afternoon or evening, because I want my body to get some good rest after all that travel. The 12 hours before I leave, I stop caring about my normal sleep habits for the evening and plan to have a good strategy for when I'm on the plane, so I can sleep a bit, but not too close to my arrival in Taiwan. This ensures I am sleepy when I arrive so I don't stay up too late. 

The next step is to just wake up the next morning at my normal time frame: 6-6:30 am. If I feel a little tired later that day, I can either get a lightly caffeinated beverage or take a QUICK nap early in the day. It’s key that that nap is early in the day and quick (like a power nap to help me “get through” the day), otherwise, if I wait too long, the nap becomes an ill-timed several-hour snooze-fest which will mess everything up.

After managing my energy for the first night, for the big time differences, I will tend to feel just slightly tired the first full day there, but it's nothing more than as if I had a busy couple days at work normally. I usually end up going to bed a little earlier that second night (around 8 or 9pm). 

Second full day, I'm right as rain and operating fully on the new time zone. 

I went to bed early like a grandma, 
but I don't care because I'm not a zombie, and I feel great!!

But this doesn't account for the rare, but still prevalent occasions where I am not able to sleep when planned or something happened where I couldn't manage my energy properly. The last time I went to Taiwan in November, I didn't sleep or wake when I was supposed to, and then I ended up taking a "1-2 hour nap" that lasted 7 hours. I woke at 9 pm local time. Needless to say, I screwed myself over, big time. I should have gotten up when my alarm went off the first time. No snooze button when you’re adjusting for jet lag! The more strict you are with your wake up times, the more effective. 

Sometimes your plan just doesn't go the way you intended it to 
and you feel like Noah being cornered by a T-Rex on his ark in the middle of the ocean.

On the occasions I need to actually FIGHT jet lag and not just prevent it, it's a bit trickier, but the principle is still the same: energy management. The only difference now is once jet lag has hit, it takes a lot more willpower and strategy to reverse it. This is where the caffeinated drinks, exercising, and strategically-planned events are allowed. I do whatever I need to do to be able to WAKE UP at the time I want to (6am), not go to sleep by a certain time. Physical play, easier computer work (nothing that requires math), going for a walk/hike, hanging out with a friend (NOT just sitting/couching), climbing a tree (requires you to be alert so you don’t fall off), well-timed caffeine, cleaning/unpacking/organizing, energizing music/dancing, going in the water, etc. I’ll make sure that I don’t go to bed any earlier than 8 or 9pm, so I don’t accidentally wake up at 3am. I’m ok with waking up an hour (hour and a half at the most) before my normal 6am, because it’s not that difficult to extend my waking hours by that amount of time without affecting energy levels the next day), but not more than that. I know I’ll need to take more strict precautions that day if I’m up at 4am or before. 

If you’re one to travel often (or even if you don’t), I find that maintaining a strict wake up time wherever you are in the world, no matter what day of the week, is a really great way to manage your energy and keep your circadian rhythm evened out. And yes, that means weekends and holidays as well. It’s the consistency that’s important. If I sleep in (which is rare), it’s only for an hour or so. When energy level management via sleep and physical movement is made a priority, you will find that you won’t need external energy aids such as caffeine, even on a daily basis. 

Well, that's enough to frighten anyone...just don't drink them ALL the time, you should be fine. 

Most of these can be prevented/eliminated by better energy management. 
Save yourself a bunch of money and stress. Prioritize your sleep.

And because the last 2 photos can be quite frightening, 
here's some pictures of cute animals to give your emotions a happy ending....


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Why You Shouldn't Hang If Your Back is Tight

Let me rephrase: If you're only trying to decompress your back, there are much better options than hanging, and here's why: 

Hanging itself is a great exercise, if done right and for the appropriate reasons. It's great for grip strength, and you can work on various things like shoulder mobility, posture, pelvis stability, and a bunch of core stuff. However, if you're just trying to decompress your back, you could be doing more damage than good, or nothing at all.

Only one of these guys is smart enough to realize he's not going anywhere with that wheel....

When your spine is compressed, it's typically because the muscles that attach to it are pulling the vertebrae together in an attempt to create stability because there is a lack of stability in the other core muscles (like your abs, but as stabilizers, not movers, so we're not talking sit ups or crunches, here, folks!). 

These things all attach to the spine, and are capable of causing compression along the spine.
Oh, we haven't even gotten to the common muscles defined as "core muscles," either!

If you are hanging, it's also a good idea to activate your lats so your shoulder joint stays strong instead of decompresses as well (if you have rounded/hunched shoulders, your shoulders are probably TOO decompressed already). The thing is, your lats attach to the lower half of your spine, which is exactly what you're trying to decompress. So that's a little contradictory right there. 

See? There's more stuff that attaches to the spine!

Another thing about hanging is that when they're done, people tend to just let go of the bar and drop down, usually not landing like a ninja, but rather like Andre the Giant playing hopscotch. This puts the compression right back in your spine, and could cause even more compression, because of the shock and recoil from being stretched out for so long (you know how your hammies feel after you stretch them too much?). 

"I think I'm going to feel this in the morning...."

Grip strength and endurance is another thing many people lack. If you can't hang on the bar unsupported for more than 10 seconds, you have no business being on the bar for anything therapeutic. Your brain will be thinking about how to hold on for dear life rather than the specific instructions you'll want it to give the muscles in your body as far as relaxing/contracting. Your brain operates in order of importance, where survival is #1. 

Do you think this person is capable of doing anything other than scream and pee their pants? No?
Yea, that's what I thought, too.

Usually when people hang for decompression, they already have pretty terrible core posture, with an anterior pelvic tilt and posterior thoracic tilt, which is probably a decent contributor to why their back feels tight, since there is no anterior trunk stability, and posterior trunk compression. Hanging passively just exacerbates that. Add some bad shoulders in there, and you've got yourself a cocktail of "why does my back hurt all the time?"

Image result for wylie coyote
This guy will tell you how it feels to have a compressed spine.
Don't be Wile E. Coyote.

How should you decompress your back, then? 

Image result for finally


Well, hanging is fine, really. Just do it correctly.

First things first, don't be super high off the ground. You're going to want to have as little of a drop as possible, straight legged distance. Plan ahead. A few inches is enough. Also, you should already have the shoulder range of motion to support yourself with arms overhead and no rib flare. If you can't do that while laying on the ground, you shouldn't hang. 

Do like this guy before you attempt any hanging stuff. 

When you grip the bar, keep the elbows locked and grip pronated (if overhand), and keep your head in neutral. This is when you can let the rest of your body relax, and your spine can decompress. The next part is CRUCIAL to create stability in the decompressed state: Tilt your pelvis backward (so a super mini butt tuck, not arch back) so that you feel it in your lower abs a few inches below your belly button (you can also squeeze your knees together slightly or a yoga block between the knees). You should not be rounding your low back to do this. Hold that, tuck your chin slightly without having your head come forward much. Then, with arms still locked, tuck your lower ribs in towards your spine, and bring your shoulders down towards your butt and try to close your armpit with your upper chest and your upper armpit (yes, I'm aware of how weird that sounds, but try it, you'll see what I mean). All this should be done without sacrificing any of the previous steps. Hold for a couple nice breaths, and then either repeat the whole process starting with the hang, or just come down (remember, like a NINJA, not Andre the Giant!!), and then do it again when your muscles have recovered. 

Notice how the movements are slow and subtle, not quick or big movements. We're working core stability, not extremity strength (although you do need to have a pretty decent grip to be able to do this for several reps in a row). As mentioned before, you will also need to at least be able to hang from the bar in general for slightly more duration than one rep on the bar to have your brain be ok with you doing this kind of stuff (otherwise it freaks out because you're trying to do too much). So, if one rep takes, say, 10 seconds, you should be able to hold onto the bar as a free hang for 15, no problem. If you can't, then your first step is to build up your grip strength and hang time. It's important that when doing therapeutic type movements (like these), you need to be able to do them controlled, and not to fatigue (meaning you still have gas in the tank for more, but you're not going to use it.....80% rule, anyone?). This can mean just one rep at a time, rest for a minute or so, and then have at it again. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Allowing a Straw to Break the Camel's Back

Many little things go by unnoticed. They may be so insignificant that we don't pay much or any attention to them because we think they are not important enough to make a difference. Maybe it's the small annoyances of a partner that you put up with but haven't talked to them about. Or shoes that are a little bit too tight, but "they'll stretch out." Or hitting snooze every day so you're in a rush to work, arriving frazzled and maybe even a few minutes late. Maybe it's even just leaning on one hip or slouching because you don't feel like standing properly. Day by day, month by month, year by year, decade by decade. They become a part of your life, though unintended, and continue on. 

Until one day, one final day where those little things have accumulated into something that is intolerable. It is the final straw. Now you find yourself in some big trouble. You are in an unhappy relationship, your back hurts because your feet now have bunions from your shoes, your neck and shoulders hurt from slouching, you've gotten fired from your job because your performance has declined so much, and your health and sleep are screwed up because you're always stressed. 

That day comes, and you feel like you've been blind-sided. What did you do to deserve this? When did the relationship start to fail? Why are you in such pain? Why are you so unhappy? 

Because you didn't nip it in the bud. 

Change is easiest at the beginning, when the thing you want to change is minor. Change becomes difficult when that thing is big. 

Make it a habit to change things right when you notice them. Nip problems in the bud. Practice good habits. Speak up for what you want. 

This is how you shape your life, little by little. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Forced to Quit

There will be times in your life where you are forced to quit. You will not be given the choice of whether or not you want to continue, no matter how much you want to. It’s a cutthroat world out there, and you just didn’t make the team. What do you do then? Wallow in depression? Say mean things to yourself? Give up? Or do you use it to better yourself?

They'll never find me in here. I'll never disappoint anyone ever again.

As a youth, I was fortunate enough to have parents who saw the value in allowing me to try various sports, even if it was for just a short while just to see if I liked it. One of the sports I really enjoyed was soccer. I played all throughout elementary school on the community ed teams. I wasn’t any good, with my asthma, lack of limb-ball coordination, and great ability to get bored and distracted easily. I got moved from forward, to half back, to goalie, and finally settled in the fullback/defense position (as it put me in a position of the least amount of responsibility). I couldn’t control the ball while running, or even stationary. I had only ever made one goal in my entire soccer career, and that was during a practice with an open goal. I was terrible. But I really liked it. 

And then one day, I found out that in order for me to continue playing soccer, I had to play through the school system, on a team, because community ed activities were only for grades 6 and below. So of course, I tried out for the team. And of course I didn’t make it. That was the end of my soccer career. If I was allowed to continue, even on a remedial team, I probably would have still quite enjoyed myself, and developed my skills even more. 

On the flip side, another sport that I was actively participating in and enjoying at the time was martial arts, namely Taekwondo (turns out, I like to kick things). 

Thankfully I didn't have to defend my choice of wardrobe.

I also wasn’t great at it, but the difference was that I got a lot more instruction on how to improve my skills, and my progress depended solely on how much time and effort I put into practicing. It didn’t matter if the person next to me was better than me, or even if I was the worst person in the room. I was still allowed to stay, I was still allowed to participate. They never forced me to quit. Because of that, I was able to improve in a way that allowed me to actually be invited onto a traveling competition team, where I got to go to some fun places all over the country and the world, and experience things I never would have otherwise. Years later, I even entered in an MMA tournament last minute for fun while on vacation in Asia! This was all because they let the slow kid have an opportunity to continue. 

James Harrison and Michael Jordan are other great examples of kids who were kicked off teams in grade school, not allowed to play, and turned that into their motivation to excel. Albert Einstein was told he’d never amount to anything. 

You also don’t have to want to be great at something to do it. If you enjoy it, that’s enough reason. Isn’t that enough reason to do most anything?