Modern Mobility

I often feel like a bit of a broken record, constantly apologizing for my busy life. It often seems the old cliché of “The only constant is change” could be the ongoing theme of my life. Since my last post, written from the cozy indoors of a lovely Santa Monica coffee shop, I have since had the opportunity to start a new job in a completely new sector, booked multiple trips (both work and pleasure), made the move to power lifting, as well as managed to successfully injure myself, through my own stupid stubbornness.

As previously mentioned, I am not one for new year’s resolutions. I believe in constantly setting both short and long term goals. One thing that I have been working on has been doing both more things that scare me, but also things that bring me happiness. I have often shied away from spontaneity for fear of being irresponsible, or just because I can be a bit of a “type A” rigid planner. I can successfully say I have managed to inch, maybe even step, outside my comfort zone.

In this trend of trying new things, and being a little less rigid in my thinking, I have been exploring different modalities of mobility. I will admit, mostly because I have managed to break myself once again. Turns out, when discovering and programming for strength, you can not, in fact, lift with the same volume, a stubborn all or none mentality, that you can with body building.  Many body builders walk around sore and broken, wearing it like a badge of honor. I am guilty of this mentality. I had become so used to always going to failure, burning myself out, with that depletion style, that I just couldn’t get around the mind set of lifting at 60% or 80% of what I knew I was capable of doing. The irony of which is that I fully understand the difference, as well as the effect it has on your CNS, yet I am in fact, my own worst enemy.

So, to make a long story short, I managed to screw up my left side pretty badly. It started with what I assume was a minor strain, which led to some compensation. However, being the hero that I am, I refused to not continue with my training. In fact, not only did I not rest it, but I probably overdid it, with my “mind over matter” mentality, pushing and pushing. Constantly adding more weight, and not easing off. This just lead to more imbalances, until what was just my hip, was then also the outside of my trochanter, my hams, my glutes, and now down into my calf. I have successfully screwed the whole kinesthetic chain.

So, in an effort to get back to doing what I do best (beating myself up apparently), I finally accepted that maybe this whole mobility thing was worth a try. I will fully admit that with a plethora of research out there I will often read, research, and believe what affirms what suits my own mentality or goal. I think we all have some cognitive bias in that regard. So my idea of mobility has mostly been, do the movement you plan on executing, in the full range of motion, but with less weight. Simple enough, right? If you’re going to squat today, do squats with an empty bar, and just hang out at the bottom, if it feels good, give er’. As of late, this is just not cutting it. So, now I find myself strapped into a table, being painfully manipulated, laying on mats, grimacing, and limping around like an invalid.  

So here is the thing. Not everyone is the same, duh. However, s small part of the populations is what we call “hypermobile”. While this sounds great (and was when I was a cheerleader and did more yoga), this is actually pathological. Too much mobility results in bone not staying where they should stay, and extra stress on the joint. Tendons and ligaments do not actually “stretch out.” You cannot make them longer. Their function is to transmit force, which connect muscles to bones, the force of muscular contraction is transmitted to the bone it’s attached to, thus moving the bone. And since tendons are in fact elastic, a sudden dynamic load causes a very small temporary change in length and a subsequent rebound, such as when you jump, or lift weights. But during normal muscle contraction, if the tendon changed its length not all of the force would move the bone – some would be lost as the tendon stretched. Just like a short piece of chain, a tendon pulls the bone with all the force of the contracting muscle because it does not stretch during the contraction.

Ligaments anchor the joint as it moves, so that the bones which articulate at the joint change their relationship only with respect to their angle. This allows the joint to function as a fulcrum. An excessive amount of “stretching” will cause a rupture. If anyone case ever seen this, it is NOT pleasant.

Therefore, you cannot change the length of either a tendon or a ligament with “stretching” and why would you want to? I’ll take a pass on the whole rupture thing. This leads me to my next point. Fascia. It is the only connective tissues that you can affect with stretching. If you are unaware of fascia, it is essentially the semi clear plastic wrap that keeps your muscle bundled together. It usually becomes problematic when effected by tiny scars called “adhesions” that form between them and their underlying muscle or between adjacent fascia.

So, maybe this article has once again, been a little self serving, but since neither ligaments or tendons are designed to stretch, this would mean any increase in flexibility primarily involves the muscles that control the position of the skeletal components. So really, “mobility” can be considered learning to use any muscle in a way that requires you to teach them to lengthen more readily.  Aka, squat if you’re going to squat, press if you’re going to press, and if you suddenly can’t do that explore alternative therapies that can either assess your faulty movement patterns, compensatory issues, or Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST).

**As an aside, if you love doing yoga, or just like the feeling of stretching, go for it!! This is not intended to discourage anyone from doing anything they love or makes them feel good. Heck, I still love a good pigeon pose. And there is something to be said for the placebo effect. This is my quick and dirty summation of what anatomy dictates, and intended for a “health” audience.

Your fitbetch,

JP xox

On to BIGGER and better things

Back at it with the booty. Its no secret that I am OBSESSED with the posterior chain. Hammmies, booty, and back. I basically only deadlift, squat, and row… but a millions variations of those exercise. Im not advocating to skip chest or shoulders (the bros of the world are cringing right now). But genetically I have never had an issue building those areas, and I have had many years of building up those body parts as well. Now, don’t think I am being arrogant here, but personally, for me. I am happy with the size I have achieved in those areas. So it’s a maintenance factor at this point. However, give me all the back, the wider the better… more detail, more taper. I want it all! And who doesn’t love that nice round shape to the legs, no banana legs here please!!

After many years of hitting legs two even three times a week, I have been able to play around with a bunch of varieties and methods. Volume has been my friend. Even now, I fluctuate between strength days, hypertrophy days, and conditioning. But there are definitely a handful of exercises and techniques that have proven effective in my arsenal. So let me lay some knowledge on you.

Your glutes are comprised of three main muscles, Min, max, and med. The biggest and most superficial being max (ah duh). Glute max is responsible for hip extension, external rotation of the hip, as well as abduction of the thigh. So for those not so anatomically inclined, think movements such as glute bridges, hypers, side stepping lunges,  any any of that side laying clam stuff they do in aerobics videos in the 80s.  

Glute med and min are important muscles as well, especially in terms of stabilization, for those of you who are more inclined to do “big lifts”, or even in terms of being stable in walking, and of course not injuring yourself. But max is our focus here. Mostly being that most for you ladies, and gents, are looking to build strong powerful glute max weather it be for aesthetics or pushing power for things like sprinting, jumping, squatting etc.

Because the glutes are such a powerful muscle they respond well to heavy ass loads (pun intended). And you can train them within a higher rep range. I want to clarify, I don’t want to see you hip thrusting three plates if its all momentum. You gotta squeeze squeeze squuuuuueeeze! So for beginners start with just trying to feel that tension and slowly work up. This means slow, controlled movements with a nice long pause. But I digress. Back to our main point, I would suggest a rep range of 12-15 if your looking for a hypertrophy workout. For simplicity sake, just assume we are throughout this little post. Anything lower will not be enough to bring the fibers to failure. Which, dedicated readers will know is the mechanism of growth. Anything more and you’re just doing cardio (barf me to death). This will not engage the fast twitch fibers to stimulate hypertrophy, and I only use this level of volume when I need to add in conditioning work to increase your overall work capacity in future lifts. This is also useful for increasing total time under tension. But that in itself is another post.

So, now that we have covered rep range,lets talk about temp. Which also effects time under tension (TUT). The most typical tempo you see in body building splits 2 seconds up, 2 seconds peak contraction, 4 seconds down (think slow and low ladies). I also think it is great to pause for 2 seconds at the bottom, but depending on your focus or programming this may very. The pause allows the kinematic energy to dissipate, so that all the pushing power has to be generated from the muscle. So no cheating. This is also important for strength and power athletes.  To give you a whole picture, for the people who are more visual learners, envision this. Explosive on your way up, flex hard at the top, then slowly lower the weight back down. *Rant* A huge pet peeve of mine is seeing people bounce up and down while squatting. This is not an effective execution of the movement, and I kinda want to shake them, aggressively.

Now that you hopefully have a slightly better idea of how you can go about targeting your glutes, lets talk about how often. Like I said I try to train mine up to three days a week. I understand this can be hard for a number of reasons. Training schedule and recovery being two of the biggest factors I can think of. Typically I always start my week with legs, then try to hit it every other day. One week kind of leads into the next with that style. In order to train with this frequency each day is also different. Large muscles like the glutes resound to variety and volume. So you can do a “heavy day”, then a “volume day” to get some blood flow in there, then move on to an “accessory day” or a conditioning day”, or even a “power day”. All these different styles of training have their own benefits. You can program according to your weaknesses and needs. You can’t train the exact same way each day because your body will become accustomed too quickly, and you put yourself at risk for injuries. Which will only set back your long term progress. And if you’re anything like me, you will get EXTREMELY frustrated… which only leads to further injury.

Lesson, don’t be stubborn like JP.

 

On to BIGGER and better things,

Your fitbetch,

Jp xoxo

An honest letter about my skin

I by no means would consider myself a fashion or beauty blogger.

My idea of a great outfit is wearing all black, and making an effort means adding some bronzer to my usual two step foundation/concealer routine.  But If you have any sense of me, or my outlook to health at this point, it’s more than just weights and protein shakes. Whole health manifests from within. One of things that I have noticed as I have gotten older is my skin. I was never one of those teenagers with severe acne issues. I didn’t even wear foundation. Maybe a little concealer on a pimple here or there, but they were never very severe. But as I got older I started to get more complicated issues. Not just regular pimples, but deep, painful bumps, that could stay for weeks!! What the hell, right?! You could get a zit, and maybe ruin a date three weeks from now, not cool. Luckily it was fairly inconsistent throughout undergrad, and I learned quickly that there were certain trigers. Aside from food sensitivities (dairy and wheat being two big ones for me), it was my hormones. Hormonal acne has a very specific way of presenting. Its deep and angry (kind of like my soul) and always on the lower half of the face. I.e., jawline and chin.

 

So, I managed to survive my early twenties, I even got a very serious adult boyfriend (he was older), and graduated, with not just one but two (honours) degrees in under 5 years! And not because I was hiding in the library like a hermit to avoid being seen. My skin was, while annoying, not life falteringly devastating. However, when I moved provinces for grad school, it slowly became worst. There are obviously mitigating factors such as a humungous amount of stress. But simply avoiding dairy, washing my face twice a day, trying to manage my insomnia, blah blah blah, etc etc… was not cutting it. Finally around 25/26 I couldn’t take it anymore. It wasn’t just one bad cyst here or there, I would get breakouts of multiple. It was mortifying. It’s hard to masque a big lump on your face. It was like having a tumour, right there on my chin for everyone to see. I had tried antibiotics, topical cremes, cortisone, retinol, trentinoin, it all just burned up my skin, and made it peel. I was sad, and embarrassed. So, I went to a dermatologist and got a prescription for Acutane. The famous drug that everyone used to be afraid of. This being because a bunch of correlational research had linked teens and Acutane use with suicide. It also kills your liver, so big no-no for drinking in university. It’s so toxic you actually need monthly blood work. But frick that, I wanted to be pretty! I was adult, about to be a professional. With acne and a baby face no one was going to take me seriously.

No one tells you your skin will purge at first, end every time they upped my dosage, I would break out. Finally after about three months of this crazy expensive drug (I was paying out of pocket), my skin was clearer. It was actually pretty flawless. The effects are supposed to be life lasting. It is forever in your system. So I thought “Cool! One round should be enough, no need to poison my body more”! So I went off it, never to see my dermatologist again.

Guess what. I was wrong. Now, at 29 my skin is actually worse than ever.  I have slowly started to figure what things throw off my hormonal balance. For instance, dairy is now more than ever a forbidden food. The protein molecules found in dairy are known to increase sebum secretion. In addition, cow’s milk is full of fake hormones that they pump into cows so that they continuously lactate. Too much alcohol is also a no go. This being because it is known to increase estrogen, and throw off your natural sex hormones balance. Most of late December and early January was a huge pain due to too many social glasses of red wine over the holidays. I recently got back on birth control over the last 6 months. This also threw my hormones for a loop. The huge bump in progesterone, a synthetic androgen also took some time for my body to adjust too. And lastly, stress. This is a killer for everyone, hormones or not. It shows in your skin. Tired, dull, irritated, sensitive skin. While not everyone’s acne issues are hormone related. Heck, some of you probably have glowingly flawless skin, and wash with whatever is handy, if anything at all. But one thing I have noticed among athletic and gym oriented females is an increase in acne issues. Not only due we sweat more, which can clog pores. If you’re guilty like me, I go right after work. I do not wash my face in the period in between. I know, I could… it is not a great excuse. But the truth being. My fair skin gets very red and irritated when I wash it, and the last thing I want when I’m working out is to continuously see my ugly, irritated, inflamed face.  But secondly. We have more testosterone in our bodies. More muscle means more testosterone receptors. It is just a simple fact. So as women’s body compositions start to changes, they lose fat, estrogen decreases, and added stress, acne becomes more prevalent.

So. I obviously don’t have the answer to how to treat your hormonal acne, but what I am going to do is break down some tools I have added to my arsenal that seem to help me manage. A lot of companies have a ton of fillers in their products. With maybe one or two ingredients you really need. I recently discovered a Toronto based start-up, by the name of Deciem, that kind of functions like a cool chemistry lab. They have varying levels of quality, so you can buy what is best suited for your budget, and they make straight simple ingredients. The bottle you buy contains only the chemical component marketed. They also have incredibly simple packaging, which saves a lot on cost. I actually prefer the simple, white and glass look. It feels simple, clean, and kind of like I’m playing scientist. I am not affiliated with this company in any way but I do love to support local as much as possible which is why I choose this company.
So here are my four main go to’s and why:

All products listed are from the basic “The Ordinary” line. I always start with my “acids” first because they are best put on clean skin. The Lactic acid is reserved for night time only.

First step after washing, I am not currently using a low pH cleanser so I start with the lowest pH product first. I use the Alpha Albutrin, because it “preps” the face. It has a cosmetic pH of between 3.5-6.5. Being the nerd that I am I remember this by “Acids start with A, A goes on first”. Alpha Arbutin reduces the looks of spots and hyper-pigmentation. It’s used at a high 2% concentration versus a standard concentration of 1% and supported with a next-generation form of Hyaluronic Acid for enhanced delivery. Alpha Arbutin is much stronger in effect than Arbutin or Beta Arbutin. Alpha Arbutrin is found in many K-beauty products as well as western products like Sunday Rileys ‘Tidal’ for it’s ‘whitening’ or brightening effect.

Next, once my face is dry. I used the Lactic acid. Lactic Acid This is an alpha hydroxyl acid that exfoliates the skin. This 5% formulation offers very mild exfoliation and is supported with a purified Tasmanian pepperberry known to reduce signs of inflammation and sensitivity that is often associated with exfoliation. This particular formula contains a studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. This pH of this formula is approximately 3.8. Lactic Acid has a pKa of 3.8 and pKa is the most important aspect to consider in formulating with acids. pKa implies acid availability. When pKa is close to pH, there is an ideal balance between salt and acidity, maximizing effectiveness of the acid and reducing irritation. Higher pH numbers in such a case would increase salt which counter-intuitively would make the formula even more irritating than if the formula was more acidic. This is why we started with the Alpha arbutrin to lower the skins pH so that the lactic acid could get to work more quickly. Think of it as ‘preheating the oven’.

Third step: Hyaluronic Acid (HA) can attract up to 1,000 times its weight in water. The molecular size of HA determines its depth of delivery in the skin. This formulation combines low-, medium- and high-molecular weight HA, as well as a next-generation HA crosspolymer at a combined concentration of 2% for multi-depth hydration in an oil-free formula. This system is supported with the addition of Vitamin B5 which also enhances surface hydration.

Note: Hyaluronic Acid is found in the skin naturally but its natural function within the skin is not hydration. Many products have used HA to claim hydration benefits, but HA is too large of a molecule to penetrate the skin and instead sits on the surface and can draw moisture out of the skin making the surface feel soft and hydrated temporarily, while making you feel like you need more HA after the product is rinsed. This formula uses three forms of HA with varying molecular weights, as well as an HA crosspolymer, to offer multi-depth hydration and visible plumping without drawing water out of the skin solely to improve temporary surface hydration. Hyaluronic acid can be found in numerous crèmes and sheet masks so chances are you probably already have some in your routine.

Last step before moisturizer (I use a light lotion moisturizer since heavy cremes congest my skin) is Niacinamide (Vitamin B3). This is used to reduce the appearance of skin blemishes and congestion. AKA those angry red/purplish spots that linger long after the pimple has been reabsorbed. A high 10% concentration of this vitamin is supported in the formula by zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid to balance visible aspects of sebum activity.
Contraindications: If topical Vitamin C is used as part of skincare (which I also occasionally use to plump/brighten and reduce hyperpigmentation), it should be applied at alternate times with this formula (ideally Vitamin C in the PM and this formula in the AM). Otherwise, Niacinamide can affect integrity of pure-form Vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid). Realistically both these products have similar effects so I have been sticking to the Niacinamide in terms of cost and effectiveness.  In addition, it is noteworthy, that while Niacinamide and Zinc PCA reduce the look of blemishes and balance visible sebum activity, neither is a treatment for severe acne.

For persistent acne-related conditions, which are non cystic, I would recommend the use of Benzoyl Peroxide and/or Retinoic Acid. Both which burn my skin, as my acne is too deep for those types of products, but ideal for people with more superficial acne. It is also important to note if you do use topicals that you be sure not to overdo it which will cause that ‘burning’ that I’ve discussed. Taking a break and repairing the skins moisture barrier is in my opinion the best thing you can do for your skin. Although my issue is acne you’ve probably noticed that only one of my products is specifically for acne, the rest are to enhance my complexion and nourish my skin. Your skin sometimes just needs a little TLC and harsh chemicals are not always the answer, if something isn’t working try something else and if that doesn’t work see help from a professional, for some people it’s literally their job to help you fix your skin.

So ladies, (and gentlemen, if there are any of you out there who actually read this blog), I hope that my decade of pain, suffering, research, and trial and error. In my endless pursuit of flawless skin can help you in some way. Is it really too much to wake up, roll out of bed and not feel the need to immediately cover my face?!  In all honestly, I make light of it, and while I am sure there are people who suffer far worst than myself, I can honestly say it has been a huge source of shame throughout my adult life. While I do not think you should have to suffer for eating that one ice cream cone, or live in fear that if you enjoy a nice bottle of wine at dinner you will have to hide for a week, this is my reality. So I am here to hopefully help you avoid some of what I have had to endure.

 

Till next time,

your fitbetch,

JP xox

Only the strong will survive

Hello my loves, so as we are already past the half way mark for January, and you’re obviously still crushing the gym right? Let’s talk about being sore. I’ve heard it from lots of my coworkers, clients, and even casual acquaintances. “I’m sore”! Good! As you should be. This is all new to your body. Heck, I’m always sore and I’ve been doing this consistently for at least half a decade. Obviously, I’m not saying you should be straight up broke. There is obviously a difference between delayed onset muscle soreness and injury. But let’s just say we’re talking about regular soreness, for the sake of simplicity here.

A greater increase in lactic acid (that burney, sore day after effect), is known to be critical for muscle growth. This is achieved through the lamens term of “doing work”.  So, you’re killin’ the gym. Getting your swole on, which is perceived as a threat to your cells (and to others around you). We may joke about getting a pump that is so sick the pipes are going to burst. But it is actually somewhat truthful. As your muscle cells become engorged in blood, the cell is forced to expand. This result is a number of byproducts from the breakdown of the cell. This is why we feel “swollen” and sore.

Much like the old theory, only the strong survive, this is true for muscle cells as well. The weaker more fragile muscle fibres are pushed passed  their limits, while the body is forced to engage more fast twitch muscle fibres. These fibres have greater growth potential. The more we tax these fibres, the more we signal growth pathways. Long story short, that uncomfortable sensation, or what some mistake as pain is actually essential I’m growing those glutes. This is a concept foreign to a lot of new gym goers.

So how do you use this to your advantage? Well, depending on your goals, if growth is your main purpose of lifting (and this doesn’t just mean “body building” or “bulking”) you won’t want to go to failure on all your main sets. Yes, you should be pushing your limits, but overdo it and you tax your central nervous system. This is more often seen in depletion and prep style workouts. Also an issue for power lifters. Which use different weight schemes all together. In this case, for your average person looking to shape/tone/grow, or whatever you want to call it, what you can incorporate is a pyramid. Which is working up to your final or max set, then drop setting down (meaning to continuously drop the weight till failure, drop again, and  so forth). Note: This will burn like a mother F*cker, you may whimper a little….

I apologize if this article may seem elementary to some of my more gym savy followers. But keep in mind, not everyone is as masochistic as we are. And while the gym may be full now, only the few will survive.

Your fitbetch,
JP xoxo

Eat, Work, Gym, Repeat

As promised, because when you make a promise on the internet you have to keep it, here is my post on nutrition.

Chances are, if you’re even relatively athletic, or have some semblance of a gym schedule, your peers/coworkers/family members, and even sometimes gym strangers, ask you about your diet. Whether they’re trying to build muscle, lose weight, or “tone”.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that everybody’s different. Some people are sensitive to carbs, some people literally can’t go without them. And I’m not talking about your average “I love carbs” addiction, I mean people who’s actually become hypoglycaemic without them.  So when adjusting your diet, pay attention to your body and the feedback it’s giving you.

As always, if you’re a diligent reader, I’ll allude to previous articles. I personally am a big fan of keeping carbs low in the morning and throughout the day. The first meal of the day sets the tone for how your body will use and regulate carbs. By eating fats and protein as your first meal you’ll avoid spiking your insulin, which can lead to fat gain. However, go to long without eating and your can increase cortisol levels, blood sugar drops, and your body down regulates your metabolism.

Don’t feel anxious, I know this sounds complicated, but it’s not!

As a general  rule, I recommend eating every 4 hours. This may seem like a lot of food to most, but let me run you through a typical weekday for me, and in reality you’ll probably find it’s calorie and macro content add up to less than most people eat, who haphazardly eat when and what’s convenient.

Most mornings I start with 2 scoops of greens and fibre, and a spoonful of omegas 3, and a black Americano on my way to work. Honestly, I love sleep, so I don’t eat before leaving for work. This quick easy concoction gives my body some nutrition to work with, wakes me up and gets the metabolism fired up. Once I sit down at my desk I have 3.5oz of lean ground turkey which I’ve prepped before the week. It’s an easy convenient meat cookie, to get my protein in, and again, keeping cortisol low. You can add egg whites and greens to this combo if this just isn’t enough for you. Come lunch I typically have 4oz chicken with mixed salad greens and a little dressing. If I’m dieting I’ll add straight balsamic, not vinaigrette or oil, but if I, just living life, simply put whatever small amount of dressing of my choice. So there, we’re already at lunch and your carb content hasn’t exceeded More than 5-10g. Since my work day usually goes to 6, sometimes later, I try to plan accordingly. I’m I’m anticipating leaving at 6, around 4 I’ll have a small snack to tie me over until gym time. I don’t like to work out on a full stomach, but if I miss this meal I won’t get to eat again until 8 or 9. This is usually some nuts (8-12 is an appropriate serving size), with a high quality protein shake.  Whey would be the best choice here, opposed to an iso whey. I also mix mine with water to keep Cals minimal. This is a great low carb, high protein snack, with some fats to keep you full.

So congrats! You’ve made it through your work day and it’s finally gym time! You’ve kept to your diet, and hopefully you’re feeling good. My workouts typically take about 80 minutes at most, depending on the day and how busy the gym is. If I’m doing cardio, a little longer. After I’ve finished I take 1000mg of vitamin C and head home. You might ask why I don’t eat right away. Well, there are a few reasons. For one, I want to continue the fat burning process going, you body is still breaking new muscle and metabolizing fat for energy. Secondly, I prefer to eat whole foods, especially when dieting, so I can go home and relax and eat a proper meal, not out of Tupperware. And lastly, I tend to take a pre workout with stimulants prior to working out. Stimulants, such as caffeine are an appetitive suppressant, combine with high intensive training and my stomach just isn’t ready for digestion.

My last meal tends to be a repeat of my lunch. A combination of chicken and salad or veggies. If your are keeping some carbs in your diet, or are having a higher carb day, this would be the meal to add it in.

Finally, because I am a creature of habit, once I’ve finished dinner and cleaned up for the night I repeat my greens and fibre routine to keep everything moving, ad finish the night with chia, zma for muscle repair and relaxation, and a little PB, cause you’ve still gotta treat yourself.

Up next on the blog, pre workout and intra workout, what I like, what I’ve tried and how to get a skin tearing pump… Or maybe something else, who knows!

Your fitbetch,
JP xoxo

Concoctions and cold remedies

Given that Toronto is apparently going to be getting some snow this week I thought I might circle back to some health related advise.

As the temperature drops, the days are darker, and I pretty much always feel like Im fighting an impending cold, how do you stay on top of busy work schedule, strict gym regiment, and some semblance of a social life (even if it’s just making time to get my roots done)?!

Obviously not feeling sick is a good place to start. Even having the slightest inkling of that tired, yucky, headachy common cold can pretty much make every aspect of your busy life hard. And if you’ve been following the blog over the past few years you’ll know that I am a huge advocate of all those little daily things that keep bodily stress and cortisol at bay. Even the standard vitamin C and echinacea combo has been proven to stave off nasty symptoms when taken regularly and in the right doses. So, when given the opportunity to try Cold Q, a herbal spray, I was intrigued.

I’ve always been a strong advocate of natural forms of supplementation. Part of that probably stemming from a childhood of swallowing raw cod liver oil, and garlic pills as a form of cruel and unusual punishment (or immunity or whatever). Even now, I take turmeric for inflammation, ginger to digestion, zinc and magnesium for deeper sleep and relaxation, and the list goes on.

Being me, as you know, everything is a research project. Years of peer reviewed studies, stats courses, and testing and measurement have instilled a certain skepticism in me. But aren’t we all just a little better for it? Think of the time I save you! So I obviously did my reach on Cold Q, I wasn’t going to be spraying this concoction in my mouth before knowing its usefulness first.
There is a long list of ingredients listed on the bottle, all FDA approved and natural, but here is some of what I found.
Let’s start with the medicinal properties of the Dahurican root, which has been dated back to Ancient China as early as 400 BC. Zhang Cong Zhen (1156–1228), a famous physician in the military, believed that diseases were caused by external evil factors, or better knelt to modern day science as pathogens, that entered the human body (which is why we always avoid touching our lovely faces ladies and gents). He listed Danuricam root as a herb that purged the body of any negative influences such as heat, clamminess, dryness, and cold on the skin. While this concept of purging may seem a little off, what he was rally seeing was the plants ability to act as an antinflammitory. Today, due to this property it is often used as a treatment for headaches, relieving nasal obstruction, as a pain reliever, a topical anti inflammatory, and bonus points, when ingested, a laxative.

While a little less mystical history here, Astragalus membranaceus (Huang qi), A. propinquus is an component in Lectranal, and a little less ambitious in terms of what it can cure. It is a food supplement used in treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Aka seasonal allergies.

Ziziphus jujuba commonly called jujube (ahh, yum…) is a red date, or also known as a Chinese date, Korean date, or Indian date.  As you’ve likely deduced, it’s a fruit bearing tree. The freshly harvested, as well as the candied dried fruit, are often eaten as a snack, or with coffee. This ingredient already has me won over. Candy that cures my cold? Yes please! The fruit and its seeds are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, where they are believed to alleviate stress (aka the root of all evil) and traditionally for anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer, anti-inflammatory purposes. It is also a great antioxidant, and immunostimulant, which also contributes to its wound healing properties A controlled clinical trial also found the fruit helpful for chronic constipation… I’m seeing a trend here.

Aside from Asian and Indian cultures, In Persian traditional medicine it is used in combination with other herbal medicines to treat colds, flu and coughing. Again reinforcing its immunostimulant and stress relieving properties. Recent research also suggests jujube fruit has nootropic and neuroprotective properties.

Lastly let’s talk about Ziziphin, a compound in the leaves of the jujube.The jujube fruit is mucilaginous, meaning that is produces Mucilage, a thick, gluey substance produced by nearly all plants and some microorganisms. It is a polar glycoprotein and an exopolysaccharide. In lamens terms, a sticky slimy sugar substance. Mucilage in plants plays a role in the storage of water and food, as well as seed germination, and thickening membranes. It’s important to us in this particular scenario because it is very soothing to the throat, and decoctions of jujube have often been used in pharmacy to treat sore throats.

So, to sum it up, cold Q is a pretty useful concoction of natural plant remedies, all brought together in a neat little spray pack, to help you not only avoid the cold, through immunostimulant and anti inflammatory properties. But also treat any of those gross symptoms that do manage to bypass your super awesome immune barriers. Such a sore throats, coughs, and runny noses. As always my lovelies, stay healthy!

Your fitbetch,

JP xoxo

‘Band Wagon’

If you have Instagram (which you obviously do, ah doh), you’ve seen the increasingly popular banded exercise trend. Squatting with bands, kickbacks with bands, hip thrusts with bands… And you get the picture(s). So what’s this miracle science all about? Have bands replace weights in this female oriented booty blast craze?! And yes. I am being gender specific here. Because while the odd power lifter might have bands in his big arsenal of gym tools and accessories (easily identified as an over full duffel covered in chalk), you don’t see the average bro running out to get a set of bishbands.
*side note, if you don’t know what bishbands are, do you even fitness?

So, here’s the thing. Incorporating bands into your training are actually a great way to improve power, strengths and even hypertrophy. Yea, I said it. Hypertrophy. So maybe these girls are on to something.

Here’s the breakdown. Bands offer an ascending strength curve for the concentric range.  In lamens terms, think as you shorten the muscle. Such as sitting deeeeeeeep deep down in a squat, you’ll actually result in more tension as you come out of this position. In the bottom, you’re experiencing minimal tension. This is the normal load, but you’ll require greater than normal strength and power to push up, because as you pull further away from the bottom, the tension increases. Again, as you return back down to the bottom position, the tension deloads. And so on and so forth as you squat your little, or in this case maybe big, booty away.

Disclaimer. Doing simple banded exercises. I mean the non weighted kind, will not have this same effect. For instance, simple doing crab walks, monster walks, little kicks, whatever you wanna call it, are a great way to engage muscles, or burn them out. So these exercises still have their use at the beginning or end of an exercise. They’re also great for ppl learning to use new muscle for the first time (mind muscle connection). Or for people with muscle imbalances. A personal example being that I always have a weaker VMO (inside aspect of the thigh). I often use a band around my knees when squatting to force myself to push out, therefore engaging this muscle to work. It’s a proprioceptive response. The band around my knees forces me to consciously push them apart, opposed to buckling inwards. Otherwise, it will fall. But that is no way effects my overall strength curve. I am very specifically targeting a small muscle to engage, and over time catch up. So technically yes, it is gaining strength, but I digress.

Conclusion, bands are really just another way to force adaptive response. If you’re not trying something new or challenging yourself, your body has no reason to change. Bands are great plateau busters, as tension is a great way to increase difficulty without actually addicting additional weight.  It kicks into a different kind of response, that can shock the system, and provides a graded strength curve. So go for it, jump on that “band wagon”. Just remember there is a right and wrong way to do it if you’re actually looking to grow that booty, and not just make it dance.

Your fitbetch
JP xox