Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): What It Is, & What To Do About It

"The Color Of Springtime Is In The Flowers, The Color Of Winter Is In The Imagination." ~Terri Guillemets

SAD. Just reading the word makes you, well, sad. As a health care provider in the state of Oregon, I'm all too familiar with this seasonal disorder. It rivets many of my patients, and can send them reeling backwards in both mood, activity level, anxiety and sleep.

The onset of the dark, winter months in Oregon can be brutal. My father, raised in Alaska, often remarked how the winters in Oregon "are tropical compared to where I grew up." Living on the coast in Oregon (one of the wettest, darkest parts of the Pacific N.W.) is nothing short of relief for him.

I grew up there, in Newport, OR., nestled 1/2 way between San Francisco and Seattle, Newport is a bustling fishing town. Its cold, stormy winter waters have produced some of the most prominent American artists, awe-struck with the powerful coastline and old growth forests that line it.

Newport, OR. Where I Was Born & Raised. Home To Some Of The Most Spectacular Coastal Storms Around.

While the scenery is stunning, the familiar sound of the seagulls soothing, the winters there are made only for the hardy at heart. As I would watch the fishermen navigate their boats during thunderous coastal storms, I could only wonder what type of person could brave that darkness and the roaring, cold seas day after day. The very dampness that hangs in the overcast, foggy air during the winters is enough to chill one to the bone. Your only retreat is a fire, family and the warmth of home.

There are a few that thrive in winters such as Newport's. My grandma, Jo Ellen Barton, gained her greatest inspiration from the harsh environment. She would run 10 miles along "Coos Bay" everyday, come home make thistle soup (My thoughts as a child? Bleh!), and shut off the world during the wet, winter months. After her winter hibernation, she would showcase her most stunning paintings at the top art galleries all over the world. She became one of Oregon's best known coastline landscape painters. She reveled in the darkness the weather provided, and used it to fuel her artistic creativity.

She was accustomed, however, to raising three rambunctious boys and a young daughter in the harsh wilderness of Alaska. She lived on a meager houseboat, with her family, hunting grouse for dinner at night. Her husband, a bush pilot and logger, frequently went missing for days on end in deadly arctic storms. No where to be found until one day, he would stagger in, disheveled and worn, asking for "a beer and a bed." This became Grandma Barton's way of life. "Taking the bull by the horns," (as she often told me to do) she decided that to leave fate up to her husband, and his outdated airplane radio, was to live in a state of constant worry. She promptly went down and got her bush pilot license, so that she could look for her husband amongst the frozen tundra, should the need arise.

Alaska, My Father's Family's Home. Long Nights...Short Days...

Grandma Barton's constitution was one of survival. It was hardy. It was practical. It was no nonsense. It served her well, as she finished out her life along the dark coastline of Oregon, painting and running in the pelting rain.

My Favorite Painting Of Grandma Barton's...Hanging In My Home Office :)

Many of us do not relish the darkness as my family from Alaska does. Oregon can seem almost inhospitable to many in the winter. SAD, or "Seasonal Affective Disorder," can affect people's quality of life here.

Let us take a closer look at SAD. What is it? Who is affected? What can we do about it?

“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a variation of depression that plagues normally healthy people with depressive symptoms during the winter. These symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal, oversleeping, loss of interest in hobbies, carbohydrate cravings, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating and processing information. Approximately 6 percent of Americans experience SAD, and another 14 percent experience sub-syndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder, a milder form of SAD.”

The above statement seems a bit dismal. Yet, there are things within our control that we can do to help mitigate the effects of SAD. I do find it interesting to note that 3 out of 4 SAD sufferers are women.

Across the board experts agree that there are fundamental things that should be done to work with a SAD patient. There is now an acronym, widely agreed upon by health care providers, to be shared with their patients: S.E.L.F. (serenity, exercise, love, and food). Let me explain these, as they sound a bit simplistic.

SERENITY: Admit you have a problem. That tends to be the biggest hurdle, yet the most important one to confront. Many of my patients have stated that "I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me for years. I just kept trying to pretend I was happy, when I wasn't. It always came on with the onset of shorter days." I hear this a lot. As soon as a label or diagnosis was given, there was a sense of relief for them. The old black-and-white Dracula flicks admonish "If you can name the demon, you can get rid of it." That's really how it is with depression, addiction or dis-ease. First, we need to acknowledge there is something to treat and be pro-active about. With this step comes a deep sense of serenity. A peace in confirming that there is something "off" we need to come to grips with. Once we come to that realization, we can move forward with treatment and lifestyle changes.

EXERCISE: As a certified fitness trainer, I can't give enough reasons why regular exercise is of benefit. From sleep, to mood, to overall body strength and wellness, it can't be beat. Exercise has been termed "Nature's Great Anti-Depressant." I would venture to say that's accurate. It gives a person a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, particularly when the dark winter months tell you to do anything but go outside. When one uses will-power to push through the lethargy of winter's short days to go for a run (yes, even in -12 degrees for me last year), whether the foe is ice, rain, sleet or snow, the reward is a cascade of "feel good" endorphins that permeate your body and psyche all day long. Is this important year round? Absolutely. Is this particularly important for people experiencing the depression of SAD? Its more crucial during winter for these folks than any other time of the year. In addition, exercise can off-set any winter-holiday eating choices that are outside of our norm.

My father used to tell me stories as a child of the dog-sled mushers who would run the "Iditarod" race, braving the coldest Alaskan storms over a distance of 1,150 miles. For the top mushers that takes almost 24 hrs. a day over 9 days. For the "average" musher, it takes approximately 12 days. Can you imagine? The mushers that train for that race train in the darkest of night, under the coldest conditions. It takes some "hutzpah!" to do that. If they can do that, you CAN get to a heated gym, with jacuzzi and sauna available for you after your workout. Those mushers don't have any special advantage over you. Its pure will power and determination to not let the elements get to them, and affect their spirit. Just remember: there is ALWAYS someone training in more challenging conditions than you. This helps me put things into perspective when I have 2 Malamutes pawing the front door to go outside, when the day is dark, the ice is thick and the snow is knee-deep.

My Sweet Girl, Sierra (R.I.P.), After We Dog-Sledded In Snoqualmie, WA., 2002

I moved to Bend 3 years ago. I'm not a skier or snowboarder. I've been on skis one time, when I was in high school, for about 1/2 hr. (so I don't really count it). Snowboarding? I never say never, but I do have a weird "thing" about being strapped into a contraption (bizarre, I know...I guess everyone has their "thing"). I like board sports, but I don't like being strapped to one. Is it time to conquer my dislike of this? Perhaps. I wouldn't mind trying snowboarding.

What I'm getting at is that I live about 25 mins. from "Mt. Bachelor," and yes, I admittedly don't ski or snowboard. This is completely weird for a "Bend-ite" to say. Most of my friends here don't just snowboard, they X-C ski, skate ski, tele-ski, you name it.

Last year, I thought "I better make friends with this snow thing. After all, I moved to Bend to get away from the rain." I do tend to "up" my "CrossFit" in the winter, and head to the rock gym more in the winter also, but mind you, I have 2 VERY "chatty" dogs, who don't care if I just went to the gym or not. They want out, and I'm not talking about a mere walk around the block. They want to run, pull and drag things in the snow, and they don't care at all if I would rather be in my slippers or in a hot bath.

Last year I was already on a roll with trail-running, so sought out an easy way to continue my running, with minimal equipment, and not a lot of hassle. Voila! Snowshoe-running! Thanks to my pal, ultra-runner, Laura Kantor, I got hooked. I found a way to exercise in the dead of winter, outside in the elements, that was a win-win for both me and the pups. I even ended up liking it so much that I placed 2nd in my age division for the 10k "Mt. Hood Snowshoe Scramble" (thanks for encouraging me to do that, Laura :)

"Mt. Hood 10k Snowshoe Scramble," 2nd Place In Age Division, Jan. 2010

Point? There is ALWAYS a way to exercise, even in the winter outside. Believe me, once you get on a roll with snowshoe-running, X-C skiing, etc. you'll be warm in no time...and its fun! :)

I Also Discovered This Past Year That I *LOVE* Climbing Waterfall Ice, Ouray, CO. (a.k.a. "Little Switzerland," or "The Ice Climbing Capitol Of The U.S."), Jan. 2010

Building Ice Anchors With My Girlfriends At The "Ouray Ice Park," Ouray, CO., Jan. 2010

I had a girlfriend say to me, "I just need something to motivate me to get outside when its cold." My suggestion? Get a cold-hardy pup! She took my advice, and is now logging more miles than me with her pup in the winter. She is a single woman who lives and runs alone, and is now relishing having a companion who not only gives her a sense of security, but motivates her to make that first step out the door when the snow is blowing sideways. A win-win. She rescued her dog from the same Malamute rescue I did mine (www.wamal.com) She's so happy to have a winter-loving friend now. :)

My Winter "Motivators," (R to L) Tallon (a.k.a. "Fatty Pajamas) & Anok. The coldest recorded temperature an Alaskan Malamute has spent over 1 month in? -80 F in Antarctica. Watch the movie "Eight Below" for the story :)

LOVE: Who doesn't need love? We all need to give it, and receive it. Its important that folks who suffer with SAD communicate to their friends and family that they're experiencing SAD, and could use some extra support during the winter months. This may cross-over with the "exercise" category, and create opportunities for a "buddy system," so that they go and workout with friends and family. Maybe it means taking more time for self-love and doing some counseling, therapy work, journaling or other nurturing activities. Receiving acupuncture and/or massage is a very nourishing, nurturing way to treat oneself in the winter. There are specific acupuncture protocols and needling-depth techniques that are more employed in the winter. Write down some words (don't judge them, just write) that come to your mind when you hear the word "Love." Pursue those. Maybe it means taking yourself out on a date (yes, it IS *fun*). Or perhaps treating yourself to a vacation, a play, concert, or a poetry reading. Whatever it is, make sure it nourishes you from the inside out.

The holidays can be rough for some people. Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa...whatever you celebrate, if you suffer from SAD, don't celebrate alone. Surround yourself with community, friends and family that you experience joy with. Being afflicted with SAD can be hard enough. Doing it alone makes it more difficult.

Take The Time To Have A Sit-Down Dinner With Friends & Loved Ones Over The Holidays

FOOD: We all eat. Hopefully, three times a day at least. Food is a big topic. One I'm constantly addressing via social media, through public speaking venues, magazine articles, my blog and with my patients. It can feed our souls, or feed our fears and darkest emotions. It is very important, particularly in the darkest of winter to determine your motivation for eating. Cravings don't always mean your hungry. They can mean you're tired, thirsty, depressed, etc. Be a "food detective," if you're experiencing SAD and having ongoing cravings. Journal where you think they're REALLY coming from. Are there un-dealt with emotions that need to be processed and let go of? If so, I promise a bowl of macaroni and cheese, will not help you. The feeling will just come back. With that being said, food can also be a delicious, decadent part of life. I truly learned to enjoy food in Paris. The French and Italians relish every last bit of their food. It is edible art to them, as it should be. Take time to eat communal meals, meals in silence, meals with laughter, and meals by candlelight. Experience every nuance of delicacy and nutrition your food offers you. There is an old saying "Let thy food by thy medicine, and medicine thy food." (Paracelsus) It is true. Your food can be your medicine. Take time to lovingly prepare it, or take yourself out to a beautiful meal prepared with attention by top chefs. It is a real treat when viewed this way.

I think its also very powerful to turn one's grief or SADness into joy for others. It takes us out of ourselves and our own anguish. Consider offering food to those less fortunate than you around the holidays. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Donate food to a local shelter. Bake something nourishing for an elderly neighbor. In this way too, we are nourished by food. It is as much joy to share it as to
receive it.

Ammachi, Recipient of The United Nations "Gandhi Peace King Award," Humanitarian From Kerala, India. Feeding The Poor In The Slums Of Bangalore, India

"Let Us Love Winter, For It Is The Spring Of Genius." ~Pietro Aretino

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Your "Unsung Heroes"

"I'm fifty years ahead of my time" ~Joseph Pilates

In exercise/fitness circles the term "core" is thrown around a lot. Its almost overused in the sense that no one seems to know quite what the definition is anymore. Or, put another way, there are as many variety of notions as to what the "core" is as personal trainers, methodologies, and exercise physiologists.

As a climber the concept of core is a vital one. Its the powerhouse for all that I do to get up a route. Certainly balance, flexibility and strength are essential, but like rays of the sun, they emanate from a center. A central "generator" that allows power output to the appendages, when most needed.

Eastern wisdom, as demonstrated through the martial arts, has placed great emphasis on the core for thousands of years. It is said that every sparring movement has power if the center has power. This power source is termed "Hara" by the Japanese or the "T'an Tien" by the Chinese. Eastern philosophy states that the location of this power source is located approximately 3 finger-widths below the navel. In addition, women are said to have a second power source: the uterus. In Taoist alchemy this is said to give women great power, in that they are able to gestate and birth life.

Exercises have been honed throughout time to strengthen the core. From various yoga asanas (postures) to T'ai Chi and Chi Gong practices.

However, throughout the ages, modern voices have reminded us of the importance of the core. Two such pioneers are Joseph Pilates and Coach Greg Glassman.

This blog is a joint venture. Brought to you by two trainers from two backgrounds. I'm honored to co-blog this month with top "NIKE" Pilates trainer, Christine Binnendyk, author of "Ageless Pilates" http://agelesspilates.wordpress.com/about/

Christine Binnendyk, "NIKE" Pilates Instructor

As a certified fitness trainer, and avid student of "CrossFit," I'll share with you some "CrossFit" inspired exercises to strengthen your core.

Almine Barton, Licensed Acupuncturist, Certified Fitness Trainer

It is Christine's and my hope that the combined wisdom and knowledge that we share with you will inspire you to get in touch with this "central switchboard" of the body, so that it may serve you in all your athletic endeavors.

Something to make note of: "CrossFit" and "Pilates" are both very powerful. It is the wish of both Christine and I that you find a highly qualified trainer/coach to work with you with these exercises. This is particularly the case if you're recovering from any type of back, abdominal, pelvic or hernia injury and/or surgery.

Women have often heard that "Kegel Exercises" are important for OB/GYN health pre and post partum. Yes, we agree with this. But to target your "unsung heroes" (which we'll get to in a minute) will benefit you even more, because of their wide-spread influence upon not only the pelvic floor, but also the supporting muscles in your back (which can take a beating during pregnancy and childbirth).

When Christine and I sat down to talk about this blog we decided we wanted to put a spotlight on some "unsung heroes." What does that imply? That implies the intrinsic or supporting muscles of the core (not the main ones, such as the Rectus Abdominis, etc.). These intrinsic or "minor" muscles of the trunk are like black keys on the piano. Just as vital as the white keys, but less understood.

The other thing that should be pointed out, before we explore these amazing muscles is the difference in methodology between "CrossFit" and "Pilates." Both target the same muscles in different ways. Our advice is to do both. Why? Because in the spirit of balance, fast, anaerobic workouts are just as important to health as slow and controlled movements. You could think of them as yin/yang of one another. To train the body in a variety of capacities and modal domains is best. In the words of Coach Glassman "Train for the unknown." The "unknown" contains in life both qualities of controlled and slow, and fast and furious. You never know what you're going to get. Therefore, keep your body on "its toes" by mixing it up, & introducing new ways and speeds for it to move. If you train this way, you will rarely get injured. Your body will be prepared for the unknown, and have the ability to adapt to any given situation put before it. Whether its carrying someone in an emergency situation, treading water, or holding a static posture for a long period of time, you will be ready.

Which Muscles Are The "Unsung Heroes?"




Let's explore what Christine has to say about these crucial muscles, and how, from the "Pilates" method one can train them:

"When people think of Pilates, they often think of 'core exercises,' but Pilates training can be so much more. I like to work several muscles that are often ignored, simply because many people don’t know what they do or how they can supplement your training. Try working these three 'unsung muscle heroes' and you’ll experience a stronger core and reduced likelihood of many sports injuries."

This muscle lies just a bit below your armpit, hugging your side. It holds your shoulder in its sweet spot, so that you can support your body weight with your arms in a push up position. By training your serratus, you’ll learn to keep your shoulders down away from your ears and you’ll work your shoulder muscles evenly, rather than overburdening some and leaving others to atrophy.

Work your serratus with "Forearm Plank". Get down on all fours, then lower down to your forearms, placing your elbows under your shoulders. Drop those shoulders away from your ears, then step your legs back, as if you were going to do a push up. Lengthen your spine and draw your navel in. Hold this position for up to 60 seconds. Not hard enough? Lift a leg off the ground for 30 seconds, then switch. Too hard? Come down to your knees or do this move leaning against a wall.

Christine demonstrating the "Plank"

Ask a friend to take a look at you while you perform Forearm Plank. If your shoulder blades are poking up, that’s a sign that you’ve chosen a position that is too difficult for you to perform perfectly. Practice an easier version for a couple weeks, then try the more challenging version again.

These tiny muscles lie in between each rib, connecting them together into a natural corset. Untrained intercostals can mean less stability in your torso. Trained intercostals give you a tighter core, better posture and a "v" shape for your torso. These muscles also support your diaphragm and assist in building your breath capacity.

Work your intercostals with "Criss-cross". Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows wide. Twist your torso to the right, peeling your left shoulder blade off the floor. Twist until you can peek at your right elbow, but leave your hips flat on the floor. Slowly roll down and repeat to the other side. Alternate twists -- moving slooooowly – until you’ve performed 15 to each side.

Christine demonstrating the "Criss Cross"

These large muscles attach your ribs to your hips on the sides of your torso. They help you rotate and/or side bend. Untrained obliques can cause you to fatigue earlier when you run, hike or walk. Trained obliques support the cross-body torque that happens in every step you take.
Work your obliques with Twisting Roll Backs. Sit upright on a mat with your knees bent and your feet flat. Float your arms in front of you at shoulder height and pull your navel inward. Pretend that you’re going to reach for something behind you. Slowly lean back and twist to the right --- at the same time, bend your right elbow behind you and turn your head to the right. Then slowly return to your upright and forward-facing position. Keep your lower body still and maintain a straight spine throughout the movement. Don’t slouch or round your spine. Perform 15 twists to each side. Too hard on your back? Keep your spine upright. Too easy for you? Hold a hand weight or pull on a cable. Listen to your low back, though --- if you feel tension here, it means that your obliques can’t handle the load.

As a certified fitness trainer, I too, over the years, have found a love of training these muscles. Not only have I personally seen enormous gains in my own athletic pursuits, but have seen substantial progress in both training clients and sports injury patients. I bring a background of training under top "NIKE" trainer, Jeff Spurgeon, and have trained and treated some of the world's most elite athletes in a variety of disciplines.

Some of my favorite exercises to target these muscle groups should be done at a fast, anaerobic pace (for time), or as many reps. as you can do in a given time.

The "GHD Sit-Up"

Me demonstrating a "GHD Sit-Up"

One of the reasons why the "GHD Sit-Up" is a paramount staple of "CrossFit" core exercises is the powerful way it recruits the trunk. This is done in 2 ways that are unmatched by a regular sit-up:

1) The trunk moves from hyper-extension to full flexion, with negligible load (no crunch or "regular" sit-up comes close to this range of motion)

2) The role that the abs play in this specific type of sit-up is primarily isometric (they stabilize the torso from undue extension), which engages the core powerfully.

Coach Glassman states that "the most powerful, functional, and developmental contractions of the trunk are isometric, not isokinetic." This is achieved through the need for the core or trunk to stabilize the outward appendages (arms and legs).

It is important, when implementing GHD sit-ups in one's workout regime, that you initially have a spotter. This is to ensure that you safely come down to parallel without collapsing the core (developing sloppy intrinsic muscle engagement) from the get-go. A certified "CrossFit" coach is the best person for the job.

Many elite athletes cannot perform a proper GHD sit-up. Coach Glassman shares a story of how a Stanford University coach (who made a huge point of focus on core training with a "Swiss Ball") couldn't do one GHD sit-up: "When we got him on the GHD, he fell back off of the horizon, and couldn't get up. He had to be deadlifted back to horizontal, so weak was his intrinsic trunk muscles."

If one's core is weak, or recovering from injury, beginning with an "AbMat" and introducing the GHD later is advised, once more rudimentary strength has been increased.

The "L-SIT"

An "L-Sit" On Gymnastic Rings

The amount of core stabilization this exercise provides is un-matched. The picture speaks for itself. Within seconds your "unsung muscle heroes" will begin to burn in earnest. This exercise takes time to work up to, but is worth the effort. You may need to utilize a resistance band to "scale" up to working without one. This takes dedication, so be patient with yourself. The rings provide an unstable apparatus that provides the core extra work to stabilize the arms and legs.

Top "Black Diamond" boulderer, Christopher Schulte, told me that the only other thing he uses to cross-train for bouldering is gymnastic rings. They work every part of the body, but particularly focus on the trunk and its ability to stabilize the rest of the body. This is of the utmost importance when performing what's known in bouldering as "dynos," or dynamic

"Black Diamond" Athlete, Christopher Schulte

The "Overhead Squat"

Me demonstrating an "Overhead Squat"

The "Overhead Squat" is such a powerful movement. Not only is it a "burner" for the arms and legs, but the amount of intrinsic trunk muscle recruitment is amazing. Your core, when done properly, will begin to engage within seconds, and in this exercise too, you will "feel the burn" almost immediately.

Holding the weight overhead creates mandatory need for your trunk to recruit. It feels almost impossible to do a "sloppy job" of trunk stabilization here, because you have an awareness that you are holding weight above your head, and that this would be a bad idea.

Believe it or not, because of the "powerhouse" nature of this exercise, you are escorted to the final result through a 7-step process. This is how complicated a good Overhead Squat can be. You begin using a PVC pipe or a dowel (broomstick). The Overhead Squat is then broken down into steps or stages to be perfected. A certified "CrossFit" coach is of the utmost importance in learning a good Overhead Squat. You need a "mirror," or someone to watch your form, as you begin to feel in your body, and become accustomed to what proper form feels like. Then you will know when you're doing it properly, and when you're not.

Over time, you will work from a PVC pipe/dowel to a weight bar, with weight added to it, as you grow stronger. This is very rewarding to experience, because the day-to-day implications of what a good Overhead Squat can do for you is enormous. From putting luggage into an overhead compartment (that used to feel heavy, but no longer does because you've been doing your O.H. Squats) to proper posture, you will notice too many benefits to count.

As Coach Glassman says "Once developed, the Overhead Squat is a thing of beauty-a masterpiece of expression in control, stability, balance efficient power, and utility."

Christine and I hope this blog post has inspired you to begin exploring your "unsung heroes." The benefits will unfold in your life through avenues that you can't imagine. Remember to utilize a variety of methods, at varying speeds, across various modal training domains. This will ensure success. So what are you waiting for? Its time to hit the gym! :)

"We train our athletes to think of every exercise as an ab exercise, but in the lifts its absolutely essential to do so. Its easy to see when an athlete is not sufficiently engaging the abs in an overhead press-the body arches so as to push the hips, pelvis, and stomach ahead of the bar. Constant vigilance is required of every lifter to prevent and correct this postural deformation. The benefits are endless if this is achieved." ~Coach Greg Glassman

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

PALEO LIFESTYLE: The Key To Overall Wellness (Part 3 of the "Paleo Series")

"Now I See The Secret Of The Making Of The Best Persons. It Is To Grow In The Open Air, And To Eat And Sleep With The Earth." ~Walt Whitman

Stopping to do a 'lil yoga in the "Sisters Wilderness," with "South Sister" in the background (Aug. 2011)

Exploring the concept of "Paleo" is a new one. Why explore what "Paleo" means in our modern day? Because really its a call. A call to remember ancient ways that have been long forgotten. A call to remember our connection to the Earth & what sustains us. "Paleo" is much more than the food we eat, or the way we exercise. It is how we choose to walk on our planet.

In the last blog post of the "Paleo Series," I'll share with you some tips on how to "round out" the term "Paleo," so that it becomes a lifestyle for you, versus simply a diet. A diet anyone can follow. Yet, the way we obtain the food we eat for "The Paleo Diet" is just as important.

We have often heard that "organic" food is good for us. I think a better question to explore is what does participating in consuming organic food mean for the whole? How is choosing to vote with our dollars impacting something beyond our dinner plate?

"An Apple A Day Keeps The Doctor Away" (Me at "Cycle OR.", 2009)

"Organic" has become a household term. How many people really know what this means, or what the process is for a farm to go from "conventional" to "organic" standards?

Beautiful organic produce from a local farm, "Bend Farmers Market"

A great way to find out is to speak with your local farmers. This is easy to do at a farmer's market. The farmers are only too delighted to share with you stories of the hours spent growing and harvesting the food you are about to purchase. It is a way to feel a connection with your food. The alternative is getting into a "zone" at the grocery store. There is a misnomer in the American mind that our "food grows on store shelves." This is because we have become disconnected from what nourishes us. This metaphor has spilled into other areas of our lives as well.

Moroccan Market

In other areas of the world the local market is a time for comraderie, catching up on news with neighbors, and trade. It acts as a central hub for community. Food and community have always gone hand-in-hand until modern day. Communal meals, food-sharing, and family sit-down dinners were the norm. This is "Paleo Living." Paleo man, no doubt, shared the hunt around the fire. Community was not only necessary to keep the spirits up during time of famine, harsh weather and the like, but it was vital for survival. Safety was in numbers.

Ramadan In Mali

A larger sense of life, and the effects we have on the whole was also understood. Its not enough to just eat together. Understanding the nature of why this is paramount is the only thing that will keep these traditions alive. If we view ourselves as stewards instead of dominating nature, we may come to understand the importance of our dependence on it.

The Great Law Of The Iroquois Confederacy States:

"In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations."

This is "Paleo thinking." That we are interdependent. Our very survival depends on it. We are no different than our "Paleo" ancestors in this regard. In fact, during this time of technology, we may find that the human heart and a sense of community is needed now more than ever. Technology can be thought of as "neutral." Like money or water, its function lies in the intent of the one who holds it. Money can help people. It can also divide family and friendships. Water can destroy continents. Recent tsunamis and hurricanes have proven this. It can also heal and bring life to a nation in drought. Technology is an opportunity to bring us closer together. We have a world wide web now that allows us to share information in an instant. It can also make a person feel more isolated than ever.

"Pipeline," North Shore, Oahu

Here are a few simple guidelines you can follow to help make a difference:

-Shop organic & local
-Purchase meat that is grass-fed, humanely-raised
-Get to know your farmers
-Bring your own bags to the market
-Eat a communal and/or family meal at least 1x per week
-Feed your animals the way you would want to be fed
-Volunteer for a non-profit that works for a cause you feel passionate about
-Spend a holiday volunteering or donating to a soup kitchen
-Be an advocate of community gardens
-Speak up for clean rivers, oceans & waterways
-Visit other countries. This gives you a broader vision of life, customs, beliefs and compassion for the struggles of our global family.

We are at a crux. A fork in the road. Do we embrace the beneficial traditions of our ancestors? Traditions we've explored throughout this 3-part "Paleo Series." Or, do we choose to ignore ancestral ways of eating, relating and moving our bodies?

The choice is ours. Everyday. We get to choose health or decline. Community or isolation. Fresh, local produce or boxed corporate-made meals. Quality of life or convenience. The future will be shaped by our choices, and the next seven generations to come...

"If You Wish To Know The Book Of Nature, You Must Walk Its Pages With Your Feet." ~Paracelsus

Saturday, August 20, 2011

PALEO NUTRITION: The Key To Good Health (Part 2 of "The Paleo Series")

"A Healthy Body Is The Guest Chamber Of The Soul; A Sick One Is Its Prison." ~Francis Bacon

As of late "The Paleo Diet" has become all the rage. What is it? How can it help us? Why is a "caveman diet" relevant to us today? Ever since I can remember I've been fascinated by the topic of cultural longevity. This overlaps my fascination with archaeology, medical anthropology, epidemiology and exercise physiology. There are very basic and simple laws, which we all fall govern to: the laws of nature. No one can escape them. No one can refute them. They are impersonal, un-bias, and un-wavering. Yet, there are nuances and subtleties within these laws. You could liken this to the intricate veins of a leaf. One leaf, one snowflake is not like another. In other words, every snowflake is governed by nature's laws, yet each is unique. We too are like this. The "art" of being a medical provider is maintaining a "bird's eye view," or larger perspective, while examining the individual canvass of each person before him/her. This is the discipline, as the Chinese say. "See yin within yang, yang within yin." Easy to say, a challenge to be sure.

Let us get out on the table some questions I hear every week in my practice. "Is there one diet for everyone, Almine?" The answer is no. Do I think every single person on the planet should be on "The Paleo Diet." My answer is "No." I will say this, however. The broad sweeping "bird's eye view" on our culture is in need of it.

We are statistically the most obese nation in the world. This is not a badge to be proud of. It is a concern. In fact, former president Bill Clinton called it "an American health crisis unparalleled."

So, do I believe (and have seen clinically) that "The Paleo Diet" is a solid "prescription" for the majority of Americans? Yes. You will have the "outlier," who defies the "bell-shaped curve" of nutritional needs. As "CrossFit" founder, Coach Glassman calls them "The Specialist." However, that is not the demographic this post is addressing. It is addressing the "general athlete," & "average American."

When Dr. Loren Cordain, Ph.D. first expounded upon his research of "The Paleo Diet," as he termed it, he was "poo-pooed" by his fellow colleagues. "But, what about the fact that 'Paleo Man' only lived to be in his/her 40's (at the most)?" "What about the endurance athlete?" "What about the 'tried and true' theory of 'carb-loading?" All of these questions were fired over and over. His responses, however, fell on deaf ears. To be frank, the academic community did not embrace doctor Cordain's research. Until now.

An old adage states "A prophet is never honored in his/her own land." This is as applicable to modern scientists, as to sages of old. A friend of mine stated (whose a Quantum Physicist), "Quantum physics will be accepted when the old guys who cling to worn out theories are dead and gone. Only then will the latest research have minds open enough to grasp it." Moral of the story? It often takes years for a theory to become accepted.

"The Paleo Diet" is a wake-up call. What is it waking us up to? Ancestral wisdom. Perhaps we can be open enough to see that progress is not necessarily linear. For all our new "faux foods" ("faux" or imitation meats, milks, etc.) we're none the better for it. Our obesity rates continue to soar, & our preventable diseases continue to rise.

"The Paleo Diet" is really a practical application of the late Dr. Weston A Price's research (1870-1948), who was a forefather in the realm of Medical Anthropology. Dr. Price and his wife spent their latter years, traveling, studying what he termed "ancestral diets" amongst traditional peoples. We call this "historical nutrition" in Medical Anthropology. Dr. Price is known in Medical Anthropology circles as "The Charles Darwin Of Nutrition." An excerpt from a Medical Anthropology textbook (which was my "Bible" in undergrad.) states:

"Price traveled the world over in order to study isolated human groups, including sequestered villages in Switzerland, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, Eskimos and Indians of North America, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea Islanders, African tribes, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori and the Indians of South America. Wherever he went, Dr. Price found that beautiful straight teeth, freedom from decay, stalwart bodies, resistance to disease and fine characters were typical of primitives on their traditional diets, rich in essential food factors."

Seminole Native American studied by Dr. Price. Note the perfect teeth structure, jaw line and nasal passage openings. All indicators to Medical Anthropologists that give a clue as to excellent pre-natal nutrition of the mother, and a continuation of high fat-soluable vitamin intake.

"When Dr. Price analyzed the foods used by isolated primitive peoples he found that they provided at least four times the calcium and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins from animal foods such as butter, fish eggs, shellfish and organ meats."

It was Dr. Price's research that spurred Dr. Cordain to further investigate "Paleo Nutrition."

A fundamental difference you will see between Dr. Price's work and Dr. Cordain's work is the exclusion of dairy in "The Paleo Diet." Dr. Price was an advocate of raw, grass-fed dairy and its products (cheese, kefir, yogurt, butter, curds, etc.). Dr. Cordain is not.

My feeling on this? If one participates in one's own animal husbandry, and/or has access to raw, organic, grass-fed dairy, then try it. See how it does for your body. I see genetics come into play quite a bit with the dairy issue. I have a lot of French blood in me. I do well on raw, European sheep's and goat's cheeses. I allow myself a "cheat day" 1x per week, where I decadently eat the best French sheep and/or goat feta I can find. My body sees it as something special, and a rare treat. I digest raw feta well, but keep it to a minimum in my diet.

Dr. Cordain's argument for eliminating dairy is that the majority of the American people will not take the time to source, the high-quality dairy that Dr. Price saw amongst native peoples. I think he's accurate. That's not to say that its unavailable. It is available, but you have to mimic the practices of your ancestors by sourcing the "local dairy," and connecting with a small, family farm in your area. Luckily, this is becoming more and more easy to do. Through venues like farmer's markets and websites, in fact, its easier now than ever before. A good website to use as a reference for this is: http://www.realmilk.com/

If you look at people with genetics from Scandanavia, they tolerate high-fat dairy very well. Its how they obtain their vit. D in such a sun-deficient land. In fact, its necessary to their health. They do, however, count quality as priority in their dairy. Many of them keep one cow, and even ingest reindeer milk products (high-fat) to obtain the fat-soluable vitamins so vital that Dr. Price spoke of. Neurological disorders ensue, north of the equator the more north you go, and the less sunlight you see. This is of course, if you're not supplementing via animal fat products. Let me be clear: there is NO vegan equivalent for fat-soluable vitamins. You MUST OBTAIN IT FROM ANIMAL FAT. There is no chlorophyll and/or plant compound equivalent that makes up for "edible sunlight" in the form of vit. D.

Vit. D and A levels are highest in raw dairy, not to mention CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) being a bonus as well (the newly touted "anti-cancer miracle").

If you live north of the equator, or in an area that obtains little sunlight, in comparison to the tropics, you are doing your liver and immune system a disservice be eating a vegan diet. Vegan diets are wonderful "temporary fixes" for obesity. So is a low-carb diet. It doesn't provide adequate nutrition, however, for the growing child, pregnant mother, athletic woman or vital senior. Not even by a long shot. Take it from a "recovering vegan." My blood-work #'s while being a vegan for 5 yrs. are like night and day compared to them now. My primary care naturopath says I have the #'s of "the healthiest teenager I've ever seen." What turned them around? Eating good amounts of (gasp!) high-quality animal fat and protein via animal sources.

Concerned about the welfare of animals? You should be. If you're not you're eating unconsciously. I was a vegetarian for 10 yrs. (5 of those vegan) for ethical reasons. However, my diagnosis of obesity (yes, on a vegan "healthy" diet!) coupled with chronic fatigue (CFS) and fibromyalgia diagnosis got the better of me. This is when I was in my 20's. I realized I couldn't live like that anymore. I began to wonder "Whose suffering more here? The animals or me?" I wondered as I huffed and puffed up 1 flight of stairs, body aching the next day because of it. In earnest, with a sincere heart, I asked my meditation teacher "What do I do? I want to live an ethical life, but my body is hurting me." Her response (and she is a vegetarian from India):

"Suffering is a relative concept. If you alleviate the suffering in your own body, you will be stronger, so that you may inspire and help others. I understand your compassionate heart, but you must do what is right for your body, so that you can do your 'dharma' (role or mission) in this world. That is the most important thing. If your body requires you to eat meat to be strong and healthy, you should."

My meditation teacher, whom I met in 1995, Mother Meera

My husband and I take painstaking care to source our grass-fed meat from small family farms in our area. Factory farming has no place in our household. We don't advocate cruelty. Nor do we support it. Large agri-conglomerates are stamping out the rural family farm. A family farm, with 2-4 livestock animals has become a thing of the past. "Monsanto" has put fear into the hearts of multi-generation family farms to succumb to the corporate structure of farming, thereby creating un-sanitary, cruel, and un-savory conditions for animals to live in. In addition, consider this: when an animal (or a human being) is under long-periods of stress, cortisol, our "fight or flight" hormone is released in large quantities into the blood stream. This actually compromises meat quality, and thereby nutrition. A happy animal, is a power-packed nutrition source. Clean air, grass, sunshine and kindness will in fact nourish your body more, by way of a happy animal. A relaxed cow, is a nutrient-dense cow. We are no different. When we're stressed our health quality is poor. All creatures are governed by this law.

Poor conditions for animals in factory-farms leads to poor-quality meat, and inhumane treatment of animals.

By voting with your dollars, and supporting small family farms, you are doing an immense amount of good. You're not only supporting local families, your ingesting high-quality food that will nourish your body whole.

Content, free-ranging cows in the Swiss Alps

While it is true that certain periods of athletic activity require higher glycemic carbohydrates, you may be surprised as to the amount that you need. The "carb loading" theory, that endurance athletes have seldom questioned, has its "holes." When looking at the level of importance amino acids play in endurance events vs. carbohydrates, you may reconsider which is more needed. Amino acids come from protein. Think having a piece of toast vs. an egg before a race is more beneficial? Think again. There IS a time to increase carbohydrates during a racing event, but it might shock you as to when you should take them and quantity. This is something that has to be carefully examined and "tweaked" by coach, athlete and medical provider. This is a delicate process, not unlike a spider web. Each strand of the athlete's nutrition has to be properly accounted for and taken into consideration.

When you begin to look at the nutrition needs of the Adventure Racing athlete, or those doing such physical events like an "Eco-Challenge" or ultra-run, then we're getting into the realm of "The Specialist," or "Outlier," where other issues must be taken into consideration. This too, is taken into account, by Dr. Cordain's second book "The Paleo Diet For Athletes." I HIGHLY recommend all endurance athletes and coaches read this book. It will answer all your questions in great detail.

With the agricultural revolution came the industrial revolution, hot on its heels. As we began to understand how we could manipulate the laws of nature, this created a "ripple effect" of consequences. We began to gain power and control over not only the seed itself (with patents on seeds!), but also realized we could "create" food. This began the advent of "boxed meals." You may think that rice milk or soy milk is much better than a "Lean Cuisine," but think again. You're drinking predominately refined carbohydrates, and unnecessary ones at that. A statement that bluntly drives home this point was once told to me by the great herbalist, Susan Weed: "If it doesn't have breasts, it doesn't make milk. Period."

Here's how you need to consider boxed meals: they are products where "filler" agricultural remnants go. Where the "waste" of agriculture ends up. Its the food equivalent of "fluff" or styrofoam "peanuts." Very little, if any nutritional value.

As "The Zone" diet advocates: stick to the perimeter of your grocery market. Perishable items are usually a safe bet. The ratio of fats/protein/carbs. in these products tend to be the way Mother Nature wanted it. Not manipulated by man.

In addition, I would recommend game meats vs. agricultural meats, if given a choice. Find a neighbor in your area who ethically hunts (takes only whats needed for neighbors and family, practices humane hunting methods). Game meats are more nutrient-dense than agriculturally raised meat. Buffalo, elk, venison, rabbit, various game fowl are good choices.

The Greeks and Romans Had A Name For Their Hunting Patron, "Artemis" or "Diana" The Huntress :)

When eating seafood take the time to talk to the people behind the front counter. They can tell you what is on the endangered list. "Whole Foods" provides a "key" or "legend," which is on each type of fish sold telling you about its eco-sustainability rating.

An Inuit Man Ice Fishing In Alaska

In addition to game meats, I would like to recommend emphasizing organ meats as the primary protein/amino acid source in the diet. Quality counts here, and organic is imperative, unless you want to ingest the main "filter" of the animal's body, where all the anti-biotics, pesticides, etc. go. Organ meats are virtually powerhouses of amino acids. Its a no wonder the old school "strongmen and women," as they were called in Europe (the warriors of the Celts & Sparta) ate nothing but organ meats, berries and fruit. Annals say they trained on organ meats alone.

When the first white settlers came to Tanzania and Kenya they encountered the Maasai. Fierce, warriors, "superior physical specimens of unparalleled athleticism," one priest wrote in his diary. Oddly enough, he also touted them as "heathens" for drinking blood mixed with raw cow's milk and eating liver. I wonder how they got so "superior" and "athletic?" That's a menu of 100% amino acids, protein, mixed with the proper ratio of carbs. and fats.

My brother had the opportunity to participate in this culinary experience with them, when in Africa. He stated you saw no declining health in these people. The women carried heavy loads across miles (with their children on their backs as well), while the men hunted lion (yeah, that might take some "athleticism") and game during the day. Cows are very important to their culture, and they prepare them by ethical culling. In other words, they kill them in a kosher manner: they aim accurately for the most "vulnerable area of the jugular" & swiftly blow a dart into the cow. The cow painlessly dies within seconds.

Maasai Warrior, Kenya

After discussing some of the finer points of "The Paleo Diet" we can sum it up in few words. Coach Glassman founder of "CrossFit" states simplistically:

"Base your diet on garden vegetables, especially greens, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar."

To reduce high-glycemic carbohydrates, increase protein and amino acid dense foods, and decrease boxed items will be, in and of itself, of huge benefit to anyone. Try to do these simple things, and you will notice a remarkable increase in health, vitality and fitness. To be fit and healthy is to be strong, so that you can help others. When one lights their own candle, they can then, in turn, light others. Support local farmers. Eat consciously. Move outside. Feel gratitude.

Backpacking Through The "Sisters Wilderness," Middle Sister In The Background

Thursday, July 14, 2011

PALEO FITNESS: The Key To Athletic Longevity (Part 1 of "The Paleo Series")

"Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the lion or it will not survive. Every morning a lion wakes up and it knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn't matter if you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be running." ~African Proverb

Paleolithic man. The image conjures up brute cave people...nomadic, moving from forest dwelling to dwelling. Who were they? What were their lives like? Did they leave the modern world with any clues as to how to unlock our own potential?

During my undergraduate years of pursuing a degree in Medical Anthropology, I was exposed to these very questions. Year after year, from India to the Amazon, from the rainforests of the Maya to the Celtic coastlines, I sought the answers to these queries.

Amongst temples, towering over the forest canopy to ancient stone ruins, I sought the expertise of scholars who probed archaeological remains for clues to our past. Two highlights of my academic career: working with Geo-Physicist, Gregg Braden (who edited my B.A. thesis for me) and interning with Dr. Cynthia Robbins (U. of Pennsylvania), head of the Maya "Xunantunich" archaeology project on the border of Guatemala and Belize. These two brilliant scientists had a lens on our ancient past that few have had the privilege to view. Working with both of them, throughout my academic years, was an unimaginable treat for me.

"Xunantunich," where I completed part of my undergraduate research, outside of Succotz Village, Belize

As I began to wonder at the sheer genius of subjects such as archaeo-astronomy, Mayan calendrics, and the architecture of the ancients, I began to ponder what their daily lives were like. Granted, depending on culture, environment, food/water sources, etc. it varied from continent to continent, but there were underlying themes which were woven throughout all cultures that I had the opportunity to study.

It mattered not, whether I was studying with the Quechua natives abiding on the floating islands of "Lake Titicaca," Peru (16,300 ft.), or the Celtic coastal fisherman, inhabiting sea-level villages along the British Isle coastline. Underlying primal needs were a necessity. Physical exertion was part of having those needs met to ensure survival. A "lazy" person amongst the tribe was not tolerated. Water needed to be carried, foraging and gathering to occur, and the hunt to feed the entire village was not optional.

Current Medical Anthropology states that "The average Paleo ancestor walked/hiked/ran up to 9 miles daily to complete life tasks." Pushing, pulling, lifting, hauling, squatting, climbing, crawling, jumping, all these were functional movements that were used, in one capacity or another, to assure survival for the whole. These movements were executed, according to Medical Anthropology experts, at high-intensity for short bursts of time. In other words, what we term "anaerobic exercise" today.

Man Climbing Tree In The South Pacific For Coconuts

Anaerobic exercise has been, up until recently, the "neglected orphan" of the exercise world. Why? Perhaps its because its difficult. Perhaps its because our culture has become "cardio crazed." Regardless, anaerobic activity is a vital necessity for any type of long-term athletic training for modern man. Our ancestors lived in a nomadic way. Sprint running after game, running away from being game, and the like were all necessary components of day-to-day existence. Modern man likes what is termed LSD types of exercise: "Long Slow Distance." Is this a "bad" thing? Of course not. But, from an anthropological perspective, there were very few members of a tribe that were allotted the role of being "messenger" or the "pony express" across vast distances. In other words, the majority of tribe members got their daily exercise through functional, anaerobic movements, combined with intermittent distance walking or hiking for water or food. There were 1-3 people (depending on the size of the population) that were given the task of carrying messages throughout the kingdom, to neighboring tribes, or to make far-reaching announcements.

Today, with modern science and technology, any individual can train to become an ultra-runner, or endurance athlete. This is an amazing exercise physiology phenomenon. One that has never been seen before historically. However, along the way, anaerobic exercise was a bit forgotten. Thanks to exercise outfits such as "CrossFit," P90x, and an emphasis on interval training and plyometrics, we are beginning to understand the relevance of it. We are realizing the need for our body's metabolism to train like our ancestors.

Alaskan Inuit Walrus Hunting

When we delve into the world of the human need for movement, we find common denominators the world over. There are fundamental movements that are necessary for life to continue. We call these, in modern day, "functional movements." Do you think of a deadlift as a "macho" thing to do? Does it sound a little too "Gold's Gym" for you? Think that sounds "hardcore?" The reality is you deadlift everyday. Whether its picking up your child, the groceries, or loading something into your car, the capacity to move loads across a distance is of vital importance. In other words, these movements: pushing, pulling, climbing, jumping, crawling, squatting, run-sprints, lifting, rolling, etc. should be considered the "ABC's" or fundamentals of any exercise regime. They will only make your favorite sport of choice that much stronger. Why? There is something in our genetics that says that these movements perpetuate ongoing survival of the species. They are "familiar" to our bodies, no matter where you live in the world. They could be considered "common denominator" movements.

Maasai Jumping Contest

To execute functional movements, at high intensity, for short bursts of time is even better. It keeps your metabolism "on its toes" to where your body recognizes its time to move into a "hyper" state of fitness.

It has been said, by exercise physiologists and medical anthropologists, that the Maasai tribe have "some of the strongest knees the world has seen." Vertical movement, executed at high intensity (see previous blog post on "Knee Health") is one of the most powerful and healing movements one can do to strengthen and/or heal the knees, and supporting lower limb muscle groups. It is a no wonder that NBA coaches fly to Kenya and northern Tanzania to recruit potential future star basketball players. Generation after generation of Maasai have been jumping for health, to participate in cultural ritual, and to assure continuation of tradition.

The infamous Maya ball court games: Deadly. Political. Tradition. The ball court was the "leveling field" of political dispute. Only the most skilled, and trained warriors of the classic Maya era had the last say at the end of the game. This was a match over kingdoms and commerce. The contestants saw themselves as the most elite and physically fit specimens of their people. "The sport of kings," as its been referred to in historical texts.

What little information we have of the warrior-athletes who participated in such a pivotal political "game" of strength and will is a testament to functional fitness. Run-sprints, at high intensity, up and down the ball court, along with long jumps and high jumps have been indicated in records. To be able to run, at high speed, with the ball, or to block the ball (such as in soccer) was of utmost importance. The stakes were high. Winning could not be considered optional. Kingdoms, crops, temples, and trade were all at stake. The team that lost didn't get the opportunity to say "Good Game" to one another at the end. Fitness was paramount. Their very lives, and the lives of their loved ones, depended on it. Training was everything.

Maya Ball Court Game

Fitness, in eras gone by, was rarely utilized for just enjoyment. It had to be maintained to survive. We now have the modern luxury of "enjoying" our runs. We can run with no other reason in mind, other than to feel the wind on our face. The majority of the time we're not hunting for food, or being chased. We aren't obligated to remain fit to survive the way "Paleo" man was. This is both a pro and a con. The pro? We get to experience the way our bodies move for the sheer bliss of being alive in them. The con? A hypnotic "web" of laziness has ensued amongst industrial nations that we're now paying the price for. This is the first time in history that parents are outliving their children. The national obesity crisis, in the U.S., has reached an all-time high. Doctors are now stating that 90% of disease is preventable through healthy lifestyle habits. Yet, the fast-food eating crisis has put out a subliminal message the across the globe: you don't need to hunt or gather food anymore. Sit back, and we'll take care of it all for you.

Poster From The Movie "Super-Size Me"

You may not need to hunt or forage for food any longer, but your body still has the need to train like it does. Genetics and ancestory change little over time. Your body still has the same functional fitness needs as your ancestors...and their ancestors before them. All the way back to the first inhabitants.

To train against the cultural lethargy of sedentary living and working environments is a mental discipline. It is one that cannot be ignored. Not if good health, and quality of life, is to be maintained. To move into a state of deliberate athleticism is the next level of fitness.

"CrossFit" gives 10 basic principles that should be utilized in any high-intensity, functional fitness program. They are:

10 Elements of Fitness

"According to the "Crossfit" ethos, there are 10 components of fitness. All of these points can be trained, while some of them are more down to genetics and god given ability. All the more reason to Train Your Weaknesses. Hammer the things you can, the things you don't want to, and often!" -Coach Glassman, Founder of "CrossFit"

1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance- The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.

2. Stamina - The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.

3. Strength - The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.

4. Flexibility - The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.

5. Power - The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.

6. Speed - The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.

7. Coordination - The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.

8. Agility - The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.

9. Balance - The ability to control the placement of the body's center of gravity in relation to its support base.

10. Accuracy - The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.

Here are a few picture examples, illustrating above "CrossFit" principles and functional movements:









"Paleo Fitness" means that you pretend you still have the need to maintain the above listed 10 elements of physical fitness, even though our society doesn't live a "primitive" or "paleo" lifestyle. It means to consider the ways of our ancestors, and how their survival mechanisms have allowed us all to get to where we are today; to be here at this moment. Obviously, they did something right. They were "hardy" enough to withstand ages of living amongst harsh environments. Just because we have a remote control in our hand doesn't mean we can't benefit from lessons of the past.

"Paleo" means to consider the natural world, and its inhabitants. Observe the animals in your surrounding eco-system. Take note of the functional movements they employ for survival. Mimic those. Get in touch with the world around you (literally) by climbing trees, rocks and boulders. Jump in the tall grasses, swim in the vast lakes. Run trails, up them, down them, explore them. Hike your surrounding areas foothills. Move your body in as many ways as possible. Vary intensity and terrain. Relish in the amazement of your body, and all the varied ways it can move...up, down, all around. Most of all, enjoy this beautiful planet that we live on, like its the first time you've ever see it. Ponder the ways a child explores his/her environment. Wonder, excitement and curiosity permeate every cell of their being. To be alive is the greatest miracle of all.