Author Archives: Tamas Acs
Author Archives: Tamas Acs
There’s been numerous news stories of cross fit causing physical injuries. Heck YouTube is full of videos depicting the opposite of correct form with Cross Fit “athletes”. What are the pros and cons of CrossFit and how can one physically prepare themselves to avoid injury and risking being out of it for a long time?
There are quite a few pros of CrossFit:
a) It’s great for conditioning and pushing yourself to your limits and breaking through them (when done at the level that matches your current abilities)
b) It’s fun! What else is there to say? Throwing weights around and beating your previous best is always a good time.
c) It has an excellent support network. Your peers will cheer you on and support you
d) It uses compound movements (what our bodies were meant to do) working the body through a full range of motion
e) It consistently varies the skilled movements, eliminating boredom and adaptation
The main cons are:
a) Insufficient assessment of the athlete’s abilities. Some trainers are great about this, they have a set number of 1 on 1 sessions which new members must perform before they can join a class
b) Members wanting to increase their intensity before their skill levels are sufficient – so this comes down to good trainers doing their due diligence in prescribing exercises toat match a trainee’s skill level
c) The exercises are explosive and require high level skills, creating a steeper learning curve
d) One size fits all methodology (except for some trainers who do take past injuries, health histories and skill levels into consideration)
Now, let me get to the point of this post. Here are some steps you can take to prepare your body for the highly skilled, power movements that CrossFit uses:
Know where you’re at:
1) Get a full musculoskeletal assessment done – this will correctly arm you with the information about where you stand right now. What your dominant muscles are, what muscles or muscle groups are “sleeping” or “lazy”, what compensates, whether your lumbar, thoracic and cervical spines have the needed range of motion in all three planes to be able to perform explosive movements. This will give you a snapshot of your current abilities and a starting point for what type of corrective exercises you’ll need to be able to perform at your maximal level.
2) Get a postural assessment done – Knowing if your body is aligned correctly will save you endless hours in the gym (it will also save you from pain.) The body has great adaptability and will compensate for sub optimal posture by favouring dominant muscles thereby increasing the severity of the imbalance over time. This is totally under the radar with every day activities. The real problem of an out of balance body begins when you start loading it with weight and complex movement patterns. It compounds when you add high speed, explosive power moves for high repetitions, under fatigue. Sounds like CrossFit matches all of those.
3) Get a movement pattern assessment done – Being able to squat, lunge, bend and so on is great, being able to do all those at the optimal level is where weekend warriors get separated from high level athletes. When you’re loading the bar, hoisting heavy weights overhead, the last thing you want to worry about is dominant quads, unstable pelvis or tight ankles. All of which are indicators of an injury waiting to happen (unless they’re corrected.)
4) Get your nutrition and lifestyle assessed – Since every cell in our body is generated from the foods we eat, our hormone levels are greatly affected by our lifestyle, it would make sense to have a baseline of both our nutrition and lifestyle. In order to recuperate fastest from any type of exercise, we must optimally nourish ourselves. When you work out, you break down muscle tissue. Your body needs protein to repair and regenerate your muscle tissue. It needs high quality fats to regulate hormones (which in turn affect your mood and energy levels.) Carbohydrates are also needed for energy but how much depends greatly on the individual. There are also food sensitivities that might hinder your performance and ability to safely do certain movements. All of this needs to be taken into consideration before you begin CrossFit workouts to prevent possibilities of injuring yourself and being out of the gym for months.
Prepare your body by making it injury proof:
5) Address the imbalances found in the above 4 points, by adhering to a corrective program (4 – 6 weeks depending on findings) that addresses the imbalances, strengthens you, gets you into optimal movement patterns and arms you with nutrition and lifestyle habits you can count on to save you from hurting yourself.
Without taking care of the foundation and thoroughly assessing your current physical abilities, lifestyle and nutrition, you and your CrossFit coach are, at best, guessing what to do. We are all built differently and have different abilities and skill levels, keep that in mind before performing what everyone else is doing.
Have you ever been injured exercises? How long were you out for and what did you do to rehabilitate yourself?
We get over 100 times more stress in our lives than our grandparents did and they’re only a generation before us. We have cellphone towers everywhere for a massive and constant dose of EMF, our e-mails come in on our phones, texts beeping. You must be available whether for family or work, for “emergencies”. 20 years ago, wireless communication was rare. Car phones were only for the select few who felt important. Heck, computers were hard to find in offices, let alone in people’s homes. Watch a movie made before 1990 and you’ll notice how computers are missing from desks in offices.
On top of technology, we have added pollution to deal with. More and more chemicals are being added to our drinking water to make it “safe”. Safe from what? You guessed it, safe from the debris and waste, companies pour into our waters. Our human waste also goes right back into our waters which needs to be treated with more chemicals. Sadly our drug (also called medicine) consumption has gone through the roof, just in the last 40 – 60 years. Studies show birth control pills, antibiotics and other drugs showing up in our already treated and filtered waters. Then there are the agricultural chemicals that grow our vegetables and fruits in record times for higher yields. Sadly these fruits and vegetables can only contain minerals that they were given rather than the myriad of minerals and trace minerals they would get from a healthy soil.
The point of the above paragraphs is merely to illustrate what extra stressors our generation is dealing with. I could write pages and pages of examples but I’m sure the above will suffice (and some of you have already stopped reading.)
Our central nervous system has no idea whether stress comes from an angry, big, muscular and salivating tiger chasing us, scorching heat with no shade in sight, a hacked website which is our livelihood, a realistic horror movie, lack of adequate and regenerative sleep or the foods we eat to which we’re sensitive without us even knowing. To our system, it’s all the same, it needs to produce more stress hormones to deal with it all and our bodies go into self preservation mode. Ok so you must be asking, what does all this have to do with weight loss????! Let me tell you.
We all have our own “comfort zone”. Where our body feels safe because it’s been there for a long time. It’s become the norm. If you’ve been overweight for a few months/years, your comfort zone is being overweight, if you’ve been underweight, your comfort zone is there. When we have an over abundance of stress, our bodies gravitate towards that which it knows. If you drastically cut your food intake, your body will initially react by dropping a few pounds, then it adapts and slows down those initial gains. If you increase the amount of exercise you do, you’ll get the same initial drop and your body adapts to that as well and becomes more and more efficient at using energy (becoming a very efficient furnace) and keeps everything it can. This is why doing endless hours of cardio rarely gets people lean unless the lifestyle factors also match the efforts.
If there’s anything our bodies need is optimal stimulus for the desired outcome. Too much will backfire on us and too little will produce abysmal results. So the answer is balance. If you have a stressful day, adding more stress to it by pushing your body beyond its limits will shut down progress. Same goes for the opposite (which rarely happens in our western culture) if you sleep all day and fail to give your body enough stimulus to make progress, it will also stagnate.
Awareness plays a really big role in finding the right balance for each of us. Knowing when we’re doing too much or doing too little is priceless. The good news is most of us already aware of the signals our bodies give us except we choose to either ignore them or misunderstand them. For example when you hit the wall between 2 – 4 pm, the first thing you’re probably thinking is you need coffee (or a coke/pepsi, or a red bull or a muffin, or a donut…) because in the past when you had one, you got a jolt of energy and could go on. Rarely do we think to investigate the preceding events and the cause of that slump. Could what we had (or forgot to have) for lunch caused the low energy? How about going a little further back in time, breakfast? Maybe our sleep the night before (too little, too much, too restless or maybe we woke up to go to the bathroom…) All of the above could cause low energy and when you combine and stack them, you’re almost asking for it. The problem is, we often know at first and will only do it this once, then the next time comes around and the third and before you know it, it becomes a habit.
OK, I can hear you thinking, “Enough about the doom and gloom! What can I actually do to maximize my weight loss efforts?!?!”
The first step is always getting honest with yourself. Are you doing everything possible to reach your goals?
Here are 8 tips you can do daily (consistency is KEY) to reach your goals:
1) Get to bed early – the biggest bang for your buck is to be sleeping by 10:00pm (latest 10:30pm) every night
2) Get your bedroom to be as dark as possible – this helps lower stress hormones that cause restless sleep
3) Remove all electronics, lamps, cell phones and so on from at least 3 feet from your bed in all directions (unplugging everything) – to lessen the electromagnetic radiation (stress) you get while you sleep. This will allow deeper and more restful rest as well
4) Get hydrated! – The best source of hydration is through your food (raw foods contain easily absorbable fluids) the next best thing are broths that are full of minerals that allow the absorption of water, freshly juiced vegetables are also great to keep you hydrated and aid your digestion. Drinking straight water is my least favourite way of getting hydrated, simply because water on its own, without proper electrolytes just goes right through the body. When you drink water, make sure you put a pinch of sea salt or squeeze some lemon juice or lime juice in it to make it more absorbable. Dehydration is another form of stress that prevents you from losing weight.
5) Exercise the appropriate amount for your daily stress levels. If you had a really stressful day, projects were due, big presentation, calls, meetings or what have you, the last thing you want to do is beat yourself up physically at the gym. This would be a great opportunity to do some gentle restorative yoga, Tai Chi or meditation. Practicing slowing down your breathing and allowing your body to catch up with the stresses of the day. It will thank you by shedding the unwanted storage (fat.)
6) Avoid eating grains – Unfortunately today’s grains are far from grains from our grandparents’ grains. They’ve been crossbred, genetically modified, sprayed, grown with harsh chemicals, washed with acid and fumigated all in the disguise of our benefit. The truth is, they are done to improve yield and extend shelf life. Regardless, the human body has no natural way of processing grains, they’re very hard and time consuming to digest, therefore it becomes more of a stressor in the body
7) Eat at least 50 grams of protein by noon and avoid carbs in the mornings – 50 grams of protein is roughly 8 oz of meat (beef, chicken, fish) or you can have a 4oz piece of meat with 4 eggs. Avoiding carbohydrates (yes, even fruit and fruit juices) in the morning and having mostly meat and fat (fat being old fashioned butter or coconut oil) will ensure a steady level of energy throughout the day
8) Supplement with high quality fish oils – Due to the media hyping low fat diets for the last 40+ years, we’ve been getting less and less high quality omega 3 in our diets. This is essential in keeping our weight stable and our cells strong and able to withstand the daily stress they’re dealt.
The more of the above you can implement, the faster and healthier you’ll reach your weight goals.
What other tips do you have that have worked for you? Share them below in the comments.
On December 4th, 2006 while completing HLC 2 in Vista California at the CHEK Institute, Paul Chek challenged us to a Tai Chi Gong. Which meant doing a specific Tai Chi movement for at least 10 minutes with a Tai Chi Ruler for 100 consecutive days. He warned us to only accept the challenge if we were serious about it, at which point, he would seal our commitment by signing and dating our Tai Chi Rulers. It took me a bit to convince myself through some self talk but decided to accept it. He then signed and dated my Tai Chi ruler and the challenge was on!
I was really curious whether I could make it to 100 consecutive days. The rules were, if you missed a day, you’d start all over from day 1, even if you completed 99 days up to that point. Well, according to the trusty date to date calculator on timeanddate.com, today marks day 2000 since the first day of the challenge and at 6:16am this morning, I completed my 2000th consecutive daily Tai Chi Ruler active meditation.
A few friends coaxed me to make an announcement of it and celebrate it (oh and I so easily give into peer pressure, as those of you who know me well will attest to how sarcastic that statement is.) But this time I gave in so here it is. I did it!
I learned quite a bit about myself through these 2000 days (or 5 years, 5 moths and 22 days for a different perspective.) Whether I had discipline and resolve to begin with or built them through this process is up for debate. I do want to thank Paul for introducing me to such a cool and easy way to get into a meditative state consistently.
I calmed down mentally, emotionally and in general. I take things a lot lighter now and have a much broader perspective on things.
I am more aware of pretty much everything around me. I can feel myself get triggered and shift it before I make a mountain out of a mole hill. I can also take the cues from my intuition a lot easier than I was able to beforehand. I often find myself making decisions without knowing why but they ended up being a great choice. (like on a warm sunny day before going into a store, I decided to fully roll up my windows on a whim – rather than leave them open a tad for the circulation like I normally would – then, when I came out there was a torrential downpour out of nothing.)
I learned to connect with my breath and can now breathe MUCH deeper, slower and easier.
With clients, somehow, I just know the right questions to ask at the right time that seem to make a major shift in that moment.
I wish I could pinpoint that this all suddenly happened right after day 47 when I saw a flash of light in my mind’s eye, or on day 897 when I slipped in my friend’s bathroom in Connecticut and hit my head on the toilet bowl causing me to see an image of what I now call the flux capacitor or on day 1562 when I stood on the beach of Mazatlan and a seagull descended on my shoulder (this is straight from my imagination btw). The boring truth is, I likely got these “super powers” through the accumulation of my daily Tai Chi Ruler practice.
I’ve done this movement at all hours of the day in many cities, countries, and continents, hotel bathrooms, cruise ship decks, on beaches, on rocks, in hotel stairwells at 5am while everyone else was still sleeping in the room, in forests, while as a guest in friends’ homes. All over the United States, from California to New York and New Hampshire, lots of times here in Toronto, Canada, in Mexico on both the east and west coasts, on the CHEK Cruise in 2007, in Croatia by the Adriatic Sea, in Hungary while visiting and I’m sure I’m forgetting other places. I only shared day 1000 with my good friend Kyle Shay (whom I incidentally met at that HLC 2 class in Vista back in 2006.) I happened to be in Krka National Park in Croatia when I sent a txt to Kyle, to let him know day 1000 was conquered. It was August 29th, 2009., 9:32am local time (yes I did just go through my txt history to find that exact date/time.)
Long story short, 2000 days of active meditation have come and gone. Where did time fly?
What have you learned about yourself while completing your Gong?
Now that the weather is getting warmer here in Toronto (Spring is finally here!) more and more people are peeling away the layers they wore for the last 6 months (although we’ve had an unusually warm winter.) The coats are no longer covering our backsides and I can see more people heading outside to enjoy the sunshine. As a holistic exercise coach and trainer, one of the “curses” of the position is that I see dysfunction easily. Like a car mechanic can tell what’s wrong with a car’s engine just by hearing the different sounds it makes, I can see what muscles are weak and what muscles are overworking just by one’s movement. Lately I’ve noticed an alarming number of dysfunctional hip movements. Most of the time it comes down to weakness of the glutes. It’s like what should be muscles, have turned into wet noodles in people’s pants. No wonder they’re unable to stabilize the pelvis and cause back pain overtime.
The best way to avoid letting your butt sag inside your favourite jeans and setting you up for injury is to strengthen and tone your glutes. Let’s get rid of all the excuses of “I have no time to go to the gym” or “I feel so out of place in a gym” or “Group classes take forever” or “I hate running”. None of that matters. You can do these three exercises in the comfort of your own home.
They require absolutely no preparation or set up. The only equipment you’d need is a chair, a step, or a few books (either will work to get the same effect and result)
Complete them in succession with no rest in-between them. Once you’ve finished one circuit, rest 30 to 60 seconds and do it again. Starting off with 2 circuits will be plenty for the long time out of shape (literally) butt. As it’s starting to shape up, you will want to increase the number of circuits and decrease the rest between them.
Start up with Hip Hikes
1) Hip Hikes
After 12 – 15 reps per side, jump right into Wide Stance Squats with Hands behind your head:
2) Wide Stance Bodyweight Squats with hands behind head
3) Single Leg Supine Hip Extensions
Do these daily for 3 weeks and report back on the firmness of your tush and the increased stability of your pelvis in the comments below.
One major obstacle I see over and over that keeps clients from achieving their desired outcomes is poor digestion and assimilation of their food.
Regardless of how nutritious what you put in your mouth is (biodynamic, organic, fresh, raw), it still comes down to what you actually assimilate and are able to a) turn into new cells, b) use to repair damaged cells or c) use for energy.
Here are a few tips you can do with slight modifications to your current routine:
1) Chew your food thoroughly!
2) Drink 250ml to 500ml (1-2 cups) of filtered water 15 – 30 minutes before eating a meal
3) Start your meals with something raw (salad or vegetables)
4) If you can find, natural, organic and low sodium pickled vegetables, eat them with your meals
5) Avoid drinking water or any other liquid while you eat (soups are an exception, they’re already food)
6) Avoid drinking water or other liquids for 90 minutes (hour and a half) after you finish your meal
7) Eat when calm and set uninterrupted time aside for eating
8) Pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods and avoid eating things to which you maybe sensitive
Follow this protocol before each of your 3 main meals.
For long term digestive system health, I suggest increasing friendly bacteria in the gut through food. If you can tolerate them, high quality yoghurt and kefir are excellent at replenishing your gut flora (a MUST during/after taking antibiotics in any quantities).
Ideally you’d ferment your own (using cultures that are available in stores or better yet, from friends who already do their own fermenting) otherwise you want to get the plain (non-flavoured) variety. Once manufacturers add flavour to anything, the quality of the product goes down. You can add your own flavour by mixing in your favourite berries or jam.
The two brands of apple cider vinegar I recommend are:
The yoghurt/kefir brand that I would recommend is:
What tips do you have to share with others to improve digestion even further?
Is your recovery from an injury or surgery too slow? Have you wondered how some people can bounce back from an injury or even surgery quickly? That’s because they’re feeding their bodies what it needs to repair, rebuild and regenerate itself.
To accelerate healing, your best bets are consuming relatively large quantities of protein. The easiest building blocks for our bodies to turn into human cells are protein from animal sources. Things like fish, meat and eggs. A good rule of thumb is to get at least 50 grams of protein into your body by noon (from real food). 50 grams of protein is roughly 228 grams of meat (or 7 – 8 eggs depending on their size.)
Another really good source of a muscle, bone, tendon, cartilage and skin tissue rebuilder is gelatin. Bone broth is an excellent way to consume gelatin because it comes with a host of other beneficial nutrients. Here are recipes for Chicken Broth, Beef Broth and Fish Broth. For a supplement form of gelatin, I would recommend the products from the Great Lakes Gelatin Company.
Vegetable broths are full of organ healing minerals as well.
Both types of broths also aid in improving digestion, which is a must for us to be able to absorb the nutrients from what we eat. There’d be no point in eating high quality food without being able to synthesize and utilize the nutrients in them. A very good way to ensure proper digestion is through eating fermented foods (sauerkraut, beet kvass, kefir, yogurt – non flavoured is the key, since it has the least additives). Taking high quality probiotics will also heal your gut flora, protecting you from microbes and helping you absorb nutrients from what you eat. The brands I would take myself are Dr. Ron’s Friendly Flora, Bio-Kult and Innate Response’s probiotics.
(I have no financial interest in any of the brands I recommend. They’re what my research showed to be of highest quality, which is why I use them with my clients and for myself.)
When you’re looking to repair (or even build) a house, you want the best bricks and other high quality building materials. The same goes for your body. Its cells are made up of what goes into your mouth. The higher the quality and the better the digestion, the more of the building blocks can be used to create a solid structure, be it the connective tissue in the knees, a bicep tendon or the next cells in our eye balls.
A few other tips to speed up recovery.
1) Get a near infrared “heat lamp” and point it to the injured area for about 5 minutes at a time to improve circulation and repair
2) Avoid icing
3) Drink lots of fluids (broth would be great as well as a mix of lemon/honey/sea salt/apple cider vinegar and water)
4) If it’s a joint injury, strengthen the muscles that support and stabilize the joint
5) Increase your high quality fish oil or cod liver oil intake
6) Meditate or perform energy cultivating movements like Tai Chi and Qi Gong
7) Go to sleep early (by 10:00pm) to further speed up recovery since your physical repair happens between 10:00pm and 2:00am each night. The later you go to sleep the less time your body has to repair itself.
What have you done that worked well to speed up recovering from injuries or surgery?