Tuesday, 24 February 2015


Squats: 8 Reasons to Do This Misunderstood Exercise

By Dr. Mercola
If you're looking for a powerful way to boost your overall fitness and get some serious results -- fast -- from your workout routine, look no further than performing squatting exercises.
This is one exercise that should be a part of virtually everyone's routine, as it's relatively simple to perform, requires no equipment, and can be done just about anywhere.
More importantly, although squats are often regarded as "leg" exercises, they actually offer benefits throughout your entire body, including deep within your core…
The Top 8 Benefits of Squats
Most of you know that I'm an avid exerciser, and an avid exercise proponent.
If you haven't yet started a regular exercise routine, speak to your coach..
Suffice it to say, a varied workout routine of appropriate intensity is one of the smartest health moves you can make, and adding squats to your routine is a must.
What makes squats such a fantastic exercise?
1.    Builds Muscle in Your Entire Body
Squats obviously help to build your leg muscles (including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves), but they also create an anabolic environment, which promotes body-wide muscle building.
In fact, when done properly, squats are so intense that they trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone in your body, which are vital for muscle growth and will also help to improve muscle mass when you train other areas of your body aside from your legs.
So squats can actually help you improve both your upper and lower body strength.
2.    Functional Exercise Makes Real-Life Activities Easier
Functional exercises are those that help your body to perform real-life activities, as opposed to simply being able to operate pieces of gym equipment. Squats are one of the best functional exercises out there, as humans have been squatting since the hunter-gatherer days. When you perform squats, you build muscle and help your muscles work more efficiently, as well as promote mobility and balance. All of these benefits translate into your body moving more efficiently in the real world too.
3.    Burn More Fat
One of the most time-efficient ways to burn more calories is actually to gain more muscle! For every pound of additional muscle you gain, your body will burn an additional 50-70 calories per day. So, if you gain 10 pounds of muscle, you will automatically burn 500-700 more calories per day than you did before.
4.    Maintain Mobility and Balance
Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as you get older, and squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength. They also work out your core, stabilizing muscles, which will help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls – which is incidentally the #1 way to prevent bone fractures versus consuming mega-dose calcium supplements and bone drugs.
5.    Prevent Injuries
Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. They also help prevent injury by improving your flexibility (squats improve the range of motion in your ankles and hips) and balance, as noted above.
6.    Boost Your Sports Performance -- Jump Higher and Run Faster
Whether you're a weekend warrior or a mom who chases after a toddler, you'll be interested to know that studies have linked squatting strength with athletic ability.1 Specifically, squatting helped athletes run faster and jump higher, which is why this exercise is part of virtually every professional athlete's training program.
7.    Tone Your Backside, Abs and Entire Body
Few exercises work as many muscles as the squat, so it's an excellent multi-purpose activity useful for toning and tightening your behind, abs, and, of course, your legs. Furthermore, squats build your muscles, and these muscles participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, helping to protect you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
8.    Help with Waste Removal
Squats improve the pumping of body fluids, aiding in removal of waste and delivery of nutrition to all tissues, including organs and glands. They're also useful for improved movement of feces through your colon and more regular bowel movements.
What's the Proper Way to Perform a Squat?
Squats have long been criticized for being destructive to your knees, but research shows that when done properly, squats actually improve knee stability and strengthen connective tissue. In the video below, personal trainer and coach Darin Steen demonstrates safe squat techniques for beginner, intermediate and advanced.
1.    Warm up
2.    Stand with your feet just over shoulder width apart
3.    Keep your back in a neutral position, and keep your knees centred over your feet
4.    Slowly bend your knees, hips and ankles, lowering until you reach a 90-degree angle
5.    Return to starting position -- repeat 15-20 times, for 2-3 sets for beginners (do this two or three times a week)
6.    Breathe in as you lower, breathe out as you return to starting position
Adding Squats to Your Comprehensive Fitness Routine
Exercise is a key player in disease reduction, optimal mental, emotional and physical health, and longevity. It's really a phenomenal way to get the most out of your life! After reviewing 40 papers published between 2006 and 2010, researchers found that exercise reduces the risk of about two dozen health conditions, ranging from cancer and heart disease to type 2 diabetes, stroke, dementia and depression. Exercise also slows down the rate of aging itself, even stimulating the regeneration of the energy-producing mitochondria in your cells, providing perhaps the closest example of a real life fountain of youth as we will ever find.
As with most things in life, a balanced routine works best, so you'll want to avoid placing too much emphasis on cardio, strength training or any one type of activity. Many public health guidelines still focus primarily on the aerobic component of exercise, but this limited activity can lead to imbalances that may actually prevent optimal health.

This is why it's so important to maintain a well-balanced fitness regimen that includes not just aerobics, but also strength training, stretching, and high-intensity interval training like Peak Fitness. For instance, Darin recommends beginners do 2-3 sets of squats just two or three times a week -- do it more than this and you will miss out on important recovery time. As always, as you develop a workout routine that works for you, remember to listen to your body so it can guide you into a path that will provide you with the most efficient and effective benefits.

Sunday, 22 February 2015


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), those aged over 30 stand a 20% chance of dying from a non-communicable disease (NCD). That is a worldwide figure, and is probably even higher in Malaysia.

Now, an NCD is something that is preventable - if you make the effort to do so. The 4 main NCDs according to WHO, are: diabetes, cardio-vascular, chronic respiratory disease and cancer.

Each of these can be avoided, or at least mitigated, by a combination of personal fitness, good diet, and healthy living (ie not smoking or over-indulging in alcohol).

We all know about the root causes of diabetes, and have discussed it before in this blog. Essentially it's a lack of exercise, and a diet overloaded with sugar and processed carbs, such as white bread and rice.

But how about cardio-vascular? Needless to say, your general fitness will have a very large bearing on this. But interestingly, the Malaysian Health Ministry has recently focussed on excessive salt intake as being the main culprit here, leading to hypertension and then to cardio failure. Cardio-vascular disease makes up 36% of NCD deaths! Their advice is the same as ours (!) - cut out all processed foods, fast foods, flavour enhancers and the like; whilst eating only fresh meats & fish, fresh vegetables and fruits. Do not add salt to your meals or your cooking, as there is enough sodium (salt) in your diet already. And importantly - be very aware of the salt intake of your children through all the foods mentioned above. You are setting up a cardio-vascular time-bomb for them if you do not act now!

Cancers can be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle. Many reports suggest that a combination of the noxious chemicals used in many processed foods as preservatives, are at the root of our growing cancer epidemic. Other reports focus on all the other chemicals entering our bodies from household cleaning products, paints, agricultural pesticides, animal hormones, industrial chemical pollution and so on. We may not be able to protect ourselves 100% from all this, but we can make a major personal effort to decrease the amounts of chemicals invading our bodies. Try it!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Are you making this fundamental mistake in your training?

One of the biggest mistakes many people make is to ignore working on their strength.
In some sports, strength work is still seen as a hindrance to the "real" work of endless sub-maximal monotonous drills and training runs.
It's such a shame. Because strength is crucial. It's the basis for speed, power, agility, and of course the ability to generate force. You need it whether you're swimming, running, cycling, or playing a team sport like football or rugby.
•  If you want your muscles to explode with power right WHEN you need it most, you have to train those muscles to react...
•  If you want to avoid fatigue, which affects your judgment and technical ability, then strength training is crucial.
•  Strength is also an important factor in injury prevention. For example, one of the reasons that females are four to seven times more likely than males to suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is a lack of lower-limb strength.
Strength training does not necessarily mean you have to do intense heavy lifting. Instead, you can use dynamically challenging exercises that require hand-eye and body-limb coordination.
Even if you're an experienced athlete with many years of training in different forms of exercise, it's still worthwhile doing strength work in the off-season, to keep you fresh and work on the areas where you were weakest during the season.

Monday, 16 February 2015


This was the week when everything we thought we knew about eating and drinking healthily was turned on its head.
First, a damning new study in the British Medical Journal showed that – after all we have been told to the contrary – saturated fat is good for you. Far from being the great risk to our health and hearts, it turns out that most people who eat butter, milk, cream and full-fat yoghurts generally have better heart health, less risk of Type 2 diabetes, and are even slimmer than those who eat fat-free. It seems that there is a connection between our 30-year war on saturated fat and our terrifying obesity epidemic.
Now experts are saying instead that carbohydrates are the real killer.
Later in the week, more research was published in the British Medical Journal, suggesting that despite what we have always thought, the benefits of drinking wine have been overstated.
So what can we safely eat these days? And what had we better avoid? Here, the experts give their “definitive” verdict...
What the line has been: Avoid butter at all costs and replace with low-fat polyunsaturated spreads.
What we now know: Butter can be good for you in small amounts.
“We used to think that if you ate saturated fat, it raised your cholesterol levels and increased your risk of heart attack,” says Dr Michael Mosley, the science journalist. “It turns out that dairy fats don’t work like that in your bloodstream. When you look at all the big studies, the proof that butter is bad for you isn’t there.
Recommended amount: A moderate amount, which may even do you good.
What the line has been: Better to drink semi-skimmed or skimmed.
What we now know: Full-fat milk contains a lot of healthy fats and is just as good for you – if not better than –reduced-fat versions. “People have this misconception that full-fat milk is fattening, but now we know that just because a food is fatty doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, as there are different types of fats,” says Mel Wakeman, a senior lecturer in nutrition at Birmingham City University. “I’ve gone back to drinking full-fat milk to ensure I get all the goodness.”
Recommended amount: Up to half a pint of full-fat milk a day.
What the line has been: Eggs are full of cholesterol and you should limit your intake.
What we now know: Eggs are good for you and have no link to health problems. “Repeated studies have now shown that dietary cholesterol does not increase cholesterol levels in the blood,” says Ms Wakeman. “Eggs are full of all sorts of nutrients and vitamins, and are very good for you. They contain protein, so will also keep you fuller for longer.”
Recommended amount: You can eat eggs three or four times a week.
Olive oil
What the line has been: Olive oil is a wonder-ingredient that is key to better health.
What we now know: Olive oil is fine on salads but is carcinogenic when heated and should not be used for frying. “Olive oil is very good for you but has a very low smoke point, and produces carcinogens when heated,” says Dr Glenys Jones, a nutritionist. “For frying, I recommend rapeseed oil, which has similar nutritional benefits, but has a high smoke point.”
Recommended amount: A tablespoon a day.
What the line has been: Carbohydrates should make up 50 per cent of your food intake.
What the line is now: Brown carbohydrates are good, but white are deadly. “I’m a big supporter of carbohydrates,” says Ms Wakeman, “but they must be wholegrain. White spaghetti, bread and rice are not our friends. Once they hit the bloodstream, they convert into pure sugar, and this puts us at risk of obesity, heart problems, Type 2 diabetes and cancer. Plus, the fibre and minerals have been stripped from white carbohydrates.”
Recommended amount: Wholegrain carbohydrates should make up 50 per cent of your food.
Processed Meat
What the line has been: Fine in moderation.
What the line is now: There are strong links between eating processed meat and the risk of heart attacks, bowel cancer and strokes. “Processed meats, including bacon, sausages, parma ham, ham and salami, have a very high salt content and the act of processing itself is associated with an increase of heart disease, bowel cancer and stroke,” says Dr Michael Mosley. “One esteemed scientist I know called Dr David Spiegelhalter told me that if you crunch the numbers, every bacon sandwich you eat knocks half an hour off your life.”
Recommended amount: A couple of times a week if you really have to – but no more.
What the line has been: A small amount of alcohol, particularly red wine, is good for the heart.
What we now know: The benefits of drinking have been over-stated. “New research shows that the benefits of even a small amount of red wine may have been exaggerated, but there has been a lot of conflicting research,” says Ms Wakeman.
“It’s certainly good for post-menopausal women because red wine makes the blood less sticky so lowers the risk of heart disease. In younger women, however, the research shows that there is an indisputable connection between levels of alcohol intake and breast cancer.”
Recommended amount: A small glass of red a day is probably fine, with a couple of days off a week.
What the line has been: Stick to the low-fat variety.
What the line is now: Full-fat may be better. “There is now strong evidence that eating full-fat yoghurt is likely to cut your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and is associated with effective weight loss in a way that eating low-fat yoghurt isn’t,” says Dr Mosley. “The problem with low-fat yoghurts is that they remove the fat but stuff them full of sugar to improve the taste.
“Also, when you get rid of the fat, you lose a lot of the fat-soluble vitamins, so you lose the goodness, and also the yoghurt becomes less filling so you eat more later.”
Recommended amount: Switch to full-fat and you may eat regularly if you like.
What the line has been: There is no such thing as a superfood.
What the line is now: There has been much debate over how to define a 'superfood’ but it is now clear that certain foods – mostly fruits and vegetables – are extraordinarily nutrient-dense.
“There is strong evidence that some foods deliver far more micro-nutrients than others,” says Dr Mosley.“Watercress, beetroot and spinach, for example, all seem to deliver a record number of vitamins and micro-nutrients.”
Recommended amount: As much as you like.
Fruit Juice
What the line has been: Fruit juice is good for you.
What we now know: Many commercial fruit juices contain unhealthy amounts of sugar, the equivalent of 10 teaspoons per glassful. “I’ve been banging on about the dangers of fruit juice for some years,” says Dr Mosley.
“Many fruit juices have a similar sugar content to Coca-Cola. Commercial juices get rid of the fibre, which is the good stuff, and you’re also consuming a lot of sugar in one drink, which isn’t good for you. It also doesn’t affect your appetite so you don’t eat any less at your next meal.”
Recommended amount: Making your own is better but it’s a treat, not a health drink.
Red Meat
What the line has been: Red meat is bad for you.
What the line is now: Red meat from grass-fed animals can be good for you. “If you look at American studies, there does seem to be evidence of a small increase of risk to your heart from eating red meat, but when you look at similar studies from Europe there is no link,” says Dr Mosley. “This is probably because American meat is reared on concrete lots, fed corn and given a lot of antibiotics and growth hormones, whereas beef in Europe is often fed on grass and hasn’t been pumped full of all the bad stuff.”
Recommended amount: 3-4oz or 100g three or four times a week is fine.
What the line has been: Bread is good for you.
What the line is now: Only wholegrain breads are good for you. “They key thing with bread is to always make sure you are eating bread made from wholemeal flour,” says Ms Wakeman. “White flour will just convert to sugar the minute it hits your bloodstream. Just because bread is covered in seeds doesn’t mean it has been made from wholemeal flour. Lots of healthy-looking artisan breads are made with white flour, so always read the label. There’s no difference in terms of nutrition if you buy sliced bread.”
Recommended amount: Two to four slices a day is fine.
What the line has been: Up to six cups of coffee or tea a day is fine.
What we now know: Many of us punctuate our day with cups of coffee or tea, and caffeine has long been associated with increased wakefulness, yet caffeine is now thought to come with health risks. “Caffeine is highly addictive, bad for blood pressure and has been linked to heart disease,” says Dr Jones.
Recommended amount: Up to two cups of coffee or four cups of tea a day – no more.
Dark Chocolate
What the line has been: Chocolate is bad for you.
What we now know: Dark chocolate is good for the heart. “Research now conclusively shows a link to eating small amounts of dark chocolate and lowered blood pressure,” says Mel Wakeman. “But don’t kid yourself that milk chocolate is good for you. It’s just fat and sugar with very little cocoa in it.”
Recommended amount: Two squares of 70 per cent cocoa dark chocolate a day.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015


5 Ways To Overcome Fatigue- On The Run, And In Life

It’s like magic. One second you feel exhausted, as if every ounce of energy and life is drained from your body. Then, from out of no where comes a surge of energy; alive, new, and potent like a rising sun.
You have much more energy in your body than you think.  At your fingertips are sources of energy that are untapped, underutilized, or not fully activated.
Here are a few ways to access that energy while you’re running, walking, and living your life:

1. Clear your mind: Negative, repetitive thoughts drain energy, and most of these thoughts have very little basis in what is actually true. Become aware of these energy thieves, especially while running - when you need your energy most.
Running can be a negative-thought generator if you are new to it or if you, like the rest of us, compare yourself to others.
  • For a quick solution to negative thoughts, turn your mind to what you would like. “I can’t finish this half marathon” turns to seeing yourself cross the finish line with a huge grin. “I’m overweight” turns to imagining yourself thin and fit. “I’m overwhelmed” transforms into seeing yourself in control of your life with time to exercise and meditate. Notice how much more energy is available to you when you think a positive thought, like you flipped a breaker after a power outage.
  • For a deeper solution, underneath your head is the greatest tool in the world to calm and still the mind: your body.
  • Do a body scan for five minutes. This is great on the run, or first thing in the morning before getting out of bed. Start by focusing on your feet and then scan the whole body, move up the legs, slowly up the body, and include your face and head. The more time the better. In one T’ai Chi class we imagined nourishing the very cells of our bones and blood. Weird, yes,very effective for stopping the mind and energizing the body.
2. Relax your body. Energy that is blocked and stored in your body is a veritable energy storehouse, but it’s not a good way to store energy. Like a nuclear plant, it can cause a lot of toxic damage. Storing energy takes energy, and depletes resources further.
  • The real trick to managing the energy in your body is to let it flow.  
  • If you work to clear negative thoughts, you’re 75% of the way to relaxing your body. Notice the deep breath that comes when you release or transform a negative thought.
  • Gentle coaxing movement is the next best way to release the energy blocked in physical tension. Do body looseners religiously. Shake and stretch after you exercise, practice deep breathing exercises, and get some help via massage or physical therapy.
  • Tension makes it harder for you to move naturally. Release the tension in your body and you’ll be able to run faster, further and with less effort.
3. Inspire your spirit: You’re on a run and feeling “blah”. You’re at mile 18 of a marathon, and 8 more miles feels like hell itself. Your spirit needs some inspiration.
  • There is no quick, easy fix unless you’re prepared. To get prepared, notice what touches your heart, what you really care about, and what lifts your spirits. Then, put each one into an imaginary champagne bottle. When it gets tough, pop the cork  and celebrate that cherished aspect of life.
  • Another trick is to be kind to others. When your energy is leaking like a sieve, turn your attention to helping someone else. Give someone a kind word, some positive attention. Heck, give yourself some encouragement as well.
  • Nature is another source of inspiration. Go to a place you find beautiful. Run  an event in an exotic or exciting place.
  • An inspired spirit is the greatest energy resource you have. Cultivate and tend to what matters most to you.

4. The Chi techniques: Every technique in Chi Running and Chi Walking is designed to make your running and walking more efficient, easier, and more energized. It is based on an ancient practice of energy management.
Feeling fatigue? Practice each technique until you find  what gets your energy flowing again. Danny was tired on a run (it happens) and he tried everything. The metronome is what worked for him in that situation.
Here are the best to try if you’re fatigued:
  • Work on your posture by engaging your core and lengthening your spine up through the crown of your head.
  • Lean gently.
  • Shorten your stride.
  • Use the metronome to get into a natural body rhythm.

5. Clean fuel. If you’re often tired and fatigued, look at the food you eat. Delete the junk, add in more fruits and vegetables, expunge corn syrup of any kind from your diet, minimize preservatives and hydrogenated oils, and save sugar for special occasions. Experiment until you find what is best for you, knowing that you truly are what you eat.
Good energy begets more good energy, so start wherever you can to clean up your energy sources and get your energy flowing. Stop the leaks and bring in what inspires and delights, and you'll always find energy in you whenever you need it.

Sunday, 8 February 2015


How to Relieve Post Workout Fatigue

One of the benefits of getting enough exercise is supposed to be that it gives you more energy to get through your day, but sometimes that just isn’t the case. When working out leaves you more tired than you were before you started, that can be an indicator that something is wrong. There are a few reasons why working out can leave you so worn out, and finding out the reason behind your post-workout fatigue may just help you to overcome it and get the energy boost you need from your exercise session.

Start Out Slowly
Consider walking at first, and then when you get used to that, build that up to a short run. It can be tempting to go all in when you decide to start working out, but this may not be the best idea. Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D. of iVillage.com suggests that this is one of the worst things you can do if you are worried about fatigue. “Don’t try to jog 5 miles, when the most you’ve done before is walk 2 miles,” she says. Consider walking at first, and then when you get used to that, build that up to a short run. Over time, add more distance or time to your run until you get where you want to be. Doing too much too soon can make you feel more tired than usual after your workout is complete.

Examining Your Fuel Quality
In theory, eating less should go hand-in-hand with a workout regimen designed to help you lose weight. While this is a common misconception, the truth is that exercise actually increases your body’s need for food. The more fuel you burn, the more fuel you will need to keep going. If you haven’t eaten enough of the right things before your workout, you are bound to feel wiped out after you exercise. You may even feel sick. The Young Women’s Health website suggests you eat a variety of foods, as different foods bring different nutrients to the table. Lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains are essential to a healthy body. Healthy bodies are capable of doing more exercise. A post-workout snack is just as vital. You should consume a healthy snack like yoghurt and fruit, a banana with one tablespoon of nut butter or a carton of low-fat chocolate milk within 30 minutes after exercising.

The Importance of Hydration
Hydration is one thing that many people fail to consider. Not only is it important during and after your workout, but it is important before your workout, as well. Water makes up 60 percent of your body’s total weight, and every bodily system depends on it. A lack of water can lead to dehydration, which can be very draining on your energy. If you find that you are extra tired after your workout, try to drink more before, during and after you exercise.

Rest Is Important
While intense training may leave you feeling weak, rest can make you strong. Don’t overdo it when it comes to exercise, as this is a surefire way to end up exhausted when all is said and done. While it may feel like you are pushing your body in a good way, you may be over-exhausting yourself. When you do an extremely intensive workout, give your body time to rest up and refuel the next day. If you must exercise, do something light to give your body time to recuperate.

Medical Issues
If improved nutrition, rest and hydration don’t do the trick, consult your doctor for more information. He may be able to identify a nutrient deficiency or other medical issue that is preventing you from having enough energy, getting you back on track in no time.


Well, our trial session last Friday night at Likas Bay running track was such a runaway success both in terms of numbers and enthusiasm, that we've decided to continue doing it. So, every Friday evening from now on at 6.30 pm. But, watch out for the location, as we plan to move it around to interesting places. In fact, we're going to call it our Adventure Night, as we plan to do something different each time. So, be prepared to be amazed! Just turn up (somewhere) on a Friday evening for a fun session. And maybe we could all get together for a beer or a soft drink afterwards?

See you there!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015


Due to popular demand we are holding a trial session this Friday evening at 6.30pm at Likas Bay (on the running track, right next to the seafood restaurants between the masjid and the bridge). If there's enough interest, we'll run it on a regular basis. So come along, and bring your friends!