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Total Results Blog

Expressing Your “Human-ness”

How can we best express our "Human-ness"? What does this mean? How can this improve our health and fitness and even our longevity?

Last week, I listened to Joe Rogan's podcast #1478 with Joel Salatin. If you have never heard of Joel Salatin, he is the owner of Polyface Farms in central Virginia and has become a world-famous advocate of local, small scale, sustainable, organic farming. Salatin has written many books on the subject, including Folks, This Ain't Normal and has contributed countless articles, blogs, and interviews on this farming over the last 30+ years. I highly recommend you not only read Salatin's material but follow his advice and support your local farmers or better yet, become a back-yard farmer yourself.

One of the things Salatin talks about a lot is allowing a chicken to express it's "chicken-ness" or a pig to express it's "pig-ness". What he means is this: chickens were meant to roam around and hunt and peck for worms and bugs and other critters and vegetation. They evolved to roam and feed by day on open pastures and gather up together in a cozy coop at night. When they live like this, chickens live in accordance with their nature, and as a result, the eggs they lay are incredibly nutrient rich, they stay healthy for years, and they benefit the environment they inhabit.

Happy Hens in Central Virginia!

Happy Hens in Central Virginia!

Conversely, industrially raised chickens live 15,000 to a house in confined cages, breathing fecal particulate matter, and fed industrially raised grains (note: when your store bought eggs say "100% vegetarian fed" on the box, that is not natural or healthy for the chicken or for you!) Industrial laying hens are constantly sick and must be given medication to survive. They exhibit extreme antisocial behavior during their shortened, sad lives. Industrially raised chickens also stress the environment a great deal.

Re-listening to Salatin discuss how sustainable farms allow a chicken to experience it's innate "chicken-ness" got me thinking about how we humans can best express our "human-ness". First, we must think about how we evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and the ecosystem to which we adapted. Also, we must understand that most of our modern way of life has existed for less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the time humans have roamed the earth. Next, look at the current state of human health in our "modern" world with tens of millions of us sick and dying of western diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many cancers. Additionally, maladies such as arthritis, poor gut health, joint destruction, and more are literally crippling many of us. Even subclinical issues such as poor sleep, beer guts, and incredibly poor physical conditioning are signs we are not living in a way conducive to thriving. We must conclude how we are living now is NOT helping us express our innate "human-ness". On the contrary, we bear much more resemblance to caged industrial chickens than sustainable grown happy chickens.

So, what can we do to get back our "human-ness" - to not only survive, but thrive, to enjoy our later years, to live a long healthy life rather than suffer for years or decades? I think the answers are right in front of us. My hypothesis is if we return our bodies and minds, as much as is feasible in this modern age, to the environment and ecosystem of our ancestors, our inherent "human-ness" will return and we will be much healthier and happier. Erwan Le Corre, an entrepreneur and founder of an exercise and lifestyle brand called MovNat based on natural movements in natural environments has this quote pinned at the top of his Twitter feed: "You're not sleeping enough, You're not moving enough, You're not bathing in the sunlight, You're not touching the soil, rocks, trees, and plants with your feet and hands, you don't look at the horizon, What are you doing to yourself!" This sums up our situation perfectly.

I don't suggest you go live in a cave and hunt food or become a luddite and shun modern technology and conveniences. However, I do think most of us need to make some rather drastic changes to our lifestyle if we want to get the most out of our bodies, our minds, and our lives:

  • Eliminate junk food and eat local, natural, home cooked meals. As author Michael Pollan has said "If your grandmother would not recognize it as food, don't eat it". Focus on great protein sources first (eggs, beef, fish, etc.), then complement with vegetables, nuts, legumes and modest amounts of fruit. Minimize grains and when you do eat grains, eat homemade, locally made, or at the least organic products and eat them as a side, not a main course. (Note: I make my own bread, so of course I eat bread, but there is no need to eat bagels for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner on a daily basis, unless you want to be sick and overweight.
  • Get outside more. I don't mean take a walk a few times a week. I mean spend hours outside every day! If its hot, go out in the early morning or evening. If it is cold, bundle up. Humans evolved to be outside all the time and to breathe fresh air and get natural sunlight (Vitamin D). Early humans also interacted with the earth, touching dirt, grass, trees, etc. with their hands and feet. We need that interaction with the bacteria, the nutrients, and the minerals in the earth to be healthy.
  • Go barefoot more. I admit I am a shoe wearing fool, even inside. But your feet and toes need exercise and touch to be healthy and strong. Strong feet improve your gait and help solve issues with your ankles, shins, knees, hips, back and even shoulders and neck.
  • Stop sitting so damn much! Many of you are white collar professionals who are required to be on your phones or computers many hours a day. Others are retirees who spend a lot of your time reading books or online or watching TV. You know what to do! Move more! All day long! Stand up while in meetings. Take walks while on a conference call. When your workday is over, do NOT sit on the couch and watch Netflix. Instead, go out and garden. Play a round of golf. Take a bike ride. Get in a workout.
  • Lift heavy things occasionally. Human skeletal muscle must be challenged in order not to fall into a state of atrophy. Almost every disease of western civilization starts with muscle atrophy, lack of muscular strength, and too much body fat. You must stay strong.
  • Sleep more. Aim for 8+ hours per night of sleep. It may not happen at first, but if you turn off your screens and put priority on your sleep, there is no limit to what you can achieve. I have read that Champion Surfer Laird Hamilton sleeps 9 hours per night and he is still doing amazing things on a surf board in his fifties.

Regardless of your current age or condition, if you commit to these practices today, you will see positive changes in your body and in your mental outlook. You will be more physically aware and have more mental acuity. You will move toward your genetic and evolutionary ideal. You will express your Human-ness!

Posted May 27, 2020 by Tim Rankin

The Hacking of the American Mind - a Book Review by Matthew Romans

The current Covid-19 situation has given many working people a lot more free time recently, and I'm certainly no exception. I've tried to put my extra time to some good use, and I've managed to read a few books. One book I recently finished is "The Hacking of the American Mind", written by Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL. Lustig is a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, and is a member of the Institute for Health Policy at the University of California, San Francisco. On top of that, Lustig has a law degree, so he brings a unique insight into the current state of our bodies and our brains. Several years ago, I watched an excellent lecture given by Dr. Lustig called "Sugar, The Bitter Truth." I believe it is still available on YouTube; it's definitely worth watching.

The author covers a lot of ground in 344 pages (including notes), but the basic premise of the book is that over the course of the past half century our brains and our bodies have been fundamentally changed by a host of environmental factors. Some of these factors include ubiquitous advertising, social media, changes to the traditional Western diet, addiction, and also the endless pursuit of seemingly elusive happiness and contentment. He discusses the changes in advertising policies, and highlights the hypocrisy of food companies marketing sugary snacks and sodas directly to children, while contrasting the drastic changes that the tobacco companies were required to make in the late 1990s (with a great reference to the premise of the movie "The Insider").

Prominently featured throughout the book are the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is the reward neurotransmitter that says, "I want more." Those battling addiction, whether to alcohol, drugs, or even food are constantly seeking that reward. On the other hand, serotonin says, "I have enough", and a higher production of this neurotransmitter is found in people who have achieved a state of contentment.

Dr. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist, so he tells sad tales of very young children in his clinic being diagnosed with Type II (adult-onset) diabetes. He groups the following set of diseases (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and dementia) collectively as metabolic syndrome. These are the diseases that are overwhelming our current medical system and causing insurance costs to skyrocket, even for those not afflicted with these diseases. He brings up some excellent points and data in a section called "Health Care is Sick Care" in which he details the current state of the system. Dr. Lustig's opinion is that, "These diseases aren't killing us outright; instead they're sucking us dry. And if you think that other people getting sick is their problem and not yours, chew on this: 65 percent of all health care expenditures are paid out of government dollars. That means your taxes." It sounds pretty grim.

Why are we, on the whole, so unhappy and unhealthy? How can we find contentment? The author mentions what he calls "The Four C's": connect, contribute, cope, and cook. By connecting he means to establish a social network that's not exclusively digital, and to actively engage with family, friends, and other trusted people. In the contribute section, he recommends philanthropy, volunteerism, and finding self-worth through accomplishment. There are many healthy ways to cope with the stresses of daily life, especially getting proper sleep, practicing mindfulness or meditation, and performing regular exercise. He also says that multitasking is overrated! Finally, the best way to know about the nutritional content of the food you consume is to cook it yourself. Cook for yourself, cook for your family, and cook for and with your friends. It builds camaraderie, gives a feeling of togetherness, and can give one a sense of accomplishment. It will also help you win the battle against sugar.

I recommend this book to Total Results clients, as well as to friends and family. While some of the social things that Dr. Lustig recommends are very difficult to implement in our current health/political environment, I also think they carry an even greater meaning right now. Dr. Lustig can teach us a lot about what is making Americans increasingly unhappy and unhealthy, and he shows some very simple strategies that we can implement right now to make things better. Give it a read!

Posted May 20, 2020 by Tim Rankin

Is stretching necessary? by Matthew Romans

One of the most common topics that we discuss with both new and long-term Total Results clients is stretching. That's probably because it is something that is regularly promoted as important by the fitness industry, yet it is often misunderstood and much misinformation has been put forth. We see people touting the benefits of flexibility in yoga and Pilates classes, we see professional athletes stretching before practices and games, and we even see people on television stretch when they get out of bed in the morning. What is the truth and what is fiction? Is stretching really necessary? Does it help you or harm you? Hopefully this post can clear up some misconceptions.

When most people think about or perform stretching, they are doing static stretching. This involves stretching to the point of some slight discomfort and holding that position for a certain amount of time, usually 15 to 30 seconds. Sometimes this sequence is repeated more than once. Most of us have seen people on the track or prior to some athletic contest bending down at the waist in an effort to stretch their hamstring muscles; this is an example of static stretching. There is also another type of stretching called PNF stretching, which stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. This requires the help of a partner. PNF stretching involves overriding the Golgi tendon reflex, which is a self-induced inhibitory effect to protect both the muscle and tendon from injury due to too much tension. This type of stretching is done when a partner tries to push the affected limb further back, while the person stretching provides active resistance. This results, temporarily, in an increased range of motion.

What are the benefits of stretching? Well, stretching can feel good, especially if your body is tight after just waking up in the morning. Stretching can also provide some mental benefit, give one a sense of accomplishment, and help in stress relief. Most yoga practitioners remark about how much better they feel after class than they did before. People who have spastic conditions (excessive muscle tightness) following a traumatic injury can achieve some positive results from stretching.

Is stretching really necessary? In my opinion, no. To date, there is not one properly conducted study that has conclusively shown that stretching prevents injury. Football and basketball players routinely stretch their hamstrings, yet hamstring injuries are quite common in both sports. Some of that is the result of the repetitive stress that is part of their sport, but it can also be the result of improper diet, hydration, and training techniques. The major misconception that most people have is that when you stretch, you are only stretching your muscles. In fact, you are also stretching your connective tissue, which are your tendons and ligaments. Tendons connect muscle to bone; ligaments connect bone to bone. While it's true that muscles do have an elastic property (they return to their original length after they are stretched, unless stretched too far), connective tissue does not have that same property. Once tendons and ligaments are stretched, they remain that way unless surgically repaired. Stretched connective tissue can render a joint unstable, which will increase the risk for injury. Muscles generate force to enable movement, while connective tissue works to stabilize joints. A greater range of motion may be desirable in some sports, but it comes with a price. Gymnasts are hyper flexible; it is part of the rigors of their sport to be able to do things most of the rest of us cannot. Unfortunately, this lends itself to both acute and overuse injuries in joints as a result of hyperflexibility. If you desire to be a competitive gymnast, this is a risk that one assumes when they decide to participate. For the rest of us, this is neither desirable nor necessary. It is also common to see people hold their breath when they stretch (perform Valsalva), which is dangerous. This can lead to increased blood pressure and it prevents venous return (which is the return of the blood to the right side of the heart). This should be avoided at all costs.

If you are a normal person with a reasonably active lifestyle, all you really need is a safe and functional range of motion to be able to perform everyday tasks. This can be accomplished by regular Total Results exercise. We are conscious of making sure that you utilize pain-free range of motion on each exercise in your routine, and we can make modifications in case you sustain an injury outside of our studio. The negative (or lowering) phase of a dynamic weight training exercise is what enhances flexibility, so that is why performing dynamic exercise is optimal. There is no need to stretch as part of a warm-up prior to a Total Results workout. The first couple of repetitions of each exercise serve as a more thorough warm-up than stretching or other nondescript activity. If you are adamant about stretching, make sure you do it at the end of an activity rather than before, or at least after you have thoroughly warmed your body up. You should never stretch a muscle when it is cold, and don't forget to breathe freely.

Stretching is largely unnecessary, and there are safer ways to relieve stress and feel good about yourself. The best way to enhance your flexibility and protect yourself against injury is to perform a Total Results workout once or twice per week. Don't be fooled by misinformation. Let us help you get going in the right direction. Get Total Results.

Posted May 05, 2020 by Tim Rankin

The Importance of Strength Training in your 70's and Beyond, by Matthew Romans

We have written at length about the many benefits of strength training for people of all ages. Regular Total Results exercise can help children and teens can get on the right path to a healthy and active lifestyle, help athletes and weekend warriors improve their performance and reduce their risk of injury, and help middle-aged adults ward off the onset of chronic disease with just one or two 20-minute workouts per week. We have clients of all ages come through our doors, and the progress that they make is nothing short of amazing. However, the age group that has the most to gain from consistent Total Results exercise is the population above the age of 70. In my opinion, working with this population has been the most rewarding part of my job as an instructor.

It sometimes gets lost in the shuffle how much we call upon our muscles on a daily basis. Muscles are what produce human movement, so any movement we do, big or small, requires the use of muscles. Typing an email requires the use of small muscles of the fingers and hands, while getting up off the sofa uses the larger muscles of the lower body. These are things that many younger people take for granted, but can be more difficult and require more effort if you are in your 70s or older. We have had clients in their 70s (and even older) come through our doors who have never weight trained in their lives, and are skeptical that it can be beneficial for them at their age. In order to keep down medical costs and maintain functional independence, strong muscles are absolutely essential.

What are some of the important benefits of Total Results exercise for the senior population?

Improved balance. While balance skills are specific to the nature of whatever activity you're doing, you are going to have better dynamic stability if you have greater strength. If you are stronger, you will be less susceptible to falls and injuries around the house and be able to maintain independence..

Improved golf game/athletic activity. This obviously goes hand in hand with working to keep your swing and other golf skills sharp, but being strong will help you hit the ball further off the tee and give you the endurance to play for eighteen holes, rather than having to head into the clubhouse earlier. Also, golf can lend itself to repetitive stress injury (see Tiger Woods injuries), particularly to the lower back. Regular Total Results exercise can keep your trunk muscles strong and reduce your risk for injury. It's hard to enjoy golf if you're injured.

Recover faster from joint replacement surgery. Medical advancements have made it more common for people to undergo joint replacements at younger ages, but some people are still waiting until their 70s to have them. The stronger and better conditioned you are, the easier the surgical and recovery processes will be. The more muscle you have, the less time it will take to return to your pre-surgical levels of strength.

Greater ease of going up and down stairs. Knee issues (such as arthritis) are not exclusive to the senior population, but they do increase in likelihood as we age. In fact, most people with knee issues have a greater difficulty going down stairs rather than up because of the body's greater reliance on static stabilizers (tendons and ligaments). Total Results strength training helps to strengthen the connective tissue as well as the muscles, and will also lead to a greater release of synovial fluid inside the knee, which helps to lubricate the joint.

Improved immune system. While low-level infections might not be serious in younger populations, in older populations they can be deadly (as we are seeing with COVID-19). Regular Total Results exercise will help you to maintain insulin sensitivity, which is essential in warding off chronic disease, and being stronger and better conditioned will leave you less susceptible to respiratory infections. In conjunction with regular exercise, it's important to get proper sleep, manage stress, drink plenty of water, and eat a whole-foods diet that minimizes sugar intake.

The more strong and fit you are in your 70s and beyond, the higher your quality of life. This will enable you to travel, play more actively with grandchildren, and do all the things you have always wanted to do but didn't have time for. The two oldest clients we have had at Total Results both lived into their early 90s, and each of them was very active until their late 80s and beyond (one of them still did all of the maintenance on his boat until he was about 87). Our current oldest client is 88; she is mentally sharp, very strong and fit, and works extremely intensely in her workouts. These are just a few of our success stories, and there are many more. If you or someone you love fits into this age category, please have them contact Total Results to schedule a consultation. It's never too late to start!

Posted April 27, 2020 by Tim Rankin

Embrace the Challenge, by Matthew Romans

We face many challenges during the course of our daily lives. These can include raising children, excelling at one's occupation, or learning to speak a new language. If you have a growth mindset, life will always present challenges; only those with a fixed mindset are content the way they are. If you have a desire to improve your health and fitness, then it's important to have a growth mindset and formulate a plan of action of how to achieve your goals, but it's also necessary to understand that nothing of value comes easily. You must be willing to embrace the challenge.

Proper exercise is supposed to be demanding. Simply put, it's expected to be hard, not easy. Your body is a very efficient and logical entity; it will do everything that it can to maintain the status quo and conserve resources. This means that in order to elicit physical and metabolic improvements, a very intense stimulus needs to be provided to the body. The Total Results exercise protocol is the most intense form of exercise on the planet, yet it is also the safest and most efficient way to stimulate positive benefit while avoiding injury. This is the stimulus that we need.

If you have ever been in a commercial gym, it's interesting to observe how most people perform weight training exercises. Most bodybuilders and gym rats do not work very intensely. They usually move with a fast rate of speed during each exercise, spend long periods of time between each set of exercise, and workout far too long and too frequently. Subconsciously (or because they have been misled by the wrong information) they think that a greater volume and frequency of exercise will make up for a lack of intensity of effort. They couldn't be more wrong. Most bodybuilders are very genetically gifted; they look the way they do in spite of their training habits rather than because of them. They are not ready to embrace the challenge! This approach won't work for the vast majority of people; trying to train using conventional methods will usually lead to stalled progress, frustration, illness, and injury.

It is much more challenging (and beneficial) to utilize the Total Results exercise protocol that emphasizes complete focus of mind and body, slow speed of movement, and careful change of direction, with the goal of achieving momentary muscular failure on each exercise. Having the necessary focus is difficult, but you only need to maintain that focus for twenty minutes per workout. You can do it; just take it one repetition at a time. Focus on the present rather than the future, and try to shut everything else out of your mind during your workout. While only masochists would truly enjoy the discomfort that comes with intense muscular effort, try to embrace and celebrate the accomplishment that this discomfort symbolizes. Your mental toughness will improve, as your tolerance for discomfort will increase over time. There are not many things in this world that are more physically demanding than the Leg Press exercise.

Weekly Total Results exercise is a challenge, but one that is extremely worthwhile for your mind and body. Twenty minutes, once or twice per week, can change your life and give you a level of confidence that you never thought possible. Embrace the challenge and commit yourself to giving your best mental and physical effort each and every workout. Your success is truly up to you!

Posted April 14, 2020 by Tim Rankin