Fitness | The 50 Zone Magazine : Mens Information On Wellness, Health, Weight Loss, Nutrition, Women, Style And Fashion



Minding Your Body

Most athletes over train. Ask athletes how they feel and the response is usually, I’m tired, beat up, this or that hurts, or when will the race be over? These are signs that they are tapping too far into their bodies’ natural ability to tolerate exercise. In other words, their minds are ahead of their bodies.

In general athletes are too goal oriented and need to embrace the process more. If you continue to train exactly as you are now in the absence of any goal, then you are truly a process-oriented athlete and probably giving yourself the right dosage of exercise your body requires every day. If not, you’re probably in an overreaching state of disharmony that can’t be sustained and by definition is overtraining. You’re pushing, and that’s not healthy in the long run.

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Effortless Endurance

Aerobic training done properly should feel effortless, if it doesn’t, then you’re pushing too hard. It doesn’t matter how fast you can climb a hill on the bike, or pound out intervals on the track, endurance all comes down to what average pace you can sustain over a long time period.

That said, many endurance athletes continue to undermine their health by exercising too intensively the majority of the time, producing excessive stress that suppresses the immune system and leads to over-use injuries. What’s the point of being fit if you are actually damaging your health in the process? It’s better to stay focused on the key to success in endurance sports and that’s aerobic development.

That’s why my endurance training approach is somewhat unique: stay focused on your aerobic development, train effortlessly, and let your speed develop naturally. When you train this way, not only do you maximize your endurance performance, but you also increase your health and decrease your injuries.

The following chart illustrates how much the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems contribute to performance at maximal intensity over a given time:

Time (min)              % Anaerobic           % Aerobic

1                                  70                                30

2                                  50                                50

4                                  35                                65

10                                15                                85

30                                5                                  95

60                                2                                  98

>120                           <1                                >99

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Key Uses for Heart Rate Monitors

heartrateI can bet that your HR monitor has ended up at the bottom of your gym bag, forgotten and lonely. Why is this? Simply because after the novelty wears off, the value of using this important tool is lost to most people because they don’t understand the positive impact that following heart rate can have. Training properly with a monitor can save you from injury, increase your performance, and give you more training pleasure if you know some of this tool’s basics. Here’s the Coles Notes version of how to use this device in an effective and meaningful way and rescue it from the cob webs growing at the bottom of your gym bag.

For endurance athletes, there are two key uses for a HR monitor. The first and most important use is to ensure that you don’t train too fast on your easy and on your long days. These training days are designed to stimulate your aerobic fat-burning metabolism and increase your body’s capacity for endurance. If you exceed your aerobic threshold, even if it’s only for a minute or two up a hill, you will destroy the effect of this workout, switch into sugar burning, and your body won’t be able to switch back for up to 10-12 hours! This is the most common mistake of endurance athletes, and it impacts your training in a negative way by compromising your recovery and limiting the development of your aerobic fat-burning system.

To train properly in the aerobic fat-burning zone you need to be below 180 minus your age and able to comfortably breathe through your nose. If your heart rate is low and your respiration is completely relaxed, then you can bet you’re using fat to fuel your activity. The minute you pick up the pace or charge up a hill, you switch over to burning more sugar, tap into your anaerobic system, and virtually shut down your fat-burning mechanism. This compromises your training effect. Without a monitor, you’re guaranteed that you’ll walk over this line without even knowing it – almost every athlete I’ve worked with does.

Commonly, endurance athletes do their long training sessions in groups, and groups are notorious for pushing the pace, even if you have seeded yourself properly. Most members in a group train too hard because they’re motivated to keep up. Even when you think you’re okay because you’re talking and feeling fine, you’re probably training too hard. And hooking up with a group based on pace is not always ideal because on any given day their pace may not match what your body is telling you is aerobic on that day. You need to follow the inner cues of heart rate and nasal breathing if you are to stay aerobic and develop your fat-burning machine properly.

I remember one athlete I was working with who wanted to run with a local group for his long runs. He put himself in what he felt was the right pace group. After wearing his monitor on these group runs, we quickly saw that he was at his aerobic training level for the first 20-30 minutes, but then he would drift up to well over 20 beats above his proper training level. He felt okay, a bit tired and sore, but he could keep up. He was, however, inadvertently training too hard and compromising his aerobic fitness development. In addition, he was also compromising his recovery and this left him in a fatigued state for a few days.

I suggested that he build his base of long runs on his own for a time, while staying in his aerobic range and skip these group runs. After six months he rejoined the same group of 10-minute milers. This time however, he was able to start the run 10 beats lower than before, and he never exceeded his aerobic heart rate threshold the entire time. He would tell me that he came back fresh and capable of repeating the same long run that day. He was finally ready to be with the group and able to keep the run entirely aerobic. I left him with the guidance that he could move up in groups provided he could maintain his aerobic heart rate, if not, stick with the group he was with. He lowered his PB in his next marathon by over 40 minutes!

The second important use for a monitor is to properly target your race pace in training. If you wear your monitor in races and simply observe the findings, after awhile you will discover the average heart rates that you race various distances at. Using this information you can then properly target the exact intensity for your interval training. What’s even more beneficial is you can run this kind of workout anywhere because you don’t need to go with pace or find a track, all you need is your heart monitor to help you to pace yourself on these workouts.

For example, I’ve worked with one marathoner who has progressively lowered his personal best in four successive marathons simply by using his monitor to pace his interval workouts. Here’s how we did it. In each successive marathon, his average HR has been coming down. This is a good indicator that he is getting fitter aerobically, especially when his pace and subsequent finish time in each marathon has also been getting better. His aerobic training heart rate max is 135, and he completes all his long, easy runs below this heart rate.

His HR averages for the four marathons have been 158, 157, 155, 153. His times have been 4:00, 3:45, 3:38, 3:34. I have set his interval training heart rate at the 5 beat range below each of these values each time we have done interval training. For example after the first race run at a 158 average, I set his interval training heart rate at 153-158 and had him run 8-12 km repeats in this range. After that marathon, I lowered the training heart rate 1 beat to 152-157 and had him do 12-15 repeats. For the third race, I lowered his training rate to 150-155 and increased the repeats again to 15-20. And now, after the fourth race, we’re doing the same – adding a few more repeats at a slightly lower HR.

In this way, he is able to extend the time frame his body is capable of holding his exact race pace. This is the specific training stimulus that his body needs in order to successively lower his race pace is each successive event. By training over this specific heart rate, we actually stimulate the wrong training response. By training too easy below this heart rate, we would miss the mark, slow him down, and add what runners call more “junk miles” to his program. So on his speed day each week, we need to be very specific with his training. The only way we can do this is by using actual race heart rates and designing the program from that data. This, I have found to be the most accurate way to train marathoners.

The overall training formula then, to properly train for endurance is to train in your aerobic training range as dictated by 180 minus your age, breathe through your nose, and build up your mileage here first. Once your mileage base has been developed in whatever sport you’re training for, then add one day a week of faster training, targeted at your race heart rate and based on your previous race. If you don’t have a race heart rate to base it on then simply build your base, race, and establish one. You can’t get any more accurate than having heart rates from a race. One of my Ironman athletes averaged 132 in the Penticton Ironman last year and our goal for this year is to increase his average by 5 beats, now that’s being specific in training!

So there you have it, two simple but effective ways to use your monitor. The first allows you to target your fat-burning aerobic metabolism, and the second allows you to target your race objectives. I hope that takes the guesswork out of using your monitor and inspires you enough to dust the cobwebs off that lonely technological device.

Grant Molyneux, MKin, BPEH, CEP, AFLCA

Principles of Training

Robert (Bob) Gurney, PhD

Are you searching for training programs for a specific sport or for good practices of staying fit? If you search on the internet you will be overwhelmed at the amount of information and plans developed by people that claim to be experts (but are not) and those that are accredited experts with recognized certifications to support their expertise. So let’s keep it simple and start with the foundations of training principles and then let us know if we can help you apply them to sport or fitness specifics. The principles of training in this article include: specificity, overload, overtraining and the taper.

Specificity refers to the training be devised to ‘train’ those muscles and systems of the body that require the demands of the sport or activity you wish to engage in. In other words, all the movements and system needs of the sport need to be trained for optimal performance.

Overload is the principle that addresses the need to train above stimulus threshold (a stimulus or activity strong enough to elicit a response of ‘tough to do’ but no pain). This will facilitate the development of chronic training adaptations. The nature of the overload principle follows the ‘FITT’ formula: Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. Frequency refers to training 3 to 5 times per week; Intensity refers to monitoring your heart or pulse rate (see training heart rates guides or use the following formula: 220 – age = estimated max Heart Rate. Starting a training program for the first time should elicit a Heart Rate of 60% to 70% of estimated max Heart Rate …. Slowly progress over time to working in the 75% to 85% zone; if you are swimming use 205 – age = estimated max heart rate … this adjustment is linked to the buoyancy factor of the water). Time or duration refers to specific activities (for example aerobic training sessions should be at least 30 to 60 minutes of continuous work in your training heart rate zone), Type is the mode or type of activity (walking, running, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, etc … what do you like to do?)

Overtraining is associated with overload in terms of – you don’t want to overstress yourself, meaning doing too much training above your limitations and without sufficient rest intervals. In other words, overtraining is noticed when the training causes excess overload and the body is unable to adapt, which tends to result in decreased physical activity performance.

Taper refers to a period of reduced training weeks before a competition. You will need to experiment with this one as it varies among individuals. If you are a swimmer, a cyclist or a runner, the taper does not decrease your conditioning … it has been proven to increase muscle power, psychological state and performance.

For more specific applications of training principles to various body systems (Cardio-respiratory, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, power …) contact us with your specific questions of interest.

Note: it is strongly recommended that you consult with your family Physician and discuss your training plans, before commencing your training plan.

Author: Bob Gurney


You can connect with me on Linkedin – Robert (Bob) Gurney

Ultra Endurance

Ultra Endurance: Is it for you?

Current trends in endurance participation have drifted towards longer athletic events. Some events have stood the test of time such as the 90km Comrades ultra endurance running race founded in 1925 while others have increased in availability and popularity such as Ironman triathlons. Furthermore, new events have been created to appeal to those athletes who still seek longer more grueling pastimes such as Adventure Racing, 3000 mile RAAM cycling race, multistage events (Marathon Des Sables) and Ultraman Triathlons.

Defining Ultra Endurance

Some investigators identify the term “ultra endurance” as greater than 4 hours (Hawley and Hopkins, 1995; Kreider RB, 1991). However, a definition of ultra endurance could be based on physiological or psychological reasoning. For example, the 26.2 mile marathon is an event that is completed on average near 4 hours and has become popular in their association with fund raising and societies. Physiologically the marathon can be labeled as ultra endurance, but relative to the vast number of events that exceed this duration, a marathon may be classified simply as a long distance event. For the purpose of this article, ultra endurance events are those that are greater than 6 hours. The longer events have more reliance on adequate exercise management and long term preparation, optimal rate of movement, sufficient nutritional needs accommodating environmental stressors and psychological toughness. Generally, the longer the event, the more important preparation becomes in successfully finishing with functional health.

Training Principles

The training required for ultra-endurance events is no different from other sports with respect to underlying principles – successive stresses must be applied to the body over time in order to provide a stimulus to initiate an adaptation so that subsequent training or performance is accomplished at a higher absolute intensity or for a longer period of time. The transformation from an endurance athlete to an ultra endurance athlete takes time and patience. Countless hours of training need to be accumulated safely without sacrificing structural health. Incorporation of long single session training bouts and successive training days need to be apart of an athletes’ plan. It may not be necessary to accomplish the entire distance nor duration in training. But rather, up to 80 percent or segmented training bouts adding up to the events distances. Cross training to accumulate training hours maybe used to simulate longer training sessions particularly for runners and high impact activities.


Successful ultra-endurance performance is characterized by the ability to sustain a higher absolute speed for a given distance than other competitors. Although ultra-endurance training and competition may be viewed as a physical challenge, the athlete should be considered as a living psycho-social-physiological system (Kenttä et al. 1998). This holistic approach can be expanded into five areas that when combined culminate in an integrated view of performance. The five components are physiology, biomechanics, psychology, tactics and health/life-style. All these components need to be functioning at a near optimal levels in order to achieve a successful performance or for the maximization of the training adaptation. Generally most ultra athletes have an unique quality that allows them to make tremendous sacrifices, focus on the immediate task, tolerate extreme levels of numbing discomfort and maintain mental health during the training, race and post race.

For the ultra-endurance athlete, the following principles may be considered critical to success:

  1. The principle of all-around development – this principle suggest the need for an underlying general athletic ability that is supported by a strong psychological platform and technical ability in the various activities an athlete engages in. Within the training process, overcoming training and competition stresses promotes will-power, self-confidence, and tolerance for higher training and competition demands (Schmolinsky 1996). For example, an ultra runner might engage in cross country ski racing in the winter months to strengthen their soft tissue and maintain cardiovascular fitness.
  2. The principle of over-load – this over-loading principle addresses the concept of progressively increasing the training load and volume of physical work such that after a recovery period, an over-compensation and improved fitness is achieved through the correct sequencing of training over-load. Thus an athlete will be able to compete or train at an improved absolute intensity. Stacking two or three long training days in a row of either the same activity or a different activity is an example of over-loading for an ultra endurance athlete.
  3. The principle of specificity – for the ultra-endurance athlete, this principle is fundamental to success. The principle emphasizes the need for practice under similar conditions to those of competition. It recognizes that specific exercises and skills are required to compete efficiently and effectively in an event.
  4. The principle of individualization – it is recognized that athletes will react and adapt differently and over individual time-frames even when presented with identical training regimes (Norris et al. 2002). On a continuum, there are two broad categories of athletes – those who are genetically talented and at the other end of the continuum, those with a highly developed work ethic, with a system guiding their effort. Thus there is a requirement for individualized training programs with monitoring systems available to evaluate individual responses to a training load.
  5. The principle of reversibility – this principle highlights the requirement for consistent training. As suggested by the fitness-fatigue model of Bannister et al.(Banister 1991) fitness and fatigue are never constant and interruptions to training caused by injury, illness, or social needs, breaks the consistency of training that is required to achieve improvements. The loss of fitness gains can occur through inconsistent training and fatigue may also occur through non-training stress factors and inadequate recovery.

Although there are many other factors that can certainly affect the preparation and eventually the outcome of an ultra endurance event, physical training still remains to be the most important. By assessing an athletes background and maturity in endurance sport, a program can be created by following the principles listed above. At times, there are athletes that just naturally flow into these longer events, not necessarily because of genetic predisposition, but rather by recognizing they have tremendous mental toughness along with a lifestyle that allows for consistent and progressive training. Are you one of them?

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP


Everyman’s Gym

Several years ago my wife Dr. Clar Baldus and I began a project called The Crucible here in Cedar Rapids, IA. As natural former bodybuilders we had spent a lot of time in the fitness club and were looking to return to a more natural method of strength training. In addition I still wanted to keep strength training for triathlons. The Crucible was a result of our search.

In my research I came across the work of ManTis of USA Jungle Gym. Here was a guy and his friends who were lifting rocks, bags of sand and pulling up on tree limbs and staying strong. As I thought about his work it resonated with the child in me. How often in my 30 years of involvement in the fitness industry had I heard people unhappy about having to drive to the club to slog away on an elliptical or move through the same exercises on machines as all the others. Here was a gym for everyone’s backyard!

I knew I needed a format in which to base these movements as we planned to share our gym with others in our community. I had been reading Dan John’s book Never Let Go and his description of The Big Nine, a list he created which broke down weight training into 9 movements, impressed me with the functional elegance contained within its simplicity.

The Crucible was simple in its origin. We began with some cinderblocks, lengths of cast off gas pipe and lengths of log chain. We added a striking tire and sledgehammers as funds permitted, bought a couple of different diameters of 8 foot fence posts at the farm store and hosted our first free and open workouts to the public. (My creativity was such that one regular participant had me come to his place of business and build a “crucible style gym” for the employees which I did for under $200.00! Last year we had over 30 free and open workouts either at our home or at local parks and trails)

We focus on the movements rather than the muscles in our workouts. Our workouts lasted one hour and were simple in structure, either having those taking part work through the 9 movements with the entire list or creating a workout with a selection of movements and having participants complete As Many Rounds As Possible in the hour (AMRAP).

By focusing on movements over muscles we are doing compound movements. Not only do compound or multi-joint movements require more energy they often involve movement in more than one plane of motion – offering a time crunched athlete the most bang for their buck. (For example: A biceps curl involves only flexion (the closing of an angle) of the forearm. As single joint movement involving a small muscle group it’s not much of a calorie burner. By comparison a neutral grip pull-up involves the muscles of the back, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, deltoids and the biceps, it is a multi-joint or compound movement involving ADduction, flexion and to some degree extension. The number of muscles involved greatly increases calorie use and bang for one’s buck)

Dan John’s list The Big Nine is as follows:

  1. Horizontal Push (Bench Press, Push-ups) (Pectorals, deltoids, triceps)
  2. Horizontal Pull (Rows and Variations) (Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Trapezius, Biceps, Deltoids)
  3. Vertical Push (Military Press, Overhead, Zercher Carries) (Deltoids, Trapezius, Triceps, Postural)
  4. Vertical Pull (Pull-up, Pulldown) (Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps, Deltoids, Trapezius)
  5. Explosive Full Body (Swings / Snatches / Cleans / Jerks) (Pretty much the whole shooting match)
  6. Quad Dominant Lower Body (Squats and variations; Bulgarian Split Squats, Goblet Squats) (Quads, Hamstrings, Postural)
  7. Posterior Chain (Deadlifts)
  8. Anterior Chain (Medicine Ball Ab Throw, Barbell Roll-outs, Ab Wheel)
  9. Rotational / Torque (Sledgehammer, Roman Twist, Turkish Get-ups, Woodchopper)

While space constraints don’t allow listing all the types of workouts possible as simple combination would be to grab a pair of cinderblocks and a length of pipe. Set your watch and AMRAP in 30:00 in order Horizontal Push, Horizontal Pull, Quad Dominant Lower Body, Vertical Push and Anterior Chain. Go for 12 reps with good form and keep the rest between movements to a minimum. It’s different and believe me you’ll feel it.

The combinations are endless as are the possibilities. Take your cinderblocks down the street to the playground, climb on and use the jungle gym for pull-ups, do push-ups off the end of the slide and enjoy the freedom of having your own gym 24/7. Just like when we were children playing outside.


C.J. Ong, Jr. / The Crucible / 2012 © This information is intellectual property and may not be shared by any means including electronically without express written permission of the author.

Crucible Gym at

Article by C.J. Ong, Jr.

The Crucible Gym


Bone Health and Physical Activity

by Bob Gurney

For years, people have been aware of osteoporosis as a major issue facing our aging population. Although this disorder has been emphasized among postmenopausal women, men are also susceptible to this disease. However, men have an internal mechanism to help reduce this risk. In males, estradiol (an active metabolic product of testosterone) works to stimulate a more positive balance of calcium in bone. Osteoporosis is a progressive condition that causes loss of bone mass as the bones demineralize and becomes porous. The literature informs us that bone mass can decrease by 30 to 50% in persons moving past the age of 50. Linked to low levels of hormones influencing calcium deficit in bones is osteopenia (meaning – bone poverty), a condition where bones weaken and thus increase the risk of fractures. In attempts to educate people to osteoporosis and osteopenia, recommendations of checking calcium intake and maintaining appropriate levels, along with regular weight-bearing exercises combined with resistance exercises can slow the process of bone loss and has been proven to stimulate bone mass in both men and women, over 50 years of age. Regular exercise combined with resistance exercises provides local bone development and bone deposition. As you near your optimal biological bone density levels, further density gains requires greater efforts to check calcium levels and exercise regimes. Discontinuing exercise reverses the bone development effects that have been gained. It is very important to understand that more (excessive physical training) is not necessarily better. Nutritional factors that contribute to bone health have been known for many years. Vitamins A, D and C are the classic ones that have been publicized and reinforced by the health sciences and medicine professions.

Risk factors for osteoporosis include, but are not limited to: history of bone fractures in adulthood, history of fractures in a parent or sibling, cigarette smoking*, sedentary lifestyle, eating disorders, high protein (animal protein) intakes, excess sodium intake, alcohol abuse, excess caffeine intake, low testosterone levels*, steroid use*, deficiencies in vitamin D and calcium.

*main osteoporosis risk factors in men.

This article has been developed from the literature, primarily:

McArdle, W.D., Katch, F.I. and Katch, V.L (2007). Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition & Human Performance (6th edition). Baltimore Maryland: Lippcott, Williams and Wilkins.

Questions for you to consider:

1. What are your risk factors in osteoporosis?

2. What do you do to lower your risk factors for osteoporosis?

Author: Bob Gurney

The Future of Sport Performance

The Super Athlete

by Calvin Zaryski

The future in athletic development and ultimately super human performances is most likely dictated by genetic make up rather than equipment, training methods or psychological factors. Superior physiological traits will be necessary for a human to run a sub two hour marathon. This accomplishment seems to be realistic based on current trends in world record times. Assuming no artificial and illegal manipulation transpires, human evolution specific to this task could take 100 years with a perfect blend of genetic contribution, along with ideal conditioning and mental constitution.

Naturally, and certainly more probable now than twenty years ago, a perfect match could occur steering genetic engineering towards superhuman traits. More commonly, world-class athletes of the same sport are producing offspring and raising them with competitive values and environmental shaping. This matching certainly does not guarantee to produce superior offspring, but can increase the odds of harvesting the perfect combination to lay the infrastructure necessary to be the next super athlete. I am obviously over simplifying, but we could see further mutations in their already unique athletic code that could push the human limits further, faster or stronger.

Natural evolution takes time and in the world of high performance, some short cuts are already in the works. As we enter the next decade of sport, scientists are now identifying and isolating genetic code that is responsible to engineer superior athletic traits, so called fitness gene codes. In 1980, a team of Canadian scientists isolated the first actual gene responsible for improved adaptation to training called the ACE gene. Since this time, there have been over 100 genes relating to physical performance and athletics.

Specific to the sub two hour marathon, a variant of this ACE gene, which has an additional DNA strand, is responsible for improving the efficiency of the muscles aerobic power. Not only enhance the muscles cells ability to produce more energy, but this specific genetic mutation can divert a useful percentage of heat energy created by substrate metabolism back into usable energy, thus improving muscle endurance as well. Not all endurance athletes have this specific gene, but scientist can actually identify, isolate and potentially “ insert” this super charged trait via gene manipulation.

Furthermore, scientists can actually screen young children and classify them as endurance or strength athletes using genetic typing. A biotech company in Australia claims to have this exact screening procedure. The test costs about 45 AUS and time will tell if this process produces more world records in our near future. If this screening can guide young athletes into more directed and focused training earlier in development, we may see a significant leap in human performance.

The real issue in this biogenetic technology involves gene therapy and doping. Currently specific genes that can code for proteins/hormones, capable of enhancing sport traits, can be produced artificially and then implanted to boost physical performance. A gene therapist can sequence the particular human gene into a retrovirus that targets the required tissue. Viruses are all made of DNA and they are looking for a chromosomal home or cell. Once it finds its home, more inserted copies can be made ultimately changing the characteristics of the cell. The process is very complicated but already positive results are being illustrated using this technique.


This biotechnology allows scientists to interrupt cell replication and tamper with natural sequencing and length of DNA strands. It may be possible to replace normal fitness genes with superhuman ones that are created in the laboratory. Gene doping could revolutionize sport as we know it, and it may not be detectible. Most probable tissues that gene intervention would occur is bone marrow and blood formation, heart and skeletal muscle, mitochondria (power houses of the muscles cells), acid-neutralising buffers, muscle capillary blood vessels and possibly connective tissue. It is possible that in 50 years time, all of these traits can be artificially enhanced and we can create the super athlete well before mother nature intended.


In the world of producing World records or Olympic medals, talent identification, (either from recognizing passed on genes by athletic parents, or genetic screening), will be an ongoing process that certainly can direct a young athlete into sport. There is no harm nor ethical issues in talent identification. However, bioscience is beginning to offer other means of not just identifying but creating superior athletes. Gene doping and gene therapy are techniques that will continue to become a reality as scientists push the boundaries of human nature. Whether or not this practice is ethical in sport or even safe in long term human development is yet to be debated. It is just a matter of time when the bioscience world of curing disease becomes the playground for creating the super athlete. So it is not a matter of IF a sub 2 hour marathon will ever happen but rather, WHEN will a sub 2 hour marathon occur? If we wait for mother nature to guide this feat, it could be 100 years, but if the scientists have their way, it could happen in our next decade…

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP

Yoga For Men

oga: Eastern Practice in Western Sports

by C.J. Ong, Jr.

Over the past few years the practice of Yoga in many variations has come to the west. Often considered by the uninformed to be a religious practice, Yoga is recognized as one of the six philosophical systems to arise out of India, founded by the Indian sage Patanjali in approximately 300 B.C. Yoga yields the greatest benefits when approached as a way of life, offering one a chance to experience an integrated system of education for the body, mind and inner spirit. For the athlete Yoga can provide a way to synthesize the processes of a well-rounded fitness program in several ways. They can include:

  • Improved use of Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
    The neurological location for the skills needed to execute movement in any or all of the three planes of movement lies within the motor cortex of the brain, with each hemisphere dominant or controlling bodily movements on the contra-lateral side. An asana in Yoga recruiting Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence would be Ardha Matsyendrasana (the spinal twist), an asana requiring movement in all three planes of movement. Developing the skills to execute an asana correctly can transfer to improved sports performance. When mastered the 12 positions contained within Surya Namaskar (the sun salutations) integrate each hemisphere of the brain and provide one with a total stretching routine.
  • Calming of the Sympathetic Nervous System
    Many athletes allow their workouts to become back to back races and challenges, either with themselves or others. These “workouts” create constant state of stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system with a negative effect on the body. In an effort to protect itself the body releases cortisol, a catabolic hormone consuming lean tissue. Engaging in regular Yoga practice will allow the body to recover faster, improve sleep (quality sleep is when the production of the body’s natural growth hormones is at its’ highest levels) and lead to lower body fat levels when incorporated into a sound training schedule.
  • Optimal Performance Through Improved Posture
    For the body’s ten levels of cellular organization to work together in an optimal manner the correct alignment of the body segments is crucial. Postural faults often lead to compensation injuries and the resulting sub-par athletic performances. Learning the asana Tadasana (mountain) can bring one to an awareness of correct posture. Improved posture allows the nerve plexuses/chakras to enter into correct alignment with each other, in turn allowing the river of energy contained within the body to flow easily.

In the beginning the practice of Yoga may seem confusing, even perhaps daunting and improvement may seem miniscule. Attending a class with those who have attained a certain level of mastery might make one feel out of place at first. It is at these times one should keep in mind the words of Bruce Lee, one of the first athletes to integrate Eastern and Western practices into athletics: “Success lies in the process rather than the completion”.

© C.J. Ong, Jr. / 2011

Desire to Endure

by Cal Zaryski

Many times I have been asked WHY I participate in endurance activities. I have tolerated many hours of discomfort only to cross a line that signifies an accomplishment. For most of society, this is the burning question. Why did Alan Hobson climb Mount Everest when the odds are that one in four may not return? Why would Sandra McCallum tolerate 7 days in the desert running over 250km risking her life just to finish? Why would she even think about returning to finish stronger and tolerate even more pain? What makes us different from the rest of society?

There seems to be this inner desire that drives us to our limits. Limits that need to be explored and pushed continuously. Some do it in business, others in sport, but the desire and motivation is the same. We are hungry for success and results. We need to achieve our dreams. Inspiration and desire must come from within. That is the key.

Motivation is energy, and that sense of self-directedness is one of the most powerful sources of energy available. From internal motivation you gain the willingness to persevere with your training, to endure discomfort and stress, and to make sacrifices with your time and energy as you move closer to your goals.

What are the key characteristics of well-motivated endurance participants? Through extensive research with athletes for 20 years, JoAnn Dahlkoetter Ph.D. has developed a constellation of traits that define the champion’s mentality. I will outline them for you.

Enthusiasm and Desire: You must love what you are doing! Regardless of your talent and ability, there must be a fire that ignites your passion to achieve an important goal. To accomplish anything of value in life you need to begin with a vision or dream! The more clearly you can see that picture in your mind, the more likely it will become reality. Wherever you place your attention, you energy will follow!

Courage to Succeed: Back up your desire with courage, the incentive to make any dream reality. It takes courage to sacrifice, to train when you are tired, to seek out tough competition when you know you’ll probably be beaten. It takes courage to stick with your game plan and the relentless pursuit of your goal when you encounter obstacles. It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before – physically and mentally.

Internal Motivation and Self-Direction: Successful athletes have decided early on that they are training and competing for themselves, not for their parents, coaches, or for the medals. Your direction and drive must come from within. Your goals must be one that you have chosen because that’s exactly what you want to be doing!

Commitment to Excellence: How successful do you want to be? Elite athletes know that to be successful in their sport they must decide to make it a priority in their life. It is important to make an honest effort each day to be the best at what they do! To notice significant growth you must live this commitment and regularly stretch what you perceive to be your current limits. This commitment must be present every minute of the day. Temptations are all too frequent.

Discipline, Consistency, Organization: Most successful people know how to self-energize and work hard on a daily bases. Because they love what they do, it is not hard to maintain this consistent behavior. Regardless of personal problems, fatigue, stress, poor weather or difficult circumstances, they can generate the optimal excitement and energy to do their best and stay on course.

Ability to Handle Adversity: Successful people and athletes know how to deal with difficult situations and facing this adversity builds character and self esteem! While elite athletes know the odds are against them they embrace the chance to explore the outer limits of their potential. Rather than avoiding pressure they feel challenged by it! Life is about personal growth and setbacks are apart of this growth. Remember, it is OK to fail, but never OK to fold! Successful people never give up!

Endurance activities ranging from a 2 hour hike or your first 10km running race to Ironman triathlons offer a wonderful chance to free ourselves for short periods and experience intensity and excitement not readily available elsewhere in our lives. To develop an inner desire and maximize your true potential, you must make the most of the talent you have, and stretch the limits of your abilities, both physically and mentally. Endurance activities can become a means to personal growth and enjoyment of the pursuit of your goals. Try incorporating the profile above into your mental preparation and you can learn to live more fully, train with more purpose and feel exactly the way you want to feel. Happy training and see you out there!

Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP



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