I think I’ll dump the bench press for a while and stick with push ups

I gave bench pressing a try in the gym today to see if my injuries have healed enough. No dice. I’ve used light weight and worked my way up to 115lbs (far from the measly 200ish I was doing pre-injuries). 

I did about 3 sets of 3 reps before I felt some pain.  115lbs. Hm…

As I fretted next to the bench about how long my progress will take, I thought of how I was able to do a few sets of 8 push ups ealrier in the week feeling some uh-oh pain. That’s 8 reps of me pushing my bodyweight of about 185lbs. So why am I wasting my time with bench pressing? 

I don’t mean to invoke DIY science but if bodyweight exercises are better for our bodies, core strength, balancing our muscles, etc. while bench pressing can create imbalances (yes, while I’m ignoring the benefits of bench pressing), maybe I should focus more on the stuff I can do and worry about the stuff I can’t.

After all, I always felt a lot more robust and stronger after pumping out push ups than bench presses. My upper back is worked along with my chest while the bench press does nothing for my back. I’m not dissing the bench press. It’s one of the main compound exercises for building functional strength. I’m just thinking that while I’m trying to recover and bounce back form many injuries (at my age), I should be thinking of what would benefit my body the most. 



Did you know that your body talks to you?


Ok, my intention is not get all new age hippy dippy on you but once I got into the swing of things with strength training in 2013, it really did feel like my body was talking to me in a sidekick sort of way. When building your strength using compound movements that utilizes your body’s natural movements (like squats, deadlifts, pull ups), your body becomes, well, functional. Moving furniture becomes easier because, for example, you’re already used to the form of squats (legs bent, back straight, core braced) almost without thinking you get into that proper form and with your increased strength, you’re able to push or pull or lift. And you will feel like your body is helping you. Hence, the sidekick and the “talking” part.

I was helping my parents move a particularly heavy dresser drawer last fall when I first experienced this. I suddenly found myself getting into almost the deadlift postion (almost similar to the squat) and gripped the behemoth. And then another sudden epiphany. It was as if my body was saying to me “I’ve got your back. On three…”.

Since then, I was in tune with my body. I think I’ve finally understood what “aligning your mind and body” means.

Before I got into strength training, moving furniture was a clumsy ordeal for me filled with fear of throwing our my back and losing body parts.

Things are in harmony when you treat your body right. I was built this way to move this way. That’s why I’m such an advocate for squats, deadlifts, pull ups, all the compound movements which use your body’s natural movements. It’s a great feeling to be self-aware in this way.

My classmate, Danny Lombardi, happened to blog about a similar topic last week. In If you owned a Ferrari, would you use only first gear?, Danny talks about how we just aren’t made to sit all day in a vehicle on our commute to and from work, at a desk for 8 hours or so at work, or on the couch after dinner time. Danny uses his camping experiences to explain how our bodies are capable of allowing us to do “sustained, high-output work” and really amazing things (for example, look up calisthenics or street workout on YouTube for examples).

Your thoughts? Have you ever experienced a total awareness of mind and body in a way that you have never expected?

Help me create my rehab workout

Three men working out in a gym

Photo credit: Marco Crupi  Released in Creative Commons

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I have numerous injuries which I’ve been (im)patiently waiting to heal since last November.

A recap for new readers: 2013 was a great year for me as I’ve discovered the benefits of strength training. Long story short, I enjoyed increased energy, increased confidence, a sense of capability, and I was stronger when helping out moving furniture and such.

Unfortunately due to what turns out to be and posture (who knew?) and bad desk ergonomics, I ended up with the following injuries:

After six expensive visits to physio, I was given the green light to go back into the gym. BUT… yes, there is a but… I have to start from zero. That means I’m squatting, deadlifting, barbell rowing, military pressing with just the bar. No plates added. My physio therapist doesn’t even want me to touch the bench press.

This is what I call the very definition of “checking your ego at the door”. And the very definition of “patience”.

What a huge difference I feel in my mental health from regular strength training to having to keep away from it. And I intend on getting back into the former ASAP. But with patience.

This is where I need your help

Suggestions on which exercises/routines I can do? My physiotherapist simply said start from zero then gradually add weight. “You’ll know when”. This isn’t good enough for me. I need a plan and goals. Strength training made it easy — add 2.5lbs per week. If at one point you just can’t do it, reduce and try again.

For instance, the push up is one of my favorite strength building exercises. But I have to start with wall push ups. Then I can move on to the push ups you do on your knees before my recovering biceps can handle my full weight during regular push ups. That means burpees, another favorite of mine, are out for the time being.

I can do leg exercises like lunges and farmer’s walks. Maybe even the leg press machine (though I prefer barbells and nothing beats the squat and deadlift).

Anyone out there who has been there with the injuries I’ve had? Got a rehab routine I can do?

3 signs that you’re emotionally eating and 5 ways to stop it

I know I’m late to the game but I’ve very recently started watching The Big Bang Theory. Unfortunately, reruns are on twice a night and repeating throughout the day. An additional new episode is available Thursdays.

Added to the mix is the fact that it had been quite a dark, cold, really cold, really frigidly cold, really frigidly what-am-I-doing-living-in-Canada cold winter this time around. Along with taking a leave of absence from the gym for a number of months due to injuries, I’ve found myself falling into the emotional eating trap. Infographic, if you please.

Emotional eating happens when you eat for reasons other than hunger. For me it’s when I sit in front of the TV. Before discovering The Big Bang Theory reruns, I watched very little TV. When I regularly lifted weights, I got into a very good habit of not even wanting to eat in front of the TV. Now, I’ve fallen off the wagon. 

Fortunately, I can get right back up!

After all, we’re only human and we’re given the change to make things right. So in the spirit of this blog, I’d like to talk a bit about what else triggers emotional eating and what we can do about it.

1. Tuning out in front of the TV

Back when I was a child growing up in the 1980s, I’ve heard many times how sitting in front of the TV entices you to eat even when you’re not hungry. Whether you see a specific food item on the family sitcom or in a tv commercial, you are most likely going to get up during the commercial break and grab a snack from the kitchen.

This time around, I noticed that I’ve built a habit of having to eat something while I watch TV. I tried to fight it only to cave in. Sheesh, what happened to the mentally tough version of me from 2013? What’s worse is if the show hasn’t ended yet, I’ll find something else to eat to fill time.

2. Being bored

When I watch TV, it’s in my spare time. Mostly after dinner on weeknights, during lunch on Saturdays and during (and sadly, after) dinner on Sundays. After a long day of work and a long, fury-inducing drive in traffic, I just want to plop myself on the couch and be entertained. Not good after having spent yet another workday sitting in front of a computer!

3. Looking for comfort

Watching TV – or watching a movie or reading a book – takes me away to another land and into another life of someone else’s misadventures and hijinks. Who needs reality after a hard day’s work when you can escape to brighter, sunnier days?

After spending three absolute frigid months indoors and away from my gym, boy did I need comfort!

What’s wrong with a little comfort?

Nothing. It’s the underlying issues that’s causing emotional eating in the first place. The last thing you want to do is fill yourself up with junk food while you’re brain is getting lazy from sitting there and watching TV. You’re sad and this triggers many things in your mind, body and mood. Besides, The Big Bang Theory isn’t always a good TV show. It has it’s golden episodes and for whatever reason, it has it’s stinker of a non-story. In fact, I feel terrible after watching a pretty bad episode. What a waste of my time.

So the outcome ends up being quite simply: you’re eating more than you need. And it’s most likely “comfort food” (a.k.a. junk).

Now how to get back into the swing of things?

Easy! But it may be difficult at first but well worth the effort. I did this last year, too:

1. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry

Since most of my TV watching is done in front of the TV at night, this is a simple answer. No, I am not hungry. I just ate dinner! But oh, I need something sweet to sink my teeth into. How about some dates? They are healthy and full of fibre… While that’s a topic for another post, I’m still feeding my emotional eating habit. Perhaps I can eat the dates at the dinner table before I put the dishes away.

2. Don’t skip meals

And don’t shop while you’re hungry either. You’ll end up buying things on impulse then you’ll gain the issue of spending too much money. Skipping meals will guarantee a nice big, shovelling bingefest. Another topic for a future post.

3. Keep junk food out of the house

I’ve had junk food cravings throughout 2013 but never caved in because I’ve never had any junk food in the house. It’s amazing how quickly the cravings go away when you can’t fulfill them. And thank goodness I’m too lazy to jump in the car and go satisfy that itch!

4. Keep healthy replacements in the house

Ok, so you’d rather keep sweets and junk food in the home. Know what I’ve found to be an irresistible treat while watching TV? Frozen cherries. Or frozen raspberries. Or frozen grapes. This only works in the summer. Not really in the frigid wintry days. But you get my drift. If you want sugar, might as well eat it when it comes with fibre, vitamins and minerals.

5. Exercise regularly

Yet another topic for a future post but trust me on this one, having a regular exercise routine keeps you in top healthy eating and mental toughness form. This bit of advice wasn’t on the above mentioned infographic but I certainly found it to have played a huge, influential role in making it too easy for me to stick to my goals. Exercising kept me in a great mood, I was never bored and I didn’t crave sugar.

Physio can’t finish soon enough!

Have you been emotionally eating? What are you doing to stop yourself?

Recommended daily limit of sugar is…


Photo credit: avlxyz

According to this infographic listing a number of sources that I have never heard of (but seeing “Harvard” mentioned seems to give it some street cred), the recommended (US) daily limit of sugar is 6 teaspoons. That’s roughly 24 grams. The 6 teaspoons is also mentioned in this infographic by the Cleveland Clinic with an additional 3 teaspoons (36 grams) for men (the 24 is recommended for women). This infographic says 12 grams for children. For simplicity sake, let’s stick with the 24 grams.

It’s a good idea to read the labels

Like paying by debit or credit, it can be quite easy to lose track of how much sugar we eat throughout the day. If we set our daily limit to 24 grams per day, then one small carton of chocolate milk is all it takes to throw us off. One of those delicious babies contains 30g of sugar. Not bad. It does have vitamins that could benefit us but my point is the rest of your daily intake have been maxed out. If you’re serious about reducing sugar, then don’t go for a latte in the afternoon. Taking a look at the Starbucks Canada nutritional menu… hm, it seems most of their lattes, grande and up, are double the daily limit. Even the tall and shorts are in the teens and 20+s depending on the fanciness of your drink. So if you have a morning chocolate milk then a latte later on, you’ve already exceeded the 24 grams.

Fortunately, we can ask the barista to use half sugar or a lower amount.

Office meeting? If someone brought timbits, you’re looking at an additional 1 gram for each plain one and up to 7 grams the fancier they go. If they brought actual donuts, they are in the double digits and well into the 20s depending on how fancy the donuts are. Low fat muffins contain 24 to 30 grams. Did someone bring chocolates into the cubicle farm? Uh oh…

Can you carry over to the next day if you binge?

Um, no. If we could, then we’d cave in and go back to where we started.

I’m not trying to spoil your fun. Just helping you stay focused on your goal. Check the labels and set a daily limit of how much sugar to ingest. At the vey least you can prevent yourself from binging and feel good about staying on track.

So is sugar good for you then? I mean, if there’s a recommended daily intake…

There’s a limit to how much your liver can handle. Go over that limit and you start getting the unhealthy side effects. According to a few research studies mentioned in the random infographics above (I mean, I didn’t actually conduct an exhaustive background check), 24 grams if you’re a woman, 36 if you’re a man, and 12 if you’re a kid.

Sugar contains two molecules. Glucose and fructose. Glucose is good. Fructose is bad. Glucose is good because every cell in our body uses it for energy. But we don’t need boat loads of it. Fructose is the bad one that, long story short, turns into fat. So the whole 12-36 numbers above, I safely assume, refer to the limits our liver can handle.

When you read the list of ingredients on food labels, look for fructose (or corn syrup). This stuff is in everything. Peanut butter, yogurts, fruit drinks, low fat this, fat free that, you name it. See why I said earlier to avoid processed food as much as possible?

Wait, there’s a recommended daily intake of sugar?

Yeah, I’m surprised as well. But this is the reason why I started this blog. To learn about sugar and it’s affects. Could there be a good side to sugar? Is there a consequence to not ingesting sugar? Looks like I’ll be learning some new things with this blog!

Chime in with your learnings and help me, um, learn something new.

5 ways I dumped sugar last year

Comic of man talking to a devil woman. He is saying "Sugar, I'm breaking up with you"

In my previous post, I mentioned how I successfully kept sugar out of my diet with no cave ins to temptation or even any suffering. The elimination wasn’t 100% but it was pretty much in the 90s. I also mentioned that I did end up caving in and falling off the wagon and then some due to a few factors like injuring myself in the gym and spending the holiday season working in a corporate environment.

So I’m starting up once again the methods that I used last year to dumping sugar from my diet – or at least most of it. Let’s face it, we’re living in a (western) society and culture where sugar is everywhere. It’s in our ‘health products’, vitamin pills, fruit juices and those deceptive low-fat products.

1. Strength training

I got into strength training at the beginning of January 2013. I needed a workout plan that was short since I had other things in life that needed tending to. The results were almost instant. I was breaking personal records in every workout and noticed significant gains in strength and size by month’s end. My March, I was full of energy and confidence – the side effects of training for strength – that I had no desire to ruin my momentum. This made it easy for me to pass up any sugary treats in the office though they were sitting in plain view in front of my cubicle for most of the day.

2. Eat more protein and stick to carbs with a low glycemic index

With strength training comes the need to increase your protein. I won’t get into it but long story short, protein plays a big role in building muscle. An increase in protein intake curbs sugar cravings. As for carbs, some can spike our blood sugar. Stick to the ones with a low glycemic index. Low glycemic = low spike.

3. Avoid processed foods

They are all junk. Full of salt, some are full of sugar or fructose and corn syrup. Your body doesn’t know what to do with these empty calories (which will make you eat even more) so it turns them all into fat. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t trace the food product to nature, then don’t eat it. Example, you can trace an egg to the hen, the milk to the cow, the yogurt to the…. ok let’s see, there’s milk in it, um… I guess some fruit… um… hm, not sure how yogurt is made but it’s a few steps to nature while an egg or glass of milk is one. A bag of nachos has a few more steps. Another good rule is to avoid the middle section of the supermarket. All the good stuff – the produce department, the meat market, the dairy section – they are all against the walls. The processed foods your body doesn’t need are in the middle.

4. Immerse yourself with positive media

I bet you didn’t expect this one! Reading positive literature – self-improvement, mental toughness, stories of heroics, reading about how people live in adverse conditions – they all give you perspective. Coupled with strength training (read: seeing your exercise goals come to fruition), I found it too easy to resist sugar. I got into the groove, zone, momentum, whatever you want to call it, of carrying on.

5. Set some sugar rules

After getting rid of the junk, your body will thank you. But once in a while, you’ll cave (not necessarily a bad thing) but you’ll find that you won’t binge. A small piece of cake will end up satisfying you. Your tummy may rumble but you won’t miss anything. I ended up savouring the smaller morsels! I didn’t want to become that guy in the office or the party or in the family who ends up making others feel badly about eating a sugary treat. Or worse, come across as holier than thou. I hope I’m not coming across this way in this post (or any of my other posts). Besides, eating is a social thing. We’re social creatures. Unless it’s a food allergy or you’re training for something really, really, really important, it’s no biggie if you have a piece of cake at a party.

My rules for actually eating a sugary treat were/are:

a) If I’m offered dessert at someone’s house.

b) I won’t order anything with sugar in at a restaurant.

c) Ditto when shopping. Keep it out of the house. Out of sight, out of mind.

d) Look for recipes with sugar alternatives like coconut flour.

e) frozen cherries and raspberries make great tv watching snacks.

Just. Don’t. Binge.

And if you do, or if you foresee a bingefest coming up (holiday dinners, weddings, etc.), don’t get too hard on yourself. Just jump right back up (hence the positive literature tip above).

7. You’re only accountable to yourself

Self-respect is a harsh judge! :)

Have you kicked the sugar habit? Share how you achieved your goal by leaving a comment below.