New Study Suggests Diet Soda May Contribute to Stroke Risk

•February 27, 2011 • 2 Comments

A study reported at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011 found that people who drank diet soda every day were 48% more likely to suffer a stroke or other vascular event over a nine-year span, compared with people who didn’t drink diet soda. The study does not suggest a cause for the correlation, and did not take participants family medical history into account.

I have always encouraged clients to steer away from all sodas, diet or otherwise. Regular sodas are way too sugary and offer little to no nutrition. Aside from the possible health risks of the artificial sweeteners and other chemical ingredients, my main beef with diet sodas is that they dull the palate and make it more difficult to appreciate the subtle sweetness of natural foods like sweet potatoes and winter squash. My overall recommendation on diet is to major in natural, whole foods and steer away from highly processed or industrially-grown food products. Drink lots of filtered water between meals. For a sweet, fizzy drink treat, try making your own kombucha and sweeten with juice.

Will Power May Be Unlimited

•January 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Although I have generally been a believer in making incremental improvements in diet, exercise, and health practices, I’m going to start pushing myself and others a bit harder in light of a recent psychological study.

Researchers at Stanford found in a series of four experiments that study participants who believed that will-power is an unlimited resource fared much better than those who believe that it is finite when faced with strenuous mental tasks.

Portable Bamboo Utensils

•January 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

While traveling over the holidays I came across this great set of bamboo eating utensils in a carrying case. They were for sale at one of my favorite restaurants on Earth, Casa de Luz, a non-profit macrobiotic restaurant in Austin.

I bought two sets and keep one in the glove compartment of the car, and Helen keeps one set in her purse.

It’s the next step in renouncing the use of disposable plastic cups, bottles, plates and utensils.

Shun the plastic water bottle and eat fresh, local produce

•October 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’ve posted before about the health risks of endocrine disruptors, both natural (phytoestrogens) from unfermented soy foods, and chemical (xenoestrogens) primarily from plastics.  I’ve also posted about the environmental catastrophe brought on by disposable plastic bottles and bags.

Many studies have shown that xenoestrogens cause infertility and even spontaneous sex change in amphibians and fish. Europe and Canada have recently tagged bisphenol-a, a chemical used to make plastic more flexible, as a human toxin. BPA is also used in the thin plastic linings of canned foods.

A new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility is the first to establish a link between BPA and low sperm count in humans.

One of my aims here is to show how our bodies are a part of the ecology of this, the only planet we know that can sustain life. Our choices in our microcosmic environment reverberate out into the macrocosm, the planetary environment.

Some simple things we can do are to carry reusable (ideally non-plastic) water bottles and canvas grocery bags.  Instead of canned foods, grow some of your own herbs, fruits and vegetables and try to source as much of your produce locally as you can. Incremental steps will not immediately save the world, but can get us all moving in the right direction.

New Kettlebell Strength and Conditioning Classes

•September 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Several students have expressed interest in learning to use the kettlebells (the old-timey weights along the front wall) for strength and conditioning training.

Kettlebell training is great for martial artists.  Unlike conventional bodybuilding exercises, which train muscles in isolation, kettlebell exercises work across multiple muscle groups to develop coordinated, total-body strength, the kind of strength you need for powerful, explosive kicks, punches, sweeps and throws.

Normally I train people one on one with kettlebells, at $150 for a package of four one hour lessons, scheduled at your convenience.  But because a number of people have approached me lately, I’ve decided to offer small group lessons at a discounted rate.

Kettlebell exercises are highly skill-intensive and require focused instruction and attentive practice.  it is like doing yoga with a cannonball held over your head.  It is not: tune out and watch “Real Housewives” while you slog away at the stair-stepper!

I would love to have a regular group kettlebell strength and conditioning class going, but before you are ready for a large group class, you need to learn safe and effective technique with an instructor carefully monitoring your form.

So starting this coming week of 9/20, Monday & Wed 5:15-6:15,  I’ll be working with a small group of students to teach the basics of kettlebell training.  If we end up with 3 students, the cost will be $60 for four one hour lessons.  If we end up with 4 students, it will be $45 for four lessons.  I expect it will take 8 lessons to become proficient in the exercises.

The first lesson will be $20.  If you decide to continue, I’ll apply that to your package of four lessons.

Let me know ASAP if you are interested!

More information on kettlebells:

What is a kettlebell?
A lump of cast iron resembling a cannonball with a thick handle, the kettlebell is an old-time strongman implement that has been enjoying a new wave of popularity since Pavel Tsatsouline, a former physical training instructor for the Soviet Special Forces, first published an article on kettlebell training in MILO, a journal for strength training professionals, in 1998.

Why train with kettlebells as opposed to free weights or machines?
Kettlebell drills, unlike bodybuilding exercises, work across multiple muscle groups to develop integrated strength. The result is a strength training that builds athleticism by teaching coordinated movement, not muscle isolation.

Kettlebells develop lower back endurance, strengthen the glutes, stretch the hip flexors, and train proper core alignment for better back support.

Strength and Conditioning
Kettlebell exercises fall into two basic categories. “Grind” exercises are performed slowly, under high tension and for low reps to develop maximal strength. Like yoga or pilates, these exercises often incorporate holding the body balanced in difficult postures to develop stability and strength at odd angles. The “Turkish Get-Up,” for example, has the practitioner lying on his back with the kettlebell pressed overhead, and moving from there up to a lunge, then to a standing position, then back down again without bending the arm.

The grind exercises are designed to recruit type IIb muscle fibers, the kind of muscle used in short bursts of all-out exertion.

The “ballistic drills” such as the swing, clean, and snatch, develop explosive strength from the toes to the fingertips, making them perfect for athletes who punch, kick, or who need to sprint, stop, and change directions quickly.

Intervals of intense, explosive movements punctuated by short periods of rest are the hallmark of most athletic endeavors. Elite athletes, whether by instinct or through training, develop the ability to recover quickly in the intervals between intense bursts of movement. I call this skill ‘managing tension’, the ability to go from all-out effort to deep relaxation. The more efficient a competitor in any sport is at doing this, the more ‘athletically gifted’ they appear.

Unlike long slow aerobic work on machines, kettlebell training is an integrated mind-body discipline. “There is no chance to drift off mentally when working out with these things,” says brown belt Mark Wilson. “You must be aware of your entire body at all times. This aspect of kettlebell training has increased my awareness of where my body is and what it is doing at all times and which has led to more proper distancing and increased power when striking and being able to more effectively evade attacks.”

Purchasing kettlebells

It is not immediately necessary that you purchase your own kettlebell, but look here for links to the two best sources I have found:  Dragondoor, which makes the best quality, and Perform Better, with decent quality at a lower price.

Most men will probably start with a 16kg/ 35lb kettlebell. Most women will start with an 8kg/ 18lb kettlebell or possibly a 12kg/ 26lb. It’s probably a good idea to try some of the exercises before purchasing a kettlebell.

The Grinds
“Grind” exercises are done slowly, with low reps and high tension and an awareness of proper body alignment.

Grinds are for building strength, often at unusual angles not trained with in other weightlifting methods.

“The Turkish Get-Up”

“The Wrestler’s Bridge Press”

This is an advanced exercise, just to give you an idea of what a versitle and ever-challenging tool a kettlebell can be.

“Renegade Row”

Ballistic Drills

These exercises train explosive movements from the toes to the fingertips.
They condition through periods of intense effort puncutated with short intervals of rest.

“The Swing ”

Contact me to enroll in the class, or if you have any questions.

Fermented Foods and Immune Health

•September 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A recent AP story pointed to growing research that the use of antibiotics can interfere with the delicate balance of beneficial bacteria in the human “microbiome” of the skin, nose, and digestive tract.  Hosting colonies of beneficial organisms is essential for proper functioning of the immune system, and a too-sterile environment (inside and out) can lead to autoimmune diseases like asthma and arthritis.

I’ve posted before about the importance of eating live, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir or kombucha.  I’ve recently joined the Weston A. Price Foundation, which lobbies on behalf of small farmers and educates people on the importance of traditional foodways.  Check out their very informative webiste at westonaprice.org

You might be very surprised at some of the seemingly unconventional views their organization espouses, but it all boils down to restoring traditional, artisanal foodways and moving away from industrially grown and processed foods.

Seminar with Master Joe Schaefer, Saturday 9/25, 12:30-3:15pm

•September 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m very excited to announce that my teacher, Master Joe Schaefer of Austin, TX will be visiting our New Orleans school on Saturday, Sept 25 to teach a seminar that is open to all students– and even to friends & family members.

The first part of the seminar will be a very personalized, practical approach to improving your kicking ability, with many general tips, tricks and techniques plus an individual analysis of your strengths and weaknesses and your individual path to improvement.  Master Joe is a phenomenal kicker who has won many tournaments over the years.  He’s incredibly fast, flexible and powerful, and has developed many ways to manipulate the opponent to create openings for attack.

The second part of the seminar will cover every aspect of internal martial arts training. You will have a very complete understanding of the role of this training in your martial and personal development. No background is necessary to enjoy and benefit from this seminar. Past attendees have comment that it is the most revealing and transformational seminar they have ever taken. You will enjoy Shaolin-Do more, life more, and perform at a higher level in both.  This part of the seminar will be valuable even for people with no experience in martial arts, and is therefore open to friends and family.

Master Joe is an incredible teacher who draws upon a deep well of knowledge, both of martial arts and modern science.  He holds a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Texas and is a published brain researcher.

The cost of the seminar is $55.  There may be a few work-trade scholarships available if needed.  I really hope the whole school will turn out for this rare opportunity to study with a true master!