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Elite Athletic Strength Training – For The Untrained Middle Aged

So, let’s say you’re a man or woman over 40 and you haven’t played a sport in years or never did.  You can’t lose that middle aged spread and really want to tone up and look and feel better.  Most of us will look to our local gym for the solution.  This usually happens when we finally respond to one of the hundreds of glossy coupons that jam up our mail boxes each day luring us in with free trial memberships.

If you are closer to 50 like me, or older you may have experienced our modern fitness industry generally telling us to be “good little middle aged people and to do as we are told.”  We are introduced to a really hot 25 year old trainer who will basically baby sit us for $80.00 per hour of training.  They have us balancing on Bosu balls with 5 and 10 pound dumbbells and introduce us to all of the comfortable, futuristic, isolating fitness machines.  We are led into non-impact step classes and the cool looking cardio equipment to walk or run while we watch our favorite television shows.  We are often surrounded by other “ageing and physically challenged” people who are just like us.

I have personally experienced these condescending attitudes.  They are not only patronizing, but are dead wrong when it comes to getting us as healthy and fit as possible.  Most of the trainers at these gyms will steer us away from low repetition, free weight dead-lifts, squats, presses and other useful exercises.  Nope, for us it’s out to the “fitness pasture”.  We just need to accept it and to move on gracefully into the autumn of our lives.  It’s like we’re in some kind of “fitness daycare”.  Gyms are the only place I can think of where a CEO or neurosurgeon can get told what to do by high school drop-out who completed a 1 day personal training certificate.

It’s obvious from the rising statistics on obesity and ill-health that what the fitness industry is offering is simply not working.  So here’s my question; what if we went about this in an entirely different way?  What if we dared to ask what the fastest, strongest most “in-shape” humans on the planet are doing?  That is, how did the best athletes in the world get into their peak physical conditions?  What if we then boldly applied the same elite athletic methods?

Imagine if, even in your 40’s 50’s and 60’s you could get into not just “really good shape”, but quite possibly the best shape you’ve ever been in your life.  That is, stronger, faster, and slimmer than you’ve ever been, even when younger?

How could this be possible?  The main reason is that most of us have never been exposed to the advanced methods that the top Olympians and pro-athletes use to get so strong and fast.  This begs the question though – why would I want to train like a pro-athlete if I’m 51 years old, I work at a desk all day and the only sport I play is some pick up slow pitch every summer?  I understand completely and the reason why is simple – RESULTS!  The end game is not to make an Olympic team or the Pittsburg Steelers.  Rather, it is to get into fantastic shape as quickly as possible and with the smallest investment in time.

Again, the numbers show clearly that the fitness industry, for whatever reason is failing us miserably.  Typical big gyms generally offer us watered down bodybuilding routines on isolating fitness and cardio machines along with various fitness classes.  Please compare any results you may have had using those methods with the benefits obtained by applying the best principles known for dramatically improving human speed, strength, and power.  Following an athletic power and strength training regimen will deliver the following list of great advantages:

  • Fastest and most effective way to build new muscle
  • Develops the most speed
  • Builds the most physical strength
  • Best methods for strengthening bones
  • Best methods for building tendon and ligament strength
  • Best methods to build powers of concentration
  • Maximal hormonal response (testosterone, human growth hormone, etc)
  • Most effective methods to transfer for use in sports, work and life in general
  • Best way to strengthen the body overall to prevent physical injury
  • Shortest workouts (usually under 45 minutes and actual training time “under tension” is well under 5 minutes)
  • Least number of workouts per week – 2 or 3 are just fine
  • Most pronounced fat loss due to highest increase in resting metabolic rate

You will simply not receive all of these amazing results sitting in the comfortable machines or using the cardio equipment at your local gym.

At the gym I go to www.fortisfitness.ca we teach 68 year old grandmothers (and everyone else) how to do free weight dead-lifts, full squats, bench presses, standing presses and all of their derivative exercises.  They’re dragging sleds, their pushing prowlers.  They are hauling heavy chains, balancing on gymnastics rings, swinging kettlebells and lifting in power racks!

Do we use the same volume as pro athletes?  Nope.  Do we use the same intensities and loads?  No way.  Make no mistake though, the methods are elite and the progressions are there to be taken.  The reason we can do this is that most of these methods are scalable.  The ones that aren’t can be progressed to as we get increasingly lean, strong and fast.

One of the most common questions we get is “Hey…am I supposed to be getting THIS strong?”  The answer is “Yup…absolutely, and you know what those rising numbers in strength mean?  They prove that you have more functional, fat burning muscle.”  It’s amazing how -given a responsible diet – empirical improvements in physical strength tend to correspond directly to visible fat loss and improvements in appearance.

I still hear concerns regarding the safety of applying these methods to folks my age and older.  I believe one of the best ways to allay these fears is by explaining the SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demands) principle.  That is, the body adapts to reasonable, progressive stresses that are placed upon it.  Dr. Mel Siff describes this principle more specifically with regard to plyometrics, “joints subjected to heavy impact are relatively free from osteoarthritis in old age and that those subjected to much lower loading experience a greater incidence of osteoarthritis”  he continues “it appears that the cartilages of joints subjected to regular impulsive loading with relatively high contact stresses is mechanically much stiffer and better adapted to withstand the exceptional loading of running and jumping than the softer cartilage associated with low loading”  (Siff, Supertraining, 2004)

To anyone trying to get into shape, I strongly suggest looking into the best, most proven methods available.  Even though they are rather esoteric to the public in general, please don’t be intimidated.  Do a little research and find a responsible, functional strength training gym or training center where they understand and practice these principles.  Further, these methods are completely scalable, exhilarating and the costs of time and effort are highly outweighed by the great results.  I can promise you that the dramatic positive changes will be well worth your efforts.  And if you’re looking for a weight loss dietto go with an elite exercise program, please take a moment to check out the eco-diet athttp://www.eco-diet.com It’s designed to go hand-in-hand with an exercise program that will have you feeling better than you have in years.

Here We Go Again

The messages from the media are clear – gas prices and the cost of food are about to increase dramatically.  Just yesterday, while listening to the news this information reminded me of the ominous words I had heard from a small farmer just outside of New York City before the last large scale food shortages hit in 2007/2008 resulting in a global food crisis.

A few years ago I completed a price study involving the cost of eating truly organic, farm direct food in New York City.  One of the small farmers I had the privilege of talking with at the time suggested that I do another price study 6 months later.  He talked of the inextricable links between fossil fuels and modern agriculture and that the price increases in oil were about to ripple their way through the agricultural system.  He reminded me that this simply wasn’t the case for small, non-industrial farmers who create food naturally.

I’ll never forget his words “Last time I checked, the soil, fertilizer (natural), grass, sunlight and rain on my farm were all free…no price increases expected”.  It turned out that this farmer’s predictions were far more ominous than we could have ever imagined at the time.  The global food crisis of 2008/2009 resulted in never before seen commodity food price increases and many countries experienced a food crisis of epic proportions.  Its spring of 2011 and here we go again!

The farmer’s wisdom reminded me of the economics behind the surprisingly low cost of the local farm-direct healthy food I was pricing.  These small, local farmers simply do not have the expensive inputs and outputs of the modern, industrialized food industry.  As a simple example, they pay for both the feed and the transportation of the feed to the animals in their massive commercial farming operations.  This is also true for their fertilizers and the unusable, toxic waste their tortured animals produce.  Also, their animal and produce products must be transported out comparatively long distances to huge regional distribution centers.
In contrast the local farmers’ animals wondered around eating grass, grubs and other free food courtesy of the sun and soil.  There simply were no major feed or transportation costs.  As such they were largely unaffected by fuel and corn price increases.

This was a simple example which could be applied to the entire cost chain of both types of farming operations.  The same negative results for big industry and the same hyper efficiencies for the small farmers glaringly reveal themselves.  Where the local farms were concerned this was another reminder of the sanity of it all.

Their inputs of their natural system are largely free.  This beautiful system (I think its called nature!?!?!) operates in a perfect feedback loop where the outputs of the system become the inputs.  In contrast, it was stark recognition of the sheer madness and inefficiency of our modern industrial system of agriculture.

Summarizing, our modern food industry or agro-industrial food complex or whatever you wish to call them provides us with the following laundry list of disadvantages:

  • Low grade, low nutrient food which makes us fat, sick and generally unhealthy
  • This food is made with hormones, chemical additives and increasingly, genetically modified organisms
  • Their methods of production torture animals, ruin the land, create dangerous new microbes and produce huge amounts of pollution causing untold damage to our environment
  • They have recently adulterated and come to monopolize the term “organic” (among other terms) lowering the overall quality of production of the food allowed to be sold under this name.  This lower grade “organic” food is extremely expensive.
  • They discreetly take our money in the form of tax subsidies in order to accomplish the above
  • Roughly 10% of every dollar you spend on this food pays for the actual food causing it’s relative cost value and quality to be inherently low
  • To follow this food from its origins to your grocery store you would need to travel thousands of miles, sneak past multiple levels of security, and break trespassing laws.  The average person would still be unable to figure out many of the industrial processes this food is subjected to.

Then we’ve got the guys I met in New York, the small farmers who quietly exist all over the country.  They provide us with the following comparative list of advantages:

  • Fresh, high quality, high nutrient, naturally produced food which will keep you healthy and strong
  • The food they produce is made in conjunction with the processes of nature, as such there are no dangerous chemical inputs or outputs and they let nature handle all of the genetic evolution
  • Their farming enriches the land, produces no pollution and preserves agricultural landscapes
  • These farms create a net tax gain – they contribute more tax revenue than they use
  • They have nurtured, perpetuated and protected the true meaning of the original “organic” idea through their simple and natural farming processes
  • 100% of every dollar you spend goes to those actually growing your food giving you the most relative value in terms of your food’s quality, purity and nutrition.
  • The farming and creation of this food is entirely transparent.  Almost every farmer I have encountered proudly invites customers to their farms to witness their plants and animals at every natural stage of life.

This journey of discovery also confirmed my belief that we, as consumers and as a society, can no longer afford to sleep-walk through the process of procuring our food.  We simply must wake up to the ugly realities of our current modern system now and embrace and strengthen the alternatives while they still exist.  We must support our small, local farmers.  Over the last few decades especially, our food has come to seriously control us.  Clearly, it is time for us to once again control our food.

Modern Food – Consider the Logic

Consider the Logic Underlying Our Modern Diet

Do you have a pet?  Let’s say you do.  Let’s say it’s a cat.  Now, instead of feeding the cat its natural diet of small animals, insects, a tiny bit of grass, raw vegetation and water (basically what a wild cat would eat in its natural habitat and what the animal has been eating for millions of years), you began to feed it odd, strange foods like beef flavored licorice and Mountain Dew soda pop.  So your cat starts to get fat and sick.  It becomes lethargic and unhealthy within a few weeks.

Still, because of the flavorings and the fact it is thirsty, it waddles over to the feeding dish and keeps eating the new food.  What would you do?  Take it to the vet?  Feed it more licorice, or perhaps other candy?  Maybe pork or chicken flavored candy?  Get it on a cat fitness program?  I know, maybe feed it a little less beef flavored licorice and Mountain Dew and get it on a cat fitness program?  Just accept the fact that it will be sick and fat for the rest of its life?  This is going to sound crazy, especially within the context of our modern food system, but here goes anyways; what if you put it back on its original diet?  That is what the cat and its entire species have been eating in their natural habitat since cats have existed?  What’s true for cats is true for us.

When we put animals in our zoos we replicate their natural environments and diets.  Koala bears are given eucalyptus leaves, killer whales are fed wild fish.  We would not one day just randomly choose an animal species and suddenly conclude that we have a better idea for what to feed them than what their natural diet dictates.  (Except of course for our dogs and cats which are equally as sick as we are with cancers, obesity and other diet related illnesses)

As an example, we would never insist that our zoologists, naturalists, and forest rangers suddenly start making sure that all bobcats in the wild are eating some new and different man-made food concoction called “Bob-Cat Crunch”.  We wouldn’t start feeding the remaining wild lions in Africa yogurt and granola instead of the animals they hunt and kill for themselves.  So how could we have allowed this very thing to happen to ourselves as a species?

This is just how ludicrous and bizarre our situation has become.  We have been marketed, socialized and fooled into eating dangerous and unhealthy food.  Cockroaches and field mice are smart enough not to purposely eat themselves into horrible debilitating illnesses and often death.  We have unwittingly figured out how to deliberately and at immense cost to ourselves, our environment and fellow animals create and eat food that makes us sick and kills us.

To me, the base-line for a respectful and natural standard of life for any animal on the planet would be to first allow that animal to live in its natural environment.  This would include access to its own natural diet and related foods.  Yet, for the majority of our human population we don’t allow ourselves this simple right.  It is crystal clear that humans do indeed have an original and natural diet (please see previous blog!).  It is also just as clear that many serious health problems have arisen as a consequence of diverging from it.

If you put a dollar amount on the true all inclusive costs of eating food from our modern food industry vs. eating real food produced in concert with nature, the cost of the real food would be far less.  The irony of this is profound indeed.  For instance, the low price of a fast food hamburger does not reflect its real cost – but it should.  The profits of the fast food chains have been made possible by the losses imposed on the rest of society.

The annual cost of obesity alone is twice as large as the fast food industry’s total revenues.  Not only is the industrial food more expensive but it is hurting and killing us.  It’s not like we are getting more for our money.  Rather we are paying much more and getting much less along with the added byproducts of damage to the environment and physical damage to ourselves to an increasing but as of yet unknown depth.

Why are we so fat?

A new year is upon us once again and for yet another January many of us are resolute in our goal to lose fat and get healthy.  Just as in past years the media is awash with speculations as to just why we are getting so fat and unhealthy.  We are also bombarded with supposed solutions, just as we were last year and the year before that and the year before that.

I have heard just about every possible reason for our problems, but have yet to hear anyone in the media identify the real, underlying problem.  Before a successful and permanent solution can be found, we must first identify the true, root cause behind why  our society is becoming so uncontrollably fat and unhealthy.

Let me start with some of the red herrings.  These are things that usually get the blame but are simply NOT the true, underlying causes of our problems:

  • Sedentary lifestyles
  • Lack of exercise
  • Fast Food
  • Genetics
  • Hormones

The Real Problem:

The real, underlying problem here is that what we commonly eat today and what we have come to know as “our food” is not what humans are naturally meant to eat.

So what are humans biologically meant to eat?

  • Naturally raised animals (meat, fish, birds, eggs, etc.)
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds

So WHO is responsible for the fattening and unhealthy modern diet most of us consume today?

1 Our modern food industry: huge, powerful multinational companies and organizations including:

  • Monsanto
  • Con-Agra
  • Cargill
  • ADM
  • General Foods
  • McDonalds
  • Walmart
  • The Salt Lobby
  • The Sugar Lobby
  • The Dairy Lobby
  • etc.

2   Our governments:  who are under the influence of the food industry

Question:  Why do these companies do this?

Answer:  They are huge corporations that exist to make as much money as possible

Question:  How do they do this?

Answer:  a)  They create low cost, addictive foods.  They “supersize” these foods and pack them with cheap, dense fat and sugar calories

Why?  So we’ll buy more of their food; because:

  • We are still “hard-wired” genetically to survive “food scarcity”
  • So, we naturally prefer fats and sugars – the richest calories

b)      The Government subsidizes and promotes these foods

Why would our governments do that?

  • To appease the influential, powerful modern food industry
  • protect jobs and promote domestic agriculture

So, our government, the media, dietitians, our schools and other institutions perpetuate this modern diet causing obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and many other illnesses.

How?  Via the enormous money, power and influence of the modern food industry.

Please click on the link below to view a diagram outlining our modern food cost imbalance:

Blog – Modern Food Cost

What about the diet and fitness industry?

Diet

  • Contemporary diets do not work against high calorie modern food
  • So we restrict our calories, but that doesn’t work because:

I.      Our metabolisms slows further and further to preserve fat calories

II.      Highly addictive food requires great will-power to avoid – eventually fails

III.      There is even less low nutrition food to try and maintain good health

Exercise

  • Does not work to counter the large caloric surplus caused by modern foods
  • Too much discipline/hard work required – Bootcamp, etc. are not maintained
  • Increased appetite = more modern food = caloric surplus = additional body fat

Proof:  The Diet & Fitness industry is now over $40 billion/year, but we’ve never been fatter or more riddled with diet related diseases

So even after spending countless hours exercising and lifting weights, most of fail to reach our goals.  After all the hard work, invariably we end up in one of the following categories:

“bulky” weight lifting people

“In-shape” fat people

“Skinny-fat” people

The Solution:

How to lose fat, gain muscle and be healthy – permanently

Step 1: Achieve permanent caloric equity/deficit with a healthy, evolution based diet:

–         Eat naturally raised animals, fruits, vegetables as your staple foods

–         Never get hungry, eat all the time

–         Minimize rice, corn, beans, potatoes and other starchy roots

–         Avoid all other grains and dairy

–         Make sure all the food you eat is as UNPROCESSED as possible

REPEAT:  DO NOT EAT PROCESSED, INDUSTRIALIZED FOOD

Please click on the link below to see a suggested food pyramid to follow:

Blog – Food pyramid and reminder

The Solution – Step 2: Maximize the three ways your body burns calories (fat)

1.  Resting metabolic rate = 60-75% of fat burn

–         MUSCLE BURNS FAT!  So increase your resting metabolic rate by building new muscle.  Strength training is the optimal way to build muscle

–         Strength training = fastest way to build functional muscle & maximize fat loss

–         Strength training = most benefits/least time invested

2.  Thermic effect of food = 7-10% of fat burn

–         Eat the foods from Step 1!

–         Don’t let yourself get hungry, eat all day

3.  Physical activity = variable % of fat burn

–         Do only things you love

–         Avoid meaningless, boring, hard “cardio” gym workouts

–         60% of max heart rate = optimum fat loss/preserves valuable muscle (examples include:  walking, gardening, bicycling, vacuuming a carpet, or dancing

Summarizing:

We are getting increasingly fat and sick (diabetes, heart disease, etc) because about a dozen huge, multinational food companies absolutely need us to eat the foods they produce!  If we become increasingly fat and sick as a result, that’s our problem, not theirs.  Although it is not yet a legal requirement that we eat only their foods; they have made it almost impossible for the small farmers who produce our natural, healthy foods to exist.

Is a little fresh bread, milk in your tea, or some artisan cheese going to hurt you?  Of course not.  The problem is the wild proliferation of harmful industrial food over the last 40 to 50 years.  These highly processed foods have taken the place of our natural evolutionary foods as the staples we eat.  That, in a nut shell is why we are increasingly obese and chronically ill.

Why have you never heard this before from the Surgeon General, CNN or another major news network or magazine?

Because the huge companies comprising our modern food industry are immensely powerful and would not like that at all!  The medical, pharmaceutical, and diet & fitness industries would also potentially lose billions of dollars.  Conversely, the small, local farmers and natural producers of our natural, healthy food would prosper.

Want scientific, documented proof of this?  Want to know more about how to do this?  I’ve been researching and practicing (along with many others) this simple, efficient and healthy lifestyle for close to 20 years.  I’m happy to provide you with more detail along with all of the great scientific references.

Thank you and happy New Year!