Archive for August, 2010

The Secret

Guest Post by Mike Reynolds

“What’s your secret?”

That’s the question that I’m most commonly asked when people comment on my weight loss. After all, almost 70 pounds in 10 months is it’s own conversation starter, whether I like it or not. Hearing that question has gotten to the point of being a little annoying, and I just smile and wait because I know they’re going to answer their own question in just a couple more seconds……”Diet and exercise, right?”

At this point I usually just kind of say something like, “Yeah, pretty much” because I’ve learned that that’s exactly what they want to hear. They just want me to confirm their ever so simple, paid programming idea of making a lifestyle change. You see, the words “Diet” and “Exercise” are quick and easy to throw out in conversation. They can each mean a million different things so you don’t have to be specific to sound like you might know what you’re talking about. Unfortunately, for most people that ask me what my secret is, “Diet” and “Exercise” means ordering a Diet Coke with the Six Dollar Bacon Western Cheeseburger Combo Meal and having a social hour with buddies at the gym. (Don’t forget to pick up too heavy of a weight and suck the gut in when a cute girl walks by).

I don’t blame them. I used to ‘Diet’ and ‘Exercise’ that way. But I’ve also noticed that people who are fit don’t ask what my secret is….they must already know the answer. They just shoot me a nod and say something like, “Good Job, where do you work out?”

Now I know I’m probably being idealistic here because most of the people that ask the stupid ‘what’s my secret’ question, are just being polite and don’t really care to hear the answer. There’s also not enough time in a regular day-to-day conversation to lay out an honest answer for everyone that asks.

But indulge me for a few minutes. Let’s pretend those people really do want to hear what the secret is. Let’s pretend we have all the time in the world, and let’s pretend they’re reading this article right now. What’s my secret? Here’s my answer:

There is none, dumbass! That’s right, there is no secret. It takes commitment, motivation, hard work, education and hard work. Yeah, I said it twice. There’s no DVD, no book, no pill, no shake, and no machine that can change your life. It’s not a gift that anyone can give you and you can’t buy it online….but that’s also what makes it so valuable! Everything I mentioned above is really what’s needed to change your life and you can only find those things in one place…. inside yourself. Free of charge. They are all necessary and are all equally important. You can start looking for them right now and while you do that, I’m going to ramble on about what I think those virtues mean in terms of making a lifestyle change.

We’ll begin with Commitment. I won’t start with the over-used “Webster’s Dictionary defines….” line on you here. You know wtf it means: Doing what you say you are going to do. Keeping your word; honoring an agreement. There are tons of examples for making a commitment, too. A simple handshake deal, a business contract or a marriage… you get the idea.

But in this case, you’re making a commitment to yourself. It’s not as simple as just telling yourself you’re going to change your life. I’ve told myself that very thing a thousand times back in the day. I know there are things in life we can’t control that don’t always allow us to keep every promise we make. It sucks, but it’s a reality. That’s why the first step to making a commitment to yourself is to consciously take some time out of your life and do some soul searching to try and find the answer to two very simple questions:

1) Who are you now? 2) Who do you want to be? It can take some time, trust me….but you can’t move forward until you honestly ask and answer those two questions. If you truly search, you’ll find your answers and often when you least expect them. The thing that makes a commitment to yourself so special is that it’s completely unique. Nobody else can make the same commitment because everyone’s answers to who they are and who they want to be are different. Plus, it feels great just to know what direction you need to go. Call it the first goal of your new life…getting from the ‘now’ to the ‘want to be.’

Next, promise yourself you won’t let anybody or anything keep you from that goal. If you don’t reach your goal, know that the consequence is that you’re stuck at ‘who you are now.’ When an obstacle gets in your way (and they will) be prepared to go around it, over it, or under it. If it looks too big and intimidating, take a deep breath and re-focus, get a running start and go right through it! Once you’re on the other side, it’ll look small and insignificant and you’ll feel like King Kong well on your way to the ‘who you want to be.’  Lather, Rinse and Repeat for the rest of your life. That’s commitment.

Motivation: Webster’s Dictionary Defines Motivation as….I’m just kidding. To me, Motivation simply means,’ what drives you.’ What thing, person, or idea is the fuel that makes your engine run? For me, it’s my family. I’m motivated to grow old with my wife and watch our kids live and learn. I want to be able to guide my kids by being a positive example of a father. I want to be around to celebrate their victories, and to comfort and encourage them in their losses. I want to be the epitome of a strong, healthy, honorable man and protector. I want to be able to leave this earth long ahead of them, but at peace with the fact that I made positive contributions in the raising of two happy, confident, well-adjust adults. That’s what drives me. Your motivation, or fuel for your engine, might be similar or in a completely different ball park. That’s cool, because again…it’s your motivation that matters, not anyone else’s. Your motivation can come from more than one source and It can change along the way. I shared the high octane version of my ‘fuel.’ Sometimes, I can take my motivation in simpler doses like when I want to reach a certain goal weight in time for a family reunion just to impress my relatives that haven’t seen the new me. Or I can simply be motivated by the pump after a killer workout or the fact that I reached a new fitness goal. And sometimes, I get a burst of fuel when the right song lands on my ipod at just the right time. But the REAL motivation…the fuel I need to get to the gym on the days that I don’t want to go, the kind that I need to order the salmon in a steakhouse… my family. What’s yours? I can’t find if for you, but you better get crackin’ because you’re going to need it, Lots of It.

Hard Work. I shouldn’t have to define this one but since you’re asking, I’ll give you my definition in a fitness context. There’s a point in a workout when your muscles are failing and the pain has convinced your mind that you can’t go on. Well, that very point is where the warm-up ends and the real workout begins. It may only last a couple more seconds but that drive to push for one more rep, or run another block well after the point of sanity, is what burns fat, adds muscle and builds character. I don’t care what you’ve seen on an infomercial or what your genetically gifted buddy told you. Without hard work, you won’t see results. It is this concept specifically that screams, “THERE IS NO SECRET, DUMBASS! To me, hard work means giving absolutely everything you can in your workouts, every time you work out. It means pushing your body and mind to a place that they may have never been. It means pain; Lots of pain. Pain during and pain after. Suck it up and learn to love it for what it is: An indicator of your effort. Hard Work is the Engine that is fueled by Motivation. I figure if I can’t give max effort in just one measly hour out of the 24 I have available to me, I should probably stay with ‘where I am now.’ That’s not going to be you, right? You’ll make your commitment, which will help you discover your motivation which in turn will drive your hard work! Sweet!

Education: Now, I don’t have a bunch of letters after my name. If I did, they would be ‘B.S’., but they wouldn’t represent a degree. I have seven and half semesters of Community College. I like to think of myself as a simple man, but not a simpleton. I think that means I don’t know all, but I know all I need to know for now. There are certain things you need to know about nutrition and exercise to make a successful lifestyle change. If you want to be a sheep in the flock like most of America, the food and fitness marketing companies thank you for that. I found that I needed to read up on nutrition and exercise to make my own decisions about the directions I wanted to take. There’s a place called a ‘Library.’ You can check out books for FREE, do your own research and return them when you’re done. It’s pretty cool. You can read tons online or talk to people that really know the difference, but don’t take the word of the first person you ask. There is tons of good information out there about Nutrition and Exercise and there is even more crap that somebody is trying to sell you. Educate yourself on how the body processes food and how the macronutrients work through their metabolic path. It’ll make your journey so much easier and you’ll be able to tailor your ‘want to be’ to suit you, and not the deceptive marketing leeches trying to get your money. It would defeat the purpose of me telling you to educate yourself if I gave you all of the information I’ve learned during my quest, and you may disagree with me anyway, which is great ’cause then you’d be thinking for yourself. But what I will do is give you 5 basic concepts that I think are important and hopefully you can use them as building blocks for you to research on your own and make the best choices for yourself. They are:

  1. All calories are not created equal.
  2. Eat less more often.
  3. Don’t fear the fat.
  4. Your granola/energy/protein bar is a Snickers bar in disguise.
  5. For 99% of us, water is the best sports drink available.

Well there you have it. That’s my long-winded answer to ‘What’s your secret.’ Writing this article made me realize that maybe I’m the dumbass and there IS a secret after all. But I don’t think that secret is something I can give you because it’s mine and it grew and evolved with me through my journey from ‘who I was’ to ‘who I want to be.’  Look inside yourself for your secret, it’s buried in there somewhere. Believe in yourself and find your own path. Good luck.


Sunday, August 29th, 2010 Articles 4 Comments

Kettlebells OKC Style: Workshop Review: Part II

In the first article I reviewed my first day at the Orange Kettlebell Club (OKC) workshop.  In the first article I highlighted John “Wild” Buckley’s insights into the mindset, philosophies and execution of the basic kettlebell movements; primarily with deadlift, swings, and presses.  The second weekend built upon these basics and took it to the next level focusing on proper breathing, cleans, jerks and snatches.

Once again I am taking the opportunity to pass along the knowledge I gained. In this article I have pictures of me trying to show the difference between the RKC style and the OKC style of kettlebell lifting.  I have not even come close to being well versed in the OKC style of kettlebell lifting so the technique pictures will not be perfect but should be enough to distinguish between the two types.

Now on to the OKC intermediate workshop review:


John expressed that the clean is the intermediate position for the kettlebell jerk.  It is a place to set up for jerks and it is also the place where you can rest between repetitions of jerks.  In order to rack properly and create the resting opportunity it is important to distribute the weight [of the kettlebells] evenly through the body.  The knees should remain locked, not loose, and the kettlebells should be aligned with the forward sitting hips.

One major difference between the RKC style rack and the OKC (and GS, kettlebell sport) style is that with the OKC style, the kettlebells will sit much lower on the body with the eventual goal of your elbows resting on your hips.  This is not an easy task especially with two kettlebells.  For many it is a technique that must be shaped throughout the years along with increasing the flexibility of the upper back.

Bringing the kettlebell down into the backswing from the rack position to set up another repetition also requires a lot of skill and technique refinement.  John suggests that you gently cast (pushing the kettlebell away from your body so it drops intot the swing) the kettlebell away from you at a high point around chest level.  You do not want to cast the bell too low or else it will want to drop forward and get away from you.  You can cast the kettlebell properly by using the body away from the kettlebell itself.  This way the kettlebell will stay close to your body allowing the arm close to the hips so it connects to the leg allowing the body to absorb and carry the weight into the backswing then using the leg to propel the weight back up into the rack position.


The jerk is a way to get the kettlebell overhead from the rack position.  Unlike a strict press, the jerk uses leg and body drive to accelerate the weight off the rack position just enough to allow the body to get underneath the weight until it can be locked out overhead in the standing position.  In the GS style they can do hundreds of jerk repetitions in a single training session, so technique and energy conservation are key.

John reemphasizes the necessity of a quality rack position.  A good quality rack position allows for proper anatomical breathing and loads the body to properly transfer energy from legs, through the body and to the arms.  John states that you should think about subtlety coiling your body like a spring before you jerk, then perform a thoracic (upper body) bump to get the kettlebell off the chest, get under the weight quickly and then get the weight over your hips (for stability) by sticking your chest out and extending your hips back while locking your knees.  This will get the kettlebell in a safe and stable position over the hips.

You can bring the kettlebell back down toward the rack position by dropping the elbow downward as you lean back slightly.  You can literally use your body to catch the kettlebell back into the rack position or you can get it near chest level, cast forward and go into a backswing.


John says the key to performing the Snatch for continuous repetitions is to create a wavelike motion, where you are “literally rolling your body underneath the kettlebell.”  To do this you have to think about the techniques used to jerk the kettlebell, because, according to John, the snatch is essentially a kettlebell jerk without going into the rack position.  Unlike the RKC style snatch, GS athletes tend not to use a shoulder high pull to get the kettlebell back and up into the top position; this creates too much fatigue of the shoulders and grip by changing the direction of the kettlebell mid flight.  Instead John likes to let the kettlebell go where it wants to and then “sneak under the kettlebell.”  Proper hip drive from the swing, generating force behind the kettlebell and torso displacement at the appropriate time so that you move with the energy of the kettlebell; the kettlebell snatch can be done in a effortless pattern to achieve the wavelike motion and allowing for your repetition numbers to climb.

Remember the goal is to flow; it is not catching the weight at the top and dipping underneath.  By constantly practicing the jerks you can transfer that skill over to your snatch and you can learn to “sneak under the weight” without disjunction of the body and without using too much force that will fatigue you quickly.

One note about breathing during high repetition snatch work is that it’s best to practice the anatomical breathing that I talked about in the first article.  Anatomical breathing generally calls for inhaling at the points where the kettlebell is away from your body so more air can be taken into the lungs.  Proper anatomical breathing for the GS style snatch is as follows:

  • Inhale – Upswing
  • Exhale – Top of lockout
  • Inhale – At the initial drop of the kettlebell into the backswing
  • Exhale – At the bottom of the backswing

Anatomical breathing is initially difficult to learn, especially when you are used to paradox breathing like I was taught.  John says that in the beginning one should not focus too much on breathing at the appropriate time because it will compromise snatch technique which is most important.  According to John, “just breathe.”

I always learn a ton when I train with John “Wild” Buckley at the OKC.  It makes me think about all the small details that correspond with physical movement.  In essence, kettlebell movements are not difficult to learn but when you want to take them to the next level whether it be using more weight or adding more repetitions, it is essential that the movements not only be practiced but understood at such a level that when you perform the movements there is minimal effort and maximal efficiency.  You become one with the kettlebell and when you occasionally lose that connection, you are in tune to get that connection back.  This takes not only a complete understanding of the movement but a high level awareness of your body.

There is always something to learn and I will be the first to admit I know almost nothing when it comes to GS style of kettlebell lifting.  That is why I seek out those who are better, to improve myself and hopefully, one day, to gain a high level of connection and understanding of my body.

Want to learn more check out John’s site here

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Sunday, August 29th, 2010 Kettlebell Training 2 Comments

Facts About Soy

This past month I did three consecutive weekends of speaking workshops and I covered a few topics relating to enhancement of athletic performance with the use of strength and conditioning programs, kettlebells and sports nutrition.

During the sports nutrition presentation I covered the basics of optimal eating for not only increasing athletic performance but to also build a healthy body.  I stressed that eating properly for optimal health was the most important aspect to focus on when thinking about nutrition. I kept it simple: veggies, protein, proper fats, the right carbs and water consumption.  I tried to touch upon all of those topics along with examples of high quality sources and the proper amount range they should be taking.  All of the athletes and coaches seemed to come away with a greater understanding of sports nutrition.  I also noticed that a recurrent question would come up in my discussions that I neglected to talk about during my presentation, What about soy?

Good question, I am almost embarrassed that I neglected to cover it during my presentation, however given my allotted time and the supposedly short attention span of high school kids, I had to skip the topic of soy.  Good excuse?  Maybe not, but I tried.  Well worry not because I am going to discuss soy and through my research I will give you the good, the bad and the ugly and then you can make up your mind about whether soy is right for you.

Both times when the “What about soy?” question came up, I answered the same exact way; “What about soy?  How are you using it? As a whole food, as an ingredient in foods, as a cooking oil, as a milk alternative, as a supplement?”  Soy is abundant in our western diet and is found in everything from energy bars to baby formula.  One on the biggest reasons why it is so commonly used in the United States is that we have so much of it; in fact it shares the top spot with corn as our most farmed commodity.

“According to the US EPA; in 2000 approximately 2.8 billion bushels of soybeans were harvested from almost 73 million acres of cropland. The US production of soybeans accounts for over 50% of the world’s soybean production, 56% of the world’s oilseed production and $6.66 billion in soybean and product exports.”  That is a lot of soy.

The Good

I have said it before and I will say it again; Know your source when it comes to nutrition.  There are good forms of soy products primarily coming from the fermented variety including forms such as miso, tempeh, natto, and soy sauce.  Fermenting soy neutralizes the toxins found inside and releases many enzymes and healthy probiotics that aid in digestion and immune system function. Fermented soy has also showed to potentially have some cholesterol lowering effects.

Some Examples of Fermented Soy Products

The Bad

With so much soybeans produced in the United States different forms of it are found in many foods that we consume and are also used as alternatives to more traditional foods like meat, dairy and protein sources.

Soy is not a good form of protein but the irony is that it is readily used in many products as the main protein source.  Pick up many health/protein bars and baby formula and you will see that one of the first ingredients is some source of soy.  According to the Weston Price Foundation; “like all legumes, soy beans are deficient in sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine. In addition, modern processing denatures fragile lysine.”  Soy also lacks useable forms of Vitamin B12 and is very deficient in Vitamin D and calcium which are necessary for proper bone health.

All of the soy used in many popular products such as protein bars and baby formula are not of the more healthy fermented variety.  The main problem with unfermented soy is the processing used to make them consumable creates and inferior and potentially unsafe product. Soy contains phytic acid and the common unfermented soy varieties do not get rid of this acid.  Phytic acid had been associated with reduction of the assimilation of important vitamins such as: calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. With poor vitamin assimilation, high phytate diets have also been linked with growth problems in children.

May Not Be the Best For Developing Babies

When soy is processed, several toxic compounds are formed.  Toxins such as, lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines, free glutamic acid (MSG), a potent neurotoxin, are added to many soy foods.

According to the Weston Price Foundation; soy contains phytoestrogens and these phytoestrogens in soy [baby] formula have been implicated in the current trend toward increasingly premature sexual development in girls and delayed or retarded sexual development in boys.  Soy phytoestrogens can also disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.

Soy phytoestrogens are potent antithyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer.  In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.

The Ugly

If the potential dangers of unfermented soy have not scared you enough, much of the soy used in commercial products are genetically modified organisms called GMOs.  According to the website, Seeds of Deception, “GMOs is the result of a laboratory process of Genetic Modification (GM) by taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic; with genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature.”  These GMO seeds are spliced and put together with different genes that would never be possible to complete in nature.

GMO seeds are usually produced to express two specific qualities, herbicide tolerance and the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide.  If these seeds are resistant to potent pesticides, farmers can use them liberally without killing their crop.  According to Seed of Deception, 90% of the soy farmed is of the GMO variety.  When unnaturally trying to enhance or create a property foreign to the seed through genetic modification, several adverse traits are expressed as well.  “GMO plants create toxins, react to weather differently, contain too much or too little nutrients, become diseased or malfunction and die. When foreign genes are inserted, dormant genes may be activated or the functioning of genes altered, creating new or unknown proteins, or increasing or decreasing the output of existing proteins inside the plant.”

The likelihood of consuming GMO food is almost enviable and the potential risk factors are staggering.  Several studies have concluded the following:

GMOs may make you allergic to non-Genetically Modified foods

  • GM soy drastically reduces digestive enzymes in mice.1 If it also impairs your digestion, you may become sensitive and allergic to a variety of foods.

GMOs and liver problems

  • GM soy altered mouse liver cells in ways that suggest a toxic insult.2 The changes reversed after they switched to non-GM soy3

GMOs, reproductive problems, and infant mortality

  • More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks4
  • Male rats5 and mice6 fed GM soy had changed testicles, including altered young sperm cells in the mice.
  • The DNA of mouse embryos functioned differently when their parents ate GM soy7
  • Babies of female rats fed GM soy were considerably smaller, and more than half died within three weeks (compared to 10% of the non-GM soy controls).8

The biggest take home point is that when you are consuming soy, or any food for that matter, find the most natural sources available, make sure they are handled properly through traditional preparation methods, like fermentation, be aware of where your food is coming from and assume that when you go out to eat you are not getting the highest quality foods and if you are to use it at all, use in moderation.

Soy is Everywhere; Choose Wisely



[1] M. Malatesta, M. Biggiogera, E. Manuali, M. B. L. Rocchi, B. Baldelli, G. Gazzanelli, “Fine Structural Analyses of Pancreatic Acinar Cell Nuclei from Mice Fed on GM Soybean,” Eur J Histochem 47 (2003): 385–388.

[2] M. Malatesta, C. Caporaloni, S. Gavaudan, M. B. Rocchi, S. Serafini, C. Tiberi, G. Gazzanelli, “Ultrastructural Morphometrical and Immunocytochemical Analyses of Hepatocyte Nuclei from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” Cell Struct Funct. 27 (2002): 173–180.

[3] M. Malatesta, C. Tiberi, B. Baldelli, S. Battistelli, E. Manuali, M. Biggiogera, “Reversibility of Hepatocyte Nuclear Modifications in Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” Eur J Histochem, 49 (2005): 237-242.

[4] I.V. Ermakova, “Diet with the Soya Modified by Gene EPSPS CP4 Leads to Anxiety and Aggression in Rats,” 14th European Congress of Psychiatry. Nice, France, March 4-8, 2006; “Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists’ studies,” REGNUM, October 12, 2005;;  Irina Ermakova, “Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies,” Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4–9.

[5] Irina Ermakova, “Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards,” Presentation at Scientists for a GM Free Europe, EU Parliament, Brussels, June 12, 2007

[6] L. Vecchio et al, “Ultrastructural Analysis of Testes from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” European Journal of Histochemistry 48, no. 4 (Oct–Dec 2004):449–454.

[7] Oliveri et al., “Temporary Depression of Transcription in Mouse Pre-implantion Embryos from Mice Fed on Genetically Modified Soybean,” 48th Symposium of the Society for Histochemistry, Lake Maggiore (Italy), September 7–10, 2006.

[8] I.V. Ermakova, “Diet with the Soya Modified by Gene EPSPS CP4 Leads to Anxiety and Aggression in Rats,” 14th European Congress of Psychiatry. Nice, France, March 4-8, 2006; “Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists’ studies,” REGNUM, October 12, 2005;;  Irina Ermakova, “Genetically modified soy leads to the decrease of weight and high mortality of rat pups of the first generation. Preliminary studies,” Ecosinform 1 (2006): 4–9.

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Saturday, August 28th, 2010 Nutrition 3 Comments


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