#273 Clean and Lean
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Don't sweat the petty things
and don't pet the sweaty things.

George Carlin

6 Ways to Keep Clean While You Get Lean

By Joe Wilkes

Smelling ArmpitWorking out makes you feel and look great, but it doesn't make you smell great. One of the biggest advantages to working out at home instead of the gym is that you don't have to lug around a suitcase full of products to restore your body to its inoffensive pre-workout condition. There's no shortage of products that you can have easy access to at home. The industry of smelling good and looking good is massive. But which products really work? And which ones are really necessary? Let's take a look at some of the most commonly used toiletries and what they do—and separate fact from fiction.

  1. Deodorants vs. antiperspirants vs. crystals. There's always been a lot of debate about which of these methods is the most effective for eliminating odor, but one thing is undebatable, if you don't use something, your friends, family, and workout buddies are going to be keeping a wide perimeter around you and your malodorous underarms. As we talked about in "The Sweatiest Thing," body odor is caused by sweat from your apocrine glands, which, unlike your eccrine sweat glands (which only produce water and saline), excrete quantities of fat and protein that the hungry bacteria living on your skin digest, and this digestion process is stanky! So, with better living through chemistry, there are numerous approaches for battling B.O.

    • DeodorantDeodorants. These are regarded by a lot of people as just perfumed sticks of goo that give off a strong enough smell to mask whatever nastiness is taking place under your arms. In fact, that's only part of the story. You can't really cover up B.O., but you can prevent some of the bacterial reactions taking place (I'd write about the time I was stuck in a small, enclosed room with a hippie chick who only used patchouli oil as deodorant, but the memory's making my lunch come up). Most commercial deodorants contain some sort of antiseptic or other chemical that makes the surface of your skin unfriendly to the bacteria that want to eat your excreted fat and protein. They also contain some sort of perfume which will make you smell pretty. But they won't stop you from sweating under your arms, they'll only ameliorate the damage.

    • Antiperspirants. The purpose of antiperspirants is to reduce your sweating, thus giving your armpit bacterial sharecroppers nothing to feed on. Antiperspirants usually contain some kind of aluminum salts which cause your sweat pores to close up. There have been lots of rumors that the aluminum will contribute to Alzheimer's disease, and that clogging the pores will cause toxic buildups which can lead to breast cancer. Neither of these urban legends has been given credence by the medical community, including the Alzheimer's Society and the National Cancer Institute. Antiperspirants are the most likely to cause irritation under your arms though, with fragrance-loaded deodorants a close second. So, if you have sensitive skin, crystals may be the way to go.

    • Crystal DeodorantCrystals. I admit that, before doing research for this article, I thought those crystal deodorant sticks were some wacky faith-healing googaws that Shirley MacLaine or some other New Ager had cooked up. As it turns out, they work similarly to deodorants by coating your skin with a chemical salt that inhibits the bacterial reactions that cause B.O. These probably interfere with your body's natural processes the least. They don't stop you from sweating, don't include artificial fragrances, and, surprisingly (at least to me), actually performed better than traditional deodorants in reducing odor.

    Now, apparently, you can even have the nerves in your underarms surgically severed to prevent sweating or you can receive Botox injections to paralyze your sweat glands. These extreme methods have their own drawbacks, not the least of which is the expense. The best thing to do is to probably try different products and see which ones work best for you and those who have to smell you. For truly excessive perspiration or body odor, it might be worth checking with your doctor, either to receive a prescription-strength antiperspirant or to see if any strange odors emanating from your body might be signs of an underlying health problem.

  2. Body WashBody wash. I have become a big proponent of body wash over bar soap—purely because of laziness. I know body wash costs more, but, for me, its big advantage is that it doesn't dissolve into airborne particles in the shower, like soap does, which creates that dreaded soap scum. And to someone for whom washing the shower is a semiannual event at most, this is no small thing. It turns out that there's an even better reason not to use bar soap though. Because most soap has an incredibly high pH level, it can remove a lot of natural protectants from your skin. It's why your face gets that tight feeling after you wash it. Soap-free body washes have a pH balance that will get you clean but will not upset the pH balance of your skin. Another thing you should avoid in body washes is irritating chemical fragrances. Look for body washes that are labeled "fragrance free" or that are scented with essential oils, which are more skin friendly. Also, avoid body washes which contain sulfates and parabens, chemicals that can dry out and irritate your skin. Various formulations of body wash can offer even more in the way of dermatological delights. You can look for natural moisturizing ingredients such as aloe vera or shea butter or soothing ingredients like oatmeal or peppermint oil. Mesh scrunchies are ideal to use with body wash as they help exfoliate your skin and, unlike sponges, are more resistant to collecting bacteria or mildew. For maximum exfoliation, you can use a body brush before your shower. This dry, stiff-bristled brush will help loosen the dead skin to maximize your shower's effectiveness. It also helps circulation, which can improve your skin's appearance (here are more great tips for healthy skin).

  3. Shampoo and ConditionerShampoo and conditioner. If you work out every day, it could mean that you are taking two or more showers every day. If possible, try to schedule your workout close to the time you would be showering anyway, so you don't end up drying out your hair and skin from overwashing. If you are washing your hair more than once a day, it's very important to choose a shampoo that is gentle or you'll be stripping your hair of all its natural oils and dulling its color, especially if you have naturally dry hair. Using a good conditioner will help your hair retain moisture and will not dry it out from the frequent washing. Even though it's more convenient, try not to use two-in-one shampoo-conditioner combos. The conditioner is usually washed out with the shampoo and is not nearly as effective as when conditioner is applied separately. As with body wash, it's good to try finding shampoo that is free of artificial fragrances, parabens, and sulfates. It may be hard to find shampoo without sulfates on a typical supermarket shelf and even harder to find one at a low price. You may have to look in a professional beauty supply store or a store that sells natural products. If you use gel, mousse, pomade, or a similar product in your hair, you might treat yourself to a clarifying shampoo once a week—it's formulated to be more astringent than your daily shampoo and will strip out the buildup from other products.

  4. Baby PowderBody powder. Body powder is great for absorbing moisture and preventing chafing. It's important to look for talc-free body powder though, as there has been some evidence that talc can contain impurities, including heavy metals, which can be carcinogenic. Talc can also be inhaled and cause lung problems. If you want to spend extra money for "medicated" foot powder, it won't harm your feet, but, generally, it's just regular powder infused with a little camphor or menthol to give you a cool, tingly feeling—it usually doesn't contain any active ingredients or medications to prevent athlete's foot or fungal infections. Tea tree oil is an ingredient, on the other hand (or foot), that has been shown to have some moderate antibacterial properties, in addition to having that menthol-like cool feeling. But the best thing you can do for your feet is to change your socks frequently and invest in decent socks and shoes, as Steve Edwards discusses in the article below.

  5. Applying LotionMoisturizer, lotion, and sunscreen. After you've been sweating and showering, it's very easy for your skin to get dry, as a lot of your natural oils have been washed down the drain or sweated off onto your workout floor. Like with body wash and shampoo, try finding products free of fragrance and parabens. Also, don't buy products that contain mineral oil or petroleum. Both of these will clog your pores and can trap sweat and dirt, causing acne. For your face, you should also try to use a moisturizer that contains sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. If you're working out outside, make sure your sunscreen is broad-spectrum in addition to having a high SPF. It should protect against both UVB rays, which cause superficial sunburn and skin discoloration, and UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin, accelerating aging and causing skin cancer. Make sure you don't forget your ears and the back of your neck when applying sunscreen as they are prime real estate for skin cancer. Don't forget your lips, either—try to use a lip balm with an SPF 15 or higher to avoid drying and burning.

  6. ShavingShaving. The shower is a great place to shave for men and women because the steam opens up the pores, making it less of a struggle to remove unwanted hair. Giving the area to be shaved a good scrubbing beforehand to exfoliate the skin will help prevent ingrown hairs. That and keeping the skin warm and moist means you won't clog the razor with dead skin. But you'll still be scraping a sharp metal blade against your poor skin, so you'll want to use a shaving cream or gel that contains moisturizers to lubricate the area, and is free of irritating additives like fragrance, sulfates, and parabens. Shaving cream designed for men or women is really only a marketing ploy. There's no real difference except maybe in fragrance, which you don't want anyway. Razors, on the other hand, are designed to shave different parts of the body more effectively, so you may want to experiment with different kinds. Men and women probably shouldn't share razors because men's hair tends to dull the blades more than women's, and dull blades equal sharp cuts. You should try shaving against the direction of the hair growth for best results or with the grain of the skin for less irritation. After shaving, make sure to use some balm or moisturizer on the area, since you've taken off all the natural oil with the hair. Alcohol-based aftershaves may feel bracing, but, really, they're just going to irritate your scraped-up skin.

Joe Wilkes If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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10 Tips on Home Workout Gear

By Steve Edwards

Working Out at HomeWorking out at home is a lot easier than venturing into the wild and working out outdoors. With no wind, snow, rain, or mud, you have very little use for terms like Smartwool, Gor-Tex, or Synchilla. It's also less intimidating than going to the gym. With no one to impress, you don't need to seek out the latest fashions from Prana or Nike either. So, you're probably thinking, what is the big deal with home workout gear?

At home, you have the same physical parameters affecting your workout that you do outdoors. How to get warm, stay cool, fuel up, and not allow your body to change temperature too fast—all these issues still matter, even when you're in your living room. Sure, they are easier to control than when you're out in the tundra, but you still need to plan for them. Working out at home is more efficient than training elsewhere. Having a kitchen, shower, and closet nearby add a technical advantage that you may not have realized. Let's take a look at some of the most important considerations for getting the most out of your home workout.

  1. Plyometrics MatGet a mat. One thing that doesn't change at home is the importance of the platform you work out on. Your shoes, and what they're standing/jumping on, are the most important pieces of home workout equipment. Most of us have limited space options and we're probably stuck with whatever happens to be the floor surface of the one room that is ideal for our workout. Owning a workout mat, or two, should be a top priority. The minimum is a stretching (or yoga) mat (try Beachbody's Yoga Monster Mat—great for all Beachbody programs). These are pretty thin and designed to pad your joints during floor workout movements. If your floor is unforgiving, like cement, you should also consider a plyo mat. These are made to withstand the rigors of jumping like that done in P90X® and Power 90® Master Series. A good mat will absorb shock and also improve the effectiveness of your workout and reduce your chance of injury.

  2. Yoga Booty Ballet®Choose the right shoe. Footwear is extremely important. Some workouts, like Yoga Booty Ballet®, are better to do barefoot, but most are performed better with shoes. Choosing the right type of shoe will help. Consider the movements you will be doing and then go shopping. It's best not to multitask a shoe. Running shoes are made for running forward. Basketball and tennis shoes are made for explosive movements—both forward and lateral. A good home workout shoe should do a little of both. There are "fitness" shoes. However, there are many different varieties in each shoe category. Something like a trail running shoe can be good for home fitness because it provides more lateral support than a traditional running shoe. Spend a little time researching prior to shopping. This may seem like overkill but it's time well spent. And you'll only have to go through the research process once.

  3. Shoe SalesmanGet a professional fit. There are people in the world who are trained on the differences in foot shape, cadence, and walking and running form, and they know how to put you in a shoe that will work the best. Let them. It's worth an afternoon of learning about your feet and what style of shoe fits you well. The few hours you spend learning on the front end can reap huge rewards, especially if you never get injured and can move pain free. (On that note, make it an afternoon of shopping. Your feet swell during the day so you don't want to be fitted in the morning.) The local Big 5 probably isn't the place you want to have this done. Look for a shop that prides itself in fitting customers in the right shoes. A good running shoe store, for example, will have cameras and treadmills and will do a complete gait analysis for free. Use this service and buy from them if you can. These stores can't stay in business if you go home and buy your shoes from Zappos.com. And if they go out of business, then we all end up paying the price by getting injured more often.

  4. Soaking FeetTreat your feet with respect. Even the best pair of shoes wears out. They may not look like it, but soles break down over time—actually, it is recommended that running shoes get replaced every 300 to 500 miles, no matter what they look like. Often, changes are subtle, and the only way you'll notice is to try on some new shoes—it is then that you can feel when your cushioning has worn down. Since your workout shoes are probably the best fitting shoes you have, try rotating the newer pair into your workout slot. Then use the older pair for more menial tasks, such as errands, housework, and low-impact workouts. Spend most of your time in your athletic shoes and save the Manolo Blahniks for special occasions. Your feet also change shape over the years so remeasure your feet each year or so. If they've changed size or shape, it's time to get fitted again. Your feet, and everything attached to them, will thank you.

  5. Cushioned SocksOwn some workout socks. Those cotton tube socks that are 10 pairs for five bucks are fine for some applications, but working out isn't one of them. Socks are an extension of your shoes. Workout socks are made with extra cushioning where you need it and materials that wick the sweat off of your skin so that your feet don't slip and you won't develop blisters. A pair of $10 socks will last a long time if you use them for your workout and change into a cheap pair when you're done.

  6. Workout OutfitCotton for comfort, not exercise. While we're on the subject of cotton, let's look at its use for athletic applications. It's great for watching sports. Cotton is comfortable, as long as it doesn't get wet. When it does, it loses its ability to insulate. During a workout, sweat will turn your comfortable cotton T-shirt into a conductor to refrigerate circulating air. While this doesn't matter as much at home, the more you promote quick changes in body temperature, the more you're asking your immune system to work overtime. As the seasons change, you'll increase your risk of getting sick.

  7. SweaterLayer. Layering your clothing is an essential survival skill for explorers and outdoor athletes, but it's also a performance aid at home, especially when it's cold. You don't want to begin your workout feeling cold, so bundle up beforehand. Unlike when fighting the elements, you don't need tech wear. In fact, bundling up in cotton is just fine, as long as you'll be taking it off as you warm up, and before it gets wet. The great thing about being at home is that it doesn't matter how many layers you wear. Put on as many clothes as necessary to get warm prior to your workout, then take them off as you move along. When you finish, reverse the process so that you don't get chilled. Begin by adding a layer prior to your cooldown session (before you feel cold). Keeping your temperature regulated helps your body recover better and keeps your immune system running strong.

  8. Drinking WaterCarry a water bottle. A great aspect of home training is that food and water are always available. There's no reason to bonk or to be dehydrated again. Of course, this doesn't always work as advertised. There may also be junk food, soda, or beer in the fridge, so that availability equation can also work against you. To offset this, make a habit of carrying your water bottle around at home. Repeated studies warn us that we're chronically dehydrated. Keeping yourself hydrated will energize your workouts, enable you to push harder, keep your immune system running strong, and make you less apt to binge eat and/or drink (read these 10 reasons to drink water).

  9. ShoweringThe shower. One of the best pieces of home workout equipment is your shower. Not only can you be clean and shiny within minutes of finishing your workout, you can use your shower to improve recovery. Getting blood to circulate quicker is one of the keys to an efficient recovery from exercise and hot/cold showers are a great way to do this. Alternate your water temperature from hot to cold during your shower. Make each temperature as extreme as you can stand it and try focusing the water on the targeted muscles of that day's workout. A few cycles of this after each workout can do wonders. You can read this for more on hot/cold showers.

  10. Ice PackIce. Another great recovery tool, not much beats ice for increasing circulation. You probably know that ice works well when you've been injured, but it also helps you heal from the rigors of daily exercise. Icing the body parts you've worked out will help you recover faster. Try icing while watching TV, and bundle up while doing it. You want to keep your core temperature warm while making your muscles cool.

Steve Edwards If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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Test Your Sneaker IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. KedsWhat is the oldest sneaker? Plimsoll shoes were developed in Britain in the 1830s by a rubber company. They were made of canvas with rubber soles and were sold as beach shoes. Vulcanization enabled better sole-making in the mid-to-late 19th century, and, in 1892, U.S. Rubber Company created a new line of shoes, called Keds. In 1917, advertising agent Henry Nelson McKinney coined the word "sneaker" to spotlight how quiet the shoes were when you walked.

  2. What is the most popular sneaker ever? Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Celebrating their 90th anniversary this year, over 750 million pairs of these basic rubber and canvas shoes have been sold. They were originally marketed as just "All-Stars," until basketball player/shoe salesman Chuck Taylor suggested adding a reinforcing patch on the ankle for extra support and, thereafter, the shoes were called "Chuck Taylor All-Stars." In World War II, the shoes became the official sneaker of the U.S. Armed Forces. At their peak in the 1960s, Converse controlled 80 percent of the sneaker market. Today, Converse is owned by former competitor Nike.

  3. PumasWho produced the first tennis shoe? The first tennis shoe was created by brothers Adi and Rudolf Dassler in Germany in 1931 through their company Gebr der Dassler Schuhfabrik. Later in the 1940s, the brothers became estranged and split off into their own companies. Adi Dassler renamed the original company, using a conflation of his own name, Adidas. Rudolf founded a competing athletic shoe company, which he named Puma. Puma became the first shoe to use Velcro in its design in 1968.

  4. What company did Blue Ribbon Sports become? Nike. Founded by University of Oregon business major Phil Knight and coach Bill Bowerman in 1962, Blue Ribbon Sports was renamed Nike, after the Greek goddess of victory, in 1968. They added the famous "swoosh" in 1971, which they purchased from design student Carolyn Davidson for $35.

  5. New Balance Model 990What was the first company to charge $100 for a pair of athletic shoes? New Balance charged $100 for its 990 model in 1983. It's rumored that if you divide the model number of New Balance shoes by 10, you'll get an approximation of the price. New Balance was originally founded in the early 1900s as a manufacturer of shoes for people with foot problems, specifically those who needed arch supports. In the 1970s, New Balance became known for its popular running shoe, and, despite its limited advertising, has become the fourth largest athletic shoe company behind Nike, Adidas/Reebok, and Puma.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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