Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

Issue #059 WARMING UP FOR THE HOLIDAYS

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Warming Up, Cooling Down: How a Few Extra Minutes
Can Change Your Workout

By Stephanie S. Saunders

It's a Thursday morning at 6 a.m. You've already hit snooze too many times, and you have a meeting at 7:30. You really want to get your INSANITY® Max Interval Plyo workout in, but you don't have 55 minutes to spare. Well, if you just fast-forward through the warm-up and skip the cooldown, you can squeeze it in and still get a decent workout, right? Um, I don't think so. Skipping the warm-up and cooldown can decrease your performance level, open you up to injuries, and possibly make your recovery time longer. How so, you ask? Let's find out.

Warming Up, Cooling Down

Up, up, and away!

The purpose of a warm-up is to gradually increase your heart rate, your blood pressure, your oxygen consumption, and the elasticity and heat of the active muscles. A warm-up will also release adrenaline, increase the dilation of blood vessels, and enable oxygen in the blood to travel at a greater speed. A warm-up increases the production of synovial fluid located in the joints, reducing friction, and allowing for more efficient movement. Other advantages include an increased speed of muscle contraction, an increase in the metabolism of the muscle, and an increase in the induction of nerve impulses. And psychologically, a warm-up prepares us for the task at hand, and gets us involved in the process.

The components of a warm-up can vary depending on the activity you're going to participate in, but most warm-ups will have these important elements:

  1. TemperatureGraduated increase in heart rate and body temperature. If you were to run a 400-meter sprint, it's unlikely you would arrive at the track, pull off your sweatshirt, and suddenly explode onto the track in an attempt to finish in 40 seconds. You'd be wise to begin with a walk and increase to a slow jog, which you would maintain for 5 to 8 minutes. Slowly increasing your heart rate and body temperature in a training activity similar to exercise you're about to undertake allows your heart, muscles, and mind to adapt to the workload you have planned for it.
  2. Dynamic stretching/range of joint motion. There is a lot of controversy about the effectiveness of stretching in a warm-up. A recent study by USA Track & Field involving close to 3,000 runners theorizes that there's no difference in the risk of injury for those who stretched before running and those who didn't. When you read the actual study, however, more than half of the participants didn't follow the protocols, which mainly consisted of doing static stretches of three muscle groups, or doing nothing before running. Furthermore, those who did stretch were less likely to have reported an injury to a healthcare professional. And lastly, all this research was collected via email, so it wasn't as if they all met at the same track and were monitored for stretching and injuries.

    So is stretching helpful? Well, if it is taking your joints through a range of motion, increasing the elasticity in your muscles and connective tissues, and mimicking the biomechanical movements of your chosen activity, then heck, yes. This is considered dynamic stretching, which uses speed of movement, momentum, and active muscular effort to create a stretch. So in the case of your upcoming run, you might perform skips with high knees, walking lunges, and calf raises, focusing on the primary muscles you're about to use.
  3. IntensityGraduation to proper training intensity. After you complete your stretching routine, the final step of your warm-up is slowly increasing your intensity to your training level. The duration of this last portion of the warm-up depends on your planned activity and your current fitness level. In the case of your upcoming run, you might go back to your jog and slowly pick up the pace until you're at a run, then perhaps intersperse some sprinting intervals for a few minutes. Then you'll be ready to go for the 400!

    Goin' down . . .

    The number-one goal of the cooldown is to decrease your heart rate. Cooldown helps prevent blood pooling in the veins, which will help avoid dizziness and fainting. It also guarantees adequate circulation to the heart, brain, and muscles.

    Again, the components of the cooldown are dependent on the chosen activity. But all cooldowns should include:
  1. Heart RateDecreasing your heart rate. We've all heard the story of the college student who suddenly stopped at the conclusion of a race, and then dropped to the ground. The lesson to be learned is that your heart needs a gradual return to normal. The length of the first portion of the cooldown depends on the intensity and length of the workout. If you went for a run at 70 percent of your max for 30 minutes, you'd complete a jog for at least 5 minutes, followed by perhaps 2 more minutes of walking. If the workout was longer or more intense, a longer time is needed for your heart rate to slow down.
  2. Static stretching. Your body is at its warmest point at the conclusion of a workout, which is the ultimate opportunity to increase your overall flexibility. This is the time to hit all the major muscle groups. Static stretching is slow and constant and held at an end position for up to 30 seconds. This form of flexibility training is the most effective way to increase range of motion in a joint, and might in fact improve speed and jumping ability. In our running example, you'd stretch your calves, shins, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, external hip muscles, and back—even your neck.
  3. Body TemperatureDecreasing your body temperature. So you've finished your stretch and you immediately jump into a cold shower, or take a walk outside in your sweaty workout clothes in January. Um, no. This is a shock your muscles don't deserve. And yet this happens more often than you can imagine. I can't count the times I've watched ballet dancers finish class in New York City, then walk outside in their tights to smoke a cigarette in the snow. Slowly lowering your body temperature means just that . . . slowly. If you have to walk out of the gym, put on something warm. If you just finished P90X in your living room, spend a few minutes moving around your house before jumping into a warm shower. Slowly lowering your body temperature will allow your muscles to continue to relax, including one very important muscle: your heart.

    The warm-up and cooldown parts of your workout don't hold the glamour of a heavy bench press, a brilliant sprint, or a standing split. And yet they're vital to your overall fitness level and the health of your muscles, heart, and mind. Just a few extra minutes can do a world of good. And consider this: It's a lot easier to warm up and cool down than it is to take time off work for a trip to the doctor. So the lesson to be learned is to get your tail out of bed and do your entire workout. Don't skip the "appetizer" and "dessert" when they actually make the main course taste better—and they're calorie free!

Related Articles
"Eat More, Lose More. (Really?)"
"20 Secrets of Very Fit People"
"Why Confused Muscles Get Strong Faster"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Tuesday, December 21st, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can 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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Bring Home BRING IT! for the Holidays

Tony Horton's "Bring It!"Tony Horton's putting the X in Xmas this season! The Master of Motivation's new book Bring It! hits bookshelves December 21st, but you can preorder yours now at the following online retailers for up to 46% off the retail price!

Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble.com
Borders.com
Indiebound.org

Order today to make sure Bring It! gets brought in time for Christmas!

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Tuesday, December 21st, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can 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.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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Holiday Gift-Giving Guide: 4 Great Books That Give Back!

By Denis Faye

We know, we know—you're so busy working out and taking in all the information you get from the Beachbody® and P90X newsletters, you don't have time to read a new book. Well, this isn't about you! It's about all the friends you still need to buy presents for, and for them, books are an ideal gift. They're affordable, you can mail them cheap, and by giving someone a book, you suggest to them that you think they're at least quasi-literate. So with no further ado, let's check out some great reads.

Gift

For fitness seekers looking for a little spirituality with their sweat:

A Course in Weight Loss: 12 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever by Marianne Williamson (Hay House, $24.95)

The opening paragraph of A Course in Weight Loss reads, "This book is a spiritual curriculum consisting of 21 lessons. It is separate from anything else you might do regarding diet or exercise. It is a retraining of your consciousness in the area of weight."

Heady stuff, huh?

ScaleAuthor Marianne Williamson has a good point, though. While it's theoretically simple to get your body to do a program like TurboFire® and eat a diet of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and veggies, getting your brain and your heart onboard is another thing. That's why so many of us try and fail over and over. This book tries to break that cycle.

Most of the lessons within are nothing new in terms of self-help. Williamson openly admits to borrowing from A Course in Miracles and the 12-step method, but what makes this book different is that she's directly targeted overeating and body image. Some chapters are standard feel-good lessons, such as Lesson 14, "Feel your Feelings," or Lesson 17, "Forgive Yourself and Others." Others look directly at the issue at hand, such as Lesson 6, "Build a Relationship with Good Food," or Lesson 7, "Love Your Body," which contains a question I wish someone would have asked me back in my overweight days: "Is it your body you hate, or its size?"

As the title indicates, there's also a strong religious aspect here. Williamson tries to lessen this by proposing readers use the Alcoholics Anonymous theory of "it doesn't matter what you call it, as long as you call on it." That said, there's a lot of talking to God through the book. Even if that's not your thing, don't let that deter you. There's also a lot of insight to ponder and self-discovery to be learned, whether or not you talk to a higher power.

If the person you're playing Santa Claus for is already deep into one of our programs and having great results, she or he probably doesn't need A Course in Weight Loss, but if that person is still fumbling, this book makes a welcome companion, either as passing inspiration or a serious tutorial.

Beachbody Rating: 8 out of 10 bikinis.

For the budding home gardener with a conscience:

From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting, and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthful Food to Share with People You Love by Jimmy Williams and Susan Heeger (Chronicle Books, $30)

GardeningEven the quickest perusal of this beautiful, instructional coffee table volume on home gardening is enough to make you want to dust off your hoe and overalls and convert your back deck into an organic tomato plot, but be warned: It's not that easy. Sure, veteran green thumb Jimmy Williams and his coauthor, home and garden feature writer Susan Heeger, do a great job at showing you how it's done, but keep in mind that produce gardening, especially without the time-saving aid of hellishly evil chemicals, is a time-consuming passion. You don't get weekends off. If you don't tend to your fruits and veggies, they'll probably die.

Public service announcement aside, this is a wonderful book. Williams is a particularly fascinating person. He walked away from a thriving career as a clothing designer to pursue his first love, growing organic produce—a skill learned from his South Carolina grandmother, who carried on the traditions of her Caribbean slave ancestors.

You'll find in-depth information on all aspects of gardening, from choosing and creating spaces to soil management to plant grouping to saving seeds for next season. On the gardening end, there's not much missing here, right down to the blueprints for raised beds and a chart on pairing plants. I also really enjoyed Williams's "Edible A-List of Must-Have Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruit," a series of essays on his favorite produce.

That said, however, it's a bit light on the "skillet" side, devoting just 19 pages to favorite recipes. Also, in my home garden, I often end up with a surplus of some produce, and even after sharing with the neighbors, one can only eat so much squash or watermelon. It would have been nice if the book delved a little into canning and preserving.

But that shouldn't stop you from buying From Seed to Skillet. If you're interested in starting a home garden, making your existing one better, or just having a beautiful coffee table book to show your forward-thinking friends, this is a great investment.

Beachbody Rating: 7 out of 10 organic tomatoes.

For the anyone with a little salt water in their soul:

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey (Doubleday, $27.95)

WaveSurfers, myself included, tend to take pause when outsiders take on their sport in print. Our attitude is that if you don't ride waves, it's difficult to understand what it's all about, so don't try to tell us about it.

Wisely, author Susan Casey isn't really trying to explain the mysteries of "the tribe" in her latest book, The Wave. She's just using their adventures as a narrative in trying to explain the mysteries of what the tribe rides—waves. And although surfers tend to have a better understanding of meteorology than most thong-wearing slackers, few of us have the in-depth understanding of the waves that you'll get from reading this book. It should be required reading for all water people.

Casey avoids turning this into a 300-plus page weather report by interspersing two narratives filled with colorful characters and catchy cliffhangers. First, she follows legendary big wave rider Laird Hamilton and his peers as they chase 80-foot giants around Hawaii. Second, she follows a group of scientists chasing the same giants, "nature's biggest tantrum," in hopes of understanding the devastating impact they have on humankind during deep-sea storms and coastal tsunamis.

The most compelling of the aforementioned characters in the book are the waves themselves. Casey paints them as deadly, mysterious creatures that confront—and are confronted by—humankind on all levels.

If you know someone who has any curiosity about the ocean and likes his or her nonfiction to be of the thrill-a-minute page-turner variety, The Wave is a great ride.

Beachbody Rating: 9.5 out of 10 surfboards, dude.

For the locavore with a serious Green Acres fetish:

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (Scribner, $25)

Farm HouseWhen Kristin Kimball met Mark, the man who would soon become her husband, she was a New York City journalist, scraping along in a typical urban existence. Mark, conversely, was anything but typical. The eccentric, handsome, organic-farming savant with a gift in the kitchen and a penchant for wearing his T-shirt inside-out every other wearing (so that they'd wear more evenly) swept her off her feet. Before she knew it, she'd moved out of her rent-controlled apartment and into a dilapidated farmhouse on 500 acres near Lake Champlain to live Mark's dream of building an organic, "all diet" farm.

Today, 100 people are members at Essex Farm. For $2,900 annually, they travel to the farm every Friday to stock up on all the beef, chicken, pork, eggs, milk, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and veggies they can eat for the next week. For many of them, it's all the grocery shopping they need.

The Dirty Life is Kimball's account of her transformation from city girl to farmer. At first, it may seem a bit off-putting to see this very independent woman completely change her life for a man, but as much as Mark is no fumbling Eddie Albert, this lady is no prissy Eva Gabor. Mark's dream farm was a lofty ambition and Kimball went after it as an equal—and a determined one at that. They often butt heads throughout the book. Furthermore, her calling was that of writer, not urban socialite, and this book is evidence that she's every bit the scribe she ever was. By weaving her relationship with her husband into the story of founding this farm, she's created a story about the glories of locavorism—a movement that involves eating locally produced, sustainable foods—that deserves a place on the bookshelf next to Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Beachbody Rating: 9 out of 10 free-range eggs.

Related Articles
"A 10-Point Plan for Holiday Diet Success"
"8 Tips for Avoiding the Holiday Pounds"
"Getting in Sync! 4 Easy Steps for Creating the Perfect Workout Playlist"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Tuesday, December 21st, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can 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.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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Tips + Trainer with Shaun T: The Squat Push-Up

INSANITY® creator Shaun T leads you through one of his signature moves, the Squat Push-Up. With his guidance, you'll learn to follow proper form as you combine the squat and the push-up to increase the beneficial effect of each move, working your core, quads, triceps, chest, and more. Click below to watch the video.

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Recipe: Low-Fat Holiday Eggnog

Low-Fat Holiday EggnogWant to serve something festive that won't have you looking like Santa in the new year? This twist on a holiday favorite has a great carb-protein-fat ratio that'll help you stay healthy for the holidays.

  • 4 cups skim milk
  • 12 oz. evaporated skim milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Ground nutmeg

Chill 6 oz. of the evaporated milk in the freezer for 30 minutes so it will whip better. In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together skim milk, remaining 6 oz. of evaporated milk, eggs, and sugar. Rinse your whisk in hot water to ensure that no bacteria from the egg remain. Once you've done that, use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture on the stove constantly for 10 minutes until slightly thickened. (Do NOT boil.) Remove pan from heat; transfer mixture to a large bowl and let it cool for several minutes. Place chilled evaporated milk and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk together until slightly thickened. Add it to the egg mixture and whisk for a few minutes more, until frothy. Refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours. If the eggs begin to coagulate, you can strain the mixture to remove the solids. Top with ground nutmeg before serving. You may substitute 1/2 cup of rum or brandy for vanilla. Makes 12 servings.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes (mixing), 4 hours and 30 minutes to 24 hours (prechilling)

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
73 6 g 0 g 7 g 2 g 1 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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