Recently, the health and wellness industry has begun to recognize a new way of looking at movement and the body’s overall support system. In the past, we’ve learned that our bodies are made up of 206 bones, 12 organs, 640 muscles and skin. Many traditional weight training methods support the idea that movement comes from few muscles working in isolation. We made advancements in how we can change the way the body looks, however, we had little improvement in how we can change the way the body feels.
Understanding now that complex movement doesn’t have any type of isolation, we’ve identified an intermediary between the skin and the musculature in the body: The Fascial System. This system creates lines of tension and support (fascial web) across the body and is responsible for how the body reacts during complex movement. Bone, blood vessels, and cartilage are also part of this system, as they are made of similar substances. Therefore, the health of the fascial system determines how we experience aging in respects to joint pain, instability, flexibility, mobility. In comes Collagen.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the main structural protein associated with fascia in the body. It is the most abundant protein, making up 25%-35% of the whole body protein content. Like we mentioned before, collagen tissues include bone, cartilage, blood vessels, intervertebral discs, as well as the fascial web. The five most common types of collagen are associated with the following tissues (1):
I) Skin, Tendons, Vascular Ligature, Bone
III) Reticular Lamina (Inner Linings)
IV) Forms Basal Lamina (Outer Linings)
V) Cell Surfaces
Collagen and Skin Health
One of the main things we notice while aging is how our skin may change. We start to notice wrinkles, dryness and changes in elasticity. A double blind, placebo controlled study by The Department of Dermatology in Germany, showed that 2.5-5 grams of collagen used among women aged 35-55 once daly for eight weeks significantly improved all of symptoms mentioned. Regular collagen intake could be the secret to the vitality of your skin! (2)
Collagen and Joint Care
Another “symptom” of aging we tend to suffer is chronic joint pain and stiffness. A study by The Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Hospital in Boston (3) showed that supplementation of type II collagen for 90 days showed significant improvement in the number of swollen joints, tender joints, and morning stiffness compared to the placebo group. Of the 28 people in the supplement group, 4 of them had complete resolution of symptoms. Here’s the kicker; all patients in the study were suffering from severe cases of Rheumatoid Arthritis, a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited motion/function of joints.
Why do we need Collagen Supplements?
If you didn’t know already, the “Modern Western Diet” leaves a lot of America overweight and laden with preventable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and stroke. Not only aren’t we likely getting sufficient amino acid intake for the synthesis of collagen, the physical stress our body takes on releases hormones that halt the production of collagen (cortisol). Collagen supplementation assures that you have the building blocks necessary for the formation of newer, healthier tissue.
Some other factors that inhibit collagen formation include; smoking, too much sun, emotional stress, and poor hydration. Exercise stimulates new growth of collagen and prevents atrophy (loss of muscle mass), according to MD, Rebecca Booth. (4) This means we should also focus on stress management, hydration, and frequent movement to compound the effects of collagen supplementation.
Where to Buy
There are now plenty of Collagen supplements on the market for you to choose from. If you go to amazon, you’ll see anything from fish to beef collagen supplements. In my opinion, I would stick to grass-feed, organic, beef collagen. Be wary of seafood collagen if you know you have seafood allergy. Also, those with egg allergy should check to see if collagen comes from egg. To be safe, you can purchase some from the godfather of the collagen revolution, Dr. Axe!
-Howard Bowens III
If you’re even a beginning gym goer, you’ve likely heard the expression, “listen to your body?” I myself have used this expression many times, but I’m not sure people always understand what I mean. In this article I’ll try to make this concept more clear.
Our bodies aren’t invincible machines that are meant to take pounding after pounding, day by day. That’s not how training works. Put simply, when we train we are breaking down our body. This means whenever we leave the gym and we worked our butts off, our bodies are compromised and we are weaker than when we arrived. The beauty about our bodies is that they’re the ultimate adaptation structures. Any stress we put on our bodies, it’s going to want to bounce back stronger to handle the stress in the future. In order to do this though, it needs rest. This is why going hard every day isn’t a good idea. All long term training programs should be a mix of intensities throughout the training cycle. This means we shouldn’t leave feeling totally exhausted everyday. So when our bodies are literally unable to work after a week of training (I’m not talking normal soreness) then you are likely working a bit to intensely. Not only is this not sustainable for most people, it also isn’t safe.
Unfortunately there was a time in the fitness industry where we did tell people they just had to work their butts off everyday. No pain, no gain right? Wrong! If there is pain then your body is trying to tell you something. You’re working out to improve your health right? So if you end up having to have two knee surgeries because you pushed through the pain trying to run marathons every year, that’s not getting healthier. I’m not saying you shouldn’t run a marathon every year. I’m saying that running a marathon without proper preparation or trying to run through pain in order to run a marathon isn’t very smart and likely means that your body isn’t ready for that event.
So what does this have to do with listening to your body? Well, if we’re training, the idea is that we want to push our bodies just enough to elicit a response from the recovery period following. If we push too much we can get injured. Generally though, before overtraining injuries occur, we start to feel chronic aches and pains around joints or muscles. A good example is when a runner complains of plantar fasciitis but continues to run on it instead of trying to take care of the issue. If you start to have issues like this then it’s best to rest! Even if you’re scheduled to have chest and arms day and everything’s planned out, if you wake up in shoulder pain, you better figure out something else to do because your body is telling you it’s not a good idea to do shoulders that day. There is a difference of course between normal soreness, and strong pain signals that we need to learn to identify. Wouldn’t you rather run a marathon without pain?
Proper recovery and varied intensities during training cycles will help keep your body ready to train long term, however, there are those times where some pain may kick in. When this happens remember to take that signal as a warning and take some extra rest. If it persists then you likely need to see a medical professional. Never try to push through pain during workouts (remember normal muscle soreness is not what I’m addressing here). If you listen to your body, you’ll be far better off in the long run!
Alright so we’re approaching the new year and I know I’ll start to see all of the suddenly optimistic New Year Resolution-ers posting their New Year New Me propaganda all over social media. We can also expect to see the oh so negative Resolution Bashers posting sarcastic memes basically poking fun at the optimism and crushing the dreams and self esteem of the former group. Alright we know that 80% of resolution-ers quit after the first month (definitely made that stat up but it seems accurate), however, that’s no reason to try and discourage those trying to make a positive transformation. This year I decided to do something a little different. I decided I’m going to give you 5 keys to improving the rate of success for all of your New Year, New Me fitness goals!
Write Down Your Goals
Writing down your fitness goals brings them out of your head and into the world. You are far more likely to succeed in any goal if you right it down somewhere. You’re even more likely to succeed if you place it keep it someplace where you’ll see it often. Make sure your goals are SMART goals that means their SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ATTAINABLE, REALISTIC, and TIME-BOUND. Goals need to be as specific as possible. This means instead of saying that your goal is losing 10 lbs, get more detailed. Losing 2 lbs a week for the next 5 weeks would be far more specific and seems far more manageable. You need to be able to measure the goal somehow, in the example prior, we are measuring our weight on a scale each week. Ask yourself if this goal is attainable for you and if you can be fully committed toward this goal. Is this goal realistic? Losing 50 lbs in 5 weeks wouldn’t be a very realistic goal. A goal that’s time bound lays out a clear plan over a period of time, breaking down the larger goal into smaller, more manageable goals.
Be Open Minded
Ok I’m going to give you some tough love to start. YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING! Just because you read a few articles or looked up your favorite movie star’s workout plan doesn’t mean you have any clue what you’re doing in the gym. Humble yourself. It’s ok to be a beginner. That’s why there are professionals ready to help you! To truly transform yourself, regardless of the goal, you have to accept the fact that what you’ve been doing so far hasn’t gotten you to where you want to be. In order to truly make the change you want, you need to have an open mind about trying new things, eliminating things you’re currently doing, and learning new information about yourself. Don’t judge yourself! Congratulate yourself for getting started on your journey to transforming your life for the better! GET EXCITED!
Don’t Give Up Based on One Experience
Alright so one thing I see and hear a lot about is people quitting altogether because they couldn’t keep up with the trendy, super-intense class; or they had a bad experience with a trainer. Let me address the class issue first. If you are a beginner, find a beginner class. One thing new gym goers get wrong is they believe that a harder class will get them to where they want to be faster. In reality, a class that’s too hard will have you quitting the gym faster. Be honest with yourself and start with simpler classes and work your way up. Not only will this approach be much safer, you’ll appreciate when you get to the top so much more!
In regards to having a bad experience with a trainer; If you had a bad experience with one pair of shoes would you stop wearing shoes altogether? Trainers all have different personalities, coaching styles, expertise, etc. It may take you 3 trainers before you find one that you can gel with. My advice here; talk to a few of the trainers at your gym and ask them questions about how they coach, what types of certifications they have, what their speciality is, and just see if you connect with them or not. If not, move on to the next one. Just DON’T QUIT!
Hire a Professional
Working out is much more complicated than bicep curls and leg presses. It requires balancing movement types, proper form, and proper progression. There is no reason for you to try to make sense of this as I’m sure you have a full-time job, kids, and a mortgage. Let the professionals do this for you! Hiring a trainer to be there with you is your best option for guidance and instruction. If you really can’t afford a trainer to be there in person, there a many online training options that will give you progressive workout plans with videos to guide you through movements. It just so happens that I provide this online service, so if you’d like to receive an affordable training plan that you can access on your smartphone you can reach me HERE!
Change Your Diet
You knew this one was coming! It’s likely that the biggest obstacle holding you back from getting where you want to be is what you’re putting into you mouth. Diet is involved in all fitness related goals so if you’re truly looking for transformation, changing the foods you eat is unavoidable.
Most people aren’t able to change every negative nutritional habit they have at the same time, that’s ok, start with a few and increase are you get comfortable with each change. The first wave of habits to focus on will be drinking more water, increasing vitamins and mineral consumption (fruits and veggies), consuming healthy fat regularly, or consuming protein regularly. HERE is a great guide that makes understanding serving sizes easy, as well as provides examples of healthy food choices so you’ll know what to buy next time you go to the store. For each meal, aim to have one serving each of health carbs, fat, and protein. As you start to understand what YOU like and get into a personal routine of what works for YOU, you’ll see that this change isn’t as bad as it seems! Oh yeah, and you’ll look great!
Just like anything else, transforming your health takes practice. The reality is, we will all fall short of doing things perfectly in 2017. That’s because we aren’t perfect. Just because you have a small relapse doesn’t mean you’re a failure. When you fall of the bike, you dust your jeans off and hop right back on that bad boy. You ARE capable achieving all of your fitness goals! These 5 keys will help you stay on track so you’ll have a healthy, happy 2017!
Improving my sleep was the most impactful health improvement I’ve made in 2016! Around April, my body basically hit a wall. I was low on energy, I couldn’t think straight, and when I worked out I felt like my heart was going to explode. I went to the doctor a handful of times for this test and that test. Nothing. They sent me home telling me that I was perfectly healthy. This was of course terrifying because I figured that if it weren’t something they could figure out quickly, then it must be some super rare form of something-or-another that you only learn about in high school biology. Around that time I came across a new podcast called, “The Model Health Show,” by Shawn Stevenson. I enjoyed the podcast so much that I purchased his book, “Sleep Smarter,” and began to implement some of what he wrote about. After just a couple weeks of getting my sleep in order, my energy levels were through the roof, my mood had improved, and I was once again killing it in the weight room!
One of the issues I had, and one you may be facing now, was that I thought there was no time for sleep. Today’s society teaches us that “sacrificing sleep” is one of he keys to success. This is one of the biggest lies ever told. The only way we can have any kind of consistent success is to ensure that we show up everyday with the same energy, focus, and tenacity to perform at a high level. The all-natural way we can do this is by getting great sleep regularly. In this article I’m going to list 3 strategies that have helped me upgrade my sleep and my life!
1.) Get to Bed Early, Consistently
If there’s one thing modern life has really messed up, it’s our bedtime. With the technology we have it’s so easy to stay up late and stay entertained. We no longer feel threatened at night and many of us don’t get to sleep until the next morning. I know some of you are reading this and saying, “Oh you don’t understand, I’m a night owl,” well I’ve got news for you, I’ve used that excuse before and chances are you aren’t a night owl. Actually, being a true “night owl,” is extremely rare. It’s like when we tell others that being overweight is a health condition, yes some people do have health conditions that make it very difficult for them to lose weight but that is actually very rare and there are a lot of people out there ready and willing to use that excuse to support their unwillingness to change. I digress.
Getting to bed at a reasonable hour actually improves the quality of our sleep A TON! In fact, the key repair hormones, Melatonin and HGH, peak right around when it get’s dark and decrease as the night goes on. Around the time the sun rises, cortisol spikes and we wake up, ideally, rip roaring and ready to roll! If we continue to miss our opportune times to recover because we’d rather stay up all night binge watching Netflix, playing video games, or trying to button up that report for tomorrows meeting; we will end up piling up on sleep debt that will seem to hit us all at once. The best course of action is to go to sleep within a few hours of it getting dark and aim to wake up around sunrise. For me I’ve set my schedule from about 10pm-4:30am and this is coming from a former “night owl.” Some of you may notice that this does not follow the law of getting 7-8 hours of sleep, you’re right. This is because getting to sleep at the right time beats trying to sleep longer because you will have better sleep quality!
2.) Stress Management
You’ll notice this is a common theme among my post and that’s for good reason. We are TOO STRESSED! Let me rephrase that. WE HAVE NO PLAN FOR HOW STRESSED WE ARE! That’s much better. The number one reason my clients tell me they have trouble sleeping is because they can’t turn their brains off. They lie awake in bed constantly thinking about what they have to do tomorrow or what they didn’t do the day before. We become so obsessed with the past and the future that we oftentimes forget to appreciate where we are now. In America, we are truly blessed to have the safety and opportunity that many other places in the world don’t. Before bed, why not be thankful and show gratitude because we could be dealing with far worse things than Jenny badmouthing you in the break room.
There are a few practices that can help you re-center and deal with the seemingly overwhelming stress you may be experiencing. One of my favorites is meditation. Meditation is simply having some time to yourself to sit in peace, appreciate the moment, and teach yourself not to react to every little thought that pops into your head minute to minute. One way to get started meditation is by using a new, convenient meditation app like HEADSPACE, that will literally walk you through everything. Getting into good stress management practice will work wonders when it comes to you falling asleep!
3.) Sleep Routine
Ok it’s 9pm it’s time to start winding down. I head to the bathroom to freshen up, throw on some comfortable clothes, and get the ebook ready for some nigh time reading. Having a good sleep routine that you can repeat night after night will help wind you down and get you to sleep on time, consistently.
Some things I would advise against including in this routine is TV (especially if it’s close to you), work in bed, exercise, or eating sugary snacks. These all promote wakefulness to some degree. You generally want to get into a routine that is relaxing and get’s your mind off of what you have to do tomorrow. With television, it’s the blue light emission that can throw off your sleep hormones; try listening to an audiobook instead or angling the television so it’s not pointing directly at you. Instead of work try reading a book on something you are passionate about. Instead of eating sugary snacks, drink some water or have some soothing peppermint tea. This is a time to pamper yourself and relax because darn it, you deserve it!
I could honestly go on and on about the importance of sleep and ways we can improve our sleep quality but let’s start with these three hacks and I assure you, you’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time. If you’d like to learn even more about the topic, I recommend reading the book Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson, it will literally change your world.
-Howard Bowens III
One of the easiest ways we can improve our health is to ensure that we are adequately hydrated. In a world filled with soda, sugary juices, coffee, and smoothies; many of us seem to forget to consume this most vital liquid. Here’s why drinking adequate amounts of water will help take your health to another level!
We know that the average adult human body is 50-65% water. That’s because water is the primary building block of cells and of course we are made of trillions of cells all working toward the purpose of keeping us alive. Just think, when we aren’t adequately hydrated, all of these little cell workers are shaking their fists at us wondering why the hell we are making their jobs so dang hard. Dehydration affects our mental performance and physical coordination. Significant effects can be felt after being just 1% dehydrated; this is before we even feel thirsty which is around 2-3% dehydration. Basically when you’re feeling thirsty that’s your body telling you “Hey buddy what the hell are you trying to do to me!” To really put this into perspective, we could only survive about 3 days without water, making water consumption far more important then food intake! Aside from effects we are conscious of, hydration also affects the following:
- Aids in regulation of temperature
- Aids in metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates used as food
- Flushes waste and toxins from the body
- Maintains mucus lining in the lungs
- Improves blood circulation for heart and skin maintenance
The recommended daily intake of water is 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce per lb of bodyweight. I like to down a couple glasses of water first thing in the morning to ensure I get the day started on a positive note. Also, it’s a great idea to carry a refillable bottle everywhere to work to help remind you to get your drink on! Now that we know the importance of hydration in health and performance, making an effort to ensure we’re adequately hydrated should be step numero uno in creating a healthier, happier life!
-Howard Bowens III
This past weekend I had the pleasure of personally meeting Wim Hof, a radical health enthusiast hell bent on challenging current medical opinion on what the human body is capable of achieving. Let’s just say he’s off to a great start! Nicknamed the “Ice Man,” Wim has accumulated almost 20 world records including; longest ice bath; climbing snowy peaks wearing only shorts; running marathons around the polar circle without a shirt or shoes! You may be wondering, “how the hell is this guy able to achieve this?” The answer to this question is surprisingly simple: breath, focus, and cold.
Wim’s methods influence the autonomic nervous system. This system of the body, according to current medical opinion, is out of our direct control and is in charge of our breathing, heart rate, and immune response. Wim Hof is able to prove this opinion wrong by participating in multiple studies showing him having the ability to influence all of these mechanisms.
Breathing has been known to slow heart rate and lessen the body’s sympathetic tone. Wim Hof’s breathing method helps to give your body maximum oxygen uptake while cutting the internal CO2 in half. This causes your blood to carry increased amounts of oxygen to working tissues, accelerating recovery while increasing white blood cell count and activity to combat disease.
Focus and meditation has been cited by multiple studies to have significant health benefits including reduced anxiety and overall mood (Phongsuphap, Pongsupap, Chandanamattha & Lursinsap, 2008; Wu & Lo, 2008; Paul-Labrador et al., 2006). These mindfulness based stress reduction practices help to compound the effects of the breathing exercises.
Wim’s cold immersion techniques act on the immune system’s inflammatory protein response. Studies on Wim himself show that cold immersion drastically decreases inflammatory response. This coupled with concentration and focus techniques help Wim control natural bodily responses to cold such as shivering. He has also, to many scientists surprise, shown the ability to control how far his body temperature drops to avoid hypothermia.
Wim’s unorthodox methods just may hold the key to us finding ways to self heal when we are sick or diseased. To understand, in more detail, Wim’s techniques; download his free pdf which provides his method and studies from accredited organizations HERE!
-Howard Bowens III
The second essential movement pattern I’ll cover for the series is the squat pattern. This is technically a total body movement, but is considered a knee dominant lower body pushing exercise. Performing a bodyweight squat is important for everyone and I wouldn’t even consider d0ing a weighted squat until you’ve perfected this first! Check out the video and keep training!
Moving our body in 3D is an idea that everyone should familiarize themselves with. Training in 3D helps to increase range of motion, decrease compensation, and improve performance! Training in 3D means utilizing all three planes of motion of the human body. The three planes of motion are help us categorize movements into their directional dominance. The three planes of movements are:
Sagittal Plane – This plane divides the body into left and right halves. Imagine that a square is dividing a body into left and right halves, any movement along the direction of the square would be considered a sagittal dominant movement. To oversimplify this, any movement acting just forward and backward without any significant lateral or rotational aspect, is considered sagittal dominant. Most movements we tend to see people perform when exercising are in this plane, examples include: running, biking, rowing, squatting, forward and backward lunging, bench press, etc.
Frontal Plane – This planed divides the body into front and back halves. If we imagined a square splitting the body this way, any movement along the square would be considered frontal dominant. Oversimplified, these are lateral (side to side) movements. Think about bringing your arms away form the side of your torso or spreading your legs wide. Typical exercises you may have seen include: shuffling, hip abduction/adduction, lateral squats, shoulder lateral raises, etc.
Transverse Plane – This plane divides the body into upper and lower halves. Imagine now that the square is splitting the body through the torso; any movement along this plane is considered transverse dominant. Most transverse dominant movements or of the rotational type, although there are exceptions. These movements work across planes and are highly underutilized. Transverse movements you may be familiar with are: baseball/golf swings, chopping, windmills, etc.
We experience all of these planes on a daily basis somehow. We experience problems because our modern, convenient lifestyle tends to have sagital plane over-dominance. Very rarely need to move laterally or rotationally except for very small periods of time. Having over-dominance in one plane hinders our bodies ability to perform movements in the other plane with efficiency, which tends to cause compensation and immobility. Our bodies our always adapting to our lifestyle so what we don’t use, we lose. It becomes more important, then, that we become mindful of this and try to incorporate more multi-planar movements when we have the opportunity.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Body By Bowens can help create a custom program for you or if you have any questions please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
-Howard Bowens III