Commando Boxing
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Expanding Your Fortress

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I read something interesting today that made me think a bit.  I love when that happens - as it opens my eyes to new possibilities and often results in a little extra motivation for whatever I'm doing.  This little tidbit was all about attitude and how we can easily get caught up in believing things are randomly happening to us, rather than proactively creating the lives we want to live.

I'm a control freak - so when unexpected things happen - it kinda freaks me out.  So, I make it my daily mission to control everything I can which might be a bit OCD.  But I find that when I'm in charge of my time and my activities, I'm comfortable knowing that things will generally turn out a certain way.  Problem is that I can't control every variable in my life and there are going to be those things that affect me whether I want them to or not.  That seems a little counterintuitive to living proactively and imposing my will on the world, but it's not.  Let me explain...

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Staying Motivated to Train

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It could have started anywhere... 

It might have started when you watched Rocky, Cinderella Man, or Million Dollar Baby.  

Maybe it happened when you were at a UFC, amateur, or professional boxing match or tournament.  

Maybe a friend keeps talking about how awesome their boxing club is and the incredible changes taking place in his or her life as the training he or she is doing inspires confidence, builds muscle and burns excess fat. 

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You’re Never Too Old to Start

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I don't remember exactly when it happened, but sometime around the age of 29-30, I started noticing more and more people around me blaming their poor performance, injuries, and lack of motivation on their age.

Given the actual age of people I hang around with, it is increasingly common to hear things like "my body doesn't respond like it used to" or "it takes me twice as long to recover as it used to in my twenties."

While all that may be true - I truly believe that you only really get old when you start using age as an excuse.

I turned 40 this year - but I don't consider myself old and I can certainly still out perform people half my age in the gym or ring.

I'm not delusional. I know that at some point my body is going to deteriorate to the point where I'm not going to be able to box (or probably even walk or wipe my own ass for that matter) - but I'll be damned if I'm going to let that happen before it actually happens.

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Never Ever Quit – Period.

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Combat simplifies life real quick.

In that moment - you fight for survival with no time to worry or decisions to mull over - and how you react in a fight says a lot about how you approach your life.

You've probably heard of the fight or flight response - the two instincts that control how you react to a situation you perceive is threatening.

I'd offer there is a third response that doesn't get talked about but is much more dangerous than fighting or running - it's quitting.

You can't run in the boxing ring - there is nowhere to go. You can move around but you'll never get away from your attacker or get a break unless your attacker gives it to you, the bell rings or the referee stops the fight.

With running out of the question - that leaves two options: fight or quit.

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Fight One Opponent at a Time

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You can't push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb himself."

- Andrew Carnegie

Imagine you are in the boxing ring. Across from you is your opponent. You're both sizing each other up knowing that when the bell sounds you'll be toe to toe throwing punches.

The bells sounds and you move forward. Suddenly, just as you are ready to attack, twenty of his friends climb into the ring to offer their assistance. You have no where to go. You have to fight.

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Walk the Talk

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"What set Thomas Edison apart was that, with all his boundless exaggeration, he conveyed the feeling that he would succeed. No matter what the obstacles, he would pound away until they were demolished."

- Robert Conot

Remind You of Anyone?

Reading that quote above, do any boxers come to mind? When I first read it, I thought immediately of Floyd Mayweather Jr. I can't think of a recent boxer who has a bigger mouth than he does. While I think a good portion of it is acting to inflate ticket prices and pay per view views, he is extremely vocal (boundless exaggeration).

The thing is that unlike other boxers, Mayweather Jr. accomplishes what he says. He walks the talk. He dissects, disables, and pounds away until his opponents are demolished.

His fights are not terribly exciting for most people looking to watch two people pound each other bloody, but for someone who knows and respects boxing for the strategy it entails, few boxers achieve his level of technical mastery.

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What to Do When Cheating Leads to Guilt

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Did you honestly think you could stick to your training plan or eat perfectly 100% of the time - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year?

My Situation...

I'm currently sitting in a hotel as I write this. I started a new training cycle just over three weeks ago and have diligently followed my meal plan for the same period of time. However, I am now in this hotel for a week on business. I have no access to cooking facilities or food preparation. I have a very limited fitness facility. I have to attend social functions and eat in restaurants and pubs. How hard do you think it is going to be for me to stick to my meal plan and training program?

Training wise, I have modified my program to suit what I have available - resistance bands I brought with me and the equipment the hotel does have. Although full boxing workouts are going to be on hold until I get back, I know I am going to be able to continue training.

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Keep Your Boxing Training in Perspective

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The wide variety of people using Commando Boxing continually amazes me.

Members range in age from less than 10 to older than 80. They are a fairly even split of men and women, although the proportion of women continues to grow. About 65% are brand new to the sport of boxing and looking to see if it is something they want to pursue.

The main reasons people generally give when joining the club fall into three general categories:

  1. a desire to improve their level of fitness using boxing training that isn't boring or that can be done at home;
  2. to improve self-confidence or learn self defense skills; or
  3. to increase performance and prepare for competition as a supplement to training they are doing in a physical club or with a trainer

Well, whatever your motivations are for being here, I first and foremost applaud you for getting involved in the sport. No words I type are ever going to convey how beneficial boxing can be in your life. It's something you'll have to experience for yourself and thousands already have.

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The Guinea Pig Diet

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I'll get to the guinea pigs in a minute but first I want to help you understand how similar you and I are.

We're built the same. We both have super small structures that work together as cells to form the various tissues and organ systems that make up our bodies, keep us healthy and performing well.

Every single one of our 100 trillion cells (for the average 150lb adult), contains an instruction manual that tells it what to do and make to ensure our bodies function properly.

That instruction manual is a set of genes that forms your genetic code - and 99.9% of my genes are the same as your genes which are the same as your grandma's genes which are the same as Arnold Schwarzenegger's genes.

But - there is that .01% difference to keep things interesting. The differences are called genetic polymorphisms and they explain why you and I may react differently to the food we eat.

If we were all 100% genetically the same then a one-size fits all diet would work for everyone and it would be a simple matter of testing all foods to see if they improve or do not improve health and performance. We could keep all the good foods, get rid of the bad and the obesity problem would be over. Problem solved.

But we're not the same - so a diet of certain foods that makes me feel good and perform at my peak may not be the optimal diet for you.

For instance - every one has a gene in our livers that makes an enzyme that breaks down caffeine. In some people that enzyme breaks caffeine down quickly leaving the beneficial antioxidants behind and they get health and performance benefits from 1-3 cups of coffee a day. Other people's genes make an enzyme that breaks caffeine down slowly so the same 1-3 cups of coffee may have detrimental health effects.

Food Can Control Your Genes

It really does matter what you eat...

Certain foods have bioactive components that upregulate (turn on) genes - also referred to as gene expression.

Brocolli has a component called isothiocyanates that will switch on a specific gene in the liver that detoxifies cancer-causing chemicals and other toxins.

Cooked tomatoes contain lycopenes that turn off growth-promoting genes in the prostate. No cooked tomatoes in the diet = higher risk of prostate cancer.

Fish oil (specifically DHA - fatty acid found in fish) tells genes in the brain to make a chemical that helps keep Alzheimer's away. If you take fish oil you have better cognitive (brain) function as you age compared to people who don't.

Noteworthy: there is a fascinating branch of science called nutrigenomics that studies how nutrition influences gene expression.

It's interesting to think that what you eat is causing things to turn on and off in your body.

Introducing the Guinea Pig Diet

I know I just spent a few minutes listing the ways we are all different enough to make a one-size fits all diet unworkable - but there is one diet that works for 100% of human beings on the planet. It's the guinea pig diet.

Now don't go frying up the family pet quite yet.

Since at least the 1700s, guinea pigs have been the subjects of a host of experiments for the benefit of mankind. Guinea pigs played key roles in germ theory, standardization of vaccines and antivirals, and have even been launched into space on numerous occasions.

Indigenous groups of South America eat guinea pigs and since 1960 there has been a push to use the animal for food consumption outside of South America - but I'm not telling you that guinea pigs are a super food you need to add to your diet.

Go ahead and breathe that sigh of relief...

The guinea pig diet is a method for building your optimal diet using yourself as your own guinea pig.

It's a framework for experimenting on yourself to see what works and what doesn't in a world of nutrition information that seems to contradict itself at every opportunity.

Given your unique genetic profile - you won't know what your super foods are until you test how you react to those foods and objectively measure the outcomes.

As you grow up you kind of do this intuitively anyways. You figure out at a young age that eating too much of something like super rich chocolate cake or ice cream can make you feel bad or anxious. The guinea pig diet takes it a step further to make you really pay attention to what's good for you and what isn't - and it's totally unique to you and your genetic profile.

Overview of The Guinea Pig Diet

The guinea pig diet is a framework for building a list of foods unique to you that you can and should eat to achieve optimal health and performance.

The Guinea Pig Cycle

That framework consists of envisioning a goal, establishing a baseline and then testing foods against that baseline to discard the bad foods and keep the good ones in your diet.

Said another way - the guinea pig diet is a method for determining what foods and drinks in the right amounts at the right times will enhance your performance and health.

Over the course of the next few articles we're going to dive deep into each component of the guinea pig cycle pictured above:

  • Goal: Acts as the guiding light to keep you on track when assessing what works and what doesn't. Includes the MoE (Measures of Effectiveness) that give you a clear indication of a positive or negative result from your test.
  • Establish Baseline: You need something to test against to measure improvement. Serves as the starting point which can be where you are now or you can start with any of the popular diets and the guinea pig diet will tailor them for your unique situation.
  • Testing: You introduce foods to your baseline diet one at a time in a controlled manner. We'll cover how to do this properly because there is both an art and science to it.
  • Measure the results against the baseline: The results of your test compared to your baseline will determine if the food you introduced should be kept or discarded and in what quantities. We all know that the good tasting foods tend to be the ones that are bad for us, but the good thing here is that lots of those seemingly bad foods in moderation really don't harm us at all so there can be a place for them in your diet.
  • Keep it or Discard it and Repeat: The end result of the guinea pig test is that you'll keep the food and add it to your list of foods you can eat or discard it and never think about it again. Then you simply repeat the cycle until you have a diet that makes you happy...

This process takes some time. You can't build your perfect diet overnight - but stick with it and eventually, incrementally, you'll be eating a whole lot better and seeing the results with better health and performance.

Can You Stop Eating Sugar for a Week?

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If I had the chance right now to change one thing in your life that would give you the body that you want - I know exactly what it would be...

I would snap my fingers and eliminate all added sugar from your diet.

Let me tell you why...

That picture up there is when I once lost 15 pounds in one day.  It was during an ultra-marathon where I ran for just over 23 hours and consumed very little food.  My Garmin lasted for about 20 of those hours and at that time told me I had burned just over 10000 calories.  

That translates into about 3lbs of fat (~3500 calories = 1 lb of fat) which is the primary source of energy your body uses during such long distance endurance events.  Unfortunately, my body did not just burn fat - it ate its own muscle as well.

In total, the weight loss was a combination of water loss (I was completely dehydrated), muscle loss, and fat loss - and it's really hard on your body.  Doing an ultra-marathon is a great experience - but if you don't fuel correctly, you're in for a world of hurt.

More recently, I lived in a place where it was damn near impossible to eat a lot of the foods I usually eat at home in North America.  Everything was made from scratch.  No processed foods and little to no sugar.  I found it very difficult to maintain my weight at 180lbs and hovered around 155lbs for most of my time there even without a lot of cardio-type exercise.  

Contrary to how I felt after the ulta-marathon -  despite some issues with the quality of the food (I won't go into why I carried toilet paper everywhere...) - I felt really good.

I use those two stories to highlight the fact that exercise alone is not the way to the body of your dreams.  Training speeds up the process and sculpts the muscles hidden by all the fat on your body, but you can't rely on exercise to fix the problems you cause yourself by what you put in your mouth.

To put it into perspective - it would take a 180lb person more than an hour of heavy bag training to burn off one McDonald's Big Mac which probably takes about 5 min or less to eat.  If the whole process was as simple as calories in and calories out, you simply do not have enough time in your day to create the negative energy balance required through exercise alone to cause massive changes in your body.

The problem is even harder to solve because foods are not all of the same quality.  Some things you eat are more lipogenic (apt to be turned into fat).

What is Sugar?

Well, besides being the most addictive poison and destructive force to society I can think of, sugar comes in three forms:

  1. Glucose - your body actually loves and needs this sugar.  Glucose gets into your body through the carbohydrates you eat.  A process called glycolysis extracts the glucose so that it can be used as energy.  If it is not used immediately, then it is turned into glycogen for storage to be used later on in your muscles and liver.  When your blood sugar falls to low, your liver uses glycolysis to release more glucose into your blood stream or if you don't have any glycogen in storage - it can make some through other processes like gluconeogenesis.  The big thing is that glucose levels are monitored by the liver.  Like any excess calories - excess amounts of glucose will either be excreted as waste or stored as fat. 
  2. Fructose - is not at all good for you.  It can be used as energy like glucose, but it enters the glycolysis process at a place where it bypasses any check to see if it is needed.  If it is not needed immediately for energy your liver transforms it into fat.  To be clear - there is no issue with the fructose you eat from fruits.  Nobody gets fat from eating apples and bananas.  It is the high doses of almost pure fructose in foods like sodas and candy that go straight to your waistline or build up in your organs causing fatty livers and so on.
  3. Sucrose - is a combination of fructose and glucose.  This is your table sugar.  Your body can use the glucose present as previously described, but again - it must convert any fructose into glucose before it can be used - and we already know that fructose is not your friend.

Further, insulin is released when your blood sugar levels are high.  It is used to deal with the high levels of sugar in your blood by either moving it into cells to be used or put into storage (i.e. fat).  Fructose doesn't increase insulin production which means your blood sugar levels stay high for extended periods of time.  This is what leads to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes.  Your brain actually registers the high blood sugar levels as a threat and the resulting immune response causes all sorts of problems and damage to cells and even cognitive defects such as those relating to Alzheimers.

Now that you've had a science lesson.  Let's just break it down into what matters.  

Sugar is poison.  Sugar is addictive.  Most of us are sugar addicts.  We need rehab.  We need to stop eating added sugar and processed foods.

I'm going to try and move you quickly through the 5 steps of grief that will inevitably occur when I say you shouldn't eat your twinkies, morning breakfast cereal, favorite dessert, or drink pop ever again.  Let's just jump over the denial, anger, bargaining, and depression and move right into acceptance shall we?  

Ultimately you need to deal with this loss on an emotional level, but here are the rational, logical reasons that should really resonate with you about sugar:

  1. There is nothing good in sugar.  Sugar adds a lot of added calories to your foods and gives you nothing in return.  There are no nutrients - no proteins, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, nothing...  It's also bad for your teeth.  The bacteria in your mouth love it - so eat sugar and you've got added dental costs in your future.
  2. Fructose kicks the shit out of your liver.  Your liver is usually already full of glucose unless you've just had a really hard exercise session or have depleted it for whatever reason.  If it's full - then any fructose overloads it and is automatically tunred into fat.
  3. Sugar is a poison that will kill you.  Really it's true.  Sugar will lead to all sorts of health problems such as fatty liver disease, insulin resistance that leads to metabolic syndrome and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, blindness (from diabetes), and even cancer.  And it doesn't take forever for this to happen.  Fructose has been shown to increase all the bad things like triglycerides, small, dense LDL and oxidized LDL, raise blood glucose and insulin levels and increase abdominal obesity in as little as 10 weeks.
  4. Sugar will make you fat - quicker.  Not only does fructose turn directly into fat, but it doesn't tell your brain that you've had enough.  Glucose will eventually signal to your brain that you don't need anymore.  Fructose won't so you keep eating more and more and those calories have no where to go so they are added to your body as fat.
  5. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine.  Now I'm not saying you should substitute cocaine for sugar, but in one study - cocaine addicted rats were given the option of drinking sugar water or  cocaine-laced water.  They chose the sugar.  If you're prone to addiction - then even the smallest amounts of sugar could take over your life.  While some people might be able to tolerate a little added sugar - those with addictive tendencies shouldn't touch it at all.

Here's Your Challenge

I hope that today is the day that I can make one change in your life that will actually have a real and almost immediate effect.  It's time for a sugar detox.  Stop eating sugar or foods with added sugar - full stop.  Don't just cut back.  Go cold turkey and cut it out completely.  One of two things will happen:

  1. You will.  You'll crave it but after a week you'll discover that you don't crave it nearly as much anymore.  You'll start feeling and looking better - even younger.  You might even lose some fat.  Your body will simply start working better.
  2. You'll try but the cravings will be so bad or habits so engrained that you'll fall off the wagon in just hours or days.  That should scare you at least a bit to think you're so addicted to something that you can't go without it.  Unfortunately - sugar is worse than some drugs and way more accessible.  The only way to deal with addiction is total abstinence.  It might even require the same types of substance abuse programs that exist for other drugs.

Good luck - let me know how your detox goes?  Maybe I should start offering the little badges you get for being 1 week, 1 month, 1 year etc... free of sugar...smiley

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