Sunday, June 30, 2013

How effective is Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred? About interval training and some tips.

A Google search for "30 Day Shred" still yields tons of recent blog posts despite the DVD being released five years ago, and a host of other fitness DVDs out there to choose from. The DVD contains three 20-minute workouts that feature cardio, strength training, and plyo-- all of which is focused on building your core. The "gimmick" to the workout is that it's 20 minutes with no breaks. 3 minutes of strength, 2 of cardio, 1 minute of abs-- repeated three times (2 minutes for warmup/rest). 20 minutes of keeping your heart rate very elevated and then you're all done. (Instead of, say, being on an elliptical for an hour or running a few miles.)

But is 20 minutes of intense exercise as beneficial as longer, more moderate, exercises?  There has been some recent research on interval training (highlighted on the NY Times' Well blog) that I think sheds some light:

"(In 2006) Martin Gibala, a physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario, and his colleagues published a study showing that a three-minute sequence on an electronic stationary bicycle — 30 seconds of punishing, all-out pedaling followed by a brief rest, repeated five or six times — led to the same muscle-cell adaptations as 90 to 120 minutes of prolonged bike riding."

A similar study in 2010 found that:
10 one-minute intervals — essentially, 10 minutes of strenuous exercise braided with one-minute rest periods between — led to the same changes within muscle cells as about 90 minutes of moderate bike riding.
The answer to the above question appears to be "yes." Workouts like Insanity that incorporate this thinking are also selling well and getting big results. To me, Jillian's workouts are the same concept; a precursor to the interval training movement. 

In a favorite post of mine entitled "The Scientific 7-Minute Workout,"featuring an awesome routine, the importance of rest intervals between the circuits is emphasized (example given is 10 seconds). Naturally, it takes a few seconds to move from doing sit-ups to doing something with handweights. Jillian may not give you a full 10 seconds, but there's nothing keeping you from taking it-- just hit pause to get those 2-3 extra seconds. The article states that the exercises should emphasize
"the large muscles in the upper body with those in the lower body. During the intermezzo, the unexercised muscles have a moment to, metaphorically, catch their breath, which makes the order of the exercises important."

30 Day Shred sort of accomplishes this by moving on in this order. You may do an exercises focusing on arms and upper-body followed by jumping lunges focusing on your core.

Another doctor tells us:
150 minutes of moderate exercise each week is clearly associated with improved health outcomes,” including longevity and reduced risk of many diseases.
To me, Jillian's workouts combine the concept of interval training, but you end up with 140 minutes a week of at least "moderate" exercise, so you get a great workout and a great week together. 

I've done this DVD many times in multiple countries. The reason is because it's simple, and it works-- that's why it still sells. My last round of 30 Day Shred was to get in shape to do P90X, a more demanding fitness routine. But I still use 30 Day Shred on my rest days, and sometimes as an additional supplemental exercise (instead of Cardio X). It gets my heart rate up higher than any single P90X workout, including Plyo X.

Some tips: 
1. Get some wrist and ankle weights, they will make the exercises more intense. I picked these up for $1 at a garage sale last week, they're 1 pound each.
I also have some 5-pound ankle weights ($3.50 at Goodwill) that really make the Level 3 workout intense (think of the plank with leg raise).

2. If you've done other exercises, like P90X, modify Jillian's exercises to match. For example, do 10-second "supermans" instead of ten 1-second ones. Do a "spider man" push up instead of a walking one.

3. Go back and do Level 1-2 with hand/ankle weights when you're punching, jumping jacks, etc. If you don't have hand weights, use some canned goods for resistance instead. Whatever you have around the house.

4. Stretch longer than they do at the end. Take care of your body and do more meaningful stretches, or you may regret it.

You can do anything for 20 minutes and you can do anything for 30 days. Every day all of us ultimately do whatever it is we really want to do.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Guest Post on The Urbanophile

I'm thrilled to have my post on Ankara's urbanism featured on The Urbanophile today. Go check it out and subscribe to his RSS feed.

Book Review (#10 of 2013) Alexander the Great and His Time by Agnes Savill

I picked this one up because I wanted tolearn more about the Central Asian regions Alexander conquered and his perceived lasting impacts. Having recently visited a one-prominent city conquered by Alexander, he was on my mind.

This book is one of those where you reach a conclusion, then read the comments about the book on Amazon (none of which are 5-star) and reach a different conclusion. Savill's book has not been well-received.

What I got from Savill's telling is that Alexander was unique in that he desired to create a "Brotherhood of Man," with intermixed races and cultures under a Greek/Macedonian umbrella. He respected women and the cultures he conquered, integrating locals into his army and keeping locals in positions of authority.

The primary example of Alexander's respect for women is given by his treatment of the Persian King Darius' family and mother upon their capture. Darius' mother is reputed to have adopted Alexander as her own son, and Alexander had many episodes of treating captured women well (although how well is disputed, see the commenters). Savill hardly mentions Alexander's harem, making it sound like he fell in love with Roxana the Bactrian, whom he married.

Alexander dies halfway through the Savill text, and the rest is spent to explaining his impact and the battle for succession which came afterward. Is is rival claims to the throne which Savill claims led to certain leaders publishing false accounts of Alexander-- portraying him as a drunken tyrant. Savill is eager to counter those claims (which critics knock her for).

I listened to this book so it was hard to follow the battle strategies and geography without the aid of maps.

Knowing what I now know about information Savill apparently omitted, I'll give this book 3 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Frustration with following the Turkish news media. #direngezi #direnankara

Last weekend was a long one in Turkey. Gezi Park was cleared, protestors protested. The AK Party held their rally in Istanbul and hundreds of thousands showed up in solidarity with the Prime Minister. Protestors protested. A funeral procession for one of the protestors in Ankara was met with teargas.

The battle has been raged as much on Twitter as on the street; AK Party supporters quick to point out which pictures and statements that pro-Gezi supporters were making were false. Protestors, meanwhile, defended themselves from false attacks from government officials and their supporters.

It's hard to tell who is making false statements (and whether they know it... if so, what are their motives?) The Western media isn't helping at all-- there is no mention of false claims being made by the government or protestors, nor attempts to debunk them. The Turkish media has chosen to heavily censor itself in order to not be fined, or worse. This creates an enormous frustration for me. 

For example, take this claim from a speech by the Prime Minister last Saturday that protestors in Gezi Park burned Turkish flags and also wore shoes and drank alcohol inside a mosque--something that should rightly offend Muslims:
Captured on Hurriyet's app for iPad

I asked a few Western journalists in Istanbul if there was any truth to this, got no response. I asked a friend who is protesting, he told me the muezzin at the mosque already denied the claim, and that pictures of flags burning were shown to be taken from PKK rallies years ago. But a claim like this from the PM, believed by his supporters, definitely paints the protestors as un-Turkish and un-Muslim (and therefore any Western media holding them up as peaceful citizens is an ignorant falsehood).

The truth is out there, but very hard to find. So, protestors hope that you will make judgments based on only what you see: namely police wantonly firing tear gas into densely populated areas.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Going crazy for smoothies

Since I work out to things like P90X, I look for cheap ways to replenish and recover. Synthetically produced drinks can be expensive and fake-tasting. So, I've started making smoothies instead. I started out with a recipe I took from googling. One banana, one cup of blueberries, handful of strawberries, some skim milk, and yogurt. I followed the advice of our neighbor and vegan consultant to "add it in" and included some sunflower kernels for extra nutrition. 


Add in some skim milk and 10 ice cubes

But later I discovered the advice of my neighbor is to leave out dairy, which inhibits phytonutrient absorption. So, I have perfected a different smoothie recipe that looks about the same as above but contains more:

1/2 cup of blueberries
4-6 strawberries (depending on size)
1/2 - 1 cup of blackberries
1 banana
several leaves of spinach
1 orange, segmented (or two clementines)
lots of ice (the more you add, the thicker/icier it gets)

This turned out to be an awesome sweet and filling green smoothie. After a workout, I pour a cup and also add a teaspoon of Body Fortress Whey Protein (Chocolate Peanut Butter). That gives it an awesome taste as well.

Just throw some fruit and leafy greens in a blender and have fun. You won't regret it!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan talks to you like he's your father-- that's the problem. #direngezipark #direnankara

I've held off blogging more about the protests in Turkey because it feels fake to do so from the U.S. I get my info from Twitter, particularly Turks in Ankara who are part of the protests, emails from friends there, articles in all English-language sources I can find, articles from Turkish newspaper websites (these take me longer to read), and Turkish television (most channels broadcast over the internet). My thoughts on Erdoğan were mostly developed by watching the evening news every night in Turkey for the last year. (If you're in Turkey reading this, sorry I'm not there.)

This article in the Financial Times is one of the better ones; the Prime Minister is a "street fighter who lost a street fight." He underestimated how much the average Turk, even those loyal to his own party, had grown tired of his incessant meddling/micromanaging-- his incessant commenting on every. single. thing. From The Simpsons to cesarean sections to wheat bread to history. His way of talking down with his "Trust me, I (and my religion) know what's best for you" manner. Only one person in modern Turkish history could do that-- the guy who created modern Turkish history (he's quoted as saying "Government of the people, in spite of the people.") And I think that's what really rankled a lot of people-- this guy thinks he's just as good as Atatürk, if not better.

He acts like he is the father and the protestors are his stubborn, rebellious children who have yet to heed what's best for them-- his wisdom. They'll come around eventually, if only their stupid friends (CHP) and foreign influences (the "bond lobby") would quit trying to lead them astray. That chafes on people. This is what it looks like when they've hit the tipping point:

Rumor has it that Erdoğan's ways got him in trouble with Fetullah Gülen even before the protests started. So, his plans to reform the Constitution to allow him to be a newly-powerful President until 2023 will likely (eventually) be shelved.
Will there be an internal AK Party struggle to silence him and let him finish his term as PM in relative peace while someone else like Abdullah Gül becomes the new leader?

A lot of factions with differing interests have been united in Taksim Square and Kızılay. That may not have happened if you had a leader who didn't feel the need to be the all-wise one.