Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fitness: More on the Four Basic Movements

If you're new to strength training, you might find yourself overwhelmed with the number of routines and the sheer volumes of advice out there. Sets. Supersets. Intervals. Circuits. Split Routines. Compound Sets. Body Weight. Free Weights. Machines. Bands.

It's a lot to think about.

So, here's the very first rule you must keep in mind at all times:


Yup. It's true. They all do the same thing, but they do it in different ways. Part of the problem is that some conditioning gurus believe one way is better than another. It then becomes the fault of the exerciser if their routine plateaus and stops progressing.

In reality, the main reason you would need to know about all these different types of strength training it's so you can break through plateaus. The best fitness experts will tell you, you don't need to focus on just one type of training. In fact, to gain the most benefit it's actually worthwhile switching up between systems.

But where do you begin?

Here's rule number two:


I know, I know. This sounds like a complete departure from everything you've ever heard about training, right?

Well, the simple reality is that every workout movement consists of some variation of these four basic principles of structure and movement:

  1. Pushing away from your body.
  2. Pulling towards your body.
  3. Bending your knees.
  4. Bending at the waist.

To put this in a frame of reference for typical movements from a workout, these would be:

  1. Push Up
  2. Pull Up
  3. Squat
  4. Crunch

Now, if you don't believe that an entire workout can be based on just these four movements, give some consideration to the variations:

1. Push Up: Involves pushing away, using your triceps, deltoids, frontal lats and pectoral muscles. This same sequence of activation can be triggered in any form of Bench Press, including Dumbbell Presses. It also appears slightly modified in any kind of Shoulder or Military Press. Dips further refine the movement, specific to lats and triceps. Triceps movements like Pull Downs, Overhead Extensions and Skull Crushers are isolated arm variations that accomplish the same movement (that is, straightening the arm).

2. Pull Up: Your basic Pull Up in an underhand grip is the reverse action on the upper arms, using the biceps to draw weight into the torso. This action also engages the rear deltoids and lats. Switching to an overhand grip (Chin Up) places more emphasis on the upper back. Both then become variations of a rowing movement, which can be done with a rowing apparatus or in a bodyweight row. Biceps Curls target the biceps through this movement.

3. Squat: A properly executed Squat is not merely a sitting movement for the quads. It engages the quads, of course, but requires also that the glutes become engaged for a sort of cantilever balance. This, in turn, engages the hamstrings and the lower back in reversing the movement. To this effect, Hamstring Curls are a function of bending the knees, while Leg Extensions are a function of straightening the knees. Kick Backs are the same multi-point action as a Squat, but excuted from a crawling position. Lunges are Squats that isolate one leg at a time.

4. Crunches: The Crunch is simply bending forward at the waist to apply resistance to the rectus abdominis. Sit Ups do this. Leg Lifts do this. Hanging Leg Lifts do this. With minor adjustments, the obliques can become engaged (although they do engage to a certain extent in bracing against Pull Ups, and in stabilizing Push Ups).

For beginners, this information is crucial because these bodyweight movements alone can set you up for a baseline of strength that can get you ready for more challenging workouts. For more experienced trainers, having this trimmed down version of all those complicated workout strategies actually makes a lot of sense as well. If you have to miss a full workout, you can still throw a set together that works everything in just four movements. It might not be as intense or as isolated, but it will work.

The very beginning stages might be uncomfortable for some beginners, so here's a sample workout to get you started. Do this as a circuit (one exercise after another), and do the circuit three times through. Rest 60-90 seconds between circuits.

  • 10 Push Ups (if these are hard, do the version with your knees on the ground until you can manage them)
  • 10 Pull Ups (if these are too hard...and they likely will be for a while...train your back by doing chair dips instead; then train your biceps to do some curls using anything heavy [dumbbell, bag of sugar, cat, whatever])
  • 10 Prisoner Squats
  • 10 Crunches
Do this routine every other day, or Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This will give you a good baseline of conditioning. If you can do 10 of each for three full circuits as prescribed, try increasing the reps or decreasing the time it takes you to do them in order to increase the intensity and boost your metabolism. Once this whole thing becomes easy, you're ready to tackle just about any resistance training program you, or your trainer, can put together.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Men We Admire: James Hergott

"I'm too busy working on myself to criticize anybody else."

I met producer/director James Hergott online after seeing a feature article on him in a regional arts and culture magazine. After a few months of emailing back and forth, I can honestly say I've been very privileged to get to know this guy. Body building champion, MMA filmmaker, and supreme motivator, James is the perfect example of how single-minded determination can drive you to your goals and make those around you strive to mirror your success in every sphere of life.

Photo: Edward Kwan
How does one "define" James Hergott?
I would say through my art. With time I want to make some amazing movies that impact people on both an emotional and intellectual level. People die but art lives forever and can change the world.
You recently won a natural bodybuilding competition in Cobourg, ON. Did you have someone behind the scenes coaching you through that transformation?
Yes, Dave Avery and his wife Julie. They created a great diet plan and also helped me prepare for all of the things I would need to know come contest time.

Was there one tweak to your routine that you feel put you over the top?
Change in diet was a big factor in cutting fat. In terms of training I would say that being around MMA fighters helped improve the intensity of my workouts and gave me some new exercises to work muscle groups in new ways.
As a filmmaker, how did you get connected with MMA? Are you a fighter yourself?
I've never fought although I have trained in Judo and a lot of grappling back in the day. I would say I am out of practice now. I was always a fan of MMA and I wrote a script in 2006 titled "Never Submit". The project was before "Never Back Down" and in fact we had attached the lead villain in that movie Cam Gigandet. In fact "Never Back Down" was called "Get Some" back in the day. "Never Submit" never went into production but during the pre-production for the movie I met a number of MMA personalities and my relationships grew from there.
Your 2010 documentary "The Striking Truth" chronicles four years in the careers of Georges St. Pierre and David "The Crow" Loiseau. A lot of media gives a one-dimensional view of pro fighters. What were these guys really like to work with?
Every fighter is different but 90% of the fighters I've met have been really humble and nice people to work with. Many of them grew up around traditional martial arts so they have a disciplined and respectful attitude. Kevin Randleman wanted to kick my ass one day that I pissed him off, other than that everyone's been great. LOL Note to people coming up in MMA: Do not get on the bad side of Mr. Randleman.
James Hergott (l.) and Georges St. Pierre (r.). Photo: Liana Louzon
I can't think of any guy who wouldn't want to say he got in the ring with GSP. Tell me you got a little sparring in!
LOL! I gave him an intense stare, does that count? I'm not a professional fighter so maybe if he tied his arms behind his back it would be game on. When I'm working I'm focused on the goal of making a great film, not to play.
Obviously tackling any war zone documentary has its own challenges just in terms of clearances and safety issues. On "Fight for the Troops," were you involved on the planning end as well, or just brought in to shoot the doc?
The planning was all done by Monica Sanford and a bunch of other people she works with in the military. I was just lucky enough to get the opportunity to go.
Photo: Mark Walton
I believe anyone can achieve their dreams. Most people don't suffer from a lack of intelligence, but rather from a lack of belief in themselves. It is not external obstacles that define people but how they deal with those obstacles. Most people create their own obstacles and design their own failure because they do not believe they truly deserve success.

How much of a challenge was it to get a film like "Fight for the Troops" put together?
The biggest challenge (which really is nothing compared to what real soldiers deal with) was filming while dealing with uncomfortable situations. It is very hot in Iraq and you are sleeping with a bunch of guys in a tent together. You can't drink the drinking water. I brushed my teeth and got sick! Secondary note to those coming up: Don't accidentally bring X-rated material into a Muslim country.
Where can we find these movies?
"The Striking Truth" is currently available in retail outlets throughout Canada including Blockbuster and Wal-Mart (and online at Amazon). Updates on other projects are coming soon.
Can you give us any details about the project you're working on now?
"Own3d" is coming together in a big way. We are filming in Canada. We're signed on with ACTRA (the Canadian actor's union). We are in talks with several MMA fighters and actors and offers have started to go out. The script has gotten so much praise and I think it will shock a lot of people. It won't be what people expect. There are people in the MMA world who get every MMA script anyone has written and I can tell you I have heard several people; agents, managers and fighters; who have read the script say that it kills every other MMA-related script out there. I'm directing the movie. My friend Bobby Razak will be doing the action directing and some other things on the movie. I've never been involved in a project with such positive energy in terms of momentum. We make progress on a daily basis with it and come film time it will be very well organized. We have a great production and legal team working behind the scenes.
"To me, failure is part of the experience of life. Failure helps you improve and become the best you can be. I have never been afraid to fail, so I have never been afraid to try."

James Hergott on IMDB
Owned Entertainment Website

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dating & Attraction: Why what you think you know could be hurting your chances

This is a tough time to be a guy. In the good old days, all you needed was a good suit of armor and a willingness to be hacked to pieces in order to win respect and be cool with the ladies.

Not so in this day and age. Balancing cultural notions of romance with the reality of treating women as equals is becoming harder, especially in light of recent findings regarding the very primal nature of attraction.

Unfortunately, most guys miss a lot of this balancing act. With all of this confusion, men are sometimes mislead in their attempts to build attraction. Sometimes they come by it honestly, basing what they know on what they see in "romantic" media. Sometimes they're mislead entirely based on their experiences or based on trash TV.

Whatever the cause, here are some basic attraction mistakes. These are things that guys will do out of the belief that they will create attraction. Sometimes they might work--every woman is different (just to add to the confusion of course)--but in the majority of cases these mistakes are likely to cause the opposite response.

Being too attentive: Texting or calling too much may very well make you come off as annoying at best, or desperate at worst. She may very well be the object of your unsurpassed affection and desire, but making yourself too available takes away your mystery and shows her you're not a hot commodity. Being needy is a universal turn off for women. Plus, she may think you're checking up on her.

Corrective behaviour: slow down and filter. Don't bury her with texts. Subtlty and restraint are your friends here. Take a day off and see if she texts you. Trust me, if she likes you she'll be in touch. If you hit the right marks on your date she doesn't need to be reminded. She'll be thinking about you anyway.

Being too accommodating: Although this is the twenty-first century, the idea that every process should be a joint decision is absolutely contrary to the realities of attractive behaviour. You asked her out, so you need to have some authority and show you have your shit together. Finish the job by deciding where you want to take her. Don't waste her time by asking what she wants to do or where she'd like to go. Take the lead and show her a good time.

Corrective behaviour: Quality women are often busy women, so there will have to be some accommodation for scheduling. But if you ask or reset too many times, you may end up establishing yourself as being too available, which in turn reduces your value. Your time has value, and that needs to be clear as well. The solution is to offer your available times as options. If she can't meet those times, you may have to postpone. Contact her later for a lunch date. If she's still not available, let her know she can contact you if she gets some time. The simple fact is, if she wants to be with you, she'll have to find the time.

Lavishing gifts: This is a crazy holdover from Victorian-era notions of chivalry. While it's true that a significant factor in the evolution of attraction was the male's ability to be a good provider, more important is the control of resources. Lavishing gifts on a woman always gives the impression that you're trying too hard to impress; and it seldom succeeds in impressing anyway.

Corrective behaviour: Your personality and personal authority should do the talking for you. This doesn't mean you shouldn't buy gifts when appropriate--birthdays or Christmas, for a steady girlfriend ONLY--but handing over piles of stuff looks like you're trying to buy her affection. Some women do respond to gifts, but more often than not they know they can get stuff while stringing you, and possibly several other guys, along.

Knowing how these traditional "attraction" methods actually work against you can save you tons of time, money and frustration. Being cool, in control of yourself, and having the personal authority to take the lead can boost your attraction success and by extension your confidence.

Need to know more? Simply put, Vin diCarlo's Pandora's Box is by far the most comprehensive study of the principles of attraction available today. Check it out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Men We Admire: Damien Gilbert

I met Dman when he was a student of mine in the film program at Confederation College. This guy is a perfect example of why books have to be read and not just looked at. Yes, he's a skater and a stunt man. But he's also smart, tech and marketing savvy, and phenomenal drummer to boot. My karate teacher used to say, "Watch out for little guys with muscles. They've always got something to prove." He was talking about scrappers at the bar. This little guy with muscles definitely has something to prove: that whatever he does, next time he'll do it better...and have a hell of a lot of fun doing it.

Photo: Jason Stasiw
Name: Damien Gilbert
Age: 27
Occupation: Freelance Film Maker, Youth Program Coordinator, Photographer and Entrepreneur
Relationship status: Girlfriend
For how long?: 6 Months
Car: Nissan Pathfinder
Stats: 5'4”, 180 lbs. 2006 BEAC Award Winner, Best PSA
Favourite instruments: Tama Drums
Sports: Skateboarding, Hockey, Parkour

How did you get started on your current career/lifestyle path?
I was in high school and made prank and stunt videos for my friends and I. There was an audience that wanted to watch these videos. We would sell VCDs out of our lockers. Sold hundreds of them. We then turned to the internet. This was years before YouTube was invented. We posted videos on our site called We started receiving so much traffic and views from all over the world it was decided that I should make a DVD. Still in high school at the time, I did my placement with MHR Media and edited the DVD with their help producing. I managed to obtain distribution and have my first DVD--SPDST "Disarray from the Bay"*--in HMV stores across Canada. My distributor also created an online store for the DVDs to be purchased online where I sold several hundred more. 
Many people were steering me along the lines of enrolling in film school. I had never thought of anything like that. I applied in September of 2004 and was not accepted. I wasn't too upset because I was already working on my second DVD. I received a call in December from the college. They told me they were starting a second intake and that I had been accepted. So in January of 2005, I was in film school. I graduated in December of 2006 and was working by January, 2007. Have been busy ever since.
*That's Thunder Bay, for you uninitiated. Ed.

Did you have any mentors who helped steer you on this path?
I have had many people I would consider as mentors, not just in film, but all walks of life. I would say the profs at Confederation College guided me into taking film. I met them prior, and they noticed I had an interest. So, Dennis Austin for always believing in me, Eric Weller for letting me produce my first DVD out of his establishment, Don Delorme, for teaching me the technical skills, and several friends along the way in school like Mikey Williams, Rodney Dwira, Sheree Betker, Dave Clement and Scott Baker's talent, just to name a few. There are several people once I graduated that were a big help too, like Kelly Saxberg and Ron Harpelle.
How has your work contributed to your development as a person?
My work has made me grow so much as a person. I mean working on over a 100 productions, varying from documentaries, fiction, non fiction, action sports,'s been a humbling experience. You learn so much from every shoot, whether it's technical experience or just more on a particular topic you wouldn't have known otherwise.
If you had one piece of advice for someone just entering your field, what would it be?
It would be don't leave yourself limited. Multitask, and keep up on technology.
Do you have a personal work philosophy?
I have the craziest Pavel Bure Collection. It's kind of bad how much I have spent on a hockey player who has been retired for close to ten years now. 
Photo: Jason Stasiw
What do you do for fun?
A big thing to me is going to our skate plaza and filming some skateboarding. It's like, therapeutic for me. I enjoy seeing some live performances at our local clubs. Spending time with my girlfriend and friends.
What motivates or inspires you?
I get motivated when I watch something that I know could have been created better lol. I get inspired by work that is beyond my capabilities.
What has been your greatest achievement?
I have many things I am personally proud about. I try not to look back in what I did, it's about what's next. Sure, working overseas, and working with childhood idols on the level is cool. But there is much more to do.
What is the one thing you hope to achieve?
Acknowledgement on a grand scale for what I do.
What is your super power?
Thought Process and Energy
Who's your hero?
Buster Keaton
What are you reading (or watching) these days?
Youtube, Vimeo
Thinking back to a time when you had to make a hard choice, how did you decide, and do you feel, in retrospect, that you made the right move?
When I moved out of my mom's house. She thought maybe she did something wrong and took it harder then I expected. But it was for my personal growth and I had to do it for me. It may sound self-centred but I did what I did. My mom was always very supportive of everything I did and still is.
What's next for you? What's your next big idea, project etc.?
Well over the past six months I have been a program coordinator with the Regional Multicultural Youth Council, teaching a Skills Link program to 18- to 29-year-olds who have either dropped out or are currently unemployed. I have learned a lot from this experience and never ever thought I would be in this position where I am the mentor/role model/counselor...on a salary. Never in a million years!
I have lots on the go at all times. I have a shirt company. I'm a musician. I make films and work for others on their projects. I hope to start the 2nd installment of the Skills Link program in October.
What one piece of advice would you give to your own son (hypothetical or otherwise) in the hope of making him a better man? 
It would be to trust you instincts and don't let anyone tell you it can't be achieved.
Favourite workout tip: 21's on the Bi's: In a three-part curl, hit 7 reps half-way up, followed by 7 reps half-way past that, and finally 7 full reps. Thrashes your biceps in no time flat.

iPhone or Android: BLACK BERRY (pssshh...Ed.)
One thing guys should know when talking to a beautiful woman: Respect

Absolute WORST experience on set/shoot:
Haha, it was my first day on a shoot in California. I was the Production Coordinator. I had all the signed release forms in a folder. We were shooting on a beach. A big gust of wind took that whole pile of release forms, created a paper tornado and tossed everything into the ocean and wet sand. It took a while to collect them all, dry them out and wipe the mud off. Good times! lol.


Damien's YouTube Channel

Dman Photography

Damien Gilbert on IMDB

Hygiene for Gym Rats

Every guy who's had to suffer through the thrilling experience of communal showering in high school is trained in the basic art of showering:

  • Get in.
  • Lather up.
  • Rinse off.
  • Get the hell out.

Time to completion: 2.3 minutes (preferably without any guys accidentally seeing your gear).

Woodcock: "You're not taking a shower?"
Farley: "No. No, I'm good."
Woodcock: "You know, this is not France, Farley. Maybe you don't mind smelling like a nut sack all day, but I gotta be in the car with you."

Billy Bob Thornton and Sean William Scott, Mr. Woodcock (2007)

Is it any wonder guys get fun ailments like jock itch, athlete's foot, and persistent body odour?

Well, the fix is actually surprisingly simple. Following these tips will ensure an effective post-workout shower (really any time shower) that will get you clean and stomp the hell out of the bacteria that cause BO.

Rule #1: Skip the "Cleaning System"
Soap companies have finally picked up on the message that men like to be clean. But now, they've taken it a step too far with their "Cleaning Systems." This is usually a special body scrubber that looks like a space-age invention for scrubbing bug guts off a 747. One side is a puff, used for lathering, and the other is a scrubber side used for "deep cleaning and exfoliation." The whole unit is encased in a plastic shell that appears designed for aerodynamics and ergonomics.

These retail for $7.99 and up.

Yeah. We're not scraping tar off our flesh here. We're rinsing away sweat and salt. Skip this manly marketing ploy and head over to the cosmetics aisle. Get a few shower puffs (at a buck and a half each), and you'll be good to go. If in doubt, you can still use a wash cloth! These things lather and exfoliate just as well. If you really need exceptional scrubbing power, get a loofah. Also a buck.

Rule #2: Just Because You Can't See It...
...doesn't mean you shouldn't clean it. A back brush is essential equipment in the shower, so don't neglect your back.

Rule #3: Bacteria Need to be Killed, Not Polished
Bacteria are killed by soap, not by scrubbing. And since bacteria are the cause of our two big flesh-related problems (body odour and acne), it stands to reason we would want to kill it and rinse it away. This is more important than vigorously scrubbing, because it's the soap that does the job.

If you're using body wash (which you should be), you don't need to go for anything labelled "anti-bacterial." Old-fashioned hand soap is anti-bacterial. That's not the issue; it's all about technique. To effectively kill bacteria, you need to lather up and rinse off at least two, preferably three, times. You read that right.

Now, a lot of readers will be thinking, "I don't have that kind of time!"

Yes you do. I didn't say, "lather up and conscientiously scrub every square inch of your body three times." I literally mean lather up and rinse off. If more scrubbing is necessary (say, following yard work) that's one thing. But for 99% of your showers, you can do this quickly and efficiently. Save some time by lathering up your hair first, and letting the shampoo sit for the first two scrub-downs.

Rule #4: Clear Soap is Clean Soap
If you don't have issues with acne, this rule may not be a necessary step for you. However, if you do pay attention.

Clear glycerin soap is the best thing for your skin. It contains no dyes or perfumes, which can irritate acne irritated skin. It also doesn't interfere with your cologne scent, so you're in good shape there as well (body washes do leave lingering scents, so they may not play nice with your Diesel!).

To work this into your routine, lather up and rinse off twice with your body wash, then do the third with the glycerin soap. This has the added benefit of you steaming in the shower, which opens your pores before you use the secret anti-acne weapon. Trust me, it works. And you've never felt this clean this fast.

Rule #5: Don't Shower Right After Your Workout

Yeah, it sounds contradictory, but I got this tip from a spin class instructor. Wait at least twenty minutes (take your socks off if you can!) after your workout before you jump in the shower.

See, after you work out, your heart rate, body temperature and metabolism are all spiking. This means if you're sweating hard, your body is working hard to cool you back down to normal. That sweating is supposed to be there, but if you jump into a warm shower you won't have the chance to cool off properly, and your body will continue to produce sweat even while you're showering.

You know when you get out of a shower and you just can't seem to dry off? This is why. So spare yourself the trouble of fighting with it and just wait until you stop sweating before you shower. Then you don't have to fight an uphill battle to get dry (and clean).

Rule #6: Fluffy Towels Are Not Your Friend
Fluffy towels feel nice and soft. But they don't help you dry any faster than a coarser towel. And they don't make you any cleaner. Toweling off after a shower is actually an important last step in the cleaning process. Any dead skin that doesn't get scrubbed and rinsed away in the shower can be removed with a good vigorous toweling.

Following these six simple guidelines will get you cleaner than you've ever been, and will keep your musk at bay. It's a bit more involved than jumping in and out before anyone sees you, but for a post-workout shower you want to do the best cleanup you can.

Especially if you plan on getting in the car with someone who smells even better.

Square Foot Garden Update

Holy tomato plants! These things are getting a little big, I'd say:

The spinach and lettuce are doing nicely too, as you can see. I think the lesson here is, spread the tomato plants out a bit more (like, in opposite corners) so they don't throw too much shade on the peppers. I'm a little worried the tomatoes and beans (second pic, bottom left) are going to start arguing over borders pretty soon.

Meanwhile, the onions are doing their thing (despite near daily grazing by the kid):

...and the leafy things continue to produce even when harvested, which is exactly what they're supposed to do! (um...except the Swiss chard, which took a bit of a kid-beating this past Fathers' Day...oh well. Seeds are cheap).

I would say, all-in-all, the choice of location turned out to be right, and these plants are getting more than enough sun right where they are.

Reno Update

Things are definitely moving along in the Man Cave. In a matter of a few days, the crew got the wiring roughed in, the pot lights installed, and the drywall up. We're just waiting on some mud and tape.

So we went from this last week:

To this, this week:

Lookin' not too bad, huh? The cove you see at left is where the TV will be mounted. It sits right between two support posts, and frames the wall just nicely. Here are a few more for comparison:

That's the TV nook with nothing in it. A few points of interest: First, the outlet is on the back side of the wall, in order to have all the wiring go behind the theatre. Second, the two posts were framed out to provide a flat working surface that won't interfere with the flooring (there's a concrete footing at the base of each post that would otherwise cause a headache.

Without too much explanation (I hope), these should give a clearer idea of what the entertainment space will look like:

 That little hole you see in the TV area (roughly centre on the pic) is actually just marking out the cold air return. The one at top right is for a switch that will kill power to the whole home theatre. You may not realize this, but home electronics use 60% of their power when the device is turned off but not unplugged. Don't believe me? My TV has a red light on it to tell me that it's off. OFF?! How stupid is that? Since I don't need that light, or an internal clock on my TV, VCR, DVD, or home theatre receiver, the simple solution is to cut the power to the whole system when it's not in use (you can do this with a power bar as will see a drop in your hydro bill. It's kind of scary, actually).

So...what's next? Picking out the laminate and paint colours, of course. And the plumber will be in early next week with a jack hammer to carve out the floor for a sump pit. You see the far alcove? The pit will be behind that part of the wall, hidden from the rec room side. With luck, they'll find gravel under the floor so they don't have to dig any trenches.

Yeah. Jack hammer. This'll be fun...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Men We Admire: Mackenzie Kristjón

I've known Mac for the better part of 20 years. Always inspired, sometimes a little out there (don't believe what he says about his age), Mac keeps me thinking cutting edge when my own work seems to drag me down. Mac is the lead singer and songwriter with the band This Mad Desire, and I was fortunate to be able to draw on his talents to cover some scenes in a short horror film I scored last year. The songs were a perfect fit.

Photo: Patricia Yosida de Oliveira
Name: Mackenzie Kristjón
Age: 29 Forever/18 Again... I usually say that I came down from the mountain about a hundred years ago on my way to the sea but we lost track of time at some point and so here I be.
Occupation: Singer/songwriter at This Mad Desire
Stats: I once won a special trophy for the best new record released on the same day as the Backstreet Boys. I've also won awards for publishing and songwriting but...
Favourite instruments: '67 Strat. Also the black Les Paul that someone stole!!
Sports: Soccer, hockey, anything in the water.

How did you get started on your current career path?
As Lady Gaga says, "Baby I was born this way." My first paid job was playing the piano for a bat mitzvah. Not so long after, I took a job working for a trucking company washing trucks, unloading trailers, and so on. The owner pulled me aside one time and said, "You are absolutely terrible at this job! I'm not going to fire you though. One day you're going to be playing piano in Italy or somewhere and you'll need to have a good story about working here!" Funny guy!  I worked there for almost a year more. 
When I was very young, like maybe 3, I first encountered KISS on TV and magazines and was absolutely mesmerized. Eventually, my mother told me I would have to learn how to read if I was to enjoy these pulpy pleasures. I'm sure that I could read within about 15 seconds. Lord knows I needed to know such important information as what Ace Frehley looks for in a female fan and so on. I already knew this would be integral to my future pursuits. What if I were to have groupies like Ace? What would I do? etc. Very deep philosophical ponderings for a young mind.
Around the same time, everyone started to notice that my hands don't quite work. I have specialists across this entire galaxy trying to name my affliction. One guy wanted to slice part of my brain to see if this would help. On the downside, it could also leave me completely paralyzed. I politely declined. The basic idea is that if I will the muscles in one hand to move, the other hand moves as well. To a limited degree, I can independently control my hands but most people notice I always have one hand twitching! The doctor laughed as he said to my mother, "Oh well. I guess he'll never play the piano!" I kid you not: I was in lessons the next day.
We always had keyboards laying around the house and I always liked them. Luckily no one ever told me not to smash away at pianos. One day I even broke a low G string. For those who are not aware, it's not easy to snap piano strings in general and really not easy to snap bass strings. When this string snapped, it shook the whole house. I was convinced I had destroyed the entire piano. EVERY string was being slapped by these flailing ends of this broken string as it was also cracking against the piano's casing. I've never heard anything so loud in my life!
Did you have any mentors who helped steer you on this path?
I've had some excellent music teachers and especially my piano teacher. Marilyn Wong was so fierce she made my sister cry! She never broke me though. It seems to me that there was one time when I caught her smiling. World wars were averted in that one instant. Other than her, just the usual good teachers, interesting players and collaborators and so on. All the various musicians I've played with always teach me something. Music is such an interesting way of sharing. 
My co-producer on the "Deathstyle::Celebration (Life is too short. Live it!)" record was Andrew McPherson who I also worked with on the "Karma Repair::Sweetness Machines" release. Working with him was a real pleasure as he has a completely different style of working and very different musical sensibilities. One session I remember vividly we had Beate Schwirtlich playing drums in a living room, I was in a kitchen with an amplifier in the basement of this house. Upstairs by the control room was Barzin playing vibraphones. My idea was that we were going to record this track "Dance Me Down" LIVE. For the engineers out there, you will appreciate that this meant that the sound of the raucous drums would "bleed" into the vibraphone tracks. Engineers HATE this sort of thing as it makes editing very difficult. Andrew was not just opposed to what I was insisting upon but very concerned that this was wasting time. 
Don't you know that in the end, it turned out to be one of the more interesting tracks? In fact, Phil Demetro who mastered the record at Lacquer Channel Mastering said it was his favourite cut.
How has your work contributed to a) your development as a person and/or b) the lives of others?
I don't know. That would be pretty pompous of me. As Neil Young sang, "Just singing a song won't change the world." Although.... there was that time one of my vocal lines saved the planet. Basically there had been a rip in the fabric of space and time and some very talented Japanese engineers were able to sew the whole universe back together using this one magical vocal line. It happened very quickly while most people were sleeping but luckily these tourists were right there taking pictures. I don't often mention that event. I think it makes me seem more humble and personable when I don't mention the cosmic forces that are literally at my command and a direct result of my supernatural songs.
If you had one piece of advice for someone just entering your field, what would it be?
Let the music do the talking. In general, I don't think people should give advice. Most people who do give others advice generally don't know what they are talking about. Believe in yourself and don't take no for an answer. That's general good advice. For musicians in particular, learn your instruments. Nothing is more punk rock than intelligence! Stay open-minded. Always have prizes galore. Learn how to fly up the corporate ladder at the speed of sight. Make friends with models and photographers. Wear sunglasses. Take acting classes. Read everything you can. Stay up late. Get up early. Learn every possible secret handshake. Meet as many people as you can. Stay open-minded. Play other people's songs. Play your own songs. Read poetry. Stay open-minded. 
Do you have a personal work philosophy?
Let the music do the talking? Like other very talented people, I've experienced the joy of temp-work and one day I was at an industrial bakery that supplies a major retailer's customers with delicious goodies, bagels, and so on. When they told me I was going to spend an entire day there, I had images in my head of happy bakers dressed in white with flour on their noses. I could not have been more wrong. This is heavy-duty assembly-line factory work. At one point over the roar of the machines, the lead hand said to me, "You've got a really great work ethic! Honestly, there are only 3 people in this whole place who work as hard as you. You should consider working here. It's a real pleasure to be working with you!!" I almost fell down laughing. So the answer is, "No."
What motivates or inspires you?
Passion and honesty. Meeting new people. And of course, money.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Stayin' Alive. Nothing else really matters.
What is the one thing you hope to achieve?
World Slavery. To become the Master of All Time, Space, and Dimension. For realz, one day I want to open the Mactory.. like Warhol's Factory... but MINE ALL MINE, baby. 
What is your super power?
I appear as a character in a Hamilton-based comic called "Mac Attack" (QPM Comics) which is rather significantly based on my persona that I adopt as the singer for This Mad Desire. In that book, I seem to have increased strength and agility plus I can transfer sonic power into pure energy transmissible through my guitar like a cannon. Perhaps other magical powers will reveal themselves as the story continues. I can't wait to find out!
Who's your hero?
Da King B. Steve Martin. Or perhaps Bill Murray. And then in the women department, I tip the hat to Maria Bamford. Many other female comedians refer to Maria as my girlfriend when they talk to me. My musical heros are the Beastie Boys and Bjork. Da Killer B's.
What are you reading (or watching) these days?
I'm always reading The Complete Sagas of Icelanders. I just read a number of Ann Coulter books because I thought I should see what all the fuss was about. I read Pigeon English, the David Rothenberg books Why Birds Sing and Thousand Mile Song. When I feel a strong need to get angry, I read the Camille Paglia books, and I would be lying if I did not confess to reading on a daily basis from Judith Martin's Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour. The books I read while traveling yesterday were A Brief History of The Vikings by Jonathan Clement, The Hedonism Handbook by Michael Flocker and Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People
Thinking back to a time when you had to make a hard choice, how did you decide, and do you feel, in retrospect, that you made the right move?
Let's be honest. I'm not the leader of a major country or anything. It's difficult for me to imagine that I could really have a hard choice to make about anything. 
If you had it all to do over again, would you change anything?
What's next for you?
New record, new book, and a massive public art project. So huge I can't talk about it yet. It's going to be very, very interesting for the good people of Hamilton, Ontario.
What one piece of advice would you give to your own son (hypothetical or otherwise) in the hope of making him a better man?
Don't complain; never explain? Keep finding out that the more you find out, the less you will know. Your goal in life is to remember everything and know nothing. And look out for your sister. 

How Pickles, Chocolate and My Kid Save Me From Myself

I love food. Unfortunately, like most people, I love all the wrong kinds of food.

Don't get me wrong. I really do love vegetables and fruit. Healthy food is great, and I actually do like the way most of it tastes. But realistically, my desert island pantry would be stocked with chocolate chip cookies, potato chips (likely in some variety of cheese flavour) and ice cream.

Yet, for all the evils these things present, I've discovered that there are some very simple replacements (yes, replacements) that can actually save me from myself.

The first thing, though, is to not buy them in the first place. If they're not in the house I'm not tempted to eat them. I'll pick some up if there's a special occasion coming up that needs munchies but that's it. If I use the "company's coming" excuse to stock up, the supplies won't last long enough to make it to the next visit.

Let's face it...I can plow through a bag of Chips Ahoy like they're a can of Pringles. And I do owe to Paul (yet again) for surreptitiously sneaking that bag of cookies out of my cart and back onto the shelf when I wasn't looking last weekend at the grocery store. That's a guy who's looking out for his bud.

Anyway, the solutions as I said are pretty simple. First off, there are the chips. Mostly the reason I eat chips is because I like them. But really, it's that crunchy, salty thing that really gets you. Now, a piece of cheddar cheese on a whole-grain cracker should do the job; and in most cases it does. But when you need to SNACK, nothing beats a jar of mini dill pickles.

Seriously. Get a jar of these things and munch down a few. They're very low calorie and have almost nothing to them except a bit of fibre. You do want to watch them for salt, so stay hydrated. Even so, they're tasty and munchy, so go to town. You want to look for a basic dill. Sweet pickles have too much sugar added. Something with garlic is nice, but maybe hold off until the day after your big date.

To replace the cookie craving, which is really just my sweet tooth going off on its own, I opt for apples first and foremost. So, this would sweet + crunchy, I guess. But where those don't quite do it, I'm happy to report that every major candy maker has now released bars of nothing but dark chocolate. can get that 70-85% high-polyphenol (read "fat fighting") dark chocolate in a simple bar form. Bust off a square or two, and you not only defeat the soul-strangling need for cookie mayhem, but you actually boost your metabolism at the same time! Plus, it's a powerful anti-oxidant. Nice huh?

Finally, I owe my ability to curb ice cream binges to my daughter. She's here with me for half the week, and ice cream is her bedtime snack. Now, before you go off on a tangent about that, she doesn't get treats at any other time, and is a fiend for broccoli and fruit. She really does eat quite a healthy diet. So, since she's three, a scoop of vanilla ice cream as an evening snack is a good bit of bonding.

I do go for ice creams that are lower in sugar, and made with all-natural ingredients.

Because she's only three, the amount is quite small. And she insists that I share it with her. So my ice cream intake is only a portion of a serving shared with a three-year-old. In total it's maybe a few tablespoons. But that part of the sharing ritual we have has actually served to stop me from getting myself a traditional half-pint at a time as an evening snack. And when she's not here, I don't scoop anyway.

So, in summary, I've been able to replace cookies and chips with chocolate and pickles, and sharing my daughter's ice cream has virtually eliminated that habit from my diet as well. Solutions to our bad eating habits are often right in front of us...we just have to take advantage when they reveal themselves to us.

You Might Need Some Manscaping

Manscaping. It's a touchy subject. There seems to be something a little less manly about discussing the grooming process. Women complain constantly about the stuff they have to do in order to look nice, but they don't have the monopoly on pain-in-the-ass grooming. Men do it too...we just don't talk about it. Somehow discussing it implies some level of metrosexuality that we just don't want to admit to. But most guys do this stuff...and they do it to be more attractive.

Veronica Corningstone: "You have way too much pubic hair."
Ron Burgundy: "Actually, that's a point of pride. I'm very proud of my mane of pubic hair, so thank you.

Christina Applegate and Will Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

Manscaping refers to the control of all that body hair we're cursed with (well, not all of us...I only really have three chest hairs). While it would be nice to say we leave everything alone and just let it grow naturally, that's just not the case for the well-groomed man. Hell, we scrape our faces raw every day in order to keep our groomed, professional appearance. We get our hair cut even though it's clearly not intended to be that way (if it was, it wouldn't keep growing).

But some guys just don't get it. Or they don't care. It may be politically incorrect to say so, but under certain conditions too much unkempt hair in too many places really does damage the overall impression. I'm not advocating regular waxing of the chest mop, but it doesn't hurt to make friends with a second razor.

I don't know why I started thinking these things up, but in an homage to Foxworthy here's a list of fifteen clues you might need some manscaping:
  1. If the girl cutting your hair breaks down crying because she doesn't know where to stop shaving your neck, you might need some manscaping.
  2. If the girl you're cuddling with can't let you go, because her fingers are tangled in your chest, you might need some manscaping.
  3. If your shower drain clogs every time you take a shower, and you have a crew-cut, you might need some manscaping.
  4. If the blurry video of your last beach vacation ends up on "Unsolved Mysteries" as a Bigfoot sighting, you might need some manscaping.
  5. If someone asks you why you're wearing a sweater at the beach, you might need some manscaping.
  6. If you can play football without shoulder pads because the hair under your shirt provides enough padding, you might need some manscaping.
  7. If you use Head & Shoulders anywhere else, you might need some manscaping.
  8. If the lady you're being intimate with requests a toothpick, dental floss or lint brush, you might need some manscaping.
  9. If you brag to your friends that you were cast as a Wookiee in Star Wars but DIDN'T need a costume, you might need some manscaping.
  10. If you're out mowing your lawn and PETA protestors start harrassing you for wearing fur, you might need some manscaping.
  11. If you're out mowing your lawn and some kid points at your chest and says, "you missed a spot," you might need some manscaping.
  12. If your gym shorts look like you're trying to smuggle a shih tzu, you might need some manscaping.
  13. If you use a blow dryer on any part of your body other than your head, you might need some manscaping.
  14. If you keep a DustBuster on your nightstand for a quick morning cleanup, you might need some manscaping.
  15. If you require a comb in order to pee, you might need some manscaping.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Adopting Anger Management Skills that Work

There are many, many positive techniques and skills related to anger management. Since anger management seems to affect so many people in society, it is imperative to design and create techniques, teach skills, provide counseling and provide appropriate care and support. Since anger issues affect individuals from childhood to adulthood, obviously it is necessary to teach anger management skills that work for every age group. For the person who is dealing daily with anger problems, it is important to learn skills that will be effective in coping.

One skill that tends to help people deal with negative emotions is acupressure. This technique used as an anger management skill is achieved by tapping or rubbing the body. Using this skill, briskly massaging the body when feeling tense and upset, causes an individual's energy to move around their body which results in relaxation. An anger management skill or technique known as the Emotional Freedom Technique of EFT can be combined with acupressure to fight against negative emotions. EFT works to balance the brain hemispheres to help an individual admit to their problem and find forgiveness. This anger management skill would be very beneficial in helping a person release feelings of anger and relax.

Adopting positive anger management skills might involve keeping a journal. When an individual writes about the situations which upset them, it helps to get the negative thoughts and emotions out of their head. By journaling about feelings and emotions, a person is able to rid their minds of unhealthy thinking and put them on paper. This anger management activity would provide specific details and perhaps triggers which usually set the individual off. Being able to read and review reactions to situations, a person might be capable of making changes in their behavior.

When considering anger management skills, there's one which is quite easy to adopt. Removing themselves from a threatening situation might eliminate the problem. If a person realizes they have difficulties controlling their temper, they might consider staying away from situations which may cause heated arguments. If a person has a regular pattern of lashing out during specific conversations, they ought to avoid those incidents. Some people who have anger issues seem to go looking for a reason to get upset. If aiming to adopt anger management skills, these people should attempt to change this way of thinking. Instead of going to the problem, they ought to run from the problem.

Adopting anger management skills that work is definitely an essential step when striving to cope with feelings of rage and anger. There are many suggestions and recommendations offered on Internet sites related to anger management skills. It would certainly help to visit these sites and read the information and advice. It is unreasonable to think that a person will use all of the anger management skills suggested. However finding one that works may mean trying each of them at least once. When an individual is attempting to gain control and eliminate the negative feelings normally dictating their life, exploring anger management skills is necessary to find a technique or skill which works for them.

Movie Review: Transylmania (2009)

You know, it's shocking to me how critics always seem to miss the point when a movie delivers exactly what it promises. Why pan something that does what it's supposed to do? Are dick and fart jokes really so passe that hoity-toity film critics expect the actors to be spouting Shakespeare and get disappointed when they get words like "Twat-o-Rama?"

This is exactly what happened with the Rotten Tomatoes reviews of Transylmania. The 2009 Hillenbrand brothers' romp through college loser-steeped vampire lore received a 0% rating on the film pundit website. But why? Is it because it failed to live up to the intellectual heights established by the first two Dorm Daze movies from this franchise?

Granted, the film isn't the most intellectual fare on the planet. A group of college kids travel to Romania for a semester abroad, so lead character Rusty (Oren Skoog) can meet up with his internet girlfriend Dragutsa (Irena Hoffman). There, one of the crew -- the bubbly blonde Lynne (Jennifer Lyons) -- is possessed by the spirit of a long-dead sorceress and lover of the evil vampire lord Radu (also Oren Skoog). Radu's resemblance to Rusty leads to a comedy of errors, as does Lynne's split personality. Meanwhile, there are plenty of boobs and lots of drug jokes.

So, American Pie goes Animal House in a vampire spoof. Are we bucking for an Oscar here? I don't think so.

Strangely enough, this movie opened to the third lowest box office since 1982 among films opening in more than 600 theatres when it was released in December of 2009. It opened to only 1007 theatres, which in fact made its total take of just over $260,000 the worst ever for releases greater than 1000 theatres.

So what's wrong with the view of other critics? Well, first of all, I take great exception to their reading of the lead actresses. RT gives all sorts of credit to the acting of Musetta Vander (as Teodora Van Sloan), while skimping out on the work of Jennifer Lyons (as Lynne), claiming the latter's only real credential is that she has appeared in all three Dorm Daze movies.


Vander's performance is obscenely over-acted, thrust to the hilt in melodramatic glop that makes Bela Lugosi's Dracula look subtle. The only thing worse was the performance of the three vampire brides (played tragically by Desiree Malonga, Radita Rosu and Adriana Butoi). Meanwhile, Lyons plays her dual personalities with split-second timing and gear shifts at breakneck pace, never missing a beat of comedic timing. Jumping back and forth between polar opposite personalities (ditsy blonde to evil sorceress) is no mean feat. If anyone exhibits their flexibility and acting chops in this flick it's Lyons.

All-in-all, Transylmania is a teen-slasher-sex-romp with no aspirations of being great cinema. What it delivers are potty jokes, weed, some farts, some boobs, and a predictably silly intertwining of plots. Whatever the critics were looking for, they should know better than to look for it here. Not everything National Lampoon is destined for greatness, but it's OK to giggle when a horse farts.

Hell, even Leslie Nielsen slipped on bat crap in Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

Screw it. Here's a trailer:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Political Humor: America To Sue Rest Of World For Ungrateful Behavior

The lead attorney for America stated, "Will you please tell us what other country in the world, besides your own, you would prefer to possess the amount of power America has. We are, in fact, the first nation in the history of the world that could conquer it but, in addition to being freedom-loving people that the whole idea offends, we’re savvy business people to know we just can’t afford the worldwide upkeep. The only thing that stands in the way of a big win for the U. S. is finding a country where we can conduct the trial."

America, which has sacrificed the lives of its citizens and its material plentitude more selflessly than any other nation in history to come to the assistance of other countries, noted the astonishingly heated negative commentary about it emanating from virtually every corner of the globe and has decided to sue the rest of the world on the grounds of ungrateful behavior.

The President said, “You can’t just go out there and sacrifice your sons and daughters lives and expend so much of the national treasury and not get a little something back. We’ve got sorrowful families all across the land, with whose losses I deeply sympathize, and we can’t even afford to fix the potholes on federal highways. So what choice do we have? We’re taking the ungrateful foreigners to court. Justice will be served. We merit and demand some praise here.”

A grandmother for the plaintiff stated, “My family has lost loved ones in three different wars and all in countries that I haven’t heard a good thing said in about America for years. When I take the stand, watch out. I’m patriotic pissed.”

The international court at The Hague has declined to take the case, primarily because it is in The Hague. Upon learning of that court’s disinclination, the U. S. has appealed to the U. N. to find a venue that will hear the case.

A prominent attorney for America commented, “We’d rather not have the trial here. Holding it in our own country will detract from the credibility of the outcome, but having it in an unfriendly location is bound to create the kind of inflammatory demonstrations that will lead to a lot of free press.”

Not surprisingly, France, Germany, and Spain have also nixed the idea of hosting the trial, maintaining that since they’re all being sued, supporting the action seems inadvisable.

Britain and Italy are understood to be considering the matter. Tony Blair is the most disposed to hosting it, saying, “We hardly ever badmouth America, so we hope to come through the trial with flying colors.”

The Italian government has expressed some willingness to host it but has indicated it may charge for rental of the courthouse. “I’m confident of victory,” another attorney for America maintained. “All you have to do is look at the newspapers. All the incriminating evidence you need is on the lips of leaders and the public in general in just about every country of the world. The only thing that stands in the way of a big win for the U. S. is finding a country where we can conduct the trial.”

Should the verdict go as the plaintiff hopes, the expectation is that the guilty will henceforth base their comments on a true understanding of just who this country is.

One of the most persuasive arguments the nation’s attorneys hope to present is based on the usual philosophical tactic of imagining the opposite argument.

As the lead attorney for the country put it, “Will you please tell us what other country in the world, besides your own, you would prefer to possess the amount of power America has? We are, in fact, the first nation in the history of the world that could conquer it but, in addition to being freedom-loving people that the whole idea offends, we’re savvy business people who know we just can’t afford the worldwide upkeep.”

Why Lean Beef?

There's some confusion about this whole lean vs. regular meat, so I thought I'd just take a second to clear something up.

First, the problem. The problem is, we're told over and over again that we need quality sources of protein. To this end, body building experts agree that meat is a necessary part of the diet. No matter what vegetarian sources have to say about veggie proteins, they just don't cut it for muscle building (they do make a good supplemental choice, however).

But then we're told to eat lean meats, like chicken and fish. Why? Isn't it true we're not supposed to be afraid of eating fat anymore?

Yes, that's basically true. We need fats in order to function properly and to keep the metabolism primed for burning fat. However, we should take steps to avoid trans fats and saturated fats, as these are not helpful to us in any way (in fact, they're quite dangerous over time). So why the emphasis on lean meat?

Basically it boils down like this: chicken and fish are excellent sources of protein, it's true. And both are essential sources of Omega 3-6-9 fatty acids (all three are necessary for good health, not just the Omega 3's). The last century of low-fat eating has caused a deficiency of these essential fatty acids in our diet, and they can only be replaced with proper nutrition. It turns out fish and chicken have these fats, so I don't often suggest people go with the super lean chicken breast all the time. Other cuts have fat value that is really important to your overall health.

However, beef provides something these other sources don't: iron. Iron is necessary for optimal health, especially if you're building muscle. Unfortunately, tasty beef is usually pretty fatty. That wouldn't normally be a problem, except that in fatty beef, the fat is a storage shed for all the hormones and antibiotics the steer is injected with. The hormones are especially problematic, because in order to create that lovely marbled texture that makes it so tender the animal is injected with estrogen.

Estrogen. Like, as in, the stuff that makes boobs. Estrogen in meat is a growing health concern across the board of course, but for men in particular it raises issues like man boobs, prostate cancer, and lowered testosterone levels. When you lower testosterone you lose muscle building power. And when that happens the whole house of cards comes down. THIS is the reason lean cuts of beef are recommended.

I try to hit two meals per week with beef.

Now, to be fair, if you go looking for organic, grass-fed beef, you can forgo the warning. Those steers are not injected with anything, and the grass feeding actually keeps them healthier. It also produces a more nutrient-dense cut of meat. However, the meat will also be a bit tougher.

Dealing with this last problem is simple:

For a roast, cook it at a low temperature for two or more hours, making sure to keep adding water. When it's done, the meat should practically fall apart for you anyway. You can also stew it in a slow-cooker, which will have the added benefit of producing a nice stock for you to use later.

For a steak, make sure to bring the meat up to room temperature. Cook it hot and fast. Rare beef (which most chefs will tell you is the goal for a nice tender steak) should have an internal temperature of 140 degrees.  Medium will be about 160, and well-done 170 (with lean meat, this would be the shoe leather stage). The reason for bringing it to room temperature first is because if you come right out of the fridge with it, the internal temperature will be much lower for a lot longer, forcing you over-cook the meat.

And for a quick tip: Shave about five to ten degrees off the above numbers. Remove the meat from the skillet or grill, and let it rest, covered on a plate, for about 10-15 minutes. The meat will continue to heat up, but it will tenderize as it rests, making a much more succulent slab of cow.

So, chicken and fish: whatever. Beef, lean cuts. Clear enough?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Adding Mass Action to TACFIT

Some readers may know that I started into TACFIT Commando a little while back (actually, at writing it's exactly thirteen days ago). I've had a few personal requests to explain this program in a bit more detail, which I'm going to do shortly.

This week, I've decided to step above and beyond the TACFIT protocols to increase a bit of mass action. There are some areas where the program itself doesn't quite feel like it's building the way it could. Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of places where TACFIT kicks the hell out of muscles I never use. But let's start with the program outline first.

The whole system works on three levels: Recruit, Grunt and Commando. I'm at the Recruit level, which is the starting point. Nobody should start any higher than this, because there are quite a few coordination exercises that need to be taken incrementally in order to execute them correctly. Each level consists of 84 days of training (21 four-day cycles). You have a four-day cycle to relax after the first level before moving on to the next. 84 days is about three months, so you have a nine-month commitment to see this system through to the end.

Without getting into the background of the system, TACFIT is, first and foremost, tactical fitness. This means it has to meet the requirements of producing exceptional conditioning, high levels of mobility and excellent flexibility. It also has to be compact (i.e., not taking up more than a body length in any direction) and portable (i.e., not using any equipment). It is, for all intents and purposes, a bodyweight strength and conditioning routine.

TACFIT's "intensity wave" strategy provides the user with a four-day cycle of intensity. On Day One, the movements are basically mobility and flexibility exercises with no intensity. On Day Two, the same exercises are stepped up to provide something of a low-intensity calisthenic performance. On Day Three, a warm up of six exercises is followed by the "real" workout, and concluded with another set of six cool-down exercises for stretching out the muscles. Here, the core workout objective is "moderate" intensity, meaning harder conditioning and strengthening, but with a focus on perfecting the movements. The fourth day uses the same order as Day Three, but at a high intensity.

On days three and four, the core workout itself is comprised of six exercises. Each exercise consists of eight sets of twenty seconds each, with a rest period of ten seconds between sets. The goal is to get as many reps as possible within those twenty seconds (at the prescribed rate of intensity, of course). There's a one-minute break between exercises.

This sucker is fast, and it's full-body. I have to say, on the high-intensity days I've never felt so totally burned out from an exercise sequence...even to the point that I'm unable to execute Push Ups during the circuit! But the real beauty is this: after the moderate and high-intensity days, there are two days of active recovery, where you don't get to stop moving. The muscles and joints are still put through their paces and kept mobile so the body doesn't seize up in a flex the way traditional strength training programs often do. And in truth, once the first couple of high intensity days were done, the adaptation is day-after pain, and what is there gets worked out and melted off in the next day's no-intensity work. Beautifully planned.

Now, what I've noticed is that there is a lot of leg, shoulder, back and triceps work in this routine. That's great, and it really does make a difference in the overall burn (we very often concentrate only on the "front view muscles" like biceps, pecs and abs). But having said that, I also do need some work on the biceps and abs, and I wouldn't mind a bit more work in trying to manage those pesky Pull Ups.

*Tip: If you're like me and have that great combination of loose rotators and a sore back, Pull Ups can be tough to do. Get a door-mounted pull up bar and leave it up. When you walk by, fire off one to three reps. They will get easier over time, so you'll soon be able to do full sets.

To deal with this, I'm throwing in a bit of extra work, using similar protocols but mixing up the timing. So, while the TACFIT training goes in a four-day cycle, I'll be doing this routine on a Mon-Wed-Fri cycle to build additional strength and metabolic spikes into the process:

  • Arms: Dumbbell Curls (8 sets of 20 seconds each: targeting 10 reps/set)
  • Legs: Squats (with dumbbells) (8 sets of 20 seconds each: targeting 8 reps/set)
  • Back/Arms: Pull Ups/Chin Ups (8 sets of 20 seconds each, alternating between exercises; as many as you can do)
  • Abs: Crunches (8 sets of 20 seconds each: targeting 10 reps/set)

Slipping this little routine into the process actually serves two purposes. On the surface, it does provide a bit of extra targeting strength training for areas that aren't fully covered in the TACFIT Commando progam. But it also throws in some extra calorie burning activity while increasing muscle mass and core training that are outside the program itself. I've started off light with just 10 lb. dumbbells. You can gauge how much weight you should be using based on the first few sets of dumbbell curls. If you can't make it to 10 after the first two sets, you're probably using too much weight. It should be difficult, but not impossible.

Yes, there is a bit of overtraining here, but what we're going for is an adaptive response. Sometimes, that needs a bit of a kick to get started (and some recovery supplementation, like a good post-workout shake). Once the muscle building kicks in, the fat burning furnace heats up as well. I'll keep you posted as I go and let you know how that's working for me.

There's also an eating plan in the system, which I should probably start on sooner rather than later!

The Latest on Aspirin and Heart Disease

Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and is not meant to replace the advice of a qualified health practitioner. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. If this information is of interest to you, please consult your physician or qualified health care professional before implementing any advice contained herein.

The Canadian Cardiovascular Society has released a report geared toward clearing up some of the confusion surrounding the use of ASA (Aspirin) in the control of heart disease. ASA works as a blood thinner, keeping blood moving freely and preventing clots and clogging that could lead to heart attacks. In cases where people have suffered heart attack or stroke, ASA therapy may reduce the risk of a second occurrence by as much as 25%. However, the CCS also notes that many people make the mistake of taking ASA who really don't need to.

The three key recommendations in the clarification report are:

  • A lifetime low dose of ASA is recommended for all people who have suffered a heart attack, stroke or peripheral arterial disease.
  • ASA is not recommended as a preventative treatment for people who have not suffered some form of heart disease or other vascular disease, even in the presence of other risk factors such as diabetes.
  • Anti-inflamatory drugs, such as Ibuprophen, are not recommended for people using ASA treatment, as the anti-inflamatory character of these pain killers can interfere with the function of ASA.

Not mentioned in this report, but worth mentioning here, is the further recommendation that while Ibuprophen can interfere with the anti-clotting properties of ASA, other treatments, such as Warfarin, krill oil and alcohol consumption can make these properties more dangerous. With anti-coagulant properties multiplied, minor cuts can take much longer to heal, and more significant injuries can become severely problematic.

With this in mind, however, let's take a quick note of some of the other therapies and what they do, just for the sake of interest:

Warfarin: This is a commonly-prescribed anti-coagulant, particularly for people with clotting issues already. Warfarin is a major blood thinner, and should not be taken without close medical supervision. To give you a sense of this, it's important to bear in mind that this stuff is used as rat and mouse poison. It acts by causing massive internal bleeding in the rodent, so they literally bleed to death as their organs disintegrate. That doesn't happen with people, but you shouldn't opt for this one for any sort of self-treatment.

Alcohol: I don't know anyone who treats alcohol as a treatment for anything, although significant research into the "shot-a-day" home remedy, as well as the antioxidant effects of red wine, is an ongoing field of study. Alcohol thins the blood, but you know all the other stuff it does that might not be considered medically useful, so approach this one carefully as well. Excess alcohol consumption (which literally means two beers a day) can interfere with fat transport, cause damage to the liver, and kill brain cells. When you note that eating red grapes (with seeds), or even just some blueberries, provides the same anti-oxidant protection as that glass of red wine, the benefits dwindle sharply.

Krill Oil: This is the new kid on the EFA block. Krill oil is being sold as a healthy alternative to fish oils for Omega-3 supplementation for three key reasons. First, its ORAC values (measuring antioxidant activity) are off the charts; way beyond any of the standard antioxidant treatments. At the same time, it has shown significantly more impact on pain and stiffness in arthritis studies, greatly improved cholesterol and blood glucose levels compared with standard fish oil, and is a powerful blood thinner that also prevents clotting. Second, it is farmed only for this purpose, so while fish oil supplements are usually "leftovers" from other processes (which can produce a lack of freshness, or even rancid products), the krill that is caught is really only applied to this and a few select purposes. The other advantage of this is that the source is so far down the food chain that it hasn't accumulated the toxins that predator fish (like cod and halibut, the main fish oil sources) accumulate through levels of feeding. Third, it's a highly sustainable source. Krill is only really consumed by large mammals like whales. It has little other commercial value, and so is not in danger of being wiped out by over-fishing. Human activity and catch limits have barely even dented this population. That's not to say they won't some day, but with careful management this is one of the most plentiful nutrient sources on the planet, and a far more ecologically sound option than fish oils. (See a more comprehensive outline of these benefits HERE.)

Ginkgo Biloba: This isn't a blood thinner. Ginkgo's popularity as a supplement for "brain function" may be a little misplaced...there's not as much clinical evidence to support its memory-enhancing properties as was once thought. However, where that assumption is derived from is worth noting. Ginkgo is a vascular dilator. This means it relaxes your veins and arteries, allowing a more relaxed flow of blood throughout the body. This in turn aids in oxygen uptake; and therein lies the theory behind its power to enhance mental function. In low doses, it can cause a slight headache (increase bloodflow will do that), but only for the first few days.

Ginkgo's property of enhancing blood flow does have other advantages, however. As a part of workout supplementation, this increased flow also enhances oxygen uptake to improve VO2 max levels for increased cardiovascular endurance and conditioning. It also creates a more open flow of blood to the muscles, which in strength training can have a beneficial impact on the transport of nutrients and oxygen to recovering muscles. And, for those who are concerned about sexual function (in both men and women), it functions in exactly the same way as prescription Viagra (note the side effect of the headache is the same), unless combined with a blood thinner. There are properties of fluid dynamics that may make thinner blood and relaxed vessels less effective for maintaining erection (thus the infamous "whiskey dick" when one consumes too much alcohol). It can also make cuts flow more freely, which is a bit of a risk as well. However, under normal healthy conditions ginkgo can make a beneficial addition to a natural supplementation program.

Remember, if you're looking at increasing blood flow any of these options should be discussed with your physician or cardiologist (or even urologist) under all circumstances. This is especially true if you plan on combining any of these. Know the benefits, but stay wary of the risks, and keep your doctor involved.