Monday, December 31, 2012

Vertical Frog Jumps

Want to work on those legs? We are used to the the regular squats and lunges I always talk about. So how about we try something a little different? I was skimming through Fitness magazine and saw this move that I thought was great for the legs and butt. It incorporates both a squat and a jump.
  1. Start in a standing position and then squat like you would regularly do. However, in this squat, widen your knees a little, and lower your palms to the floor. Yes, literally like a frog.
  2. Propel your body upward starting by lifting your arms. But make sure the force of your jump comes from your legs.
  3. As you land back down, try to land softly to not put so much impact on your joints.
  4. Crouch and repeat.
See the video below for more details.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ankle Weights: Yay or Nay?

Over the years, the consensus on additional weights when exercising has been that it is great. However, I am of the opinion that not every type of weight is great in every circumstance.

I'm pretty sure not everyone reading this uses ankle weights in their workouts. Maybe you've seen it used, heard of it, but don't quite get it yet. Or maybe you are trying to get comfortable with exercise without adding the additional complications. Maybe you are super familiar with dumbbells and barbells, but not really ankle and wrist weights.

What are ankle weights? They are simply add-on weights that you strap on to your ankles so you are lifting more than your body weight when you do regular exercises.

Why all the fuss then? What is the big problem? They are weights, right? So they should be great? It depends on how you use them. People use them for both cardiovascular and strength training.

Cardio: You may have seen folks running with straps on their ankles and wondered what those were. The positive benefit of running with ankle weights is that you are also working your legs and core by mixing both cardio and strength training. However, if your body is not strong enough to lift the weights, the negative impact is that you could be putting unnecessary pressure on your joints. Pressure that they are not used to. So my advice would be to stay away from ankle weights when doing cardio.

Strength training: if you are looking to tone your legs, do cardio regularly, but use the ankle weights to push your body more at strength training exercises. The same way you would lift dumbbells to tone your upper body, ankle weights would help exert more pressure on your muscles.

My advice? If you are a professional athlete or have worked out vigorously and are sure your body can take it, you can add ankle weights to your cardio workouts. But I would prefer if you were careful and used them just for strength training :)

My favorite brand is the Women's Health ankle weights. They come in various sizes. However, I also like the Bell Fit brand, if you are looking for options.

Cheers Eights and Weights!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Healthier Oatmeal Cranberry Almond Cookies

Well, Christmas was yesterday, so Merry Christmas!!! The year is almost over...gosh. Why do I feel like it just started? Anyway, before I start to reminisce, let's talk about some Christmas treats!

Yesterday, I'm pretty sure everyone ate more than we usually do. Hopefully, you tried to burn some off as well? No? Just me? Is that why folks made fun of me on Twitter and Instagram for sharing details of my Christmas run? at least I was happy afterward!

Even with all that, in the spirit of the holidays, I thought I'd do some baking and share. I know, I know, what recipe do I have to share that you'd like? Well, everyone loves cookies! I baked my healthier version of oatmeal cranberry cookies with almonds. Here goes.

1/2 a cup of flour
2 cups of old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (or any other kind of milk)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of almonds (sliced would be best)
1 cup of cranberries
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil or 1/2 stick of butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
Some water

1. Put the oil and eggs in a bowl and beat them or use a mixer till you get an even consistency.
2. Add in the salt.
3. Throw in the flour and baking soda and mix until it is even.
4. Throw all the oatmeal in. This may mean it gets a little hard.
5. Put the milk in so it gets back to that creamy texture.
6. The almonds and cranberries are the last to go in.
7. If you find it is way to hard, add in some water. Some folks like their cookies harder, and some like it crumbly.
8. However, if it is too soft, add in some more oatmeal.
9. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees while the dough sits. I like to let it rest for a while, I may even put it in the fridge for a few hours.
10. Put the dough in a cookie tray making each individual cookie the size you desire.
11. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the cookie browns.
12. Viola! I hope you enjoy in as much as we did!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Importance of Balance in Running

The debate about the most efficient way to run has gone on for decades. Is it on bare feet? Is it in heavily padded shoes? We've heard opinions from different sides of the table. But before we get that far, let's talk about why shoes are important in the first place. 

Balance and core strength are two very important factors in running because you spend most of your running time on one foot or the other, but not both. It may seem intuitive, but they are probably also the most neglected factors with runners. And what happens when you neglect them? You hurt your ankles, your knees, or other muscles and joints in your lower body.

Ever watch professional races? Do you notice that people from certain countries (i.e. Kenya, Ethiopia, etc.) tend to dominate the sport? Ever wonder why? Well, I'll tell you! In America and other countries, when we train to run, we train on surfaces that have been built to be even, like the track or on asphalt. And then we run in shoes that cost more than we make each month, which are usually heavily padded to provide enough support so we aren't working as hard. The problem is that these things spoil our bodies so we aren't also training as hard.

In a country like Kenya, when they start to train from a young age, they do so on natural surfaces that don't have the evenness we have created on our surfaces, and they train mostly on bare feet or close to bare feet on an elevated plane. This forces their bodies to learn to balance naturally on different types of terrain in different levels of air pressure. This balance definitely gives them an edge.

Did you know that statistics show that most runners hurt their joints each year? I think this tells us that there is a problem. We are supposed to balance on the balls of our feet in the middle of our feet,  but a lot of us do not have strong enough legs and so end up landing on the outsides or insides of our feet, putting all the pressure in our knees and ankles, and hurting ourselves in the process. 

Stand on one foot. If you wobble at all, you may need to work on your balance. Get this: If your hips shake from right to left involuntarily as you walk, you may need to work on your balance. Yes, I hear women sigh everywhere.

Okay, we've established that most of us have balance issues. What can we do to fix it? Do exercises that work on your inner thighs, do exercises that require stability (like the one I do with the Bosu ball above), do exercises that build a strong core (not crunches; things that require holding your body up, like planks), run on uneven surfaces, and monitor your feet as you land. Improving your run could mean exerting less energy on balance and gaining more mileage.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Does All This Sweat Mean?

As humans who are so obsessed with perfection, we've somehow created this image in our minds that sweating is horrible. Okay, if you're perspiring profusely and giving off rancid smells in the middle of the office, maybe it is kind of bad. But when you work out, it is actually a super duper thing.

When you exercise more and more, usually you learn to control your breath. The reverse is true for sweating. The more performance-oriented your body becomes, the more you tend to sweat. Why? Two reasons: One, you work out more so your body may produce more heat; and two, your body has become proficient in regulating its temperature. 

If you ever took a science class, you know that the purpose of sweat is to cool the body when it overheats. This is why you sweat more when your body produces more heat, like in the sun or even in the gym. And this is the same reason why it takes longer to produce sweat in freezing weather.

But don't just say "Hooray" if you've got to the point when you sweat a lot during exercise. Remember that what liquid you lose needs to be replenished. Which means you also need to be drinking more water or you could get dehydrated easily.

However, do not take this to mean that you burn more calories simply because you sweat more. There are other factors that determine how much sweat you produce besides how hard you work out, like your sex and your genes.

But if you've noticed that you've been steadily producing more and more sweat during exercise, rather than look for a million ways to reduce it or hide it, celebrate it! You work hard!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chobani Greek Yogurt Review

If you are a fan of yogurt, you've probably heard both good and bad things about it. Recently, Chobani, one of the big makers of Greek yogurt, sent me some flavors of their low fat and fat free yogurt to sample and write a review on. Prior to trying them, I already had a positive nutritional view of Greek yogurt, but as I haven't tried a lot of flavors, I was a little iffy on the taste.

The great thing is that they did send me three flavors as you see in the picture above: Pomegranate (non-fat), Mango (low-fat), and Pineapple (low-fat). Since I adore tropical fruits, this was already looking up for me. I'll provide details on the three individually so that you can determine if any of the flavors work for you. Each contain 6oz.

Calories: 160
Fat: 3g
Protein: 13g

Calories: 160
Fat: 2.5g
Protein: 13g

Calories: 140
Fat: 0g
Protein: 14g

See the protein in there? That's about 2 times more protein than regular yogurt! Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Post-workout protein shake base! Rather than use regular yogurt as your base, you could try Greek yogurt to give you some extra protein. 

I must admit that I did also like the taste. You have to stir in the fruit on the bottom, but it tastes good once you do. And it does have a creamier consistency than regular yogurt so if cream is your thing, then it's great. My favorite flavor was the mango, but my favorite on nutrition content obviously was the pomegranate.

Chobani also claims the Greek yogurt is made with only natural ingredients, no artificial sweeteners, and no preservatives. So I thought I'd check out the ingredients on the pack. Although it is true that all the ingredients are 'cultures' and 'fruit', some of the fruit content seems to come from fruit concentrate, which I'm not a big fan of. So that is the only part of the Chobani Greek yogurt that does not sit well with me.

What do I think? You should definitely try it. But be aware of the sugar content as well since the fruit comes from fruit concentrate.

Have you tried Chobani? What are your views?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TribeSports 12 Days of Fitness Challenge

So as you know, we love TribeSports challenges. And as Christmas is approaching, they have issued a 'The 12 Days of Fitness' challenge. I absolutely love this idea. What does it involve? Every day starting today, just like the '12 Days of Christmas' song, we do the exercise for that day and add all the exercises for previous days leading to that day. For example, on the fifth day, you do 5 star jumps, 4 burpees, 3 minute bridge, 2 wall squats and a 1 minute plank.

The picture above shows the entire challenge, but for more details, also visit the challenge website to track your progress: TribeSports 12 Days of Fitness. It will be fun!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Eights & Weights Video: Spartan Jacks Cardio Workout

Another video! I know we all struggle with cardio workouts because they usually consist of repetitive motion. So I thought I'd get one of those that may be a little fun, at least if you like to jump around. 

The Spartan Jack is a great workout for the overall body, and is pretty similar to the Jumping Jack, but rather than clap your hands above your head, you lower and raise your fists like you are lifting weights. For more impact, you can lift light weights as you raise and lower your arms.

Step 1: Stand straight with elbows in a 'W' beside your shoulders and your fingers in a fist. Keep your shoulders down.

Step 2: Simultaneously lift your fists straight up above your head while you jump and land with your legs open wide shoulder-width or wider apart.

Step 3: Simultaneously lower your fists and jump and land with your feet closed.

To provide further guidance, see the video below.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Truth About Targeted Fat Loss

Targeted fat loss (or spot reduction) is when you do exercises to lose fat in one area of the body. Too many people I know focus on exercises to reduce their stomach fat, arm fat, or any other specific area. If you've ever watched an infomercial and gotten sucked in, you'd know that they tend to sell the idea that if you buy some machine - usually called Maxi Abs or something similar - rock back and forth for 10 minutes a day, it would target all the muscles of your core and make you get that 6-pack in no time. In no time. Even if your midsection is currently extra fatty. This is absolutely untrue.

The reason these products keep selling is because they make it sound easy. It appeals to our basic human instinct that we'd be able to lose fat in our abs if we continuously do sit-ups, right? Unfortunately, our bodies do not quite work that way. You can blame God, Mother Nature, the apes, or whoever, but unfortunately, the cards we have been dealt do not allow us to spot-reduce fat.

As I was coaching my mum through her newly discovered exercise routine, and trying to explain this same concept to her, I realized the belief in spot reduction is a universal phenomenon. Ladies, you cannot lose the fat in your midsection by doing crunches. Gentlemen, you cannot lose the fat in your midsection by doing crunches. You know what happens when you do crunches and still have fat in your abdomen? You may build muscles underneath and have fat over it. So you wouldn't see the muscles anyway until you lose the fat.

Now that we've got that out of the way, what can you then do to lose fat? The mechanics of the human body only allows us burn fat all over, and then do strengthening exercises (like sit-ups, planks, etc.) to tone the muscles underneath. To burn fat all over, we're talking about doing some cardio and changing up our diets.

To get a basic understanding of how the body processes calories and how fat burn works, check out this post. The summary is: You have to burn more than you consume to lose fat. Your body is consistently burning fat, but it usually is not enough to burn all you eat, which is why you need to supplement it with exercise. Cardio exercise will help you burn fat. 

If you are unsure of what cardio exercises to do, here are a few examples: Running, Walking, Climbing Stairs, Elliptical or Cross Trainer, Cycling, Swimming, Aerobics. As you can see, these are exercises that involve consistent motion, either high or low intensity. Higher intensity cardio exercises usually burn more fat than lower intensity ones.

Got the cardio down on lock? Great! Now you can also focus on doing the strength training exercises that help build muscle. Depending on what part of your body you are looking to tone, there are different strength exercises to work different parts. Use our 'Search' box on the side bar to find exercises to tone a specific area.

That probably made you sad for a little bit if you've been focusing only on crunches. Well, no need to worry. Follow the details outlined above and you'll be way closer to getting that body that you want :)

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Photo credit:

Friday, December 7, 2012

Interview with Dami Bakare: "When You Leap, Leap High"

Who is Dami Bakare? Well, if you watched the London 2012 Olympics, you may have seen the 6ft 5in Nigerian-born Brit playing volleyball for Great Britain. Athletes fascinate me with their drive to succeed and how much they put into their bodies to perform. We could all learn from them in our quest for fitness.

I got the chance to interview Dami, and I must say, I was thoroughly impressed by his hard work, his background, his patience with me, and his overall attitude. He was on a full-time training schedule in Korea during this interview and coordinating our schedules was not the easiest thing, so patience was really required.

Alright, let me get off of those praises and focus on the actual interview. Enjoy!

Eights & Weights: Can you tell us a little about your history and how you got into volleyball?
Dami: I was born in Kaduna, Nigeria and moved to London while I was still a baby. In Primary school, I took up learning the trumpet. In Secondary school, I gave music up and went into sports. I was involved in  basketball and high jump on and off. In high jump, my highest achievement was representing my borough, Wandsworth at the London games. In basketball, I trained with the England coach and some of the team members for a while, but I had to stop training because due to the travel distance, it interfered with school too much. So I took up volleyball in school over lunch breaks as advised by a teacher. It slowly progressed from there. I played for the school, the borough, London, England and finally, Great Britain. I also progressed to playing for a few teams within the UK leagues as well as professionally in Belgium and now I am currently playing professionally in South Korea.

Eights & Weights: That's quite a random story. We keep seeing that Olympics athletes 'found' the sport they play in. How does it feel to have participated in the Olympics? Tell us about your journey to get there.
Dami: It's pretty funny, but the only time I really remember playing in the Olympics is when I look back at photos or videos taken while I was there. It actually feels like a dream I once had. But I'm so grateful, excited, glad, confused at how I managed to make it to that point. To be honest, when I started in volleyball, I never even thought about getting as far as I have. Then London won the bid for 2012, and suddenly a new door had opened. I think I was already playing for England at that point so I felt I had a chance to make it into the Olympic team. This would come at a price however.
I turned down the opportunity to be with a bunch of players training as a new team in Holland for a year so I could start my degree in Dentistry in the university of Bristol. The word at the time was that the team would be based in Sheffield upon returning at the end of the season. So I looked into transferring my course over to the university of Sheffield. Luckily, within the 1st year of study it was still possible.
What I didn't expect was how fast it hit me. Training full time while being on a full time course where I'm already dealing with my own patients! My schedule was intense: 6am wake up for 7am weights before rushing back for 9am - 3pm clinics and lectures, and then back again for 2-3 hours of training in the evening. Things were worse during the international season which also tied in perfectly with the exam period! 
By the end of my 3rd year, my grades had taken a hit, my training progress had become stagnant, and I was told it would be difficult for me to make the team if I continued with the way things were. Maybe it was a good thing the UK sport funding stopped for the program in Sheffield as it meant I had to make a choice:  stay in Sheffield training less but able to study, or focus full time on volleyball. After a lot of talking with the Dental school, they allow me to take a few years out. Just what I needed.
After that hurdle, I played in Belgium for 2 years. During the international season, I was back with the Great Britain squad fighting for a position. I was fighting more to be a starter rather than just making the team, and I achieved this. That's how I got to the Olympics pretty much.
Eights & Weights: How has the participation in the Olympics affected your everyday life? Have you got any endorsement deals or offers that you may have only hoped for prior to the Olympics?
Dami: I wish that the volleyball team as a whole would have had more exposure to these things but being indoor volleyball, it isn't well known in the UK and was the first time it got aired on a main channel during the games. So unfortunately, no.

Eights & Weights: I don't think people realize how much training athletes go through to perform at their sports. How much training did you have to do to prepare for the Olympics? What was your typical training week like with both exercise and nutrition?
Dami: Training with the national team was completely different to my time in Belgium and it is completely different now I'm in South Korea. When I first started with the development squad, weight sessions were early in the morning and it contained a lot of power exercises aka Olympic lifts! A lot happened in the morning! Then a large break for people to go to work or school/college/uni etc before a court session in the evening.
During international season, weights would be a little later and training a little earlier. Weeks were planned with 3 weight sessions, 2 bike spinning sessions (roughly 1 hour long) and 5 court sessions (2-3 hours long). Weekends were normally free but there could be a morning court or weight session randomly. With the national team, we were always left to our own devices when it came to nutrition. This is probably a fair bit different from other sports, but never proved a problem for a lot of us. We had all gone through the same process of getting nutrition talks when younger so we ate what we thought we needed, which could be different for everyone. 
I ate a lot of rice and pasta; basic things really. I always had chicken handy to make something quick, and then a couple times a week, throw in some fish, sweet potatoes and beef into the mix. Breakfast was simple: porridge/oats and a protein shake. Protein shakes were used as a diet supplement for repair rather than muscle growth. Most meals were cooked at home otherwise it was an odd Subway meal when rushed for time or a stone-baked thin crust pizza once every couple of weeks with the team.
Eights & Weights: And now? What does your typical training day look like since the Olympics is over?
Dami: Training has varied since then to being a little less work in the gym in Belgium with no weekend training and now every so often 3 training sessions in a day! While in Belgium, my meals were taken care of, so a lot of fruit and veggies and a mix of meats with every meal. That's probably the best I've eaten. Plus, desserts were amazing though not always required!
South Korea is a lot different in diet. They eat pork a lot here and I've had a few words to say about that. I also don't think they have the same idea about sports nutrition as we do in the UK, so I have been surprised at meals we've had before games and even more so directly after games. To me it always seems to be to fatty/fried or just not enough.

However, in Korea, we train everyday for the most part. We play matches almost twice a week too. A typical day so far has been: breakfast at 8am, weights at 10am, a court session till about 12 - 1pm, lunch, and then usually another training session within 2 hours. The length of the post-lunch training session can vary, but on average, I'd say it usually lasts 2-2.5 hours. We may have a training session later after dinner and there will be no food provided after this session if it happens.
Eights & Weights: What muscle groups are usually important for volleyball?
Dami: Things that need to be looked after well in volleyball are the ankles, knees and shoulders, I'd say. Prevention is a big part of training. You do things to prevent injury as well as do preventative exercises. But every volleyballer will and should do squats, leg extensions, and dead lifts. I'd say a good strong back/shoulder is better than a good looking chest. It is the small muscles that can cause a lot of functional problems if they are injured or not used in the right way. 
Most exercises we try to do are with free weights rather than a machine as it requires more muscle stability and therefore incorporates more muscle control. (yay!) Also, free weights are better for working those smaller muscles groups, especially around the shoulder. TRX rows are a good work out, with or without weights. We work on strengthening the rotator cuff around the shoulders for endurance purposes, not necessarily to make them larger.

Depending on the phase of workout you may be required to help speed things up a little, so squat jumps, box jumps, rebound box jumps or another type of rebound jump.

Eights & Weights: We focus a lot on exercise and nutrition for our readers. For those who want to build bodies like volleyballers, what are some exercise and nutrition tips you can suggest?
Dami: When I think of a volleyballers I typically think NBA player but on a slightly slimmer side. That is not to say you won't find some incredible beasts out there. But with volleyball you want to be lean but explosive, having some weight is nice but you need to be able to move it quickly. A typical volleyballer will be an the taller side of the population and very often have a long arm span. (At 6ft 5in, he isn't playing when he says 'tall')
Exercises which are key in my opinion are the following:
  • Squats, as in full 90 degree squats, 
  • Power cleans with perfect format and speed, 
  • An abs circuit for helping with stability in the air, 
  • Bench press (a good weight, no need to go crazy), 
  • Bent over row with dumbbells or barbells/TRX rows, 
  • Either lat pull down or body weight chin ups (you should never feel serious tightness the next day on this otherwise you've over done it in my eyes) 
  • Brazilian rotator cuffs (not sure if it's the proper name but it involves using a dumbbell). From straight arm, bicep curl across your stomach to your chest up to the shoulder of the same arm. Then raise the elbow above your head while the dumbbell passes round the side of your head/neck to behind your head. Then straighten the arm raising the dumbbell above your head, then elbow. Keeping the arm straight, bring the dumbbell back down to your side via the side of your body. If you did this with 2 arms you would make a T shape with your body. It works the bicep, triceps and shoulders. (Ouch! Sounds painful. I must try it.)
In reference to nutrition, I would say it doesn't need to be protein heavy at all. Eat a lot of fast burning carbs, and where possible, meals that are light on the stomach before the training day is over. Fish is good, really good. Milk is also something to have during the day at least once other than at breakfast. High sugar content such as sweets or fizzy drinks are sometimes acceptable after a tough training session if a recovery drink is not available but it's not meant to be your recovery drink ALL THE TIME. Try for a cereal bar and a banana if you can't carry things for a quick protein shake. Also try and make all your food from fresh ingredients rather than pre-made things in the shop. You have more control over what exactly is in it! (What have we always said about natural foods? I'm glad he agrees.)

Eights & Weights: Now that the Olympics are over, what is the next step for you?
Dami: Right now, I'm still playing in South Korea. So I guess this was my next step. Why here? I wanted a bit of an experience, and it was one of very few options still available to me.

Eights & Weights: Would you continue training and try to qualify for the 2016 Olympics?
Dami: My situation is a little difficult with university still holding my place, change in student fees, how much we have in terms of funding for 2016, and the legacy of volleyball in Great Britain, while working with the different volleyball federations we have. It's a question I will only be able to answer once a few more things have been finalized next year.
Eights & Weights: How is the Dentistry line looking like for you?
Dami: While studying Dentistry, I loved it. I'm still very much interested in completing the course. However, I haven't done anything 'dentisty' for the last 2-3 years. And so I'm way too rusty to be allowed in anyone's mouth right now. But given a month or so, I'm sure I will get the skills back again. There are some things that need to be resolved with the university on how best to incorporate me back into the course, since it has been a while and many things have changed in the guidelines and the curriculum itself. Talks are still happening, so we'll see.
Eights & Weights: Well, we have our fingers crossed for you. I for one, believe you can do whatever you set your mind to. Before we let you go, what is one thing our readers would be surprised to learn about you?
Dami: I developed lactose intolerance when I was 19-20 had to change my diet a little but luckily nowadays there are a lot more lactose free products on the market. However as silly as it sounds, I don't suffer from it anymore! I have no idea why though. (Black folks and lactose intolerance. I'm not sure what the origin is.)
Well, there you have it! Hopefully, you fell in love with him too. Keep looking out for Dami in the volleyball circuit in the future. Follow Dami on Twitter @donlybakare to learn more about future games and activities he is involved in.
Cheers Eights & Weights!
Photo credit:,,

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Exercise Anywhere Anytime

Forgive me with the sparse posts over the last couple of weeks (and the next couple of weeks); I've been slammed.

This week, I was faced with the troubling decision of what exercise to do. Well, because I was in a place with no access to a gym, and because for some reason, God has not bestowed the powers to swim upon me. And it hit me again how hard it really is to give it your all when there is no gym to at least help you out.

So I was thinking about you all as I was going through this, and I realized how important those little decisions we make before we travel can affect our whole trip. For example, I was thinking "Should I or should I not take a skipping rope?", "Of course everywhere has a gym in the 21st century", "I would be able to work out outside".

These may seem like minute questions now, but when you're in the thick of it, you realize how important they are. You should always have an exercise plan when you travel, and also have a backup plan (plus a backup to your backup if necessary). So what did I do? I packed up my skipping rope, my sneakers, workout DVDs, wrote down some routines to try for a 45 minute workout, and looked for gyms in the area I was staying.

As you've probably figured, the last part didn't quite work out well (pun intended). And on some days, the weather was not conducive to outdoor workouts. But those workout DVDs, and the routines I planned out saved the day.

What is with this long lecture? This is just to remind you that as the holidays draw near, do not forget or underestimate any travel exercise decisions. They can be the difference between staying active this holiday season, or putting back on every pound you've worked so hard to lose this year.

Now, if you are on Instagram and have not followed me yet, you can find me at @eightsnweights. I'm constantly updating it with pictures of workouts or food.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nigerian Blog Awards 2012 Winner!

Dear readers,

First off, thank you for nominating and voting for Eights & Weights! We won the Judges' Choice for the Best Health and Fitness Blog at the Nigerian Blog Awards (see full list here). I appreciate the time it took you to vote.

Winning that made me get all sentimental so I wanted to take a moment to show my appreciation for all the Eights & Weights readers, the followers on Twitter, the fans on Facebook, those who tell their friends about us, and the followers on Instagram. You all rock, and you push and inspire me to work hard on my body and learn something new every day so I can come and tell you about it. Thank you for your support.

If you are currently not following Eights & Weights on any of those mediums and would like to, here is how you can find us:

Instagram: @eightsnweights

Have a fabulous week and remember that you only get as much from your body as you put into it :)

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why Sitting on Your Ass Could Kill You


Spending all day sitting on your ass could literally expand the size of your ass. No, I'm not just talking about folks who don't exercise, but you who exercises and then sits for 3 hours in front of the TV. Yes, you.

People don’t need the experts to tell them that sitting around too much could give them a sore back or a spare tire. The conventional wisdom, though, is that if you watch your diet and get exercise at least a few times a week, you’ll effectively offset your sedentary time. A growing body of inactivity research, however, suggests that this advice makes scarcely more sense than the notion that you could counter a pack-a-day smoking habit by jogging. Exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting. 
The posture of sitting itself probably isn’t worse than any other type of daytime physical inactivity, like lying on the couch watching “Wheel of Fortune.” But for most of us, when we’re awake and not moving, we’re sitting. This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops, and the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse, leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. The risk of being obese shoots up within a single day, and the risk of developing  Type 2 Diabetes rises. The enzymes responsible for vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream plunge.

Over a lifetime, the unhealthful effects of sitting add up. Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives.

Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. Excessive sitting is a lethal activity.

The good news is that inactivity’s peril can be countered. Even the littlest stuff matters, like bending down to tie your shoes or walking down the hall to get a cup of tea. Every movement matters. The best advice anyone ever gave me about exercise was to get up at least every hour. It doesn't matter whether you are getting up to go to the bathroom or to get your mail. Get up off your ass so you can save your ass!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Excerpts from the New York Times article "Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?" by James Vlahos.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Understanding Your Abdominal Muscle Anatomy

Everyone talks about abs and how a six-pack makes you look sexy and toned. However, people don't always know how to target the abs. For strong toned ab muscles, you really need to focus on all the muscles in that region.

The rectus abdominis: The long vertical muscle we refer to as the six-pack.
The transverse abdominis: The horizontal muscle which runs around the torso.
The obliques:  The pair of diagonals which run down your sides (internal and external).

Knowing the various abs muscles helps us know how to target each. A lot of the floor crunches people do tend to target the rectus abdominus, but may not work the obliques or the transverse abdominus. It is important to do exercises that work all the ab muscles to get the complete look and feel.

Here is one exercise you can try for each today:

Rectus Abdominis
As you see in the image above, these muscles go all the way down to your pelvis, and so pelvic exercises work well here. One awesome one you can do is the bicycle. It's a crunch so it's not my favorite, but it really works you out.

Transverse Abdominis
You use this muscle when you suck your stomach in and hold it tight. So do exercises where you require your core to balance. One example is the single leg lift. Use one leg for balance and raise the second knee towards your abdomen, holding your abs tight.

The obliques really require a lot of controlled twisting. Luckily, I wrote about this a few weeks ago with a video too! Check that out here and try the plank oblique.

In no time, you'd be an expert working out your whole abdominal region.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sugar vs. Sweeteners: Which is Better for You?

With the way teams on Twitter are going, frankly, I'm surprised people haven't started #TeamSugar and #TeamSweetener yet. If you're not into social networking, you probably won't get that.

Anyway, when you are trying to lose weight or stay healthy, the age old question of "sugar vs. sweetener" always comes up. Is sugar all bad? Are sweeteners super healthy? Well, let's find out.

First off, it is important to understand that there are different kinds of sweeteners: Natural sweeteners vs. Artificial sweeteners.

Natural Sweeteners
As you've probably guessed, the word 'natural' doesn't always tell us what we need to know. Generally, products are called natural because they go through little or no processing. However, that is subject to interpretation as two products can be called natural but have very different effects on the body based on their nutrition content. 

Sometimes, people lean towards some brands of sweeteners because of their exotic names or origins. Some examples of natural sweeteners are honey, molasses, agave nectar, and maple syrup. The truth is that although they require less processing, natural sugars are not that different from regular sugar in the calorie content and in the nutrition value. However, the good thing is that they don't contain a bunch of preservatives or ingredients that make you scratch your head. See below for how natural sweeteners stand compared to sugar.

Artificial Sweeteners
If you don't really have a sweet tooth, it could be difficult getting used to artificial sweeteners because they tend to be much much sweeter than sugar. However, the awesome aspect of artificial sweeteners is that they usually contain little to no calories because they are not carbohydrates. Some examples are: Splenda, and Sweet n' Low.

On the other hand, it is important to be careful with artificial sweeteners because many studies have shown that they are possibly linked to various diseases, including certain types of cancer. How do artificial sweeteners stack up compared to sugar?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Strength Training: Why is it Important?

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a gentleman about weight lifting. And as you know, every conversation leads me to think about Eights & Weights readers and what your perspective is. And so midway through our conversation, my mind had wondered on to how readers approach the two major sects of exercise: cardio and strength training. 

I talk to a lot of people from both sexes about exercise, and one thing is very clear: there are individuals from both sexes that have a misunderstanding about the need for a balance of cardio and strength training. A lot of males seem to focus too much on strength training but not on cardio, and a lot of females seem to focus too much on cardio and not enough on strength training. 

Let's talk a bit about why strength training is important and we can focus on cardio another day (although I think I've beat that topic down).

Age: Have you realized that when you do extreme cardio now you hurt yourself much easier than you did a few years ago? As we grow older, we lose muscle mass. What does muscle mass have to do with cardio? A whole lot. The strength from your muscles is what helps you propel, balance and push yourself as you swim, run, spin, etc. The stronger you are, the better you can perform (Note that I said 'stronger', not 'bigger').

Protection: Also, as you lose muscle, the muscle gets replaced with fat. So though you may not see the scale go up or down, it doesn't mean you are fine. If you are carrying a lot of fat and forcing your body to still move at a certain level, the impact of all those cardio exercises could go straight to your joints because your muscles are not strong enough to protect those joints. The more cardio you do, the stronger your muscles need to be.

Weight: That is not to say that muscle mass does not help to control weight. Building strong muscles helps the body burn fat because obviously, your muscles are constantly doing work and in turn, burning energy. Just do not rely on muscles alone to burn fat though, like a lot of men do. You need both.

Looks: I mean, we are all vain on here, right? You do know that a toned bottom looks better than a soggy bottom. You need to constantly firm up your muscles as you burn fat to look healthy, fit, and more confident. There is a reason we women are always doing squats and lunges...

Strength training is not just about weight lifting though. You don't have to be lifting a thousand pounds at the gym to be fit so don't be intimidated. Sometimes, your body weight is good enough to help strengthen particular muscles in your body. I actively support body-weight strength training exercises (i.e. pushups, donkey kicks, lunges, etc.) because you can literally do them anywhere. Any exercise you do to tone your muscles rather than simply burn fat is a strength training exercise.

Speaking of strength training exercises, have you tried the TribeSports challenge?

For links to some of our other strength training examples, click here.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chicken: To Skin or Not to Skin?

When I cook chicken that I didn't already buy skinless, I usually go through the motions of skinning the chicken. Yes, people have varying opinions of this is really necessary or not. My position is that it is not particularly necessary, but it definitely helps to reduce the temptation to eat the skin when I'm done cooking the chicken.

Okay, that just broke a lot of people's hearts, right? Well, here's a little fact to help you understand how many calories you are cutting down. Unlike other kinds of meat, most of the fat in chicken is in the skin. A 4oz regular chicken breast with skin has about 188 calories, and 3g of saturated fat. If you skinned that same chicken, it would have about 118 calories, and 0.4 grams of saturated fat. Multiply that to the amount you may actually be eating and you see how much of a difference that is!

So you're probably now wondering why I'm all for skinning it BEFORE you cook the chicken. Isn't it the same as just cooking it and then peeling it off? Plus, isn't it way easier that way? I'm not sure about you, but I don't always have the most control in the world when it comes to food, and so it's easier for me to avoid stuffing my face when the food is not on my plate or in my pot. I'm pretty sure some of you are the same. So I skin before I cook so I don't have to look at the juicy piece of skin and then will myself to not eat it.

Also, you may not know this, but the skin actually absorbs most of the spices when you cook the chicken. So peeling it off after you cook it sometimes means losing the flavor of what you just cooked. If you peel it off before, you allow the meat to absorb the spices.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

TribeSports Challenge: Abs and Legs Mini Circuit

It's another TribeSports challenge! Let's do this one together once every day until next Thursday. I'm definitely going to be trying it out and even trying to push myself to go a little beyond the limit. Who's with me?

See the details of the challenge below and let me know how you do!
  •  25 sit-ups
  • 25 mountain climbers (each leg) 
  • 25 leg raises (lying on side) (each leg) 
  • 1 minute plank
Repeat 3 times with a short, 20-30 second rest between.

Log on to TribeSports and sign up to experience the community and see how others are doing with this challenge. Visit the challenge page here: TribeSports Abs and Legs Mini Circuit.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Can't Get the Scale to Budge Anymore?

I always say that the body is like a machine; if you take it to get checked up regularly, keep it oiled, and perform your daily maintenance activities, it would run smoothly. If you don't well... it could catch up to you later on.

However, unfortunately, sometimes, the body gets used to the same routine. i.e. standard meals, standard calorie count, and the same exercise routine. So if you have been consistently working out and losing weight for a while, you may realize you have gotten to a point where the scale would no longer move. This is actually more common than you'd realize.

The good news is that you've noted the problem and can work to fix it. It may seem counter-intuitive sometimes (If you're exercising and eating right, it should be all good, no?), but here are a few steps you can take to get your body back into that fat-zapping state.

Switch up your diet: It doesn't matter whether your whole diet consists of protein shakes or veggies; your body gets used to what you put in it. It basically gets into a fuel-and-burn routine where your carbs come from the same food, your protein comes from the same food, and all your other nutrients come from the same food. To give your metabolism a kick, it is important to change your diet. You still want to keep your calories low, but change what foods your nutrients come from. Also, if you work out a lot, you need to make sure you are getting enough carbs to work out, and enough protein to rebuild muscle.

Change your calorie count: The number of calories you need is relative to your body weight, sex, and activity level. Take a look at this article for more details on the math behind your weight loss goals. Now, if you lose weight, that also means your body needs less calories and so you need to reconfigure your diet to fit your new weight. Sometimes though, you may also need to rev up your metabolism by upping your calorie intake just a little for about 2 or 3 days and then adjusting it back to what you need for your weight loss regimen.

Try new exercises: There is a term called muscle memory, where your muscles work similar to your brain. When you establish a habit, your brain automatically remembers to do it without much effort. Your muscles are similar. When you are used to doing an activity, your muscles require less effort to do the same activity. This means you may be using less energy and burning fewer calories. So mix up your routine to keep your calorie burn up.

Break up your exercise routine: After exercise, your body continues to be in fat-burn mode for a while. If you are used to exercising at one point in the day, you may be losing the chance to get your metabolism revved up during other points in the day. If you break up your routine (e.g. half of it in the morning and half in the evening), that could help burn more because your body would be in fat-burn mode during other points of the day as well.

Strength train: Sometimes, when people are trying to lose weight, they may focus just on cardio exercises. This isn't completely wrong because cardio exercises burn fat. However, building lean muscle also helps the body stay in a state where more fat is burned. And so it is important to get your body toned up so it can keep burning calories even during rest.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Is Suzanne the Face of Fitness?

Fitness Magazine currently has a competition where every week one person can be nominated as the "Face of Fitness". You have to submit an entry, the team reviews your application, you qualify, and then people vote for you. If you win, you get nominated to win a grand prize. The grand prize is a FITNESS magazine photo shoot and an all-new 2013 Ford Escape! Guess what? I qualified this week! 

Obviously, you know what that means. Go and vote for me :)

The FITNESS magazine voting link is here. Thanks a lot for your support!

Cheers Eights & Weights!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Aren't all Juices Healthy?

Some juices should be called cocktails, not juices, because I think they serve to confuse the consumers more than help them. I understand that it is cheaper for manufacturers to produce these 'cocktails' since most of the ingredients are non-perishable synthetic chemicals that don't require effort to keep fresh, and thus can be sold for cheaper. However, the word 'juice' makes people believe they are in some form healthier.

Let's face it: not drinking soda does not mean a person is healthy. In fact, some juices are just as bad as soda, containing just as much sugar and not enough actual fruit. See below for an example of the ingredients in a product that is identified as a juice:

Yikes! All I see is various kinds of synthetic sugar, and then some small references to fruit somewhere in the center. If we're going by the rule that manufacturers identify the ingredients in order of quantity with the largest first, then this poses a major problem. You're basically drinking sugar drinking this juice. Now, if you didn't pay attention to the actual contents or the calorie information, and simply thought "Oh, great! Juice.", then you see how this could lead to some unfortunate decisions.

Okay, but if you shouldn't drink all juices, what should you do? First of all, pay attention to the nutrition content. If one glass contains upwards of 100 calories, ask yourself if it is worth giving up that many calories in your day for a drink. 

Second, do all of the calories come from its sugar content? Look at the ingredients. If it's stuff you don't know (What is Carnauba wax?), maybe think twice. Look out for the "100% pure" on the back with the list of ingredients, not on the front with the name.

Now, wouldn't that feel better? 100% fruit and vegetables sounds good to me. I would rather go for tomato juice and other vegetables than fruit because it contains less sugar and helps me stay fuller.

Thirdly, consider this: Can you make it at home? I know things that are properly packaged always seem prettier and juicier, but in reality, the juices we make at home are fresher, more natural, and contain more nutrients than the ones we buy at the store. Plus, you have the free reign to mix and match fruits and veggies as you'd like. The juice below contains spinach and carrots.

If you must buy juice though, some of the best options are 100% cranberry juice (known to prevent urinary tract infections), pomegranate juice (contains tons of antioxidants), and vegetable juices (low in sugar and calories). If you're not hell-bent on juices, another option to try is flavored water. It usally contains 0 calories and it tastes better than water.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Inner Thigh Lifts

There seem to be a lot of misconceptions when it comes to working your muscles. The body is made up of so many muscles, somewhere upwards of 640, and so it does take significant effort to work each one. Of course they are not all equally important.

When it comes to the leg and thigh muscles, there are also so many. However, where we choose to focus could affect our balance and how our bodies protect themselves from injury. 

There are several large muscles in our outer thighs, but because they tend to be bigger than the muscles in our butts and inner thighs, they compensate for a lot of the exercises we do. For example, although lunges should be working your inner thigh muscles and your butt, if those muscles are not strong enough to hold the position, or if the position is not done right, the outer thigh muscles compensate and cause a lot of tension in those muscles.

Before I blab on and on, the point I am trying to get across is that for the thigh muscles, we may need to do exercises that target individual parts of the thighs because these muscles are very important for balance.

Here is a video from LiveStrong that shows one exercise you can do to work the muscles in your inner thigh: Inner Thigh Lifts. These are difficult, but get easier as you do them more often.

As you do the exercise above, remember that your core is also the center of every exercise that you do, and it is the source of your balance. If you do not have a strong core, it is important that you work to build your core with every exercise. Keep your abs tight as you contract and relax your muscles and you'd be using your core strength as well.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dressing Up Your Greens

Mama said eat your greens. And while mama is not always right (but don't tell her that), she is today. The only problem is that as humans we are conditioned to hate vegetables. So how do you get over that battle between what is right for you and what tastes good? Here are a few tips:

Wander outside your comfort zone: So every time you think of greens you conjure up images of your grandma force-feeding you collard greens? That doesn't mean collard greens are the only good form of veggies. Most large grocery stores and markets have a vegetable section. You can go there, walk around, and see what you find. They have everything from spinach to green peppers to asparagus. Even if you are currently eating greens you like, it is easy to get bored. Try something new!

Sweeten your greens: If what concerns you is the bitterness (I do come from a country where there is a leaf called bitter leaf), then you can add in some sweetness without spiking up the calorie content considerably. Pears, peaches, and bananas are a great additive for the sweet tooth king or queen. Other sweeter vegetables like carrots, tomatoes, and peppers can also be really tasty options to cover up the bitterness.

Spice things up: Okay, so maybe you don't have a sweet tooth, but you like your food spicy? The great thing about spices is that they usually don't contain very many calories. You can try putting in a tea spoon of olive oil to your greens with some hot peppers, basil, garlic, or onions. If you properly spice up your veggies, you may forget that you are actually eating veggies. Just remember not to overcook them and lose all the nutrients. You could also grill your vegetables. If you haven't tried that, that can be so much yummier than boiling them because they get that smoky taste.

Deceive your taste buds: Okay, so you've tried all that and still can't over the green hump. How about putting some veggies in your regular food to deceive your taste buds? For example, if you like burritos, replace the beans in your burrito with peppers and other vegetables so you get the nutrients in and you drive the calories down. Plus, you still have your meat :) Or if you like pasta, fill your sauce with carrots, peas, and even some chopped spinach. You still get that awesome tomato taste and you get the benefits of having the veggies as well.

How do you dress up your veggies?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Is Your Job Making You Fat?

"I am too busy", "I'm in meetings all day", "Ugh! My coworkers ordered pizza again". You are probably pretty familiar with these excuses. Honestly, it is very difficult to have a corporate life and still stay healthy, especially as you get more successful. We all know the more successful you get, the richer the food you eat and the more you have to network over meals. This could mean a few inches on your waistline as well.

Don't let this depress you though. It really doesn't mean you have to choose between being successful and being healthy. You just may have to work a little harder. Here are a few of the usual roadblocks and how you can attack them:

I sit all day
Well, this one is easy. You do get bathroom breaks, right? Set a timer to remind you to go on a "water break" every hour. This water break just means you get up and walk somewhere for a couple of minutes and get a cup of water while you're at it. You need to get the blood flowing in your legs, get your muscles working a bit, burn a couple of calories, and make sure your back and neck aren't getting stuck in that wrong peering-over-the-computer posture. All you need is a computer or a phone to set up this alarm, and you'd be getting much needed hydration as well.

I am so busy
Business creates a couple of problems: You may not eat when you are supposed to or eat the wrong things (Bad Diet Habits), or not find time to exercise (Lack of Activity). 

If you find that you are starving yourself and then jumping to the vending machine for candy when you're hungry, start to keep power snacks in your purse; your best options are fruits, nuts, or cereal bars. And then set an alarm for every 3 or 4 hours so you can remember to snack on something.

If you find that you are becoming sedentary, your best option may be to break up your workouts. Wake up 15 minutes earlier in the morning and get a quick workout in. I know it sucks, but the energy burst you get from your morning workout could actually improve your mood throughout the day and give you that burst of energy you need for those morning meetings. Also add in another 15 minutes somewhere else in your day, like on your way back from home or during lunch. If you do get a semblance of a lunch break, squeeze the time to work out in there, and spend just a few minutes actually eating.

There is always candy around me at the office
This sucks too because you can't really control what other people do. Sometimes, I think my colleagues are trying to sabotage me when they go "But you worked so hard at the gym. You can afford that piece of chocolate!". So I know how you feel. 

But that does not mean there is no way around it. Politely ask your colleagues to move the candy to a particular spot where you would not see it. If it is not in your sights, you are less likely to go looking for it. Also, if you stock up on your own power snacks, when you feel the temptation, you can reach for something else in your purse. 

It also helps to not carry cash with you around the office. Why? It prevents you from chipping in when that colleague comes around with the fundraising candy or cookies. You know the ones I mean, right? We all have someone who is always selling fundraising snacks.

I get hungry between meals
We all do. So this goes back to the point of stocking up on power snacks and not carrying cash around. You are less likely to head to the vending machine if you have no money and you already have healthy snacks to munch on.

I have to network
As you climb the corporate ladder, it becomes increasingly important to network. And networking sometimes means richer foods and more alcohol than you would usually have in your routine. There are a few ways to try to get around the networking calories. One, if you tend to eat in a general area, research the healthy restaurant options or the healthy food and drinks on the menus in the restaurants around you. So whenever you take a client out, you already know what your options are.

Two, order in. If you have a meeting in the office and have it catered, you have more control over what gets delivered. Just make sure you already know what the attendees are allergic to!

Three, find other ways to network besides food. Take clients out to a golf course or to play pool. Find out if he/she is into the community and set up a volunteer networking session. There are many other options besides eating and drinking that may be fun to try. And it actually may give the client a good impression of you.

If you are the client, when a meeting is set up, send dietary restrictions. Usually, anyone setting up a business meeting would want to impress the client and so would ask for preferences or options. Don't be shy to provide yours.

How do you stay healthy in the workplace?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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