I was recently interviewed for an article on functional fitness for a local magazine that turned more into a story about me and my late career change to the Health and Wellness industry. I share it with you here because it paints a portion of why I live daily to fulfill my life’s mission. I hope you enjoy it and perhaps find insight that helps you on The Way.
We should all strive to move and use our bodies daily in a variety of productive and enjoyable ways. However, exercising frequently and intensely without planning for adequate recovery continues to be one of the most common causes of chronic stress I see in my practice. Make sure your Fitness Coach consistently discusses how well you are eating, sleeping and managing all of the stress factors in your life. Read this informative article on causes, effects and coping methods, and apply what works for you. Be well, stay strong.
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Firstly, please accept my sincere appreciation for all of your efforts and support. I truly would not be where I am without you. Secondly, I wish you all a sense of accomplishment for having attained at least one of your stated goals for this year. Congratulations! Now it is time to ready ourselves for another year of opportunity.
Reflecting on my own passage of this time there can be no other description than Grateful. As a direct result of working with many different clients and students, I have witnessed tremendous acts of effort and courage from which I have gained strength and understanding. Among these were coping with serious illness, the passing of loved ones much too early, and examples of success too numerous to recount in this simple message. The one constant factor across all of these life experiences is what I refer to as The Black Belt Mentality.
The image of a black belt is often perceived as someone who has mastered a given discipline; capable of remarkable abilities and insight, incapable of frequent failure or fault. This is obviously a generalization but to me, a black belt is someone who refuses to give up. I apply the idea of having achieved this distinction with every occasion where a resilient and focused effort was applied in the realization of one’s goals. This is especially true in the face of unexpected challenges. Looking back across these past months I would gladly award many of you a black belt for your daring and commitment.
Now the real challenge begins. As one of my first martial arts teachers told me; “Earn your belt every time you tie it on.” How do use our strengths to achieve and provide more? What further improvement can we attain from the effort? Will we stop despite having come this far?
My heartfelt hope for each of you is to never give up. Earn the right to wear the black belt on every occasion you need it, both for yourself and those who may depend upon you.
Thank you again for allowing me into your life. I hope to have brought significant enough value to continue being a coach and friend.
Happy New Year! Be well, stay strong.
Pedro J. Bernardy
Black to White – indicative of effort and willingness to remain a student
This excellent article on back injury prevention is written by Mike Bracko, EdD,a fitness educator, hockey skating coach, writer, and back injury prevention expert. Mike holds a doctoral degree in exercise science and works with hockey players, industrial workers, and fitness professionals to improve performance and prevent injury. Mike is the author of 28 DVD’s and CD’s ranging in topics from Body Leverage Training, Ultimate Back Exercises, Lateral Training, Back Injury Prevention, and Safe Lifting. You can access this article at: /http://www.pedrobernardy.com/back-injury-prevention-using-neutral-spine-exercises/
It is my pleasure to announce the successful testing and attainment of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) rank to three of our RyuBuKan Dojo members; Nicholas Cardo, Robert Jinkins, and Clare Williams. These very fine students demonstrated their craft to an esteemed panel of senior instructors and their respective friends and family members on September 21, 2013. All performed well and with the spirit and integrity expected by all. I am very proud to be part of their martial arts journey and confident that they will continue their studies and contribution to future generations of martial artists.
An often asked question from clients is "Why can't I lose these last ____ pounds/inches?" The answer is not always the same due to variable factors that include age, gender, present lifestyle habits, chronic conditions, stress management, medication, etc., that can vastly alter the result of effective exercise and nutrition. The attached article addresses cause and effect during menopause that could help identify solutions to lose those stubborn inches/pounds, and suggests changes to what once may have worked with respect to exercise and eating. These recommendations apply to both men and women at this period in our lives, so please read and take what you can from this article. Contact me for any assistance I can provide in getting you started in this direction. Be well, stay strong. (925) 980-9466, firstname.lastname@example.org
Weight Gain at Menopause
What causes weight gain at menopause? Why are the low calorie diets that worked in your younger years no longer effective? What changes can you make to your diet, exercise, and lifestyle regime to combat menopausal weight gain? This article explains the impact female hormones have on weight gain and fat loss and why menopause is such a difficult time for many women.
Estrogen & Progesterone
Estrogen and progesterone, while lower down on the fat burning totem pole compared to insulin and cortisol or thyroid and adrenaline, nevertheless do impact a woman’s fat burning metabolism. Estrogen is an insulin sensitizing hormone and a hormone that controls the negative impact of cortisol. Progesterone opposes the action of estrogen on insulin, but works together with estrogen in controlling the negative impact of cortisol.
Why is this important? Because insulin and cortisol are a bad hormonal combination for fat loss. These two hormones, when combined together in high amounts over long periods, push the female physiology towards storing fat when calories are high (as opposed to building muscle), and reduce the amount of fat burned when calories are low (burning muscle instead). This is a bad combination for any woman, but a menopausal woman is affected to a much greater extent.
Since insulin and cortisol may be the primary culprits in female belly fat storage, the transition into menopause often results in fat gain especially around the middle.
Realize you are far more carbohydrate reactive and stress sensitive after menopause. Which means the carbohydrates you used to be able to eat that did not affect your waistline may now be too many and do just that. The stressful exercise and lack of sleep you could tolerate in your younger years, while still remaining lean, will now start to show itself on your waist.
To deal with these hormonal impacts, requires a far more insulin centric approach versus a caloric one. In other words, whereas a lower calorie diet may have been enough in your younger days, you now need a hormonal approach to body change.
What to eat?
Now you need to know that it is not just refined sugars that are the issue. You will need to start controlling all the foods that have potential insulin promoting action. This includes many foods that are regarded as “healthy”. Whole grain breads, sweet fruits, dairy foods, and starchy vegetables, which may have once been a central part of your lean diet, may now be working against you. Reducing these foods while simultaneously increasing low starch vegetables, low sweet fruits (berries, apples, and pears), and protein foods has to become your new solution to burning fat.
How to exercise?
Exercise too must be approached differently. Cortisol is produced during intense exercise and long duration exercise. This includes long duration jogging or running and high intensity interval training (HIIT), metabolic conditioning, or weight training. However, intense exercise that is short also raises growth promoting hormones like HGH and testosterone, and these hormones work with cortisol to burn fat and build, or at least maintain, muscle.
Long duration exercise works differently. It has a different hormonal impact, and it may exacerbate the negative effects of cortisol because it raises cortisol without the balancing action of the growth hormones. And raising cortisol this way during menopause, a time where the female physiology is far more susceptible to the negative impact of cortisol, can frequently cause more issues than it solves for weight gain. For this reason, shorter intense exercise is probably more beneficial compared to long duration moderate intensity exercise.
Cortisol can also be controlled and lowered nicely by relaxing activities. These include leisure walking (to be distinguished from power walking), restorative yoga (to be distinguished from intense yoga), Tai Chi, as well as massage, sauna, and other restorative non-exercise practices.
Why is this important?
All of this is important because the dominant message sent to menopausal women, from their nutritionists and doctors, as well as the mainstream press, runs completely counter to all we just covered. The message is to do more jogging and power walking, not less. They are instructed to eat more grains and dairy and less protein. And they are rarely told to lift weights or educated on the benefits of rest and recovery centered activities
Together, a lower insulin promoting diet and a smarter stress inducing exercising regime can make a huge difference. Remember, the menopausal physiology is more carbohydrate reactive (estrogen is no longer there to help offset insulin) and more stress sensitive (estrogen and progesterone are not there to dampen cortisol’s negative effect).
The changes to diet, exercise, and lifestyle can help combat menopause weight gain. Here are the changes we recommend:
- Leisure walk daily 1 hour per day (it lowers cortisol). Preferably do it in a nature setting (it lowers cortisol even more).
- Weight train intensely at least one time per week, preferably three. These sessions should be short. Shoot for less than 60 minutes or even better, less than 30. They work great along with walking too.
- Drastically increase your non-starchy vegetable intake while cutting back on starchy foods, grains, and dairy (this does not mean not to eat these foods, just eat less). This blog helps you understand the best carbohydrates to eat.
- Raise your protein intake with foods that are mostly protein (fish, chicken, etc) versus mostly starch or fat (beans and nuts have some protein but WAY more starch and fat). To help, consider a protein powder replacement shake 1 or two times per day.
- Oh, vegetables and protein are more slowly digested, so if you notice increased gas, that is because your stomach HCL and pancreatic enzyme secretion can also fall with age (and stress). A shot of vinegar, or a nice green salad before meals will almost always solve this. When they don’t, an OTC enzyme preparation is great.
- Build in restorative and relaxing activity into your life. A concept we call rest-based living. Sleep, nap, physical affection, laughter, massage (even self-massage like foam rolling), sauna, restorative yoga, and Tai Chi are all great.
- Are you thinking supplements? Sure they can work, but not like the above recommendations. If you plan on taking supplements or hormones just realize that is a lot like trying to clean up a spill on your kitchen floor with a Dixie cup instead of a mop. It won’t do near the job you want it to.
And because bone health is always a concern for women in menopause here is a blog to help you understand why the recommendations above are also best for bone.
September of 1973 was when I collected my nerves and finances enough to join George Dillman’s karate studio in my home town of Reading, PA. I had already been practicing on my own since watching Bruce Lee in The Green Hornet in 1966, albeit with little more than the few available books, magazines and neighborhood kids who looked like they knew something about these arts. Since that first evening 40 years ago my thirst for the martial arts and their related cultures has never diminished. There have been many wonderful events, friends and memories derived from this life-long study, and still many more to come. In attempting to clarify these countless blessings for myself and those who might have an interest, I have compiled the following list to help commemorate this occasion. Please note that they are in no particular order other than what comes to my mind as I consider the past 40 years:
- Knowledge and commitment to live a healthy and productive life
- Trusted friends among my teachers, peers and students of all ages and skill levels
- My wife and best friend of more than 30 years, mother to my two daughters and strongest supporter for what I do with my life
- My children, Julia Ai and Christina Machiko, both accomplished black belt students who have used their training to endure tremendous challenges in their young lives
- Endless educational opportunities and the hunger to learn more with each passing day
- Gifts that allowed me to change careers in mid-life to a profession that offers help to others wishing to improve their lives
Among the most special moments and events in my martial arts career thus far, these seem the most prevalent in my thoughts:
- Witnessing my first karate demonstration at Holy Name high school in 1968. I still remember the chills and amazement at seeing these students and teachers perform.
- Extreme disappointment at not be able to start formal lessons as a teenager, and the tremendous joy of beginning this life-long study in 1973.
- My great fortunate to become involved in the Okinawan community in Los Angeles in 1977 after meeting Takushi Yasukazu, and subsequent introductions to my first Okinawan instructors Oyakawa Nobuichi, Kimo Wall and Kenneth L. Penland. This association also resulted in achieving my dream of studying in Okinawa where I trained with Matayoshi Shinpo and Nakamura Yoshio. These exceptional people, as well as their family and friends, advanced my understanding and love of the martial arts and their cultural treasures.
- Meeting Jim Silvan in 1991 and through him the opportunity to meet and study with some of the best teachers I have ever known. These include Oshiro Toshihiro, Shinzato Katsuhiko, Professor Wally Jay, Ben Abarca, Richard Lee, Joey Cruz, Chris Peterson, and Janice Okamoto. Silvan sensei was also instrumental in advancing my interest in the study of kinesiology and its application in martial arts movement.
- Being among the founding members of The Brotherhood of Veteran Warriors in 2004 and finding friendship with many of these remarkable people.
- Establishing my home studio and private dojo with the help of my friends and students who have supported me for many years and in many ways.
- Returning to a serious study of Tai Chi in 2010 with two of the most knowledgeable teachers I have known. These special individuals prefer to retain their privacy but our weekly sessions in their home studio have greatly expanded my sense of movement and ability to perform in a more relaxed and efficient manner. I look forward to this practice and its effects on all of my physical endeavors.
- Remembering my students of every age and skill level, who have shared the challenges, accepted the responsibilities and reaped the rewards of martial arts training.
In trying to summarize a life-time of opportunities, privileges and many gifts, the most outstanding benefit of my martial arts history was meeting my wife, Junko, introduced to me by Kimo Wall sensei in 1980. November of 2013 marks 32 years of our marriage. Junko is my best friend. Nothing in my life means more to me than being with her. Thank you for devoting your life to me and our children.
Thank you all for taking time to read this and especially to the many of you who have helped shape my life thus far. I hope you have benefited from our time together and will share whatever you can of these lessons with others who will also find value from it. I look forward to writing about you again in another 40 years!
Be well, stay strong. Pedro
I recently had the pleasure of teaching a brief course on personal safety to a number of women at a local health club and wanted to share some of the pertinent points raised during this interaction:
1. Prevention is the result of Awareness and Preparation. Maintaining a confident but cautious attitude, using common sense and trusting your instincts are the basic weapons for combating personal assault.
2. Learn and practice combative tactics and practical techniques that you could apply in highly stressful scenarios. Realize that physical response is the LAST option you should employ, and use it with the knowledge (both functional and legal), aggressive intention and full commitment needed to be successful.
3. Whatever your decision is in a given self-defense situation, whatever action you do or do not take, YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT! Do not blame yourself. You have a responsibility to take the best action possible to survive for both yourself and those who love you.
4. Realize that many personal attacks are perpetrated by people we know and trust. Respect yourself, set proper boundaries that inform others of your feelings and self-worth, and never allow anyone to negatively impact these vital forces.
There are many other factors to consider when discussing this topic but I will leave you with a few articles by two highly regarded professionals in this field. I urge you to make time to read this information and consider how you can be helped by it. Contact me if you have an interest in learning more about this subject.
Loren Christensen is an author, retired law enforcement officer and accomplished martial artist. His latest blog is on the potential danger from people who live on our city streets. A very interesting synopsis on common psychology and behavioral traits of these unfortunate members of our society. Not a criticism but a real-life view from an experienced cop on the beat. Loren also provide suggestions for preventing and responding to typical scenarios that are consistent with my own beliefs: http://paladin-pressblog.com/2013/08/29/street-people-how-dangerous-are-they/
Alex Haddox teaches both traditional martial arts and Jim Wagner's Reality-Based Personal Protection system. He believes there is a place and a need for both in today's complex and often dangerous environments. Each type of training offers their own benefits and equally valid point of view to the student. In a previous career Mr. Haddox was the Product Manager and co-founder of the Symantec AntiVirus Research Center (SARC). He was considered one of the world's leading computer virus experts, traveled worldwide on speaking engagements and appeared on national television programs including Good Morning America, CNBC, the Discovery Channel and Fox News Network. The attached link is to an article written by him on parking lot safety and emphasizes the common lack of awareness in the perceived "safety" provided by lights, cameras and security guards: http://personal.palladium-education.com/ParkingLotSafety1.shtml
Be well, stay strong. Pedro
Overtraining – When There Isn’t Enough Time to Recover
By Stacey Penney, NASM CES, PES, FNS
Designing a training program for an athlete to peak for competition is one of the driving goals for sports performance specialists. From the big picture annual macrocycle, to the monthly mesocycle breakdown, and the finely detailed microcycle, periods of rest need to be included in these plans to avoid overtraining and the potential negative impact on performance.
Overtraining occurs when an athlete’s body doesn’t have enough time to recover. An overtrained athlete who is not achieving results may even be tempted to stop training altogether. Overtraining might be to blame if your athlete has any of the following symptoms (1,2):
- elevated resting heart rate
- loss of appetite and weight loss
- chronic fatigue, workouts described as draining
- an increase in colds or infections
- inadequate sleep
- a decrease in performance, or an inability to reach training goals
- lack of enthusiasm, psychological staleness
Inadequate rest and recovery can lead to compensation and injury (1,2). If signs of overtraining start to occur, adjustments can be made to the programs acute variables, including training volume, intensity, duration, frequency, and/or exercise selection (1). For example, when an athlete experiences an intense case of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), reducing the intensity and duration of training, or training different muscle groups for the days following will give the affected muscles time to recover (3).
Even between sets and exercises the body needs a rest interval. Depending on the goals of the athlete’s training cycle, exercise intensity and energy systems tapped, rest between sets can range from 30 seconds to 5 minutes (1).
Rest Interval Continuum
Stabilization/Strength Endurance: 30-60 seconds
Hypertrophy: 45-90 seconds
Max Strength/Power: 3-5 minutes
Proper nutrition is also a part of the recovery process. Replenishing with enough carbohydrate to top off the glycogen stores along with adequate protein to aid in muscle repair is key. For strength athletes, the protein recommendation is between 1.2-1.7 g/kg body weight per day (4). For endurance athletes the protein goal is between 1.2 -1.4 g/kg body weight per day (1,4). Carbohydrate recommendations for athletes are between 6 and 10 g/kg body weight per day depending on multiple factors such as total energy expenditure, type of activity, environmental conditions, and gender (4).
Though rest intervals are important between sets, too long of a break can reduce the adaptations to training and decrease neuromuscular activity (1). Longer bouts of rest between training sessions can also result in a loss of strength and cardiovascular abilities. Cardiovascular detraining starts to occur within 12 days, with decreases seen in VO2max (2). Strength gains are lost at a much slower rate of decline, and can actually be maintained with as little as one training session per week for 12 weeks (2,5).
Rest is an often over looked component of the training puzzle. It is a vital piece that needs to be incorporated in to an athletes training plan. The need for a recovery period applies to both cardiovascular and strength training. Each athlete will uniquely respond to training stimulus, so it is important to be on the lookout for signs of overtraining and adjust the training plan to keep them performing at their peak, injury free.
1. Clark M., Lucett S. NASM Essentials of Sports Performance Training. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2010.
2. Powers SK, Howley ET.; Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance. Eighth Ed. New York, NY:McGraw Hill, 2012.
3. Cheung K., Hume, P., Maxwell L. Delayed onset muscle soreness: treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Medicine, 2003;33(2):145-64.
4. American Dietetic Association. Position of the american dietetic association, dietitians of canada, and the american college of sports medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009:514-515.
5. Graves, J. Pollock, M., Leggett, S. et.al. Effect of reduced training frequency on muscular strength. International Journal of Sports Medicine 1988 9:316-319.
How can exercise, performed at approprate levels of intensity and frequency, affect fat loss? Follow the link below for details and recommendations to maximize your efforts.