A Bit On Chinese Medicine

This week I have a friend from Taiwan staying at my place. It is great to have her hear and it brings back a bunch of great memories from the time that my girlfriend and I lived in Taiwan and studied Chinese. It has also been a good refresher for our Chinese as we are now studying Spanish.

This friend, who was also our Chinese teacher, gave us great insight into Taiwanese and Chinese culture during our time in Taiwan. One thing that we have talked a great deal about this week is Chinese medicine. This is in large part because we are witnessing her practicing this type of medicine and seeing some of the conflicts of Chinese medicine philosophies and typical American customs.

There are many, many aspects to Chinese medicine, and one could easily write a whole blog devoted to the general topic. I just want to mention a few things that I find interesting. I first want to note that the more modern Chinese medicine practitioners do not shun western medicine. They realize the almost complimentary relationship between eastern and western medicine. It is quite possible that taking the best from both of these worlds allows for a more holistic approach to medicine and the human body.

One aspect of Chinese medicine I find very interesting is the whole body or holistic approach. Let us think about western medicine to highlight this point. When you meet a western MD you will often ask him what kind of medicine they practice. This is because MDs will specialize in a particular area of the body. Of course, with the vast amount of knowledge we have about the body these days, this is quite necessary. Specialists do wonderful things in their particular area of focus.

Chinese medicine doctors on the other hand are more like our western general practitioner MDs. They are usually thinking about the big picture. If there is a stomach problem they will ask what is wrong in other areas of the body that might be affecting the stomach. They often make general recommendations about total body care to address a specific problem in the body.

One particular thing I find very interesting in Chinese medicine is their desire to keep temperatures the same. Here is what I mean. They believe that the body and all its parts, including the hair, should be kept at the same temperature and in balance with the outdoor temperature.

This means that drinking ice water is bad (note: I don’t think drinking ice water is all that great for the body). It is also bad to have your hair wet. Blow drying is very necessary. Also, you should not eat ice cream in the winter. It is too cold. This goes on and on.

Chinese medicine is pretty fascinating, and I would encourage you to learn more on the subject. Check out this Wiki link on Traditional Chinese Medicine for a thorough introduction to the subject.

The Glory of Massage Therapy

I love massages and for good reason. Most importantly, they feel nice. Human touch is a necessary part of our general well-being. A loving massage from a friend or partner feels nice and is a nice gesture to give.

The world of massage has come a long way from the casual massage. Expert research has shown many benefits directly related to massage therapy. These benefits include

  • Reduced stress
  • Increased circulation
  • Pain alleviation
  • Enhanced immune system function
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Faster recovery for athletes
  • Increased joint flexibility
  • Reduced muscle cramping and spasms

The above list is by no means exhaustive, but you get the general idea. Massage from a qualified massage practitioner can offer a lot, and it is all natural.

I only had experienced a handful of massages before moving to Asia. One common barrier to getting massage therapy is cost. As a young man I did not have a lot of extra cash to throw at massages. I hadn’t directly experienced the benefits of massage either, so I wasn’t motivated to seek this out. This all changed while living in Thailand.

Thai massage is famous throughout the world and has been practiced in the region for centuries. A good Thai massage can be very reasonable in Thailand. I used to pay about $5 plus a dollar or two tip for an hour massage in Thailand. This price point is easy to find although the quality can vary widely. Fortunately at that cheap price you can afford to shop around for the best massage therapist.

I am naturally a fan of massage and had no problem with another person touching me. This was not always the case with my friends and co-workers in Thailand. It kind of shocked me that they would take advantage of such a great and easy thing, but I have found this to be common with many people when it comes to massage.

I have some advice for those of you new to massage in regard to how to find a good massage therapist and what to expect. First I would like to encourage athletes especially to explore the benefits of massage therapy. Olympic, amateur (which I realize are technically amateurs) and professional athletes rely on massage extensively to help their bodies recover faster and work through soreness, injury and fatigue.

Office workers, those that use their bodies a lot at work and people who engage in a great deal of repetitive motion are also great candidates for massage therapy.

If you do not have a great deal of money to spend on massage therapy you can get relatively cheap massages at a massage school. These masseuses there will vary in quality depending on where they are in their training and how many hours they have already put into their practice. If you find a good on though, you can arrange to have them work on you many times while they are learning. After they graduate you may be one of their first consistent customers and they will likely offer you a discount.

Many foreign countries, namely the ones in Asia, are a great place to experiment with massage due to the reasonable price and variety offered. Quality can vary here too. You should not be afraid to speak up about any injuries you have or when the massage therapist is using a bit too much pressure.

A typical massage should not hurt. If the therapist is working out a knot, you will feel some discomfort and pain. This is normal. Otherwise you need to practice good communication with your therapist so they can get to know your body and how you react to the massage.

A good way to get a discount on massages in the west is to buy in bulk. This is a common practice with massage therapists in the west. Again, wherever you end up getting a massage, make sure to communicate to the therapist your needs and wants. Ask the therapist questions as well and experiment with the different styles of massage. A good therapist will likely know several styles of massage so you can experiment with the same person.

As someone who is quite active, I try to get a massage once a month. I do not exercise after getting a massage. I prefer to not be too sore from working out on the day of my massage. I have also found it useful to learn some massage techniques so I can use them on myself and on my girlfriend. Massage is a great activity for lovers!

Good luck with your journey into the wonderful world of massage.

Sunburn, Sun Protection, Food and You

There are almost two more months left in the northern hemisphere’s summer season as I write this. Summertime is a great time to get outside and soak up some of the sun’s rays. It is especially important for those living in cold weather climates to soak up some of the sun’s rays to build up their vitamin D concentrations.

Unfortunately the sun is a double edged sword. Precautions should be taken to avoid overexposure and sunburn. It is not a bad idea to get out in the sun for about 20 minutes a day without sunscreen (except on your face, although a wide brimmed hat will save you some money and avoid any unpleasant chemicals found in some sunscreens). For many of us though, this is difficult to do on a daily basis or we want to spend longer amounts of time in the sun.

Sunscreen is a good way to protect yourself from some of the sun’s damaging rays, but research is showing that some wavelengths of the sun’s rays that are not blocked by sunscreen actually can cause harm to our skin cells.

The website The World’s Healthiest Foods does a great job at compiling scientific on, among many other things, foods that will help your body repair itself after too much sun and food that will provide a bit of extra skin protection. You can visit The World’s Healthiest Foods (WHF) page on sunburn and food by clicking on name in this sentence.

The WHF article on sunburn and foods explains that some antioxidant rich foods can reduce the risk of sunburn. Two of the foods at the top of the list for helping our bodies naturally prevent sunburn, according to scientific research, are olive oil and tomato paste.

A study carried out by German researchers focused on these two foods and came up with impressive results. By the end of the 10 week study, the individuals that included about 2 teaspoons of olive oil and about ¼ cup of tomato pasted in their diets were experiencing 35% less reddening of their skin when exposed to a sunlamp than the group that did not get this extra dietary additive.

The olive oil and tomato paste weren’t found to give a large amount of skin protection, but the results impressed scientists in the short amount of time that the study was conducted (10 weeks). Olive oil and tomatoes are already great foods to have in your diet consistently, so this is just one more reason to keep them in your diet or start adding them if you are already not eating them.

The WHF sunburn article then goes on to mention that vitamin C, vitamin E, and the mineral selenium are all valuable in helping our bodies prevent sunburn. You can find a great list of foods on the WHF site that are rich in the aforementioned vitamins and mineral.

Bell peppers, papaya, Brussels sprouts, strawberries and broccoli are all great sources of vitamin C. Delicious and fantastic sources of Vitamin E include almonds, sunflower seeds, olives, and leafy dark green vegetables. Selenium can be found in mushrooms and many types of fish including cod, tuna, snapper, halibut, shrimp, and salmon. Organic sources of all these foods are the best choice as pesticide and antibiotic leftovers can harm your antioxidant supplies a bit.

Eating foods with certain phytonutrients has been found to be beneficial for sun damaged skin cells through research. Raspberries and blueberries are definitely stars in this regard. Cherries, oranges, lemons and limes are other great fruits to consume for this purpose. Green tea is mentioned as being wonderful and dark green leafy vegetables including kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, broccoli, corn, peas, Brussels sprouts and romaine lettuce are great choices for getting in phytonutrients compounds.

When I go play in the water for an extended period of time, I like to bring a few oranges for vitamin C. I’ll also drink orange juice and put aloe on my skin after a lot of sun exposure.

The foods mentioned here are not a substitute for a high SPF and UVA/UVB sunblock. They will simply help your body’s natural defense system work like a well oiled machine. If you haven’t heard the news by now, sunbathing is not good for you. It will lead to skin cancer. Tanning salons are just plain ridiculous. I love the sun but respect its power to seriously mess up my skin. Sometimes I go fully Asian style. This means wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirt and wide brimmed hat when in the sun for an extended period of time—even when it is blazing hot out. But be warned, the sun’s rays can penetrate that fabric after a period of time. This especially depends on the type of fabric you are wearing. SPF clothing is a newer option to combat sunburn.

Remember to protect your skin and especially your children’s skin. Sunburn is annoying and painful. Severe sunburns are dangerous. And skin cancer is no laughing matter. It is really an easy thing to protect yourself, so do so and enjoy the sun!

Matching Your Diet for Your Lifestyle

All of us in the west are familiar with the obsession of dieting. This multi-billion dollar per year business is often well-intentioned (that could be argued) in trying to improve health and lifestyle, but what I think has happened, as evidenced in a lot of people I know, stories I hear and research I read is, people are sold on these diets, try them, fail, blame themselves (gain back all the weight and then some), and then get sold again on the next new diet. It creates a cycle that gets a few rich and leaves a lot of folks stuck in a dangerous and unhealthy cycle.

But, as you likely know, there are people that are successful in turning their lives around. How does this happen? The two key success factors in making a change in your diet and exercise (and a host of other things for that matter) are

  • Motivation
  • Integration with a lifestyle you can sustain

It all starts with motivation to make a change. This motivation comes from within, and often the person you are ultimately aiming to please is yourself—not someone else. The people who find long term success in dieting are highly motivated from within.

The next part involves integrating your new lifestyle into a sustainable lifestyle. A change in diet does involve a change of lifestyle of course. But this new lifestyle, these new habits, they must be something that is sustainable and convenient in the long term. A diet that demands you eat eight times a day is not going to fit in many of our lives for very long.

Similarly, a diet that perhaps goes against what our friends and family do is going to be harder to maintain than one that is more in line with the ones we are surrounded by. Sometimes you have to evaluate what your friends and family are doing, and if they also need to change or if your change really needs to be so different, but this is an important point worth considering.

If you are planning on doing a strict vegan diet and your family consumes a ton of animal products, you will find it difficult to maintain this diet. Perhaps you should transition slowly to the vegan diet or choose a diet that will be easier to maintain in the long run.

And there is a big misconception with dieting as well. You diet and your eating habits need to remain consistent for life. You can’t expect to go on a six month diet, loose a bunch of weight and then return to your old dietary ways. You will gain that weight back.

When considering what kind of diet you are going to do, think long term. You are going to make a change to your life. Consider how this change will fit into your life. Ask yourself how convenient the change is. This will give you an idea of how sustainable it will be and how happy you will be with it.

Be careful though. Just as so much in life is a balancing act, do not puss out on changing dangerous, unhealthy habits using the excuse that it will be too inconvenient to maintain in the long term. Try looking at people you know that are already healthy but do not have extreme lifestyles (i.e. they eat only liquid meals prepared by Technicolor reindeer who are fluent in Hindi and Latin).

Take the time (and possible inconvenience) to learn how to eat according to the diet you want to follow. That may involve enlisting the help of a dietician to help you shop and teach you some new recipes. The same goes with exercise. Don’t be afraid to consult an expert. You don’t have to keep them around forever. Get the knowledge you require. If you happen to be into the paleo diet, you can check out out paleo cookbook review.

Making a lasting change to your diet for the better is well worth it. It does require some critical thinking on your part, some learning and a bit of pain or annoyance during the transition period. It is well worth these things though, as your health and well being are of such great importance. If you are making a change to your exercise routine, you may want to consider checking out our TRX suspension trainer review. It’s a high value product that is effective and convenient.

Why I Started Training with a Heart Rate Monitor

If you want to train at your optimum level for a racing type event, then you need to use a heart rate monitor. It’s as simple as that.

I didn’t start using a heart rate monitor until I was in my mid-twenties. I had just gotten into running and was considering doing a half-marathon. I was visiting one of my closest friends about five months before the race I was considering running.

At that time my friend had been in a two different special warfare units of the U.S. military for about eight years. Every six months to a year (I’m pretty sure that’s right) each soldier was required to pass a fitness test. My friend told me that was when they all broke out the heart rate monitors.

I really needed no more than that. I was well acquainted with the standards for these tests and the high level of fitness for U.S. special warfare soldiers. The fact they all relied on heart rate monitors when it came to something as crucial as their fitness tests was a huge vote of confidence. I committed to using a heart rate monitor for training.

I familiarized myself with the research studies behind heart rate monitors even more while training for that first race. I chose to buy a Polar brand heart rate monitor. Mine was specifically geared toward running and was in the neighborhood of $150 dollars.

This first half-marathon was under unusual circumstances for me. Race day was my girlfriend’s birthday, I had to work that afternoon and evening (I worked in sports marketing at the time, and it was a game day) and I had to be up early the next morning to co-ordinate the team’s participation in a parade (and be in the parade). My main goal was to finish the race in two hours and basically be fine for the flurry of activity that would encompass the next 36 or so hours after crossing the finish line.

My training went well, although I was frustrated at times with having to run so slow or even walk to keep my heart rate in the prescribed zone for slow and long runs.

When race day came I did not wear the heart rate monitor. I raced well and came in with a time of 2 hours 1 minute and some change. I hate to admit it, but I actually forgot I was racing until about mile 10. After that I couldn’t make up enough time to get under 2 hours (I’m not a very fast runner).

Training with the heart rate monitor did pay off. The race was easy. Less than an hour after crossing the finish line, I enjoyed a cold beer at my local bar, and I had enough energy to get through the next 36 hours of my life.

What I have learned since though, is that you should wear that heart rate monitor during the race. Since it tells you where your at while training, it will do the exact same while you’re racing. In fact, you can find your target pace for all kinds of different races. According to an article from RunnersWorld.com by Dagny Scott-Barrios, a good target heart rate for a half-marathon is 85-88% of your maximum heart rate.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been using a heart rate monitor for training or racing. You can start now. I encourage you to seek out more information on training and racing with a heart rate monitor. You can start with that RunnersWorld article I mentioned. From there do some Google searching.

Remember, read a lot about a subject and find out what numerous scientific studies have found. Not all studies are built the same. That’s a topic for another post though. Thanks for reading.

(If you’re new to working out or are starting a drastically different kind of workout, please consult your physician before starting. Some of the link on this website are affiliate links. The website owner receives a commission if you purchase through these links. All content on this site is the webmaster’s opinion only and should not be taken as medical advice.)