Burst training offers superior fitness results

Short-duration, high-intensity activity intervals (a.k.a. short-burst training, SBT, or just burst training) are becoming an increasingly popular fitness trend. Why? Because it leads to quicker results.

What is burst training?

Burst training is a style of exercising in which you exercise as hard as you can for a pre-determined time interval (anywhere from 30-90 seconds, commonly 60 secs). Rest intervals last at least as long as the burst interval and sometimes 2-3 times longer. You want to feel recovered from your burst interval before beginning the next one, so you should not resume bursting if you are still breathing heavily.

Burst training sessions involve a total of 4-8 total minutes of bursts. Length of bursts and total bursts depend on your fitness level. For example, less fit folks may start with shorter bursts of 30 seconds (rest for 60) and repeat a total of eight times, whereas seasoned exercisers will do up to 8 minutes of bursting with bursts lasting 60 seconds. If you really push yourself, you will receive a workout that gives you better results in a fraction of the time.

Examples of burst training activities are sprinting, jogging up and down stairs, jump-roping, heavy lifting, quick pushups, pullups, jumping jacks…anything that pushes you to your max by the end of 60 seconds. Santa Cruz has plenty of places to burst train, including the stairs at Seacliff beach, cement ship, Capitola, 3rd Avenue, Sandbar on the west side, TXT classes at Toadal Fitness, Crossfit classes, and indoor or outdoor bootcamp-style classes.

How does burst training work?

Burst training involves much shorter exercise sessions than both traditional strength training and traditional aerobic training. This training method is hard work. It has to be to deliver the results it does.

When we burst, our bodies release high levels of  lactic acid. After awhile, we cannot recycle the lactic acid quickly enough and your body says, “I’m done!” The impact of lactic acid stimulates higher levels of human growth hormone (hGH) to be released about an hour after you exercise. hGH promotes fat loss, increases lean muscle, and helps de-age the body.

Celebrity health and nutrition expert  JJ Virgin says the science is very clear that long cardio sessions raise stress hormones, burn out our adrenals, lower metabolism, and put the body in a catabolic (muscle breakdown) state.

Higher intensity, short workouts burn more sugar/carbsduring exercise, which leads to greater fat burning after exercise. Lower intensity, longer workouts burn more fatduring exercise, but this method trains your body to put fat back on first after you exercise. Your body learns that it needs to use fat as fuel during exercise so you become better at storing fat when you train this way! Somewhat defeats the purpose of why most people are spending all that time on cardio machines in the first place, doesn’t it?!

5 reasons burst training rocks

  1. Reduces body fat and increases lean mass in less time. The body is put into an anabolic (muscle building) state versus the catabolic state initiated with long workouts.
  2. Improves aerobic endurance and capacity. A study in 2005 showed that participants who did burst training 2x/wk, when re-tested, had doubled their aerobic endurance!
  3. Improves strength due to more lean muscle and a higher threshold for using that muscle.
  4. Mentally as well as physically strengthening as you learn to push yourself to a higher level of activity.
  5. Trains your stress hormones to relax so you don’t store as much fat. When you repeatedly burst and recover, the body doesn’t stay in fight-or-flight mode (traditional training demands a lot of the sympathetic nervous system). Steady state training raises stress hormones and keeps them raised, putting the body into muscle breakdown mode–the opposite of what you want if you are trying to build muscle and lower body fat. Burst training helps restore the natural ebb and flow of stress hormones.

Proper guidance with burst training is advised. Not everyone can or should push him or herself to the limit without a checkup first. Burst training can certainly be worked up to slowly and modified if one has health limitations. See your health care provider for a physical exam and consider hiring a trainer or coach to get you started safely.

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Open-faced breakfast sandwiches

Holly and I are at it again! Click here to watch our video: Part 3 of our non-traditional breakfast series.


1 slice gluten-free toast (we used Food for Life China Black Rice)

3-5 medium shiitake mushrooms

1 cup spinach (definitely organic, spinach is in the Dirty Dozen)

2 slices bacon (organic, antibiotic and growth hormone free, nitrite free)

1/4-1/2 avocado

1 tbsp butter or ghee (ideally from grass fed cows)

Sea salt, black pepper, other spices you like

Serves 1

How to:

Put the bacon in the oven first. You can use a broiling rack or pan with wire rack to minimize bacon grease. Cook on 350 for 15 minutes or until it’s to your desired consistency.

Begin sautéing shiitakes on low-medium heat in 1/2 tbsp of butter. When soft (about 3 minutes), add spinach and sauté for another 1-2 minutes until spinach is just wilted.

After your bread is toasted top with butter and smeared avo. Then add bacon and top it off with veggies.


Alternatives to toast:

The Black China Rice bread has 18g carbs, 2g protein, and 2g fat and 90 calories. With the protein from the shiitakes and bacon and the fat from butter and avo – this is a well balanced meal.

You could also use a sprouted grain or gluten free wrap, a vegetable wrap (made from raw chard leaves or collard leaves), or even a small bowl of rice or quinoa as your base.

Gluten-free bakery in Santa Cruz

Who says if you are gluten intolerant or suffer from Celiac’s disease that you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Pele’s Oven has moved into 504A Front St. offering Santa Cruz locals a full spectrum of gluten-free goodies. Their grand opening will be in early April (date TBA). Currently they sell commercially to Shopper’s CornerDeluxe Foods and The Palm Deli in Aptos, and Pleasure Pizza. Once open, their storefront will offer a gluten-free food court.

What is gluten and why should everyone proceed with caution?

All grains have the protein gluten, however, the family of glutens that are toxic are found in wheat, barley and rye (or any grain processed on machines that process these three grains). Gluten is not required in the diet for good health.

The challenge to people who already know they have a gluten sensitivity or Celiac’s is that gluten finds its way into all sorts of foods and sauces that you wouldn’t expect. Unfortunately, if someone is sensitive to gluten, strict avoidance is necessary to stop the body from makingantibodiesEven one small amount of a gluten food every month can activate the antibody response sending one’s health into a tailspin. The world’s leading gluten expert Dr. Thomas O’Bryan says that it takes anywhere from 3-6 months before the body stops making antibodies after any gluten exposure.

According to author Nora Gedgaudas of Primal Body-Primal Mind, diagnosis of full-blown Celiac’s disease has increased 400% in just the last fifty years and gluten sensitivity is linked in some way to all 86 autoimmune diseases. Feeling “fine” when you eat grains does not mean that you aren’t sensitive to gluten: eight of 10 people with gluten intolerance are asymptomatic, so proper testing is advisable. Fortunately, better testing became available in January 2011.

If you catch gluten intolerance and/or Celiac’s disease early, you can spare your health from a world of hurt. These are serious health issues and why a bakery that prides itself on being delicious AND gluten-free will be welcomed with open arms to the Santa Cruz community.

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Prism glasses, posture and desk jobs

Sitting for long hours can wreak havoc on your posture over the years. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get work done lying down instead of sitting? You can if you use prism glasses.

What are prism glasses?

These nifty contraptions change the line of sight without distortion and can be worn over prescription glasses allowing you to lay down, set your laptop, research book, etc. on your tummy and read. Genius. Responding to e-mail, posting to Facebook, texting, or watching a movie is also possible.

Why is lying on your back important for posture?

Posture benefits of lying on your back can be significant. Thethoracic spine, the largest curve (middle portion) of the spine, is in an extended position when we lay down. Since our spine is a closed chain kinetic system, one area affects the other. One degree of extension (lengthening) of the thoracic spinecan influence up to 13 degrees of change in the cervical(neck) spine or three degrees in the lumbar spine. When we lose the natural curve of any portion of our spine, we lose proper loading of our joints. Years of misalignment can lead to many postural abnormalities such as having a hunched, rounded, forward leading head. This quickly leads to pain and muscular imbalance. Between tension headaches and low back pain, the usefulness of proactive pain reduction alone justifies lying down for a portion of your day especially if you don’t have to fall behind with your workload.

For those that have the opportunity to experiment while in a supine (lying down) position, the Egoscue Method offers simple suggestions that will induce spinal changes more rapidly. One of the best is the supine groin progressive position. Rolling on a towel or foam roller is another useful technique.

Prism glasses improve compliance for exercises for postural therapy by leaps and bounds. Posture therapy expert and colleague Dustin Dillberg finds that his clients have much better and more rapid postural improvement if they can spend an hour or two on the floor each week in the supine groin progressive position. Time flies by when reading, checking e-mail or making calls on speakerphone. Could these glasses revolutionize office workstations? Perhaps in the not-so-distant future, we will walk into an office and everyone will be lying down with their legs up, laptops on their stomachs, working away.

When you are sitting, having the right chair and posture as well as some proper stretch breaks can make a huge impact on maintaining a pain-free body.
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Grass-fed versus grain-fed beef

Before you buy your next thick, juicy steak, there are a few things to consider.

  1. How can you get the best bang for your buck?
  2. Is there a substantial difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef?
  3. Where can you buy local beef?

Grass-fed beef 101

The main differences between grass-fed and grain-fed beef are nutritional content, availability, price, taste, cooking technique, and the health and treatment of the animal before slaughter.

Nutritional Content

  • Grass-fed beef is higher in the essential fatty-acid Omega-3, an essential fat critical for growth, development and fighting inflammation.
  • Conjugated linoleic acid, CLA for short, helps your body burn fat, boosts your metabolism and improves thyroid function.  CLA may also help protect us against cancer. Grass-fed beef is 2-4 times higher in CLA than grain-fed beef.
  • Richer in antioxidants: four times higher in Vitamin E and high in Vitamin C and beta-carotene.
  • Higher in protein than grain-fed beef.
  • Grain-fed beef is nearly three times higher in Omega-6 fatty acids. A balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats is critical for health. Our diets tend to be overly high in Omega-6 fats which promoting various health risks.


Commercial grain-fed beef is more widely available in supermarkets and restaurants. Unless specifically labeled otherwise, assume that it is grain-fed beef and not grass-fed beef. In Santa Cruz, 100% grass-fed beef is widely available. Supply and demand determine what is available and some places that used to carry local and/or grass-fed, grass-finished beef may not continue or vice versa with grain-fed beef. Stay alert when reading signs and labels and when in doubt, ask! Currently, you will find grass-fed beef at the following:

  • Grocery stores such as Staff of Life, New Leaf, Deluxe Foods, and Shoppers Corner
  • Butcher shops: el Sachichero on the West Side
  • Local farms: Morris, Paicines, Pacific Pastures, N-A Ranch, Gleason, Devil’s Gulch, Ratay and Claravale. Look online using your zip code on eatwild.com
  • Restaurants: Michael’s on Main, Bluewater Steakhouse, Burger., Gabriella Cafe, Oswald’s, and Ristorante Avanti. Menus change all the time so always ask the wait staff if their beef is 100% grass-fed.
  • Farmers’ Markets. Talk to the farmer about the option of buying large quantities for a discount.


On average, grass-fed beef is more expensive (anywhere from $2-6/lb). Buying in bulk will almost always save you money. Price varies depending on the cut of beef, ground usually being the cheapest. Keep your eye open for sales and if you have a large freezer, consider buying part of a cow from a local ranch.

Taste & Texture

Grain/corn-fed beef have a reputation of being more tender and “better” tasting. This depends on the cut, how you cook it and of course, personal opinion. Grass-fed beef is leaner and is therefore easy to overcook. Following these tips ensures excellent taste and tenderness.

Health and treatment of the cow

Cows are supposed to eat grass. When they eat corn or grain, they get sick, overwrought with E. coli, and are given antibiotics. These antibiotics as well as growth hormones accumulate in the fat tissue of the cow, which is then passed along to you.

When you pay more per pound for grass-fed beef, the difference in cost helps to cover the cost spent to give the cow room to move around, cleaner living conditions, a better diet, improved health and more humane slaughter. Cows sold for grass-fed beef are slaughtered an average of 7 months later than grain-fed, commercial cows since the grass doesn’t make them over fat (taking them longer to reach an appropriate weight).

Getting the best value

  • Buy in bulk
  • Buy locally, try to buy part of a whole cow with some neighbors
  • Buy less expensive cuts of beef at the store and cook them longer (i.e. chuck roasts)

Considering the nutritional superiority and more humane treatment of grass-fed cows, it is no wonder more people are using their dollar to vote for grass-fed beef.

Continue reading on Examiner.com: Grass-fed versus grain-fed beef – San Francisco Healthy Living | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/healthy-living-in-san-francisco/grass-fed-versus-grain-fed-beef#ixzz1GiXWmzXz

Exercises to improve balance

Injury prevention, improved performance in a wide range of sports, and becoming more graceful on the dance floor all have one thing in common: good balance. The media would have us believe that balance is a function of age and that we lose more and more every year, but age is not directly related to losing one’s balance. Function is. The truth is that balance is like a muscle and if you want good balance, you need to do exercises to strengthen it.

Why is good balance important?

  • Injury prevention-You decrease your risk of falling, twisting your ankle and breaking bones when you optimize your stability and core strength. A bad fall can result in expensive surgery (or worse) and a lifetime of babying an old injury.
  • Sports performance-Balance can be as critical to one’s athletic ability as strength, speed or endurance.
  • Ease of day to day life-Walking, sitting, getting in and out of your car, playing with your kids and hobbies like golf or bowling all require good balance.

Exercises to improve balance

Balance can be improved in many ways. Here are a few suggestions:

The most important point is to move your body and do things that safely challenge your balance. Chances are if you use it, you won’t lose it.

Published on examiner.com, February 26, 2011