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Taking stock

winter, running, fitness, taking stock, gay news, Washington Blade

Winter is a great time to take stock of your fitness regimen.

While most of us slow down and go into hibernation for the winter, I often feel the wintertime is the best time to reflect, explore and experiment with your healthy behaviors. Therefore, I wanted to share both quick tips and things you can do about during the cold winter months.

Food patterns

Winter is a great time to try to experiment with changes in your regular food patterns or behaviors. While I don’t believe in diets or diet plans, I do think changes in food patterns can really help in losing weight for some people.

Every person and body type is different and therefore, everyone responds differently to certain food pattern changes. Diet fads or diet plans, are not a “one size fits all”-type thing. Why do you think there are so many of them? You should try a food pattern change that is best for you. I have seen a number of my clients succeed with the Paleo diet where others have had desired results with the fasting diet or the Adkins diet. Whatever option you choose to try, be sure to listen to what feels right in your body.

Your body knows best, so listen to it. For example, if you are on the Paleo diet and it makes you feel slow and sluggish, then maybe it isn’t the right diet for you. In addition, it takes about three to four weeks for the body to really process and understand a significant change in your eating behaviors. Therefore, don’t give up. Stay with it for a good month or so. One of my favorite quick food pattern changes is having vegetables at breakfast time. I have considerably more energy if I eat a salad or veggies with protein in the morning.

Make the gym fun

Often when I hear gym members’ chatting they are often speaking negatively about working out or having to come to the gym to exercise. The gym should be a place you enjoy coming to everyday. Personally, I see the gym and my workout as a sacred time and place where I can let all the outside noises and stress of life melt away.

It’s important for everyone to reflect on what the gym means to them and begin practicing that behavior during the winter time. Whatever that meaning is.

So how can you make the gym more fun?  First, begin your workout with your favorite song and your favorite exercise. Turn up the volume and work it out. Second, also start your workout out with some really good deep stretching and deep breathing. You will feel more relaxed and focused. Third, try not to carry your phone around with you at the gym. That’s right, no phone. I find that our phones tend to be more of a distraction than a help when it comes to focusing on the gym. Let the work emails and text messages go and focus on yourself.  If your phone is your music source then turn off the emails and ignore the texts.

Research something fitness related

Did you know that we read most during the winter months? As the temperature drops and the snow flies, try snuggling up with your iPad or Kindle by reading up on the latest fitness trends.

Have you had an interest in doing High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) but aren’t sure how it’s different from other types of training?  Do you know what essential vitamins and minerals are in kale that make it a super food? Maybe you want to learn more about hiking outdoors and what locations in the area are the best for good trials. For instance, I have been doing a lot of research and reading a lot about Spirulina.  Did you know that Spirulina is really an algae that grows off the coast of South America, Mexico and Africa? It’s considered a superfood because it is packed with vitamin B-12, protein, beta carotene and all of the essential amino acids. Needless to say, I have been incorporating a teaspoon into my diet everyday. The internet is your oyster — go find the pearls of wisdom.


Shoulders, back and butt

shoulders, back, muscles, fitness, gay news, Washington Blade

Don’t forget the back of your body when targeting muscle groups for work.

Often when working out we tend to focus on what we see in the mirror — the anterior muscles of our body such as our chest, biceps, abs and quads, while we forget about those muscles that are, literally, behind us.

So here are some great tips and exercises that will help strengthen your anterior muscles from head to toe and get your booty tight and plump for the summer season.

Lets start at the shoulders. When engaged properly, the shoulders will automatically pull back and down not only creating a leaner and more aligned posture, but they will open up your chest and make it look bigger as well. Therefore it’s important to activate the trapezius, deltoids and rhomboid muscles to keep from getting rounded shoulder syndrome (reaching forward as you type at your work desk eight hours a day) or from getting a rotator cuff injury.

Exercises that will help strengthen these muscles include bent over straight armed dumbbell kick backs. To do one, place the upper half of your body parallel to the floor, while putting your arms at your sides and extending them toward the sky while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Be sure not to bend your arms as that will result in engaging your triceps instead.

Moving down the body, we land on the back whose largest muscle group is the latissimus dorsi or lats for short. A great exercise to engage and activate the lats is the traditional cable lat pull down machine. The key to using it is by sitting into it and pulling down at a slight angle and using a close inside and a wide outside grip. By changing the grip, you will hit different areas of the lat. In addition to the lat muscle, a muscle we tend to not to think much about is the erector spinae muscles, which run along either side of your spine. When worked, they help pull in your core and make your abs look tighter. A simple exercise to work the erector spinae is a called a superman, where you lay face down on a mat and extend both arms and legs toward the sky simultaneously.

Finally, we land at the booty. While we sit it for six to eight hours a day, we tend not to work our glutes. Most importantly, most of us don’t know or understand that our butt is comprised of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, minimus and medius. In general, most people tend to focus on working that gluteus maximus by doing dumbbell or barbell front or back squats. While squats are effective to strength and grow the gluteus maximus, they can be more effective if you trying doing a wider stance so you get a deeper squat to elongate the muscle to work harder for you.

Two other exercises do a great job of working the gluteus minimus and medius. To work the gluteus minimus, doing any sort of abduction exercises will help. I personally like lying leg kicks on a mat where you lie to the side and kick one leg, fully extended with no bend, toward the sky.

And finally, one-legged isolated bridge thrusts are great for tightening up the gluteus medius. Lying on a mat and crossing one leg over the other and squeezing the glute toward the ceiling achieves this exercise.


Hookup app users not opposed to STD info

Grindr, social media app, gay news, Washington Blade, hookupLONDON — A survey of men who have sex with men in Scotland found that users of hookup apps such as Gaydar and Grindr are not opposed to sexual health promotion on such sites, but they object to health workers initiating contact with them, AIDSmap reports.

Based on an online survey conducted with 1,326 men who were recruited through sites such as Facebook, Gaydar, Squirt, Grindr and more, researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University found that 54.6 percent of website users and 40.5 percent of app users said they support health workers soliciting participants for information on safe sex though 85.7 percent of website users and 74.5 percent of app users said a more “passive” approach to disseminate safer sex practices was acceptable, AIDSmap reports.

Participants said they primarily use the sites for sex but also said there’s a social aspect to them, especially for those in non-urban environments. Sex, dating, swapping erotic photos and messages and making new friends were among the most common reasons participants said they use the sites. About a third of them said “killing time” is also a factor.


Destination: fitness

RIDE DC, fitness, bicycle, gay  news, Washington Blade

RIDE DC (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Recently I had the fortunate opportunity to sit down with indoor cycling guru and co-founder of RIDE DC (2217 14th St., N.W.;, Zac Smith, to learn more about this hot new studio and why indoor cycling should be part of everyone’s fitness routine.


WASHINGTON BLADE: How did you get into indoor cycling?

ZAC SMITH: My passion for fitness began as a teen when I was diagnosed with congenital heart disease, which motivated me to adopt a fitness-centered lifestyle that would also maximize my cardiovascular strength. Nearly 15 years, and 12 triathlons later, I found indoor-cycling as a long-term solution to my health and fitness challenges.


BLADE: What is it about indoor cycling that you love so much? Why indoor cycling versus something else?

SMITH: I love indoor cycling because of the great music, amazing community and high-energy class dynamic. (And) I get a killer workout. The health benefits are as impressive as the class is fun. Indoor cycling offers a high-calorie burn workout, while being easy on your body and joints.


BLADE: What are the key elements in making an indoor cycling class successful?

SMITH: An engaging instructor and inspiring music. Without these two elements, people will lack motivation and the desire to push themselves to their limit and see results. And they won’t have fun.


BLADE: Do you prefer to do most of your classes in the seat or out of the seat? And why?

SMITH: I build in a mix of both elements to my classes. Variety is important to keep the class engaged. It’s important to focus on out-of-the-seat training for strength training while also spending time increasing your cardio strength through sprints.


BLADE: What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about taking indoor cycling classes?

SMITH: People who are intimidated by indoor cycling often have the misconception that you have to be super coordinated and in-shape to participate. … Sure, coordination helps, but it’s definitely not required. This isn’t zumba or hip-hop aerobics — just keep moving your legs and you’ll do great.


BLADE: What advice would give a novice indoor cyclist?

SMITH: Stay on the bike and have fun. Many people are intimidated and worried that they can’t keep up. Cycling is fun. Enjoy the music and enjoy the ride.


BLADE: What does a good spin instructor look like to you?

SMITH: A good instructor knows when to push and when to pull back. They know the challenges and goals of each of their participants. They have great music that is energetic and gets the class in the right mindset.


BLADE: What should participants look for in great instructors?

SMITH: At a baseline, participants should look for instructors who really care about their individual performance and push participants to their limits. Further, I’d encourage participants to find an instructor who matches their personal preference. Do you like the boot camp style of coaching? Or do you prefer to be challenged by softer, yogi type encouragement? Do you like blaring pop music or steady house music? Whatever your preference, there is an instructor for your style!


BLADE: What will people have to look forward to in your new spin studio?

SMITH: Most importantly, people can expect the city’s top instructors to lead them through fun, killer workouts that generate trackable results. We are also highly focused on providing the best guest experience through our emphasis on building a hospitable environment and customer-service centered staff.  Classes are a mix between road- and rhythm-styled workouts. Rhythm rides match the pedal speed to the beat of top 40 music. Often they also incorporate push-ups and other upper body strengthening exercises. Road rides bring the outdoors in focusing on cycling fundamentals, intervals and climbs.


BLADE: What sets the RIDE DC cycling studio apart from the rest?

SMITH: RIDE DC will introduce D.C.’s first-ever indoor cycling performance tracking software. Each RIDE bike will be equipped to monitor clients pedaling speed, calories burned, heart rate, mileage and various other statistics. Nothing overwhelming, just a few numbers to help you maximize goal achievement and help you become fitter, faster and stronger. These performance metrics will be stored to clients’ private online profiles and riders will be automatically notified on their goal progress following each class. They can also self-select for their numbers to appear on the “RIDErboard” at the front of the class to compete with fellow riders.


Health disparities reported for Calif. gays

asthma, inhaler, health disparities, Calif, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT residents suffer higher rates of asthma, cancer, substance abuse and smoking. (Photo public domain)

SAN BERNADINO, Calif. — LGBT residents in California’s Inland Empire (the metro areas of Riverside and San Bernadino counties) suffer higher rates of asthma, cancer, substance abuse and smoking, a report released last week found. The Press-Enterprise, a paper in the region, reported the news.

The report, believed to be the first of its kind in California, also found a greater likelihood of depression and suicidal thoughts, believed to be linked to discrimination and stigma, the article said.

Much of the Inland-specific data in the report is based upon the California Health Interview Survey. That statewide survey, conducted by UCLA, includes 150 LGB people from Riverside and San Bernardino counties who were selected to be representative of the community’s gender, ethnicity and age. Both counties’ data were used in the report to include more people and make the statistics more representative, according to Aaron Gardner, a health department research specialist who prepared the report and was quoted in the Press-Enterprise article.

Some of the local statistics mirror results of national and state studies that find that LGBT people have higher rates of smoking, substance abuse and binge drinking. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that may in part be a reaction to homophobia and discrimination, the article said.


Israel changes laws for gender reassignment

gender reassignment, transgender, caduceus, medicare, gay news, Washington Blade, health

The transgender community has complained for years about discrimination in the run-up to approval for sex-change operations.

TEL AVIV — Israel has lowered the minimum age for gender reassignment surgery from 21 to 18, and candidates will only have to prove they have lived for one year as the requested gender identity, instead of two years, Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, reports.

The minimum age is for approval; patients will still need to go abroad for the procedure due to a lack of expertise in Israel. The procedure is included in Israel’s “health basket” of subsidized treatments and is considered a genuine health need, not cosmetic surgery.

The amended Health Ministry regulation was sent this week to the hospitals and health maintenance organizations, Haaretz reports.

The transgender community has complained for years about discrimination in the run-up to approval for sex-change operations, citing disdain for them at the hospitals’ sex-reassignment committees, let alone in the overall health system. The community complained of humiliations throughout the whole two-year process in the run-up to approval, Haaretz reports. The authority to approve the surgery will be transferred from the sex-reassignment committees to a special committee including a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a urologist, an endocrinologist, a gynecologist and a representative of the transgender community.


New York tracking LGBT resident data

Daskalakis, New York City, gay news, Washington Blade

New York is launching a campaign to collect coordinated data on residents’ sexual orientation. (Photo by Daniel Schwen; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK — New York State is launching a campaign to collect coordinated data on residents’ sexual orientation as part of a comprehensive effort to improve health and human services for LGBT New Yorkers, the state’s health department announced Wednesday as reported by Capital, a New York-based news publication.

It would be the first such statewide effort in the country, Dan O’Connell, director of the state Health Department’s AIDS Institute, said in an interview with Capital.

Eight state agencies will soon begin collecting the self-reported, voluntary data on LGBT people who use their services. The agencies will ask people using their public services to self-report their sexual orientation on forms, along with other identifying data state agencies typically collect, the Capital article notes.

A 2011 Institute of Medicine report showed that limited data collection on health issues specific to the LGBT community had made it more difficult to identify disparities in the kinds of care available to them.

If that data was available, the state could develop better ways of addressing health problems like HIV/AIDS and certain types of cancers prevalent among gay men. For example, O’Connell said, “70 percent of all new (HIV) infections are among men who have sex with men. We need to be able to track this population.”


Gays not widely represented in NIH studies

National Institute of Health, Gay News, Washington Blade

National Institute of Health. (Image public domain)

EAST SUSSEX, UK — Just half of one percent of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health concern LGBT issues according to a new report from the American Journal of Public Health, Medical News Today reports.

The percentage was considered disproportionately low according to researchers from the Pittsburgh Public Health’s Center for LGBT Health Research, the article said.

“In general, LGBT people experience stigma associated with their sexual and gender minority status, disproportionate behavioral risks and psychosocial health problems,” said Robert W.S. Coulter of Pittsburgh Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences.

Coulter and his colleagues found that the NIH funded 628 studies between 1989 and 2011 concerning LGBT health. These stories accounted for 0.5 percent of all NIH studies in total during this period, the Medical News Today article said.

Of the 628 studies, 519 focused on HIV/AIDS and sexual health issues, with 86.1 percent focusing on men, 13.5 percent focusing on women, and 6.8 percent of the studies focusing on transgender people.

The researchers are also concerned about the low numbers of intervention studies addressing LGBT health. Just 21 NIH-funded intervention studies in this period addressed non-HIV LGBT health issues, the article said.

Coulter said political pressure is behind the low number. The report notes a 2003 request made by Republican members of Congress to justify the benefits of nearly 200 NIH projects proposing to study health issues relating to LGBT or other marginalized populations, Medical News Today said.


Firm foundation


foundation, running shoes, gay news, fitness, Washington Blade

With spring comes the joy of running outside and ramping up for 5 Ks, marathons and triathlons.

Although we just had snow earlier this week, spring has to be just around the corner, right? Those couple uber-warm days last week gave me renewed hope.

With spring comes the joy of running outside and ramping up for 5 Ks, marathons and triathlons. To make sure you get the most out of your run, here are my favorite tips for finding the best running shoes.

Learn your running style

Your running style can be boiled down to one of two styles: Striking the ground with your heel first or striking the ground with the ball of your foot first. According to a recent study from the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, almost 94 percent of runners hit the ground with their heel first. This is essential when purchasing running shoes because it’s important to have support in the right place. If you’re a heel runner, you’ll want to find a shoe that has more heel padding and support, whereas if you are one of the few forefoot runners you’ll need more support at the ball area. If you’re unaware of your running style, you can go to your gym or local sports store where they often have a gait analysis specialist who will let you know.

Try on at least five pairs of different running shoes 

The only way to find the best shoe is by trying on a variety of different shoes to see how they feel on your feet.  The best indicator is that the shoe feels comfortable immediately. Although this may seem obvious, it’s not always the case. Often we try to jam our feet into shoes that are too tight, or we try tightening the laces to make shoes that are too big conform to our feet.

Always leave half an inch between your toes and the front of the sneaker so your toes can move and breathe. If there’s a treadmill in the store, try running with the shoes on so that you can determine whether you like a lighter shoe or a heavier shoe. Purchasing the right shoe should take some time and research. It shouldn’t be a quick decision if you’re an avid runner. Take the time to read up on your favorite brands and shoe styles. I love the Brooks line of shoes. I wear the Pure Connect style because they are light and they help to center and balance my foot as it strikes the ground.

Keep track of your running

Did you know that on average, we wear our running shoes two months longer than we should? This can lead to a variety of common foot ailments such as plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains and Achilles tendon issues. Be sure to find a tracking tool to help log your miles.

There’s a world of technology and apps like Fitbit, NikePlus and mapmyrun that can not only help you track your miles, but will also help you hit your mileage and speed targets while ramping up for those races. Most running shoes have a shelf life of about 400 miles. So when you hit the 400 mile mark, you should celebrate not just all the distance and hard work you’ve put in, but also the fact that you get to head to the store to start shopping for a new pair.


More gay men getting tested for STIs in Ireland

Dublin Castle, STI, gay news, Washington Blade

Ireland’s Health Service Executive’s Gay Men’s Health Service last week published its 2013 annual report at the 12th annual Gay Health Forum in Dublin Castle. (Photo by Vmenkov; courtesy Creative Commons)

DUBLIN, IRELAND — The number of first-time patients at an Irish center providing HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing for gay men increased by 7 percent last year, the Irish Times reports.

The country’s Health Service Executive’s Gay Men’s Health Service last week published its 2013 annual report at the 12th annual Gay Health Forum in Dublin Castle. Manager Mick Quinlan noted an increase in attendance at the Baggot Street-based clinic, with 5,850 men attending during the year, the Irish Times reports.

A total of 882 of these men were first-time attendees, a 7 percent increase on 2012. Some 38 percent of those were 24 or younger. One in five men tested for STIs received a diagnosis. A total of 290 were diagnosed with gonorrhea and 36 percent of those were first-time patients.

Some 204 people, of whom 38 percent were first-time patients at the clinic, had chlamydia. HIV was diagnosed in 33 patients, of whom 61 percent were first-time visitors, the Times reports. There were also 63 diagnoses of syphilis. Some 63 percent of those attendees were first-time patients, the article said.