The fitness industry is in the midst of a renaissance. Flawed and dated strategies like sedentary recovery practices or overly stressful HIIT workouts are being replaced with cutting-edge practices that offer more efficiency and return on investment. Today I’m covering one emerging fitness strategy: performing brief feats of strength in the routine course of a day. Let’s call them microworkouts.
I’m talking here about dropping for a single set of deep squats in the office, hitting a set of max effort pull-ups whenever you pass under a bar in a closet doorway, or stocking your backyard with a hex deadlift bar or bench press and busting out a single set every time you pass by while taking out the garbage.
Banking Benefits With Less Stress
Microworkouts deliver two distinct and awesome benefits: First, when you add up the energy expenditure of these brief but frequent efforts, you obtain an incredible cumulative training effect. In essence, you are banking a lot of strength/power/explosiveness “mileage” without disturbing the necessary stress/rest balance of your official workout schedule or prompting the stress hormone production and cellular depletion that occurs from an extreme weekend warrior-type session. That is, a set of pull-ups, or even three sets over the course of 12 hours on a typical day, is not going to mess up the next day’s CrossFit session or even an ambitious arms and chest session. Rather, these micro sessions (Dr. Phil Maffetone calls the concept, “slow weights”) will raise the baseline from which you launch you ambitious full-scale workouts.
Think about it: If you do a single set of six deadlifts with 200 pounds on the bar every time you take out the garbage, that’s 1,200 pounds of work accomplished. Perhaps you can find your way to doing that 1-2 times a day, five or six days a week? That’s lifting an extra 10,000 pounds a week! When it’s time to perform a formal session, such as the popular 5 x 5 protocol (where you complete five sets of five reps, and perhaps add an upper body exercise to each set), you’re poised for fitness breakthroughs as well as faster recovery times. An “official” workout is no longer this tremendous athletic performance vastly outside the normal pattern of your largely sedentary life, but instead an upgrade of what you do every day to some extent. Does this concept ring a bell? Yes, microworkouts are modeling the behavior patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors! Grok and company likely had some harsh days that might rival today’s CrossFit WOD or obstacle course race, but they also likely had routine daily chores entailing lifting heavy things or scrambling up steep embankments in between their legendary leisure time.
Interrupting Prolonged Inactivity
The second benefit of microworkouts is perhaps even more profound: these short efforts help you combat the extreme health hazard of prolonged periods of stillness that characterize hyperconnected modern life. The adverse health consequences of stillness have been well-chronicled, and you’ve heard me talk about them for years. Studies show that even a few days of inactivity can generate a significant decline in glucose tolerance and increase in insulin resistance. In Primal Endurance, I quote Nutritious Movement queen Katy Bowman on the destruction of cellular health caused by stillness: “When you use a single position repetitively, such as curling your body into a comfortable work chair for hours every day, muscles, joints, and arteries will adapt to this repetitive positioning by changing their cellular makeup and becoming literally ‘stiff,’ with reduced ranges of motion and an actual hardening of the arterial walls in those areas.”
Strange as it may seem, it’s now becoming clear that increasing all forms of general everyday movement is a greater health priority than conducting ambitious workouts. Microworkouts, along with continued devotion to JFW (Just F—ing Walk) takes on increasing importance as daily life gets more effortless. Even if you’re a devoted gym rat, those few hours a week when you’re pushing weight around isn’t enough to combat a lifestyle of commuting, office work, and digital entertainment leisure time. The active couch potato syndrome is a scientifically validated concept revealing that devoted workout enthusiasts who lead otherwise sedentary lifestyles are subject to the same level of disease risk as inactive folks.
Optimizing Movement For the Most Advantageous Genetic Signaling
But none of this is new. A decade ago now Time magazine offered a memorable title, “The Myth Of Exercise.” The story detailed how a strenuous workout (particularly the common workout patterns and strategies of today that can become chronically stressful) depletes cellular energy and prompts a compensatory response in the form of an increased appetite along with decreased activity for the rest of the day. More recently, I wrote about the constrained model of energy expenditure as well as the amazing study of the Hadza that’s helping us reframe the purpose and intended benefits of exercise.
As I’ve been saying since the introduction of the 10 Primal Blueprint Laws over a decade ago, it’s not about the calories but about the movement and the genetic signaling that movement prompts. The Myth of Exercise concept aligns with my longtime assertion that 80% of your body composition success is dependent on your diet—specifically, minimizing the wildly excessive insulin production that happens from a grain-based, high carbohydrate diet and prevents you from burning stored body fat.
How To Incorporate Microworkouts
Armed with the insight to no workout is too short, and any kind of movement delivers a health and fitness benefit, you can elevate microworkouts to the forefront of your fitness plan. Reject the all or nothing mentality that causes you to fail with fitness commitments because you get too busy with work and life. We all have time for a set or two or three of deep squats during the workday or during leisure time.
Look for opportunities over the course of every day to put your body under some kind of brief resistance load. Even if you only work hard for one minute (or less) at a time but are relatively faithful incorporating these “micro” opportunities into your daily routine, the cumulative effect will still be incredible.
Word of Caution: Going from a prolonged inactive state to a performing a heavy lift carries an obvious risk factor. Truth be told, I generally precede my random sets of pull-ups, deadlifts or even cords by a minute of walking, a few dynamic stretches, or some specific warm-up moves like doing a set with a much lighter weight, followed by a “real” set with a respectable weight. It’s not a lot of time or effort, but it’s a good habit to add the resistance after you’ve been up and doing something for a few minutes (e.g. taking out the garbage, bringing in groceries, finishing an indoor/outdoor chore).
Beyond that, also realize that when you make micro-workouts a daily habit, you’ll discover that you’re much more adaptable to brief explosive efforts without a long warm-up. You’ll be able to pop up from your work desk to hustle down a flight of stairs at work without hearing the creaks and cracks that are so familiar, especially to aging jocks. My longtime writing partner Brad Kearns (our next book will be a comprehensive education and action plan on the topics of longevity—due out in December) swears that his brief morning flexibility/mobility routine. He says it’s transformed his recovery from sprint workouts. No more next-day stiffness and soreness and occasional minor injuries—just because he spends 12 minutes every morning working on drills specific to sprinting that challenge the glutes, hamstrings and core.
Dr. Art DeVany, Ph.D., author of The New Evolution Diet and one of my earliest and greatest inspirations for Primal-inspired health practices, says that the lion never has to stretch before a workout, and we shouldn’t have to either. No, our modern creakiness can be attributed to overtraining patterns (in the case of morning issues) or extended stillness without a movement break when you get up and hobble during the day. Our ancestors most certainly had to run for their lives with zero warning on a routine basis. It’s a good Primal skill to have still.
Micro workouts are also applicable to cardiovascular fitness. A few minutes here and a few minutes there have a similar cumulative effect. Dr. Phil Maffetone explains that any stimulation of the aerobic system, even really low intensity stuff that a hard-core athlete might not choose to count as an official workout, helps improve your cardiovascular health and fitness. There’s really no lower limit to the aerobic exercise zone.
Anytime you get up from a chair and walk, you’re getting an aerobic benefit. A couple minutes recruiting major muscle groups with Stretch Cordz confers a new advantage. A cruise ship analogy works well here. When the floating city is out on the open ocean, cruising at 20 knots en route to the next port, all twelve turbine engines are cranking at full throttle. When it’s cruising in the harbor at two knots in preparation for docking, only a couple turbines are operating at half power. However, the two turbines operating at half speed in the harbor are still being “trained” to perform when they’re called up on in the open ocean. Note: I’ve revised my position on this concept over the years as research filled in the picture. Early on, I used to designate an aerobic zone of 55-75% of maximum heart rate. I’m not saying abandon time in that range, but know that anything outside of it also counts for something, and that should be good news.
If you so much as jump up from your desk, scramble down the stairs and out to your vehicle, then return with a few floors of ascent and back to your desk—total time five minutes and eight seconds. You’ll be turbocharging fat burning, increasing oxygen delivery and blood circulation to the brain, and flooding the bloodstream with neurotransmitters that elevate mood and improve cognitive focus. Similarly, anytime you haul off a set of pushups or squats, you’re making a meaningful contribution to your fitness and longevity.
Every effort, however modest, can be a small win. How does that shift your mindset? How does it open up possibilities for you? Let me know down below, and share any questions you have while you’re at it. Have a great week, everybody.
The post Are You Doing Microworkouts? Here’s Why You Should. appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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Thanks for giving Jessica Gouthro from Paleohacks such a warm reception last week. I’m glad you found her “13 Ways To Move More At Work” useful. She’s joining us again today to offer tips for those who are looking to ease joint pain. Enjoy!
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: one of the best ways to ease joint pain is to exercise!
Whether you’re feeling aches and pains in your elbows or your lower back and hips, the key to managing and preventing joint and muscle pain is to exercise in the right way. If you have existing pain or joint discomfort, then you need to keep your workouts low-impact, but that doesn’t have to mean easy or ineffective.
You can keep reduce impact and lower your risk of injury by performing exercises that place less stress on the joints.
Some of the most popular low-impact workout options include:
- Elliptical cardio
- Incline walking
- Controlled light-resistance weight training
- Stretching and yoga
Aside from keeping your workouts low-impact, you can also start doing simple exercises to ease discomfort in specific parts of your body, like these 13 stretches for lower back pain or these 13 feel-good hip openers.
Try all 10 of the following exercises to relieve different forms of joint pain. You’ll need a chair, a small hand towel, a light dumbbell, and a resistance band for some of these moves. Remember your favorites and include them in your workouts anytime you feel discomfort in your joints.
1) “Wring the Towel” Wrist Stretch | 10 reps
Roll up a small towel and grab the ends with both hands.
Hold your arms out in front of you with palms facing down.
Slowly and with control, pretend you are wringing water out of the towel. Tilt one wrist up and the other wrist down at the same time, then alternate sides.
Continue wringing the towel in both directions for 10 full reps.
2) Dumbbell Wrist Curl | 10 reps per side
Sit on a chair or bench. Hold a light dumbbell in one hand and rest your elbow on your knee.
Keeping your arm still, exhale to flex your forearm and bend your wrist towards you to curl the dumbbell up.
Inhale to relax your wrist back to the starting position. .
Repeat for 10 slow and controlled reps, focusing on full range of motion with your wrist. Then switch sides.
3) Elbow Compression with Small Towel | 3 reps per side
Hold your arm out long. Roll up a small towel and place it right over your elbow.
Make a fist and curl your arm towards you, bending your elbow all the way closed on the towel. Aim to reach your knuckles to your shoulder.
Use your other hand to gently press inward on the back of your wrist to increase the compression. Breathe deeply as you hold for five seconds, then switch sides.
Complete three reps per side.
4) Narrow Grip Wall Press Tricep Extension | 10 reps
Place your palms flat on the wall at your chest height.
Step back a few feet so your body is at a slight angle. Ensure that your palms are flush against the wall.
Bend your elbows to lower your body towards the wall, keeping your elbows pointing straight down.
Stop when your elbows are about 3 inches from the wall and press back to straighten arms, flexing your elbows all the way.
Continue for 10 reps.
Tip: For a greater challenge, you can try this exercise with palms on a bench.
5) Hip and Low Back Compression Stretch | 3 reps per side
Lay flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground.
Lift one knee towards your chest, using your hands to pull it in towards you. Actively work to ground your hips.
Take five deep breaths, then switch and do the same on the other side.
Continue alternating sides to complete three reps per side.
6) Pelvic Tilt | 10 reps
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Hinge at the hips and place your palms on your knees.
Lift your sitting bones and tilt your pelvis forward to create an arch in your lower back and stretch your hamstrings. Keep your neck in neutral and shoulders relaxed. Hold for a few breaths.
Next, round your lower spine and tuck your pelvis under to form a round shape. Hold for a few breaths.
Alternate between tilting forward and back for 10 reps, holding each pose as long as you like to relieve the pain and pressure in your low back and hips.
7) Single Leg Toe Touch | 10 reps per side
Stand on one foot and look down towards the ground to get balanced.
Hinge at the hips as you raise your back leg behind you, reaching your fingers toward the toes of the standing leg. Get as parallel to the ground as you can.
Slowly rise back up with control.
Repeat 10 reps on one side, then switch to the other side.
8) Glute Kicks | 10 reps
Kneel down on all fours and flex your right foot. Keep your left foot relaxed.
Lift your right leg up to form a straight line from your right knee to shoulders, with your right foot facing the ceiling.
Hold at the top for three seconds while engaging your glutes, then relax your knee back to the ground.
Repeat on the same side for 10 reps, then switch to the other side.
9) Resistance Band Knee Extension with a Chair | 10 reps per side
Loop a resistance band around one leg of a chair, and place the other end of the band behind one of your knees.
Grab the seat of the chair with your hands. Then step back until you feel a good amount of tension on the band.
Your banded leg should be directly below your hips.
Straighten your leg fully, resisting the tension on the band.
Then relax the knee. Keep your foot flat on the ground the entire time.
Repeat for 10 reps, then switch legs.
10) Isometric Quad Flex | 6 reps per side
Sit on the ground and place a rolled up bath towel under your right knee.
Place your hands on the ground behind you for support and sit up tall.
Flex your right leg to lift your heel off the ground. You should feel all the muscles surrounding your knee fire up.
Hold this flex for five full seconds, then relax.
Repeat six times on this side, then switch to the left leg.
Tip: For a challenge, increase the number of reps or increase each hold to eight seconds.
Revisit these helpful exercises anytime you feel joint pain or discomfort. As always, be smart about working through an injury. If your body is telling you to rest, do it. When the time is right, apply these gentle exercises to help you get stronger and feel better.
Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro for these tips and to Brad Gouthro for demonstrating them. Questions or comments about exercises or treatment for joint pain? Share them below, and thanks for stopping by.
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Good morning, folks. After a awesome week (and weekend) taking over the Whole30® Recipes Instagram (you can still check out all the great videos, tips and recipes I shared here), my team and I are taking a breather. Look for a success story later in the week. In the meantime, we have some practical ideas for your Monday morning. We’re shaking things up with a movement guide you can put into action at work today. Thanks to Jessica Gouthro of PaleoHacks for these awesome suggestions, and let us know which you’ll be adding to your routine.
Working at your desk all day doesn’t have to mean poor posture and an achy body. Whether you sit or stand at work, remaining sedentary for hours takes its toll on the body. After just a few hours, your body will begin to stiffen, your lower back will ache, and you’ll grow sluggish.
But you can free yourself from common aches and pains associated with desk work in just a few minutes with these easy stretches to release the lower back and hips. You don’t have to do all 13 of these stretches at once. Instead, use this list as a guide and choose two or three stretches you think your body needs. Perhaps you’re looking for a nice stretch through your shoulders, or maybe you could really benefit from moves that help open up your hips. Every little bit of movement adds up when you’re sitting for long periods of time, and doing just one of these stretches every day will help you look and feel better, and avoid pain.
Try each of these 13 functional workspace stretches to relieve aches and pains and instantly improve your posture.
1) Standing Overhead Reach | 5 Breaths, 3x
Stand up from your chair with your feet about hip-width apart and toes pointed forward.
Clasp your fingers together and turn your palms facing up toward the ceiling.
Reach your clasped hands overhead, and press your palms upward while keeping your shoulders and core engaged.
Hold for five deep breaths and enjoy the stretch. Release. Repeat three times.
2) Butterfly Elbows | 4 Reps
Sit tall in your chair and place your fingertips gently behind your ears. Do not interlock fingers or apply any pressure to your neck.
Lift your chest and ribs up as you stretch your elbows back to feel a lengthening across your chest. Breathe in deep to fill your lungs. On the exhale, round your back, drop your chin and bring your elbows to meet in front of you. Gently press your elbows forward to feel a stretch across your upper back and shoulder blades.
Inhale to return to the starting position. Continue alternating one movement per breath until you have completed four reps.
3) Chair Chest Opener | 5 Breaths, 2x
Scoot towards the front of your chair, and sit on the very edge. Reach your hands back with thumbs pointing down and grasp onto the sides of your chair.
Lift your chest and roll your shoulders back and down. Elongate your neck by imagining you can press into the ceiling with the top of your head.
Lean deeper into the stretch to feel the opening across your chest.
Take five deep breaths, then rest. Repeat a second time.
4) Standing Chair Lat Stretch | 5 Breaths, 2x
Stand facing your chair, about three feet away.
Keep a slight bend in your knees, then hinge at your hips and reach your arms long to grasp onto the back of the chair. Make sure your arms are straight.
Lengthen your shoulders and flatten your lower back, forming a straight line from hands to hips. Align your head in between your arms and take five deep breaths.
Release, then repeat a second set.
5) Standing Chair Lat Twist | 3 Reps Per Side
In the same position as the stretch above, reach your right hand down to your left foot to create a twist in your upper body.
Hold for two breaths, then return to the starting position with both hands on the chair and switch to twist in the other direction. Maintain a flat lower back and slightly bent knees the whole time.
Repeat three times per side.
6) Mirrored Chair Pose | 3 Reps
Stand facing your chair with your feet together.
Hinge at the hips to squat down, aiming to mimic the height of the chair with the top of your thighs.
Keep your spine straight. Reach your arms up overhead with palms facing each other.
Hold for five full breaths, then release.
Repeat three times.
7) Seated Figure 4 Hip Stretch | 3 Breaths, 2x Per Side
Sit on your chair with both feet flat on the ground.
Lift your right leg and place your ankle across your left knee. Keep your right foot flexed.
Sit up nice and tall, then lean slightly forward as you gently press down on your right knee—just enough to feel a stretch in the hips.
Hold for three breaths, then release and switch sides.
Repeat two times per side.
8) Seated Spinal Twist | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side
Sit on your chair with both feet flat on the ground.
Reach your left hand to your right knee and your right hand to the back edge of the chair.
Press gently with both hands as you look over your shoulder and rotate your torso. Lean slightly forward to allow more space for the twist.
Take two deep breaths, then switch to the other side.
Repeat three times per side.
9) Bound Neck Stretch | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side
Sit up tall in your chair and reach your right arm straight down by your side.
Reach your left hand behind your back to clasp your right wrist, then tilt your neck to the right.
To increase the stretch, gently press your arm away from your torso.
Hold for two deep breaths, then release and switch to do the other side.
Repeat three times per side.
10) Alternating Fingers Wrist Stretch | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side
Sit up tall in your chair. Reach your right arm straight out in front of you with fingers pointing down towards the ground.
Use your left hand to gently pull on the back of your right hand to stretch the top of your wrist. Hold for two breaths.
Flip your right hand up so that your palm is facing out, and pull back with your left hand to stretch the bottom of your wrist. Hold for two breaths.
Alternate between stretching the top and bottom of your right wrist three times, then switch to the other side.
11) Hamstring Stretch | 3 Breaths, 2x Per Side
Stand up and face your chair. Step back about two feet.
Raise your right foot and place the heel on the middle of the chair with your foot flexed.
Place your hands on your hips and hinge forward, until you feel a stretch through your hamstring. Keep a slight bend in both knees to maintain muscular engagement.
Take three deep breaths, then switch to the left leg.
Repeat two times per side.
12) Chair Pigeon Pose | 3 Breaths, 2x Per Side
Stand facing your chair.
Place your right shin across the front of the chair, with your knee on the chair and foot off the edge. Keep your foot flexed.
Grasp onto the edges of the chair with both hands and step your other leg back to straighten out the knee and hip. You can control the depth of this hip stretch by bending or straightening your elbows.
Take three deep breaths, then switch to the other leg.
Repeat two times per side.
13) Single Leg Toe Pull | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side
Stand facing your chair. Hinge forward at the hips and place your hands on the chair.
Grab your right toes with your right hand. Keep your left hand on the chair and a microbend in your left leg.
Pull slightly upward on your right toes until you feel a stretch in your calf and hamstring. Make sure to keep your hips square and your lower back as flat as possible.
Hold for two breaths, then switch sides.
Complete three sets per side.
Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro of Paleohacks. Questions or other ideas for staying relaxed and limber at work? Shoot me a line in the comments below. Have a great week, everyone.
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One of the first things people do when they start working out is focus on their abs—crunches, sit-ups, leg lifts, bicycles, and the like. I mean, who doesn’t want a six-pack? Entire fitness schools have sprung up around the idea of targeting your abs with direct work. Take Pilates. In its purest iterations, it’s considered a “total body” philosophy, but the way most classes seem to go you end up spending all your time doing a bunch of complicated crunches and other targeted ab work (and grimacing every time you cough for the next week).
Let me make a radical proposal here. All this ab work isn’t necessary.
Don’t get me wrong. The “abs” are extremely important. Not only do they round out the physique and look great, but abdominal strength also provides stability, supports good posture, and improves movement. Strong abdominals allow and enhance the full expression of a person’s athleticism. Running, jumping, lifting, throwing (balls, spears, or punches), and basically any movement all require—and are improved by—strong abs (i.e. a strong “core”).
When you think about training the abs, consider what the abdominals’ purpose is: to provide a stable foundation for the rest of your body as it moves. They can move, but it’s not their primary function. As such, the way most people train abs is completely superfluous and ignores that essential function—maintaining stability and resisting movement. When you think about it that way, crunches and sit-ups don’t make a whole lot of sense.
What Kinds of Ab Work Make Sense?
- Deadlifts make sense because your hips are designed to hinge to allow you to pick up objects.
- Squats make sense because your knees are meant to flex and extend under load.
- Pull-ups make sense because your lats and biceps are designed to pull your body’s weight upward.
But crunches? Abs are best at holding steady and supporting all the other tissues and limbs as they move through space. Using your abs to move heavy weight a few inches is just weird. It “works,” but is it ideal? No.
If you insist on direct ab work, focus on movements where the abs don’t actually move all that much.
- Instead of crunches (abs moving), do bicycle crunches (abs stationary, legs moving).
- Instead of sit-ups (abs moving), do hanging leg raises (abs stationary, legs moving).
In both cases, you’ll be blasting the hell out of your abdominals, but you won’t be flexing and extending your spine.
Okay, with all that out of the way…
What Do I Do For Ab Work?
I don’t do much direct ab work. You won’t find me doing crunches or bicycles. Instead, I’m using my abs all the time.
- When I’m doing pushups, I’m tightening my abs. A strong, stable, cohesive abdominal complex makes my pushups better and stronger. Do a pushup without tight abs, and your hips will dip toward the ground. You’ll be sloppy and weak.
- When I’m doing deadlifts, I’m tightening my abs. My abs are resisting the pull of the heavy bar. They’re preventing my spine from rounding and hurting itself.
- When I’m doing pull-ups, I’m using my abs to maintain a cohesive frame. Try it. Instead of kicking your legs or flopping them around to propel yourself upward, keep them straight and tight. Tighten your abs. Think of your entire body, from top to bottom, as a single piece. Pull that piece up past the bar. Feeling it in the core, are you?
- When I’m standup paddling, I’m using my obliques, my “outer abs.” They support the paddling motion. They’re my base of support. Go paddle for an hour as a beginner, then see how your sides feel the next day.
- When I’m doing band pull-aparts (a great shoulder pre/rehab movement, by the way), I’m tightening my abs.
Heck, when I’m driving my car or carrying my groceries or walking the dogs, I’m tightening my abs.
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. The abs figure prominently.
There’s probably one exercise I do specifically for my abs, and that’s the plank. But again, the planks work the abs by resisting movement, by keeping your body straight and solid against the pull of gravity. They aren’t moving.
I made a short video on how I work my abdominals without a specific abs routine. Take a look.
Finally, the single most important thing you can do for your abs in terms of looks, of course, is to become a better fat-burner. Hidden underneath even the most sedentary, flabby exterior is a rippling six pack. Simply possessing basic human anatomy means you have visible abdominals somewhere under there. Get lean enough and you’ll see them.
Thanks for stopping in today. Questions, thoughts? I’d love to hear them.
The post Why an “Ab Routine” Isn’t Necessary (and What I Do Instead) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate a beginning strength training practice (or just a little extra effort) into your exercise routine, wearable weights—which include weighted vests, ankle weights and wrist weights—can seem like a no-brainer. After all, you’re technically investing the same amount of time and doing the same activities but just with more effort and benefit. And you just have to slip them on and go, right?
What Are Wearable Weights?
The most common types of wearable weights include weighted vests and wrist and ankle weights.
Weighted vests are exactly what they sound like, except instead of zipping or buttoning the vest in the front, many models go on over your head and attach at the sides. Vests range anywhere between 15 and 150 pounds in weight, and typically have pockets where the weights go. You can easily adjust the load by adding or removing weights.
Meanwhile, wrist and ankle weights can be as light as one pound apiece or as heavy as 20 pounds. The weights themselves are often built into a thick strap that you then wrap around the wrists and ankles and secure with velcro.
The Risks and Benefits of Weighted Vests
Runners often use weighted vests to enhance running performance and economy, or how much oxygen you need to sustain your effort. For example, one study in Biology of Exercise reveals that runners who trained with a weighted vest equivalent to 8, 15 and 20 percent of their body weight improved their sprint running performance by up to 10 percent.
But even if you’re not a high-level runner, you can still reap benefits by following their lead.
A weighted vest can be a great option for boosting the intensity of your cardio activities, so you end up burning more calories in the same amount of time if that’s a priority. After all, when you add extra weight to your body, your muscles and cardiovascular system have to work harder to sustain your efforts.
Wearing a weighted vest can also be a great way to incorporate muscle- and bone-strengthening benefits into aerobic activities like walking or jogging. When you place resistance on your body, you stimulate the process of creating new bone cells, which ultimately helps prevent bone loss.
That said, you should steer clear of weighted vests if you have any neck or back issues. Wearing weight around your torso will place added stress on your spine, which can travel upstream to your neck.
Even if you don’t have any existing neck or back issues, there are still safety precautions it’s smart to consider.
For a start, don’t go heavier than 10 percent of your body weight. This means if you weigh 150 pounds, your vest should weigh no more than 15 pounds. Start light and gradually work your way up. Similarly, start by incorporating a weighted vest into your walking routine once or twice per week. Also, think twice before wearing a weighted vest while jogging or running, however, as this could place added impact through your spine.
You’ll also want to make sure the weight in your vest is as evenly distributed as possible. Spread the weight equally in the front, back and sides of the vest so you don’t overwork the muscles and joints in one area of your body. If you place all the weight in the front of the vest, for example, your back muscles will have to work much harder, which increases your risk of back pain and injury. Putting all the weight in the back, meanwhile, places extra stress on the muscles in the front of your body.
If your weighted vest has a belt, secure it tightly to keep the weight close to your body.
The Risks and Benefits of Wrist and Ankle Weights
It’s not uncommon to see people walking around with weights attached to their wrists or ankles. Like weighted vests, wrist and ankle weights can increase the intensity of your walk or run, leading to a greater overall calorie burn.
However, the calorie-burning benefits don’t outweigh the risks to your joints, muscles and tendons.
For starters, wearing wrist and ankle weights while walking or running can actually strain your joints, increasing your chances of injuries like sprains and tears. Ankle weights in particular can change your gait by shifting more of the work onto the quads (the muscles in the front of your thighs) and pulling on your ankle joint, ultimately leading to pain and injury to the knees, hips and back. And if you have any balance issues, wrist and ankle weights could potentially increase your risk of falls by altering your center of gravity.
Wrist and ankle weights can safely fit into an exercise routine when used for standard strength exercises. Wrist and ankle weights are the perfect choice for exercises like side-lying leg lifts, biceps curls, bent-over rows and lateral raises, which target specific muscle groups like the hips, biceps, shoulders and hamstrings.
In fact, wrist weights can be especially helpful if you suffer from arthritis and have trouble gripping a dumbbell, so check with your doctor to see if they might be a good addition to your routine.
Final Primal Considerations
While I wouldn’t argue wearable weights are necessary by any means, for some people they can be a useful investment. Weighted vests make it easy to boost the intensity of an otherwise low-key stroll, while wrist and ankle weights can make resistance training more manageable for those with arthritis or limited space to exercise. Just play it smart: check with your doctor first if you have any existing back, joint or balance issues. Assuming you’re good to go, start lighter and gradually work your way up.
Have you used wearable weights of any kind? What’s your experience been? Thanks for reading today, everybody.
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People go keto for many different reasons. Some want to get better at burning fat so they have a clean, reliable source of steady energy at all times. Some people are treating a neurodegenerative disease, or trying to prevent one from occurring in the first place. Others just want to lose body fat, take advantage of the cognitive effects of ketosis, or stop seizures. Those are all common reasons to go keto. Another reason people go keto is for the benefits to physical performance.
Keto increases energy efficiency. You can do more in the aerobic (fat-burning) zone than a sugar-burner.
Keto spares glycogen. The more fat you’re able to utilize, the more glycogen you preserve for truly intense efforts.
Keto builds new mitochondria. Mitochondria are the power plants of our cells. More mitochondria means a larger engine.
That said, the performance benefits take a few weeks to manifest. During this time, a common side effect of the keto transition is reduced performance in the gym. People report feeling sluggish, slow, weak, and flabby in the days and weeks leading up to their adaptation. It’s understandable (and somewhat expected) why this can happen:
Fat provides tons of energy at a slow rate—but you’re not great at accessing it yet.
Glucose is more scarce but provides energy rapidly—and you just took it out of your diet.
Is there anything you can do to improve your performance in the gym during the transition?
Preserving Performance During the Keto Transition
Increase Fat Content
This goes without saying. Of course you’ll be eating more fat on a ketogenic diet. Right? What I mean is you should increase fat even more than you think for the first week. This has the effect of increasing AMPK activity, which hastens the creation of fat-burning mitochondria, upregulates fat metabolism, and speeds up your ability to utilize ketone bodies.
Increase Intake of Specific Fats
Certain fatty acids seem to increase AMPK more than others. The most potent ones I’ve found are:
- Long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), and shellfish.
- Extra virgin olive oil rich in polyphenols. The more peppery the oil, the more polyphenols.
- Palmitoleic acid, an omega-7 monounsaturated fat. The best source is mac nuts, unless you’re the type to eat whale blubber.
Include some mac nuts, EVOO, and wild fatty fish (or quality fish oil) on a regular basis.
Take Your Electrolytes
Electrolytes are already essential when transitioning toward a ketogenic diet. Since they regulate muscle contractions, heart function, intracellular fluid balance, and nerve impulses, they’re even more important when you’re exercising, Try 4.5 grams sodium (about 2 teaspoons of fine salt or a little under 3 teaspoons of kosher salt), 300-400 mg magnesium, and 1-2 grams of potassium each day on top of your normal food. Going keto really flushes out water weight, and tons of electrolytes leave with it.
Stick To Weights and Walking
The big problem with physical performance during the keto transition is that you’re not great at burning fat, you’re still reliant on glucose to fuel your training, and you don’t have much glucose coming in. For the transition window, this makes high intensity, high volume training a bad idea.
Running a race-pace 10k is going to be hard. Participating in the CrossFit Games is a bad idea. You haven’t yet built the machinery necessary to make those work, nor do you have the glucose necessary to tide you over. You know what will work? Weights and walking.
Walking is totally aerobic, using almost no glycogen of note. Weight training can be glycogen-dependent, but doesn’t have to be if you keep weights high and volume low. Think low (2-6 reps) volume weight training. Whatever you do, the key is to make sure your training is low-stress.
Stick to weights and walking and you’ll hasten keto-adaptation, not harm it. Then you can resume some of your normal activities.
Creatine boosts muscle content of phosphocreatine, which we can use to generate large amounts of ATP in a short period of time for quick bursts of speed or strength. This doesn’t dip into glycogen or fat. It’s ATP-PC, or ATP-phosphocreatine. If you’re going to sprint or lift heavy stuff, you’ll definitely want extra creatine in your muscles.
No need to “pre-load” creatine. Just take 5 grams a day and be sure to drink plenty of water and get plenty of electrolytes (which you’ll already be doing on keto).
If you’re going to sprint on keto, keep a few tips in mind.
Short sprints—3-5 seconds.
Plenty of rest—as much as you need to go as hard and fast as the last one. This gives you the chance to replenish some of your phosphocreatine.
This won’t fully replenish your ATP-PC stores. You won’t be able to go as hard, or do as many reps as you’d like in subsequent sprints. But if you absolutely must sprint, this the way to do it without relying on glucose. Look for the sensation of diminished power. That’s when you’re hitting the PC wall and will start dipping into glucose. Avoid that sensation. Stop short of it.
Don’t freak out if you “dip into glucose,” though. Yeah, dipping into glucose constantly will inhibit keto-adaptation in the early stages, but once or twice won’t make a big difference. Just don’t make glucose-intensive work a habit.
Get Primal Endurance
Brad Kearns and I wrote Primal Endurance because endurance athletes needed a better, safer, healthier way to do the thing they love-hated. I know, because that was us. We both got out of serious endurance athletics because it was harming more than helping us. But that doesn’t mean we stopped missing it. Once an endurance athlete, always an endurance athlete. You can’t shake the bug.
Primal Endurance shows you how to build a powerful, long-lasting aerobic base using primarily stored body fat. It’s the perfect complement to a keto lifestyle, especially if you want to optimize your athletic performance and make your physical activity support rather than inhibit keto-adaptation.
Understand the Purpose of Training
Lifting in the gym isn’t a competition. You’re not being paid. The whole point of lifting weights, running sprints, and doing low level aerobic activity is to get better at doing those things. It’s not about “winning” every workout. That’s what training is—accepting paltry results with the assurance that you’re getting better. Think about it.
When you add 50 pounds to the bar, it’s harder. The bar moves more slowly. You can’t do as many reps. From your brain’s perspective, you’re suddenly “weaker.” Yet, it’s the best way to get stronger in the long run.
When you try a new sport or physical activity, you’re no good. You’re a beginner. People you’re sure you could trounce in your preferred activities are destroying you. This doesn’t mean you should give up. It means you have to get better. And if you stick with it, you will get better.
When you train on your newly keto diet, think of it like you’re increasing weight, upping the intensity, or learning a new sport. You’re not weaker. You’re not getting worse. The training is getting harder. The pain is increasing. And, although it might not feel like it right now, you’re going to be better off in the long run.
Once you’re fully fat-adapted and able to utilize fats, ketones, and glycogen, you’re going to be an unstoppable force.
Okay, that’s short term. What about long term?
How To Enhance Performance Long-Term With Keto
Carb Cycle When Necessary
Once you’ve been keto for at least a month, don’t be afraid to cycle in carbs to support your intense training. If you’ve depleted muscle glycogen with an intense training session, you’ve created a glycogen debt and any carbs you eat in the hours following that workout will go to repleting that glycogen. Best of all, intense training upregulates insulin-independent glycogen uptake immediately post-workout. That means if you do it right, you don’t even need to increase insulin to shove those glucose molecules into your muscles.
Carb Cycle the Right Way
Many people do carb cycling on keto completely wrong. They spend two days binging on bear claws and gummy bears then wonder why they’ve gained weight and lost progress. A few tips:
You probably need fewer carbs than you think. A little snack of 20-40 grams of carbs right after a really intense workout can make all the difference in the world without knocking you out of ketosis, provided you’ve accumulated enough of a glycogen debt.
Choose the right carbs. A sweet potato the night before to top off glycogen stores, a cooked-and-cooled white potato (diced and quickly seared until crispy in a pan is my favorite way to eat these), or UCAN Superstarch (whose slow absorption has minimal impact on insulin and thus ketones) are all good choices.
Do it for the right reasons. Don’t carb cycle because you miss French fries. Carb cycle because you’ve depleted glycogen.
And hell, briefly exiting ketosis isn’t the end of the world. Most people doing keto aren’t doing it as a life or death intervention. They just want to look, feel, and perform better. Don’t let keto become an ideology. It is a tool for your pleasure.
Chase Results, Not Ketones
In my experience, the people who focus on results rather than ketone readings do best.
Heck, if you spend half your time stressing about your ketone levels, the resultant cortisol will probably trigger gluconeogenesis and inhibit keto-adaptation by introducing a flood of new glucose into your body.
Are you leaning out? Thinking more clearly? Skipping the afternoon nap and breakroom donuts without even thinking about it? Lifting more? Running easier? Lab tests improving?
Then you’re good. That’s what matters.
Besides, the point of keto-adaptation is fat-adaptation—the ability of your muscles to utilize free fatty acids. That’s the real power of going keto, because once the fat-burning machinery is established and your muscles can use fats directly, you have more leeway to eat protein and cycle carbs.
Those are the tips I’ve found to be most useful for people acclimating to exercise on a keto diet. What’s worked for you?
The post Exercising While Keto: 11 Tips for the Transition (and Long-Term) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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If you feel restless at night, try this seven-minute pre-bed yoga flow to help you drift right to sleep.
We get it: Even though you try to go to bed at a certain time, you’d rather stay up and watch TV. Then, you wake up feeling tired.
Sleep deprivation can cause all sorts of trouble aside from just morning grogginess. When your body doesn’t get enough z’s, you’re at risk for ailments like brain fog, hormone imbalance and irritability.
Tonight, when it’s time for bed but you just don’t feel like it yet, follow this relaxing, seven-minute yoga flow sequence to get you in the mood to catch some deep, quality sleep. You might want a pillow nearby in case you decide to sleep right where you are!
I recommend setting the mood by dimming the lights, playing some soft relaxing music, removing your shoes, and dressing comfortably. This flow can be done on a yoga mat or right in bed for even more comfort and in case you fall asleep in the last pose.
Stay in each pose for at least five slow deep breaths (approximately 30 seconds), then gently transition to the next restful pose.
Seated Breathing Exercise | 5 slow deep breaths
- Sit in a comfortable position (however you feel most at ease).
- Place both hands on your belly, close your eyes, and sit up tall with good posture.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose to fill your lungs completely.
- Allow the air to seep out effortlessly through your nose as you feel your body melt into relaxation.
- Continue deep slow and full breaths.
Seated Side Reach | 10 breaths (5 per side)
- In that same seated position, place your right fingertips down on the ground to your side.
- Reach your left arm up and over your head as you lean slightly to the right.
- Take a deep breath and switch to the other side.
- Continue alternating sides for 10 breaths.
Child’s Pose | 5 breaths
- Get in an all-fours position, then sit back on your hips.
- Touch your feet together and widen your knees as much as you comfortably can.
- Walk your hands out in front of you and rest your forehead on the mat.
- Lengthen your spine and extend your arms straight all the way.
- Relax in this pose for five deep breaths.
Cat Pose | 5 breaths
- Lift back up into an all-fours position and allow your feet to separate to the same width as your knees.
- Press your palms down into the ground as you round your spine and tuck your chin.
- Feel the stretch in your upper back and hold the pose for five deep breaths.
Cow Pose | 5 breaths
- Arch your back and lift your chin to come into cow pose.
- Press your shoulders back and down and lift your tail bone up.
- Hold this pose for five deep breaths.
Down Dog | 5 breaths
- Tuck your toes under and lift up into a downward dog.
- Straighten your spine and allow your neck to relax.
- Don’t worry about pressing your heels down, stretching your shoulders or straightening your knees fully—just enjoy the inversion.
- Get comfortable and take five deep breaths.
Resting Pigeon Pose | 5 breaths per side
- Lift one knee up underneath your chest and lay your foot down underneath your belly.
- Fold forward and rest your head on your forearms.
- Get comfortable and begin breathing deeply.
- After five breaths on one side, lift back up to downward dog.
- Transition to the other side and hold for five deep breaths.
Gentle Seated Forward Fold | 5 breaths
- Sweep your legs around to the front of your mat and straighten your knees.
- Flex your feet so your toes are pointing up towards the ceiling.
- Hinge at the hips and reach forward to touch your shins.
- Do not worry about reaching as far as you can or feeling an intense stretch—let the stretch sensation be mild and comfortable.
- Close your eyes and take five deep breaths.
Lying Figure 4 Twist | 10 breaths (5 per side)
- Lie down on your back and plant your feet on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee to form a figure 4 shape.
- Tilt your hips to the right until your right knee reaches the ground (or close to it).
- Use your palms down on the ground to help with balance and keeping your shoulders grounded.
- Begin your deep breaths and hold for five breaths on this side.
- Lift back up to center, cross your legs in the other direction and twist to the other side.
- Hold for five deep breaths on the left.
Lying Knee Hug | 5 breaths
- Stay on your back, and bring both knees in towards your chest.
- Hug your knees gently with both arms and rest your head on the ground.
- Feel a slight compression in your hips, but allow it to be restful.
- Hold this for five deep breaths, then release.
Savasana | 5 breaths (or until you drift off to sleep)
- Release your legs back to the ground and let your feet fall to the sides.
- Adjust your position until you feel comfortable.
- Rest your hands by your sides with palms facing up.
- Tilt your chin up just slightly for easy breathing.
- Begin your deep breaths. Stay as long as you like, or until you fall asleep.
Practice this seven-minute pre-bed flow as often as you need it. It’s gentle enough to be done nightly.
Share this with a friend or anyone else you know who is struggling to find good restful sleep.
Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro for today’s ideas. I’d love to hear if you’ll be trying this flow for yourself or if you have another nightly practice that’s worked for you. Have a great end to the week, everybody.
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Generally speaking, the basic Primal Blueprint for fitness and physical activity applies equally to men and women of all ages. Lifting heavy things works in everyone. Sprinting is a fantastic way—for anyone who’s able—to compress workouts and improve training efficiency. Improving one’s aerobic capacity through easy cardio doesn’t discriminate between the sexes. And everyone should walk, hike, garden, and perform as much low level physical activity as possible. These basic foundations—the 30,000 foot view of fitness—don’t really change across age or sex.
But the details do, especially for women.
You see, women are in a unique position. As men age, the hormonal environment degenerates. They still make the same basic hormones in the same proportions, only the absolute numbers decline. As women age, the hormonal environment shifts dramatically. The menopausal ovaries no longer produce enough follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) to regulate estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, causing the latter hormones to fluctuate in novel ways.
What kind of hormonal changes and physiological developments occur in the aging woman that might affect how best to train?
- Atrophied muscle and reduced strength. As estrogen drops, so does muscle function.
- More of a “male” body fat distribution. Postmenopausal women tend to gain more belly fat.
- Reduced bone mass. The menopausal hormonal environment leads to a reduction in vitamin D synthesis and absorption, lower calcium levels, and reduced bone mass.
- Vascular changes. After menopause, arteries become stiffer. Hypertension becomes more likely.
- Exercise intolerance. This one’s a real bummer. You know you need to exercise more than ever to stave off some of the side effects of aging, but your aging hormonal environment is making exercise harder to tolerate.
What takeaways are there? How can you counter or mitigate some of these effects?
Exercise Can Improve Body Comp
Exercise becomes more effective at improving body composition after menopause than before. This may be a “benefit” of the more male body fat distribution patterns. After all, men’s body comp tends to respond more quickly to training than women’s.
Get Started Right Away
If you don’t have much experience with exercise, do it immediately. Don’t wait for the negative effects to accrue. Even if you’ve lived a charmed life where not exercising didn’t really impact your ability to function, that could very well change. The earlier into menopause you start training, the better. The negative changes to exercise tolerance, bone density, and muscle function take awhile to develop, and during the early post-menopause period, your ability to train and reap the benefits of that training is pretty similar to your pre-menopause ability.
Just Do Something
The perimenopausal and early menopausal years can be rough going for many women. You just feel off. You’re not sleeping well. Things are, well, different, and you don’t necessarily have a lot of support to make sense of it or adjust to it. Even though research shows that a minimal amount of exercise can have a big effect on weight gain and disease risk after menopause, sleeplessness or fatigue might be telling you not to do it. Well, that’s not going to cut it. Overcome that. There’s no easy way to say this. No tricks. Just make the decision to exercise, do so regularly for at least a couple weeks, and your exercise tolerance will go up, physical activity will be intrinsically rewarding, and everything will start to improve.
Make Sure You Eat Enough Meat, Dairy, and Other Animal Foods
Protein utilization efficiency drops the older you get, so the older you are the more protein you need to get the job done. Even studies that purport to show negative effects from meat consumption find that older adults benefit from increasing meat. Total protein and dairy protein intake also predict muscle mass and bone mass in postmenopausal women. And meat isn’t just about the protein. It’s also about the micronutrients, like iron, copper (found in organ meats), zinc (high in red meat), carnitine (high in red meat), and phosphatidylserine (high in egg yolks, present in Primal Calm)—all of which have been found to improve women’s physical performance when packaged in a convenient supplement.
Go Into Middle Age As Fit As Possible
Good fitness—aerobic capacity, muscle mass, physical strength, mobility—is a reserve against aging-related degeneration. The fitter you are when menopause hits, the more manageable the transition and the slower that degeneration will be over the subsequent decades.
Intensity Is Important
If anything, it’s more critical for the older woman to push the intensity than anyone else. She often has the most to lose in muscle mass and bone strength. Again and again, across study after study in menopausal women, “low-intensity” doesn’t work as well as higher-intensity training. It still works, mind you. But the greater intensity stuff gives extra benefits.
For instance, in a study comparing a low-intensity aerobic/resistance program to a higher-intensity aerobic/resistance program, both improved muscle strength and walking ability, but only the higher-intensity program improved dynamic balance—a major risk factor for falls.
Intensity Is Relative
By “high-intensity,” I’m not suggesting that a 62 year-old woman do high-rep bodyweight front squats or try to do a double bodyweight deadlift (unless she knows what she’s doing), just that she push the envelope ever so slightly. If your inclination is to do rows with 20 pound dumbbells, consider 25 pounders. If air squats are easy, try them with a weight vest. Sprinting doesn’t have to take place on a track; it can happen in a pool, on a tough hike, or on the bike. Things should be tough but doable.
Volume Should Be Moderate
Exercise has a way of brute forcing glucose tolerance by increasing insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by muscles, so you’ll be better off than the women who don’t exercise at all, but there’s still a limit because menopause tends to inhibit carbohydrate metabolism and glucose tolerance. High volumes of training, especially if you’re heeding the previous advice to increase the intensity, demand a level of carbohydrate intake that your body probably isn’t prepared to handle.
Lift Heavy Things Twice a Week
You could do more, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Lifting (relatively) heavy weights provides the necessary stimulus to maintain bone density and muscle strength. Movements that engage the whole body, like deadlifts and farmer carries, will be most effective and efficient. These exercises replicate real world movements, like picking up grandkids or carrying grocery bags, that you need to perform. If you’re uncomfortable with these movements, find a good trainer.
Walk a Ton
Walking is magic for everyone, but especially post-menopausal women, for whom a three-day-a-week walking habit improves resistance to heart failure. Join a walking group. Better yet, start one in your circle of friends. Be the example, the leader. No one else will. And set a brisk pace when you do walk. The brisker, the better.
Always Choose the Stairs
Stair climbing itself is a great form of exercise for post-menopausal women, improving leg strength and endothelial function. As a mindset, “taking the stairs” is even more valuable. It’s doing the hard thing. It’s parking in the far lot and walking a quarter mile. It’s carrying your own bags. It’s a mindset to embody: “I’m strong enough, capable enough, and tough enough to take the stairs while people half my age use the elevator to go one floor.”
Compare Yourself To Who You Were Two Weeks Ago, Not the 20-Year-Olds At the Gym
The trend is everything. If you’re getting better, that’s what matters. You are not other people. We all have different situations, capacities, genetic histories, and hormonal profiles. Focus on beating your former self, even if only by a couple pounds lifted or seconds shaved from a sprint time—and nothing else.
Look Into Hormone Replacement Therapy
Since estrogen plays such a key role in women’s physiological function, many studies find exercise to be more beneficial in postmenopausal women who take HRT than in postmenopausal women who do not. It’s a highly personal choice, but I’ll have more on this topic in the future.
Aging women aren’t a different species. Menopause doesn’t really change how you should train in a fundamental way. There aren’t any magical menopause-specific exercises. It just makes certain types of training—and exercise in general—that much more important for health and overall function. You could “get away” with not training much before (not really, but you can fool yourself). Now you can’t. Now you have to exercise and move on a regular basis if you want to maintain functional capacity, take care of yourself, and stick around to enjoy your loved ones.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care, and I’d love to hear from any people out there with direct or indirect experience with menopause. How did your training change? How did you change?
As always, direct any questions down below.
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