Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Reaction-Time Training and Hand-Eye Coordination Improvement Drills

              Hand-eye coordination and reaction-time training usually go hand in hand when it comes to athletic performance and sports.  So I am going to touch on some of the most popular drills to help you improve both of them simultaneously.  The two don’t always go together of course:  Reaction-time training is all about reducing reaction time and improving quickness, while there are many relatively slow and deliberately methodical activities that still require tremendous precision and incredible hand-eye coordination, such as painting, playing a musical instrument, or brain surgery!  In sports however, hand-eye coordination usually involves speed and timing, like with ball and racket sports.  Catching, throwing, hitting, passing, shooting and driving all require tremendous amounts of hand-eye coordination, usually in a reactive, time-critical situation.  Depending on the sport, balls can be traveling at 90 miles per hour or faster, bouncing and spinning along the way.  Perhaps a better way to look at this is body-eye tracking coordination, or neuromuscular mapping and reaction.  Because in most sports, it’s not just our hands having to react, but usually our entire body.  Our feet must first transport our bodies into position to make the play with our hands or rackets!  The good news is, all this can be trained and improved with practice and very simple drills, though apparently much of the foundation is laid when we our kids.  So if you played multiple sports growing up as a kid – good for you!  Your neuromuscular connections, reactive-timing, hand-eye coordination and muscle-memory will always be there for you, albeit a little rusty if you haven’t been on the court in a while!
               Before I get to these basic drills, you should know that the most fun way to develop your hand-eye coordination and improve your reaction-time is to just go out and play the sports you love!  You’ll be much more motivated if you’re having fun and are going all out to make the play or win the game.  The adrenalin, endorphins and dopamine boost we get only through the passion of being immersed in the game will greatly improve your performance and fitness too.  Some of the best sports to improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time are certainly not the most physically demanding: Ping Pong or Table-tennis, and most racket sports require equal parts hand-eye coordination, reaction, and timing.  If you like the beach, I recommend checking out SmashBall beach tennis – another great option!  Peppering or bumping the volleyball is great too.
Above - a reaction training 'ball'

Thursday, March 13, 2014

20 Super Foods! (A practical, affordable list!) - March is National Nutrition Month!

March is National Nutrition Month, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics!  No I’m serious, it really is!  Time to celebrate by eating super, nutrient-dense foods!  I have compiled a beginner’s list here for you –we all have to start somewhere.  There are many amazing foods out there that are nutrient dense and very functional.  A list like this is inherently subjective and a practical list couldn't and shouldn't contain them all.  I mean if you're aware of a particular, rare mushroom with miraculous healing powers, but it can only be located after trekking the Amazon jungle for a month, then well, that's not really going to help the rest of us 9-to-fivers is it?!   All the foods I have listed here can be found at almost any super market or whole-foods-type market.  This is a practical list for you and I.  So what makes me consider a food “Super”?  As far as this list is concerned a food will not be considered super unless it possesses healing properties above and beyond providing nutrition and energy.  “Healing properties?” you ask – why yes, along with providing energy and nutrition, food can also be Mother Nature’s most raw and powerful ‘medicine’.  Let me give you few examples of some healing and medicinal properties I’m referring to and how they are defined:

  1. Anti-oxidant:  Neutralizes free-radical molecules in the body, due to oxidative metabolism, by binding to them.  Free-radicals left unchecked can wreak havoc in the body by pulling electrons from other molecules and speed up the aging process of cells.
  2.  Alkalinizing:  If you’ll remember from my earlier article on pH-balancing, your body’s natural pH is slightly alkaline, and many of the refined foods, sodas, coffees, and dairy we eat are very acidic causing the body to leach calcium and other minerals from our bones and muscles to neutralize the acids.  An acidic body has a weakened immune system and does not function at its ideal.
  3. Anti-inflammatory:  Some foods lower inflammation and it is now thought that chronic, systemic inflammation is directly linked to elevated CRP, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, arthritis, Lupus, and many other problems.
  4. Lower LDL-cholesterol and/or raise HDL-cholesterol: This one really needs no explaining.  Good for the heart and blood vessels.
  5. Anti-biotic/anti-fungal:  Some foods naturally accomplish this role in helping the immune system eliminate harmful pathogens from the body and preventing Candida, (yeast), overrun.
  6. Anti-cancer/carcinogenic: Some foods directly battle cancer cells, and bust up tumors.
  7. Anti-allergenic:  Can help our immune systems grow accustom to allergens and prevent reactions.
  8. Phyto-chemicals:  Micronutrients found in plant-foods including phyto-estrogens to block bad/synthetic estrogens, isoflavones, flavonols, and plant sterols.  These amazing chemicals do things like lower LDL-cholesterol, function as anti-oxidants, support hormone balance, and combat cancer.
  9. Improve Insulin sensitivity/glucose tolerance:  Helps cells uptake glucose from the blood for energy using less insulin.