Category: Muscle PRO

How Super-Runner Jax Mariash Trains

Zandy Mangold / 4deserts.com Think running a marathon is tough? Try logging upwards of 150 miles across some of the toughest terrain on the planet. That’s the type of challenge professional ultra-runner Jax Mariash likes to embrace. Last year, she became the first woman (and the fourth runner of all time) to complete the Grand Slam Plus, part of the grueling 4 Deserts Race Series. The races cross some of the hottest, windiest, driest, and coldest deserts in the world, including Africa’s Sahara Desert, China’s Gobi Desert, Chile’s Atacama Desert, and Antarctica; plus a “roving race” in the extremely humid climate of Sri Lanka. Mariash placed first among women in all the desert races and second in the Sri Lankan race. Each race of the Grand Slam Plus stretches 155 miles and takes a week to run, with distances ranging from six to 50 miles a day, with one rest day. Support is limited: Runners must carry everything they need to survive in the elements, including food (about 2,000 calories per day), sleeping supplies, clothing, and safety equipment like blister kits, bandages, sunscreen, a utility knife, and head lamps. Race organizers will provide medical aid only in extreme cases, as well as a tent (shared with up to nine other runners each night), plus hot and cold water. Zandy Mangold / 4deserts.com In addition to the five Grand Slam Plus races, Mariash also took part in eight other smaller races last year, including the Jackson Hole Half Marathon, Huntsville Marathon, and Antelope Island 50K. Each ultra-race brings its own set of challenges. “On Day 1, Stage 1, Race 1 of the entire year in Sri Lanka I puked four times, twisted my knee between two logs, went off-course for 3 kilometers, and wasn’t sure I could get to the first checkpoint,” she says. “Two days later, I sprained my ankle and ran the rest of the race hobbling.” In the Gobi Desert, temperatures climbed to 130°F on a day when the racers had to complete 50 miles. “My shoes melted, and I had an extreme case of blisters,” recalls Mariash. By the time she got home from the race, the skin along the bottom of both feet had peeled away. The ultra-runner community is a tight-knit one, with only about 100 to 200 racers taking part in the most extreme events, about 35% of them women. The dropout rate typically ranges from 7–19%. Mariash considers most of her fellow competitors family. “We’ve gone through rock bottom together and have picked one another up.” Myke Hermsmeyer / 4deserts.com Training days Mariash’s training is relentless. “When you are running in some of the harshest terrain in the world with 15 to 20 pounds of equipment on your back, you have to pay attention to your strength along with your endurance. You can’t just do the minimum and expect to succeed.” From her home base in Park City, UT, Mariash works out six to seven days a week, no matter the conditions. Once or twice a week she runs with a pack that weighs up to 20 pounds, to help develop her muscular endurance. She’ll add in one or two interval workouts a week to build speed. Most weeks find her logging anywhere from 45 to 100 miles. She’ll also add in four to five days of strength training, including a full-core series. With so much stress on her body, Mariash says her recovery days are just as important as her training. “Without both, performance suffers,” she notes. Her recovery routine includes weekly 90-minute massages, daily naps, and at least 20 minutes on the BEMER mat, a physical therapy device that helps increase blood flow through capillaries. Thiago Diz / 4deserts.com Mariash sticks to healthy whole foods, “the simpler, the better,” she says. Staples include bison, avocado, feta cheese, Greek yogurt, and dark chocolate. She stays away from bread and pasta, but a daily beer provides some well-deserved carbs. To power her through her grueling workouts and races, Mariash relies on a mix of supplements and whole foods, including Beet Performer beet juice, Honey Stinger waffles, and energy gels and chews. She’ll also have coconut shavings and nuts on hand for sustained energy. “Because you have to carry all of your food in a backpack, you need to stick to the bare minimum,” says Mariash, who estimates she loses at least 10 to 12 pounds each race. Hydration is critical. Mariash drinks a gallon of water a day, increasing to 2.5 gallons when racing, spiked with a rehydration powder called Drip Drop. But all the training, fluids, and fuel in the world aren’t enough to get you to the finish line if you aren’t mentally prepared. “You have to develop a serious level of mental grit,” says Mariash. “You cannot even think of giving up, or all hope is lost. There are some really low and dark moments out there—you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.” Onni Cao / 4deserts.com Training schedule MONDAY: Off or 3-mile run + strength training TUESDAY: a.m. speed run (12 miles), p.m. easy run (3 miles slow) + strength training WEDNESDAY: medium-long run (11 to 14 miles) + strength training THURSDAY: a.m. speed run (12 miles), p.m. easy run (3 miles) + strength training FRIDAY: easy run (3 miles) SATURDAY: very long run in the a.m. (26.2 to 31 miles) SUNDAY: long run (20 miles with a 20-pound pack)

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12 Food Substitutions for a Healthier Diet

Shutterstock If you’re serious about your training, there’s a good chance that the bulk of your diet revolves around a few key staples. Sure, you might mix it up here and there, but for the most part, you stick to the chicken and the egg. And while protein-rich choices like chicken, eggs, fish, and whey do deliver, they aren’t the only foods that can help sculpt a phenomenal physique. Our bodies thrive on variety. “Eating a wide variety of food helps alleviate that feeling of boredom you get from serving up the same dishes day after day,” notes Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., C.S.S.D., and author of The Superfood Swap. Even more important, changing it up also ensures you’re getting all the key nutrients your body needs to function at its best. That doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey on your grilled chicken breast and broccoli. “It’s not about daily variety; it’s about a weekly one,” says Blatner. Start by dividing your weekly grocery list into sections: fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, dairy, and fats. Then pick one new food per week or one new food per category per week. Here are suggested swaps for each category that will help expand your menu without sacrificing your need to eat clean. Click through for some healthy swaps that will amp up your routine. Shutterstock 1. INSTEAD OF CHICKEN, TRY... CHICKPEAS Chicken is a menu mainstay for most of us, but pound for pound, chickpeas beat chicken breast on almost every nutritional count. One cup of chickpeas provides 15 grams of easy-to-digest protein, a hefty dose of iron, fiber, negligible fat, and plenty of B vitamins. Serve it up: Roast in the oven with salt and spices; or mash and mix with egg whites and seasoning for chickpea burgers. 2. INSTEAD OF OATS, TRY... BUCKWHEAT Despite its name, buckwheat isn’t wheat— it’s a seed (and naturally gluten-free). Buckwheat comes in many useful forms, from flour to noodles. One cup has 23 grams of protein and almost 100% of your daily needs for magnesium. Serve it up: Make pancakes with store-bought buckwheat flour; sub regular noodles for soba noodles; or sub buck- wheat groats for a.m. oats. 3. INSTEAD OF QUINOA, TRY... AMARANTH OR TEFF Naturally gluten-free, these nutritional powerhouses often get overlooked. Amaranth and teff are packed with calcium, B vitamins, fatty acids, and protein. They each contain 26 grams of protein in one uncooked cup, compared with 24 grams for quinoa. Serve it up: With slightly heartier textures, both can be ground to make flour, or even toasted or popped to make crunchy toppings. 4. INSTEAD OF BAKED SWEET POTATO, TRY... PUMPKIN Lower in calories, carbs, and sugar than sweet potatoes or yams but almost as rich in vitamins A and C, pumpkin is a great “orange” swap. Whenever possible, purchase a whole sugar pumpkin to roast or bake. Just pierce the outside skin with a knife or fork, pop the entire pumpkin into the oven, and once done, cut in half, scoop out seeds, and dig in. You can also scrape the flesh into a food processor to make your own creamy pumpkin puree. Short on time? Purchase BPA-free cans or boxes of pure pumpkin. Serve it up: Toss pure pumpkin into pancake batter, your morning oats, or a smoothie. Shutterstock 5. INSTEAD OF KALE, TRY... MICROGREENS Microgreens are the tiny greens grown from vegetable seeds. They contain roughly five times the nutrients that their bigger counterparts have and are picked just after the first leaves have developed. The most common options include red cabbage, beets, cilantro, radishes, alfalfa, peas, broccoli, chard, and kale. Search your store for in-season varieties. Serve it up: Microgreens are best eaten raw. Replace a third of regular salad greens with microgreens; or toss in a smoothie for extra punch. Remember that a little goes a long way. 6. INSTEAD OF CHICKEN EGGS, TRY... DUCK EGGS Duck eggs may not be available at your local supermarket, but most high-end chains (including Whole Foods) and local farm stands will carry them—and for good reason. Because they are larger and have a thicker shell, duck eggs can stay fresh up to six weeks. They are alkaline-forming, contain omega-3s, three grams more protein per egg, six times the vitamin D, and twice the vitamin A as chicken eggs. Plus, those with chicken egg allergies often do not have a duck egg allergy. Serve it up: Duck eggs have a richer flavor and provide a creamier texture in baked recipes. Whip up a tasty omelet or blend a few duck eggs with some greens and bake in muffin tins for delicious, heart-healthy egg muffins. 7. INSTEAD OF BROCCOLI, TRY... SEA VEGETABLES Sea vegetables, such as nori, kombu, arame, wakame, kelp, and dulse, are some of the most nutrient-dense plants on the planet. They contain all 56 minerals and trace elements for proper physiological function. Some varieties contain 10 times the calcium of cow’s milk and more iron than red meat. They are also a natural electrolyte due to their bioavailable sodium-potassium balance. Serve it up: Most sea veggies are sold in flake form and can be tossed into soups, on salads, or added to salad dressings or sauces; or buy nori sheets and roll up some delicious at-home sushi. 8. INSTEAD OF WHEY, TRY... PLANT-BASED PROTEIN BLEND Skipping whey protein powder in favor of one made from ingredients like brown rice, peas, and hemp means you still get high levels of amino acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, plant-based proteins are often easier to digest. Serve it up: Buy blends with two or more proteins to cover your bases. Or go for hemp protein, which has loads of aminos and vitamins and a nutty flavor. 9. INSTEAD OF GREEK YOGURT, TRY... FERMENTED FOODS While people love to eat yogurt, yogurt often doesn’t love people. Dairy can be hard to digest, and since 70% of our immune system is found in the gut, we need to take good care of it. While kefir, a fermented yogurt, is a step in the right direction for beneficial gut health, sometimes the probiotic claims made by manufacturers are lessened by refrigeration, the manufacturing processes, and fluctuating temperatures. Eating dairy-free fermented foods can be a smarter option. If you can’t part with your yogurt, look for coconut kefir (often available in health-food stores), or try a satisfying kombucha, kimchi, miso, or sauerkraut, all of which supply your gut with beneficial bacteria without the aggravation of dairy. Serve it up: Use kimchi or sauerkraut as a topper for stir-fries, omelets, or salads. Aim to have one fermented food with each meal, in addition to a well-made probiotic at the start of the day. 10. INSTEAD OF AVOCADO, TRY... SEEDS The nutritional superfoods of the plant-based world, seeds such as chia, sesame, flax, sunflower, hemp, and pumpkin, pack a healthy punch and can be eaten raw or tossed into virtually any meal for an added boost of macro- and micronutrients. Smaller seeds, such as chia, hemp, sesame, and flax, do not need to be soaked before munching. However, larger seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower, benefit from soaking overnight for optimal digestion. Serve it up: Blend a tablespoon of chia or flax into protein puddings, dips, nut butters, or smoothies. 11. INSTEAD OF PEANUT BUTTER, TRY... BRAZIL NUT BUTTER While we all love peanut butter, almond butter, or anything that ends with “butter,” the types of nut butters you find in grocery stores can be full of added oils and sugar. Brazil nuts can help lower cholesterol, are high in magnesium and calcium, and exceed your daily needs for selenium in just one handful. Serve it up: Making a smooth and creamy Brazil nut butter is a cinch. Purchase 1 to 2 cups Brazil nuts and dump into a food processor with 1⁄2 tsp salt. Process until nuts turn into a powder. Continue to scrape down sides until nuts turn smooth and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Use in place of other nut butters. 12. INSTEAD OF BUTTER, TRY... COCONUT OIL Butter (even the omega-rich grass-fed variety) has its limitations, but coconut oil continues to gain in popularity as a healthy fat with a variety of uses. Research shows coconut oil has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and antioxidant properties, which makes it a true power food. Bonus: Our bodies like to use coconut oil’s medium-chain triglycerides for energy instead of storing it as fat. Serve it up: Eat a tablespoon of coconut oil to stave off colds. Swap coconut oil for butter in cookie recipes, or use on sprouted toast or in place of olive oil. Want to go beyond the kitchen? Trade your conditioner for coconut oil. You can even use it as a full-body moisturizer or to treat skin conditions like eczema.

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Cluster Set Training for Strength and Size

Whether you are a bodybuilder getting ready for the stage, an athlete looking to increase force production, or a bouncer at the local “kick and stab” looking to get that edge you need to protect the door; break out the stopwatch and give cluster sets a try. Cluster sets are sets with built-in, intraset rest periods allowing for more weight, reps, and total tonnage lifted. For example, instead of doing 4 sets of 6 repetitions, you would perform 4 sets of 2+2+2 repetitions with 30 second intraset rest. This would be written as: 4 x (2+2+2) 30 sec. intraset Simply put, it allows you to lift more weight for more reps, which leads to more potential muscle growth and strength gains. This is, after all, the reason that we sweat and toil and bleed day after day in the gym. One of the beauties of using cluster set training is that it creates an almost infinite number of variations you can use to achieve your specific training goals. You can manipulate sets, reps, intraset rest, and inter-set rest depending on your desired outcome. Now, you may be saying to yourself, “this sounds a lot like rest-pause training,” and it is similar; but there are some differences. Both methods take advantage of your body’s explosive energy stores and their ability to replenish quickly but in the rest-pause method of training you have a set load and that load (or more precisely, the fatigue it induces) dictates the volume. In cluster set training you have a set volume and load that are pre-determined. Also, while in rest-pause training fatigue is a big goal, during cluster sets this is not the focus. Cluster set training presents a technique to decrease some of the metabolic fatigue that is formed during the use of traditional, “no rest” sets. According to Dr. Greg Haff, a leading sports scientist, “The introduction of a short rest interval between individual or a series of repetitions appears to result in a partial replenishment of PCr (phosphocreatine) during the intraset rest interval which is reflected in a performance enhancement.” Cluster sets should be used for your core lifts for the day. For example, on upper body day, use cluster sets for the bench press, incline bench and military press. But once you get to your auxiliary work (i.e. tricep extensions, front raises, side raises, etc.), go back to using normal sets and reps. Cluster set training can benefit bodybuilders, strength athletes, Olympic lifters, or anybody looking to solidify their position atop the gym food chain. Cluster Set Training for Size As we know, the heavier the weight lifted the greater the muscular tension and the greater the number of muscle fibers recruited. This means that there is more potential for growth with heavier loads lifted.  Cluster sets allow you to lift more weight for the same number of sets and reps you would normally do. So instead of doing 4 sets of 12 reps at 70-75% you can do 4 sets of (3+3+3+3 reps) at 80% with 30 second intraset rest. That’s more weight for the same amount of volume, which equates to explosive muscle growth! A sample workout for a bodybuilder on his upper body day may look like this: Exercise Sets Reps         Bench Press 3 5+5+5 (20 sec. intraset rest)1 Incline Bench Press 3 5+5+5 (20 sec. intraset rest) 1 Military Press  3 5+5+5 (20 sec. intraset rest) 1 Dumbbell Flye 3 12 Preacher Curl 3 12 Front Raise 3 12 Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 12 Hammer Curl 3 12 1Perform these cluster set style. Do five reps, rest 20 seconds, five reps, rest 20 seconds, then another five reps. That’s one set. Rest 2-3 minutes between cluster sets. Rest 60-90 seconds between all other sets and exercises. Cluster Set Training for the Strength Athlete When training for strength we are more concerned with load intensity. Cluster sets allow for more near maximal repetitions per workout.  Let’s look at a squat workout as an example. If you were planning on doing 4 sets of 4 reps, maybe you would use 300 pounds. But let’s do 4 sets of (2+2 reps) with 30-second intraset rest instead and bump the weight up to 315-320 pounds. Which one would you guess would lead to greater strength gains? That’s right, the cluster set. Cluster Sets for the Olympic Lifter Elite Olympic lifters are no stranger to cluster sets, they have been using with them (with great results) since Moses wore shorts. Cluster sets are especially important because of the technical proficiency required in the snatch and clean and jerk. Intraset rest periods allow the mind and body to prepare for the next rep, rather than a high-volume race to failure. You can adjust intraset rest periods depending upon which phase of training you are in. In the accumulation or volume phase, shorten the rest periods to 15-20 seconds, but when weights get to near maximal efforts increase the intraset rest to 30-45 seconds. For example, on a Clean day, the workout may look like this: Exercise Sets Reps         Clean 4 2+2+2 (30 sec. intraset rest)1 Incline Bench Press 3 1+1+1 (30 sec. intraset rest) 2 Clean Pull 3 1+1+1 (30 sec. intraset rest) 2 Front Squat 4 2 Romanian Deadlift  3 6 1Perform these cluster set style. Do two reps, rest 30 seconds, two reps, rest 30 seconds, then another two reps. That’s one set. Rest 3-5 minutes between cluster sets. 2Perform these cluster set style. Do one rep, rest 30 seconds, one rep, rest 30 seconds, then another single rep. That’s one set. Rest 3-5 minutes between cluster sets. Rest 60-90 seconds between all other sets and exercises. Since there are countless ways you can manipulate cluster sets, they can be used to accomplish just about any goal. Including cluster set training in your routine can give you that extra push you need to reach your size or strength goals.

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‘Mortal Kombat’ Co-Creator Ed Boon Talks Upcoming ‘Injustice 2’

Courtesy of the WB Games  Twenty-five years ago, Ed Boon forever changed the video game industry with the release of Mortal Kombat, a game whose controversial violence sent politicians and parents into a tizzy. Today, as the head of NetherRealm Studios, he’s changing the industry again with a cinematic narrative structure never before seen in fighting games. In advance of the release of the hotly-anticipated Injustice 2 on May 16, Boon sat down with M&F to talk about what players can expect in the new game, and to look back at his legacy and the crazy days surrounding the first Mortal Kombat. As humble as he is creative, Boon says neither he nor anyone on his team expected Mortal Kombat to have the kind of staying power that it did.  M&F: The first Injustice game played so well, but as a developer you have to deliver something that is both more of what people love, but also different. As you approached Injustice 2, besides the story, where did you find room for improvement with gameplay? Was there anything about the first one where, once it shipped, it didn't sit well with you and you wanted to change it? Ed Boon: There wasn't anything that I thought was inherently broken or anything, but with every game we always feel like there is something we can do better. We gave the players a little bigger palate of options, of standard modes they can do. For the people who are really into fighting games, there's different ways of escaping when you're in the middle of a combo, and you can start rolling when you dash, and whatnot. The players walk faster; there are a lot of knobs that we've turned based on what we've learned.  But the biggest feature in Injustice 2 is what we're calling our gear system. Imagine thousands and thousands of costume pieces in the game that you can unlock, acquire, and equip to your character.  Batman might get a special cowl, or a special chest symbol. And those pieces actually enhance your fighting ability. They might give you a little more strength, a little more defense. It might unlock a mode. The constant collection of new gear, and leveling up, upgrading your character, is like making your own custom version of Superman, Batman, Flash, that is really the most significant new game feature that we've added.  M&F: That kind of customization is always a big draw for gamers, but in terms of keeping things balanced for online play, is anything that enhances a character’s strength or speed—things that actually affect game play—is all of that unlocked through play, or is any of it available as DLC? Ed Boon: No. It is absolutely something that you earn by playing the game. By playing through our story mode. By playing through our new multi-verse mode. By playing online against other opponents, you're constantly getting drops of characters. Keep in mind that we're launching with like 29 characters. So there's hundreds of pieces of gear for each one of those 29 characters. So there's thousands, and thousands, and thousands of pieces of gear in the game to earn. You can't basically buy your way through it. You basically have to level up and get more and more experience, and continue to modify your character.  Courtesy of the WB Games  M&F: Looking back at the first Mortal Kombat, it was vilified in the press. Does it ever strike you how improbable it is that the franchise not only survived but is still so popular a quarter-century later? Ed Boon: I certainly don't think that any of us expected it to be. When we made the first game we were weren’t thinking “In 25 years we're still gonna be big.” Everything was a surprise to us, and it just kind of snowballed from there. We continued to make games, and with every game we really wanted to introduce something new that nobody was expecting us to do. I think that's what keeps the game fresh. The last Mortal Kombat we did, Mortal Kombat X, was nothing like Mortal Kombat 1, or Mortal Kombat 2, and that's why I think people keep coming back. They know that we're going to do something new with every game.  M&F: You will be remembered as a pioneer for getting games the same kind of respect and freedom as movies enjoy, with that original fight to keep Mortal Kombat in the hands of the players. Back then, when politicians were grandstanding on your creation to score political points, did you think that it was fight you could win? Ed Boon: Well, we didn't think it was a fight that we wanted to have, to be honest. The objection at the time was that there was no such thing as a rating system. All medium—movies, TV shows, music, and games—they need some kind of indicator of the content that's in there. I think that because games did not have one at the time, and Mortal Kombat was really pushing that envelope, that was the objection. So we were all on board with the idea of making a rating system, and letting people know what they're buying.  M&F: After Mortal Kombat 3, the series had a couple of entries that, you wouldn't say they were bad, but they're not remembered as fondly by fans. To be fair, most of the games in the polygon era didn't necessarily age too well. Do you look back on anything in between MK 3 and the modern era, and do you consider anything in that time frame a misstep? Ed Boon: Well, in full disclosure, a couple of those games I was not involved with, so I certainly don't want to speak ill of something that somebody else worked on, even if it had the name Mortal Kombat. I agree that after MK 3 and before Deadly Alliance, as far as impact on the industry and sales [the series fell behind]. I don't think that Special Forces did as well as some of the other games that we did. But Deadly Alliance was a great return to forum that we followed up Special Forces with. M&F: Is there a valuable lesson you learned from watching how Special Forces did, where you realized, "OK maybe this is a place where the the series cannot go. This is not something that the players want to see." Ed Boon: Well, I did not work on Special Forces, but I think it was really just a matter of execution. I just don't think that that game had the same level of polish and attention that maybe Mortal Kombat 3 had, or Deadly Alliance that followed it. M&F: NetherRealm has developed a great narrative formula for fighting games that has really proved its staying power. Because it works so well with DC Comics and has worked so well with Mortal Kombat, is there an existing IP out there now that you would like a crack at with this formula? If you are now contractually limited to Warner Bros. properties, you have opportunities maybe with Mad Max, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Matrix…Do you think down the road about anything like that? Ed Boon: Right now we have our hands pretty full with Mortal Kombat and Injustice. I suspect it might work well with some of them, but that narrative formula you were talking about was built around a fighting game. It was all about the narrative of why these two people have a conflict, and the player would kind of resolve the conflict by defeating the other opponent, and then it would continue with the story. I think you would have to find an IP or a license that had combat or conflict central to its nature so you can kind of script it into it. But we really are excited by the fact that our narrative sets us apart from other fighting games, so much. It really makes it a lot more like a cinematic experience.  M&F: Is there anything else you want to add about Injustice 2?  Ed Boon: Well, it comes out May 16, and after the game is released, we are going to do a steady drop of DLC characters—nine of them. That's going to go all through the summer and into the fall. So we're excited about the constant new characters that are going to be dropped into the game.

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