When debtor’s prison becomes a first class hotel

Being in debt historically never seemed to be a good thing. It appears that since the beginning of time, it has been cultivated and ingrained in the brains of people that as long as you are in debt – you can’t sleep well.  Some noble men of the distant past would rather commit suicide rather than declare bankruptcy and admit that they have amassed a lot of debt.  Debtor’s prisons up to the middle of the 19th century used to be a common way to deal with unpaid debt.  In some early states of a distant past, if you couldn’t pay debt you could even become a slave of a creditor.

Things have changed quite a bit since then. Bankruptcy laws in most countries generally protect debtors from suffering the consequences of unfortunate events.  Aggressive marketing of credit products in our day and age encourages us to take on more debt.  Starting from their late teens, people are being aggressively targeted by credit card companies and banks offering starter accounts. Student loans are available in many countries to people who are just starting their adult lives – and wouldn’t mind starting it with a large debt.  These days it is almost impossible to find a person who doesn’t have credit in some shape or form.  And most people do not consider this wrong or immoral.

At the same time, compared to reckless spenders who amass expensive credit card debt and never seem to be in control of their own finances, there are people on the other end of the spectrum who would do anything possible not to owe anything to anyone, for whom being debt-free is still considered the ultimate goal.  Many people celebrate paying out their mortgage in full (possibly, the largest debt every person has), as if it were some very significant achievement.  Personal finance gurus preach from pages of countless books that being in debt is bad and you should do anything possible to repay it sooner.  Scared of the uncertainties, a lot of people still prefer to buy stuff with cash or not buy it at all.  Whipping out a wallet and paying for everything upfront seems to be give some people the ultimate pride of being in total control.

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Nobody can say now that you don’t know squat!

Why Squats?

Lower body exercises seem to be consistently in favor with both men and women in most gyms.  Small crowds of dedicated fitness enthusiasts do countless leg extensions, leg curls, funny lunges and a mix of other half-esoteric exercises involving a cornucopia of inflatable exercise aids and equipment that were either concocted by glossy magazines that measure the effectiveness of exercise by its originality or, even worse, by these fitness enthusiasts themselves, in an attempt to imitate these glossy magazines and create something even “cooler”.

A large variety of over-specialized machines generates a lot of “burn” and gives people the illusion of a productive workout.  People flock to treadmills, Stairmasters, elliptical machines and stationery bikes in an attempt to strengthen (and trim the fat off) their legs and buttocks, but, instead, continue wasting their time and achieving mediocre results, at best.

A lot of people – especially those who are just starting out (or women who are afraid to touch the bar) – use lunges.  I’ve seen those performed in multiple ways – with or without weights, forward, backward, as alternating jump lunges, when using stairs, etc.  The biggest problem with lunges is a relative instability of the stance and overall mechanics of the exercise.  They do not engage as many major muscle groups as squats do and you will not be able (and not advised) to use heavy weights when doing lunges (otherwise you may destroy your joints).  But without heavy weights, as you will see below, you will very little progress.   So, don’t waste your time on counterproductive exercises, when you can use a fraction of that time and get significantly better results. Read more

What is better than donating to find a cure?

Rarely a day goes by, when you don’t get bombarded by multiple calls to action to participate in some sort of an activity that is aimed to beat some sort of a bad disease.  Fundraisers, activities to “create awareness”, sales of various items where the proceeds are donated to research – the world at large seems to be constantly engaged in some grandiose charitable event.  The majority of people think It’s for a good cause – and spend countless hours running, riding, walking, climbing, rowing, shaving, singing and engaging in a lot of other activities to conquer ___________ (insert your disease of choice).

With so much collective effort spent and money raised by countless foundations established with a vaguely-defined mission of beating cancers, heart disease or stroke, we are still not much closer to doing this than, say, 30 years ago. In fact, World Health Organization predicts that the number of new diagnosed cases of cancer is expected to grow 50% by the year 2020.  Diabetes rates more than doubled in the last 20 years and some researchers predict that a whopping 40% of Americans (where the proliferation of this disease is the most serious) will develop type 2 diabetes during their adult lives.   Yet, this is a disease that is almost exclusively dependent on your diet and activity and this risk can be easily managed with a few simple rules.

Isn’t it time to evaluate if we are, maybe, not doing something right?  Are our efforts misdirected?

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Improve sleep to improve health and performance

Modern society is getting increasingly sleep-deprived.  Once considered a torture technique, sleep deprivation is now mostly self-inflicted.  If you are a successful person (or striving to become one), it is almost universally expected that you would be spending most of your day awake (and, supposedly, constantly driving home some big results).  Add to that self-inflicted sleep-deprivation due to social activities, late-night exam crams, video gaming, clubbing, as well as insomnia and other sleep disorders and the number of hours spent on that important restful sleep shrinks dramatically.  20% of Americans report getting 6 hours of sleep per night, or less.  Statistics in some other countries, like Japan, for instance, show even less hours spent on sleeping.

Given how essential getting enough sleep is for proper functioning of the body and the brain, this lack of sleep just might be one of the reasons why so many people have problems with their immune systems, depression, productivity, attention span, hormonal imbalance, memory retention, libido, and even metabolic disorders and extra weight.  Mess up your sleeping – and forget about getting to the Alpha level.  So, in this article we will examine the real importance of sleep, its impact on biological processes and ways to optimize it.

Importance of sleep for proper hormonal balance, metabolism and general well-being

A very important master hormone – human growth hormone, or HGH – is produced primarily during sleep.  This hormone stimulates immune system and promotes cell reproduction and regeneration (facilitating muscle growth and repair), fat burn and calcium retention by bones.  The less you sleep, the less HGH you produce.

Testosterone – another super-important hormone – also starts to increase once you go to sleep and peaks by the morning, decreasing after food intake during breakfast.  Testosterone is a hormone important for both men and – contrary to a popular belief – women, and its proper levels regulate muscle mass, bone density, metabolism, and a host of other processes, including, as some literature suggests, attention and memory.  There are several methods to naturally increase testosterone production to boost your results (again, whether you are a man or a woman), which we will discuss in later posts. Read more