The Advocates: Fighting Shape

By Toby Massenburg

Originally published on Advocate.com July 06 2009 12:00 AM ET

Fighting Shape

Kick up your training with Krav Maga

Krav Maga, which means "contact, combat" in Hebrew, wasn't initially designed as a workout. It's the official martial art of the Israeli Defense Forces -- rooted in the street-fighting techniques of kicking, punching, kneeing, and elbowing -- and instructs people how to defend themselves against choke holds, headlocks, guns, knives, and baseball bats. Thankfully, these aren't the sorts of things most of us worry about when we head to the gym, but that doesn't mean the Krav Maga fitness classes -- which include everything from working with heavy bags, medicine balls, kettle balls, and jump ropes to cardio kickboxing, circuit training, and even yoga -- won't give a jolt to your run-of-the-mill routine. Both martial arts self-defense classes and exercise/conditioning classes based on the self-defense moves are available across the country, from beginner to advanced levels. When looking for a class, be sure to ask which variety is being taught -- self-defense or conditioning -- and how advanced the classes are. Krav Maga fitness classes are a great alternative to your regular cardio routine, but the exercises can be intense, so those with heart or blood pressure problems should begin at a slow, steady pace. KravMaga.com.

Milk: Does Your Bones Good?

Research indicates that contrary to popular opinion, milk does not improve bone integrity in kids or give women increased protection against bone fractures (Harvard Nurses' Health Study). In fact, upping your milk intake from one glass to three a day could result in bone density loss . Studies show that milk drinkers tend to experience more bone breaks than those who consume milk infrequently or not at all. Animal protein, specifically casein (a protein in milk), is very acidic, and the body neutralizes this acidity with calcium -- by pulling it from our bones, weakening them and leaving them more susceptible to breakage. I do not recommend that adults drink milk regularly. So how do you strengthen bones without cutting your protein? By pumping iron in the gym and replacing dairy milk with alternative plant proteins like soy or rice milk, which are rich in calcium but low in acid.

Staph Reduction

With swine flu grabbing the headlines earlier this year, another much more common -- and insidious -- communicable disease is being overlooked. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus , or MRSA, is a potentially lethal strain of staph infection that is becoming increasingly prevalent in gyms, and not just in the locker room. Staph bacteria can live on barbells as well as towels and shower floors, and it can invade the body via cuts in the skin. If not treated quickly, the bacteria can produce anything from a simple boil to an antibiotic-resistant flesh-eating infection. But you don't have to cancel your gym membership to avoid staph. Just follow these simple precautions:

• Cover all cuts and wounds.

• Wash your hands after a workout.

• Don't share towels and razors.

• Wear flip-flops in the gym shower plus a towel in the steam room.