Category Archives: Fitness

The Most Important Muscle

February is heart health month and why not. After all, February contains Valentine’s Day. In reality though, every month should be heart health month. Your heart is the most important muscle you have. Forget about the pecs and biceps. Without the heart working properly, you’re not doing anything. Heart disease doesn’t happen just to older adults either. It is happening to younger adults more and more often. This is partly because the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life. Half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking).

You Could Be at Risk

High Blood Pressure. Millions of Americans of all ages have high blood pressure, including millions of people in their 40s and 50s. About half of people with high blood pressure don’t have it under control. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke.

High Blood Cholesterol. High cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease. Having diabetes and obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels. While there’s some serious debate on this particular subject, it is still listed as one of the top precursors to heart disease.

Smoking. More than 37 million U.S. adults are current smokers, and thousands of young people start smoking each day. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease.

Other conditions and behaviors that affect your risk for heart disease include:

Obesity. Carrying extra weight puts stress on the heart. More than 1 in 3 Americans—and nearly 1 in 6 children ages 2 to 19—has obesity.

Diabetes. Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood. This can damage blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle. Nearly 1 in 10 people in the United States has diabetes.

Physical Inactivity. Staying physically active helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Only 1 in 5 adults meets the physical activity guidelines of getting 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity.

Unhealthy Eating Patterns. Most Americans, including children, eat too much sodium (salt), which increases blood pressure. Replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables can help lower blood pressure. But only 1 in 10 adults is getting enough fruits and vegetables each day. Diet high in trans-fat, saturated fat, and added sugar increases the risk factor for heart disease.

4 Ways to Take Control of Your Heart Health

Thing is, you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to your heart. It’s one of the top ailments that can be treated, cured, even reversed by making small, simple changes to your lifestyle.

Don’t Smoke. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn how to quit.

Manage Conditions. Work with your health care team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. For some, this includes taking any medicines you have been prescribed. The really good news is that dependency on medications can be decreased or eliminated through adherence to a physical program.

Make Heart-Healthy Eating Changes. Eat food low in trans-fat, added sugar and sodium. Try to fill at least half your plate with vegetables and fruits, and aim for low sodium options.Forget all this jargon about carbs and popularized diets.

Stay Active. Get moving for at least 150 minutes per week. There’s simply no excuse for finding and making the time to be active.And that means physical activity above and beyond what you do on a normal basis.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Patience is a Virtue

Well, here we are. Just about through the first month of the year and if you started the New Year with plans to better your health perhaps with some exercise, I’ve got some news for you. If you’re not committed and I mean truly committed save yourself the time and aggravation and stop now. As much as that kills me to say, there’s no point in wasting your time. I want you to succeed and you of course would love to succeed but true success only comes to those who put their nose down, make no excuses, and are willing to go above and beyond the normal. If you think that’s you, then please read on.

You’re Just Not Getting It

Exercise in all its forms is good. There are exercises best suited to what you’re trying to accomplish but the bottom line is all physical activity is good. Exercise is only the means, therefore never deserves the bad rap some will give it. If you ever thought that the exercise failed you, I will quickly counter that you failed the exercise. How do I know that? Let’s look at an example. Say a particular exercise (individual or program) was just not a good fit for you yet thousands of others have used it to much success. Is the exercise the problem? No, but for you perhaps it was. May be it was too complex or technical or may be it was just really hard. Was it something at your current level of fitness that you have no business doing? Exercise is an activity that has many levels across all populations. You must be able to put your ego aside and begin at a level that best suits you now. Not where you’d like it to be. Now. Not respecting exercise is an admittance to not truly knowing what you’re doing and that right there is a real problem.

It Will All “ Work Out”

Exercise never has nor ever will cause changes overnight. If you start to exercise regularly and with consistency you will begin to see positive changes in a little over a month. And that’s with regularity and consistency. Exercise is a stress albeit a good stress and one that your body has to adapt to. And it will, just not as quickly as you’d like, I can guarantee that. This is when a very strong virtue of patience is required. Forget what you’ve been told or heard through the media outlets. There’s nothing “quick”, “fast”, or “sudden” about exercise except perhaps your walking away from it. Exercise requires effort, work, and the ability to take the good days with the bad days. Anyone who exercises with regularity such as myself can tell you that. So how do you keep a positive, patient frame of mind when you start exercising but find yourself at that same point that you were at last year and the many years before? You have to be able to identify your “why” and your “why” is what will keep things in perspective when perhaps your perspective is lost.

Allow me to share my “why” with you:

• First and foremost, there’s that thing called my health. Control what I can control rather than let fate decide.
• I enjoy it so why not do something I enjoy. I realize that gets lost on most, but I enjoy the movement, how it makes me feel and when I miss it, how it also makes me feel.
• Those that mean the world to me are better with me in their lives so I will continue to do my best at staying in their lives.
• I want to continue to be a role model, not a celebrity model type. I want to be the one that others look up to.

Most of all, none of it is possible without patience. I am an extremely patient person as I believe that comes from practicing it consistently throughout my life. You too can learn patience with practice over time, as it will serve you well.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 9 – The Best Exercise You’re Probably Not Doing

(This is part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Gym, or PE programs in schools are not what they use to be. Back then, we participated in physical activity; good old fashioned physical activity. I remember competing in the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge, performing physical tasks like sit ups, pull-ups (chin-ups), running shuttles, and of course, push-ups. The push-up is a great stand-alone exercise that many say that can’t do very well if at all so they avoid it. It’s time to reconsider that thought.

Push-Ups Get No Respect.

While other bodyweight exercises like chin-ups and dips boast devoted fans from all corners of the fitness industry, the lowly push-up is likened as the spoiled step-child of the training world. Most women can’t do them and those that can, can’t do them correctly. Men seem to have an easier time with them but they’re not immune from head shaking either. Arms flare out; core sags; partial reps are performed. Why is an exercise so simple and effective performed so inconsistently if at all with both sexes? It doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

 Understanding the Push-Up

The push-up is as much a core strengthening exercise as it is an upper body exercise. The abdominal muscles are king when it comes to spinal stability during push-ups. The rectus abdominis is the primary stabilizer for preventing hip sagging, while the obliques do most of the work to prevent lateral shifting and twisting. Push-ups of course are also about arms and chest as well as the back. Hand position plays an important role. A narrow base push-up position significantly increases stress on the elbow joint, but also involves higher muscle activation in the triceps and pecs. Internally rotated hand positions were also shown to produce greater and potentially injurious forces on the elbow joints. Depending on your goal, you’ll want to do different push-up progressions.

Common Push-Up Errors

Ask 10 people to perform a push-up and you’ll likely see 10 different presentations but including some of these most common errors:

  • T-Set Up – hands are positioned high and wide
  • Caterpillar – hips sag and back is tilted
  • Stopping short – just as the name implies, not complete reps

In all three instances, there are distinct muscle weaknesses/imbalances that need to be addressed before push-ups can be safely completed. Most “egos” don’t allow or permit those things to be addressed so you have a bunch of people performing what they think are push-ups. There are literally hundreds of exercises you can do in the gym to build a healthier, stronger body, but sometimes the basics are the best. Of course, you don’t need to stop what you’re doing and start doing push-ups but perhaps it’s time to give the much-maligned push-up a second look.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You
Day #7 – The Problem With Added Sugars
Day #8Dieting Made Simple

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You

(This is part 6 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Correction. The appropriate title for this post should be “why you’re failing your workout” and not “why your workout is failing you”. It’s human nature to blame or point the finger at something or someone else when things don’t go according to plan. That same unfortunate mindset exists with exercise as well. People jump from program to program in the hopes that they’ll find the one that works for them. Sometimes that works but in reality all that was ever needed to be done was to take a quick look at one’s self and the approach to exercise. If 10 people follow the same program you will see 10 different results. The exercises are the same for everyone but aside from differences in sex and genetics, they will yield different outcomes. Why?

  • Differences in intensity, or lack thereof. I’ve seen this for many years working in gyms and fitness facilities. There are those who come to “workout” and there are those who are “going through the motions”. If change (improvement, betterment, etc.) is what you seek, just showing up isn’t going to cut it. You have to/want to challenge yourself consistently and progressively. No change begets no change. That’s true in every facet of life. Why people think that rule is different when it comes to exercise escapes me.
  • Overambitious. You’ve just started working out and you’re motivated like never before. All the times you’ve failed to keep a routine before are behind you now and this time you’ll show them all. Suddenly you set the alarm for 5 am to do an hour of cardio and then grab a carrot for breakfast. Before lunch you go for a run, followed by a light salad. For the evening you have a weight training session planned and a meal replacement dinner after that. But it’s not sustainable. This is why dieting will never work. You can easily drop a couple of pounds, grow stronger and improve your aerobic conditioning. But if you then go back to an unhealthy life – say goodbye to your progress. Your body will adjust to the way you live.
  • No direction. If you start walking aimlessly around you’ll probably not end up where you want. It’s simple logic. That’s why it’s frustrating to see people coming in to the gym with no idea what they’re training today. Stop wasting your time. Decide on a goal for the coming three months. More if you can but absolutely no less!
  • Bad form. A squat can seem like such a simple exercise: you sit down and then stand up again. It’s a movement pattern that comes very natural to our bodies. And it’s simple! But when you put an iron barbell with a hundred pounds on your back, it becomes more than just sitting down and standing up. You’re suddenly at risk of some serious injury. And if you want to see that weight go up, you really need to start optimizing your movement. Strength is a skill and to improve you’ll have to train not only your muscles (biological adaptation) but also your technique (neurological adaptation).
  • No progression. Are you lifting the same weights today as you were a year ago? Running the same distances, or managing the same number of max reps? I know many people who do and I can’t for the life of me understand how they can motivate themselves to keep training, when they do not progress. But progress doesn’t just incidentally happen. You need to keep pushing your limits, adding weights, and making it hard for yourself. Over time your training will come to feel easy. Pullups are no longer a problem but it also means you are no longer pushing yourself as hard as you used to, which in turn means you will stop making the same kind of progress as you used to.
  • Cheating yourself. What’s easier – to stay in the sofa researching which vegan protein has the best amino acid profile, or going to the gym and lift some weights? Then guess which will give you the best results. We are all genetically programmed to waste as little energy as possible. (Yes, we’re lazy by nature.) Given two choices that both feel like they take us closer to our goal, we’ll naturally pick the easiest. Getting strong and fit isn’t easy but it’s damn simple! The ones who try to make it complicated are often the ones who also try to sell you a shortcut. But there really are none – you will have to put in the work if you want the result.
  • Missing recovery. What you do when training is only half the story. After stimulating your body with the right amount of intensity, you’ll need to give it time to adjust. This is when the magic really happens. Muscles grow to handle the heavy weights, pathways improves to produce energy faster, and ligaments strengthen so that they can withstand more. But all too often you’ll see people not prioritizing their recovery. Their bodies don’t get enough nutrition, they’re always feeling a bit tired and yet the get back in it – smashing another workout. Continuing in this manner will stump your progress and eventually have you plateau. As for food – eat plenty and make sure it’s nutritious. Limit the crappy fast food, processed junk, and similar worthless calories. Make sure you get enough. Start with what feels like too much and then tweak week by week as you see your body change.
  • Boredom. Too many people go to the gym feeling it’s a chore. Something they would rather not do but have to. This is a terrible way to spend all the time that it takes to make meaningful progress. Plus, one of the absolutely biggest reasons people actually succeed with their ventures is whether they can stick to it and keep grinding. If you’re bored while doing so, that’ll make it so much harder.

See you tomorrow for Day 7 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating

 

12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home

(This is part 2 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

With the New Year quickly approaching, some of you may be thinking about your new workout routine and how to stay as consistent as possible to hit all your fitness goals. Perhaps you’re going to join a gym or start working towards that first 5K. But have you ever really considered training at home? For one, it’s incredibly convenient. Two, there’s no need to know how to use all of that equipment. Three, it’s your house, your rules. I could go on and on about the benefits of exercising in your own home but one thing is for sure, with the small purchase of a few essential and cheaply priced items, you’ll have more than you’ll ever need. And for one more, they’re also highly portable which means you can take them wherever you go.

  1. Stability Ball I can not say enough about the effectiveness of stability, or exercise balls. This item is first on the list for a reason. It acts as a serious core training device but can also be used as a bench/seat for a multitude of exercises. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MYSFUVZ/?ref=exp_loc_pl_jeffreysharrison
  2. Resistance Bands Resistance bands are an excellent way to get a full-body resistance workout in without ever touching a dumbbell. These bands address an important component of resistance training, the eccentric movement, and help make the possibilities of your workout endless.  https://www.performbetter.com/First-Place-All-Purpose-Exercise-Band
  3. Medicine Ball Medicine balls are a great mode of resistance for building core strength and coordination. There is a wide range of exercises that can be done with one and come in many varieties. (i.e. those that bounce) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R3N0BDS/?ref=exp_loc_pl_jeffreysharrison
  4. Exercise Mat Exercise mats are absolutely essential to your home workout collection. The exercise mat allows you to do endless floor exercises comfortably and travel really well. https://www.performbetter.com/First-Place-Folding-Gym-Mat
  5. Jump Rope Simple and basic, the jump rope is great for conditioning and coordination, and can be an amazing tool for high-intensity interval training. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07881CYCK/?ref=exp_loc_pl_jeffreysharrison
  6. Kettlebell Kettlebells are unique and simply amazing. They are a great tool for functional exercise that combines strength and cardio. Kettlebells recruit more stabilizer muscles than dumbbells and barbells because of their off-centered weight. An absolute must-have for your home gym. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0061ZLTYY/?ref=exp_loc_pl_jeffreysharrison
  7. Foam Roller Foam Rollers are a great tool for self-myofascial release. The foam roller helps break down lactic acid, aids muscle soreness, increases flexibility and mobility, and helps you recover faster to get back to training. https://www.performbetter.com/search?keywords=foam%20roller
  8. Pull-Up Bar Pull-ups are the best exercise for building overall upper-body strength and quite possibly the hardest bodyweight exercise to build up to doing with no assistance. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pure-Fitness-Multi-Purpose-Doorway-Pull-Up-Bar/26909661?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&adid=22222222227019597489&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=40331928872&wl4=pla-78294396392&wl5=9007392&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=8175035&wl11=online&wl12=26909661&wl13=&veh=sem&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI18K9tJPu3gIVE-DICh2X0QzGEAQYASABEgK72vD_BwE
  9. Dumbbells The quintessential piece of resistance, dumbbells provide a much greater workout let alone selection of possibilities than any barbell. https://www.performbetter.com/First-Place-Rubber-Encased-Hex-Dumbbells
  10. Ab Roller Wheel Quite possibly the best method of training the abdominals. There are many spin offs or alternative options but don’t be fooled. This one is the best. https://www.performbetter.com/Exercise-Wheel

BONUS: 11. Weighted Vest

I’d feel odd if I didn’t throw the weighted vest on this list as an honorable mention. The weighted vest isn’t for everyone, but those looking to add hands-free resistance and a lot of difficulty to their workouts will enjoy this. https://www.performbetter.com/Uni-Vest-Weight-Vest

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All

 

5 Not So Popular Reasons to Lose Weight.

Female athlete suffering from pain in leg while exercising

There are many reasons to want to lose weight, most of it falling under the category of just wanting to look good. Forget, for a moment, about looking good. Forget, for a moment, about disease. Forget about all the big-name medical scares including atherosclerosis, arterial plaque, cardiac arrest, pulmonary hypertension, stroke, all the cancers, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Avoiding heart disease and looking ‘fab’ are great reasons to lose weight. However, there are 5 immediate and significant ways your life can change when you trim the fat that garner almost no attention.

Reason #5: Your joints will thank you.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease, in which we lose cartilage and gradually destroy the bones of our joints. Imagine two rocks grinding together and you get the idea. Aging makes it more likely. Like most chronic illnesses, osteoarthritis is a vicious cycle. Your joints hurt, so you move less. Moving less means your joints don’t get loaded. Less joint loading means muscle weakness. Muscle weakness means force doesn’t get cushioned correctly. Less cushion means the condition worsens. More osteoarthritis means more pain. I think you get the picture. The point? Obesity makes it much more likely that you’ll get osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis worsens from a combination of excess joint loading plus the inflammatory chemical and hormonal environment that having too much body fat creates. Bottom line: One important reason to lose weight is to reduce joint pain and improve your movement. These are are things you can benefit from almost immediately.

Reason #4: You’ll get a good night’s sleep.

Two words: sleep apnea. Think of what happens when a rockslide blocks a tunnel. The upper airway collapses while you sleep, cutting off that oxygen tunnel. Just to clarify, sleep apnea is more than a little snoring. Sleep apnea means you stop breathing. Over and over and over as you sleep, which is bad. More body fat means more potential for sleep apnea. This comes from a few combined factors: fat in your airway narrows the space available which makes your airway more prone to collapsing; fat in your upper body puts weight on your lungs and reduces the space available to them. You need more oxygen but you can’t get it as well. While around 25 percent of adults have sleep apnea, 50 percent of obese adults have it. Even more scary: If you have mild sleep apnea, and you put on weight, the chances of you graduating to moderate or severe sleep apnea are:

• 5 percent weight gain = 250 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
• 10 percent weight gain = 650 percent increase of severe sleep apnea
20 percent weight gain = 3,700 percent increase of severe sleep apnea

So, why is sleep apnea bad? Sleep is a major regulator of our metabolism. If our sleep is bad, so is our metabolic health. This means things like elevated inflammation, rapid cell aging and oxidation, and hormonal disruption (and, yes, higher risk for all kinds of nasty chronic diseases in the long term). Bottom line: Another important reason to lose weight is so that you can sleep better. Not only does this help regulate metabolism, hormone systems, and more. It helps you feel, think and live better right away.

Reason #3: You’ll actually start to taste your food.

This may sound weird, but it seems that people who struggle with their weight don’t taste food as well. People vary in how well and sensitively they can perceive different flavors and textures such as fattiness or sweetness. One hypothesis is that many people with excess body fat also have altered flavor perception. Bottom line: Obese people have altered taste perceptions leading to eating more and eating more of the wrong foods. By losing weight you’ll end up craving less high-sugar and high-fat food. You might even enjoy and extra veggie or two.

Reason #2: Your immune system will work properly again.

Think of body fat like an ATM: a place where we deposit or withdraw energy. It isn’t.
Instead, fat is an active endocrine organ. That means it secretes hormones and cytokines (cell signaling molecules). Hormones and cytokines have effects throughout the body. They “talk” to one another chemically. Like all things, balance is important. If we have a healthy amount of fat, our hormones and cell signals work properly. If we have too much, things go wrong. Increased BMI and more body fat is associated with greater risk for several kinds of infections including: gum infections, nose and sinus infections, stomach infections, and oral herpes.Too much adipose (fat) tissue can release large amounts of immune chemicals. Over time, this chronic high exposure can interfere with the body’s ability to spot and stop actual outside infections. Bottom line: Losing body fat can mean a healthier, more responsive, more robust immune system. And that means less colds, fewer infections, and a healthier daily life.

Reason #1: You’re better able to handle surgery and/or childbirth.

People with a lot of body fat: are harder to intubate, have a higher risk of incisional hernia, have a longer operation time, have a higher risk of catheter site infection, and have a higher rate of serious postoperative complications. Surgery is a risky business for people who are obese. This is a double whammy because people who struggle with obesity also struggle with more health issues that may require surgery. Bottom line: Every surgery patient wants a safe and speedy recovery. And every mother wants a safe birth and a thriving, bouncing baby. Having a healthy range of body fat makes those happy outcomes much more likely.

The real bottom line: there are no advantages to carrying excess weight. Your weight loss goals need better focus than just the aesthetic reasons. That all becomes a nice side to a greater accomplishment.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

All About the Sweat

Sweat. It’s wet; it’s gross; it gets everywhere. If you truly exercise at all, you will experience it. And if you don’t, there are a few factors as to why. Avoidance of sweat is not always a good strategy while sweating profusely is not either. Let’s get a better understanding of this natural mechanism and appreciate it for what it is.

Why You Sweat

Sweating is the body’s natural process to cool itself down. Sweat can be caused by an emotional response such as anxiety, an illness or physical exertion. When you exert yourself during exercise, your body’s core temperature begins to rise, and this is detected by temperature sensors throughout your body. Your central nervous system—specifically an area of your brain called the hypothalamus—processes this information and signals over two million sweat glands to release (water) sweat. Sweat is mostly water, but it also contains sodium and other minerals. It works by way of evaporation when it reaches the surface of your skin. The water exchanges heat from your skin for the cooler temperature of the air. The blood that runs under your skin is cooled and pumped to the core of your body, helping you maintain an ideal body temperature of 97.9 to 99.1 degrees. To further understand how the process works, think back to a time when you had a fever. During a fever, your body temperature spikes above normal levels. Once the fever breaks, your central nervous system wants to return your body to its normal temperature as quickly as possible. The result is a period of profuse sweating. Just like the harder you work during exercise, the more you will sweat, giving your body a greater cooling effect. Humidity also plays a role in sweating. Humid air is saturated with water, making it harder for sweat to evaporate into the air. This causes the body to release more sweat. At a certain point, your body might not be able to cool itself, resulting in heat-related illness.

Why Do I Sweat More Than Others?

Some people sweat more than others. To many people, sweat is a sign that they’re out of shape, but that is not always the case. People who carry around extra weight most likely sweat more than others. They have to work harder to complete a task than those who don’t carry extra weight, causing their body temperature to rise more. That said, plenty of people are heavy sweaters. As you improve your conditioning, your body becomes more efficient and is better able to regulate its body temperature. When you consistently train, you might notice that you begin sweating more quickly and intensely. This is not because you’re out of shape but because your body has become a more efficient at cooling itself down. Finally, there is the genetic factor. Some people are simply heavier sweaters than others just as there are those who sweat minimally if at all. But let me remind you, sweat is a natural method of your body cooling itself off. To not sweat is not a trait to aspire to have.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Becoming A Morning Exerciser

There are 24 hours in a day; 168 in a week; 720-744 in a month; 8,760 in a year. When you figure you sleep at most 8 hours a day, that’s 2,920 hours. Another 50 weeks at 8 hours per day working is another 2,000 hours. That leaves approximately 3,840 hours left to do whatever you want. Now mind you these are all estimates but shake it anyway you want, there’s plenty of time to find time to exercise. For some, that might mean first thing in the morning. “But I can’t get up that early”, or “I need my sleep”, or “I don’t have the time” are some of the usual excuses I hear. And you know what? I’m not a morning exerciser either but I know someone who is and can teach you a thing or two about exercising in the morning – my wife.

Why the Morning?

It’s known that some of the top executives in the country do their workouts in the a.m. They have their reasons but most would assume incorrectly that a person of such high power and responsibility doesn’t have the time for a workout. For one, it’s a priority to them. Nothing happens in their day until the workout is complete. Second, many use it as the only time of day when it’s them and only them. But for my wife, it became a necessity that has grown into tremendous success for her. Six years ago, she entered the world of the sport of triathlon (for those who don’t know, that’s three exercises in one – swim, bike, and run). After a couple of years of getting her “feet wet”, she took to the sport more seriously and entered races not only as a participant but as a competitor. She’s placed in races and even partook in the grand race in triathlon known as the “Iron” distance last year. But the real shift for her began when she started to work out first thing in the morning. I’ll admit, I never thought she could do it. She likes her sleep as much as the next person but when you’re trying to juggle our work schedules, a young boy, and the ability to train and develop three disciplines, there was only one option and she’s run with it.

How To Do It?

With the exception of having to change your wake up time, everything else is just the same. Exercise knows no time. Here are some of the tips she offers to become a morning exerciser:

  • Snooze is your enemy. Set your clock for when you get up and GET UP when it goes off. If you sit and contemplate, you won’t get up or cut into your work out time.
  • Lay out your clothes the night before. Sifting through your closets and drawers half awake will not end well.
  • Prepare any pre-workout fuel/meal the night before too. Not having to think about it in the morning will save you time.
  • Plan your workouts ahead of time. Go in with a plan and stick to it.
  • Gradually build into the time (i.e. don’t go super early at first). Start with an early time in mind and then progress to earlier.
  • Remind yourself to get it done so you won’t have the guilt of missing or pushing it off until later. Life happens so best to take charge of it while you can.
  • Most likely you’ll be with very like-minded people and they’ll generally support your efforts as opposed to 6 p.m. at night
  • Be sure to refuel properly after the workout because since it’s morning, your more likely to skip or forget to eat when in reality you still have the whole day ahead of you.

Best part? At the end of the day you’re done! No more hoping you make it to the gym; you’ve already been there. You may still decide that the morning is still not your thing and that’s ok. Just know that whatever your excuse, it’s completely invalid

Til next time, train hard, eat well, and be better.

What to Really Expect When You Exercise

Outside of death and taxes, there are so few guarantees in life. The optimist will want to counter that reality while the pessimist, well, it is their reality. But as they say, truth is in the eye of the beholder – you believe what you want. When it comes to exercise, many place it as the “Holy Grail” of sorts to answering all of their woes. It’s the one thing they must do to make everything right in their lives. While I can’t argue with the positive effects regular exercise will have on one’s life, there’s much more to be said about the expectations versus reality that exercise will provide for them. Let’s take a closer look at the realities of exercise and see if they are in line with your expectations.

  • Starting an exercise program can be exciting despite any reservations. It’s something that truly is good for you and that can be liberating. Within the first 4-6 weeks there will be noticeable changes. The body has adapted to the “stress” of the exercise(s) and it feels good. May be even pumps up your excitement about working our. Until….
  • After the initial 4-6 weeks and the body has adapted, it stops adapting. Translation: results diminish at this time. One of the major reasons perhaps for the post New Year’s drop off from exercise. Unless you change something about your routine (length of time, intensity, reps, weight, etc.) the physical adaptations will slowly diminish. Not too long after, the mental shift will also drop off. Whether the exercise was liked or not, there’s a really good chance it will lose its luster.
  • Muscle soreness is expected; muscle pain is not. It’s imperative you understand the difference. When a new physical stress is introduced to the body, the muscles will react and perhaps even become a little stiff/sore. In time, that will diminish and will most likely only reappear when a new motion or weight is introduced. However, it is important to note that muscle soreness is not a badge of honor one should strive for when working out. If muscle soreness is a constant, this could be a sign of a bigger issue. Pain is a signal not be ignored.
  • Just exercising isn’t enough. If the exercise you chose doesn’t match the goal, it can be very frustrating. And if you don’t think that’s important, exercise will never deliver what you expect. So many do copious amounts of “cardio” with the thought that they’ll lose the most weight. The reality is cardio is a terrible fat loss solution by itself.
  • Rest is important. The body gets pushed when it’s asked to exercise properly so planned rest is imperative. When the amount of rest exceeds the amount of exercise however, it will not work for you the way you expect. On the contrary, there’s no benefit to exercising excessively which ultimately leads to physical and mental burnout, or worse injury.

Not to be dismissed, exercise in all or any of its forms is a very good thing. With so many options to chose from, the most important thing is to find what you love and what you can see yourself consistently doing. The exercise in and of it self is only the method. What you get out of it is what you put into it.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

What’s Killing Your Progress

You did it! You started working out; joined a gym; committed to a healthier lifestyle. You’re proud of yourself….except, you have nothing to show for it. May be you’re feeling better, clothes are fitting less snuggly, perhaps even you dropped a couple pounds. But you want more. It’s not enough. You put in the time but still have little to show for it. What gives? Exercise, while it’s a simple thing, causes more heartache and frustration for those looking towards it to be a Holy Grail of sorts. Well, I can tell you that is not but that doesn’t mean it’s bad either. Exercise is good and with a better mindset and preparation, it should never frustrate you. Following are several little things that you may be doing that are killing or at least slowing your process:

1. Your mindset stinks. I’m exercising so I’m “entitled” to results. NO! That mindset stinks. Simply exercising only guarantees one thing – may be a little sweat. You need to work. You need to apply yourself. You need a goal, something to drive you.
2. You don’t have a goal. Simple yet overlooked by many. It needs to be specific, not general. It needs to be the light of every workout. Otherwise you’re spinning wheels to no where.
3. You keep doing the same thing(s). The definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting a different result. Exercise is a stress, albeit a good stress. When you begin to exercise, your body adapts to the stress and you see and feel a result. But after a while, that stress needs to change or you’ll stop changing.
4. You don’t respect exercise. That’s right! As Rodney Dangerfield use to say, “I get no respect”. So what do I mean when I say respect the exercise? Know what you’re doing and why. Don’t “go through the motions”. The yield is always zero and for those who think something is better than nothing, they’re not respecting the power of what exercise can do for them.
5. You view exercise as a hobby and not a task. I’m all for people really enjoying their exercise like it’s a hobby but at its root level it’s work. That’s why it’s called working out. Brushing your teeth is not a hobby; it’s a task. Exercising needs to be like brushing your teeth. It’s just something you need to do. And a hobby can too easily be pushed aside.
6. You don’t fuel properly. I can’t tell you the number of times in my career when a client came to a session under nourished. Exercise is a physical activity, hence you need to fuel for the activity. Fat stores don’t release on their own. A body working with proper nourishment however will ignite a furnace in the body and one that will allow you to get the full benefit of the session.
7. You ignore sleep. Sleep is by far the most underrated component of a healthy lifestyle. The body needs rest, otherwise it’s burning on fumes. Trying to fit in the daily activities with exercise with poor sleeping patterns and something is going to give.
8. You think you know it all. Trust me. 23 years as a fitness professional and I still don’t know it all. There’s always something more to learn and more to try. If what you’re doing is not working, you don’t know it all. Be smart enough to admit that fault. No one is going to judge you.
9. You’re willing to push but not willing to stop/slow down. This is a common phenomenon with those wanting “quick fix” fitness. They want it now when in reality they’ll only end up disappointed now. The mentality of just pushing/working harder inevitably leads to exercise injury or worse, cessation.
10. You compare yourself too much to others. This is so unfair to you and the person your comparing yourself to. Why? Most likely, you know nothing about them and they know nothing about you. Two different people working towards two different goals. It’s one thing to work with or consult with someone who can help you. It’s something else to mirror someone not knowing their current path.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.