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12 Days of Fitness: Day 4 – 10 Fitness Myths That Need to Die

(This is part 4 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

A New Year means more people come to the party and with them they carry on believing in old views about fitness and weight loss. Science gets ignored and myths prevail. Good results sometimes require debunking bad ideas. Far too many enter the New Year with old ideas. They still believe fitness myths that were probably debunked years ago. The following are 10 myths that live on because their friends, coworkers, family members, and popular media continue to endorse them.

  1. Lifting weights makes you bulky. To be fair, my industry has come a long way in dispelling this one. But you’ll still get people, particularly women, who believe three-pound weights will build a lean, toned physique while anything heavier will likely lead to tighter pants. There are literally mountains of science-backed benefits linked to resistance training, like improvements in strength, mood, anti-aging effects and metabolism. Look it up. I’m not lying.
  2. The key to results: Eat a lot less and exercise a lot more. This one is so widespread. It’s convincing because it’s only partly true. You do need to be mindful of what you’re eating and for many that simply means eating a lot less. And most likely you need to exercise more frequently. The trick is not to tackle both at the same time, especially not at full speed.
  3. Keto is the best diet for weight loss. Another year, another diet. Just in the low-carb category, we’ve gone from Atkins to South Beach to Paleo and now to Keto. We could create separate timelines for everything from low-fat to vegetarian to fasts and cleanses. Do you see the ridiculousness? With each new fad, we learn yet again that no single diet is right for everyone, while some aren’t a good idea for anyone. When it comes to a lot of these popular diets, most people don’t completely understand the challenges of a particular diet. Stop following blind faith and believe in good ol hard work!
  4. A good workout burns a ton of calories. As someone in my industry who I admire, Gray Cook says, “First move well, then move often.” Burning calories is a byproduct of your physical activity. It will happen. But labeling any workout good or bad by the number of calories burned and you’re not getting the idea. You generally don’t burn a ton of calories in a workout. In fact, unless you are monitored with gas exchange equipment, it’s a best guess.
  5. Cardio is the only way to lose weight. Visit any gym on any day in January and you’ll be hard-pressed to find an open treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, or stairclimber. It’s a sure sign that the general public still believes cardiovascular exercise is the premier way to drop pounds. After all, a cardio machine keeps a running count of the calories you’ve burned, like exercise is a video game and the goal is to get the highest score. Of course cardio exercise can burn a lot of calories. But there’s a catch: You have to do a lot of it.
  6. Stretching will loosen tight muscles. Humans evolved to move, not spend long hours sitting. We sit at our desks at work, on our couches at home, and in cars. The problem with traditional stretching is that it only pulls on a given muscle, with no consideration for the mobility or stability of the joints surrounding it. A more practical approach: improve range of motion and joint function.
  7. Big muscles are built with big weights. Bigger muscles are typically stronger, and stronger muscles are typically bigger. But the science of muscular hypertrophy is actually more nuanced. Load is just one of the major drivers of hypertrophy. You also need time under tension, which is achieved with moderate to high rep ranges and controlled movements, and volume. The more total sets and reps, the greater the training effect.
  8. Every workout needs to be all-out. Never judge the quality of a workout by how fast your heart is racing or how much you are sweating. What’s even more dangerous is going full throttle when you struggle with less than 50%. Learn to progressively increase workout loads and how beneficial it is to cycle your workouts.
  9. Deadlifting hurts your back, and squatting is bad for your knees. The only people who believe this are those who have never done either exercise properly. The squat and hip hinge movement patterns are vital for health and performance. The best training programs include multiple examples of both. You will receive greater benefit from either or both exercises, than skipping them altogether.
  10. Hiring a personal trainer will fix everything. For so many, contracting a personal trainer is a get-out-of-jail-free card. It means you can cheat on your diets, skip workouts, do whatever you want, etc. After all, you hired a trainer, and that should be enough, right? Don’t you wish. Having an experienced trainer, not some glorified cheerleader, for you will be the one stop solution to getting everything and more out of your fitness journey.

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

See you tomorrow for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitness!

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

Day #16 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain
Day #2 – Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Day #3 – Festively Fit: Staying Fit Over the Holidays




6 Reasons to Schedule Summer Morning Workouts

Summer’s about half way over and while it might be tempting to sleep in, the extended daylight morning hours may be the best time to create a new behavior. I’ll admit, I’m not much of a morning person but once you have a child, lifestyle changes are a necessary evil. In addition, with my profession, I’m up early to workout others. With being up early, there’s a sense of accomplishment, most notably that you still have your entire day in front of you. Why not start your day with some exercise? After all, who wouldn’t want to be done with it before the excuses begin to mount?

Morning Exercise Recommendations

I know. You’d still rather sleep. But I promise you, once you get started, the new habit will take over, hopefully as the year progresses into the colder and darker mornings ahead. Here are some recommendations to consider:

• Aim for eight to nine hours of restful sleep the night before. Not a bad habit to develop right there. We collectively sleep very little.
• If possible, consume a small, easily digestible carbohydrate/protein meal with water to maximize your workout. For convenience, prepare the small meal the night before and store it in the fridge for quick access. Now I know there are those who prefer or can not eat first thing in the morning and that’s ok too. Just understand there is NO benefit from exercising on an empty stomach and that your energy stores will be compromised.
• Follow your workout with a post-exercise carbohydrate/protein meal to promote recovery and act perhaps as your breakfast.
• Perform a dynamic lower- and upper-body warm-up particularly because muscles and joints are generally tighter earlier in the day.

Six Morning Exercise Benefits

Beating the Heat

Perhaps the most logical or obvious reason to train earlier in the day is to avoid working out in summer heat. Exercising when it’s generally cooler in the early morning is also healthier to prevent heat-related cramping, fatigue (disrupting and ruining workouts) and worse, a possible heat stroke.

Early Birds Catch the Worm

Be an early bird exerciser before heading to school or work (so the workout is over and done without having to schedule it around other activities). Also, training early in the day makes the remaining time available for other things you’d like to do.

Get an Early Mood-Boosting/Energizing Endorphin Rush

Exercising any time during the day stimulates desirable mood-elevating endorphins. Working out early in the morning, however, gets the endorphins flowing for optimizing energy and a positive outlook for the rest of the day!

Start the Day with a Feeling of Accomplishment

Completing something productive and worthwhile such as an intense or challenging workout elicits a great feeling of achievement to begin the day on a high note.

Jump-Start Your Metabolism

Beginning mornings with a heavy weight training session or high-intensity interval training, for example, are both excellent for revving metabolism throughout the day.

Make Morning Workouts a Year-Round Routine

Early morning summer workouts can become habit-forming throughout the year (in a good way)—as exercising before school or work can be more preferable than scheduling them later. Busy schedules during other times of the year can zap one’s mental and physical energy and attitude for even considering evening workouts, for instance.

There are many benefits to exercising in the morning, but of course the best option is to just do it whenever it fits your schedule. Make it happen.

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

Why Do I (You) Work Out?

I’m often asked, “How often do you workout?”, not what do I do. It’s generally presumed that someone who makes a career out of keeping people in shape must workout 8 days a week, right? No. Just like everyone else, I like my rest days too, only what I consider a rest day is probably more like an active day for most. But here’s my honest answer. I’m physically active 7 days a week. Some days more involved than others but I’m moving to some degree. Why? Because I choose to and the alternative does not appeal to me very much. So when did this all start or have I always been this way?

My Humble Beginnings

It goes way back to when I was very young witnessing my mother working out with the likes of Jane Fonda, Richard Simmonds, or Jack LaLanne. I was so impressed that people moved their bodies in certain ways to create a positive outcome. Then, I was an athlete through high school and I quickly appreciated the value of taking care of myself physically and it’s positive outcomes. I was never the best athlete but I could compete and “hang” with whoever or whatever the competition and not feel destroyed. In college, I was able to pursue an education in an area that I had already enjoyed and had fueled my passion to simply helping others. Not a day goes by that I take for granted the path that was laid out for me but also worked hard at keeping it growing. Working out was not something I did; it was a part of the fabric that makes me who I am.


My workouts have evolved and rightfully so. As a fitness professional for almost 25 years, I’ve seen it all, tried most of it, and have the clarity to understand what is worth its investment and what is not. Exercise at its root is simply physical movement, a concept most don’t appreciate enough to include in their lives. There’s a ton of blame to be passed around as well as to why this occurs but it ultimately comes down to a choice: you either choose to move or you don’t. Forget about what you think you have to do and just move! Simple, right? Forget about the joining a gym, taking a class, buying equipment for your home, etc. and just move. Once that starts and is consistent, then you can look at alternatives to improving that movement. I love it when people tell me they don’t like to exercise. For one, I feel bad for them. Some where along their path they had a bad experience that soured them on the subject. Secondly, their outlook on life is bleak and perhaps there are deeper issues than I’m quailed to assist. Exercise is not the end all, be all, of life, but we were born with two legs for locomotion and the results of moving far outweigh any alternative.

So Why Then Do I (And You Should) Workout?

In no particular order:
• My personal health and well being. There are no guarantees in life but my odds are greater.
• My family and loved ones need and want me to be there, as do I.
• I love the way it makes me feel and look.
• It makes me feel confident.
• I feel generally stronger all around.
• It puts my mind at ease and is a superb way to handle stress.
• My energy levels are higher.
• Day to day tasks and activities are not a burden.
• I rest and sleep well.
• I rarely get sick and if and when I do it’s short lived.
• Most physical tasks aren’t so daunting. Yes, I can be depended on.

If any or all of these appeal to you, I can guarantee they’ll become your reality by getting and staying moving. So what are you waiting for?

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

12 Days of Fitness: Day 10 – 10 Ways to Kickstart a Morning Workout

(This is Part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

As we head into a New Year, people will often make a plan to exercise more or start exercising which often means having to do something they have never been successful to accomplish before, such as exercising first thing in the morning. I’ll be the first to admit, I am not a morning exerciser. When it’s called upon or necessary, I can do it but it’s built into my daily schedule for later in the day. For some, it may in fact be the only best time for them to do it. There are many advantages to exercising first thing in the morning and if it’s something you’re willing to do and give it a try, here are some tips to create that new habit.

  1. Set a Goal. It’s cliché but if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Every Sunday night, create your workout schedule for the coming week. Tell yourself, for example, “This week, I’m getting up at 6 a.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and doing something for 30 minutes.” Schedule your morning workout just as you would an appointment. You’re more likely to follow your morning workout routine if you write it down. If you don’t make it, write a note in your calendar to explain why. Later, you can analyze your exercise excuses and look for ways to overcome them.
  2. Prepare the Night Before. To follow through on a morning workout routine, it helps to lay out your exercise clothes and equipment the night before. That way you don’t waste any time getting dressed and ready for your workout. One possible disadvantage of exercise in the morning is that your time may be limited — overcome this limitation by having a set routine and not wasting time looking for your sneakers or your weights.
  3. Create a Morning Workout Playlist. Music is a good motivator, especially in the morning, If you have a great playlist, it can be enough to get you out of bed in the morning. Research has shown that listening to music when you exercise can produce positive thoughts and help offset fatigue.
  4. Move Your Alarm Clock. Instead of sleeping with the alarm next to your bed, move it to the other side of the room. That way, you’ll have to get up and get out of bed to shut it off. Once you’re up, it’s that much easier to get dressed in your workout clothes, and head out the door for a brisk walk around the neighborhood or to the gym for a morning workout routine. If you use an alarm that plays music, set it to a song from your workout playlist to help get you in the mood for exercise.
  5. Make a Date. Having a workout buddy or coach is a great motivator. Make plans to meet your exercise partner at the gym at a certain hour. You’re less likely to poop out if you know someone is waiting for you.
  6. Make Friends. If you don’t have an exercise buddy yet, chances are you will make one after a few weeks of sticking to a morning workout routine at your gym. You’ll become familiar with the regulars who also exercise there that time of day. It does inspire you to get up and move because you know they’re there and will wonder where you are if you miss a day or two, It’s a social factor that can help motivate you in the morning.
  7. Let People Know. The more people know of your intentions, the more support you’re likely to get, perhaps even pick up a workout buddy along the way. It adds another level of accountability to keeping you honest with your plan.
  8. Do Not Allow Work to Get in the Way of Working Out. Resist the temptation to log on, check emails, messages, etc. that will most certainly derail you from getting your workout in. News flash – everything is still going to be there when you’re done your workout and chances are you’ll be better able to handle any situation that is awaiting for you once you return from your workout.
  9. Make It Simple. No one is going to move mountains in a day. Start by first getting into the habit of waking up and going to the gym, downstairs, or outside. Plan to do a small workout (15-20 minutes). Make that a pattern and then look to expand upon/add more to the workout. Don’t put any unrealistic deadlines on yourself. Make this a journey, not a sprint.
  10. Reward Yourself. Give yourself a target achievement of after so many days of getting up to exercise (now it’s habit), treat yourself to a massage, new outfit, gear, etc. But the greatest reward you can give yourself is that once the morning workout is complete, you are done for the day. Any additional physical activity is bonus and there won’t be any excuse about not being able to work out because it’s already done.

See you tomorrow for Day 11 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 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight
Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts
Day 3 – 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself
Day 4 – Never Diet Again!
Day 5 – Benefits of Exercising in Winter – Outdoors!
Day 6 – Understanding Your Metabolism
Day 7 – The Most Addictive (And Least Addictive) Foods
Day 8 – The 10 Biggest Lies of the Weight Loss Industry
Day 9 – Are You a Closet Eater?


Is Your Fitness Routine Like Groundhog Day?

05_Flatbed_1 - JANUARYWith the weather we’ve been experiencing in recent weeks, I think the mere mention that today is Groundhog Day may have provided a ray of hope for many.  That and less than two weeks til pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Nevertheless, despite the fact that PunxsutawneyPhil DID NOT see his shadow today indicating an early spring, spring still does not officially arrive until March 21, or six more weeks from today. Now, I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s day by sounding pessimistic.  I’m just reporting the facts.

How’s That Resolution Coming Along?

February 2 – a little more than 4 weeks since the start of 2011.  Like many who started the year with good intentions, more than 45% have already dropped back to old habits.  I’m just reporting the facts.  So has your fitness regimen become a lot like Bill Murray’s character Phil Connors in Groundhog Day? Repeats and repeats and repeats with no result or end in sight? Isn’t it time you cleared away the ice that blocks your path and blurs your vision and put an end to the seamless spinning in circles that has become your quest for optimal health?

One Step at a Time

eThe perfect workout plan; the perfect diet – none of it works if you can’t adopt the following five steps. It takes work, and Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi said it best when he said, “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.”  But it all begins with that first step.

Step 1 – Create the Right Mindset. Believe in yourself. What you say to yourself matters.  One of my favorite sayings, “If you think you can or you can’t, you’re probably right.” I believe in you, I know you can do it, but I need you to believe it too.

Step 2 – Get Social Support. Surround yourself with the right people. Negative, pessimistic people will kill your progress. Find and seek out positive people. Positive people will support you and help you get results.

Step 3 – Plan and Prepare. When it comes to fitness and nutrition, you simply can’t wing it. That’s why you’re spinning in circles every year.

Step 4 – Stick to Your Guns.  Social pressures and those who do not share your mindset will always try to pull you back to where they are comfortable. Be proud of who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Step 5 – Never Stop. You are either moving forward or you are moving backwards. Always keep moving ahead.

Staying on Top of Your Game

Chess board and hand. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.Imagine for a moment that you earn a living as a professional athlete.  Before the ink has even begun to dry on the multi million dollar contract you just signed your name to, along comes an ad agency seeking your endorsement for their product; then another; then another.  Within minutes you are now earning millions of dollars – potentially.  Each contract is contingent on your professional success.  Perform at the top of your game, and you and your family will be set for life.  Consistently underachieve, and you might just have to work well into your pre-planned retirement years.  Whether you are a professional athlete or a business professional however, nothing is a guarantee. Furthermore, while only a very small percentage of the population will ever make it at the professional level, it is certainly not an excuse for not always striving to be your best.

In the realm of professional sports, success is measured in percentages, averages, number of wins, All-Star appearances, or number of championship rings.  But how is success measured in the business world? Or more precisely, how do you measure your own success – your position within a company, your annual income, or the value of your investment portfolio? How about the strength of your relationships, both professional and personal?  Let’s face it!  Regardless of the hat or hats we wear in life, nothing is to be taken for granted and each day brings another opportunity to strive to be better than the day before. Success therefore becomes highly dependent on our ability to stay on top of our game, much like a first stringer trying to not lose his starting job to the back-up.  And that begins by first taking good care of ourselves.

For decades now, corporations big and small have done the necessary research to stay ahead of their competition.  Some of that research has even taken them to closely examining the health and prosperity of their own workforce.   What was once thought to be not “so important” to the value of the company’s bottom line, exercise programs for employees  are now a way  for a growing number of companies to stay ahead of the competition and on top of their game, physically, mentally, and fiscally.  And the evidence just keeps growing!

At the 52nd Annual Meeting of the  American College of Sports Medicine, held last year in Nashville, Tennessee, a study presented by Jim McKenna, PhD, MSc, a professor of sport at Leeds Metropolitan University in England found that when workers used their company gym, they were not only more productive but got along better with their co-workers afterward.   “The results were striking,” said McKenna. “We expected to hear more about the downside of a midday workout, such as afternoon fatigue when they went back to their respective workstations. But out of 18 themes raised by study participants, 14 were positive. It was almost overwhelming.”  McKenna’s study included 210 workers whose company had an on-site gym as an employee benefit.  The workers rated their frame of mind, work performance, and workload on seven-point scales. The surveys were completed right before they left for the day. By then, participants had had their day’s share of meetings, duties, and interactions with co-workers. They took the surveys on days when they had used their company’s gym and on days when they had not exercised. That way, they were only competing against themselves, and any particularly hard or easy days were noted. The most common workout time was during the lunch hour, according to American College of Sports Medicine spokesman Dan Henkel.  Most people in the study took part in aerobics classes lasting anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes. Other options included strength training, yoga or stretching classes. Ratings for mental-interpersonal performance and the ability to manage time and output demands were consistently and significantly higher on exercise days.

The conclusion of the McKenna study was that companies and employees both stand to benefit from at-work gyms. “Companies see more productive employees who also work better together,” he says. “From the public health side, health care costs can be expected to go down for employees who regularly exercise at work. Think of it: fewer sick days, better attendance, and more tolerant co-worker relations.”

As an employer or as an employee, whether or not you consider yourself to be successful, it is important to maintain the mindset that tomorrow is another opportunity to strive for a little harder and expect a little more.  Because if you don’t stay on top of your game, there is somebody or someone else who is ready to move ahead of you.  That is, if they haven’t already.

Featured in July 2006 Issue of 422 Business Advisor