June 28, 2016

The First Ten 

     No it’s not your weight, I have a different ten in mind. This one can be just as difficult for many people to conquer but not identified as a problem and that’s the first ten minutes of the workout. Getting through the first circuit, the first mile, really the first ten is really the difference between success and failure. Many people like the idea of exercise but they can’t seem to clear the first ten with enough consistency to put a lifestyle change in place. If this is you here is how I think you need to deal with it. Stop thinking about how you feel about it. It’s totally inappropriate. I don’t really care if you are not in the mood and you shouldn’t either, just focus on getting through the first ten minutes. Once the wheels are in motion you have a solid chance of finding the energy and inspiration to make it all the way through. This is what I have learned with my clients; sometime I need to exert pressure to get the ball rolling and once in motion Newton’s first law takes over. “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” It seems simple and rather obvious but you would be surprised how often it’s overlooked. Warm up for a minute or two and then kick into it. If you can get this going on a consistent basis Newton’s third law will make itself known. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Guess what that is…. you will get in shape.
June 23, 2016

Fitness over the Long Haul

     I just finished reading a NYTimes article “Why Are Americans So Fascinated With Extreme Fitness” by Heather Havrilesky (Oct. 14, 2014). A number of articles focused on extreme fitness have come out recently in response to the high intensity exercise trend. Most of the columns that I have read (like this one) are not very complementary. To be sure, Cross-Fit and like-minded exercise programs have passionate supporters and detractors alike (read the comments attached to the NYT article if you have any doubt about that statement). However, the goal of fitness and living a healthy life sometimes gets lost in the shuffle as people stake out a position of worship surrounding their workouts. What I would say is this: the strategy that you need to find is one that is sustainable for decades. Adjustments need to be made as the years roll by but that is just an obvious part of the journey. A short burst of extreme exercise holds little value in the long run and if you throw in with an exercise philosophy that pushes you to the wall as a matter of regular routine you won’t be able to keep it up because your body and spirit will rebel. This is not an opinion it is just the reality of being human. The trick is to find the balance. You need to work hard to make progress but if you are seduced by the notion that you must be in extremis at the end of or during every session you will find out the hard way that it will catch up with you. (Insert the dreaded F word here: Failure!) Set the throttle where you have some headroom because if you want to enjoy success over the long haul this is the path that in the end will lead you home. Work hard, work smart and try to enjoy yourself a bit as you go. Don’t forget about that. Enjoyment (or satisfaction if that is more palatable) must be included at some level or the entire effort will end up having no legs at all.
April 13, 2016

The Gravity of Weight Training

If someone pushes you the human reaction is to push back. Gravity exerts that kind of pressure every hour of every day, like a persistent poke in the chest with every tick of the Clock. The relentless pull that staples us to the ground is also a bit of a brutality that contributes to the aging process. Over time it pulls us down, and down, and down. I’m sure at some point you have looked in the mirror at your face (or your ass) and thought “What the hell is going on here?”  Well it’s going on. We can’t stop the aging process and living in zero G has its own set of problems so the solution is to push back. HARD. We need to throw everything into the fray because gravity and time are ever busy doing their work. 
Get on a program, get into a routine and engage the enemy at the wall because once it comes over (and it will) you will have a devil of a time getting back to the other side. 
Lift weights. Push back. Do it today. What have you got to lose?  
Not a thing in the world.
April 10, 2016

Lunch on the Hop!

     The span of time from 1 to 4pm often features a period of low energy and assuming that you are getting enough sleep at night this daily hurdle can be a challenge. Two things seem to me to be the major cause of the postmeridian malaise; number one being the lack of physical activity and number two is lunch. (Too little of the former and too much of the latter.) A workout at mid-day instead of eating and sitting is an obvious solution but this can be a tall order for some people due to on the job logistics. There is however a lunchtime twist you can add and it takes very little in the way of special preparation. Eat a light lunch WHILE you go for a walk. Yes, that’s right, walk and eat. Let’s call it Lunch on the Hop! Pairing these together is also a one hand washes the other situation. You will most assuredly have time for exercise and it will be tough to over eat because the food you have with you is the food you have with you. (Stopping to buy more is a no no!) If the weather is nice the sunlight and fresh air alone can be enough to improve your outlook. A 30 to 45 minute walk while you munch on a sandwich is a lock to jump-start your afternoon energy level, I can almost guarantee it. Try Lunch on the Hop! for a couple of days and I think you will feel more energetic as you run the gauntlet that stands between lunch time and dinner. What have you got to lose? At the very least, while you walk you can work on your tan a bit.
April 10, 2016

Running Your Muscle Off

     I have been watching the same people running for years around my town. Some of them I know, some I don’t. A few I know peripherally. That is to say I know their name and not much else. But the group that I am observing has been running to stay fit for the last decade or so by my estimation. The last few years I have observed a slow down across the board. The pace is slower to be sure but the way they are moving is what’s really drawing my attention.  The best description of what I am seeing is this; they have slipped into a plodding gait.  A sort of “back on their heels” form of locomotion. It’s heavy and lacks the spring that is an essential component of a good running stride. Why? You can blame the passage of time exclusively and who am I to say it’s not in the mix. But as I am acquainted with another set of people that are roughly the same age where this is not happening. I think I know why…they are dedicated to strength training.
     Muscle is your armor, your shock absorber, and your lodestar. One group is sweating their muscle off while another is working to keep layering it on. The weight training is pushing back against the hands of time. The fountain of youth may be out of reach but the wayback machine is open for business.
     The science is admittedly thin in this observation, the group is small, and I am not in possession of all the facts.  But I can say this: The people that I do know (in the group of plodders) don’t have much of a strength program in place. The conclusion that I am drawing from this is that you can run your muscle off if you don’t have a strength training program. Let me be clear, this is a passive situation and not active one. Your cardiovascular exercise doesn’t strip your muscle but neglecting strength and agility training seems to.  Each passing decade will try to rob you of your strength and you’ll need to put up a fight. 
     Here’s the good part; you don’t have to dedicate your whole life to strength training. Set aside some time each week and start to push back. The momentum against you is relentless so you need to get in there and mix it up. I’m giving it to you with the bark off. Neglect a strength program and you will slowly fade away. Fight back and you will be shocked at the results. As with most everything in life it’s your choice.