Exercise is boring

 As an exercise junkie, I’ve often wondered why people don’t have the same passion.  The reality is that for many people, exercise is associated with pain and boredom.

How many times have you seen and heard the phrase “no pain no gain”? How about “Pain is weakness leaving the body”?  I saw a tag line on a friend’s e-mail that said “You can be sore tomorrow or sorry tomorrow”.

Each one of these indicates torture to the non-exerciser.  If you’d rather avoid torture, here’s the best advice I can provide.

Do something that you enjoy.

That’s right, it’s that easy. Exercise doesn’t have to be limited to plodding endless miles on a treadmill (yuck!). Find something that makes you feel alive.  Something that gives you a goal to work toward and offers a sense of accomplishment. Something that you can immerse yourself in and make part of your life.

Here’s a list of the things I can think of off the top of my head that I’ve done this year that I would consider exercise:

  • Paddled a kayak through the Dells of the Fox
  • Ran multiple 5k’s outdoors
  • Went geocaching with my kids
  • Rode my mountain bike in the Iceman Cometh Challenge with my family cheering at the finish line
  • Rode 100 miles (twice) on my road bike…before lunch
  • Paddled a canoe on the Du Page River in the middle of winter
  • Summitted 14,255′ Longs Peak with my daughters
  • Spent 8 hours adventure racing through the Michigan woods
  • Ran the Warrior Dash on Father’s Day with friends and family
  • Rowed 1.3 million meters on the Concept 2 rowing machine
  • Played golf with Sara
  • Set multiple personal records in the deadlift
  • Swam whitewater rapids (on purpose) to practice swiftwater rescue
  • Completed the TRX 40/40 Challenge
  • A couple of times, for a little variety, I even ran on the treadmill. 
Sunrise over Twin Sisters Peaks
Sunrise over Twin Sisters Peaks

Aside from the actual exercise part of each of these activites, I experienced moments I’ll never forget. 

I stood 6 feet from a herd of deer while riding my mountain bike, neither of us wanting to give up the trail. I watched the sunrise from 11,000 feet above sea level. I got caught in wicked thunderstorms and sleet storms. I witnessed the absolute silence of the winter woods after a big snowfall.  I watched coyotes, eagles, and hawks when they didn’t realize anyone was watching.  I waded through waist deep water fully clothed at one time and waist deep snow at another. I listened to the laughter of children and the look of amazement as they accomplished goals they never imagined.  I felt the pride of accomplishment in reaching my own goals.     

Each one of these experiences helped me be a better person, a better father, added years to my life, put a smile on my face and the faces of others around me, and yes, each was a form of exercise. 

None of these required any special skills that anyone else couldn’t obtain.  Just a level of commitment and creativity that many aren’t willing to pursue.  I’m just an ordinary guy who doesn’t want to live an ordinary life.

Each was exercise. None of them were boring or torturous. Every time I went to the fitness center I was there with a purpose in mind.  I knew that every squat was going to help me on the mountain bike or make it easier to haul a 55 lb. backpack up a mountain. Every rep had a purpose.

Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Think outside the box and find what you enjoy.  And do it, often!

Twelve Days of Christmas Workout

It’s time for another installment in the holiday workout series.  Consider the “Twelve Days of Christmas” workout my gift to you.  Make sure you’re ready though.  It’s tougher than Aunt Betty’s fruitcake.

 Here’s how it works:

It’s a little different from the song.  For this workout you’ll be going in reverse order from the song.  Normally, you’d start at the first day, the small number, and go to the last day, the big number.  For this workout, you’ll start with the twelfth day and go down from there.

For example, you’ll start with twelve repetitions of the first exercise.  Then, you’ll go for twelve of the first exercise again, eleven of the second.  Start over with 12 reps of the first exercise, 11 of the second, and 10 of the third.  Keep repeating just like that until you’ve done all twelve exercises.

As if the Twelve Days of Christmas Workout isn’t challenging enough, you’ll be doing this workout with as little rest as possible and time yourself.  When you’re done you will have completed 650 total reps. 

Now it’s your turn.   You’ll find a list of the exercises below along with a video demonstration.  I completed the series in 50 minutes.  Let me know your time.

Have fun and Merry Christmas!

12 Prisoner squats

11 Stability ball rollouts

10 Mountain climbers (per side)

9 Stability ball exchanges

8 Medicine ball goalies (each leg)

7 Inverted rows

6 Stability ball hamstring curls

5 Dumbbell snatches (each arm)

4 Renegade rows (each arm)

3 Burpees

2 L-sit raises

1 Minute stability ball plank

Energy doesn’t come in a can

Do we really need this stuff?Am I the only one who isn’t walking around with a canned energy drink? Do we really need all this junk promising to get us through the day? What happens when your 5 hours of energy wears off? Another can? Another $2?

I’m not going to try to get into all the details of how each additive in these drinks and potions you find at the checkout line of every grocery store, convenience store, gas station, etc. affects your body in negative ways.  I’ll let the professional researchers tell you about the safety issues associated with consumption of commercially available energy drinks.    We’ve all heard the news stories of high school and college students mixing this stuff with alcohol and dying.  In this case, they didn’t even need the alcohol.  Here’s a study supporting the pattern of energy drink consumption explaining the enhanced risk of both caffeine and alcohol toxicity in youths.  If you’ve ever read the label on a can of this stuff, you’ll find that you can’t pronounce half of the ingredients.  Do you really want all those chemicals inside you?  Are you still waiting for the reasons we SHOULD be drinking this stuff?  Yea, me too.

How else can we get the energy we need to keep going?

You guessed it. 

Proper nutrition, with real food. 

Food is fuel and provides energy.  Many people lack energy because they’re eating crap.  Rolling through the drive-through for a greasy burger and fries doesn’t count as quality food.  Grabbing lunch from a vending machine will kill you over time.  I was in a drug store the other day and noticed that the bag of licorice has “A Fat Free Food” printed on the package.  Wow, really! That must mean it’s good for you right? Wrong.

A fire requires wood and oxygen to burn, right?  There’s the fuel.  Stop adding fuel and the fire dies out.  Add wet fuel or choke off the oxygen and the fire can’t get going.  Your body and your metabolism work the same way.  Add quality food and your metabolism burns hot. 

Get lean.

Notice that I didn’t say get thin.  There’s a difference.  Thin simply means weigh less.  Do supermodels look healthy? That’s thin. A diet might make you thin, but it won’t make you healthy and won’t give you energy.  Most diets result in less food, which means less fuel, which means less energy.  

I’m talking about adding more lean muscle to your frame.  You don’t have to have the freaky huge muscle that makes you look like 200 pounds of marbles in a 100 pound bag.  Think Olympic sprinter or gymnast lean and muscular instead.  Muscle is active and helps you move more efficiently.  A stronger body with less “baggage” will move better and require less energy to perform basic efforts. 

Stop spending $2 per can and you’ll have more than enough for a fitness membership at LifeStyles Fitness Center and still have almost $40 at the end of the month!

It’s really simple.  I don’t know how to make it more complicated, so here’s the answer to getting more energy, and not from a can:

  1. Eat smart
  2. Move more
  3. Develop a stronger and more efficient you

Need help?  Here’s a way to get a great start on Your Fitness Journey!

How to read a food label

I drive my family crazy.

I read the food label on everything. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m far from perfect in what I eat, but I like to know what I’m eating.  I use that label to make my choice.  Eat this or that. Which will help me get closer to my goal?  What should I stay away from at all costs?  Which items am I eating that don’t help me get closer, but satisfy a craving, and how can I factor that into my overall intake? 

What's in a label?
What's in a label?

The information on the food label can help you understand and make better choices.  Here are a few key things I look at when reading a label:

  • Serving size: Many people mistakenly believe that they’re eating one serving when in reality they’re eating more. Take the label below. It’s from a bagel. If you’re eating a bagel, you would expect that the serving size is a bagel. In this case, the nutritional profile is for a serving size of 1/2 bagel. If you’re eating the whole bagel, double everything.
  • Total Fat: Limit the saturated fat and trans fat. These are the bad fats that clog your arteries.  Unsaturated fat is the better fat that helps lower cholesterol, reduces triglyceride levels, and lessens inflammation in the body.
  • Cholesterol: Limit this to less than 200 milligrams per day.
  • Sodium: Limit this as well.  Common recommendation is less than 2300 mg per day for adults and less for kids.  
  • Total carbohydrate: This one’s often mistaken as the enemy. It’s an easy scapegoat.  Carbohydrate is your body’s primary source of energy and is needed for proper brain function. It’s also required for fat metabolism.  Here’s what to look for in this area.
  • Dietary fiber is good. Fiber fills you up and aids in intestinal health. The current recommendation is 38g daily for males and 25g daily for females.
  • Sugars should be limited to no more than 10% of total calories in most cases. The exception is when you’re taking in carbs for quick energy, in which case you’ll be fine with a higher percentage.  Keep in mind though that as part of a balanced diet, sugars aren’t really adding much benefit.
  • Other carbohydrate includes the number of complex carbs, excluding fiber. A higher number here generally infers a more nutritious carb profile.
  • Note: The wider the difference between total carbs and sugars the better. If there are 28 total carbs and 14 are sugar, 50% of the total carbs are added sweeteners and therefore aren’t going to do much for you.
  • Protein: Protein is comprised of amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle.  This macro nutrient is also the more difficult for the body to digest, meaning that it has to work harder and you use more calories in the digestion process.  Recommendations vary on the percentage of protein needed.  A commonly used figure is to shoot for 0.4 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight per day.  That may or may not work for you though depending on your dietary requirements and restrictions.
  • Vitamins: This section will tell you the percentage of key vitamins and minerals contained in the food.
  • Ingredients: The list of ingredients will be listed in order of the content. For example, of water is listed first, there is more water than any other ingredient.  Look for ingredients that you can pronounce. The fewer things that you can’t pronounce the better.

That’s the back of the package.

There are a few things you should consider on the front of the package as well.  Food producers are marketing masters and they’ll take every opportunity to capitalize on the latest public fad. 

I was in a store the other day and noticed the words “A Fat Free Food” on the front of a package of licorice. Someone might be tempted to think it’s better for you than another licorice not using that same label.  Take a look at the back of that package though and you’ll find that it’s almost all sugar. 

Here are a few guidelines, some might even consider them loopholes, related to marketing claims on the front of the package:

  • Calorie free: Less than 5 calories per serving.
  • Cholesterol free: Less than 2 mg cholesterol and 2 g or less saturated fat per serving.
  • Enriched or fortified: Nutritionally altered so that one serving provides at least 10% more of the Daily Value of a nutrient than the comparison food.
  • Extra lean:Less than 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, and 95 mg of cholesterol per serving and per 100 g.
  • Fat free: Less than 0.5 g of fat per serving.
  • Good source (as in “a good source of”): One serving provides 10-19% of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient.
  • High (as in “high in vitamin C”): One serving provides at least 20% or more of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient.
  • Lean: Less than 10 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, and 95 mg cholesterol per serving and per 100 g. 
  • Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving.
  • Low cholesterol: 20 mg or less cholesterol and 2 g or less saturated fat per serving.
  • Low fat: 3 g or less per serving.
  • Low saturated fat: 1 g or less saturated fat per serving and 15% or less calories from fat.
  • Low sodium: 140 mg or less per serving.
  • More: One serving contains at least 10% more of the Daily Value of a nutrient than the comparison food.
  • Reduced: A nutritionally altered product which must contain 25% less of a nutrient or of calories than the regular or reference product.
  • Salt or sodium free: Less than 5 mg per serving.
  • Sugar free: Less than 0.5 g of sugars per serving.
  • Unsalted: Has no salt added during processing. (This does not mean it is “sodium free” unless it is naturally sodium free.)
  • Very low sodium: Less than 35 mg or less sodium per serving.

Sources:

I have a slow metabolism

Which do you want to be? It's your choice.
Which do you want to be? It's your choice.

“I can’t lose weight because I have a slow metabolism”.

You know what…you may be right. The sad truth is you’ve likely caused it to become slow.  Now do something about it.

First, what does that term mean?

Metabolism: the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available. (source: dictionary.com)

In simpler terms, metabolism is the process your body has to go through to power itself throughout the day, maintain your current energy levels, weight, and body composition. It’s how hot and efficient your engine runs.

Your metabolism is directly influenced by the amount of food you take in and the amount of movement you perform.  If you have a slow metabolism, it’s probably because you’ve made it slow.  Fortunately, that’s an easy problem to fix.  Here are three things you can do:

1. Increase your activity.  If you’re sitting down right now, stand up. There, you’ve just significantly increased your metabolism. Anything you can do sitting, try to do it standing. 

Talking on the phone? Stand up and walk around.

Holding a meeting at work? Remove the chairs from the room. Not only will everyone’s metabolism wake up, but the meeting will be shorter. Awesome!

2. Increase lean muscle. Your body has to work harder to maintain lean muscle than it does to maintain body fat.  Add more lean muscle to your frame through resistance training and you’ll increase your metabolism.  I know a great fitness center in Bolingbrook and a personal trainer in Bolingbrook too!

3. Eating increases your metabolism. When your body has to digest food, it uses calories. When you deprive yourself of food, your body slows down to conserve energy.

Slashing calories too low isn’t the answer.  The key here is to strike the balance between eating too much, which most people do, and not eating enough to support your goals. You also need to be eating the right amounts of the right foods. 

Your body uses energy (calories) to digest food.  You use more calories to break down and digest protein than carbohydrate and fat. As long as you don’t have a condition that limits your protein intake, consider upping those levels.  The Mayo Clinic suggests getting 10 to 35% of total calories from protein (assuming you do not have any dietary restrictions).

The truth is that everything except calorie balance is an excuse.  We’re not gaining weight because we’re not eating enough.  Show me one person who died of starvation and was also overweight.

Although your metabolism influences your body’s basic energy needs, it is ultimately your food and beverage intake and increasing your physical activity that determines how much weigh you lose.  Stop blaming your metabolism and recognize that you need to create an energy deficit by eating fewer calories and increasing the number of calories you burn through physical activity.