Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Fitness Resolutions

If you are like most people, then you recently said "I am finally going to get in shape in 2009". If that was the case then let me be the first to tell you that is a terrible goal. Not that getting in shape is bad, but how unspecific your goal is.

For a goal to be good it has to be realistic, specific, and measurable. It's like saying you want to make more money. You can accomplish that goal by finding a quarter on the sidewalk. Likewise, "getting in shape" is also too vague of a goal. You should set a goals like lowering your body fat percentage by 4% or running a mile in under 8 minutes, losing 12 pounds or taking 2 inches off your waist. These are specific measurable goals. Just remember to assign a time table to them.

I'm always amazed how crowded the gyms are at the first of the year but it's usually only a problem for a few months. Most people have given up on their fitness resolutions by the time March rolls around. One reason for this is because they set unrealistic goals and become discouraged quickly. Remember to start small and build upon your successes. Especially when you are starting a new workout program. Ease into it and increase the resistance and difficulty with time. It also helps you stick with it if you do an activity you really enjoy.

I am not trying to talk anybody into lowering their goals, I am just trying to help you avoid burnout and discouragement which almost always accompanies new resolutions. As someone who has set goals all my life and have failed miserably at most of them I'm an authority on this subject.

If you determine specifically what you want this year and persistently work towards it with a systematic plan you can accomplish anything. Now re-define your vague fitness resolutions and keep working on them until you have achieved them. Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bigger, Stronger, Faster Movie Review

I try to keep the content on each of my blogs unique, but I am submitting a post from one of my movie reviews today since the movie related to health and fitness.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster is a documentary about steroid use in the United States. The director is Chris Bell and he explains how disenchanted he became when he realized that most of his role models and heroes were "on the juice." I related to his experience since I looked up to many of the same athletes and movie stars when I was younger. This movie features Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Barry Bonds, Carl Lewis, and many others who have been idolized by society yet accused of steroid use.

Bell interviews Olympians, professional athletes, movie stars, power lifters, models, high school students, body builders, Air Force pilots, the most prolific steroid abuser of all time, and even features his own family member's struggle with steroids. This movie gives time to both sides of the issue and addresses the different reasons why people use anabolic steroids. Aside from obvious strength and size issues these include enhanced performance, improved appearance, quicker recovery, self confidence, and in several cases legitimate health benefits.

This documentary takes an honest look at this issue as it exposes those who have used steroids, but surprisingly by the end of the movie I didn't feel steroids were as much of a danger as I previously had. The proponents of steroid use make many valid points that deserve some attention. Seeing these different viewpoints made me rethink my opinion behind the controversy. Was this documentary a wolf in sheep's clothing that is actually promoting steroid use? I'm still not sure but I loved it.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster does much more than blow the whistle on steroid users. It analyzes the ethical issue while pointing out the hypocrisy and double standards in American culture. This film was very entertaining and it made me think which is something that few movies do. I highly recommend it and give it 7.8 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine is an interesting and often controversial subject. It appeals to many people who feel conventional medicine is limited and over dependant on routinely prescribing drugs as a solution to most every problem. There are many forms of alternative medicine and I admit that I am not an expert on any of them. I believe many of these practices are beneficial, but I also think alternative medicine is a slippery slope that can easily snowball to absurdity. I'd like to separate some of these practices into four phases.

Phase One is made up of commonly accepted practices that calm and rejuvenate the body like stretching, breathing exercises, yoga, meditating, fasting, and massage therapy. I've noticed that those who participate in these are usually more receptive to alternative medicine than the general public. These activities seem to be how many people get introduced to additional practices.

Phase two is characterized by vegetarians, herb enthusiasts, chiropractors, biofeedback, aromatherapy, and cleansing. In this phase a masseuse would probably use essential oils and focus on energy centers and chi more during a massage. Some may question these activities, but they are generally accepted by most people.

The third phase has fewer followers and even more critics. It features acupuncture, homeopathy, reflexology, hypnosis, magnet therapy, muscle testing, and hair analysis. This is where things can start to get strange and questionable but it is nothing like the next phase.

The fourth phase is full blown weirdness and features colonic irrigation, iridology, and eventually seeing a full blown witch doctor. I had a friend who went to a woman who had a bowl of small bones she would shake and dump out like she was playing Yahtzee. She would tell her clients what nutrients they were deficient in by analyzing how the bones landed. Now that's good science! The "touchy/feely" factor also increases as you move towards more extreme practices.

I feel that most alternative medicine practices are beneficial and can help people so please don't take offense if something you believe in is on the list. I know many people swear by some of these controversial practices and feel they have benefited from them. I'm more open minded and accepting than the general public but I have my limits. Some people claim to be healers. Do some people really have the art or gift to heal? Probably so, but be careful. There are many desperate people who are exploited by fraudulent practitioners. You should use discernment and don't be afraid to ask for references when working with a new practitioner.

So the next time you are enjoying a massage and your masseuse introduces you to some kind of Eastern/New Age/Alternative therapy just remember it could lead you to additional health benefits or it could escalate to some serious insanity down the road if you are not careful. As critical as I may be of some of these practices, it is hard to argue with results and I find alternative medicine a very fascinating subject.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How Not To Run A Marathon

I have always hated running. I don't mind sprinting races but I think that long distance runners are gluttons for punishment. I never really ran until about 10 years ago when I started dabbling with 5Ks which were the perfect distance for me. I was content running a couple of these a year until one day I saw a documentary on marathon runners. I was astonished to see the elite runners compete at a near sprint pace for 26.2 miles. I was even more inspired to see old and overweight people finish the race. The whole underdog concept was inspiring to me.

I had heard that many of my friends had run marathons over the years and I wanted to run one too. I decided to sign up for the Logan Marathon 2 1/2 months before the race date. I had not trained at all so I asked a runner friend some tips and she recommended the book Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higden. It was a great book and it confirmed my prior suspicion that distance runners are a strange breed. The book recommended 6-12 months to prepare for the run but I didn't have that much time and besides the author didn't realize who he was dealing with. I knew I could do it without all the recommended training.

In preparation I ran a half marathon five weeks later and it nearly killed me. I came across the finish line just under 2 hours and hobbled straight to a nearby stream to soak my aching legs. I'm good enough at math to know that since it took me under 2 hours to run a half marathon it would obviously only take me 4 hours to run a full one. Whatever. I eventually built up to a 20 mile run in preparation for the race but my knees were killing me from such an overwhelming work load in such a short amount of time.

The race day came quicker than I'd like. I found myself eagerly waiting at the starting line with a large and excited crowd. The gun fired and I started the run. I listened to music on my MP3 player to help keep me motivated. I know serious marathoners don't do this but I felt I needed the extra boost and some distraction from the monotony. I finished the first 3 miles in about 21 minutes and was running the pace I planned but by mile 4 my knee was killing me and I started limping. I stopped at every aid station for ice spray and ibuprofen but it just kept getting worse. I knew this was not a good thing but I kept running.

By the time mile 18 came I had hit the infamous wall. It seemed that all the runners around me were also frustrated, exhausted, and in pain. Many had discarded their now useless earphones since not even the most motivating music could compensate for the complete depletion of glycogen and adrenalin. By this point all the serious runners had finished the race. The most frustrating part was when I finally stopped running and started walking. I realized that I was actually moving faster by walking than I had been jogging. I continued running but more people were passing me which was frustrating. I really got mad when an old lady with a hunch back passed me after mile 23. The final miles dragged on forever and I had no strength left. I finally crossed the finish line hobbling in pain with clenched teeth. I immediately found a nearby place to lie down. I was in a lot of pain but I was just grateful that I was not one of the runners I had seen puking or collapsing at the finish line. I didn't finish anywhere near my goal time but I had finished a marathon.

I couldn't bend my knee for several days so I went to the doctor and he said luckily there was no permanent damage. His official medical prognosis was "that I was an idiot for not taking sufficient time to prepare." I was limping for over 3 weeks after the race and had limited range of motion but my body finally healed. I would like to run another one now since I know I could do better if I had trained properly. I would suggest a marathon for anyone who is interested in the challenge. It is as much of a mental feat as it is a physical one. My only advice is to take the time to prepare. You can B.S. your way through a 5 K but a marathon is a different matter.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Recently a friend recommended that I read The China Study by Colin Campbell. When I found out what this book was about I was a little reluctant to read it because I heard it addressed the benefits of a vegetarian diet and I have never aspired to be a vegetarian. Most of the serious Vegetarians and Vegans I have seen over the years appeared to be much thinner than the average person, but aside from the weight difference I didn't think they were much healthier than the general population. I admit I was biased as I approached this topic.

As I've read this book I have been intrigued by the many findings the author shares. He uses data from several studies which shows a correlation between high animal protein consumption and many diseases. Despite the scientific evidence he uses to back up his claims, there are still many critics of his findings including other scientists and doctors. I don't have any moral issue with eating animals or animal products but I have never been a huge meat eater. Even if I wanted to I don't think I could stop eating animal products completely. People can make a conscientious effort to cut back on certain foods they are tyring to avoid as many people do with refined sugar, but to completely eliminate all forms of certain foods is virtually impossible. Fortunately there are many levels or degrees of vegetarians ranging from the strict Vegan who shuns any animal product to the Flexetarian who will occasionally eat meat and animal products but emphasizes a plant based diet.

I applaud anyone who attempts to eat healthier but it seems to be an uphill battle in today's society. I've noticed that unhealthy food is much more affordable and plentiful than healthy alternatives. Our country is a prime example of poor nutritional habits since most Americans are overweight and are plagued with cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and other diseases. I believe nutrition plays a larger role in our health than most people acknowledge. I'm not saying changing one's diet will necessarily cure any disease, but it is obvious that good nutrition can help prevent and delay many of health problems people are afflicted with.

I don't consider myself a vegetarian, but as a result of reading this book I am more open minded to the concept and have become more aware of the foods I eat. I recommend this book for anyone who is concerned about their health. Even if you only make some of the changes in your diet that this book suggests, you would still be better off. Everyone could benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables and improving their nutritional habits.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I have enjoyed writing about health related topics in the past on my other blog, but I wanted to start a new one that was dedicated exclusively to physical fitness and health. I've geared this to people who are health conscience and are looking to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This blog may be new but I have been studying how to achieve better health for over 20 years and I am passionate about this topic and the information I will be posting each week. Weather you are an out of shape couch potato or an athlete in great shape I welcome you all and hope this site will be beneficial to you.