Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year Fitness Seminar

If you are like most people, over the last month you've probably been overindulging and slacking off when it comes to your fitness. On Saturday Jan 1st at 11:00 we are holding a FREE fitness seminar to kick off the year right and to help you get back on track. We will discuss different exercise programs, nutrition, stress management, and more.

We will also have a drawing for free stuff to give away to those in attendance. You could win stability balls, T-shirts, and certificates for a 60 minute massage and free personal training. Meet at Put It Up Fitness located at 1057 N State Street in Orem this Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to noon.

It's not like you have anywhere else to be on New Years day! Sleep in and then come by at 11:00 to get some great information and support for helping you reach your 2011 fitness goals.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Solitary Confinement Workout

Some people find it to be a challenge to exercise regularly. I especially hear people complain when they don't have access to a gym or equipment. Exercise equipment may be convenient and ideal, but it's certainly not necessary for a good workout. I'd like to get people in a mindset that they can still exercise if they are stuck in a cubicle all day or even in solitary confinement.

I think it's fun to figure creative ways to work out with minimal equipment. You can replicate most exercises with just a stability ball and dumbbells. Resistance bands are also helpful if you are traveling and don't have access to equipment or a gym. You can also use a small person or little kids in lieu of weights, just make sure not to drop them.

There are times when you may not have access to any equipment at all and you may have to rely on using your own body weight and gravity as resistance. The following exercises can be done in a hotel room, outside, in a cubicle of a call center, or even in a prison cell for any readers who may be behind bars. (I hear Your Fitness Quest is one of the top Internet sites for people at the big house.)

Chest-There are tons of push up variations to choose from.
Lower Back-Supermans, cobras, and extensions.
Abs-crunches, reverse crunches, V-ups, and Russian twists.
Shoulders-hand stand push ups.
Arms- chair dips, tricep pushups, kickbacks, or curling luggage
Legs-squats, 1 legged squats, wall sits, lunges, glute raises, good mornings, and calf raises.

I'll admit that it can be a challenge to exercise your back without weights or a pull up bar, but you can target just about any other muscle group just by using body weight exercises.

Don't feel like you have to depend on going to the gym or using machinery or even weights to get a good workout. Performing body weight resistance exercises can get the job done and can add some variety to your usual workout routine.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

There's No Substitute For Physical Activity

I applaud the makers of the Wii for attempting to get people more active and concerned about their health by using the Wii Fit, but they just can't compete with real exercise and activity. I saw this video recently and got a kick out of it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Paleo Diet: So easy a caveman can do it.

The Paleolithic, or caveman, diet follows the premise that we should eat like our early ancestors and that our bodies are not equipped to process foods that didn't exist thousands of years ago. It follows the hunter gatherer mentality that you should "graze" and work for your food as opposed to domesticating animals and raising grain for your diet. 

I can see the wisdom in eating more "live" and unprocessed foods, but I don't completely buy the idea that dairy and grain are bad for us. It's true that many people gain a lot of weight from eating too many carbs (bread and cereal), but I also believe bread is the staff of life.

As with any diet, there are pros and cons and advocates and critics to this style of eating. I don't view domesticating animals and raising grain as bad things, but rather as progress; however, when you see some of the conditions that cows, pigs, and chickens are raised in, it is obvious that finding food sources in the wild would be advantageous as opposed to eating an animal raised in a cage that has been pumped full of hormones to make it grow faster.

This topic also reminds me that we should adopt a Paleo activity level to help offset our sedentary lifestyles. I believe many of the principles of a Paleo diet can be beneficial as long as you don't get too extreme. Remember, if you really want to hold true to the diet of ancient ancestors, then you should probably not refrigerate your meat or brush your teeth after eating either.

This video is not relevant to nutrition, but since we are talking cavemen, I have to include one of my favorite commercials.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Exercise and Pregnancy

I've never been pregnant before (shocker), but I've observed my wife and other women deal with pregnancies over the years. One thing that I've noticed is that no two pregnancies are the same. Some women seem to be able to go full steam up until their delivery date, while others are sick or even bed ridden just weeks into the pregnancy. I tell all my clients to consult a physician before starting an exercise program, but I really emphasize this if they are pregnant.

It used to be that if someone was expecting, they were told to take things easy and cut back on the exercise, but today we understand that appropriate exercise during pregnancy can benefit both the mother and the unborn child. Some of the benefits of exercise include:

* more energy
* better sleep
* improved muscle strength and endurance
* alleviate lower back pain
* stress reduction
* prepare you for a smoother delivery
* help you get back your pre-pregnancy figure quicker.

During pregnancy there are many changes to the body such as increased oxygen demand, increased blood volume and blood pressure, weight gain, hormone changes which cause ligaments to stretch, etc. As a result, special accommodations should be made and the following precautions should be followed.

-Avoid supine (lying down) exercises, especially towards the end of the pregnancy.
-Avoid contact sports, ballistic movements, and high impact activities.
-Walking, swimming, resistance training, and low impact activities are safer options.
-Avoid exercising in hot and humid temperatures.
-Don't be too intense or work out until exhaustion.
-If you haven't exercised regularly in the past, then you should ease into it slowly.
-Drink plenty of water before, during, and after working out.
-Listen to your body.

If you have a history of miscarriages, high risk pregnancies, or any other medical conditions, then you will want to take special precautions and as I said before, consult your physician. My hat is off to women who make the selfless sacrifice of enduring a pregnancy and giving birth. One way to improve your quality of life and maintain good health during pregnancy is to participate in an appropriate exercise program that is tailored to your needs and condition.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

This week Your Fitness Quest is celebrating 2 years of posts. I thought I'd celebrate by keeping things short and sweet and just share some health and fitness cartoons instead of the usual boring post.

I thought I'd share a bit from John Pinette. He's best known for addressing the topics of food, overeating, and dieting in his stand up routines. I thought this was pretty funny.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Seasons of Fitness

When I hear the word periodization, I often think of changing up one's work out routine so you don't get in a rut. Phrases like muscle confusion and "shocking the system" come to mind.

It's normal for a body builder and other athletes to cycle their training and to go through various stages in order to peak at just the right time. I think that many average people also go through cycles or season when it comes to their fitness.

As Ecclesiastes says, there is "A time to kill and a time to heal: a time to tear down and a time to build up." I also think there is a time to run and a time to stop running. A time to lift weights and a time rest from lifting weights. A time to eat healthy and a time to indulge. The key is doing these things in moderation and letting those occasions be the exception rather than the rule.

I think going through phases or cycles with one's training is not only wise, but it is natural and mimics nature. Think of the seasons changing, the phases of the moon and tide, and even cycles of the human body. If we were rocks, it would be easy to keep everything the same all the time, but since we are living things, change is inevitable and expected, and I believe it is healthy.

The following fitness pattern is common for most people in the population.

January-Spring- Making resolutions and starting to get in shape (until they quit)
Summer-Picking things up a notch and trying to get in peak beach body condition.
Fall- Maintenance and tapering off.
Winter- Many people become sedentary and rest more during the holidays.

It's very common for people to gain weight over the holidays. For some, this weight never comes off again but just slowly adds up each year. I believe staying in shape year round is important and it's much easier to maintain your conditioning than to start over from scratch, but at the same time, it's not such a bad thing for someone to take things a little easier at times. I'm not saying exercise and healthy living is seasonal, nor am I advocating taking the holidays off and hibernating, but maybe it's not such a bad thing to take it a little easier at the end of the year as long as you avoid de-conditioning and keep your weight gain in check.

This year I've decided to try and fine tune my eating and lose several pounds during the months that are traditionally the hardest ones to eat right during. This requires some discipline, but if you stay close to your ideal weight and fitness levels, then it will be much easier to get back into peak shape once you attempt to do so, as opposed to going through the typical fitness seasons most people experience.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cold and Flu Season

With the colder weather approaching, I am reminded that cold and flu season is around the corner. I thought I'd give everyone a little reminder about keeping our germs to ourselves. I'm not a Germaphobe, but when I saw this clip it made me want to start washing my hands more frequently.

Here is a video clip of people sneezing in slow motion. It's an ad for flu shots, but I think it's a good reminder of how germs are spread. By the way, the proper protocol for dealing with a sneeze or cough these days is to turn your head into your upper arm/shoulder instead of your hands.

Sorry for grossing you out. Thank goodness for sneeze guards at the salad bar!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fitness Blogger Survey

I've noticed that many of the followers of Your Fitness Quest are very similar to myself in age. That intrigues me since I'm not necessarily trying to cater to the 40 + year old crowd. I think one reason there are so many of us with similar interests in this age bracket is because in your 20's, you can get away with murder when it comes to taking care of your body, but after 30, as your body ages, you can't expect good results unless you take care of yourself.

Many of you are like minded individuals who have awesome fitness blogs. I thought I'd do a brief survey to pick the brains of the people who practice what they preach. The 4 questions for this survey are geared specifically to people who take their health seriously and are passionate about fitness. You don't need to have a fitness blog or be any specific age to respond to the following questions.

1. Was there a time when you felt out of shape or in poor health? If so, how long ago?

2. What motivated you to get serious about your health and make healthy lifestyle changes like eating right and exercising?

3. What type of exercise program or nutritional changes have made the biggest difference for you?

4. Name some people who you look up to as role models when it comes to fitness.

Here are my answers:

1. I realized I was a overweight about 10 years ago (skinny dude with fat deposits). I was out of shape due to a sedentary job and eating a lot of fast food.
2. One big motivator for getting into shape was coming across an issue of Muscle Media magazine in the 90's and seeing so many regular people who made amazing body transformations.
3. Eating smaller portions and eating more fruits and vegetables have been the biggest help for my diet. Lifting weights is the most beneficial exercise for me, but I also love basketball and have taken up running.
4. I admire Randy Couture, Dara Torres, Karl Malone and other people who show you can still be in great shape even as you get older.

Thanks for your participation. Just number your responses in the comments section. I look forward to your feedback.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Psychological Preparation and Performance

Psychological preparation is a critical component of performance for any serious athlete. This is also referred to as mental preparation.

I first learned about this concept when I was attending a basketball camp as a teenager. The camp was put on by Jim Spencer who was the most successful high school basketball coach in the state at the time. He continually stated that "mental is to physical as 3 is to 1" as he stressed the importance of being mentally prepared. I have never forgotten this, and over the years I have seen many real life examples of this concept.

The many Cinderella stories in sports are examples of this concept. There have been many David vs. Goliath examples where a more experienced and physically superior opponent is defeated by an underdog. Buster Douglas knocking out the then invincible Mike Tyson, the 1980 US hockey team upsetting the Soviet team for the gold medal, and Villanova knocking off the heavily favored Georgetown team in 1985 for the national championship come to mind. One reason March Madness is such an exciting event is due to these types of upsets.

There are many factors that go into these upsets, but one of the biggest ones is psychological preparation and the state of mind an athlete is in during an event. I remember seeing footage in the news when Hank Gathers died. A friend of his was notified while he was playing in a basketball a game. Once he heard the news, he sat on the bench, covered his head in a towel, and started crying. He was devastated and was no longer in any condition to compete, although just minutes before, he was performing very well. The only thing that had changed was his state of mind.

Psychological preparation is crucial to overcome fear, nervousness, and intimidation. This is evidenced in games when an opposing coach will try to ice a kicker or a free-throw shooter to put more pressure on them. The physical feat does not change any, but extreme pressure can make it a completely different scenario if one is not mentally prepared. When athletes are unable to perform in such a clutch setting, then they are said to have "choked", but when they are able to block out distractions and complete a task while under pressure, they are lauded for being mentally tough.

When an athlete is in a positive state of mind, has a great deal of confidence, and is performing at a top level, they are referred to as being "in the zone". On several occasions, I remember Michael Jordan being interviewed after some amazing shooting performances. He said the hoop just seemed like it was twice as big as usual. The circumference of the rim had obviously not changed but his perception and mind set had.

How do you mentally prepare for an event?

1)  Familiarity- Familiarize yourself with the surroundings where you will compete. When a team goes to a bowl game they usually arrive several days early as opposed to the day of the event. This gives them time to mentally prepare. Many high school varsity players are required to watch the JV game prior to theirs, so they will be thinking about and focusing on their sport prior to the event. Familiarity to the environment where one will be performing is important. That is one of the benefits of a home court advantage.

2) Visualization- Many professional athletes use the practice of visualization to prepare for an event. It is a common practice for them to see themselves performing successfully in their mind before they compete. You see this with golfers before they putt and players at the free-throw line as they mimic a shot. A marital artist will do several dry runs as he visualizes breaking a board or bricks before the actual attempt. They are creating their results mentally before they attempt to do so physically.

3) Practice- Psychological preparation improves when one has been properly conditioned to compete and if they have a sound understanding of their sport and confidence in their teammates. This confidence is only accomplished with repetition and practice.

4) Coaching-  Scouting efforts by a coach help a player to know how to prepare and give him the confidence that he will be ready for his opponent. One reason coaching is so important is because it eliminates fear of the unexpected.

While genetics, conditioning, experience, and motivation all play a role in determining how an athlete will perform, one's psychological state of being can be just as important in determining success or failure. If you are an elite athlete dealing with intense competition or just a casual runner wanting to set a new 5K personal best, mental preparation can help you reach your goals.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Muscle Spotlight: Pecs

Occasionally I spotlight different muscles. Today I'm going to focus on the chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor) aka "pecs". If muscles were animals, then pecs would be the king of the forest. At least that is what one would assume from watching people work out at the gym. Because pecs are one of the larger muscles, they seem to get a lot of attention.

People tend to focus on the muscles that they see when standing in front of the mirror. As a result, chest, abs, and biceps usually get a lot more attention than their antagonist muscles. Have you ever heard anyone talk about Taylor Lautner's back, hamstrings, or calves? I didn't think so.

Pecs are used in every day activities any time you push something with your upper body. Having strong chest muscles not only gives you a better appearance, but it can help you carry out physical tasks with greater ease. Strong pecs also help protect your shoulders since they stabilize the shoulder joint. 

Exercises that work the chest muscles include the bench press and it's many variations, pushups, flys, butterfly press, cable crossovers, and many swimming strokes. Remember when you work your chest, you also want to work out the opposing back muscles. It doesn't necessarily have to be during the same workout, but you just don't want to neglect opposing muscles and develop an imbalance.

Speaking of famous chest muscles, I thought I'd leave you with a video clip of Arnold doing dumbbell flys.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Healthy Habits

When I started playing basketball in grade school, I taught myself how to shoot. Because I was taller than most kids, I used my height to my advantage and protected the ball by shooting it from behind my head with both hands. Shooting like that worked in grade school, but I had developed the bad habit of shooting with bad form and by the time I got to Jr. High, my coach made me start from scratch and learn how to shoot with correct form.

I thought I'd include a picture of me from that time. I'm the tall lurpy one. You gotta love the early 80's styles. Check out the sweet shorts, the long tube socks, and the arms. You probably didn't realize you'd have tickets to the gun show when you started reading this post.

We all have our bad habits. Some of these might include overeating, skipping breakfast, lifting weights with poor form, not warming up or cooling down, bad posture, or distracted driving. Some of those habits mentioned don't seem like much, but little things add up over time and become bigger problems. Just ask anyone who's had a root canal.

Good health habits include regular flossing, wearing seat belts, exercising on a regular basis, getting enough sleep, wearing sunscreen, drinking enough water, etc. These might sound monotonous and insignificant, but healthy habits are at the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.

This topic reminds me of a quote I like. "Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an action and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny." This quote and variations of it have been credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Allen, and a host of other people so I'm not sure who to credit for it, but I believe that small and simple habits do make a big difference over time and can affect our destiny.

So, how does one go about creating new habits? Repetition is the key. Developing some habits may only take days, while others may require years of repetition and practice. If you analyze your long term goals, you can break them down to into smaller steps and decide what habits would help you to accomplish those goals.

Some people focus on overcoming bad habits that are slowing them down or overcoming addictions they want to get rid of. Others choose to focus on positive habits they'd like to develop. The most important thing is to pick something that is important to you that you'd like to change and work on it enough until it becomes second nature.

PS- My shot is sweet as silk today.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bountiful Baskets of Produce

Several months ago my wife came home one Saturday morning with a couple large laundry baskets full of produce. She said it was from "Bountiful Baskets." I didn't know what she was talking about so she explained that it was a food co-op program that two women started that has now spread to most of the western states. Here's their link You order your basket online at the beginning of the week for a whopping $15. Then you meet at your local drop off point on the weekend.  You have to be sure to bring something to carry your food home in. The pickup locations are completely managed by volunteers, and it is recommended that you volunteer about 1 week out of 5 .

Here's a photo of this morning's catch. This is a double order and there is much more food in the picture than it looks like. We have bags of potatoes, cantaloupe, and cauliflower buried under everything in the back. I didn't do the best job of arranging it for this photo, but you get the picture.

Each week I've been impressed with how much produce she gets and how affordable it is. One of my pet peeves is how dirt cheap junk food is and how healthy foods usually costs more. More impressive than the price is the variety that they offer. It is kind of like a grab bag each week. You never know exactly what you will get when you order your basket. As a result, we've eaten a lot of great food that we normally wouldn't buy. Over the last two months, our kids have been introduced to egg plant, spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, kiwi, mangoes, champagne grapes, plantains, pluots, and several other foods that I still don't know the names of.

I have a big family so we usually end up placing a double order. It's been nice to see my kids excited when we bring home produce. Since the contents of the basket is always a surprise, they think it's kind of like Christmas morning. Some of them act as if we've brought home ice cream sundaes. That would never have happened when I was a kid. I wasn't into vegetables as a kid, and when my dad came home from the store with a bunch of produce, he might as well have brought home dirty diapers.

Anyway, If this produce service is offered near you, or if you are familiar with a similar one, I encourage you to check it out. It is a great way to get a wide variety of healthy food at a good price.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Scientific Discovery

I have been doing some scientific research lately and have discovered some ground breaking correlations. I hope to submit them to scientific journals and having them published in the near future. Your Fitness Quest is excited to share these findings with you.

I have discovered that weight gain is directly related to the amount of stuff you put in your mouth. The probability of weight gain is further increased when you chew and swallow the stuff. Most people eventually relinquish the stuff they ingest a day or so later but by that time it has given off most of it's beneficial properties including the ones that make you gain weight and is not as valuable or desirable.

Conclusion: if you are trying to lose weight, don't put so much stuff in your mouth.

Sorry for being a smart alec, but I think sometimes we make things more complicated then they need to be. If you are overweight and want to do something about it, then it is important to create an energy deficit (eat less than your body burns each day). If you are taking in more calories than your body needs, the first law of thermodynamics states that excess energy (food) will be stored in the form of fat.

Many people, including myself, eat more than they should. If you are not happy with the results you are getting, then stop kidding yourself by just estimating how much you eat and start using a food journal. It might be a pain in the neck for a while, but it is extremely helpful and will be an educational experience. It will help you learn more about food and yourself. There are tons of free websites and smart phone applications that can help you track your calories and in turn identify the pitfalls to your eating. If you haven't tracked your food intake before, I encourage you to do so for a week. It can be a very insightful experience.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Healthy Associations

Having good examples and positive influences in your life is important in helping you achieve your goals. People who associate with a coach, trainer, or mentor have an advantage when it comes to positive support. I've heard people say that your finances will be an average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. I think this same concept can be applied to other areas or your life, including fitness. 

As a teenager, I learned the importance of associating with people who pushed me to progress and improve. When I was on the high school basketball team, I was given some good advice to practice against players who were better than me. As a result, I played pickup games with college players who were bigger, taller, stronger, and more skilled than me. For quite a while I got my butt kicked, but the increased competition caused me to improve my game. Eventually I could hold my own against most of the college players I'd play against. It was tempting to play against people I was better than because I could dominate, but you stop improving when you stop pushing yourself.

It's easy to be a big fish in a little pond, and one way to avoid that is to look for associations with people who challenge you to improve and who bring out the best in you. This applies not only to fitness and sports, but music, academics, art, and business. Most parents understand the principle of association and that is why they are concerned with what kind of friends their kids play with when they are little.

So how does this apply to someone wanting to lose weight or get in shape? If all the people you spend time with eat junk food and are overweight, then there is no pressure for you to improve if you are accustomed to an unhealthy environment. If however, you have friends who model healthy behaviors and are physically active, then you are more likely to do so yourself.

Am I suggesting you end relationships with your friends if they don't have a physique better than yours? Of course not, I'm just trying to point out how we are influenced by the people we spend time with and if your family, friends, or associates are sabotaging your efforts, then you may want to spend more time with people who encourage you to accomplish your goals.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fitness Cliques and Stereotypes

It's common for health and fitness enthusiasts with similar interests to band together since they have a particular objective or goal they are excited about trying to accomplish. 

They often disagree with or even butt heads with followers of other fitness disciplines when it comes to what they believe is the best type of exercise or how you should eat. I thought I'd briefly address some of the more popular groups and their traditional emphasis. Please forgive me for the blatant stereotypes.

Body Builders- Size is king, but they also value symmetry, proportion, and definition. Appearance and stage presence is everything for this group so they are frequently accused of being narcissistic. They spend a lot of time lifting weights in the gym.

Marathoners- Runners are a strange breed. I am a poser when it comes to running. I like running 5 Ks and have run a couple marathons, but I don't have the guts or patience to run as much as these folks. Serious runners are often labeled as being skinny endurance machines.

CrossFit and Functional Fitness- This group is not impressed with big muscles as much as they are functional fitness and athletic ability. They have combined a variety of physical challenges involving high reps and plyometrics and have come up with what appears to be timed relay races from hell.

Powerlifters- Strength is all that matters for Olympic lifters and powerlifters. It's ok if you have a gut if you can lift more than the next guy. Don't underestimate a power lifter. They are frequently stronger than they look.

Group Exercisers-This include people who do aerobics, zumba, boot camps, or any other activity people enjoy doing in groups.

Triathletes-As if biking, running, or swimming wasn't challenging enough, someone had to put them all together. I've noticed many guys take this up as part of a mid life crisis. I suppose it is cheaper than buying a Porsche.

MMA-These warriors come from a variety of martial arts disciplines. Mixed marital arts has gained a lot of popularity over the last 10 years. There is a lot more to the sport than tattooed bullies beating each other up in a cage.

Traditional sports- Those who play popular sports like football, basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey, etc. These include elite athletes down to beginners and even out of shape arm chair quarterbacks playing in city leagues.

New Age Fitness-This group is typically into yoga, meditating, enjoying the outdoors, hiking, etc. Frequently vegetarians or vegans. Usually more emphasis on mind, body, and spirit.

I sometimes hear people in some of these different groups disagreeing with or dissing the other ones. Probably because they really don't understand or appreciate what the other camps are really about. Despite the differences in philosophies and objectives in each of these groups, I think they have more in common than most people realize. I take my hat off to all of these groups and their participants who are physically active and concerned about improving their health and taking care of their bodies. I respect anyone who excels at any given sport or activity regardless of if it appeals to me or not.

If you want to get in shape and start exercising, then try one of the above activities that you are most excited about because you will be more likely to stick with it. Which sport of training method is best? That will always be debated, but just think how powerful they'd be if instead of arguing, all the fitness enthusiasts from different disciplines joined forces and and used their strengths like the Superfriends to battle inactivity.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

6 Foods To Eliminate From Your Diet

Part of the challenge of eating healthy is not only eating foods that are good for you, but also avoiding unhealthy ones. The foods listed below are popular choices for most Americans, but they are typically high in calories, fat, and sodium, while being low in nutrients. Before you freak out about some of these foods you may love, remember the concept of moderation. You might still eat some of these foods occasionally, but it should be on rare occasions as opposed to being a staple in your diet.

Hot Dogs, Bologna, Bacon, and Processed Lunch Meats.- These are high in calories, fat, nitrates, sodium, and mystery ingredients.

French Fries and Potato Chips -These starchy foods are saturated in fat and salt.

White Bread - It's just highly processed filler. White bread frequently tries to pose as wheat bread by having a darker color.

Canned Soup - Soups can be healthy, but many of them are off the charts in high sodium. Look for a low sodium version.

Processed Desserts - Little Debbie, Ding Dongs, Twinkies, etc. I walked by a huge display of these last week at the store and was surprised with how big the selection was. I decided to take a picture.

Soda Pop - Also known as "liquid candy." It is the fastest ways to transport calories into your body. Usually high in sugar, caffeine, and carbonation. Even diet soda with no calories is bad for you.

Do I occasionally crave and eat some of these foods? Yes, especially marshmallow moon pies, so I guess that makes me a hypocrite, but I feel much better when I avoid them. If you regularly eat any of these foods, take some baby steps and start cutting back and substituting them with healthier choices.While we are on the topic of unhealthy food, I found this gem on YouTube. If it doesn't make you a little sick, then nothing will.

I'm sure I missed some other unhealthy foods since I only listed some of the obvious ones. I'd be interested to know what other foods you would add to the list.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The HCG Diet

I don't want to offend anyone, but I really don't get the HCG diet craze. I have many friends, acquaintances, and even clients who have done it, but it just doesn't make sense to me, and I think it is just a dangerous fad. HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women that is supposed to suppress hunger and help utilize fat as a primary fuel source. The diet requires injections of the hormone or taking it orally with drops under your tongue.

The diet also calls for reducing your calorie intake to 500 calories per day! Who wouldn't lose weight eating only 500 calories a day? Maybe they should rename it the Auschwitz diet. A person who is experiencing such a drastic calorie deficit is also going to burn muscle if they are in starvation mode, and this problem is only compounded when they begin to decrease their physical activity level since they don't have enough energy to exercise.

I also think it is ironic that it's socially acceptable to inject yourself with these hormones in an attempt to change your physique, but doing so with steroids is looked down upon as cheating and is against the law. I need to do more research, but I haven't seen any studies that prove that the HCG injections are the magic ingredient for weight loss as opposed to just a starvation diet. Going on this kind of diet can mess up your metabolism. Once you go off the diet and start eating like you used to, you can expect the weight to return, so it is really not a long term solution.

If you are on HCG or have had good results from doing it, I wish you the best, but permanent weight control is a matter of developing long term sustainable healthy habits. How I feel about the HCG diet can best be summed up with a quote from Mickey Blue Eyes. "The first time I saw that Charles Manson on the news I said 'I know this guy's up to no good'."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Food Inc.

Several months ago, I rented Food, Inc. because some friends recommended it to me. The movie highlights how poor America's diet is and how much of our food supply is monopolized by a handful of large corporate producers. I enjoyed this documentary even though much of the subject matter was very disturbing.

I'm the furthest thing from a PETA sympathizer, but after seeing the conditions that animals are raised in and the slaughter house procedures, I lost my appetite and will probably never look at a hamburger the same way again. This film did not convert me into a vegetarian, but I feel more informed now and am much more open minded about organic foods.

What I found most disturbing about the movie, was the legal bullying of farmers over the issue of genetically modified seeds and food patents. I don't think this film is as blatant as a Michael Moore "documentary" although it did paint most of the food giants in a negative light. I think the filmmaker was trying to open people's eyes and educate them about their diet more than he was trying to vilify the food industry.

Some might come away watching this movie paranoid and scared. I don't blindly accept every message in a movie just because it is a documentary, but Food, Inc. is thought provoking and very enlightening. You should see it and decide for yourself. I think you'll like the film and it will cause you to think twice about the food you eat (at least for a couple days). I give it it 8 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cross Fit

One of the fastest growing movements in fitness is CrossFit. For those of you not familiar with Cross Fit, it focuses on functional fitness. It favors compound movements, plyometrics, and Olympic lifts. It emphasizes 10 different areas of fitness which include: strength, flexibility, speed, power, cardiovascular endurance, stamina, agility, balance, accuracy, and coordination. Competitors are timed as they complete a series of intense exercises.

You typically won't see any weight lifting machines in a CrossFit gym. They do not focus on isolating a single muscle with an exercise, but rather on exercises that work the entire body. The common tools of the trade are kettlebells, barbells, ropes, pull up bars, plyo boxes, giant tires, etc.

I was originally critical that this type of training didn't places enough emphasis on cardiovascular endurance, but when I tried it myself and realized there is no rest period between the different exercises I changed my mind. This can really get your heart pumping. Some of the exercises are things you may have only seen gymnasts do in the past, like doing dips with Olympic rings. I'll admit this type of training is much more intense than most people's workout who work with free weights or machines at the gym and rest between each exercise. I thought I would include a couple videos to show you how intense these workouts can be.

CrossFit participants and traditional bodybuilders have often been critical of each other. This might be expected since they are training in different ways and are looking for different results. Regardless of their differences, or what any critics might say, I think Cross Fit is a good trend for the fitness industry since many people are trying something new and getting into better shape.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Serious Strength

I was recently skimming through YouTube and came across a couple clips that impressed me. The first one is Tony Horton of P90X fame working out at the beach. Pretty impressive for a guy his age. I got exhausted just watching him. Sorry for the "music" that accompanies each clip. The first song has ridiculous ugly lyrics and the second clip has rap music in the background that is laced with F bombs. I suggest you turn your volume down when you watch it since it is all visual anyway.

I know there are guys from Norway with no necks who can pull buses and throw pianos, but I haven't seen this kind of freaky strength before. I'm not sure who this dude is, but I have never seen such ridiculous strength! Take a look.

I was considering posting a video of me doing pushups, but that would be too ant-climactic after watching these.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Conflicting Information

It seems that the more I study about fitness and nutrition, the more confused I get. Goethe stated this more eloquently when he wrote "We know accurately only when we know little; with knowledge, doubt increases." Every other month you can find a new study that disproves something that you had previously believed. Then, down the road the experts change their position back again. I can't blame people for being confused when it comes to health. This frustrates me because truth should not fluctuate like the stock market.

Maybe you've heard some of the controversy about the following topics: stretching, slow repetitions, protein consumption, proper macronutrient percentages in your diet, herbs, supplements, the benefits or dangers of red wine, alcohol, or aspirin, etc. Some studies show something is beneficial while others disprove it. Time Magazine even came out with an article last year trying to prove that exercise can be bad for you! There seem to be differing opinions on almost any topic when it comes to your health.

Years ago I was reading the August 2001 issue of Muscle and Fitness Magazine. It was a special issue which featured advice from all 10 of the Mr. Olympia champions who had achieved that honor at that time. I fully expected each competitor to have his training preferences, but I was surprised when I saw how much they contradicted each other with their advice and training recommendations. These guys should be the ultimate authorities on bodybuilding, since they had each reached the pinnacle of success in their industry, but they disagree on many things. So if the pros and experts can't even agree on their training and workout advice, how can we?

One problem with this topic is that some people believe anything they read or hear. If there is an infomercial with a guy in a white lab coat promoting an exercise device or supplement, people will assume whatever he says is legitimate. There is a ton of inaccurate or completely deceptive advertising on TV, radio, fitness magazines, and the Internet. Even legitimate scientific experiments and studies can contradict each other and be manipulated by those reporting them if they don't disclose all the variables associated with the study. It is important to get all the facts when you hear about the findings of a new study. It is easy to jump to conclusions without all the background details that are needed to make an informed decision.

Don't be surprised the next time you hear about a new study that disproves something you have always believed or goes against the advice of another expert. I encourage you to be a fact finder and a truth seeker. You may have to sift through a lot of fluff to find the truth, but it is worth it. Once you are able to determine what is and is not accurate, it is very liberating. I guess that's why they say the truth will set you free.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Atrophy: Use it or Lose it

Hypertrophy is a term that refers to increasing the size of a muscle. This is achieved by utilizing the overload principle and this is what body builders are constantly tyring to accomplish. The opposite of hypertrophy is atrophy, which refers to cells decreasing in size or wasting away. The biggest cause of atrophy is misuse or inactivity, but it can also be caused by poor circulation, poor nutrition, or disease.

When astronauts go into space and live in an environment without gravity for an extended time, they lose muscle mass. For this reason, they usually bulk up before a mission and participate in resistance training while in orbit to reduce the loss of muscle mass.

I recently had surgery on my elbow and had my right arm immobilized in a cast/sling for nearly three weeks. Once it came off, I was shocked and depressed to see how much muscle I had lost during such a short amount of time. (And I thought it was impossible for my arms to get any skinnier.) It reminded me of the movie "Lady in the Water" which features a quirky character who only works out the right side of his body and as a result he is skinny on one side.

Unfortunately, it always takes longer to get into shape than it does to fall back out of shape. If you take 7-14 days off and completely stop exercising, you can lose what took you months to achieve. That is why regular exercise is so important to help you maintain your fitness level. In a worst case scenario, just working out once or twice a week can still help you maintain your fitness level and keep you from going backwards, although that it obviously not an ideal workout schedule.

The advice "use it or lose it" is not only true for physical conditioning, but also with languages, music, and other skills you may have developed. The good news is that the human body is very forgiving and resilient and you can get back into shape if you are currently deconditioned.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The 10 Worst Excuses

I'm a nice guy and hate to make waves, but as a trainer, I only do my clients a disservice when I accept their excuses. Here are some of the most common excuses I have heard (and sometimes even used myself) when it comes to fitness. Remember you can either have excuses or results, but not both. 

10. I don't like to exercise. Then find some form of physical activity that you do enjoy. Try gardening, hiking, biking, or playing a sport. You'd be surprised how addicting exercise can be once you get the endorphins flowing. 

9. I'm not in good enough shape to go to the gym- That's like saying you will go to Church once you are perfect. There may be some intimidating physiques at the gym, but don't compare yourself to them. You are only in competition with yourself. By the way, guess how those fit people got that way? They went to the gym when they didn't feel like it.

8.  I don't want to bulk up and get big like the guys- Ladies, unless you are injecting steroids, eating 5,000 calories a day, and lifting hard several hours ever day, you will never bulk up like a man. That's like me saying I don't want to get a manicure because I'm scared it will make me look like Miss America.

7. I don't have anything to wear/ Don't want to get sweaty- (I'm done picking on the women after this.) That excuse would be valid if we were talking about going to a photo shoot, but we are talking about exercise. Unless you are wearing a clown suit or some totally immodest outfit, nobody will even notice what you are wearing.

6. I don't know what exercises to do- Sometimes all the equipment and machines in the gym can be overwhelming and confusing, but you can learn the exercises quickly. Don't be afraid to ask someone how a specific machine works. There are also tons of good exercise sources and tutorials online. Just doing anything is still better than inactivity. It's hard to steer a parked car.

5. Exercising is boring- Then make it more fun. Listen to music or workout with a friend. Try something new! Run a 5 K if you haven't before. Add some purpose to your workout by seeing how many calories you can burn or how far you can run in a certain amount of time. Keep track of your results and try to break your own records. Having a goal to work towards is more exciting than just walking on a treadmill for half an hour like a robot.

4. I have a slow metabolism or a thyroid problem- This may be a legitimate concern for some people, but too many people like to play the victim with this excuse as a way to justify not getting results. Don't blame a gland if you are overeating and not exercising. 

3. I just can't get motivated- Some people claim to be too lazy or say they don't have enough will power to work out or eat right. Share your goals with a spouse or friend so you have some accountability. Use some appropriate rewards to motivate you. Lack of motivation is one of the reasons people use a trainer. If all else fails and you still can't get motivated, stand in front of the mirror naked and open your eyes!

2. I can't afford it- First of all, you don't need a gym membership to workout. There are tons of free activities that you can do. On the other hand, people will blow all kinds of money on clothing, recreation, and entertainment, but they often penny pinch when it comes to something really important like their health. The long term consequences of neglecting your health are much more expensive than any preventative measures you may take today.

1. I don't have enough time- Everyone has 24 hours in their day. Working out does not have to take a lot of time to be effective. Choosing to take care of your body is a great way to make sure it will be working for you for years down the road. Making fitness a priority also gives you a higher quality of life today. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vacation Danger

Summer time is known for warm enjoyable weather and vacations. Whenever I am training a client and they mention that they are going on vacation or out of town for a while, I always get concerned. They almost always come back with excuses of how crazy things were and that they couldn't work out and ate too much and the wrong kinds of foods. Healthy living can be a challenge when you are traveling and being hosted by friends or family who wine and dine you.

It's a similar problem that people experience over weekends. When you are not in your usual weekly routine, it's easy to let your guard down. That is one of the reasons Monday is the busiest day at the gym. I think many people are trying to burn off what they ate over the weekend or make restitution or penance for their weekend indiscretions. It's kind of like going to confession.

If you have been training hard and consistently for several months, then taking a whole week off could actually be a beneficial thing to keep you from over training, but I think few people are in that situation. Most are still trying to stick with a fitness program and get going. So how can you avoid the dangers of getting out of your routine and losing momentum while you are on vacation? Maybe you can't, but there are some things you can do to have a healthy vacation and minimize the damage done.

1) Drive safely and wear seat belts. Plan breaks to stretch and walk so you don't arrive feeling crippled once you get to your destination.

2) Drink plenty of water and watch how many calories you drink while on vacation.

3) If you are going to eat out, choose healthier entrees or share them to cut down on the serving sizes.

4) Plan ahead to see if your hotel or host has access to a gym. Pack some resistance bands if you won't have access to a gym.

5) Buy healthy groceries at the store and take them in a cooler so you are not dependent on fast food while you are traveling.

6) Find a new version of physical activity to do while you are on vacation. Enjoy the outdoors by walking, swimming, biking, or hiking.

I think vacations are a great way to rejuvenate and "sharpen your saw", but you don't want to lose the progress you have made or lose the good habits you have developed while you are on vacation or out of town. You might even persuade those you are vacationing with to adopt a healthier lifestyle because of your good example.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Variety in Your Diet

When you are trying to eat right, some concepts to keep in mind are balance, variety, moderation, and common sense. I'd like to focus on variety today. Variety is a beautiful thing. If you are trying to eat healthy foods, but all you eat is tuna fish, carrots, and apples every day you will soon burn out and tire of the same thing. Having options and several choices keeps eating exciting and helps you avoid the monotony.

I frequently give my clients a sheet with a variety of foods and actually give them an assignment to see how many of those foods they can eat over the next few weeks. They are all healthy choices and this exercise helps them to avoid feeling like they are on a restricted diet or like they are depriving themselves. Another way to address the variety issue is to try to see how many different colored vegetables you can eat during the week. Aside from color, different flavors and textures also contribute to variety.

Although it is a good thing to cut back or eliminate unhealthy foods, diets that try to eliminate entire food groups or basic macronutirents are not wise. I think people are more likely to achieve a healthy diet when they are educated and encouraged to expand their food choices and try new foods.

As much as I promote variety, it does have a down side. It is proven that the more kinds of food a person has available to them, the more likely they are to overeat. That makes sense. If you were at an all you can eat Macaroni and Cheese bar you might have a couple servings, but if you go to Chuck a Rama or Golden Coral, you could easily eat 4 or 5 plates of food since they serve so many different kinds of food that you may want to sample.

If you are getting tired of eating the same thing then it's probably time to spice up your diet with some variety. When was the last time you had kiwi, lamb, plums, raspberries, artichokes, sweet potatoes, split peas, figs, sprouts, grapefruit, cracked wheat, or shrimp?  As you attempt to add more variety to your diet, just make sure that you choose healthy foods and that you watch your serving sizes.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nutrition Frustration

I have really been thinking a lot about the importance of nutrition lately. Whenever I got to the gym, I am amazed at the number of machines, weights, and exercise equipment available for people to work out on, yet there is really no nutritional help there. As a result, many people put in a lot of time and effort exercising but still don't get results when it comes to weight loss and changing their body composition. It's obvious that unless someone gets the nutritional part of the equation figured out, then there is no way they will reach their goals. There are 24 hours in a day and motivating yourself to work out for one of those hours is not nearly as hard as trying to eat clean the remaining 23 hours!

Those who only focus on exercise remind me of a person riding a bike with just one pedal. They are missing out on a key component to their success. As a personal trainer, I am able to observe on a daily basis how nutrition can either assist or ambush client's efforts. I am not a dietitian or nutritionist, but would love to get a degree in that field. In the mean time I keep my nutritional insights very general and refer people to the professionals who are licensed to do so for specific counsel. This is one are where I think there is a great need.

The reason I'm frustrated with nutrition is because I too am still trying to develop the discipline and motivation that is needed to consistently eat healthy. Why do people always bring junk food when they bring you an edible gift? Why does the unhealthy stuff have to be so cheap and be so readily available? Many of us have developed unhealthy relationships with food over the years and struggle in this area. Every day we are required to make choices between highly processed foods which are usually calorie dense and high in fat and sugar or whole foods which are much more beneficial to our body.

I'm in pretty good shape right now but over the course of the next month I am going to fine tune my diet (eliminate the junk and eat more whole foods.) I will let you know what happens when I raise the bar in this area. I have also been doing some informal research about nutrition that I'm looking forward to sharing. I have been talking to some of the most fit people in the gym about nutrition and I will be sharing what they have in common with you soon in a future post.