Sunday, January 31, 2010


When working towards your fitness goals, having the proper motivation to help you along the way can be a huge help. We are only a month into the new year, yet many people have already become discouraged and have given up on their health and fitness goals. Different people are motivated to change for different reasons, so it is important to realize what motivates you.

Some people are motivated by a positive reward or "the carrot" held out in front of them. They have a goal they are looking to accomplish by a specific date. It might be getting in shape for a wedding or reunion, or they imagine what they will look like when swimsuit weather arrives. Others are more easily motivated by negative consequences or "the bear" chasing them. This could include one's inability to function like they want, fear of present poor health or developing more serious health conditions, and may also include what they will look like when swimsuit weather arrives.

Visualization is one way to stay motivated. You may want to put up a picture of something that represents or reminds you of your goal on your mirror or fridge. For many people, this is often a photo of how you'd like to look or how you used to look. (I caution people to be realistic about this. I will be doing a post on realistic goals and body image next week). Visualizing yourself making the changes you need to make is a very powerful exercise.

Rewards are another great motivator. If you drop 5 pounds you should reward yourself by doing something fun (it's probably not the best idea to reward your hard work with an all you can eat pizza and ice cream bar). It doesn't have to be a big or expensive reward, but I'd encourage you to set up several small rewards for yourself along the way as you make progress towards your goal.

One thing that originally inspired me to get back in shape over 10 years ago was seeing other people's before and after pictures. I was amazed at the progress people could make in a relatively short period of time. I never realized how forgiving and resilient the human body could be, and it was encouraging to know how many others have made dramatic changes when it came to their health and physique. The picture I have included above is of Fred and Renee Scurti who were Body For Life champions back in 1998. That transformation was accomplished in just 3 months.

Another motivation technique I used last year was buying a pair of pants that was a little too snug in the waist. I had wanted to lose some excess fat around my waist, but had not done anything about it. I decided I was not going to buy another pair with the larger waist size, so I bought them an inch smaller. They were snug and uncomfortable and the muffin top feel was a constant reminder to me when I wore them. They served as a reminder to help me make good food choices. It only took several weeks before they fit just fine.

What motivates one person may not motivate another. Find what motivates you and use those methods. Ideally, just living a healthier life may be enough of a reward and motivation, but for most of us who are human , we often need something extra to motivate us. Make sure you define your goals, then determine what inspires you, and set up some rewards for yourself along the way as you make progress. You can do it!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grattitude for your body

The more I learn about the human body, the more it amazes me. It is miraculous how the different cells, organs, and body systems work together. We often take the many things our bodies do for granted. When was the last time you had to worry about things like your heart beating, breathing, temperature regulation, and blinking? It usually takes me spraining an ankle or getting sick for me to realize that I take good health for granted.

I've recently been working with many people who want to improve their health and get in better shape. As they have sent in their "before" pictures, most of them have made negative comments about how embarrassed they are of their current condition. I can definitely relate to how they feel from past experience. It is easy to be critical of our bodies when we are focusing on our imperfections, but it is important to remember that you have been blessed with an amazing body that is more complex than any computer or machine, and is much more valuable than any structure ever built by man.

There may be some things we have no control over in life, but there are many that we do. If you are suffering from ailments brought on by excess weight or poor diet, you can do something about it. Our bodies are very forgiving and resilient and by adopting healthy habits we can begin to condition our bodies and improve our health. Even the most out of shape person should be grateful for the ability to walk, talk, move, and perform basic functions. You might be categorized as morbidly obese, but at least you have legs. There are many people who were born with birth defects or who have lost limbs. It is inspiring to see how some people overcome this type of adversity.

I think it is important to develop a proper respect and appreciation for your body, regardless of the shape you are currently in. Your body really is a temple so treat it like one.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

9 Weight Training Tips for Beginners

This post is aimed towards people who are just starting a weight training program. Sometimes going to the gym can be intimidating or confusing. Here are some basic guidelines to help you have a more enjoyable, safe, and effective workout. First of all make sure you have a clean bill of health. This is where I give the obligatory disclaimer that you should consult a physician before starting any exercise program. Now that you can't sue me, let's move on.

1) Start slow and ease into it. Start out each exercise session by warming up and then slowly increasing the work load. This concept also applies to taking your first few workouts a little easier and not giving it 100 %. You don't need to do 3 sets of each exercise the first time you work out. Many people go so hard on the first day that they get sore and regret it.

2) Get familiar with the equipment. Some people jump on a machine and start working out without adjusting it to their body size or the appropriate weight or resistance. Make sure to customize the equipment to your body size and needs before you use it.

3) Create a balanced work out. Don't just work out your "mirror muscles". Many people focus on building biceps, pecs, and abs but neglect major muscle groups like their back or hamstrings. It is healthier to take a whole body approach even if you have specific body parts you'd like to focus on.

4) Focus on form not weight. I have seen people (usually young guys) trying to curl more weight than they could possibly bench press to show off or compete with others in the gym. Not only is this ineffective, but it is dangerous and makes them more susceptible to injury. Use a slow and controlled movement when you move the weights. Don't increase the weight on an exercise until you can perform it with proper form. Be careful not to just mimic what others are doing since so many people at the gym have horrible form.

5) Breathe when you lift. Don't hold your breath, that could cause you to pass out. Your body needs oxygen. Learn to exhale during the most strenuous part of the lift. It does not seem natural to breathe out at the point of greatest exertion, but it is a good habit to develop.

6) Use a spotter. This is especially important as you are beginning to use free weights. Until your muscles have developed the motor pathways, free weights may be a little shaky at first. Utilize a spotter for proper form and safety.

7) Give your muscles time to rest. Don't work the same muscle group without giving them time to rest and repair. Muscles need about 48 hours to recuperate. Your muscles actually grow and rebuild when you rest them. Over working a muscle group can cause muscle fatigue and can lead to over training.

8) Find an environment you enjoy. Some people thrive working out in a gym , others prefer the privacy of their home, and others enjoy outdoor activities. In addition to the finding the right environment, you will want to do exercises you enjoy because they will be more fun and you are more likely to stick to it. One final idea for increasing your chances of success. Work out with friends. It provides a social aspect to exercise and it gives you greater accountability.

9) Use basic gym etiquette. Don't drop weights and remember to re-rack them when you are done. Don't hog the exercise equipment. Let people work in with you if they are waiting. Clean up after yourself by wiping off any equipment that you may have "moistened". My biggest frustration: keep the noise level down. If you really have to grunt and groan during your workout you may want to re-evaluate your program. I once saw a guy curling dumbbells and screaming at the top of his lungs. He got plenty of attention which I'm sure was his primary reason for going to the gym, but he irritated everyone else there.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Not Kidding Yourself

The other day I was reading an article online which featured a link to some exercises you can do at home. I clicked on the link and saw a video which demonstrated some basic exercises. What really got my attention was that the video and article were being sponsored by Jello and Oreos. I thought it was a little ironic that a fitness video was sponsored by junk food companies. I wondered how many people would go out after starting their new exercise program and buy jello and Oreos since they have a new fitness affiliation now. The phrase "you must be kidding yourself" came to mind.

I have often felt the same way about myself when I count french fries as a vegetable serving, rationalize large portion sizes, or underestimate my calorie consumption. It's really easy to lie to yourself, but if you want to move ahead, you have to be serious about holding to your plan and having some integrity. That is why the 11th commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Kid Thyself". By the way, I love jello and mean it to offense. I guess if you put enough fruit in it....

Anyway, one good way to avoid cheating yourself is by having some accountability to someone else. Sometimes, a friend, spouse, or trainer can keep you accountable when you know you will have to report your activity to them. If you struggle with being honest with yourself and following through like you should, then you may want to enlist the help of someone else in reaching your goals.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Starting The Fitness Program

It's common for people to procrastinate their fitness goals until the first of the year, and once resolutions are finally made, they are often only wishes. Because of this, I have decided to start a fitness/weight loss jump start program to help people with the additional accountability that is needed to succeed.

The initial program will run for 90 days, and during this time, I will offer nutritional counseling and implementation of the appropriate exercise programs to meet your goals. I don't want to just focus on mere weight loss, but rather body composition improvement and specific physical goals that are important to each individual participant. At the end of the 3 months, those who have made good progress will be recognized. This is not a hard core type of bodybuilding competition. You will be competing with yourself, not others, but it will be more fun and beneficial as more people participate.

Just e-mail me at I will send you a goal questionnaire and stat sheet. Participants will need to submit beginning data including current weight, measurements, and a before photo (Don't worry, it doesn't have to be a swimsuit type of picture, but it would be good if you wear clothes that show what kind of shape you are in). I will not share your stats and photos with anyone else. Once I have this information I can help you set up a customized workout program to help you achieve your goals. I will send you weekly e-mails and materials that will be very useful in helping you accomplish your goals. I'm starting the first batch of participants on 01/05/10, but if you hear about this after that date and are interested let me know so I can still include you in the program.