Monday, December 29, 2014

If you are like most people, then you are probably considering some resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. Goals are crucial to success in any venture, but many people make the mistake of making vague wishes instead of setting effective goals. There is an acronym that can help you with your goal setting. I've seen several variations of this acronym over the years, but I like the one below. Remember that you will have greater success if you set S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Specific- "I want to get in shape", or "I'm going to lose some weight" are very vague goals. What kind of shape do you want to be in? Do you just want to lose weight, or specifically fat? What specific things do you want to be able to accomplish? Vague wishes have no power behind them and are easy to dismiss and give up on.

Measurable-If you have a goal to "lose weight", then that can be accomplished just by getting a haircut. How much weight do you want to lose? Use weight, inches, body fat percentages, or other forms of measurement to track your progress. If a goal is not measurable then you won't even know when you hit it!

Accountable- Your success will increase dramatically if you are accountable for your goals. This includes being accountable to yourself, or even better, to another person who is supportive of what you want to achieve. Knowing that you will have to report on your progress and activity keeps you from procrastinating or giving up as easily.

Realistic- Your goal has to be realistic for you to believe it. You may have a goal to grow to be 7 feet tall so you could play center in the NBA, but some things are out of our control and may not be possible to accomplish. As much as I like telling people that they can do anything, it's not likely that a person can develop a 70" vertical jump.You can't gain 30 pounds of muscle in a month. Be realistic with your goals.

Time Table- This is what really puts power into your goals and gets you moving. Having a deadline to work against makes all the difference otherwise we just keep saying "I'll get around to it later."

So instead of saying "I want to get in shape this year", give your goals some direction and power by changing them to something like:

-By March 15th 2011, I will weigh 150 pounds and will decrease my body fat percentage to 16%.
-By my 30th birthday this year I will run the mile in under 8 minutes and be able to do 10 pull ups.
-I will run and finish two marathons before November 1st of 2015.

Don't confuse vague resolutions with specific goals you want to accomplish. Take some time this week and think about what you'd really like to accomplish in 2015 and set some meaningful goals. Don't limit them to fitness goals, but address all areas of your life. Don't over do it either. It is better to achieve a few meaningful goals than to be overwhelmed by too many goals that you'll never get around to.

It's also important to remember that until you write goals down and develop a plan to achieve them, they are only a wishes. Write them in your planner, put them on the fridge or on a mirror where you can review them regularly. Success doesn't happen by accident.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Beware of the Holidays!

There are many things that can adversely affect our health, like living a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, drug abuse, overeating, and not managing stress levels. Many health-conscious individuals already know this and strive to avoid those negative influences, but they still suffer from what I call "giving in to the holidays".

The last 90 days of each year are a time when most people get apathetic about their fitness and decide to not worry about it until the first of the year. They tell themselves they will get serious about their health in January. Sound familiar?

I love the holidays, but they also bring some challenges with them. The colder weather and fewer hours of sunlight during the day are less conducive to getting out and exercising and, as a result, many people see their activity level decrease.

The food associated with the holidays is also a huge problem. Halloween brings parties and activities that feature more candy, donuts, and treats that most of us would not usually have around our home or work environment. Thanksgiving is a great way to express our thanks for the harvest, but it is also a good excuse for gluttonous eating and over-indulgence in winter comfort foods. December features a month of treats leading up to Christmas time. In addition to lackadaisical eating, the busy holidays can also be very stressful (even to those of us who love them). Stress can wreak havoc with your health and make weight management much more difficult.

So this year, rather than just giving up and floating down stream, let's do something about it. Wouldn't it be great if you had the support to stay in control during the holidays as opposed to starting 2015 heavier and out of shape. Your New Year's fitness goals will be much more successful if you already have built up some momentum, as opposed to starting from scratch like so many people do each year.

To help you out, I am pleased to announce a 90-day support program to help you not just maintain your fitness levels but to actually make progress during the holidays. I am offering a private Facebook group for individuals who want to move forward. It will feature a weekly group accountability call, free consultations about your fitness goals, deep discounts on custom programs, and even a healthy holiday dinner/party the first week of December. This program will be offered from October through December for only $40 per month.

Join us and finish the year strong!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Body Building vs. Cross fit Wars

I am not a bodybuilder or a Crossfit athlete but I have been amused over the years by all the taunting these disciplines consistently give each other on videos and comment boards all over the Internet. It appears that these two groups have joined the ranks of passionate rivals such as Coke vs Pepsi, Ford vs. Chevy, and Marvel vs. DC Comics.

The most common criticism I hear about Crossfit is about the kipping pull ups. The mocking comments their critics leave always include several "and not a single pull up was done that day". Another common swipe taken at Crossfit are the comments that say "an orthopedic surgeon or chiropractor's dream" insinuating that the athletes are destroying their bodies with the form and volume of exercises they perform. Crossfitters typically fire back at body builders with comments about doing arm curls in front of the mirror, taking steroids, and not being able to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded.

I can understand how each of these camps can get defensive when others criticize something they are so passionate about, but I still don't get the why some make it such a rivalry. I have respect for any sport. I really don't enjoy watching baseball, lacrosse, hockey, or rugby, but I respect the athletes who participate and excel at those activities. My hat is off to anyone who is active and enjoys physical activity.

I know many people have thrown the entire Crossfit movement under the bus and claim it is a dangerous fad. There are actually several aspects of the sport I am not a fan of but I am still impressed by the athletes and totally entertained with the Crossfit games.

My interest in the sport is similar to how I view mixed martial arts, strong man competitions, or motorcycle jumping at the X games. I don't personally do these activities, but I really enjoy watching the top people in those fields compete and am motivated by their success.

I do have reservations when it comes to Crossfit but I also have concerns about body building, running marathons and many other sports. No sport is perfect.

I don't like the fact that everyone has the same workout. I really believe in customizing a workout to the individual. I also don't enjoy doing Olympic lifts and having a team of people yelling for me to finish 30 reps for 8 sets of exercise while racing against someone else. Performing super high reps and sets under a time limit can be an invitation for injury.

Many bodybuilders claim Crossfit is extreme, but so is getting down to 5% body fat and shaving your legs and having someone paint you brown before you flex your muscles in front of people. When it comes to bodybuilding, I have no desire to wear a speedo on stage and pose in front of people but I still admire many body builders and their dedication and effort even though many people claim the sport has turned into a freak show.

Bodybuilders are often accused of being cocky and narcissistic. Some people are intimidated by the big guys at the gym and feel that they look down on those with less impressive physiques. Crossfitters can also rub people the wrong way with their intense loyalty to the sport. Their tight knit community and almost evangelical zeal has prompted some to compare it to a cult.

I believe Crossfit workouts will help improve a person's conditioning, but I don't think it is the key to be a successful athlete for any particular sport.  If you are a basketball player the best training you can do is practice playing basketball. If you want to be a faster runner, then practice running. The law of specificity applies. If you want to get good at Crossfit exercises then get familiar with and do their work out of the day.

Even though I share some of the same concerns as Crossfit's bodybuilding critics, I just don't understand the argument that Crossift is not a sport. If badminton and golf are classified as a sport, how are the diverse and physically demanding events performed for Crossfit not? Saying it only conditions you to get good at exercise is like saying volleyball is not a sport, it is just practicing to get good at hitting a ball over a net. There are stadiums of people who go to watch them compete against each other. Points are awarded on a performance basis and a winner is crowned. It is a sport.

To all the Crossfit haters on the Internet message boards, how can you not be amazed with Rich Froning and the other elite athletes? I'm in awe of their conditioning. I'd love to see their critics attempt what they do. To all the haters of bodybuilding who say they are just too big and not good athletes, you need to remember they are intentionally trying to get massive with the proper proportions, symmetry, and definition. Their goal is not to see how fast they can climb a rope or push a sled across a field. Each discipline has different goals they are intentionally trying to accomplish so people need to realize that before they make comparisons or start ripping on them.

I guess haters are always going to hate. Despite the head butting between bodybuilding and Crossfit, I still admire much about each sport and think it would be nice if we could focus more on the common ground and the good that any sport or exercise has to offer instead of the differences.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What Successful Dieters Have in Common

Almost everyone who loses weight with a diet eventually gains it back after the initial loss. There are a variety of ways to lose weight, but as soon as you stop the behavior that helps you lose weight and revert back to your prior habits the weight is bound to come back. That is why lifestyle change is so important for long term success. It's one thing to lose weight, but it's another to keep it off for an extended amount of time.

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is an organization that monitors successful long term weight loss. They provide data they obtained from participants who had lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for over 5 years. Here are some of the common practices that those successful in controlling their weight had in common.

98% Modified their food intake
94% Increased their physical activity
62% Watch less than 10 hours of TV per week
78% Eat breakfast every day
90% Averaged an hour of exercise per day
75% Weigh themselves once a week

These are some telling insights into long term weight loss. This shows that people with the most successful long term weight maintenance constantly monitor their weight and focus on proper nutrition and physical activity. Taking these precautions is not always an appealing route when society touts quick fixes with little effort. Weight maintenance is similar to real life, "there's no such thing as a free lunch."

There may be some people who have lost weight who didn't follow all of the above activities, but I still think those lifestyle changes can make a big difference for most people in the population. If you are attempting to lose weight, I'd encourage you to look at these 6 activities and consider which ones you could do better at.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

2014 Spartan Beast Recap

iA couple weeks ago I ran my second Spartan Beast race at Soldier Hollow in Utah. Last year was my first obstacle mud race and  it was fun and exciting and I had a great time. Surprisingly this year I felt the race was more challenging and difficult than before.

Although the course was similar to last year's, there were a few differences I noticed. After they started our heat of 200 runners we had a few simple over and under obstacles, a small mud pit and then immediately went up the mountain for trail running. I felt like there was more trail running and it took much longer this time.

Last year one of my frustrations was being stuck behind slower runners on the single file paths and it was a big problem again this year. In order to pass someone, you have to wait for the moments when the trail widens or when tired runners step aside and rest. I saw many impatient runners sprint through sage brush and bushes to pass people and I ended up doing this myself several times, but it is next to impossible in some places when you are going down very steep trails with no passing room.

I was shocked to see how long it was taking to progress over the course. The first several miles in the mountains were averaging close to 20 minutes per mile and I couldn't believe it was taking so long. Along the way the usual 25 obstacles to slow you down included crossing many mud pits, dragging concrete blocks, carrying buckets of gravel, and sand bags over small portions of the course. There were several wooden fences of various heights that had to be scaled. Jumping these obstacles was one of my few strengths and they didn't slow me down at all. There was a balance course of walking across tall wooden pegs of different heights. There were a couple tire pulls, large tire flipping, hoisting heavy sand bags up a tower with a pulley, and a heavy stone ball you had to carry. Failure to complete these challenges require 30 burpees before you can proceed with the course.

This year I didn't slip off the climbing wall but I couldn't stick the spear throw again despite hitting the target. Who practices throwing spears? Where do you practice throwing spears? I've always just planned on doing 30 burpees at the spear throw unless I get lucky. The hardest challenges for me were the rope climbs. Last year I successfully climbed them both of them to the bell, but this year I was just sliding down the muddy rope and didn't have the strength. The ropes seemed like they were higher and didn't have as many knots in them this time. I ended up doing burpees after failing these. This year instead of crossing monkey bars, they had a large cargo net above a mud pool that every one tried swinging across. It was much harder since it sank down so low and was not very stable. I fell into the water. Burpees again.

One of my biggest problems was lack of energy. I left my zip lock bag containing two Clif bars in my car by mistake. Last year they had water, sports drink, and various sports snacks to give you energy. I kept looking for something to eat at the water stations after the first hour but all they had for the entire race was water! They did put an occasional Morton salt container out with the water in lieu of sports drink. I tried a little at one station and felt like I took a mouth full of water from the ocean. No thanks.

Last year the temperature was 99 degrees on the course and this year it was only around 85 yet I felt much weaker and exhausted this time (probably because I wasn't fueling myself as well). By the time I got to the last mile of the course I was exhausted and discouraged. As I approached the 13 mile mark I could see the finish line but I was dying. I almost asked spectators for water since I was so weak. I had no chance on the second rope climb, but the barbed wire crawl was much nicer this year. Last year I was just rolling down 100 yards over small rocks but this year the mud was much thicker and softer.

After finishing the mud crawl they had us jump in one last wet mud pit right before we had to scale the final wall. I felt like that was a psychological low blow since they were introducing so much mud on the final wall. The wall was over 10 feet tall and had ropes you could hold while trying to walk up it but nobody was making it due to the amount of slippery mud. People ended up helping each other up and over the wall. Someone gave me a hand from the top to get over and I did the same to the guy below me. Finally after scaling the last wall it was just the fire jump before the finish line. I jumped it and nearly wiped out on my landing because I was so weak. I'm glad there were no gladiators to pummel me in my exhausted state this year. I made it to the finish line and got my medal. I could not see my watch since it was covered in mud but it ended up taking me exactly 4 hours. (Half an hour longer than the prior year). I was very frustrated with my finish time.

I was so glad to finally get some nourishment at the finish line. I then waited in line to wash myself off with freezing water at the community hose down showers. If felt good to finally get cleaned off. Last year it took me about an hour to wash my shoes when I got home and they were pretty much ruined anyway. This year I used an older pair of shoes and just donated them when I finished.

Despite being disappointed with a much slower time, it still felt good to finish. While running I noticed and later heard several people talking about taking short cuts, not doing burpees and going to the finish line early since they had enough so I was glad to have finished the entire challenge. I had several bruises, cuts, and scratches over my body but wasn't really hurting too bad the next day.

If you are looking for a fun physical challenge, I recommend the Spartan Beast race. It is very challenging and a good workout. I will be better prepared next year. I will put more emphasis on trail running, practice burpees more, and have food on me. I may also pay for an earlier start time with cooler weather. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fitness- By The Numbers

1/2- How many pounds of muscle you can expect to lose per year as you age if you don't exercise regularly.

3- The minimal percent of essential body fat for men.

4- The number of calories in a gram of protein or carbohydrate.

9- The number of calories in a gram of fat.

10-12- The minimal percent of essential body fat for women.

15- The number of calories per pound of body weight used to estimate one's approximate daily caloric needs.

10- The number of proteins which are essential amino acids and must be obtained in your diet.

25- The recommended grams of daily fiber intake.

26.2- How many miles are in a marathon.

30- The body mass index rating considered obese.

33- The percent of women who say they are on a diet.

66- The percent of Americans that are overweight or obese.

70-80- The heart rate (b.p.m.) of the average adult.

164- How much the average American woman weighs.

191-How much the average American man weighs.

206- The number of human bones in the human body.

640- The number of muscles in the human body.

3,500- The number of calories in a pound of fat.

3:43.13- The world record time for the mile run.

2:03:59- The world record time for a marathon.

23,600,000- The number of Americans who have diabetes.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Benefits of Muscle

There are 3 types of muscle, 1) cardiac 2) smooth and 3) skeletal muscle. Cardiac muscle is the involuntary striated muscle found in the heart. Smooth muscle is also involuntary and is found in the digestive, circulatory, reproductive, and respiratory systems. Skeletal muscle is the voluntary contractile tissue that helps us move and is typically the kind that people think about when they hear the word "muscle".

Despite being the attention hog of the three muscle types, the majority of skeletal muscles are unknown to most people. There are well over 600 muscles in the human body, but most people only end up learning the names of the large muscles, like deltoids, triceps, pectoralis major, gluteus maximus, etc. Only an orthopedic surgeon or a serious anatomy student would be familiar with the lesser known muscles like the extensor carpi ulnaris or flexor digitorum brevis.

Developing muscles is beneficial for the following 3 reasons:

1) Metabolism-Resistance training can help you burn more calories. Muscle cells utilize more energy than fat. This means a person with a higher amount of muscle mass will burn more calories at rest than someone with a greater fat mass.

2) Strength- Increasing strength and stamina is important for sports and exercising, but even more helpful for the everyday activities and tasks we do on a regular basis. Luckily we are able to overload our muscles and make them stronger when we are involved in a resistance training program.

3) Appearance- Muscle tissue is more compact than fat. The picture below compares the size of 5 pounds of fat with 5 pounds of muscle. Some people panic when they begin an exercise program and start to gain weight. Who cares if you are slightly heavier on the scale if you are losing inches, your clothes fit better, and your appearance has improved? I frequently hear women express their reluctance or fear of lifting weights because they don't want to look like a male body builder. That will never happen unless you are working out for several hours every day and taking steroids.

For those who might be worried about gaining muscle, I suggest you look at the photo below which I recently came across which illustrates this principle. Would you rather weigh five pounds less and have a higher body fat percentage or weigh a little more due to increased lean body mass and have a more toned and trim physique? I think this is an important reminder that body fat percentage is a much more important thing to focus on as opposed to a mere number on the scale.

There are many benefits of resistance training. Increased strength, hypertrophy, and a better appearance are just a few of them. If you are not currently involved in a weight training program I encourage you to start (after getting the OK from your physician.) It just wouldn't be America if you didn't have to say that after everything.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014 Triathlon in a Month

Winter weather can be frustrating for those who like to exercise outside. The cold temperatures, poor air quality, and snow and ice do not make for ideal exercise conditions. Despite the harsh weather, I am excited to announce Your Fitness Quest's second annual February Triathlon which can be done indoors.
This triathlon is unique because it is one you can do at your own pace. Very few people are able to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, then run a full marathon of 26.2 miles in one day. The Iron Man record was set in 2011 by Craig Alexander with a time of 8 hours, 3 minutes, and 55 seconds. My hat is off to the hard core athletes who are able to accomplish such amazing feats, but I think that's a little too extreme and daunting for the general population. That is why I like the idea of completing a full blown triathlon but doing it over the course of a month so we don't all end up hospitalized from trying to finish it all in one day.

Some people may think that taking a month is too easy for them while others doubt they could ever do it. That is the beauty of having an at your own pace event. If you are already in great shape, then go for it and try to finish it in a couple days or within a week. If you know it will be hard and challenging for you, then just chip away at it day by day and take the entire month to accomplish it. Luckily we don't have the usual 17 hour cut off time to qualify that they do at the Iron Man Triathlon.

This is a great opportunity to start working on your cardio conditioning again after the holidays. It's also a great way to actually complete a triathlon without killing yourself. I'm excited about the positive feedback I've received and by the many people who are going way out of their comfort zones to participate in this event.

Because this is a do it on your own event, we are on the honor system but you are also able to do it at your local gym or even home (except for the swim part). The only rule is that it doesn't start until Feb.1st. You can do all the swimming at once or combine events each time you work out as long as you hit the totals for each category. Most people have access to a public pool. You can use treadmills or run outside if you want, ride stationary bikes at the gym or take a spin on the roads if conditions permit.

If you'd like to join us, you can register by e-mailing me at I will send you the activity tracker sheet you can use to monitor your progress. Registration and participation is free. Your Fitness Quest is not responsible for any accident or injury of the participants.

swim 2.4 miles
bike 112 miles
Run 26.2 miles
You have 28 days to complete all three categories. Those who do so will be listed on the website along with the date they finished. Let's see who can beat their time from last year or just finish a triathlon for the first time. The fun starts Feb.1st so come and join us!