Saturday, November 18, 2017

Age Should Not Be An Excuse

Ron Ortiz- Masters Crossfit champ
When I was a teenager I would occasionally see a bunch of old men playing basketball. Old to me back then were guys between 40 and 50. I was a cocky kid at the time and I was disgusted by their pale skin, fat stomachs, love handles, hairy backs, and balding heads. I remember discussing with my friends how we would never let ourselves go like that. I can now check 4 of those 5 categories off for myself and have learned my lesson about judging.

Aging has been a cause of anxiety for me. I still feel like a teenager when it comes to my mental maturity so it has been hard to see my body get older, slower, and more injury prone. This last year was particularly difficult for me.  I experienced a bicep injury that kept me from being able to do most upper body work for close to 6 months. My Crossfit workouts were modified down and then eventually turned into just stretching and doing light cardio. Around this time I developed a bad case of plantar fasciitis and could hardly put weight on my foot. I hobbled around on the side of my foot whenever I tried to play basketball. When it finally appeared to have healed at the end of July, I got a severe ankle sprain that kept me grounded for a couple more months. 

Since that time I have moved to Africa. There is no basketball, no running races, and no gyms in my area. I haven't played basketball for 4 months now which is the longest I've gone without playing since 1989. The last race I ran was the St. George marathon a little over a year ago. In 2017 I have not run a single race. Despite having such a disappointing year, I have been forced to rest up and heal from many injuries. I've also been able to drop some extra weight since I started living in a third world country. 

I've met many guys my age and much younger who have given up completely on sports and exercise as they gradually get out of shape or get injuries. Knee braces and a history of surgeries are much more common in my group of friends these days. I can see how easy it would be to give up on fitness as aging impacts one's life. Despite decreased athletic ability, I still admire my friends my age who stay active doing activities they love. I don't care how many injuries I get, I will always keep playing pickup basketball because it makes me feel good.

Over the last 5 years each time I ran a 5K or half marathon I'd look for my placing in my age category after the race and I'd always see a couple names that would finish in first or second place and considerably faster than everyone else. Those names were Curtis Eppley and David Taylor. These guys are both in the 50+ age bracket but run 5Ks between 15-16 minutes, half marathons from 1:08-1:17, and full marathons between 2:35 to 2:40. As a guy who will be turning 50 within a year, I am not looking forward to competing in their age category again but I thank them for showing everyone what is possible and for showing you can stay very fit as you age.

I know of many other older athletes (men and women from a variety of different sports) who are inspiring and great examples of staying fit regardless of the aging process. My hat is also off to anyone who stays active, even if their abilities or performance is not what it used to be.

Since I was a teenager, one of my fitness goals was to dunk a basketball at age 50. It has been a year since I pulled off a dunk in a game but I know I can do it. Some people might think I'm experiencing a mid life crisis. Actually, this is probably my 5th or 6th one, but on the bright side, trying to get back in shape is much cheaper than buying a new sports car. I'm looking forward to the upcoming year and making the most of things as my body continues to get more experienced and wiser. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My Least Favorite Spartan Race Obstacles

Spartan races offer many different challenges but their 3 main races include the Sprint, Super, and Beast. The Sprint is the shortest obstacle race and is from 3-5 miles. The Super races are usually around 9 miles and the longer Beast race is around 13-14 miles. If you run all three races in one year you also earn what they call a Trifecta medal.

I've run 3 beasts, a couple Supers and just one Sprint in the past and I have really enjoyed them. They are difficult but I like how they are not as monotonous as running a marathon since you break up your activity with a variety of challenges. This year I had a horrible case of plantar fasciitis as well as a torn bicep injury that kept me out of being able to compete in any races. (I sheepishly say this since I just saw a video of a guy with no legs complete a Spartan, but if I don't let my injuries heal, they will just continue to get worse)

I have been on the sidelines during all of 2017 and it has been very frustrating watching the 5K, half marathons, marathons, and obstacle races I usually do come and go. Since I have not been able to participate in a Spartan race this year I will reminisce about some of  my least favorite parts to those races. Hopefully I will burn a few calories as I do so.

Hills- Running up and down hills is always tough. Many of these races take place at ski resorts or at other hilly terrain so if you train running on a flat street you will be in for a rude awakening. I've seen many strong participants who easily handle the strength challenges, but they are not conditioned for trail running so they ended up walking a good portion of the race. I don't mind trail running but some of the slopes they send you on can be very challenging. I remember one very long slope in Montana that was so steep that runners were essentially crawling up it with their hands on the ground in front of them.

Monkey bars- This also includes rings, cargo nets, or any other hanging challenge that requires a lot of upper body strength. These were so easy as a little kid but they have become my Achilles heel now. Maybe the fact that I've gained 150 pounds since third grade has something to do with it. It's not so much an issue of arm strength, or that I'm super heavy, but my weak grip strength gives way to the muddy slippery bars almost every time before I can get across.

Barb wire crawls- These aren't usually bad if you just roll downhill, especially if the ground is nice and muddy, but it gets old fast if you are on a dry and rocky surface. The worst crawl I've had to do was at the Boise Sprint. The one thing that made this one different was that the muddy area we had to crawl through was completely covered with goat head thorns. I'm not sure if it was intentional or just bad luck, but I've never heard so much swearing from the participants in a section of a Spartan race as I did there.

Burpees- These always just suck. They are especially difficult when you are exhausted. I dislike them the most in a dry, dirty terrain as you get a face full of dust each time you go down to the ground. The best part about successfully completing an obstacle is knowing you can skip the burpees and keep moving without slowing your time down even further.

I have only experienced a few water obstacles where you are briefly immersed in cold water. Usually it is just wading through mud pits so they are not so bad. I'm just grateful I've never had to do one that required swimming or featured ice water and claustrophobia-like conditions that I've seen featured in a couple Tough Mudders.

It has been hard sitting out this year but I have had to let my body heal. I feel conflicted about saying this but I'm looking forward to be able to do these horrible challenges again soon.

Monday, September 11, 2017

My Unintentional African Weight Loss Diet

Even though I consider myself healthy and in good shape, I am a good 20 pounds heavier than I was in high school 35 years ago. I could try and fool myself and say it is muscle gain but my waist measurements tell another story. I regularly monitor my weight and body fat percentage but have not had much success losing the extra fat until recently when I moved to Ghana with my family.

Over the last 30 days I have lost 12 pounds. When we moved to Africa I was sort of forced to change my eating habits. I have not been sick or ill either since I’ve been here. I attribute it to decreasing my caloric intake while increasing my activity level in a hot and humid environment. I have lost this extra weight as John Houseman would say, “The old- fashioned way.”

There are several reasons I have been eating less. One is because I’m not a fan of some of the local cuisine. I do my best to eat traditional foods and I don’t want to offend any of the locals, but I don’t like fish and many of the stews and dishes prepared have been served with fish heads or other mystery meat or organs in it. This has been a natural appetite suppressant for me and helps me eat smaller portions.

Another reason I eat less is because there is less junk food here. There are no Wendys, McDonalds, or Taco Bell type of establishments to swing by when you are hungry. I live on the outskirts of town and it is anything but convenient to go grab a snack for me here. There are some street vendors selling their version of fast food, but I have no idea how long it has been sitting out in their dirty glass display cases along the roadside so that also makes me want to eat less.

I’ve still eaten plenty of carbs since I now eat more bread and jam than I used to. I have also indulged in some not so healthy food like “fan ice” which is their version of ice cream that they serve in a small plastic bag. It reminds me of how astronauts would eat. You have to suck it out as it melts so it lasts longer than if I were to dish up a giant bowl of ice cream back home and consume it quickly.

Finally, one other factor is the fact that even though I have been eating less, I am eating healthier in general. I eat more whole foods than I used to. I’m pretty sure none of the produce here is genetically modified either. Most of the food is locally grown so there are not preservatives or many of the other unpronounceable ingredients we find in so many of our food labels. Some of the fruit doesn’t always look as appetizing as some of the perfect looking trophy fruit you see in supermarkets at home but it is still good. In this hot, humid environment, the bananas only last a day or two before they go bad and attract fruit flies.

I’m kind of grateful I have been able to drop those extra pounds so easily and I’m sure the weight loss will slow down as I get closer to my ideal weight and find more foods I like. My next challenge is to find more protein sources that don’t scare me. I just thought it was interesting to see positive changes happen so quickly when I stopped eating the traditional American diet.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Ease Into A New Exercise Program

My family and I recently moved to Ghana. We live on the outskirts of town and don't have access to a gym. The other day I realized that my kids had not been exercising so I encouraged them to start an exercise program that we could do in our compound. I put together the following series of exercises:

Jog around the yard 3 times
40 jumping jacks
35 mountain climbers
30 air squats
25 sit ups
20 push ups
15 supermen
10 burpees
3 final laps around the yard

I warned them that even though I was going start them together and time each of them, they were not to worry about how fast their siblings were going and they should go at a very slow pace. I told them we were just trying to establish a baseline to determine their current condition.

I started them off and kept warning them that even though I was timing them they should not compete with their siblings, it was not a race, and they should go slow and pace themselves. I kept repeating "Take it easy" in my best Nacho Libre voice over and over but they kept wanting to prove how well they could do. One of the five got nauseous towards the end so I made her stop. The others finished but one of them threw up about 5 minutes after. The next day, four of them said their legs were so sore they could hardly get out of bed.

It surprised me to see that just 12 to 13 minutes of exercise could be so hard on them but I've seen this many time over the years with clients starting an exercise program. When I first started working at a large gym years ago one of the trainers told me he likes to push new clients really hard for their first workout so they will realize they are in bad shape and really need him. I have never agreed with that philosophy and don't know how you could get  a client to come back for a second session if you did that. I have always been about baby steps and gradually increasing the intensity and difficulty of exercise over time so your body can adapt to the new stress, even to the point that many people question me and wonder why we aren't going harder. I prefer starting with two sets instead of three and using lighter weights during the first couple workouts with new clients.

I was glad that I didn't experience any of the same problems that my kids did after I did the same workout but I have been active for years even though I haven't done much since arriving in Africa. Anyway this experience was a great reminder of how important it is to ease into a new exercise program or activity if you have been sedentary for a while. If you go too intense too soon with your exercise you will be very sore, could set yourself up for injury, and won't have an enjoyable experience.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Functional Fitness

I am a fan of functional fitness but I also like JP Sears even though he has mocked almost every topic I hold dear. I can see the truth to much of what he is making fun of. Anytime people take any good thing to an extreme or begin to exhibit a holier than thou attitude since they have some superior knowledge or discipline, then it becomes off-putting.  You have to be able to laugh at yourself sometimes.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Benefits of Regular Exercise

Over the years, our society has become sedentary. Technological advances can make life easier and more convenient, but they can also be a double-edged sword. The unintended by-products of decreased activity include obesity, muscle loss, and poor health. As a result, it is beneficial to look for ways to increase our physical activity. One of the best ways to do this is to exercise regularly.

The benefits of being physically active are plentiful. Here are 40 good reasons to exercise.

1. Regular exercise reduces your risk of developing heart disease or a stroke.
2. Improves your likelihood of survival from a heart attack with quicker recovery. 
3.  Reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure.
4.  Helps control blood pressure in people with hypertension.
5.  Improves coronary circulation and makes your heart a more efficient pump.
6.  Lowers your resting heart rate, which means less wear and tear on your heart.
7.  Reduces the viscosity of your blood and increases the blood plasma volume.
8.  Increases circulating levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind) in your blood.
9.  Increases maximal oxygen uptake, which allows greater cardiovascular efficiency.
10.Increases your anaerobic threshold, allowing you to work or exercise longer at a higher intensity, with a lower amount of lactic acid buildup.
11. Improves your ability to recover from physical exertion faster.
12. Reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
13. Reduces the risk of developing colon, breast, and prostate cancer.
14. Helps you to burn excess calories and lose weight – especially fat tissue.
15. Improves your body’s ability to utilize fat as a fuel source during physical activity.
16. Increases the density and strength of bones and prevents osteoporosis.
17. Strengthens your tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue.
18. Improves your balance and coordination.
19. Maintains and improves your joint flexibility.
20. Provides protection against injuries.
21. Reduces your likelihood of developing low-back problems.
22. Protects against “creeping obesity” (the slow and steady weight gain that occurs as you age).
23. Reduces abdominal obesity, which is a significant health-risk factor.
24. Helps to maintain weight loss and improve your metabolism.
25. Allows you to consume greater quantities of food and still maintain a caloric balance.
26. Increases your muscle strength and endurance.
27. Helps to slow the loss of muscle tissue that occurs naturally with aging.
28. Gives you more energy during the day and for unexpected emergencies.
29. Increases your productivity at work.
30. Reduces workdays missed due to illness and injury.
31. Reduces medical and health care expenses.
32. Improves the functioning of your immune system.
33. Reduces anxiety levels and helps you relax.
34. Helps you to manage stress more effectively.
35. Helps to alleviate depression.
36. Helps you get to sleep easier and sleep better.
37. Improves athletic conditioning and performance.
38. Improves your body composition by increasing your lean body mass.
39. Improves your posture and physical appearance.
40. Improves your self-esteem.

You would have to be crazy to not to want these benefits. Develop the habit of increasing your physical activity by exercising 4-6 times per week if you are not already doing so.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 Events Calendar

Below is a list of the upcoming monthly events that I will be sponsoring in 2017. Mark your calendar for the activities that interest you. More details will be coming out closer to each event date on the Your Fitness Quest Facebook page. Make 2017 a fun and healthy year. 

Your Fitness Quest 2017 Calendar

January 14th A Healthier You in 2017 Workshop
This workshop will help you set realistic goals and achieve lasting changes to improve your health. We will show you how to create an exercise program that you enjoy and can stick with, simple ways to improve your nutrition without diets or extremes, how to manage stress, have more energy, and much more.

February 18th  90 Day Transformation Contest
See what kind of amazing improvements you can make to your body with this 90 Day challenge. There will be many prizes for participants who make positive changes to their body composition by losing fat and gaining muscle.

March 1st-31st 5th Annual Triathlon in a Month Challenge
Finish an Iron Man length triathlon! The good news is you get the entire month to pull it off.
During the month of March swim 2.4 miles/ bike 12 miles/ and run 26.2 miles. We are getting rid of the 17 hour cut off time so everyone can complete it at their own pace. It’s doable if you are consistent and is a great way to improve your cardiovascular endurance.

April 8th Resistance Training Class
Learn the basics of resistance training and how to safely and effectively lift weights. We will show you how to incorporate variety into your resistance training by using machines, lifting weights, kettle bells, calisthenics, body weight exercises, resistance straps, etc. 

May 13th Nutrition Seminar
We will address the basics of nutrition and healthy eating habits. We will show you how to have greater variety and balance in your diet and how to adjust your macronutrient intake to best fit your goals. We will also discuss developing a healthy relationship with food. 

June 17th Exercise Variety Challenge
During the month of June see how many different types of exercise you can complete on your own. Choose from a list of 31 different activities we will provide and see how many of them you can do over the course of the month with prizes for the winner.

July 4th, 8th, or 15th 5K Run, Group Hikes up Y Mountain or Squaw Peak
We will have 3 fitness activities in July. If you don't consider yourself a runner we will help you change that as you prepare for and run a 5K race on July 4th. We will also have a fairly easy group hike up Y Mountain on July 8th for those of you who have not done this for a while.  We will also go on a more challenging hike up Squaw Peak Mountain on July 15th.

August 12th The Intangibles
Many people focus all of their attention on exercise and diet, but at this event we will talk about the intangibles like thoughts, mental and emotional health, friends, pets, plants, laughter, learning, service and how these simple things can surprisingly impact our health and give us a higher quality of life without making you sweat.

September- 16th Hike Timpanogos Mountain
This is a more challenging all day hike if you go to the top of the mountain so we will help you prepare with conditioning and training several months prior to the actual hike. The good news is this hike is much easier than Everest. The bad news is there will not be any sherpas to carry your lunch.

October 14th Happy Healthy Holidays
We will teach you how to navigate the holidays without the customary weight gain, unhealthy eating, and stress. Learn how you can still socialize and enjoy the holidays without giving up on your health and fitness goals. You won’t have to dig yourself out of a hole when Jan. 1st rolls around next year.

November 11th Sleep/Recovery/and Stress Management
Nutrition and Exercise are important but only part of the equation. You have to allow your body to rest and recuperate. This class will teach you how to get a better night's sleep, how to listen to your body for feedback that will allow you to heal and recover faster. We will also share some proven techniques to help you manage stress.

December 2nd  Your Fitness Quest Client Appreciation Party

Watch the Facebook page for details or for any modifications as these events approach. If you have any questions about the 2017 events or want more details, contact