Monday, November 26, 2018

Looking For Motivation

I am back living in Africa again. I enjoyed spending several months back home. I was quite active during that time. I played basketball regularly, ran 3 half marathons, a couple 5K races, and participated in the Huntsman Senior Games. It had been close to two years since I'd run an official race or gotten a finishing medal or placed in a race so it was nice to see those things happen again.

This month I moved back to Ghana for an unknown amount of time. It could be 6 months, a year, or more. My biggest challenge here has been trying to get going again with fitness. I was grateful to leave Utah just as winter weather and freezing temperatures were coming but the extreme heat and humidity here are not ideal for working out either. I have inquired and researched but have not seen or heard of any running races in Kumasi. I have not had luck in the past in finding places to play basketball. Occasional I will see a basketball hoop but it is usually netless, not regulation height, and nobody is playing. We actually have one in our back yard but the rim is smaller than usual, the entire backboard shakes and the rim bounces when you shoot. The court also has a 3 foot drop down to the grass once you get to the hoop. I guess I'm a basketball court snob because it's just not the same.

I've recently decided that I'm done running marathons and will stick with half marathons and 5K races from now on. This should help me avoid injury and require a lot less training volume and time in the future. My impinged shoulders are doing much better than they were last year so I am going to start weight lifting again and see if I can regain some of the near 20 pounds of muscle mass I've lost over the last two years.

So I want to get going again but now the question is "how do I get and stay motivated to workout regularly?" If you feel the same way, here are some things that have helped me in the past.

* Keep pictures or images of your goals out in front of you where you will see them.
* Focus on the health benefits you will receive as you work towards your goal.
* Reward yourself along the way and when you hit your goal with appropriate incentives.
* Share your goal with someone who has similar interests and who will support you.
* Set Smart Goals. Specific, Measurable, Accountability, Realistic, Timetable

When all else fails, use some external motivation. This has been my all time favorite motivating video for years. It features Olympic footage and has been masterfully edited to a kick butt song by Muse.

Survival - Muse from Batier Merand on Vimeo.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Huntsman Senior Games

This year I turned 50 and decided to celebrate by participating in the Huntsman World Senior Games. I had heard about this event for some time but I didn't realize how big of an event it is until witnessing it first hand. The games takes place every October in St. George, Utah. They offer over 30 different sporting events to participate in. It is the largest over age 50, mulit-sport event in the world. There are over 11,000 athletes who come from all over the world to participate over a two week period. That's as many athletes as participated in the Rio Olympics.

I signed up for table tennis, the 5K race, 3 on 3 basketball, and a basketball hot shot competition. My first event was table tennis. I'm pretty good at ping pong but I quickly learned this was not ping pong. Table tennis athletes have different rules and are very serious and skilled about their sport. I find myself getting beat up on in a hurry. The next day when we played against players with similar ratings, I was still getting smoked by grandmas. I was in awe of the skill level and look forward to improving my skills over the next year which shouldn't be hard since I only played about 15 minutes last year.

The next day I ran the 5K race. All the runners started together but you only compete with people in your similar age bracket. Since I just turned 50 I was pretty much the baby of the group. I saw some athletes in their 90's. I ran pretty fast but was still surprised by how many people who were older than me ran faster than I did. Even the slower athletes who struggled were inspirational to watch.

My third event was a basketball hot shot competition. It's a timed shooting challenge similar to around the world. Points are assigned according to the distance from the basket and you only have one minute to earn as many points as possible. There were some great shooters there and I was fortunate to be making most of my shots for that event.

My final event was 3 on 3 basketball. I made arrangements to play with 3 guys from California who were short a player. I had never met them before but things worked out for the best. We played well together and our different strengths complimented each other. We ended up doing great after a slow start.

At the end of the week I had won two gold medals, a bronze medal, and a 4th place ribbon from the events I participated in. I was impressed with the scope of the games and how well they were organized and managed with so many volunteers. The athletes really impressed me. They showed great sportsmanship, determination, and camaraderie. It was inspirational to see so many people who do not let age slow them down. Some were just enjoying participating in the sport they love and others were definitely competing at a high level and kicking but. I will definitely be going back next year.

I had such a good time and was so impressed that I signed up as an ambassador to the games. If you are over age 50 then I highly recommend you look into the Huntsman Senior Games.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Being Flexible-My first DNF

Photo by Ron Chaffin
In 2017 I was injured and unable to run any races. I spent last year recuperating and started training in early 2018 for the St. George Marathon. I've run this particular marathon 3 prior times and was hoping to get a PR this year. I put in more practice mileage this year than I ever had before and ran several several good half marathons so I was feeling pretty good leading up to the race.

Two days before the marathon I got sick. I had stomach cramps, nausea, and a head ache. I was up all night trying not to puke. I couldn't eat anything until lunch time the day before the race, so my carb loading efforts were thrown out the window. The morning of the race I was feeling a little better but still having stomach pain and felt weak. I was considering not running at all but I didn't just want to quit. I decided to run and see how things went.

As the buses drove us to the starting line it started to rain. It was a light drizzle but enough to get you wet after waiting an hour and a half for the race to start.  I found the 3:45 pacer before the race began and did a good job of staying ahead of him for the first 7 or 8 miles, but then I started getting stomach cramps again. I began to slow down and found myself walking for a few stretches after mile 10. I just didn't have my usual energy. It was much cooler this year, which was nice, but the rain made things harder than usual. By the time I got to mile 13 I decided I was not well enough to complete it. I may have been able to finish it with a very slow time but I would have taken a huge toll on my body and seeing how I would be participating in the Senior Games the following week, I didn't want to chance it.

The final straw that persuaded me to stop was when I looked down and saw I was pulling an Andy Bernard. I had two little blood circles around my nipples despite the fact I had applied plenty of Body Glide before the race. The rain and wet shirt had caused too much friction. I later noticed I was not the only runner suffering from this condition. I decided to call it a day and rest up and get better so I'd be able to compete next week.

I walked over to an aid station at mile 13 and asked if they had a shuttle. I was directed to a large white van parked across the street. I got on and saw about 16 other people on it who looked miserable. A few of them had elite runner's bodies, but looked like they were on death's door step. One guy blew his knee out and couldn't walk, some were cold from the rain. A few of them looked like they didn't know what to expect when they signed up and just weren't having any fun and decided to quit.

We all may have had different injuries, problems, or reasons for stopping, but one thing we had in common was that we were bummed out for not finishing the race. It was a very slow, somber, and quite ride back to the finish line. The depressing mood in the van carried over as we unloaded near the runner's recovery area but we did not cross the finish line, get medals, or get the usual post race food. Instead we just got to go pick up our bags and go home.

Instead of looking at this race as a failure since I got my first DNF (did not finish), I decided to look at it as having successfully completing a half marathon. My hat is off to all the runners who kept plugging away and did finish despite great adversity. Many of those people will be limping around next week, but the pain is worth the satisfaction of knowing they completed a very difficult task.

I respect all the runners regardless of their finish time for doing something hard. I also appreciate all the amazing volunteers who make the Saint George marathon such a great event each year.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

My Favorite Fitness Authority

Over the years there have been many fitness personalities who have created a big following and influenced many people. I've benefited from quite a few of these people over the last 20 years but the one guy who really stands out for me is Jeff Cavaliere of Athlean X. Jeff is incredibly knowledgeable and does not rely on "Bro-Science." He knows his stuff and is always in great condition but the thing I admire most about him is that he uses common sense which is not very common these days.

Sometimes his language can be  a little colorful when he's trying to get a point across and he frequently struggles to keep his shirt on but he speaks the truth. If you are serious about improving your fitness or if you'd like to expand your exercise repetoire, I highly recommend him and his Youtube channel. He puts out so much good information on a regular basis and is head and shoulders above so many other Youtube trainers or fitness personalities.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Fitness Around the World

B & P Gym in Kumasi
I've been living in Ghana over the last year so I've had to work with my clients back home over the internet. I've not been as busy with training as I'd like to be so I was grateful for a new opportunity that recently came up. We just moved to a different home in Kumasi and shortly after doing so, a new gym opened up in one of the nearby neighboring buildings. I was excited to be near a gym again even though I still can't do much upper body work due to my shoulder injuries. It is called B & P Gym and I was impressed with the facility.

While running on the treadmill there recently, I met a trainer and the owner of they gym. When they found out I was a personal trainer they started asking me questions. At the end of our conversation I offered to teach some brief classes for their clients and they took me up on it.

It has been fun to share fitness with people here. I did a class last week and one this morning. I've learned that some aspects about fitness are the same here but other things feel quite different.

The Differences:

Gyms are not as plentiful here and memberships can be cost prohibitive. Aside from the money issue, many people are so busy working morning to night that they don't even consider exercising. Generally speaking, people here are active and do more walking than most Americans but I've seen fewer people out exercising than back home. I've gotten many strange looks from people while I am out running and I'm sure they are just wondering why I'd be running if I didn't have to. There are no road races to run here either. Soccer is the only organized sport to speak of.

The food challenges are a little different here. Fast food and junk food are not available to the extent they are back home. More people cook from scratch here but their food choices are more limited to what is grown locally. They are not spoiled by having a Costco or Walmart when they go shopping. There are some supermarkets and malls here but they are much more expensive so most people get their food at small food stands or the large outdoor central market.

When talking to people about the importance of rest and recovery I told that that getting enough sleep makes a big difference. When I asked if they got 8 hours of sleep each night most of them laughed and said much less than that.

The Similarities:

Many of the questions they asked were similar to what I hear back home. They asked if it is possible to spot reduce fat from problem areas. I was the bearer of bad news and let them know that the last place the fat comes off of is typically the problem areas they are concerned with and that nutrition is the key, not just doing 300 sit ups per day.

Several of the gym patrons wanted to know what supplements they should take. I pointed out that they should only be worried about supplements once they are eating right, working out regularly, and getting sufficient rest. Even then I told them that they had to be careful since so many supplements are not even proven effective. I've seen miracle pills being sold at the mall that claim to cure everything. There is no FDA here looking over people's shoulder or making them substantiate claims.

As usual, the guys want to know how to get bigger muscles and the women want to know what exercises will help them slim down the fastest. The women here also expressed some concerns about getting bulky if they lift weights.

People here want to improve their health, take better care of themselves, and feel better. I applauded their efforts in coming out to a gym on a rainy Saturday morning and encouraged them to keep it up and stay consistent.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Customizing Your Fitness

The more I observe people trying to stick to a fitness program, the more I realize how important it is to customize a program to one's level of commitment, fitness level, age, budget, and available time. 

I get a kick out of the saying "you are unique... just like everybody else", but it is true that we all are unique in that we all have different goals, abilities, and preferences. Unless we take these differences into consideration when developing a fitness program, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

I compare fitness to a color wheel where we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking there are only about 10 colors to choose from when there are actually thousands of variations.

If Bruce Lee could make up his own martial art of Jeet Kune Do which was a hybrid of other marital arts based on his personal philosophies, then we should be able to do the same with our fitness too. I don't have as cool a name for mine; I just call it customized fitness.

When it comes to nutrition, there are many many different eating styles and some of them are in direct conflict with each other yet there are people who have had good results doing each of them. I can see advantages and disadvantages to following traditional, raw, keto, paleo, or vegetarian diets. I've adopted aspects of various nutritional philosophies that sometimes contradict one another and I've applied them in a customized way that works best for me. What works for one person may not work for another. There are multiple ways to get to a desired destination.

I follow this same concept when it comes to exercise. I enjoy traditional sports but also appreciate aspects of Crossfit training as well as lifting weights in a traditional body building type of program. I've cut back on my long distance running due to injuries and prefer shorter 5K races that don't take such a toll on me. I love playing basketball, and I could easily play a couple hours every day if I had that much free time. Since basketball is my favorite activity, it is at the center of my work outs, and I schedule other cardio and resistance training activities around it throughout the week.

Is there a specific sport or activity you really enjoy? Even if it is not recognized as the greatest all around work out, I'd still encourage you to stay active by doing what you love and then trying to incorporate other conditioning aspects you may be missing into your routine. I still think someone who gets out and walks with friends everyday will have greater success in the long run than someone who attempts a more comprehensive program if it is going to be too difficult or complicated for them to stick with over time.

There are many different philosophies out there when it comes to exercise, nutrition, and fitness. I try to incorporate as much truth from each one of the various disciplines that I can. I adapt them to my personal circumstances and make modifications when necessary. If you are concerned about starting a particular program because you don't think you will be able to stick with it, then it is important for you to customize it to your unique circumstances in order to persist and get long term results.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Great Physical Therapy Youtube Channel

I frequently watch Youtube videos about exercise, proper form, and injury recovery. I recently came across a channel called "Physical Therapy Video" which is hosted by physical therapists Bob Schrupp and Brad Heineck. I watched several of their videos and found them informative and interesting. If you are looking to heal up quicker from an injury you may want to research some of their videos for some good information about recovery and prevention.