Here we are again, the first month of a new year. Are you once again making resolutions or commitments to get into better shape? If so, what can you do to make the goals stick this time? Perhaps the first step is to change the goal.
Most of us who set a goal and fail to achieve it in an allotted period of time usually start a new year with the same goal in mind. However, if we do not change our approach to the goal, we will likely see the same results (or lack thereof). But often even you change your approach you still don’t achieve full success and that may be because the goal just doesn’t fit who you are or how you live. Don’t give up on your end goal, but perhaps you need to make a new plan that has a more immediate goal that will lead you ultimately to your end goal.
To make 2017 be the year that you finally achieve your fitness goals you must first assess if you have goals that are achievable. If you are under a lot of stress, have limited free time, and/or limited funds – unless it’s life threatening, 95% of you will not lose fat, tone your muscles, or improve your strength and endurance – period. The reason is that you simply can’t successfully fit consistent and effective workouts into your hectic life as well as meal and snack planning, smart shopping and time intensive food prep and cooking. So rather than lament that your life is too stuck in a hectic hamster wheel and give up on your fitness goals by March, how about if you change the goal to be to get off the hamster wheel?
Did you know that stress and lack of sleep is the number one inhibitor to fat loss? I have a client who eats clean and healthy 4-6 times a day, and works out effectively 3-4 times a week and still cannot reduce her body fat (in fact she’s seen some increase). The clear and only reason behind this is that she has a very demanding and stressful job and home life, feels emotionally “stressed out” daily and averages about 5 hours of sleep per night. I see a lot of you nodding your heads in empathy right now.
When I talk with a new life coaching client and tell them that their first and primary goal is to find a way to reduce their stress by changing or altering their job, reorganizing household chores, rules, and assignments, and carving out (and maintaining) time for themselves, they usually start hyperventilating. But the longer we talk and outline step by step plans to get them from point A to Z the calmer they become and ultimately they get energized by the plan. Then it’s just a matter of holding them accountable, while maintaining fluidity to change the plans as the needs arise, and soon not only do they see a positive change to their bodies, they feel a radical and beneficial change to their entire lives.
With all this said, I assign all of you who have a goal yet achieved (and often failed at on an annual basis) to look at the bigger picture and perhaps pick a new goal – one that will ultimately get you to your old goal – but one that is more important and more achievable at this time and place in your life. As always, I’m here to advise as a personal trainer and life strategies coach if you wish to work with me.
Now go make 2017 different!
Very often when faced with that dreaded moment where you must choose what to eat that will be quick, tasty and healthy, we make assumptions that we know which option is better (i.e., more nutritionally healthy), and that assumption is usually based upon limited knowledge.
For instance, the other day I was pressed for time for lunch (but as always wasn’t going to skip a meal or suffer inferior (fast) nutrition), so I hit my freezer and had two choices: a Trader Joe’s Chicken & Bean Burrito or an Amy’s Organic Mushroom Risotto. My brain riffled through my solid base of nutritional understandings and told me that the burrito was the way to go because it would have more protein, less carbs, and probably be lower in fat and calories as well. After all, Risotto is pasta-ish and rice-ish both of which are high in carbs and sugars, right?
Well then the trainer in me took pause, and decided to read the labels and compare the stats. To my shock I found out that I was not only wrong in my assumption, but really way off on my perceptions. Here’s what I found:
THE RISOTTO: THE BURRITO:
240 calories 400 calories
8 grms fat 12 grms fat
590 sodium 950 sodium
35 grms carbs 51 grms carbs
2 grms sugars 1 grm sugars
7 grms protein 20 grms protein
While clearly I was correct that the burrito had more protein (almost 3x as much), but it also had almost double the carbs and sodium, and 4 grams more fat! Who knew? To help you grasp this further, lets compare a typical Subway sandwich to one of McDonald’s supposedly “healthier” sandwich options than their typical Big Mac:
SUBWAY 6″ COLD-CUT McDONALD’S GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWHICH
350 calories 350 calories
12 grms fat 9 grms fat
1030 sodium 820 sodium
46 grms carbs 42 grms carbs
13 grms sugars 8 grms sugars
7 grms protein 28 grms protein
While I vehemently oppose ever spending a dime in a McDonald’s, when push comes to shove, I have to admit while I (and many of you I suspect) would assume that a deli-style “cold-cut” sandwich from Subway would always out-health anything from McDonald’s, clearly the facts prove otherwise. In case you missed it, Subway’s sandwich while having the same calories, had far less protein, and more fat, carbs, sugars and sodium.
So the next time you make an assumption about what you’re about to eat, stop and get the real facts and then decide. Your body and fitness goals will thank you for it!
In the last couple of weeks, at least three people (ranging from acquaintances to friends) have shared their frustrations with me about still “being fat” despite strictness of diets and/or hours of cardio and resistance-based workouts, wearing Fitbits, parking further away, taking the stairs, etc.
I too would be frustrated if I was that diligent with my nutrition and exercise and didn’t see a difference. But (no pun intended) what I know that they do not is that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to successful reduction of body fat. Further, there’s more to it in many cases than just restricting and/or burning more calories. One must factor in emotional stress, sleep-deprivation, physical stress, illnesses, food allergies (that you may not be aware of), thyroid malfunctions, etc. etc. etc.
A more important concept to me is that our society on the whole needs to look at fat differently. The World, and especially America, considers FAT unattractive. However, a huge majority of our population is visually fat and many have successful careers, happy marriages, are physically active, and live long lives despite their physical condition so what does that tell us?
Fat in foods is still widely misunderstood by most people – if avocado and peanut butter is okay, what’s wrong with butter and cheese? Sugar is still not really acknowledged as being one of the largest culprits in epidemic obesity, yet it is. Carbs are considered evil, yet I challenge you to get through a workout without them.
Internally, there are obese people who do not have high blood pressure or diabetes. Conversely there are “skinny” people who have dangerously high cholesterol or digestive issues that cause them to not absorb essential vitamins and minerals from their nutrition.
So in answer to everyone who has ever lamented why am I still fat I say look at your life as a whole entity, one in which every nuance plays a part in your physical health and body composition. There are so many negative “life” aspects that can affect your body:
- High stress levels at work
- Emotional stress at home
- Illnesses, injuries, digestive or auto-immune disorders, cancer
- Lack of sleep
- Eating too fast
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not drinking enough water
- Over-exercising (yes that’s a thing)
- Not exercising enough or effectively
- Eating out too much
- Yo-yo dieting
- Worries about money
and the list goes on! Take stock of what’s going on in your life that might truly be sabotaging your efforts to be healthy inside and out. Then try to improve as many of these aspects as you can, or at least improve your perspective.
What ultimately should be your focus is: (1) are you able to do what you want physically (strength and endurance)? and (2) are you surrounded by people who love you and find you beautiful from the inside out? If the answer to both is yes, then who gives a hoot about the fat?! If they’re no, then work on fixing that (i.e., focus on building strength and endurance, not fat loss, and surround yourself with more appreciative and quality people).
In the end you’ll either successfully reduce your fat levels because your life isn’t fighting you on that goal, or at least you’ll realize that you’re healthy and happy so who cares about the rest.
When I was a child (decades ago) we were taught in school that the United States was created to be the “land of opportunity.” A place where you could live free from persecution for being different or believing in a different God, and achieve your dreams of building a business which would provide you flexibility and financial security. People worked hard but also enjoyed a nationwide observance of Sundays off, a week at Christmas, and summer vacations where we drove cross-country and played together as a family.
Things sped up, and now we are a Country obsessed with being operational 24/7, sleep/rest be damned. With society on the whole working longer hours, having too many obligations and distractions, and entire generations of families that live for their measly 1-2 weeks of paid vacation, it’s no wonder high blood pressure and depression are on the rise with both adults and children.
In case you didn’t know, the US is the “only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday” according to USA Today. “By law, every country in the European Union has at least four work weeks of paid vacation. Austria, which guarantees workers the most time off, has a legal minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays each year. The average private sector U.S. worker receives 16 paid vacation days and holidays. One in four Americans does not have a single paid day off.”
Don’t even get me started on how many children are not afforded enough play time compared to the “olden days” – with school times starting earlier and running longer, homework averaging two hours a night for most middle-school kids, and four hours for high school, and then there’s an average of four to ten hours a week spent on team sports involvement or music/dance study – it’s no wonder kids have little time to actually stand outside and simply play.
All of this is tragic to me. But clearly my weekly blog and virtual soapbox is not going to change this. But what change I can encourage is that of personal time management to allow play time to be a part of your, and your kids’, weekly schedule.
One of the fundamental aspects of my business Dane Life Fitness is to help my clients carve out time where they can be artistically creative (using the right sides of their brains) or regularly play with their children (or adult friends), whether it be a card game or biking together, etc. Just some time spent on a weekly basis where they can let go of all the mental issues that stress us out (and the physical results therefrom). This play time is essential to a healthy internal and external life, as well as providing huge benefits to the core function of a family.
So whether or not you have paid vacation time, I challenge you to pick up an artistic hobby, a group sport or activity, or at least plan (and achieve) a weekly trip to the park to play catch or frisbee with your kids or adult friends. I also suggest you find a way to take at least one week a year to do something that is not just visiting relatives in another state (unless you find that relaxing). You need to get away and decompress. Your kids need do that too!
So enough staring at a computer screen – GO PLAY!
The popularity of wearable fitness trackers is escalating rapidly, so today I wanted to tell you my favorite of the current top selling choices, and some unanticipated extra perks you can receive from these trendy wrist bands.
The top sellers are Fitbit, Garmin, and Jawbone. Each offer roughly the same basic functions (calories burned, sleep tracking, steps taken, etc.), with a varying range of style and prices. My choice is the Jawbone Up24 (around $60). I chose the Jawbone Up24 because it combined the most functions that mattered to me with the most comfortable and subtle wristband. I find the fit to be comfortable both day and night, it does not stick to my skin when sweating (like the Fitbit can), and I can even wear it when dressed up as the black version looks like a “cool” bracelet. It holds a charge for almost an entire week, and it’s corresponding App (both in Android and Apple formats) is super easy to use.
Now I will list the obvious reasons that a fitness tracker will benefit you, and the not so obvious benefits that I am very happy to have discovered.
A brilliant way to keep accountable for your fitness goals without having to rely upon a friend or trainer. Every day, all day long, you can keep track of how much you’ve moved, and most since people don’t like seeing that they’re way off from their goals (how many steps per day), they usually “step it up” (pun intended) as the day progresses.
Sleep is an integral and essential factor in fat loss, stress reduction and mood enhancement. The App will show you how deep you sleep and when, how much you wake throughout the night, and you can use this information to take calculated steps to improving your sleep patterns, methods, and time allocation (i.e., go to bed earlier).
By entering your age, height, and weight, the device will advise you as to how many calories you’ve burned throughout your day. It will also tell you how much you burn at rest (your metabolism). By increasing your muscle vs. fat you will happily see your resting calorie burn increase – which always renews my clients’ motivation. If you take the time to enter your food consumption and time spent exercising, you will also be able to see your calories in vs. calories out (important factor in successful fat-loss).
As already stated, this device is more stylish than watch-like, can handle sweat, splashes of water, and even showering (just not immersion like swimming). So it’s easy to put on and forget about.
Reminder to Move:
Although many fitness trackers on the market have this option, I still feel it should be noted as a bonus benefit as so few people seem to utilize it (until I tell them about it). You can set a vibration reminder at specific intervals and specific times throughout the day. I have mine set to every 30 minutes, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Whenever I’ve been stationary for 30 minutes, it vibrates. I then jump up and move – for at least 5 minutes of energy burn (jumping jacks, push ups, stair running, dancing, squats, etc).
Along with the 30-minute vibration reminder, just the fact that I may not be achieving my steps-per-day frequently urges my mind and then my body into action. I used to roll my eyes in frustration every time I’d run upstairs only to be summoned back downstairs by my daughter needing something. But then I realized that I shouldn’t resent the extra opportunity to run the stairs (literally) and it caused a serious reduction in our yelling at each other from different areas of the house. (Family Harmony + Exercise = Happy Mom which definitely = Happy Family!)
I also find that when I think about sitting and reading or relaxing, I remind myself that hey, I should go get that laundry from upstairs, or bring out the trash – some chore that can log a few more steps for me today. As a result, I gain the satisfaction of achieving my steps-per-day goal, and often exceeding it almost daily.
* * * * * *
So if you were curious or on the fence about whether a fitness tracker would be good for you, my answer is clearly yes, doesn’t really matter the make/model as long as you utilize all it is there to help you with. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to comment herein or contact me directly. Happy tracking!
Six weeks into the new year and I see many people/clients who were energized and committed to getting into shape (i.e., losing body fat and making healthier nutritional choices) already giving up. My standard motto is “you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make them drink.” This is highly applicable to those of you who are not fully resolved to the goal of taking healthier care of your body. No matter how many routines I create for you, no matter whether you follow one of my meal plans, or join Jenny Craig, if you are not absolutely committed to changing your body inside and out, then you have probably given up already – or are close to it.
With that said, I hope to offer a little in-your-face re-motivation, and get you, or keep you, back on track. So let’s look at the WHY of your decision to get into shape. Did you decide to “diet and exercise” because you wanted to fit into a smaller size of clothes? Were you tired of having less stamina and energy? Was your health at risk according to doctors? Or were you simply being nagged by worried family and friends? I can tell you now that all of those reasons are not enough.
If I told you that you had one month to live unless you did 50 jumping jacks every morning and never ate another french fry again would you do it? Probably. That seems do-able, right?
But if you could stave off death by spending 30 minutes three times a week at a gym and eating healthy small portions six times a day for five days a week (eating and drinking your favorite foods for the other two) would that be too much of a change to your lifestyle to commit too? The answer appears to be yes for many of you.
It all comes down to how badly you want it. Obviously none of you reading this are facing imminent death (presumably) so again the stakes seem less tangible – more immortal if you will. But I assure you, they’re not. If you have body fat levels of 30% or more you are in serious risk of heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and a significantly reduced life span. But like many humans, unless death is knocking blatantly on our door, we don’t consider the future when it comes to caring for our bodies.
So if you’ve given up your 2015 quest for health, I implore you to dig a little deeper, make the stakes more urgent and personal, get up off that chair and just DO IT. Same goes for those of you who are starting to slack off on your motivation and giving your goals less importance.
As the quote goes from one of my favorite movies (Galaxy Quest) “never give up, never surrender!” The journey from fat to fit is tough but the end result is so worth it – and if you stick with it, you might just thank me when you’re 80!
In the 60’s Timothy Leary lead the charge of people changing their lives by becoming more aware, more present, and less rigid in their pursuit of life. He decreed that taking Acid (LSD) would help us brake free from the tight pigeonholed structure that our society had evolved into.
Now we are in a time period where life’s rigidity seems to have taken hold again. People work longer hours, drive further distances (often through stressful traffic), eat faster less healthy food, and on the whole, have a hard time focusing on anything for too long. Consequently, we have a mass populous that is uptight and unhappy with whom they are or how they look and live.
But I feel we can take a page from Dr. Leary’s book – but not with drugs – with exercise. It’s very simple. When stressed and tense, take a moment to become more present and aware through exercise. The release of physical tension that exercise brings will allow for emotional clarity to enter and you’ll likely find a better perspective or solution to allow you to “break free” of what’s bringing you down.
So stop worrying about having a meal that was “cheating” (you know I hate that word) from your self-imposed strict “diet” (another taboo word for my clients). Quit obsessing over a missed day of cardio. Stop spewing chronic negative energy over a job you hate or a relationship that is detrimentally dysfunctional.
Just take each moment when you are agonizing over whatever you agonize over, and just BE. 90% of what we humans worry about (excluding serious illnesses and financial strife) is trivial on the grand scheme of things. Be more aware, be more present, be more willing to relax and breathe. Then, drop and give me 20!
I’m serious. Get on the floor and do some push ups, or stand up and do jumping jacks, burpees, crunches, triceps dips off the back of your desk. It doesn’t matter what it is – just that you take that moment to do something physical.
It’s all about the baby steps. If every time you find yourself stressed out/tensed up (excluding when you’re driving of course), you quickly leap into 1-2 minutes of any high intensity exercise, you will gain not only physical release of some tension, but usually a fresh clarity in your mind. Once you start getting addicted to that renewed clarity and reduction of tension – you’ll be more open to changing what’s not working in your life (job, relationships, body, perspective).
Sorry Timothy, we don’t need acid this time to Turn on and Tune In – we just need exercise to get the juices flowing into mind-expanding perspectives of how we can create happiness for ourselves.
Now stand up and JUMP! (I did right after writing this!)
The eternal question why can’t I lose weight is uttered hundreds of times a day – at least in my profession I hear it from almost every prospective new client. The answer is simple – you’re not doing what you need to do to achieve your goals. The power lies completely within you! So the real question is what’s wrong with your execution? Successful weight loss (which is really successful fat loss) is achieved with the following 3-steps:
1. Set an achievable goal for your body type and lifestyle.
2. Create and FOLLOW a nutrition plan that provides enough calories, protein and yes, even carbohydrates and fats to allow for burning of fat and building of lean muscle.
3. Exercise regularly – or more accurately – burn more calories on a daily basis than you consume!
That’s it. If you follow those three steps you WILL succeed. Now you may be saying I do, I am, I have, but I guarantee, if you are still not losing weight (fat) you’re missing one or more nuances to one or more of these steps, and of course, YOU MUST DO THE WORK! No excuses, no slacking (for more than a day or two), no giving up.
1. GOALS: If you are over 40, have a sedentary job or lifestyle, have lots of stress, have injured body parts (back, legs, shoulders) or weakened joints – any or all of these issues – you MUST take those issues into consideration when setting your goals. With any of these issues you are likely to burn calories at a slower rate than others (age, lifestyle), if you are under stress you may in fact gain weight, and all of these issues greatly impact your ability to successfully follow step No. 2.
2. NUTRITION: First off, you’ll never succeed if you follow a diet – which implies a temporary change in how you eat (one in which you will cease when you’ve reached your goals). Second, you need to cater your meal plans to your schedule, taste preferences, and budget. Trying to eat what worked for one person who has a different set of criteria is a sure-fire way to not succeed.
3. EXERCISE: You’ll note I re-addressed this issue as calorie burn. Whether high-impact or low, 10 minutes or 45, resistance training or group classes, your success at embracing and maintaining a consistent exercise regiment hinges upon you enjoying what you’re doing. If you hate the gym, but love to hike – make it so. If you prefer DVD’s at home rather than working with a personal trainer then do that. The key to remember is BURN MORE CALORIES THAN YOU CONSUME.
That being said, please heed this important note: eating fewer calories is NOT the answer. The more you burn calories – especially in a proactive way such as resistance training (the fastest way to lose fat) – the more you’ll actually need to eat. You’ll still be at a deficit, but beware of eating too little calories. Your body will hoard what you do eat and you’ll not see a change!
SHAMELESS PLUG: I would be remise if I did not take advantage of a place to make a shameless plug for my services. I have a website where you can purchase specifically customized workout routines and meal plans that will take into consideration all of the issues I’ve detailed herein and if followed, will definitely help you achieve your goals! www.workouts247.com
When it comes to running, there are two types of people in the world. Those that can and those that can’t. Surprisingly it’s not always about the shape you’re in or your size that controls your ability to run. I myself, a lean fit personal trainer, find that running is agony, both physically and mentally. Yet I ask myself repeatedly why can’t I run?
Obviously, the answer is I can run. It’s all about my mental state. So a few years back I focused my training on a 5K and did the work required. I was able to run a 5K. But I hated it! There was no endorphin high, there was no elation at the finish line, there was definitely no wanting to do another.
I had, of course looked at reasons beyond my mental perspective. I have knees and feet weakened by years of being a dancer. My muscle composition is predominately fast twitch muscles which are better suited to short quick bursts of speed and heavy lifting. (Slow twitch muscles work better for extended exertion, i.e., long distance runs.)
But these reasons were irrelevant. What mattered is that I felt running was an important factor to my overall fitness and it was my weak link. Now I well know that there are many other ways to burn as many or more calories than running that are low impact and even take less time. Yet there’s still something about running, and being a runner that I craved.
In talking with my friends and clients, I found I wasn’t alone in this way of thinking. Runners (and their bodies) are highly admired in our society. The Greeks created the marathon as a glorifying proving ground to one’s strength and stamina. It’s no wonder we all want to run.
But knowing what I do about physical fitness, as well as my own abilities to achieve what I set my mind to, I decided that it was simply ok for me to not be a runner. Jogging to clear one’s mind was great for Forrest Gump, but it doesn’t work for me. I can get my ya-ya’s out at the gym curling 30 lbs, I can met my aerobic needs dancing Zumba, and I can have great legs and endurance by walking on the treadmill at a steep incline while holding hand weights. Once I shared this sentiment with my clients, many enthusiastically relaxed on their own self-imposed ideals that they needed to run a marathon to prove something.
So for those of you that are runners, that enjoy running, and that can: we non-runners salute you, and will happily wave as you run by.
Children’s fitness is under serious scrutiny these days with 20% of all U.S. children aged 6-19 being clinically obese. (Obesity is defined as having a body fat percentage of over 25-30% depending upon gender.) Despite the fact that Physical Education (P.E.) classes are, at best, offered only day a week in most public schools, our awareness that children need to move more is on the rise. But understanding and taking action are two different things. We’re not taking enough action – pun intended!
For the focus of this article, I’m not going to focus on the nutrition side of obesity. The facts are out there, and more parent than ever are starting to change how they feed their children (less fast food, smaller portions, healthier choices, etc.). What I want to focus on today is simple: movement.
The bottom line always comes down to this: calories in vs. calories out. Regardless of what nutritional choices your children make or receive, they need to burn more than they ingest. With heavier homework demands, longer school days or commutes too and from, and all things technology focused (from internet communication to gaming systems) it’s very hard for the average youngster to fit exercise into their day. Unless they are involved with a specific sport, they’re not likely to get more than a half hour of physical activity per day. This is not enough.
So how do you carve more time out of a jam-packed schedule to help your child move more? First of all, make the commitment – decide that it’s a priority. Second, keep the activity ACTIVE but varied. Third, schedule a specific time and stick to it. If it can’t be daily, then make it a few times weekly, but for twice as long.
Here are some random examples of activities that will help children burn calories, build strength and endurance, while exciting them and offering a needed break from brain-busting homework or mind-numbing video games and social networking:
2. Create mini challenges for them such as hula-hoop through an entire song, then jumping jacks through the next; or dance-offs with friends or siblings
3. If you have a pool create a fun water-aerobics routine for them with songs they like
5. Design an in-home or yard obstacle course of running, jumping, crawling, squatting, etc. Use your imagination, or better yet, use theirs. Have them design it, then challenge them to cycle through the course, each time bettering their last speed
6. Install a basketball hoop above the garage (or indoor nurf basketball) and challenge them to a game
The idea here is to make it fun, but make it mandatory. Every day, 30 minutes minimum. And if you hadn’t noticed, I included YOU the parent in some of these activities – because you need to MOVE too.
For more facts about childhood/adolescent obesity: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm