February 25, 2009
Is it a sin to separate the message from the messenger for just a brief blog post? I hate to start off Lent on the wrong foot. If so, forgive me Lord in advance for what I’m about to do. Today is Ash Wednesday and for those of you not in the know about Jesus and his crazy life, this day marks the beginning of Lent, the craziest last 40 days of Jesus’ crazy life on this planet, not counting Sundays for some Christian-slash-Sunday reason that I both don’t understand and don’t have time to get into right now, which means Lent is really 46 days, but let’s just round down for once and say that Lent is the 40 day time period of precontemplative willingness to endure some form of suffering in symbolic recognition of The Man’s Walk to Glory, ending on Sunday, April 11 which is Easter.
And as is my tendency to tie one remote day-to-day topic to the ever-present topic (in my mind) of fitness, I awoke last night correlating the beginning of Lent as the perfect time to make that fitness, actually lifestyle change, Christians and non-Christians alike. Why should we all jump on the Lenten wagon? Well for one thing, since lack of fitness can lead to many adverse symptoms including death, the final symptom, and for another, Lent is a culturally accepted way of stopping the saboteurs in your life; the ones who leave homemade cookies in the lunchroom and make your favorite fettuccini Alfred when they know you are in Phase One of the South Beach Diet or the so-called friends who plan to meet you at the bar with the freebie 2fer1 margaritas happy hour even though they know that alcohol is not in Phase One either. The simple phrase, “I’m giving it up for Lent” stops the conversation short (unless you are Jewish then you’ve got some splaining to do) Anyway, in our society, saying you are giving it up for Lent gets you off the hot seat.Next topic.
I mean if Father Guido Sarducci from SNL can give up his mentholated cigarettes, then certainly we can get down to this business of abstention and sacrifice in the name of God and if not in the name of God then at least in the name of Fitness, not that they are the same motivation but the giving up part will still help you reap the same benefits (thank God.)
If Father Guido Sarducci does not inspire you and you need yet more motivation to head into 40 days and nights (really 46 which might not seem like much until you get to about Day 39) of some form of depravity, consider that the idea that restraint reaches into many other spiritual practices, yoga being the first to come to my mind.
I’m probably going to butcher this but let me see if I can explain the Penny Hoff version of the one chapter of the Yoga Sutras, the yamas.The second of the eight limbs of the Ashtanga yoga path to enlightenment is called the yamas which are ethical precepts that are supposed to make us better people. The yamas are called restraints because they are things you withhold or give up, ahimsa being the first and most famous yama, which means non-violence, which is where the idea of vegetarianism comes from. There’s also truth-telling meaning don’t lie and there’s non-stealing and non-greediness, self-explanatory and the no sex yama which I don’t quite get but let’s stay on topic.
If any of these are hard for you, then giving that up is a good place to start. Why? Awareness for starters. Or try giving up alcohol, coffee (don’t suggest this one to your office cubicle mates),swearing, procrastination (nah, let’s do this one later), TV, junk food, texting while driving or Facebook (like one dad is doing for Lent as described in the Wall Street Journal) can all be eye-opening experiences. Becoming aware of our addictions is a walk into the deeper parts of our consciousness and has the potential to wake us up.
Renunciation is a tool for facing what we are enslaved to. It is not for the weak. It demands strength and discipline.
For me, I am trying to stop thinking so much. This economy has my mind in a twist and as I watched the president’s speech to Congress last night, hoping this would reassure me, I found my mind even more filled with worrying. So after another frigging night of sleeplessness, I’m giving up excessive thinking. It’s toxic.
I’m going to attempt this by starting a formal meditation practice, every morning for 30 minutes for which I will have to get up at 5:15am OUCH but I’m usually lying there worrying anyway. I started today and I fidgeted the entire time, it almost killed me but I made it through a half hour without going insane which was about as likely as the earth, moon and sun aligning for a total solar eclipse. Still, we humans survived the ice age; hopefully we can survive for 40 (6) days of restraint in one small corner of our daily lives.
What is the lesson of Lent for people who don’t officially observe Lent? To be willing to change. To be happy in spite of what we do not have. To become aware of our attachments. To be less of a slave to our mind. To learn patience and develop endurance.
If that is not motivation enough, then okay, you can throw in a loophole or two, say for St Patrick’s Day or your birthday and/or one wild card day (probably this Friday). That’s the thing about Lent. You make your own rules.
I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing there’s got to be some scientific basis for the healing power of restraint. All I know is that as far as fitness is concerned, restraint keeps us from giving up and helps us to continue to try to be better and to live better and then even if we don’t actually end up better, we can hopefully be happy with what we’ve been given.
Need a mantra to keep you focused during the days ahead? Don’t tell Nike but try this one:
JUST DON’T DO IT
February 25, 2009
Give yourself 5 points for every yes answer and zero for every no answer.
1. When you regularly choose to skip your workout your chances of living a shorter, fatter life go up.
2. When you go to bed with a full belly, your chances of living a fatter life go up.
3. When you starve all day and eat a huge meal at night, your chances of living a shorter, fatter life go up.
4. When you drink three or more drinks a day, your chances of living a shorter and fatter life go up.
5. When you sleep less than 6 hours a night, your chances of living less long go up.
6. When you can’t see your toes because of your belly, your chances of living a shorter, fatter life go up.
7. When you skip breakfast everyday, your chances of living a shorter, fatter life go up.
8. When you are so stressed out that it keeps you awake at night, your chances of living a shorter life go up.
9. When you avoid stress reducing, mind-body techniques like yoga and tai chi or meditation, your chances of living a chaotic life go up.
10. When you never lift weights or do weight-bearing exercises like push-ups, your chances of living in a nursing home go up
11. When you eat lots of sugar, white breads and no fiber, your chances of living a fatter, shorter life go up.
Now add up your points and be honest with yourself.
55-40 Points-Congratulations! You will live the shortest, fattest life possible! Enjoy it while you can, It won’t be much longer.
39-25 Points- You’re doing okay with shortening your life span but if you just let yourself slip a bit more you should be dead before you know it, You’ve got several promising bad habits.
24-20 Points- You have your occasional slip-ups, but overall you are failing at dying early, keep trying though. All it takes is a little slacking and in a decade or two, you can undo all your success.
Under 19 Points- You’ve failed miserably at living the short, fat life. I hate to tell you that you’ll probably live a longer, slimmer life than most, but oh well, at least those smarties in the categories above won’t be around to witness it.
February 24, 2009
When I talk to my clients after they return from vacation, they are often filled with body remorse. They come home 5 pounds heavier and the satisfaction from their travel is muffled by their bodily disgust. I always feel as if I haven’t done my pre-vacation job if I haven’t told them that it doesn’t have to be that way. As a matter of fact, not only do they not need to come home feeling like a beached whale, they can actually come home in better shape than when they left! All it takes is a game plan and a bit of research pre-trip.
Nowadays, even the most remote resorts in the far-flung corners of the Carribean have workout facilities and most of these gym facilities are viewable on these resorts websites.
I tell my vacationers to do some homework prior to choosing a resort and keep the idea of maintaining their workout throughout their trip in the back of their mind as they choose where they stay. Cruises are a no-brainer, they all have acceptable health clubs. And even if your destination does not have a gym, I can’t imagine a vacation that is not made better by seeing the surrounding area. Get out on a bike or go for a walk, get in the water sports department and see what activites are available during your stay.
After you’ve mapped out a specific exercise plan, the trick is to get off on the right foot on the first day. If you’ve traveled to a different time zone this is even more critical for resetting your internal clock since exercise is one of the best ways to deal with jet-lag. Nip it in the bud by breaking a sweat on your first day, no matter how tired or how disorganized or unsettled you feel. This will get your vacation off on the right bicep and set the tone for following through with your fitness commitment for the rest of your trip. Secondly try to get your exercise in first thing in the morning, preferably before breakfast but definitely before lunch. As the day goes on, the odds of exercise decreases as does your willpower and energy level.
Most resorts have an early morning group bike ride or organized walking group and this is also a great way to meet other travelers as a side benefit.
In summary, make a plan before departure and be specific, the more details (time and type of workouts) the better.
Get your first day workout in no matter what and finally, the early vacation bird gets the workout in and returns home without slacker’s remorse.
February 20, 2009
So it came to pass that at this critical, no-turning-back, the-year-is-two-months-gone point at the end of February, that we find ourselves on the scales or staring at our closet with nothing to wear (that fits) and wondering how we are still where we are?
I think about New Year’s resolutions at this time of year, eight weeks out, and my head hurts. Have we all embarked on futile missions? Is it too soon to say we’ve failed yet one more friggin’ time? Are we still not doing the things we said we wanted to do?
For the past several years I feel like we’ve paid lip service to needing to lose weight/get in shape/get our act together goals, then we’ve marched right into those restaurants that super-size everything or those eateries that serve their entrées on plates the size of man-hole covers and disconnected the part of our brain that made those goals.
If this all sounds a bit too close for comfort, here are a few tips. Maybe now that eight weeks have passed, you will really do these things. They are simple and take very little time.
First, put your goals in writing. On the fridge. On the bathroom mirror. Be as detailed as possible. Be sure they are posted somewhere so that they are in your face. Be your own nudge.
Next, 90% of successful dieters who kept weight off for five years or more all had one thing in common. They wrote it down. Sorry Guys, I know this sounds oh-so-metrosexual but you must journal. Consider yourselves the evolved man. The man who will be different from your father (and weigh less than him as a benefit).Journaling will take some getting used to. You don’t have to do it in public. Keep it under lock and key if needed. Do it on your blackberry, if that feels more discreet and macho.But if you can cultivate this one little habit, you will be successful. It’ll take a few minutes, but if you bite it, you write it. This keeps you accountable.
Also, my ingenious friends over at The Pump know a thing or two about getting to goals. They are offering a free “DO OVER” 30 Day Challenge. But it started 2 days ago so jump in quick (before the year passes you by) and enroll. You;ve got nothing to lose but your belly roll. Did I mention it is free?
On , 2009 The Pump launches their 30 day Resolution Do-Over Challenge for all New Year’s resolution drop outs. The Pump has created an online where people can publicly promote their goals and enter a thirty day challenge. The idea is to put it out there and make it happen. The site will connect the network with a panel of health and fitness experts to answer questions and help people with their challenges.
Participants will post their goal and why they want it and get comments from friends and the expert panel. The ultimate goal is to have fun! The most entertaining entries will be voted on to win $1,000 and a month’s worth of The Pump’s food, plus a year’s gym membership.
Why 30 days? The only way to turn a goal into a habit is through deliberate repetition. Recent research suggests that it takes 30 days to reprogram the neural pathways in your brain that lead to habitual, permanent change.
February 19, 2009
This morning I fought the urge to bonk my friend on the head when she said she was trying to decide whether to work out even though she was nursing a pulled hamstring.
She wondered aloud, in an unnecessarily loud, slightly deranged tone of voice, if it is better to do her regular workout since she was on the precipice of insanity from her week of no post-workout feel-good endorphins. She reasoned that the risk of re-injury was possibly worth keeping her children from being taken in by Children’s Services, which from the crazed look in her eyes, was definitely a possibility.
On the one bicep, not exercising when you’ve been doing it for decades contributes to what I call the “Don’t Feel Like It Syndrome” where the less you do, the more you feel like s__ and therefore the less you feel like doing, leading to couch time.
But on the other bicep, a workout that reinjures you leads to even more of what you don’t want.
Of course, most athletic folks need enforced rest at some point in the course of their sweating career and the more active you are and the older you get, the more likely some injury will sneak up on you and in some cases, it’ll wallop you with a snap, break or tear of some vital connective body part that totally short-circuits your exercise routine. Many fitness buffs, especially with the first injury, will try to limp their way through and they end up even more screwed (up).
Injury is a powerful teacher. If it taps us on the shoulder and we ignore it, it starts nudging, then shoving and eventually slamming us into facing what is happening in our body. Can anyone say, “Game Over”?
As we age though, we hopefully cultivate a few character traits that are incomprehensible to most young athletes under the age of twenty. They are the twin lions of aging in general and fitness rehab specifically. They are Patience and Wisdom. These two cousins will help you stop the drill sargeant in your brain when the lowly ranking private in our hamstring tries to respond with “Yes,Sir!” but instead says,”Ouch!”
With luck, we learn to care more about feeling good rather than looking good and as anyone who has suffered from chronic athletic pain can tell you, feeling good is EVERYTHING. Feeling good beats looking good hands down everytime. Just ask the next person you pass on the street that is wearing Merrils and they will tell you the same.
So what did I say to my friend as she debated strapping on her nikes for a run? I rested my hands on her shoulders, told her to get her bathing suit on and hit the pool.
Resting a hamstring doesn’t mean resting the whole body. So next time you find yourself sidelined with an injury, find something that totally rests the body part that needs to heal.
If your knee hurts, do upper body strengthening (push ups come to mind or yoga). If your shoulder hurts, do spinning or ride your bike.
The bottom line is that you can’t do “more” until your body is out of pain. Then when you are pain-free, you won’t need “more” because feeling better is “more.”
February 17, 2009
Make no bones about it. As we approach middle age (and yes, it has to be called “middle” age.Take the age you expect to live to, then cut it in half-see? )the bare-bone truth about your skeleton is that, especially in pre and post menopausal women, you can ONLY maintain or LOSE bone density. You cannot naturally regain it. Yes, I know there are some strong prescription medicines (Fosomax-think Sally Field) out there that reverse bone density but you’ve only got to look at the precaution/side effects label on those drugs to try a more wholisitic route if at all possible, one side effect is that these strong drugs will erode your esophagus away if you lay down within 30 minutes after taking them so you can bet they are stonger than a calcium supplement.
Do you even know whether you get 1000 milligrams of calcium everyday? Most multi-vitamins do not add much calcium because it interferes with the absorption of other vitamins. A day’s requirement is about three cups of milk or twelve cups of ice cream:)
I’ve come across way too many ladies going through reverse puberty, as I like to think of it, who take no calcium supplement and the only dairy they consume is milk in their Venti Latte (skim milk has the same amount of calcium as whole so keep it skinny).
The changing face of fitness is about keeping what you’ve got-it has to be your daily priority.
So before we move on to exercises that you can do at home to strengthen your bones through weight-bearing movement(Get those Free Spirits velcroed on), here is what you need to do.
Here’s your prescription-1200 mg of calcium along with 1000 mg of D. Taking a calcium supplement with added vitamin D boosts calcium absorption and if your eyes aren’t crossing yet, look for one with Vitamin K(helps form bone protein).
Some purists may not agree but I like the Viactiv calcium chews. They are chocolate chewies that taste similar to a tootsie roll if your candy standards are low. Think mini tootsie roll for baby zoomers .20 calories each. You take two per day. It’s a nice little treat mid-morning and mid-afternoon. And oh, yeah, you must take them separately since your body can only absorb 500 milligrams at a time(who knew).
Calcium fortified Orange Juice has the same amount of calcium as an equal amount of milk.It is worth the extra pennies if you are not a milk drinker because the Vitamin C in the OJ also aids absorption.
Why is this so monotonously important, you wonder?
Decreased bone density is a major cause of fractures in postmenopausal women, mostly wrist,long bones of the foot,spine and hip, with hip fractures increasing significantly later in life(this has to do with the loss of BALANCE,which is another issue. How many of you have a grandparent break something when they lose their balance and topple over,hmm?)
Resistance (or strength training) exercise can make bones stronger so that if you do fall over (hopefully my drinkers are listening)nothing will break!
Another great way to solidify your bones is to get twenty minutes of sunlight per day. Recent research has shown that as much as 70% of Americans (especially darker skinned) are Vitamin D deficient, due to an increase in sunscreen use which is good for your skin but bad for your bones. The same sun rays that burn your skin also feed your bones. This deficiency has scarily been strongly linked to cancer and other age-related diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s. What to do? Keep wearing your sunscreen but shove those sleeves up when the sun is beaming in the window. Make a point of getting some sun on a less vulnerable part of your skin. Twenty minutes equals the same amount of vitamin D in 1000 glasses of milk.
Try to switch to an aerial view of your lifestyle. Are you more able to see your fitness future?If you don’t like what you see, it’s not to late! Little changes make a difference. Like the wonderful yoga teacher, Judith Lasater says,”If you think details don’t matter, remember that one chromosome different on the end of the DNA strand and you’re a monkey.”
February 6, 2009
There are these nifty little pieces of paper that all of us carry around and trade back and forth, allowing us to get what we want without much effort or thought. And exciting new fitness research has shown that using these little pieces of paper can help us all, but especially men and especially cheapskates, to lose weight faster than any other weight-loss method known to humankind.
These pieces of paper are called money and Pamela Weiler Grayson has given me my fitness laugh of the day by writing an article for the New York Times about what she calls Fat Betting. I love this idea.
She quotes several recently published studies saying that when money is on the line, people who’ve never before had weight-loss success are able to drop the ellbees.
Now I used to call this accountability but I’ve coined a new term. I think a better name for it would be
ac-COUNT-A-DOLLAR-BILL-ity. This idea gives a deeper meaning to the term putting your money where your mouth is or as Ms. Grayson calls it, “Putting your money where your fat is” and I like it. A lot.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the idea of losing (or gaining) money is a big carrot stick for dieters nor am I surprised that another important component of their success is regular weekly feedback, which I assume means getting on the scales every Monday morning.With witnesses.
There’s nothing more motivational than making a bet with some smirking, nudgey co-worker and having to take turns stepping on the scales with them once a week when losing your year-end bonus to them is at stake.
The idea of competing to lose weight can motivate women but it is especially effective for men. Ms. Grayson attributes this to the snips and snails and puppy dog tails that boys are made of. Men are really just the grown-up version of those boys on the playground yelling, “Ha!Ha! Betcha can’t catch me!”, seeing who can run faster or climb higher.
She describes some friendly office wagers where 10 co-workers throw in $100 each with the biggest loser being the biggest winner who takes the $1000 jackpot and how losing weight is obviously the ultimate goal but that wining the bet is the reason they were able to put the cookie down.
There are actually some freebie websites (stickK.com, Fatbet.net and makemoneylosingweight.com) that provide the forum for people to make their wagers.
All aboard Cheapskates! Hop on the Weight-Loss Express! If moths fly out of your wallet every time you open it, this could be the way to your ideal weight. The cheaper the skate you are, the better I “bet” this idea works! The websites take your credit card info right up front, you pick a referee to monitor your weigh-ins and they charge you weekly for unmet goals that you’ve set for yourself. Genius!
I also chuckled at the brilliance of what Ms. Grayson called anti-charities. Bettors can designate someone they loathe to get the winnings if they fail to lose the promised weight. These have the highest success rate (85 percent) probably with Dubya’s presidential library the most popular anti-charity and Madoff’s defense fund a close second.
If that weren’t clever enough, then there’s the playing dirty. Imagine your adversary doing push-ups outside your office door or leaving your favorite homemade cookie on your desk. Call it the Meal-Mindscrew.
So this is what we’ve come to, America! Our greedy human nature is the ticket to finally losing the weight we’ve never before been able to lose. But hey, if you are motivated by the idea of losing-or gaining money, then go for it!
The current financial crisis raises the stakes even more and in my opinion this makes Fat Betting even more of a lure. If the mortgage is on the line, then suddenly those cookies will taste like dirt.
February 5, 2009
My all-time favorite yoga teacher, Judith Lasater, talks often about how thoughts come first, followed by your words, which eventually determines your actions (how you live your life). So her advice has always been to watch your thoughts. Even if you can’t stop your thoughts, if you just start noticing them, you create a small space in which you can choose~ Do I want to keep thinking this thought or not? She compared it to the difference between obsessing and noticing you’re obsessing. If you are obsessing, you can’t stop it. But if you notice that you are obsessing, you have a choice to stop doing it. Can you see how, in the trickle-down theory ,this can help you command your life in an immeasurable way?
I truly believe your thoughts rule your world. After all, beliefs are just thoughts you keep thinking over and over.
That’s why you need to be diligent about what you think. It tends to become what you believe.
Most people I’ve encountered in my decades of gym experience think about what they don’t want or what they can’t do. “How I can I get rid of my (microscopic)muffin top?” (BTW, muffin top is the new love handles) or “I hate my (size 6)thighs!” or the ever present “I can’t stand myself at this weight!(129lbs). They focus on the negative, and guess what? They are likely to spend a big part of their day running the constant mental loop of thoughts that fill them with anxiety rather than contentment. Whatever you think about, your world eventually becomes.
Do you know who said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”? This was said by one of the
greatest minds in human history. Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about imagination. I also like to think that he never even noticed his hair and people’s opinions about it. His gift to think beyond
convention and to question authority and the conclusions of what previous scientists thought, gave our world some of it’s most mind-blowing,scientific theories and discoveries of our time. Even if you are not as smart as Albert Einstein, imagination is one of the world’s greatest forces.
The most dynamic aspect of imagination is the ability to form mental images of what does not yet exist. For a middle-aged woman who has been overweight since childhood and has always been told she’ll always be overweight because it’s in her family’s gene pool or because she’s big-boned has an incredible task to change her thinking to imagining herself in a thinner body.
This is where you have to use what I call creative imagination. This that takes us a
step further than just forming mental images. Creative imagination (thoughts out of the box) create action—it causes things to change, to come into existence.
When we are creatively imagining something, we are actually causing it to come into our life. It’s the old “Power of Postive Thinking” or “The Magic of Thinking Big.”
Our thoughts are like magnets, literally drawing to us that which we
think about with passion or emotion.
In order to get what you want, you have to stop those negative thoughts and
allow yourself to dream and not only that, you need to do it on a recurring, steady basis.
This will require that you suspend those old beliefs (otherwise known as suspension of disbelief )and allow your mind to go to new and improved places, thinking about what you want to happen in
your own reality, even if it initially seems outrageous. If you think about those wanted changes with enough
feeling and belief, you begin to manifest them in your own life.
So starting with your next negative body thought, notice it and pick a new, improved thought to replace it. If “I’ll never lose weight, this is just the way I am.” crosses your mind, try thinking this, “I am a good person and deserve to have the body I want.” or “I trust that my body can achieve and maintain my ideal weight and I know I can do it. It’s happening right now!” Then think it again and again and again. Soon your thoughts will form a mental path, your words will flow down this path and then your actions will be a river flowing forth towards what you never, before now, let yourself believe.