Training to Look Good or Feel Good?

Billy Crystal’s caricature of Fernando Lamas on Saturday Night Live, was noted for saying, “You look mahvelous, dahling!” and “It’s better to look good than to feel good.”

Billy Crystal

“It’s better to look good than to feel good…”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0RTD7250II

When it comes to the fitness world, it seems that most of the marketing for gyms, fitness products, and fitness programs follow the same philosophy… it’s better to look good, (i.e. “Get rid of that belly.” “Shred your body!” “Get lean and mean.”) than to feel good. The photos they use showcase people that look like celebrity instagram models, in essence saying, “You should aspire to look like this.” Don’t get caught up in the hype of it all. Think about what is most important to you. Would you rather just look the part, or be able to physically do what you want and feel good while doing it? 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s possible to achieve both, but there are two things you need to consider. First, the practical aspect, you should choose exercises that relate most to the activities that you want to get better at. Maybe that’s putting your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin or working on getting up off the floor. Exercises can be selected to specifically help with those movements. Second, and probably more important, you need to be focused on getting and feeling better about your ability to move, and not focused on the scale and how you match up to those images that you are bombarded with. The scale will go up and down and isn’t always predictable. However, with consistency, your physical abilities and how moving feels to you will continue to improve. Additionally, with your attention on how you feel and not how much weight you’ve lost, you are more likely to stick with a program and be happier with your results.

So, think about what’s really important to you. Is it better to look good or feel good (dahling)?

Drop the Negative Self-Talk

“Arrgh! I just blew my diet! I can’t do this! It’s too hard for me. I’m such a loser.” “Working out is too hard. I’ll never be able to keep it up!” Have these statements or something similar ever crossed your mind? We can be very cruel to ourselves when it comes to our inner voice and just because it’s us giving the verbal abuse, doesn’t make it any less damaging than if it was someone at home or work dishing it out. Just like abuse from an external source, this kind of negative self-talk can have some pretty serious effects on an individual.

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Some of the harmful effects include:

  • increased stress and anxiety
  • increases feelings of depression
  • decreased self-esteem
  • limited success in whatever you’re trying to accomplish (let’s face it, you’ll talk yourself right out of trying)

We are what we believe ourselves to be. So, don’t diminish yourself. Change is difficult and you will have ups and downs. Expect that. It’s part of the process. However much you do, it’s more than you’ll be doing if you quit and every little bit helps. Tell yourself how well you’re doing as you challenge yourself to change. Be your own friend.

Note: maybe you start a negative self-talk jar (like a swear jar) and every time you talk down to yourself, you have to put in a dollar. Save the money up to do something that makes you feel good about yourself.

 

CPR, AEDs, and You

I’m in the process of getting recertified as a CPR/AED instructor (which is what prompted this post). While I’ve been certified as an instructor for about 12 years, I have been CPR certified for at least 30 years. I’ve used CPR twice, once on a subway in NYC and once in a gym, also in NYC. One of individuals lived and the other did not. Both times I was thankful that I could do something to help. CPR may not always save a life, but it gives the individual the best chance possible.

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What am I talking about?

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) consists of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, although it has now been established that even just performing chest compressions can still be very effective at sustaining life.

Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is a method of delivering an electrical shock to someone that is in cardiac arrest (a sudden stopping of regular heart beats). The AED essentially shocks the heart back into a regular rhythm. While you may not have an AED at your home, most restaurants, health clubs, airports, and public buildings now have them. Don’t be afraid to use them. To see how simple it is to use and AED, check out this video of this AED.

This post is actually a plea to readers to get certified. While anyone can suffer a cardiac event, as we get older, it becomes more likely that it will be a friend, a family member, or our spouse. Imagine if it happens and you are not prepared. How would that make you feel? (yes… I know. Guilt trip. But it is so easy to learn and so important to have, that I don’t mind throwing a little guilt your way.)

Find a course near you.

Reframe Exercise From Chore to Gift

“I have to go workout.” is often said with a groan. Typically people don’t want to do it, but they feel that they have to do it. It’s like going to the dentist or doing the grocery shopping, a chore. This view, exercise as a chore, does not make you feel all warm and fuzzy about it. Chores, inherently, are things we would prefer not to do. Here’s the kicker, though, a simple change in prospective can turn how you feel about exercise to something positive. “In every job that must be done, There is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job’s a game.” (from A Spoonful of Sugar, in case you weren’t sure.)

Now, I’m not suggesting taking a spoonful of sugar, just that you look at exercise as something positive, a gift to yourself. Imagine getting up early. It can be positive or negative depending on what you are going to do. If the boss wants you in early to finish some work, getting up early might be a chore. If you are getting up early to get head to the beach, it’s a gift and you’re happy to get out the door. Reframing our self talk from “I have to” to “I get to” is a start. The “have to”s are when we focus on the thing we are going to do. i.e. “I have to do 30 minutes of cardio.” or “I have to go lift weights.” The “get to”s, on the other hand, focus on the benefits we gain from the act. i.e. “I get to become stronger which will make my daily activities easier.” or “I get to improve my health which will help me be around for my grandchildren.” or even “I get to take class with my friends.”

Untitled design (57)Mindset matters. Take a week or two, and try this out. As you prepare yourself for your next workout, find a couple of “get to”s that helps you to look forward to it. It doesn’t take long to see that because you “get to” workout, your health, your physical and even your mental capabilities are all going to be better for it. 

I’m going to leave you now. I “get to” teach a fitness class to some of my favorite people. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Want to Get More Fit? Do More.

I know this sounds a little flippant, but the point I’m really trying to make is that the act of getting more fit doesn’t require a major time commitment, or gut wrenching effort, it just requires you to do a little more than you are currently. That increase in activity will start you on your way to change.

pedometer

When thinking about doing more, there are a few variables that you can consider. Choose one to start with.

  • More Frequency – This could be more times per week or even more times per day. Maybe what you’re currently doing is a five or ten minute walk in the morning with your dog. More frequency might mean taking an extra five minute walk at lunch and/or before dinner. If you’re actually hitting the gym twice a week, maybe you squeeze in one more workout in the week (even a short one).
  • More Intensity – This essentially means making the effort level higher. This can be done by increasing the speed of movement, the resistance, or, if you are doing intervals or sets, decreasing the rest in between.
  • More Duration – Do what you’ve been doing, but longer. This could be more time or more repetitions (which will also take more time).

So, no matter what you have heard about the time and effort it takes to get fit, changing your fitness level doesn’t require endlessly long or endlessly intense workouts. It just requires that you do more than you are currently doing.

Start today.

Do more.

Weight Belts and Bracing Your Core

I played football from 4th grade through college. My goal was always to get as big, strong and powerful as I could. I lifted heavy. When I was lifting weights, I cinched up my weightlifting belt (so tight I could barely breathe) made my lift, and immediately undid my belt. I did this, of course, so that I wouldn’t hurt my back (and because every other lifter did it). The idea of wearing a weight belt became accepted practice and men, women, and even children started wearing them as a standard requirement for working out.

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So, here’s the question, do weight belts prevent back issues or not. Well, they can help and here’s how. The cinched belt creates intra-abdominal (internal) pressure. This internal pressure helps to support the low back. Sounds good, right? Should we, in fact, all be wearing them when we lift? Let me ask you this, what happens when we need to lift something heavy during our daily activities? Will you slap on a weight belt before you lift it or, as is more likely, just lift it?

I guess it was a couple of decades ago when the fitness world started moving away from using weight belts. It was about that time that I stopped using one. The rationale, for me and much of the fitness industry, was that if you can’t lift it without a belt, you probably won’t be lifting it outside of the gym. Wouldn’t it be better to train your core (which, when contracting/bracing, can also create intra-abdominal pressure similar to a weight belt)?

That’s kind of where we, as an industry, stand now with the use of weight belts. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a time and place for them. When you are lifting competitively or doing maximal or near maximal lifts and you challenge the limits of what you might be able to control with your core, it would still be appropriate to use that extra support. This post is really about not defaulting to those external tools and relying more on building the strength and support from your own body.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Dig Your Well(ness) Before You’re Thirsty

“Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need” was a book I read on networking by Harvey Mackay. The premise is that, because both digging a well and building a network take time, if you wait to start until you need it, it is going to be too late to help you.

Recently, it occurred to me that many people do the same thing with health and wellness. They wait until they have problems before they seek a solution. Benjamin Franklin is quoted as having said, “An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” and that certainly holds true with our health.

Now, while it’s never too late to start, it can be a lot more difficult fighting your way back from injuries or illness than if you had begun before there was a problem. Proper nutrition and exercise can help with so many health and wellness issues, that the sooner you start, the more likely you are to avoid or postpone them.

If you’re not currently working toward better health and fitness, what are you waiting for? Move more. Better your diet. Manage your stress. Dig your well(ness) before you’re thirsty.

Seniors, What’s in a Label?

As I was heading out to buy a bus ticket into New York City, my wife says, “Don’t forget to ask for a senior discount.” Ggaackk!! “senior discount… senior? As it happens, you have to be 62 to get a “senior” discount on the bus and I’m a mere 61 (and a half). It’s interesting to note that the idea of being classified as a senior got under my skin. I also wouldn’t take kindly to “elderly” (maybe when I hit 90 I’d be okay with it). I don’t have a problem being my age, just the label(s) that go along with it.

Untitled design (33)Now, because society loves labels, every generation has a designation:

  • Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials: Born 1996 – TBD.
  • Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 – 1995.
  • Generation X: Born 1965 – 1976.
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946 – 1964.
  • Traditionalists or Silent Generation: Born 1945 and before.

I can live with being a baby boomer since it actually was a time of a baby boom. I’m not so fond of “Boomers” and industries (including fitness) realize that those of us that are in the second half of our lives, as a whole, don’t really like it. So, they have attempted to find other, what they feel to be more pleasant sounding designations.

  • Retirees (many are not retired)
  • Middle Agers (well, the middle of what?)
  • New Agers (a new generation and a new way to age)
  • Young-Old (65-80)
  • Silvers (you might as well call us blue hairs)
  • Zoomers (that’s just silly!)

I guess my point really is that we should not accept being labelled at all. We are all individuals. We are all at different levels. We all experience the aging process differently. As I explain to personal trainers that want to train the over fifty population, “The only difference between training someone over fifty and someone younger is that we’ve had more time to screw up our bodies.” We may or may not have special issues, depending on how we’ve treated ourselves through the years.

So, in my humble opinion, no labels necessary. You be you. Take health and fitness on wherever you are and just keep on getting better!

 

Time for N.E.A.T.

We, those in the fitness industry, are always talking about what kind of exercises the public should be doing and how much. I think that’s reasonable. More than 80% of the US population don’t get the recommended amount of daily exercise. But there’s more to health, fitness, and weight loss than hitting the gym. Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, aka NEAT, is another great way to burn some calories and avoid some of the downfalls of a sedentary life. NEAT is all of the activity that you do that is not exercise or sport related.

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Everything movement you make burns calories. The more you move, the more you burn. Walking, gardening, house cleaning, climbing stairs, dancing, etc. can significantly add to the calories you burn each day. You could potentially burn as many calories with extra movement throughout the day as you do in a cardio workout. (I’m not suggesting skipping your cardio workout, just thinking of great ways to fit a little more in) Some of the ways that you could add in more NEAT include:

  • parking farther away and walking to destination
  • taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator
  • walking around the room while talking on the phone
  • skip the riding lawnmower and use the push mower
  • get up and walk around or do another activity for 5 minutes each hour
  • gardening and landscaping
  • take your dog on long walks
  • ride your bike or walk to work
  • walk or ride your bike somewhere for lunch, don’t eat at your desk

I know that none of those seem significant, but they can really add up. Even leg fidgeting under the table or desk can increase calorie expenditure 20-30% over sitting alone. So, if you want to burn more calories and add a little more health benefit to your day, think about how you can incorporate NEAT into it.

Have an Injury? Should You Be Exercising?

I’ve known a lot of people through the years that have physical challenges. Maybe you need or have had a joint replacement, or you have a “bad back”, or arthritis, or…. the list goes on. Too often people let these conditions keep them from doing things that they would like to be doing. Too often they think that they should be avoiding using the effected area and, in fact, many doctors will say the same thing, “Don’t do ________.” It’s actually something that constantly frustrates personal trainers. The doctor says , “Don’t squat.” Untitled design (28)Well, squatting includes standing up from a chair (or the toilet). Are you supposed to avoid that? There are a million ways to do any exercise. Modifications in effort and range of motion can be made to fit your individual needs. Doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. When you do nothing the muscles surrounding the joint or area get weaker and less flexible. This means that you will be able to do less. You also burn fewer calories and, unless you adapt the amount of calories that you are eating, you will end up gaining weight. It’s potentially a spiral of disability.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times that you need to just rest and heal, but it’s not as often as you may think. It’s also not usually a total body thing, even if you had a shoulder replacement (I have), you can leave your shoulder alone to heal while working the rest of your body out (I did).

If you’re dealing with a chronic condition that is not going to just go away, or if it’s an injury that you can work around, you should be finding ways to strengthen, gain mobility, and become more fit. Don’t just give in to inactivity. Go to a physical therapist, and, when cleared by them, see a certified personal trainer with experience working with individuals in your situation and get started on a health and fitness program as soon as you can.