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.

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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.

Will You Ever Change?

Change is hard. Change can be risky. Trying to change means you risk failing. It’s easier to stay on the same path. You know that path, and there’s a certain amount of safety on it. But, is that direction the one that will take you where you want to be?

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To change where we are, we need to change what we are doing. Before you make changes, however, you need to clearly define where it is that you want to be, what you want to accomplish. This vision quest, or clearly defined vision of the future you, dictates what needs to be done to get you there. This could be a task like completing a hike or a competition, or it could be getting off/staying off medications.

Next, you need to believe two things.

  • First, you need to believe the change is possible. Obviously, if you think that it’s impossible you won’t work for it. This is like saying you want to levitate (I think that would be very cool, btw). How hard are you going to work toward that?
  • The second belief is that the change is worth the amount of work it takes to achieve it. Here again is the question, if it’s not worth all of the work required to achieve it, how hard will you work?

Now, if you’ve attempted to reach this goal before, and failed, identify the obstacles that you encountered last time and pre-think solutions for them, because they are likely to show up again.

Lastly, you need to have a plan and it starts with what initial step is required. That may be researching your options for a place to work out, or a shopping list for healthy foods to buy and have at your home or office, but determine that first step and take it.

Change can happen for all of us. What’s holding you back?

Shingles? Should We Worry?

I remember when I first overheard a couple of guys talking about shingles. Of course once I got beyond the fact that they weren’t talking about shingles for your house, then my reaction was to think that they must be talking about some old person disease or condition that couldn’t possibly be relevant to me. You know… like gout.

What is shingles anyway? And, should we be concerned about it as we get older?

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Shingles is a viral infection that is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox before (and most older adults have because they hadn’t yet started widespread vaccinating for it), the virus may still remain, dormant in your nerve tissues and could reemerge as shingles. Symptoms include:

  • Pain, burning, or tingling
  • Sensitive to the touch
  • A red rash that appears a couple of days after the pain (oddly, it’s usually on one side of the body)
  • Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over (you are contagious until these crust over)
  • Itching
  • Headaches
  • Possible fever

Now, not everyone that has had chickenpox will get shingles, although some speculate that 50% of those over 80 years old will get them. To date, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive reason for this reemergence. One thought is that it can be caused by a compromised immune system, which can happen as we age, (see, we are more likely to get it when we’re older), or with certain diseases, or medications.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should see a doctor if you suspect you have shingles and especially when:

  • The pain and rash occur near an eye. If left untreated, this infection can lead to permanent eye damage.
  • You’re 60 or older, because age significantly increases your risk of complications.
  • You or someone in your family has a weakened immune system (due to cancer, medications or chronic illness).
  • The rash is widespread and painful.

So, all that said… not fun. There are vaccines for it, though. Two different kinds, in fact. While these vaccines have been found to be consistently safe (minor possible side effects), they also don’t guarantee that you won’t get shingles.

Should we worry about shingles? No, but if it sets your mind at ease, a vaccine is an option. Otherwise, just stay as strong and healthy as you can.

Why Don’t Men Ask For Directions?

I know that the idea of men not asking for directions is a stereotypical, but, there is an underlying issue that makes this true for many. That is ego. Many men don’t like admitting that they don’t know something, don’t know how to do something, need help with something, are wrong about something, and/or are not as good with something as they thought they were. Somewhere along the line we were socialized into believing  these scenarios are somehow a threat to our egos.

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Don’t get me wrong. Having a healthy ego (or good self-esteem) is great! But, when that ego is easily damaged, walls are put up that usually create more problems.

When it comes to working out and taking care of our health (you knew I’d get around to this, didn’t you?), the ego can take a beating from a lot of things, like not knowing how to use a piece of gym equipment, not looking like other gym members, not using as much weight as the guy (or woman) next to you, or not getting the results you think you should be getting. There are a lot of reasons why this may be the case and none of them should damage your ego.

  • Not knowing how to use a piece of gym equipment: You are new to the gym and they have some equipment that you don’t know how to use. Ask a trainer for help.
  • Not looking like other gym members: You are not the average member. Many clubs vary in demographics, younger/older, more women/more men, more hard-core/more laid back, etc. Either look for a club more in line with you or just keep on going and not worry about it.
  • Not using as much weight as the guy (or woman) next to you: They’ve probably been at it longer. Maybe you got injured or have been away from the weights for a while, and you should be going lighter with a more gentle approach. Maybe you just haven’t been training appropriately or eating properly to support strength gains. Talk to a trainer and/or a registered dietician.
  • Not getting the results you think you should be getting: Definitely talk to a personal trainer and/or a registered dietician. Something is going on that you don’t understand. Find someone who does.

The ego thing is a little like failing at some task or venture that you take on. Many see failure as, well, failure. The insightful ones, however, see it as a chance to learn, to grow. Don’t let your fear of a damaged ego stop you from progressing. If you are not where you want to be, ask for help… ask for directions.