Sudden Death May Not Be So Sudden

I was going to follow my last post with some exercises for getting up off the floor, but something happened. Last night my wife and I were at a holiday party, saw a lot of friends, had some great conversations and ate great food. One of the people I was talking with, a man maybe 55 years old, went home and died a few hours after we last spoke. The cause is unknown to me as of yet, but it was probably a cardiovascular event. Hearing this news this morning was shocking. He seemed fine last night. Unfortunately, this is not a story that is all that uncommon.

GoneToo Soon

No matter how people may appear, they can have underlying health issues that threaten their lives. (i.e. High blood pressure is not called “the silent killer” for nothing.) Can we even prevent these sudden deaths? The answer is ultimately, “no”. However, we can take precautions to give us the best chance possible of living a long, healthy, and active life.

  • See your doctor regularly (as regularly as he or she recommends).
  • If you are not exercising, get on it. Start slowly and gradually increase your intensity. See a certified personal trainer if you need assistance.
  • Eat healthfully. Stay away from fad diets and seek to change your eating for the long-term. See a registered dietician (RD) for assistance and beware “nutritionists” who, in some states, need no qualifications to call themselves that.
  • Find ways to lower your stress. There are lots of ways to reduce stress, from meditation to simple unplugged time with the family.
  • Quit smoking. You know it. Smoking is a huge health risk.

As stated earlier, some things can’t be predicted or prevented, but we should all be stepping up and taking charge of what we can. I know that I’m going work for every extra bit of time that I can. How about you?

Get Off the Floor! Your Life May Depend On It.

Say, for whatever reason, you find yourself on the floor, maybe you’re working, maybe you tripped and fell, maybe you are playing with your kids (or grandkids). How difficult is it to get back up to a standing position? The level of difficulty of sitting up from the floor and standing has actually been shown in research to be a good predictor of all-cause mortality. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to die from a fall (although you are more likely to take a fall), but it means that you’re probably lacking in mobility, strength, and balance, which probably also means that you don’t move enough, which means you’re unlikely to get any cardiovascular conditioning, which makes you more susceptible to disease, aannd that means that you are more likely to die prematurely.Untitled design (17)Remember that movement plays into our health in so many ways. When moving is challenging for us, we tend to move less, and then it gets even more challenging, and then we move even less, and then…. You see the spiral.

Back to getting up off the floor. This requires flexibility, stability, strength, and balance. If you are already challenged getting up from, and down to the floor, stay tuned. Next week I’ll show you an exercise progression that can help make the process easier. If it’s not so challenging, keep on doing it. It’s when we stop doing activities that they become harder for us.

Ditching Your Frenemies

Anyone that is trying to change their lives for the better, whether changing their career or trying to get healthier, will probably have experienced the “frenemy”. According to the Urban Dictionary, a frenemy is The type of “friend” whose words or actions bring you down. (whether you realize it as intentional or not.” Maybe it takes the form of putting down your choice, “Why would you try that? That’s out of your reach.” Or, maybe they simply try to get you to not follow through with it. “Oh, you can have another piece of pie… what’s it going to hurt?”

frenemies2

So, the question is… are they really your friend? If they are, why would they make reaching your goal more difficult?

Obviously, there are those people that just play at being your friend and really don’t have your best intentions at heart. They may keep you around to make themselves feel superior (think DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend). They could also be using you to get something that they need or want. These are the people that you should have ditched long ago, but may have hoped, in spite of things that they may say to you, that they really do like you (and you don’t have many friends).

Then there are those individuals that really do like you, want to be your friend, and yet still sabotage your efforts to change. They may even be completely unaware they are doing it.  This may be that they feel badly that you are finding the motivation to better yourself and they aren’t. To feel better about their lack of initiative, they try to keep you with them. “Stay and have another drink with me.” “Don’t make me eat by myself.” “Come see a movie with me instead of going off to the gym.”

There’s only one real way to deal with frenemies. Sit them down and have a conversation about the choices that you are trying to make and why it’s so important to you. Ask them to support you in this and respect the decisions that you make. (i.e. When you say that you are going to work out, they should cheer you on, not try to have you skip it.) If they change and start supporting you, great! They are being a friend. If they continue their belittling behavior or are still trying to undermine your efforts, ditch them! Change is difficult enough and life is too short without continuing to keep company with people that don’t want the best for you.

Exercises You Shouldn’t Do After 50

Lately, I’ve seen a number of articles that claim that there are exercises that you should not do after 40, 50, or 60. (i.e. This article on cheatsheet) I want to jump on that bandwagon (and kick everyone off)! There are NO exercises that are off-limits because of your age!

Untitled design (6)What is important to note is that with each passing year that you do nothing physical, you lose more ground on what you are capable of doing. Yet, even with the decreased abilities of a sedentary life, there are still no exercises that you should not do because of your age. What you do have to do is change how you start to do that exercise.

Options are a wonderful thing! There are a billion variations of exercises that can be done and you need to simply select the option that is closest to your current physical condition. Say you want to do back squats with weights (which I think is a great exercise), but you haven’t done them in decades, if ever. You can start with bodyweight squats. Do a number that is comfortable on day 1 and see how you feel the next day. If all’s well, move on to the next progression. Maybe that is more repetitions. Maybe it’s doing them deeper. Maybe you work on perfecting the form. Bit by bit, as you perform them better, you can add weight. What if you can’t hold on to a bar behind your head because of limited shoulder mobility? While you work on regaining that mobility, you could hold dumbbells at your sides, or in front of your body under your chin (a la goblet squats). As you regain the mobility in your shoulders, you could eventually start to put a bar on your back across the back of your shoulders (not on your neck). Et voila! You’re doing back squats with weight. To be clear, I’m not saying do back squats. I’m saying that you could safely get to a point where you could do them if you wanted to. Nothing is off-limits because of your age. You can build to being able to do almost anything if you so desire. It’s all about choosing the right progression to get you there safely and effectively.

Now, I know that you may not be aware of all of those possibilities and progressions to get you from point A to point Z (your end game). This is where getting together with a certified personal trainer might be your best bet. Look for one in your area or shoot me a message if you would like my help.

 

Good luck.

 

Challenge Yourself!

There all kinds of “Challenges” running about on the internet. They are set periods of time in which you do or don’t do something throughout that time. Challenges can be great ways to jumpstart a program. Most people can do something difficult to attain a particular goal. However, before you jump on the bandwagon, there are a few considerations that you should take into account.challenge

  • Don’t just do a challenge because it’s out there. I saw a “30 minute plank challenge” on Facebook that was ridiculous. First, there’s no point to doing a plank for 30 minutes and second, couldn’t you choose a challenge that is more meaningful and more likely to help you reach your goals?
    • Choose a challenge that sets up behavioral change beyond the timeframe. Say you want to eat better, maybe the challenge is to eat no processed foods. For a short time this might be a good one and, beyond the end of it, you’ll be in better control and better aware of eating at least less of those food items.
    • Choose to prepare for something. Maybe you want to train for a certain event such as a race or a hike or an obstacle course. Couch to 5K is an example of that.
  • You can create your own challenge. Don’t get hung up on looking for a set program to do. Just create your own.
  • Do it with a friend. Doing things that are challenging are typically more successful if you have the support of, and share the experience with, a friend.
  • Choose a timeframe that is realistic. If the chosen timeframe is too short, it is either unrealistic to reach your goal or it’s not much of a challenge. Many programs run 6, 8, 12 weeks (don’t ask me why, but I don’t see many 10 wk programs). These lengths give enough time to accomplish something meaningful.
  • Review your success once the challenge is done. After you complete your challenge, you should take a good look at what you’ve accomplished and appreciate the effort that you put into it. Maybe it wasn’t perfect. That’s okay. It’s not all or nothing. Look at it in percentages. In example, if you meant to eat breakfast every day and you only did it half of the time, that’s still 50% more than you were doing before. Or, you were training for a running event and you only could get in 3 of the 4 miles per day that you set out to do. That’s still 75% of your goal. In both examples, good for you!

Challenges, something done or not done for a set period of time, may be a way to change your behaviors or accomplish something on your bucket list. Think about what change would be meaningful to you and set up a challenge to get yourself started.

Good luck, and please let me know if you could use some help with this.

Success is Not Linear!

Every advertisement or “guru” (both of which are trying to sell you something) will claim that if you just use this product or try this method, you’ll gain wealth, lose fat, get healthy, be popular, yada, yada, yada… If this, then that! Simple. Well, not so fast. Nothing is that simple. There are always stumbling blocks (funny that nobody wants to talk about that). There are always things that you either didn’t plan for, or couldn’t plan for. These things will set you back. You will lose ground and guess what… it’s okay.

nonlinear success1

Your success will not be a linear progression. The key to success is to stay the course. The path may lead up and down, but the path (your plan) will eventually get you to your goal.

Things that can help you make the path a little smoother include:

  1. Imagine the obstacles that could show up, or ones that have shown up in the past, and come up with a plan to pre-handle those obstacles.
  2. Don’t let the unexpected set you back more than it needs to. When something sets you back, it’s easy to let the emotional side get the better of you. This can often lead to a delay in getting back up and moving again. Whatever happened, the sooner you get back on your path, the sooner you reach your goal. Start back up, now!
  3. Embrace the journey, don’t stress out about the moment. Committing to the long haul gives you prospective and allows you to see that little fluctuations here and there are not that important in the scheme of things.

Untitled design (1)

Accepting that your progress will not be linear and that that is okay, will set you up for a a more positive attitude and with that, a better chance of succeeding.

Good luck with your journey!

PHIT Act Passes in House and Why You Should Care

The PHIT Act ( Personal Health Investment Today) passed the House of Representatives vote on July 25, 2018. What this actually means is that people could pay for health club memberships, fitness programs, personal training, youth sports, etc. using their Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and/or their Flexible Savings Accounts (FSA) with no tax penalty. PHIT

This is one of those steps that we in the fitness industry have been working for and waiting for. This will help decrease one of the barriers to getting fit and healthy… the cost. Now, of course there are other barriers (perceived or actual), such as lack of time, access to quality information, and appropriate facilities, but this is a huge start.

The battle isn’t over either, though. The PHIT Act still needs to pass the Senate. Contact your Senators and let them know how important this is.

Find out more at PHIT America.

A Weight is a Weight is a Weight

I had a call from someone inquiring if we offered kettlebell classes. He was disappointed to hear that we didn’t offer that class nor use kettlebells in our personal training. In spite of trying to explain that we could replicate almost every exercise with a dumbbell, it was a deal breaker. This post is going to give you the scoop on a lot of the trendy pieces of equipment out there.

external wts

Let’s start with external loading, meaning something that has weight that is outside of your body. This includes everything from a dumbbell to your grocery bag.

All things are acted upon by gravity (this is what gives it weight) and gravity’s force is perpendicular to the ground. This is why we need multi-angled benches in the gym. In order to change what muscles or area of muscles we are working, we have to change our body position since the direction of the force of gravity is fixed.

Your muscles do not know what you are holding. It only senses that what you are holding has weight. Your grocery bag could indeed be your workout tool. That said, there are kettlebells, sandbags, medicine balls, BodyBars, sledge hammers, tires, etc. all trying to be the next big training tool. So, what is the deal with all of these workout tools?

They are all external loads with just some minor differences.

Kettlebells: It’s a weighted ball with a handle on it. There a few movements that have a unique advantage because the leverage when held with the “ball” resting on the forearm or when inverted with the “ball” above the handle. Other than that… it’s just a weight.

Sandbags: Think, a sand weighted duffle bag. It’s a weight that shifts and can be thrown around and slammed down without damage. Other than that… it’s just a weight.

Medicine Balls: Weighted balls that can be lifted, thrown, and slammed. Some bounce a lot, a little, or not at all (depending on the style). … it’s just a weight.

BodyBars: it’s just a padded, fixed weight bar…

Sledge-Hammer: It may be a regular sledge-hammer, or maybe a fancier (more expensive) version, which, in essence, is simply a handle with a weight on one end that you can swing around or slam down. Because of the leverage, it offers some slight variation in some movements. But, all in all… it’s just a weight.

Tires: These are typically discarded truck tires (although you can buy some really fancy ones) and are almost strictly used for flipping. OK, again, there’s a leverage issue that’s a little different from, say, doing a deadlift, but only a little. Once again… it’s just a weight.

Now, I’m the first person to say that I love my toys. I love having a variety of implements. I love them because they offer a psychological change for clients, not because they offer a real physiological one. What my point in this whole thing is, is that external loads are mostly all the same and you shouldn’t believe any hype about “X” being the “best” way to train. Buckets filled with water, rocks from your yard, indeed… grocery bags could all be just as effective. Just lift things up and put them down. (Hmmn? that sounds familiar) 😉

Don’t Break the Chain

As the story goes, when a young comedian asked Jerry Seinfeld if he had any words of wisdom, Seinfeld said, “Don’t break the chain.” What he was talking about was that he set a goal for himself of writing X number of jokes every day and when he accomplished this, he would cross off that day on the calendar. This created his “chain” or consecutive days of achievement.

dont break the chain

The idea of this chain, or consistency tracking, is a way to motivate you into creating a habit that helps you work toward your goals. Currently, I’m using Duolingo to help me learn Japanese. The app sends me a reminder every day to not break the chain.

duolingoThere is a definite desire to build that consistency record. Whether you are marking the days that you work out or eat correctly or practice your instrument…. checking off those days feels good and does add motivation. And… the longer your chain or record goes, the more you try not to break it.

Now, probably, at some point, you will miss a day/break the chain, and you need to jump back on and start again from scratch (as far as the chain is concerned), but having worked at that consistency, we are already ahead of the game, both in what we have accomplished goal wise and in the building of a habit.

So, start now and again as often as you need to. Build that chain. Build those habits that will lead you to your goals.

Run a Simulation for Success

I’m currently reading Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave. In essence, the book is about how to change behaviors. One of the concepts that he discusses is the idea of running simulations of your future plans. Now, in the past, I’ve read research that’s shown that those who have a clear plan for the future have a better chance of attaining it than those who do not. Additionally, those that write those plans down have a better chance of attaining them than those that just keep them in their head. Now, Hargrave has cited research that shows that individuals that run simulations as to how they are going to achieve their goals, are the most successful.296D0E66-F203-4F6C-A115-4A84FF7EC0BDSo, what does it mean to run simulations? Imagine mapping out how you intend on reaching your goals from beginning to end. Now, you write out everything you can think of that could throw a monkey-wrench into your plan. A simulation is the addition of those stumbling blocks AND the solutions to deal with them and still keep you on course to attain your goals.

Start simulations with things that have happened in the past, so you know they could happen again in the future. Let’s say you plan out what days and times you are going to head to the gym to work out. Ask yourself what would happen if a deadline for a project is coming up and you’re going to have to stay late to work on it. This is going to knock out the evenings that you were planning to go to the gym. You have, however, thought this possibility through. You have a contingency plan. You get up an hour earlier in the morning and fit your workouts in before work. (as an example) The important idea is to not be reactionary. Don’t wait until something happens and then try to figure it out.

For maximum chances of success, have clear, specific goals in mind. Write them down. Write down how you intend on reaching them. Think of possible obstacles. Run simulations. Come up with contingencies and continue your progress in spite of those things that pop up to challenge you. You will even feel more confident in your ability to reach your goals.

Good luck!