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?

changes

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.

A New Option: Online Training

One of the newer entries into the fitness realm, is online training. In a nutshell, this is working with a personal trainer remotely using various online tools/apps, which allows for some very unique benefits.

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Mark Nutting, being video recorded while demonstrating a bench push up for an online client.

The benefits of working with a personal trainer online include:

  • Working out when you want (It’s your schedule. Fit the workouts in when you choose)
  • Working out where you want (your home, office, or at the beach)
  • Being able to work with high quality trainers no matter where you live.
  • No special equipment required. Most online trainers will work with whatever equipment you have access to, or, just using bodyweight
  • Able to work out in the privacy of your own space (No need to feel intimidated at the gym)
  • You have someone to keep you accountable
  • You have someone in your corner cheering you on without judgement
  • The cost is less than using a personal trainer in a face-to-face session

Of course, there are challenges as well:

  • If you are not using video tools (such as Skype), where your trainer can watch your every movement, you won’t be getting the same kind of attention as you would in-person training.
  • You need to make sure your trainer is reputable. You can’t simply watch work them with others as you could at a health club. Check out their credentials.
  • You have to be pretty self-motivated and get your “homework” done. The best program in the world won’t help if you don’t do the work.
  • Make sure there is a refund policy.

So, as you think about getting started in a fitness program, or if you’re moving away the accessibility of in-person trainers, or if you just want the convenience, an online personal training may be for you. It’s one more way to get healthier and more fit.

Note: Because online training is another great way to help others change their lives for the better, Men’s Fitness After 50 is now offering an online training program. For details, click here: Men’s Fitness After 50 online training program

When in Doubt, Get it Diagnosed.

When you are working out (or even just making your way through life), you’ll have tweaks here, aches there, and the typical reaction is to ignore it and hope it goes away. There’s nothing wrong with that as long is it’s not debilitating. Often, a little Ice, Compression, Elevation, and Rest (ICER) will take care of the little stuff. But, what if that discomfort lingers or starts to worsen? This is when you need to have it checked out by a medical professional. Don’t wait too long to do this, either.

diagnosis

While you may not like going to the doctor, going will get you the answers that you need to move forward. Here are four common outcomes from getting it diagnosed:

  1. It’s nothing serious and you can get back to working out or your life activities using discomfort as your guide as to how much is too much.
  2. It could be something that you can work around by using modified positions or ranges of motion.
  3. You could find out that challenging it is doing further damage and that you should avoid using it at all until it is healed.
  4. Resting won’t help and surgery is necessary.

Now, you may not like the sound of #3 or #4, but, if you could do more damage, you need to listen and fix it before you can return to activity.

On the flip side, there’s also a peace of mind if you find out that you aren’t doing more damage and you can continue with activity.

In example, I have arthritis in my thumbs. Exercising the joint is uncomfortable. Should I stop? Well, when I wasn’t sure what was going on, I didn’t know the answer to that. If it was carpal tunnel syndrome, continuing activity would likely make it worse. With the diagnosis of carpal-metacarpal arthritis, I knew that exercising within my discomfort (okay, pain) tolerance, would be my best chance of avoiding surgery. Getting the diagnosis allowed me to make an informed decision about how to move forward.

Aches and pains are a part of life (and getting older), but, if something is either very painful or lingers, get it diagnosed! One way or the other, you will be better off knowing what is really going on.

Fitness Resolutions, Are You Ready to Fail?

Are you someone who makes New Year’s resolutions? How did your resolutions work out last year? The year before? Did you know that between 73-80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. That’s a pretty astounding failure rate. We all believe we can change (which is good, because we can) and the new year tempts us with a fresh start, but when it comes down to it, we just can’t seem to make our goals a reality. Here’s a little bit of why you might be failing and some guidance on attaining those resolutions.

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  • Your resolutions aren’t specific. “I’m going to lose weight.” should be, “I’m going to lose 10lbs.” “I’m going to eat healthier.” needs to be, “I’m going to eat 5 serving of fruits and vegetables every day.” If you don’t make the goal specific, you won’t know what precisely to do to attain it.
  • Your resolutions aren’t timed appropriately. One of two things typically happens time-wise with your goals. Either you don’t set a time limit or you set an unrealistic one. If you don’t set a time limit (given that most of us are procrastinators) it’s just not going to happen. The other time issue is that you set your time limit too short. The time you set has to be realistic. No, losing 30lbs in two weeks is not going to happen. You’re not going to achieve that beach body in four weeks. You aren’t going to run that marathon in two months if you haven’t started training yet. Not only will not reaching the goal make you feel badly about yourself, but you may very well get injured in the process.
  • You’re out of the gate too fast. This goes along with not allowing yourself a realistic time to reach your goals. You push too hard, too fast, crash and burn mentally and/or physically. Allow yourself time to start slowly and plan a gradual increase in intensity or volume as your body and/or mind are ready.
  • You grasp at anything promising a shortcut. “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills. Success is never instant no matter what the ads say. Change takes time and sustainable change takes more time. If it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true. (I have more platitudes, but I’ll spare you.) Stay away from the hype of quick solutions and commit to the journey.

If you want to achieve your New Year’s resolutions, don’t fall into the traps that make so many others fail. Get specific, time it right, avoid going out at an unsustainable rate, and stay away from gimmicks.

Good luck and happy new year.