Thursday, November 24, 2011

Don't Be "BITR" about Exercise... HAVE FUN!

In my August post, I mentioned that the four primary reasons people don't exercise are boredom, injury, time and results. If you look at the first letter of each word it spells BITR... Ok, it is not spelled correctly... just get hooked on phonics for a minute and pronounce it BITTER. Being a huge fan of acronyms, I created one to explain how we can "sweeten" exercise by learning how to HAVE FUN!

H - Make it a habit.  Exercise only on the days you choose to eat!
A - Avoid the terrible too's.  Start slowly and progress gradually!
V - Prevent boredom & overuse injuries, select a variety of activities
E - You have to select exercise you enjoy!

F - Focus on safety.  Get the ok from your doctor!
U -Understand the FITT principle.  Get guidance from a fitness professional and learn the principles of exercise... frequency, intensity, type and time.
N - Nutrition.  Exercising does not give you a license to eat whatever you want... eat like an athlete!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When is the Best Time to Workout?

This is a very common question. My initial response is, "whatever time works best for you!"  However, each time of day has its pluses and minuses. Research tells us that those that exercise in the morning are more consistent with their workouts. This is due to the reduced likelihood of interruptions or distractions interfering with your workout.  The downside to morning workouts is your body temperature is at its lowest a just before you wake up so you may find yourself struggling to get started. From a physiological standpoint, the afternoon is probably the best time of day to exercise.  In other words, your workout will be better... you'll be faster, stronger, etc.  Afternoon workouts can be a great way to break up the day and recharge your battery. The downside is that those distractions and interruptions you can avoid with a.m. workouts always seem to appear just when you grab your gym bag. Evening workouts may help you "burn off" the stress and forget the problems of your day. Be aware, there is still a chance of missing your workout because of unplanned disruptions. However, be sure you don't workout to close to bedtime because you may find yourself struggling to fall asleep.  To prevent this tossing and turning, try to give yourself a couple of hours to unwind after you exercise. So, experiment and find the best time of day for you to exercise!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stress Management: The Power of the "P"

For the past 20 years or so, I have been encouraging folks to use the following Stress Response Emergency Checklist.  So, in case of a stress emergency, remain calm and refer to the list below:

Perception - I hate to say it, but stress is self-generated. The intensity of your stress response is determined by your perception of the stressor. Stress tends to blur our perception... thus the saying "making mountains out of molehills." So, if you are feeling stress... change your perception!

Perspective - Call a "time-out"... step back and take a look at the event's relationship to your whole life.  Interrogate yourself... 1) What is the worst that can happen... be honest?, 2) In the scheme of life, is this really important?, 3) A year from now, who will care?

Positive - Time for a little self-talk... you've got to believe in you! Surround yourself with fun, positive people!  Take time to laugh... afterall, it is the best medicine!

Physical - The quickest way to counteract the stress response... Move, Stretch, and Breathe... deeply and slowly! Stressed out because you cannot resolve a problem... take a walk and let your mind wander... don't be surprised if the answer pops into your head before you are finished!

Prepared - To prevent or minimize future stress emergencies, begin by taking care of yourself... eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of sleep.  Anticipate stressful situations... rehearse and visualize how you will respond.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Do you really love your family??

Have you read the book, Shut Up, Stop Whining & Get a Life by Larry Winget? Larry is known as the Pitbull of Personal Development! He has a very "in your face" style. My favorite part of the book is when he questions the reader about how much he/she really loves their family.  He challenges the reader with comments like, "Do you love them enough to get healthy?"  "Enough to do what it takes to live as long as you can so you can take care of them and enjoy them?" or "... is that Twinkie more important to you than your kids?"

If you are struggling to make changes to your diet, adding exercise to your schedule or giving up cigarettes, I encourage you to get this book and read pages 90 and 91 first thing in the morning... every day!

Thanks, Larry... I appreciate the slap in the face!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful (or it will be soon enough!)

As the temperature drops and the snow begins to fall, so does our enthusiasm to exercise.  Too often the idea of stepping out into the frosty air to exercise causes most of us to put our fitness program on hold during the winter weather.  But don't worry, if you incorporate the following tips, you can exercise safely, enjoyably and successfully in whatever artic conditions Mother Nature sends your way.

Don't Overdress
The most common mistake isn't that exercisers wear too little clothing... it's that they wear too much.  Use the "Plus 25 degrees" rule.  For example, if you are going to exercise on a 25-degree day, dress for about 50-degrees.  If you don't feel at least slightly chilled when you step outside, you are already overdressed!

Layers, But Not Too Many
You should wear no more than three layers on your upper body and two layers on your lower body.  The first layer should be a thermal undergarment made of a fabric that draws sweat away from the skin, such as polypropylene.  The second layer should be a wool sweater or turtleneck for your upper body and sweat pants or Lycra tights for the legs.  The outside layer can be a waterproof, wind-resistant, breathable jacket.

Cover All Exposed Skin
On windy, chilly days, a hat, which conserves a significant percentage of the body's heat is a must.  Wear mittens instead of gloves.  If you don't have mittens, wear a heavy pair of sweat socks on your hands.

Zip It
Wear clothes that can be adjusted if you become too hot or too cold.  For example, a hooded sweatshirt with a zipper is more versatile than a pullover sweatshirt.

Watch The Wind
Plan your exercise route so that you start facing the wind and end in the same direction as the wind.  You'll want to face the worst encounter while you are still fresh and dry to decrease exposure to wind chill effects.

Limber Up Longer
During your winter exercise excursions, spend more time than normal warming up.  Warm-up and stretch before you head outside.

Be On The Defensive
Shorter daylight hours, poor visibility and the risk of sliding cars can make your run, walk or ride very hazardous to your health.  Wear bright clothing, a reflective vest or reflective strips if exercising at night.  Do not run or walk in icy conditions.

Drink Up
Just because the weather outside is chilly does not mean you shouldn't drink plenty of water.  You lose just as much body fluid during your icy winter workouts  as in the summer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Merkism #4 - Exercising When You Are Sick??

Not sure if you should? Let this little rhyme be your guide...

If your symptoms are above the neck, what the heck?
In your chest, you'd better rest.
Fever hot, definitely not!

For more info check out my August 7th blog entitled, The Do's and Don't of Exercising When You're Sick.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Merkism #3 - Sports Injury Rx

After a tough uphill run, you feel a "twing" in your calf. What should you do? A warm soak in the bathtub or bag of ice? Remember this... "Ice is Nice, Hot is Not!". For the first 48 hours or so after an injury, you should apply a nice cold bag of ice, a bag of frozen peas (my personal favorite)or one of the reusable gel packs that you keep in the freezer. Keep the ice on the injury for 15-20 minutes (leave it off for 30-40 minutes before you ice again). The official name for using ice is cryotherapy... Very appropriate because during the first few minutes you will want to cry... it is very uncomfortable! However, hang in there, after a couple of minutes the area will become numb and the "frozen water" will begin it's therapeutic magic! In the words of our favorite rapper named Vanilla...remember to "ice, ice, baby!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Merkism #2 - Sweat & Stretch!

As you should know by now a warm-up is a must before you stretch. But how do you know you've warmed up adequately? Just remember... When your skin is a glow you're ready to go! Sweating is a good indication that your muscles are getting warm and pliable and will be much more receptive to stretching. Note: More about stretching in an upcoming blog.

Merkism #1 - It's Not Supposed to Hurt, Dummy!

Forget the old adage, No Pain, No Gain! Instead incorporate Merkism #1... With Pain, No Brain! Exercise should not hurt... Discomfort yes, pain no! End your workout feeling like you could do a little more, not like you wished you never started!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Emotional Side of Exercise

People begin exercise programs for many reasons including weight loss, reducing blood pressure or cholesterol and controlling diabetes. However, there are many non-physical reasons to exercise.

Often times, those who exercise consistently for more than six months speak about the psychological and emotional aspects of working out. It is these benefits that help motivate many people to make a lifetime commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Short-term benefits felt immediately after working out include feeling more energized and alert and less stressed. Long-term benefits include reduced symptoms of chronic stress, depression and anxiety and improved self-confidence and sleep quality.

Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have a more positive outlook on life and are happier in comparison to the inactive population. The combination of increased self-confidence, decreased stress and depression and better moods can benefit every one's mental state.

Taking advantage of the physical and psychological benefits of exercise enhances the quality of life and contributes to the balanced development of spirit, mind and body. In order to achieve total body health, include activities and habits that promote all three.

Next time you are thinking of skipping a workout - remember the spirit and mind benefits. Less stress, more energy, improved mood and better sleep are great motivation to exercise for a lifetime.

The Do's and Don't of Exercising When You're Sick

Uh-Oh... you wake up with a scratchy throat and a runny nose! You haven't missed a workout in months. Like most highly motivated exercisers, you want to workout even when you are sick. What should you do? The first question to ask yourself is, "Do I really need to exercise?" After all, missing a workout or two is not the end of the world. To help you in your Shakespearean-like quandary, "To exercise or not to exercise", follow these recommendations:

Above the Neck, What The Heck
If you have minor symptoms "above the neck", such as a stuffy or runny nose, sore throat or sneezing, moderate exercise is generally safe. In fact, some research has found that symptoms "above the neck" may actually be temporarily relieved by exercise. A light workout can clear your stuffed-up head. If you decide to workout, start at half speed. If you feel better after 10 minutes or so, increase the intensity and finish the workout. However, if your legs feel like you are walking in quicksand, your head is pounding and you just feel miserable, STOP!

If it's in your Chest, You'd Better Rest
If you have chest congestion, a hacking cough, muscle aches or are vomiting you should avoid exercising until your symptoms disappear. Exercising when you are sick can cause complications and delay recovery.

Fever Hot...Definitely Not!
Overdoing it when you have systemic symptoms like a fever can be very serious, increasing the risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart wall), heat stroke (excessive body temperature) and heart failure. In other words... Don't be Stupid! Stay in bed and let your body rest.

Easy Does It
You can resume exercising when "below-the-neck" symptoms subside. However, when recovering from an illness that prevented you from working out, it is important to ease back into activity gradually. A good rule of thumb is to exercise for 2 days at a lower-than-normal intensity for each day you were sick.

Prevention is Always Best
To maintain a highly efficient immune system be sure you are getting adequate rest, drinking plenty of fluids and consuming a well-balanced diet! And most importantly, make sure you are washing your hands!

Common Sense Is the Rule of the Day
If you are not feeling well, listen to your body. Give your body the time it needs to rest and recover. Remember, if you are not feeling well, take a break instead of breaking a sweat!

So in Conclusion....
Above the neck what the heck,
In your chest, you'd better rest,
Fever hot, definitely not!

Living a Healthy Lifestyle... It is Your Choice!

A person is not sentenced to be overweight and out of shape... they can choose to be fit. It's our choice! Let's be honest, we are who we are because of the past decisions we've made. We are in control and responsible for our actions. Choose to make health and fitness the top priority it should be.

The catalyst to adopting a healthy lifestyle is exercise. Once people get hooked on exercise, they resolve to eliminate anything that will negatively impact their results, such as smoking or poor diet. How do we adopt this passion for fitness? Unfortunately, there are no secrets for exercise success. It's simply a matter of making a decision to change and finding the commitment and consistency to make it a reality. In my years in the fitness field, the four primary barriers, or excuses, to exercise are boredom, lack of time, injuries and poor results.

Boredom - The result of doing the same thing over and over again. Change is not only good it is necessary!

Injury - Newcomers often suffer from what I call the Terrible Too's... they do too much, too soon, too fast... making them too sore! The end result equals stopping exercise.

Time - Lack of time, or more specifically, a perceived lack of time.

Results - Or lack thereof. This is a result of an ineffective exercise program or unrealistic expectations such as trying to lose 5 or more pounds per week.

To combat this quadruple quandary:

  • Develop a lifetime commitment to your health. Since the first time you brushed your teeth, you made it a habit twice a day. Make it the same for exercise. Schedule it in your daily planner or whatever hi-tech gadget you use. Regular exercise improves energy, trains your body to require less sleep and increases creativity and productivity. Sounds like a good time investment!

  • Our society is an "I want it right now" group. Unfortunately, fitness does not work that way. Remember to start slowly and progress gradually. It took awhile to get out of shape and it will take time to get back into shape.

  • To eliminate boredom and prevent injuries, your program has to include a variety of strength, aerobic and flexibility exercises. Don't be afraid to try new activities and change training programs every 6-8 weeks.

  • The best exercise is one that you enjoy. Because the goal is a lifetime commitment, it is imperative that you enjoy what you are doing. With all of the fitness options available, there is something for everyone.

  • Before beginning an exercise program check with your doctor. In addition, make sure you receive proper instruction on exercise technique and equipment usage from a qualified fitness professional.

Most of us know what to do to improve our health and fitness. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us choose not to do what we know. No more excuses.. start now! Resolve today to make the commitment to your health. If not for you, then do it for your family.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Beat the Heat: How to Exercise Safely When the Heat is On

It's summer time! Sunny days, blue skies and warm temperatures mean it's time to be outside and active. However, it is not without risk. Each year, thousands of people experience heat-related emergencies and, unfortunately, several hundred die as a result of heat stroke (it's the second-leading cause of death among athletes). To ensure a safe summer of outdoor exercise and activity, make sure you incorporate the following steps to help beat the heat.

Education is the first step to preventing heat illness. Be aware of the following heat illnesses, which often progress in stages.

Heat Cramps- The mildest, most common heat "syndrome" is called heat cramps. These slow, painful spasms, which can last 1-3 minutes, occur as excessive amounts of fluids and/or electrolytes (potassium and sodium) are lost. Heat cramps occur in the exercising muscles, typically the arms, calves and abdomen. If the individual does not stop to rest and rehydrate, they can progress to heat exhaustion.

Heat Exhaustion - Heat exhaustion is the inability to continue to exercise; the body simply slows to a stop. Signs and symptoms include: cool, pale, moist skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea and dizziness. The excessive loss of fluids results in the inability of the circulatory and thermoregulatory systems to keep pace with the demands of exercising in the heat. Without the ability to cool itself, life-threatening increases in body temperature occur very rapidly. It can be a deadly mistake to ignore the symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Heat Stroke - This is the most dangerous heat emergency with a death rate of nearly 50%! The signs and symptoms include profuse sweating or the skin may appear red, hot and dry, rapid pulse, vomiting and decreased alertness level or complete loss of consciousness.

If you are going to exercise outside, do so before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. Avoid exercising when the temperature is above 85 degrees and the humidity is 75% or higher (high humidity prevents the evaporation of sweat... more about that later). People more susceptible to heat illness are older adults, children, the obese, diabetics and those with heart disease. Also, medication can impair the body's ability to regulate heat. Certain drugs, which include anticholinergics, antihistamines, antidepressants and some tranquilizers, disrupt hypothalmus function and slow sweat production. Cardiovascular drugs can restrict blood flow to the skin (impairing the body's ability to release heat), inhibit compensatory increases in cardiac output or produce a state of dehydration. These include vasoconstrictors, beta blockers and diuretics. Make sure if you are on medication to consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.

One of the best ways to prevent heat illness is to allow the body to get acclimated to exercising in the heat. The process, which takes 10 to 14 days (75% of the adaptation is believed to occur within the first 5 days), involves gradually increasing the intensity and duration of the exercise sessions. In other words, take it easy for the first few workouts as you gradually increase your exposure to the heat. For example, 15 minutes of exercise followed by 15 minutes of rest in the shade. During this process, the body makes several adaptations to enhance its ability to cool itself, including an increase in blood volume to allow the blood to absorb more heat and distribute blood flow more readily, sweating sooner to begin the cooling process earlier, sweating more to enhance cooling, and producing sweat that is hypotonic (fewer electrolytes are lost).

"Drink early and drink often" should be your battle cry to prevent dehydration. Unfortunately, the thirst mechanism is not accurate. You can become dehydrated before you become thirsty, plus your thirst can be quenched before you replace all the fluids that are needed. This is often referred to as "voluntary dehydration" because people drink insufficient volumes of fluid to offset sweat losses (people typically only replace one-half to two-thirds of what is actually needed). So drink before (two glasses within two hours of the workout), during (every 15-20 minutes) and after exercise (2 cups for every pound lost). The general rule of thumb has been if the activity lasts less than 60 minutes, plain water is fine. However, drinking sports drinks, regardless of the duration of the activity, may encourage greater intake because of the added flavor. In addition to flavoring, cold fluids (50 to 59 degrees) also improve palatability, and may aid gastric emptying and heat dissipation. Sports drinks are the preferred recovery beverage because the sodium content maximizes rehydration by helping the body absorb and retain more water. Research has shown that 8 ounces of sports drink with 6 to 8 percent of carbohydrates and 110 mg of sodium absorbs into the body faster than plain water. To determine the percentage of carbohydrates in sport drinks, take the grams of carbohydrates per serving divided by the ml per serving and multiply by 100 determines the percentage of carbohydrates.

During exercise, 80 percent of heat loss is attributed to the evaporation of sweat. Sweat alone does not cool the body; it is the evaporation of the sweat that is critical. When sweat evaporates, the skin temperature goes down, allowing more warm blood to flow to the skin from the core. To enhance this process, remember the "Three L's of Proper Attire": lightweight, light-colored (to reflect the sun's rays) and loose-fitting (to allow adequate air circulation). Wear minimal clothing to allow the skin to be exposed to enhance evaporation. Also use your sunblock; sunburn inhibits the skin's ability to sweat. Common sense is the best bet to prevent heat illness. Be aware of the heat index. If the surrounding air is already warm and heavy with humidity, it cannot absorb extra heat or sweat. Above 75 to 80 percent, relative humidity, heat loss through evaporation will be minimal.

Enjoy the warm weather, but to beat the heat remember the five "Ates"... Educate, Mandate, Acclimate, Hydrate and Evaporate!