Are You Reading The Right Script?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I was talking to a fellow coach last night who was asking me for some advice to deal with an athlete’s dilemma. The athlete was essentially having confidence issues. It goes right back to what I wrote last week about a successful mindset. You can really hurt your chances of success – at anything – if you have something negative in your mind.

I once heard a mental health professional put it in terms of the left and right sides of your brain. When it comes to having a successful mindset, the saboteur is always the left side, the side of linear reasoning and language. The left side is the side that thinks it knows everything, and it’s all about having a script. For many people, that script tells them that they are going to fail at losing weight before they even start.

Maybe they’ve had a bad experience in the past, or maybe they’re just naturally skeptical, but the left side of their brain tells them in no uncertain terms exactly how their efforts are going to end up. The thought of potential failure exists exclusively in this side of the brain. But there’s one really important thing you need to know about that script – it isn’t representative of a real thing; it’s something your brain is making up.

If you ever catch yourself being a pessimist, just ask yourself a simple question – where would I be without that thought?

It’s really simple, actually. Does that negative thought represent anything real that is occurring, or is the left side of your brain writing a script where you fail? If it’s the latter, all you have to do is write a different script.

Your Support System... and Go Dawgs?

Monday, September 29, 2008
Aside from watching the Huskies reach yet another new low Saturday evening, I had a great weekend. I didn't do anything spectacular - just spent a lot of good time with my friends.

There's just something about spending time around the right people that makes a person happier and more productive. It seems counterintuitive that I would get more done when I'm around friends - one would think that would cause me to get distracted - but I do. I feel like virtually everything we do, we do better when our friends are involved.

Our friends and family are our support system, but too many people neglect their importance when it comes to their fitness goals. Most people have the "go it alone" approach to fitness - it's their body and it's their problem. This contributes, in large part, to the large number of people who have spent their lives being frustrated by not reaching their goals.

Last Wednesday, I talked about the importance of having a successful mindset if you are going to attain your goals. Most people simply overlook the role their confidence plays in how things turn out for them. Many of those same people also overlook the social element of their fitness goals - it has an effect greater than many people understand. We are social creatures. Leave us alone and we'll go nuts. And if we have an aspiration that we keep to ourselves, oftentimes that aspiration dies a lonely death.

The social component of fitness is important for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that most people tend to physically look similar to their friends. Most of the people close to us lead lives similar to our own, so if you struggle with weight, odds are at least some of your friends do, as well.

But even more important than how your circle of family and friends have influenced how you got to where you are is how they can help you get where you're going.

Swallow your pride and tell your friends and family about what you want to accomplish - they want to hear it and they want to help. No one person can wear every hat, but between the people closest to you, I guarantee you that you have every tool at your disposal - someone to motivate you, someone to keep you on the right track, someone to console you, and someone to just talk to.

Don't neglect the importance of leaning on your friends when it comes to your goals. While you can't lean too hard on any one person, utilize the support system that you already have - it will keep you on track even when things get tough. You are stronger with a group than you are alone.

Although for the Huskies (especially their D), I'm not so sure the same is true...

This Week In Weight Loss

Friday, September 26, 2008
So after watching the season premier of The Office last night, entitled "Weight Loss," I decided that I needed to do a rundown of a couple of my favorite TV shows that dealt with weight loss. Read on... I promise there's something to take from these shows.

It was week two of the Biggest Loser, and as was historically the case, the contestants lost nowhere near the amount of weight they lost in week one. Week two is always a tough one on the show because the contestants are hitting plateaus. Their bodies have been through so much over their brief time on the show that they are fighting for what our bodies always seek - stasis.

I say this a lot, and because the words "stasis" and "equilibrium" sound kind of boring, I sense people gloss over a bit. But if you have weight loss goals, you must have the fundamental understanding that your body wants things to stay exactly as they are at this moment. This is why I preach intense exercise. Your body is only going to adapt if you give it a big enough challenge. You can't just give it a gentle nudge - you have to shove the thing with all you've got.

Getting back to where I started - The Office - I had a great time watching the characters try to lose weight. Their strategies more or less amount to starvation and sweating off weight. Now I realize that this is a fictional comedy show, but the reality of the situation is that our country has more or less the same ideas about weight loss - we really don't know up from down.

We as a country sink millions of dollars into pills, diet plans and ab machines. The Office was clearly making fun of this fact, but it is somewhat troubling that most people don't know the role simple physics plays in weight loss or how to exercise without having a gym membership or a treadmill. We don't understand how simple it all is.

That's one of the main reasons I have this blog. Having success in fitness is far from complicated, and I want to help people see that. Make sure that if you have a question about anything fitness related, you leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

And with that, have a great weekend!

Don't Make This Mistake

Thursday, September 25, 2008
I was talking with one of my fitcamp members yesterday. We ended up talking about one of the most common mistakes people make - the mistake of waiting.

I hear a lot of people make the excuse that now just isn't the best time for them to start an exercise program. This certainly isn't a nice way of putting my thoughts on the matter, but that's crap!

Waiting until later is the ultimate cop out. What is going to make tomorrow, next week or next month any different than the here and now? You can't go putting your wellness on the back burner any time you have something else going on in your life.

I often hear it expressed this way - "I just need to wait for a couple things to calm down then I'll get started." Things aren't going to calm down - welcome to life. There will always be something in the present and on the horizon that you have to deal with, and you're either going to deal with it while getting better or simply getting older.

Your body is always going to be changing - it's your choice whether it changes for the better or the worse. Furthermore, your body isn't going to care if thing are really busy this month at work... it will still get fatter.

When it comes to your goals, tomorrow is not a specific day - it's always just the day after today. This is key, because you can never do anything tomorrow, you can only do something today. Instead of controlling your present, you're always waiting until the future. And when you say "I'll do it tomorrow," you're lying to yourself.

There's plenty of tomorrows, but there's only one today - use it right.

The Success Mindset

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I remember when I used to do 1-on-1 personal training. I periodically did weigh ins with my weight loss clients. But before we ever did a weigh in, I always had to ask one simple question...

"Did you lose weight?"

I can tell you that, without exaggeration, 100% of the time their answer told me what we were going to see on that scale. The most common response among new clients was always the same - "I hope so." As soon as I heard that they "hoped" they lost weight, I knew that the scale wouldn't budge.

They already knew themselves that they didn't take care of business. They either didn't eat as well as they said they did in their journals or skipped a workout or two. Either way, they had to hope that they were going to see something good because they certainly knew they didn't do all they could.

After a while with the vast majority of clients, their answers changed. "Yes, I lost weight."

I even had a couple clients tell me it was time for the weigh in, clients who formerly shuddered when they thought about stepping on the scale.

What changed?

Their mindset had evolved from one of skepticism and defeatism to one of confidence. Once they knew what had to be done to lose weight, it took them a while to actually do it. They bought in and developed confidence in their efforts. They knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they had earned their results.

It's that mindset - the difference between being defeated and being confident - that makes all the difference. Many people head into gyms with a history of failing in their weight loss efforts. They are skeptical about anything and everything related to fitness. And that skepticism prevents them from throwing all of their beings behind their efforts. They don't work out as hard or as often as they should. They let themselves maintain the same crappy diet. They hope that something is different this time around, but they're missing the point.

There's a Henry Ford quote that sums it up nicely. It goes, more or less, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." If you think you can't lose weight - that it's not for you because you've failed before - it's going to show in your efforts. It's going to keep you from giving it your all because you're scared to try as hard as you can and fail.

Success in fitness can be attributed to so many factors - exercise, diet, genetics, just to name a few. But the overriding factor that contributes to everything else is your mindset.

So do you think you can, or do you think you can't?

What Exactly Is Intense Exercise?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I talk a lot about short, high-intensity workouts, but I don't think I talk enough about what "intense exercise" really means.

I'll use a sport that I draw upon a lot as my example. Watch a track & field meet, particularly the sprinters compared to distance runners - I'll use the 100 meter dash and the marathon as my examples.

Both groups are essentially doing the same activity - they're running. Both groups finish their races completely exhausted. Yet one group finishes in 10 seconds and the other finishes in two hours.

How are they both finishing so exhausted? Shouldn't the marathoners be way more tired than the sprinters?

This, as well as any example I can give, demonstrates what intensity has to do with exercise. The sprinters are working SO much harder than the marathoners at any given point that it only takes them a matter of seconds to be spent.

The point of exercise is to sweat. It's to get your heart pumping and your muscles burning. You can do this in two hours or you can do this in 10 seconds. The point is that you have to match your intensity to the duration of the exercise. The longer you work out, the less intense you'll be able to work and still finish. The shorter you work out, the harder you must work.

If you tried to run a marathon at the pace a 100 meter sprinter runs his race, you wouldn't make it more than a couple hundred meters before slowing greatly, and then maybe another couple hundred before you'd have to stop all together - if you even made it that far. And you'd probably be screaming for mercy for a couple days after the fact because you'd be so sore!

By the same token, if you ran 100 meters at a marathon pace, you couldn't even call it exercise.

In my 30 minute women's fitcamps, I typically only have them actually exercising for 12 minutes. The rest of the time is warm up, cool down and exercise demonstration.

I've had people ask me why I don't have them exercise for longer. My answer is simply that they don't need to.

You see, a lot of people think that 12 minutes isn't enough exercise because it's too easy to keep going for 12 minutes. This is because most people have learned to "guard" themselves from working too hard. It's easy to give into the voice that says something is too hard, and it's easy to pace yourself, but exercise should be hard, and you've got other stuff to do in your life besides exercise.

Just keep in mind that how hard something is has nothing to do with how long you're doing it.

I guess my point is this - if you can end up completely spent after 10 seconds, why would you want to take an hour to achieve the same effect?

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like... Fall

Monday, September 22, 2008
Well, I had to contend with rain while going to my early morning fitcamp for the first time in months.

It's looking like fall is beginning, and for too many Americans, that means it's time to pack on the pounds.

This time of the year brings lousy weather, short days, and the holidays - all major foes to anyone who's looking to lose weight (or maintain it, for that matter). Fall and winter bring out the excuse-maker in just about everyone. Who wants to exercise when you could get a little extra sleep, right?

The fact is that the deck is stacked against you from the middle of September until daylight savings rolls around in March (or sometimes longer than that), especially when you live in a place like Seattle.

It takes a lot of effort and a lot of planning if you are to spell the coming months, but it's more than doable.

One of the biggest things I preach is paying proper respect to your goal setting. If you only give a cursory thought as to why you want to lose weight, it's far easier to make excuses when it comes to Halloween candy, Thanksgiving dessert and all those Christmas parties. When you go through the process of writing down what you want, when you want it, why you want it and how you're going to get there, you've got ammunition against that little voice that tells you it's okay to skip a workout. But you have to ask yourself those questions seriously. You must spend some time with your thoughts and ponder why your goals are important to you.

Once you've taken your goal setting seriously, you need to take your efforts to get to your goals seriously, as well.

Though you should be doing it year 'round, make a point of penciling in your exercise just as you would with any other appointment. Don't just exercise when you think you have time - make time! Having structure to your fitness is key to getting results, and it's why having something there to keep you accountable is important. The women in my fitcamps are making a great choice to take control of their goals - they're making them a priority and keeping themselves accountable to their fitness appointments.

When springtime rolls around, you can be in better shape than you are right now - but don't carry the "one day at a time" mentality with you. Make your plans to get in shape (or stay in shape) now!

Congrats To My 6:30am Fitcamp...

Friday, September 19, 2008
... for having just finished their first week of our four week camp.

Some of the women in the camp hadn't exercised the way I exercise before, and though it was no surprise to me, they were certainly surprised by how sore they were after the first couple workouts. Most people shudder at the thought of having tender muscles for a day or two. Then again, most people don't do in a month what these women did in a week. It's that very soreness that is going to amount to big results in the very near future for these women.

Exercise is a valuable tool, but I get the impression that a lot of people have too liberal an interpretation of what constitutes exercise.

Some people get very offended when I tell them that what they're doing is not exercise - that walking, gardening and cleaning the house just don't qualify. It's not intended to be an insult. Non-exercise activity is important and healthy, too. But it's not a replacement for exercise.

This is why I bring up my morning fitcamp. The soreness that many of the women are either feeling now or will feel tomorrow is a sign - that they have, in fact, exercised. The key exercise is right there in the word: exertion.

Your body loves equilibrium - its survival depends on things being on an even keel. This makes your body resistant to change. But we want our bodies to change, and furthermore, we're not concerned about the impending winter affecting our survival. So we have to provide a fairly substantial challenge to get our bodies to adapt. It's only exercise if you exert yourself to such a degree that your body is forced to adapt to the challenge.

Walking, while a great, healthy activity, is not exercise for the vast majority of people. Yes, it burns calories and is a great tool for clearing your mind or having a good conversation with a friend. But your body can walk for a very long time without being challenged enough to change.

Do not interpret this as me saying that you shouldn't go for walks or work in your yard or any other activity. Just make sure you don't confuse activity with exercise.

The Biggest Loser

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
So for those of you who don't know much about the show, the Biggest Loser is a weight loss competition reality show on NBC. The new season started last night.

If you haven't seen the show, I really recommend it. I always feel like there's a million things I want to talk about, both praise and critique. I barely even know where to start (I feel like I could blog every day for the next week about the first show alone).

I guess I'll play glass is half empty this morning and go with critique. Many people who watch this show desire to emulate what the contestants are doing, so this show has a huge influence over the exercise habits of many Americans.

Last night, they debuted their new gym. It's twice as large as any of the gyms they've had in the past. They dubbed it "state of the art."

That's something that I always have a problem with. The fitness industry, especially health clubs, spend a lot of time and money trying to convince us that they're state of the art - that better equipment is the answer to better fitness. But you don't need fancy machines to be fit. In fact, the simple concept that technology is a viable means of achieving fitness is absurd.

Think about it - technology has allowed us as a society to become lazy. It makes our day to day lives easy, and it gives us the option of being sedentary. And we're supposed to believe that more technology is the solution?

You shouldn't be using the same tool that created a problem to solve it. What's the saying again about insanity? Doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results?

Fellow fitness pro Juan Carlos Santana says it very well in the September issue of Men's Health magazine:

"Don’t use a hammer for everything. Instead, use the right tool for the right job. Nothing is ever the next big thing; someone’s just found another screwdriver."

For our purposes: don't pretend that a thousand plus dollar health club treadmill is somehow better than a track and your Nikes.

I'm not totally adverse to running on a treadmill now and again, but if you think technology (by definition, something that exists to make things easier for you) is the best tool to get you in shape (by definition, something that requires you make things hard on yourself) then you're bordering on an Eskimo buying ice.

We all have plenty of technology in our lives. We don't need to make it a part of our exercise.

Do The Puyallup

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Well, last night I did the Puyallup, and it was an absolute blast. In all honesty, I wasn't expecting much from the Fair because I hadn't been since elementary school, so I was almost sure that it would be a little underwhelming. That said, there's just something about a carnival ride at sunset that makes it hard to wipe the smile off your face.

But enough about my evening. The real reason that I'm bringing up the Fair is that, as a fitness professional, what I saw while I was walking around worried me a little.

It may be a politically incorrect, and some might even say rude, thing to notice, but there were so many people at the Fair with weight issues. I couldn't help but wonder what, if anything, these people were doing to ensure that they would be, at the very least, setting a good example for their kids.

I think everyone knows that food you get at any fair is just about as unhealthy as food can be. That said, the Fair is an annual event, and if you want to go to there and eat greasy food, go for it - you can still be perfectly healthy because hopefully you're not eating that crap all year 'round. No, what concerns me most is that these people are clearly not exercising regularly.

I hear it from so many people when I start to talk with them about exercise.

"Yeah, I had a pretty busy weekend but it got me some good exercise. I did a lot of yard work and went for a walk."

Sorry to be so blunt, but are you kidding me?

I'll add the qualifier before I go on - getting outside and being active is great. It does wonders for your mind, especially. But it's not exercise.

Your body only changes when it is challenged to such a degree that it has to. And doing a lot of walking on your vacation, while healthy, won't change your body composition one iota.

We live in a society where huge portions of fast food and sedentary lives are the norm. But even though both need fixing, I feel exercise is the place to start. You can eat as healthy as you want, but if you go months on end without real exercise, you will still end up with aches, pains and an unhealthy heart.

When you challenge your body (and I mean really challenge your body - it'll involve some sweating, panting and having your muscles burn), you increase your metabolism.

When you don't, your metabolism follows the age old dictum - if you don't use it, you lose it.

Most of the people I saw at the Fair had lost their metabolism because they haven't challenged it. Call that statement presumptuous if you must, but the smart money says it's true.

The positive is that it's never too late to start exercising. At the risk of sounding cliché, there's no time like the present. Why not exercise tonight?

How I Really Feel About Cardio

Monday, September 15, 2008
Ah, a brand new blog.

I like it, but please, let me know what you think when you visit - I always welcome input and comments from everyone about my thoughts (and about the design of this new blog).

I'll be trying to post here regularly (hopefully on a daily or semi-daily basis).

Without further ado, I decided to start things off by writing about my most controversial thoughts on exercise.

I don't like "cardio." I use the quotes because cardio means something very different in practice and reality.

In reality, cardio is jogging on the treadmill, riding the exercise bike and gliding on the elliptical. It's spending at least 20 minutes of continuous, moderate effort on the exercise. It's "aerobic" exercise. That's the cardio I don't like.

It's never the most popular opinion, and I get a lot of funny looks from people who have always been told that that is how you exercise. It's how we've been taught to lose weight and get a healthy heart. Yet I still don't like it.

I don't like it for many reasons:
-It takes a long time
-It's boring
-It's repetitive
-It has absolutely zero bearing on how we live our lives (i.e. unless you're an athlete, the only time you need aerobic endurance is when you're training for aerobic endurance)
-It's an inefficient way of training, especially if you want to lose weight, which most people do

Yet cardio is something that everyone should be doing. And no, I don't have some crazy double standard here. I guess the best way of expressing it is this: Everyone should do cardio, but few understand cardio.

Cardio isn't what I wrote above - it is simply a challenge for your circulatory system. The best way to tell if you're doing cardio is simply to notice if you're breathing hard. If you are, your heart and lungs are being challenged. And your heart, like any other muscle, adapts to regular challenges. And if you get yourself out of breath regularly, you will strengthen your heart.

I honestly believe that one of the biggest reasons people don't exercise enough is that they think it just takes too much time. And traditionally, it does. Traditionally, you work your heart by doing aerobic exercise. Then you work your other muscles with weights, one muscle at a time - biceps then triceps then abs then whatever other "problem area" you have (more on this in a later blog entry).

My goal is to help people understand that this piecemeal method of training (and the supposed differences between resistance training and cardio) has nothing to do with nature - nature has no regard for such arbitrary distinctions - and everything to do with old knowledge about exercise. My goal is to help you understand that exercise is one thing - regularly challenging your body to be better.

You can work every muscle in your body, including your heart, all at once. You just have to set aside what you've been taught about exercise and make better use of your time training.

Simple as that.


P.S. Don't forget to leave comments! I'd love to hear everyone's response to my newsletters/blogs.