No Man is a Mountain

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
On Monday, I wrote about the importance of social interaction as it relates to your weight loss success.

People who "go it alone" never enjoy the success of those who lean on their peers.  That applies to more than weight loss.  Few things we do in our lives are improved by solitude.  The support of our circle of family and friends makes us better equipped to pursue our goals.

There are some very important ways you can incorporate family and friends to improve your odds of having success.

First, make sure you tell your friends what you're hoping to accomplish.  They want you to succeed.

Second, ask for their help changing your lifestyle.  If you go out to restaurants with your friends, suggest that you center your conversations around a walk instead of around food.  Ask a friend to workout with you or get involved in their own similar effort to lose weight.

Third, make sure they know when you're struggling.  Strangers seldom offer us much encouragement.  But when someone close to you tells you they believe in you, it somehow makes things much easier.

Now, don't expect any one friend to be everything - they won't appreciate being the constant pillar for you to lean on.  Make sure to use everyone in your network that you're comfortable talking to.

If you insist on keeping your goals in the dark, weight loss can become a lonely endeavor - not something anyone wants.

Have Some Compassion

Monday, October 27, 2008
The least talked about part of having success, in weight loss and in life, is the social element.

All of us, no matter how self-sufficient, benefit from the occasional ego stroking.

If you're trying to lose weight, how good would it feel to have someone tell you that all your hard work is paying off?  Compassion and understanding are SO helpful when you're doing something that's tough.  Sometimes something as simple as a smile can make all the difference.

If you know someone who's having a tough time accomplishing what they've set out to do (or heck, even if they're doing just fine), do something to laud their efforts.  It doesn't matter how little the gesture, it just matters that you give it.

Never underestimate the importance of how you interact with your family and friends.  They will likely determine the outcome of your efforts.

More on this later...

The Simple Truth

Friday, October 24, 2008
A lot of people ask me how to lose weight - A LOT.

It's pretty much why my whole industry exists.

The sad fact is that nobody wants to believe me when I give them the answers.  I tell them what it will take for them to start losing fat, and they won't do it.  Why?  Because it involves hard work and sacrifice when they wanted to hear some special secret that I, as a fitness pro, must possess.

Everyone wants results, yet few are willing to do what it takes to get them.  Their current lifestyle - the one that got them the body they're living in - is too comfortable for them to make a change.  As many times as I say it, no one wants to believe that their bodies will resist small changes.  You have to be totally bought in to making a real change.

Count calories?  Exercise vigorously?  Who wants to do that?  Well, those are the things that I GUARANTEE will get you results, so it's up to you to decide.

You can't cheat physics.  And that's all weight gain is.

It's not your genes.

It's not your busy schedule.

It's not because you had a kid.

It's not because of stress.

It's because you're storing more calories than you're burning.  What can you do about it?  Eat less, move more...

... and have a healthy weekend, everyone.

What's Your Excuse?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
There's a rather crude expression that creates a simile for excuses.  Rather than repeat it here, I'll just say "everyone's got one."

I've talked a lot recently about how important goal setting is.  Without it, you have no way of answering the question I talked about Monday - WHY is your goal important to you?  If you haven't established a value for your goal, it's easy to let it be trumped.

Let me just say this as simply as possible.  There's a million reasons not to commit to your fitness goals, but only one reason you will.

There's a lot that goes into losing weight, for instance.  You can't do it if you turn your job, your family and friends, or anything else into an excuse.  Everyone's got their stuff to deal with, but only a few people make the choice to pursue their goals regardless of all the obstacles.

I never promise anyone that getting in shape is easy - I tell them it's simple.  Weight loss isn't as complex as everyone makes it out to be.  The problem is that everyone wants the result but has an excuse as to why they can't put in the work.

Set your goals well.  Answer the WHY about your goals.  The answer to that question is what you need to keep in mind when the excuses start to grow.  It will help you decide if your reason for not working out, eating right, tracking calories, etc. is a pothole turns into a sinkhole.

Think about it.

The Magic Question

Monday, October 20, 2008
My Shoreline fitcamp just had their first of twelve sessions over the next four weeks.

I'm really emphasizing goal-setting in this round of camps.

Everyone thinks they've set goals, but few have set meaningful goals.  They haven't set SMART goals.  And most importantly, they haven't answered the real questions.

SMART goal setting is all about considering every aspect of the goal.  Is it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely?  Very few people set goals that can be measured, but it's the only way to know if you've really accomplished what you set out to accomplish.  And even fewer people set timely goals.  You have to have a deadline for your goal.  Open-ended goals are never met - they just get pushed off 'til tomorrow, the "8th day of the week."

Make sure that your goals are SMART, and make sure that you answer the Magic Question - why?

Why is the goal important to you?

That will tell you all you need to know, and it will help you answer other questions.

What are you willing to sacrifice to attain the goal?

Who will you affect by attaining it?  Not attaining it?

How do you hope to feel when you accomplish the goal?

Answer the Magic Question - it will put you on the right path.

Becoming Comfortable With Exertion

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Sometimes I find myself watching exercise videos or exercise shows on television, and I feel as though they all preach the same message - don't over-exert yourself.

Granted, you don't want to 'over' anything, if you can avoid it.

But we're talking about exercise here.  You should be exerting yourself - it should be really challenging.

Your muscles, including your heart, are capable of periods of very high exertion, but hardly anyone ever trains them to do it.  How can you honestly say that you have a healthy heart if it can't handle a sudden, massive demand?  That's one of the biggest triggers of heart attacks - a sudden influx of demand that your heart can't handle.  Yet no one prepares their heart for big demands.

What do we train for?



I haven't the faintest.

What do you think?

Why have we become a nation that exercises like distance runners, when precious few of us even care about running a marathon?

We're the only creature who 'jogs,' and we're also the fattest creatures on the planet.  Do you think it's a coincidence?  Granted, we also eat like crap, but I've got to believe that our physical activity has to shoulder some blame, does it not?

Give it some thought and let me know what you think.

How Do You Really Change Old Habits?

Monday, October 13, 2008
As the saying goes, old habits die hard.

Depending on how ingrained your habits, simple willpower is often not enough.  The problem is that everyone wants to believe they have strong willpower - who wants to feel weak?  This leads many exercisers and dieters to rely on self-discipline alone to get them to their goals.

I know it sounds cliché, but the mind is a very powerful thing.  The problem that the willpower crowd faces is this - patterns that form over time in our brains are not conscious patterns.  Our habits that lead us to excuse ourselves from exercise, overeat and eat certain bad foods are not cognitive decisions.  Our willpower may allow us to fight the good fight, so to speak, but our habits are far more powerful than many of us are willing to believe.

One of the best tools you have at your disposal is good planning.  Structure allows us to ease the process of building good habits to replace the bad ones.  It removes us from the social and emotional cues that often lead us to fall back into our bad patterns.

Make exercise appointments and treat them like you would any appointment.  Plan your daily meals and snacks and make sure you have the foods you plan to eat available.  And don't just plan what - plan when and how much.

Old habits may die hard, but it can be done, provided you're using the right plan of attack.

The Great Finish

Friday, October 10, 2008
I just got back from my 6:30am Shoreline fitcamp, and I'll be leaving shortly for my 9:00am camp in Edmonds.  These are the final sessions of the current camp, and the Shoreline camp finished strong.

Finishing strong is something I always preach in my camps.  It doesn't matter if it's a 20 second set, a 4 minute circuit, a 30 minute session or a 4 week camp - you've got to finish with your best effort.

I can always tell who is going to be a successful client after watching them for just a circuit or two.  They're always the ones who finish the hardest.  The ones who just wait for a circuit to mercifully come to an end never get as much out of it - it's the ones who attack those last minutes and seconds with everything they have that really benefit.  That's because they have a competitive mindset - the worst thing they could do is give up early.  It speaks to how they approach the rest of their efforts, as well.

Michael Jordan had a great quote about this - "It's not how hard you push along the way; it's having something in you to finish."  At the end of a set, circuit or workout is when you are physically at your weakest, and therefore you have to mentally be at your strongest.

If you can find it in yourself to give your best effort when you are exhausted, then you will prosper greatly in fitness and in life.  Be aware of how you finish your sets and workouts.  The finish should always be a crescendo - it should go out like a bang, not fade away.

Have a great weekend everyone! 

How Our Government Let Me Down

Thursday, October 9, 2008
Well, if I'm being completely honest, our government has let me down in many ways.  But the latest actually directly involves my line of work.

This is how the government let me down - a new fitness recommendation.

That recommendation?  Adults should get 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week.

Now, what makes the government think it has any clue whatsoever about fitness is beyond me.  A full two-thirds of the country is overweight - more than a third of the country is obese - and they still recommend moderate activity.

The government needs to keep it's garbage away from our fitness.  It crams food groups and food pyramids down our throats.  It makes ever-changing exercise recommendations, none of which ever mention anything about intense or vigorous exercise.  It clearly lacks an understanding of how great our country's weight loss problem is, and is even more lacking in solutions.  Why it thinks it has solutions is an absolute mystery.  The Secretary of the Health and Human Services, Michael Leavitt, has a degree in economics and business.  And he oversees a department that pretends to know what's best for our health?

Any exercise recommendation that involves raking leaves, as this one does, doesn't get it.  There aren't enough trees in North America to keep Americans fit by raking up after them.

And go on as many brisk walks as you want, but don't call it exercise.

We try to coddle the same lifestyles that got us fat in the first place.  If you want to change your body, it's time to change the way you view exercise.  And if you think yard work is the same thing as getting exercise, then you haven't exercised (and yes, in case you're wondering, I have done yard work).

I spend a lot of time telling people that the whole low to moderate intensity school of thought has caused more harm than health.  I just believe it's a poor model of fitness.  A lot of people are fairly resistant to the notion that what they've always been told about fitness is wrong.

How about you?  What do you think about intense versus moderate exercise?

Do you agree with my approach?

Let me know what you think.

What's Your Favorite Exercise?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Someone recently pointed out to me that I always ask for comments on my blog, yet I never ask any questions.  Point well taken.

I do want to get a discussion going, and it has to start somewhere.

So let's start by talking about our favorite exercises...

My favorite exercise has actually changed in the last several weeks.  Who knows - it may change again soon.  But for the time being, pull-ups are my go to exercise.

I never used to like pull-ups.  They're not very glamorous, especially because they're so hard.  It wasn't that long ago that I could only muster a couple repetitions before giving up.  That's not really the makings of sticking with something.

But pull-ups are a fantastic way of working a ton of muscles.  Aside from their value of being very challenging, they work every pulling muscle in the upper body.  Most people neglect to ever think about the muscles in their back.  Sure, they notice that they have lower back pain, but even then they don't think much about how the muscles you can't see in the mirror play a role in your posture.

Women always want to work their shoulders and triceps because they want to tone those areas, even though that's called spot reduction and it's impossible (but that's a discussion for another time).  Men always want to work their chest and biceps because those are the muscles you see when you look at yourself in the mirror.  Yet there are these big, really important muscles all around your upper back that no one ever seems to train.

Most people have very poor posture, and the number one postural defect is rolled in shoulders.  Pull-ups, and other variations on pulling exercises, help strengthen the muscles that will counteract that "hunched over" look.  And most people fail to think about the fact that one of the quickest ways to look slimmer and more muscular is to have good posture.

Now that I've invested the time to do them, I'm beginning to get hooked on the pull-up.  I've improved greatly in the last several weeks, and now that I can do them well, I feel a great sense of accomplishment, which is what a good exercise will do - it will make you feel good about being able to do it.

How about you?

What's your "go to" exercise and why?

Or if you don't have one, what one exercise would you like to be able to do well?

Last Week of Camp

Monday, October 6, 2008
Today was the beginning of the last week of my current round of bootcamps.

And in continuing my theme from last Friday, I wanted to talk briefly about why I run my camps the way I do.

Many people wonder why I run my camps four weeks at a time, and then take a week off. The week off is actually very important.

You see, I ask a lot of the women in my bootcamps. They work hard, and they put their bodies through a lot. The important thing to remember is this - your body only improves from exercise when it has the opportunity to rest and recover. If you are exercising intensely, you need to give your body regular breaks. If you don't, you're just tearing your body down and not letting it rebuild.

When you give your body regular rest, it not only allows your body to recover. It helps prevent you from hitting plateaus. It keeps you from mentally burning out. And maybe most important of all, it makes it easier to work hard if you know you get an occasional break.

If you are working out with high levels of effort, as I highly recommend, make sure you give yourself the time to rest, recover, and get ready for your next round of tough workouts.

Whoa, Am I Ever Exhausted!

Friday, October 3, 2008
I'm feeling a little sore today... well, maybe more than a little sore. I love basketball, but I'm not so naïve to think that I can play for several hours each of the last three days and wake up without a few aches. Throw in a couple intense workouts, and you have a recipe for a day off.

Why am I telling you this? Well, two reasons.

First, if you love something, do it. I love basketball, and even though I usually end up with at least one bump or bruise every time I play (and sometimes I'm lucky if it's just that one bump or bruise), I would never give it up.

A lot of people are very passionate about running or cycling, activities that, as you know if you've read my blog before, I don't view as ideal forms of exercise. But just because they're not the best way to get in shape doesn't mean they have no value. If you like running for a few miles every day, then you should absolutely do it because it's important to you. I simply preach that if you don't like doing those traditional cardio activities, you don't have to - there's another way to get in shape.

The second reason I bring up basketball, and in particular how sore I am today, is that you need to know when to take a day and rest (which is what I'll be doing today). You know your body better than anyone else, and while it's dangerous to be sedentary and do nothing with your body, it's no better to burn out on exercise and physical activity. Even though hard work is critical to making positive changes in your body, those changes require rest to occur. If you train hard all the time, you're never giving your body the chance to recover, and you're robbing yourself of many of the benefits of exercise.

So as you head into the weekend, do something you love doing. Hopefully you'll think of something you like that will keep you active. And if your body is telling you to take it easy, listen. Make sure you take some time for yourself to rest and recover this weekend, that way you're at your best when you get back to it next week.

There you have it - have a good weekend, everyone!

The No Gym Workout

Wednesday, October 1, 2008
What's more fitting than starting October by spending the morning driving through the fog?

I just had a great morning session, admittedly inspired by last night's Biggest Loser.

You see, on last night's show, all the contestants went on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. They camped outside, except for one lucky couple that won the contest to spend the trip in an RV. Everyone was outside in an area that is just one big nature hike. They were also given medicine balls and resistance bands. And do you know what they did?


That did virtually no exercise because they all thought they needed their gym. This is one of the biggest reasons I don't like gyms - people begin to think that they can't exercise without them. But make no mistake about it, we were much healthier before gyms were ever even conceived.

This morning, I took my clients through a bodyweight only workout. They didn't even get medicine balls or resistance bands. It was just them and their desire to work hard. The sheer number of exercises you can do without any equipment at all makes me wonder what was going on in the minds of the contestants. No one thought of doing some pushups, squats or wind sprints?

When the contestants got back to the ranch, Bob and Jill were both amazed that they did so little on their road trip. It made sense to me - virtually every exercise montage I see on the show involves the contestants on treadmills and using barbells and machines with weight stacks. Granted, they are exercising so much that they must be doing some exercise that involves just bodyweight, but it certainly doesn't appear to be the most common method used.

If you're thinking about investing in a gym membership, I strongly encourage you to reconsider. You're wasting money. Instead, invest in some resistance bands and a couple dumbbells. Or heck, don't buy any equipment at all - you don't need it, but sometimes it's nice to have to vary up the exercise a little bit. Gym memberships don't provide you with any accountability or education, which are the two biggest obstacles to everyone's fitness. Health clubs are more than happy to take your money, even if you get no results and never show up (which is how it works for most people).

If everyone took the time to learn some basic bodyweight exercises and kept one another accountable to their goals, gyms would become obsolete in no time. And to be honest, I'd be okay with that. It's worth noting that I oftentimes work out in the weight room of the school where I coach. It's also worth noting that you should always make exercise enjoyable, and if you enjoy working out at the gym, do it.

Whatever you do for exercise, make sure that a) you get your money's worth, and b) you do it!