Fitness

Do You Find Yourself Dragging At Work? Choose Exercise Over The Energy Drink

File Feb 15, 9 01 33 AM

 

Sit Squats can be done anywhere including easily at work.

 

 

Today I was taking a health assessment survey our insurance company provides for us. The assessment asks questions ranging from your current activity level to your personal level of stress to job satisfaction. This got me thinking on how these things are not stand alone, but intertwined. Our lives are not compartmentalized into different, non-related activities. Every think we do impacts everything else we do. Too often work has the greatest impact on our time and even drives our lives. When push comes to shove, exercise is always the last priority even though there is plenty of research that shows fitting in a short walk or activity breaks into the workday can lead to a happier, more productive life. To change what drives your life, I suggest listening to the research and take that short, and I mean short, activity break often during the day.

But you say you don’t have time to take activity breaks. The reality is you don’t have time not to take an activity breaks. People fear that exercising during the day will interfere with their productivity. In a study done by the University of Bristol and Leeds Metropolitan University, it was determined that on exercise days workers reported improvements in mood and performance. Performance gains happened regardless of exercise intensity and workload. (Coulson, Mc Kenna & Field 2008)

Exercise breaks during the day can also attribute to improved workplace happiness. A study of Israeli workers found that job burnout and depression were highest among those who did not exercise. Workers who were physically active reported the lowest incidences of depression and burnout. (Toker & Biron 2012)

Another benefit of exercise is better brain power. Experiencing a mental block? Research finds that physical activity is a great way to overcome that block. In a study volunteers completed memory and cognition tests before and after their respective tasks. Everyone in the exercise group experienced significantly more improvements in mental ability. (Hogan, Mata & Carstensen 2013)

So we do know walking has a wide range of benefits. Walking’s benefits range from simply improving heart health to reducing risks of death and cardio vascular disease. Researchers at Stanford University also learned that taking a walk can help clear your brain and create focus for that big presentation. (Oppezzo & Schwartz 2014) Walking had provided a significant improvement on creativity with an average creative output increase of around 60%. Walking outside gave the creativity even more of a boost. I know for me, a run allows me to formulate many ideas. I suggest bringing some type of audio recording device with you which will allow you to immediately document your creative thoughts.

A surprising side effect of all this exercising is a better paycheck. By comparing exercise habits of similar people in similar occupations, Dr. Vasilios Kosteas, PhD, chair of the economics department at Cleveland State University, in Ohio, found that those who exercised regularly yielded 6% to 10% higher income. It was noted that moderate exercise contributed to greater earning, but those who exercised the most tended to make the most. (Kosteas 2012)

It does not take a lot of exercise to see improvements in cognition, creativity and productivity. Here are a few exercise suggestions which can change your work focus and attitude.

  • Chair Squats: Start seated in a chair and stand up. Repeat movement. Do for 1 minute. Upgrade: Do regular squats.
  • Desk Push-Ups: Place your hands on your desk about shoulder width apart. Lower the body until elbows reach 90 degrees and press back up. Modification: Stand up and put your hands on a wall or the top edge of the cubicle and do the same motion. Upgrade: Perform push-ups on the floor either on the toes or knees or with the feet elevated on a chair, depending on your fitness level. Do for 1 minute.
  • Elbow Plank: Position yourself face down with elbows underneath the shoulders, rest on the knees (modified) or toes (full) and keep the trunk muscles tight. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Dips: Sit in chair, place hands on the sides of the chair and press down until the hips are elevated. Upgrade: Place body in front of chair so you can drop your hips below the seat to increase your range of motion.
  • High-Knee March: March in place, bringing knees to hip height. Do for 1 minute.
  • Plank knee tuck: Start in push-up position either on desk, top of cubicle, wall or floor. Bring one knee to either the same side elbow or the opposite side elbow. Do for 1 minute.
  • Side-step Toe Touch: Step out to the right side and reach down to touch the right foot with the left hand. Be sure to bend at the knee and hip. Repeat with other leg. If mobility is an issue, reach for the knee or thigh instead of the foot. Do for 1 minute.
  • Hamstring Curl: In a standing position, bend the knee and bring the heel toward the same-side glute. Return the foot to the floor and perform on the other side. Do for 1 minute.
Performing one of these exercises for one minute every half hour will accrue 16 minutes of exercise during the day. Research shows that exercise does not have to happen all at once to be beneficial.
If you have 4 minutes perform the exercise Tabata™-Style. To do that, set a timer for 4 minutes. Perform the exercise for 20 seconds, followed by a 10 second rest. Continue until you have completed the exercise 8 times which will be 4 minutes. You can also do the Tabata™ by creating a circuit of any of the listed exercises.
By integrating these simple exercises into your work day, research shows you will improve your job performance, improve your workplace happiness, increase creativity and possibly make more money.
Halvorson, Paul. “The Office Worker’s Workout.” IDEA Fitness Journal Feb. 2016: 26-29. Print.

 

Post Marathon Depression

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This past summer I had the opportunity to be an assistant coach for a group of people who were training for the Fox Cities Full and Half Marathon. They were a highly motivated and fun group. With the exception of a few injuries that were not able to be overcome, most of our runners met their goals.

Shortly after the event, we received a message from one of our participants who said she was having trouble getting motivated to run again. She was concerned there was something wrong with her. Having run many marathons and feeling this many times, I knew what she was talking about. In fact, I am currently having these feelings again as I finish my last month of training for my Karate Black Belt.

I confidently assured her this was a normal reaction. It is kind of like a depression that often happens to a person who puts a lot of effort into one culminating event. My response was simple and appreciated by this person. However, the head coach, Eddie Holzem (2:19 marathon runner), was able to poetically put our participant’s feelings into proper perspective.

Eddie said it best with his response:
“Marathon blues (it’s not from running) – it’s the result of all the work and focus of many months’ worth of physical training and emotional investment – then the next day it’s all over. Kind of depressing. Trying to force a rebound is a mistake too many people make. It takes the bad days to make us really appreciate the good. You are the first person in my 4 years of leading this group to bring up this topic – I am very proud of you because this reveals to me just how invested you were in the achievement of your goals. How lucky you are as an athlete to be able to experience the highs of great training days, the struggles of competition and the emotional depth of what it means to have poured yourself into the journey. It may not seem like it, but this is the reason why people come back for more – you have truly given yourself a gift. This is what it’s all about!”

Basically preparing for a marathon is a major life event. You invest months of time and energy into this one day which is full of pomp and circumstance. However this investment isn’t only of time and energy but also of emotion, which becomes magnified with every obstacle you have to overcome, and typically there will be obstacles. You put a lot into the event. You visualize race day. Race morning of is full of nervous excitement and anticipation. You run the event. You may struggle and hurt but you overcome and cross the finish line. Then all of this comes to an abrupt end. Your schedule is now normal again, but you feel something is missing.

As Eddie said, “You pour yourself into the journey. It may not seem like it, but this is the reason why people come back for more-you have truly given yourself a gift. This is what it’s all about!”

A Metaphor For Life

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This weekend I ran my first Tough Mudder. I found it to be one of most impactful events I have ever experienced. During some of the more grueling parts of the event I couldn’t help but think how much this challenge paralleled life itself. Even though this event was very moving, this experience is not to be confused with the most significant events of my life, such as my marriage to my wife, Carrie, and the birth of my children.

The challenge started with some pomp and circumstance and we were off, full of excitement and anticipation. We were treated to a beautiful jog along a meandering path. Why not, life can be beautiful. We joked and chatted. There was talk of the obstacles ahead, but the concern was minor. I mean, at this point, like life’s struggles, these obstacles were not real because we had not yet encountered them.

Soon the first obstacle was upon us. We crawled through cold mud under barbed wire. Everyone came out successfully. We continued on our way. But I noticed the bounce had left everyone’s stride. Running with mud filled shoes and wet heavy clothes can be difficult. It was like going through life with an added burden. Participants started to understand it was going to be a long day.

The next obstacle was a little more interesting. It was a wall that slanted backward. The only way to overcome this one was with the help of friends and strangers. Our team was still together. With a little help from our friends we all overcame this challenge fairly easily. We gave each other high fives. Success comes easily with the support of friends. The celebration of friends overcoming life’s challenges can be energizing.

The obstacles and the miles kept coming at us. Individuals started wearing down. Friends separated. The support and kind words of strangers became important. Each person’s response to the stresses was different. We were in this together. If one person faltered, another was there to help them along. The reason the human race is able to move forward is often by the kindness of strangers.

So why is the Tough Mudder a metaphor for life? As I approached each obstacle, the first thought I had was that I wouldn’t be able to overcome this. To overcome obstacles in life, you must cancel out those negative thoughts and develop strategies that will lead to success. I spent most of my summer training for this event. I had to trust my training and change my self talk. I traded, “I am not young anymore” with “Age is a mindset. I am strong enough.” I looked for ways to be successful. I immediately came up with a plan of attack. If needed, I asked for help. With each success, I gained confidence. I grew stronger.

When I finished the event I started thinking about my past. As I replayed my life’s movie, I remembered obstacles that I thought I would never overcome. When I look at myself now, I see an individual made strong by life’s trials. Life is a “Tough Mudder.”

Life will keep coming at you like the climbs and descents of this challenge. Life doesn’t have to defeat you. There will always be obstacles. Be as prepared as you can. If needed, reach out to your friends and to strangers. Know that when you come through the challenge you will be stronger.

In life you never know what is going to happen, however, you do know that something will happen. Your car will break down. You will get sick. Since there really is no way to prepare for what you don’t know, you have to believe in yourself. You have to have a positive mind set. You have to have grit. For this challenge I had to ignore the demons who whispered that I would fail. Obstacles aren’t there to destroy you. Obstacles strengthen you.

In closing I am going to get real. By sharing my experience, I hope to be able to motivate others to overcome obstacles and to reach their goals. However, if you are really looking for inspiration, talk to a cancer survivor or listen to stories of D-Day and the invasion of Normandy. Have your dad or grandpa tell you what it was like trudging through chest high water in the jungles of Vietnam. Ask these people how they overcame these obstacles. Those experiences are not just metaphors for life. That is life. Experiences like those reduce one of my most impactful, moving experiences to nothing more than crawling through mud and playing on Monkey Bars.

Four Exercises That Will Eliminate Cellulite

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That title was on an article my wife saw on a website. She came in and asked me about their claim which was, if you do these four simple exercises you can get rid of your cellulite. She asked me about it because she usually trusts the site, but because of the claim and her knowledge of fitness, she was skeptical. After our conversation I thought it might be a good idea to address this issue mostly because cellulite has become big business with some unscrupulous people and companies preying off the desperation of others.

So the question is, can the four exercises in the picture get rid of cellulite? Before I answer that, I want to make something clear. Having cellulite does not mean your are overweight. Some factors that influence how much cellulite you have and how visible it is include:

  • Poor diet
  • Fad dieting
  • Slow metabolism
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Hormone changes
  • Dehydration
  • Total body fat
  • Thickness and color of your skin

So what is cellulite? Cellulite is nothing more than normal fat beneath the skin. The fat appears bumpy because it pushes against connective tissue, causing the skin above it to pucker.

Can the four exercises illustrated above get rid of the cellulite in those targeted areas? Even though the illustrated exercises are very good exercises, they most likely won’t reduce cellulite in those targeted areas. You cannot target body fat loss. The exercises will be successful in strengthening and toning the muscles in the targeted areas. Strengthening and toning the muscles may help get rid of overall body fat because exercising can help reduce subcutaneous fat in the body by increasing your metabolism.

So the good news is exercising, including the illustrated exercises, could possibly reduce your cellulite by decreasing the amount of subcutaneous fat in your body. The exercises also increase blood flow to that area, which may increase the production of collagen giving the skin strength and structure. Other options that can help include eating a healthy nutrient rich diet. A job where you sit can increase cellulite, so standing up and moving around can help because sitting can add to a loss of skin elasticity and blood flow which is a major contributor to cellulite. Drinking more water can also be beneficial because it enhances the body’s ability to burn fat and promotes the production of collagen which strengthens the skin’s structure.

The truth is, there are a lot of gimmicks and products that claim to get rid of cellulite. Some may temporarily tighten the skin, but there is no magic cure so don’t waste your money. Eat healthy, exercise regularly and stay hydrated. You will feel better and yes, you will look better.

Why Does That First Mile Feel So Difficult; The Importance Of The Warm-Up Before Doing A Cardio Workout.

imageAs a personal trainer and coach, one of the questions I am asked is; why does that first mile feel so uncomfortable? The same question is asked by people doing 1/4 mile interval track workouts or any track workout for that matter. In fact this phenomenon is experienced when participating in any cardio activity.

The reason this happens is because of something called steady state. When you are sitting, your heart and lungs are supplying the muscles with adequate oxygen to do their job. You are in steady state. If you start walking you are taken out of steady state so your heart and lungs have to work harder to supply the muscles with the increased demand for oxygen. However, you really don’t notice it since the change of steady state is so small.

But when you start jogging, your muscles have to work significantly harder. But they don’t have enough oxygen to perform at this higher level of intensity. This puts you into oxygen debt. You go anaerobic. That is what causes the uncomfortable sensation. Your heart and lungs now have to work harder to get adequate oxygen to cover the new load. The length of time it takes to catch up depends on the intensity of the activity. Once your heart and lungs do catch up, you go aerobic again and now become more comfortable. You are at a new steady state where your heart and lungs are supplying enough oxygen to the working muscles. This is what they always called “getting your second wind.”

The warm-up is essential. By slowly increasing the physical stress on your body you gradually increase the demand for oxygen by your muscles. Your heart rate and breathing are able to adjust and supply enough oxygen to cover the increased demands of your working muscles and help prevent that uncomfortable feeling associated with the start of your cardio workout. However, the warm-up isn’t just to increase the blood flow to supply more oxygen to the working muscles. The increased blood flow also helps increase the core temperature of your working muscles and connective tissues, making them more pliable.

So what should you do? An active warm up, also called a dynamic warm up, is the key. Some suggestions include but are not limited to:

  • Walking or easy running for 5 to 10 minutes. If you are walking, throw a few easy jogs for 10 to 20 seconds every minute. This will help to kick start your cardio system.
  • Jogging or running in place.
  • Jumping jacks are great for the whole body and also will kick start your cardio system.
  • Swinging the arms for arms and shoulders.
  • Arm circles for your shoulders.
  • A few push-ups or modified push-ups for the chest, arms and shoulder.
  • Trunk twists for the core.
  • Leg swings side to side and forward and back for your hips.
  • Pretend you are stepping over a fence forward and backward for your hips.
  • High knee jogging or bringing your heals to your butt for your legs.
  • A few lunges and squats for the legs.

It is important to remember that during the warm-up the key is to keep the intensity low. If you are preparing for a running event or workout, gradually pick up the intensity or add some strides the get your body ready for the increased oxygen needs your body will require. Don’t skip the warm-up. It is as important then the workout itself.

Sometimes You Have To Stop And Enjoy Listening To The Rain.

imageIt is a Sunday morning and a gentle rain shower is passing through. I can hear the soft rumbles of thunder in the distance. I am sitting here contemplating what I should do first this morning. I have already made the comment that I am such a lazy slug. It is that kind of morning. I momentarily allow myself to succumb to the gentle rhythms of the falling rain. As I waffle back and forth between enjoying the rain and planning my day it hits me like a bolt of lightning followed by gentle thunder. Sometimes you have to stop and listen to the rain rather than obsess about getting a workout in.

I hear it time and time again. “I don’t know how I am going to get my workout in.” “I feel guilty because I missed my workout”. Working out becomes another negative stressor in your life. If you are training towards a goal or counting calories, the stress of missing a workout can bring about anxieties so severe, they can ruin your day and the day of anyone near you.

So how do you cope with this stress. First, sometimes you do have to stop and listen to the rain. I know what you are thinking. That is easy for you to say. I have goals that I must reach. My response is it isn’t easy for me to practice what I am preaching. My wife will be more than happy to attest to that fact. So what does one do? Here are some suggestions on ways to cope.

The first thing you can do is be proactive. Look at your up coming week. What do you have on your schedule? Some days are packed full and you know you will end up being exhausted. Other days may be lighter. On the days where you know you have a full work schedule, plan your rest days or make this day a day where you will just go for an easy walk or an easy run or do just one set of strength training in the gym. Use this easy activity time to unwind and process the day. On your lighter days plan your hard workouts. You will have more energy and focus allowing you to get in a quality workout.

If you look at the week and know the whole week will be rough. No problem. A strong exercise program always includes low intensity weeks. This can be a maintenance week. This gives your body a chance to repair and recover allowing you to come back strong and excited to get back at it. A maintenance week will also prevent you from over training.

What if something unexpected keeps you from your workout. Again, no problem. Even with careful planning you will still have “the dog got his leg stuck in the tub drain and we have to cut the drain off and bring the dog to the vet” kind of day. On these days, you can almost be assured you won’t be getting your workout in. Skip the workout. Tomorrow do the next day’s planned workout. There is no need to make up the missed workout. You won’t lose any conditioning.

It is okay to miss workouts, but be honest and don’t look for excuses to skip workouts. Instead look for reasons to workout. Place motivational notes in prominent areas to remind you why you are doing this. If you are tired, don’t cancel completely. Tell yourself you will go easy for a little while. Once you are into the workout, you may feel better and you will complete the workout as originally planned. Most importantly, if you are not honest and you continue to search for excuses to skip workouts, the guilt will sabotage your chances of success. We all don’t feel it some days, however something is better than nothing.

But remember, sometimes you have to stop and enjoy listening to the rain.

You Don’t Feel Like You Measure Up When Exercising? This Is How The World Sees You.

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I run a fitness Bootcamp. My Bootcamp is for all levels of fitness. Some of my attendees are beginners. However, as the Bootcamp progressed, the attendance of my beginners was spotty. For some it was because of life, but some of it was because of feelings. There was continued communication on Facebook and with time their concerns became clear.

As I listened to, or actually read their posts and messages I tried to understand their feelings. It then hit me that there are two realities. One realty is the feelings and perception of the beginner trainee. The other reality is how the rest of us perceive these beginners. Our perception is much different then what the beginning trainee thinks it is and this is what I want to address.

I want to address this because it is this reality that can actually strangle someone’s ability to pursue their fitness goals. By participating in a fitness event a person becomes totally exposed. If you are proficient at the activity, this exposure can be a positive boost to your confidence. However, if you are new to the event, this exposure can result a feeling of inadequacy. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is that inadequacy one feels when working out side by side with more fit individuals.

Before I talk about how the rest of us perceive your efforts, I want to assure you that your perceptions are valid. If someone fails to understand that, it means they have never tried to pursue an activity they don’t excel in with others who do. No matter what the pursuit, the feelings are the same.

So let me tell you how the rest of us perceive you. We see you as a warrior because you fight the hardest. We see you as an inspiration because your effort encourages greater effort from us. We see you as a champion because a champion isn’t someone who wins, but someone who never gives up. We see you as a winner because you don’t give up. We see you full of courage because you have over come your fears. We see you as strong because you surpass physical limitations. We see you as invincible because you will not be beat. We see you for what you are. You are a person who will no longer let life control you, but is taking control of life.

I realize you may think these perceptions I have stated may not be shared by others who are participating in the world of fitness. So I encourage you to go to a local 5K run. Listen to the cheers given to the first place finisher and the last person to cross the line. I can assure you everyone there knows who the real winner is. When you feel inadequate about your fitness abilities look at yourself through my eyes and I can assure you there is much admiration and respect.

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Why Raise The Bar

Raising The Bar

Why Raise the bar? If you think about it, anytime you perform an activity (achieve a goal) you put forth the minimal amount of effort to complete that activity (achieve that goal) as illustrated in the above image. In the illustration it is clear I would not have cleared the highest bar with the effort I used to clear the lowest bar. Your goal usually is to achieve that goal with minimal effort. This really isn’t a problem and it makes perfect sense.

So why raise the bar? Raising the bar will motivate you to achieve more than you currently are achieving. I remember an episode of the sitcom Taxi where Jim Ignatowski, played by Christopher Lloyd, remembered that someone once told him it doesn’t matter what you do in life as long as you’re the best at it as you can be. Jim Ignatowski went on to provide services above and beyond the minimal services of a New York City taxi driver. The results were amazing tips.

So how does this apply to your health and fitness? To achieve better health and fitness you set goals. If your ultimate goal is to run a 5 K, or lose weight you start with a low bar such as running a block or losing 1.5 to 2 pounds the first week, which is the recommended weekly weight loss. You then come up with a plan that systematically raises the bar. Each time you get over one bar, you raise that bar. But set achievable early goals. Success is important.

As you continue to raise the bar remember, each time you raise the bar, it will require more effort to get over the new bar. If you set each bar just a little higher, success is achievable. Each time you get over the bar, you will have new confidence. If you knock the bar off, don’t give up. Success often come after putting the bar back up and trying again. Think about why you knocked the bar off and learn. Getting over the next bar may require help. Don’t be afraid to seek out the appropriate resources. Following these steps will bring results and success.

So you have gotten over that last bar of your goal. Now what? We need to continue to find new bars. They may be a different bar, but we need to have challenges. Our body needs to be active to maintain our strength or become stronger. If we don’t stay active, our muscles will atrophy, we will lose strength or we will gain back that weight.

As humans we have to have challenges to grow. After I turned fifty I decided I needed a new bar. I enrolled in Karate. It has been a challenge and at times I have wondered if I will be able to achieve my Blackbelt status. However, when I started, even though becoming a Blackbelt was my ultimate bar, that was not my first bar. My first bar was to fulfill the requirements needed to receive my Yellowbelt status. Next I worked towards and achieved my Orangebelt status. Well, you get the picture. I am now roughly two months away from my Blackbelt test. I am confident that getting over the earlier bars have prepared me for this bar. I am excited about getting over this bar. In fact after two months I will be looking for a new bar. Suggestions?

One last thought. Remember your bar should be to become the best you can be. Be defined by your the bars you overcome and not by comparing yourself to the bars other people overcome.

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Getting started on your fitness journey.

At some time in your life you will have something happen which will get you thinking about your current level of health. The thing of it is, your health is directly affected by your level of fitness. The good news is new research clearly shows that people who are more active, no matter what their body composition (the amount of fat tissue in relationship to the amount of lean tissue in your body) are not only fitter but they also reduce their health risks more than non-active people with the same body composition.

Don’t get me wrong because carrying around extra weight still places extra stress on your body, but you don’t have to make weight loss your primary focus when deciding to make healthy changes in your life. Focusing on your weight loss may sabotage your fitness progress. Your primary focus should be make small changes that you know you can commit to until they become habits and then build off of that.

So what should you do:

  • Start off with a small amount of easy exercise and build up the amount and difficulty over time. Five minutes a day of easy to moderate exercise is a great start.
  • Gradually build up the amount of exercise and the difficulty level of the exercise.
  • Monitor by logging or journaling the amount and difficulty of your exercise sessions to assure you are progressing at a rate that suits you.
  • Avoid massive increases in exercise volume in short periods of time.

Questions to ask before you exercise for the first time:

  • Has the doctor ever told you you have a heart condition?
  • Do you feel pain in your chest during physical activity?
  • Have you recently suffered from chest pain at rest?
  • Do you suffer from dizziness?
  • Have you ever lost consciousness?
  • Do you suffer from joint problems that may be made worse by exercise?
  • Are you currently taking drugs for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a heart condition?
  • Do you know any other reason why you should not participate in exercise?

Remember, your goal is to start out easy. Shoot for 30 minutes of exercise a week for 3 to 4 weeks. Work your way up to the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. By following these suggestions you will be on your way living a healthier and longer life.

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