Want to add 2190 more lunch dates to your life!?

Or how about 2190 more sunsets?

Or 2190 more days with your children, grandchildren, lover or best friend.

Of course you would!  Who wouldn’t!?

Well, it turns out that that’s how many days are in 6 years, the number of years your life will be cut short if you develop diabetes.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times a while back, a 50 year old ” … will lose an average of six years of life as a result of the disease, only one year less than the seven that would be lost by a smoker of the same age.”

“He or she is more than twice as likely to die of cardiovascular disease as someone without diabetes and 25% more likely to die of cancer … and are more likely to die from kidney disease, liver disease, pneumonia, infectious diseases and even intentional self-harm.”

Wow.  That’s brutal. While it’s been known for some time that diabetes effects mortality, the international study of more than 820,000 people recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine for the first time puts a hard number on the life-price of the disease.

Talk about use it or lose it!

The culprit?   “Lifestyle factors”, according to Wikipedia.

Hereditary factors cannot be ignored, but inappropriate diet and insufficient physical activity levels are the leading causes of unhealthy body weights and, eventually, diabetes.

Hereditary influences, of course cannot be changed. You’ll simply need to play the hand you’ve been dealt.

But Lifestyle factors … your physical activity levels, when, where, and how you exercise, and what you eat … are things you can control.

How to fix it?

Well, if you ask a fitness professional, the answer is pretty easy: you need to exercise more and eat better! But asking a fitness professional about fitness is sorta like asking a car salesman if you need a new car.  Or a surgeon if you need surgery.

So don’t believe me!

Believe, instead the 43 PhDs, MDs, MPHs, RDs, and BFDs who put together the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.   Produced every 5 years, the 2010 version reveals some startling truths about who we are:

  • 72% of men and 64% of women in the USA are either overweight or obese, with about one third being obese
  • 32% of children are overweight or obese, with 17% being obese.
  • Nearly 24 million Americans … almost 11% … yes, more than one in ten … have diabetes.
  • Another 78 million (35% of the adult US population) have pre-diabetes (elevated glucose levels, but levels not quite high enough to be called diabetes).

Obesity Then and Now

In the early 1970s the prevalence of obesity for adolescents 12 to 19 years was 6%.  In 2008, the prevalence of obesity for 12 to 19 year olds was 18% (triple).

In the late 1970s, 15% of adults were obese.  In 2008, 34% of adults were obese.  (double)

In the early 1990s,  ZERO states had an adult obesity percentage above 25%.  In 2008, 32 states had an adult obesity prevalence of 25% or more.  THIRTY TWO STATES are now home to where more than one in four American Adults are obese.

Lifestyle factors make the difference, and professional are available to help.

Wanna do even one better?

Don’t just maintain low body fat to add 6 years to your life, but lower your resting heart rate and pick up another two!

A few years ago, I actually did the math: lowering your resting heart rate (yes, this will involve exercise) by just 2 beats per minute will actually ADD ANOTHER TWO years to your life!

Maybe it’s time to put Fitness Reform into Health Care Reform?

Career Limiting Fitness Habits

Finishing up on another 60 hour work week last week, I finally decided to get some help with the back office work that’s been burying me for months. As I crafted my Help Wanted Ad for a Marketing and Executive Assistant, it was natural for me to include the requirement that the candidate must have “… demonstrated exercise habits and have above average fitness levels for consideration”.

After all, I’ve written ads like this for years in recruiting trainers, and hadn’t thought twice about it. But then I did think twice about it. Was it discriminatory to screen applicants who were actually overweight? 

Concerned, I checked The Federal Equal Opportunity Employment Law posted by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. What I found was that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits “…employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” And that’s it. For 45 years, this has been the written rule. Nothing about fitness or fatness. Perhaps the lawmakers of 1964 foresaw the health care epidemic we now face, and felt it fair to omit fitness from the statutes. (yeah, right)

I personally have no trouble telling candidates that FT MSP’s simply not good fit if they’re not fit – it’s our job to be fitness experts AND role models. But I do wonder how many other organizations think and screen that way in making hiring decisions and simply don’t say it. Or think and screen that way for promotions, and simply don’t say it.

Career limiting behaviors are normally pretty easy to identify: having the boss unexpectedly overhear you bad mouth his decisions in a conversation with a co-worker; bumping into an exec on the golf course after calling in sick; manipulating the time clock; etc.

Less obvious, but likely more severely limiting career behavior is chronically inadequate exercise habits and fitness levels. Volumes of documents chronicle the benefits of regular exercise and fitness for employees: increased productivity; reduced sick time; reduced time off for doctor’s visits; increased energy; reduced stress levels; reduced blood pressure; and elevated motivation. Everyone is more productive and more valuable to an organization if she exercises regularly. I’m not saying that women need to flaunt a size 2 figure, but they must regularly exercise. Men don’t need to sport a 30″ waistline, but they must regularly exercise. Yes, part of being fit includes body composition, but cardiovascular condition, muscular strength, flexibility, and muscular endurance are equally important.

Fit people walk more quickly to meetings, can take a flight of stairs to avoid elevator congestion, and spend less time in restroom. No job is completely un-physical.

Think about the promotions, lateral moves, sales calls, project bids, and proposals you’ve sought or pitched, but didn’t get over the past 10 years. And what that may have cost you in earned income. Thousands, perhaps Tens of Thousands of dollars have been lost because of unspoken decision-making based upon fitness levels. Or think about the last outdoor vacation you took, and how valuable being fit (or unfit) was to you.

One of the more frequent excuses we get from people who come to us for a consultation, but then don’t begin a program is that they “don’t have time” to regularly exercise 3 or 4 days per week. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re serious about your career, your business, your family, or your spouse, you CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO exercise regularly.

A long time Minneapolis client once told me that she knows she’s overweight when people stop opening doors for her. I thought she meant it literally, but now wonder if she’d been figuratively speaking all along.

Establishing a Corporate Fitness Culture

Time magazine ran a story a few years ago on “Mandatory Fitness” programs being implemented at various organizations around the world. According to the article, “… eighty four percent of Americans said that they’d get healthier … if (only) the boss insisted.”

So, at a few leading companies, the boss is now insisting: Verizon, Microsoft, and Dow Chemical, among others are now actually offering cash bonuses for loosing weight.

The Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) lab at Mayo Clinic developed a computer station atop a treadmill few years ago to get office workers more active within otherwise sedentary office roles. Office furniture maker Steelcasetm is manufacturing and marketing it commercially.  The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal ran a story about Salo, LLC usage of them here in Minneapolis a few years back.

These somewhat far reaching efforts are in response to an increasingly troubling obesity epidemic that isn’t going to be easy to fix. I personally very strongly favor a Fat Tax on High Fat Content Foods, and passionately contend that Fitness Related Discrimination has long been practiced in hiring and promoting.

While cash based incentives for loosing weight, and office worker gerbil wheels could be great options for some organizations, …

I’m here to offer a few more options on how small businesses can get their organizations more fit! Not unexpectedly, corporate fitness is actually more culture than programming. As with all corporate cultures, it all starts from the top. If your leadership buys in and behaves accordingly, culture is created and nourished.

One of the more frequent excuses we get from clients is that they “don’t have time” to regularly exercise 3 or 4 days per week.

 Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re serious about your career, your business, your family, or your spouse, you simply CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO exercise regularly.

So, since the 1st step is getting the boss moving in the right direction,here are my Top 5 tips for Corporate Executives:

  1. Schedule exercise into your calendar, and don’t move it unless there’s a death in the family. Make your exercise appointment the most immutable appointment of the day.
  2. Be accountable to someone. It helps if you have a personal trainer waiting on (and charging) you for the appointment whether you show up or not, but it is also helpful to have a training buddy/partner. You’re much more likely to show up when you know someone is waiting for you.
  3. Establish, write down, and publish a very specific health lifestyle goal for the next 3 months. These are things like: exercise for 90 minutes 3 times per week; or walk for 60 minutes 6 days per week; or make every scheduled exercise appointment. Lifestyle Changes; nothing physical or exercise related.
  4. Establish, write down, and publicize a very specific, Non-Appearance related fitness goals for the next 6 weeks. While the body will certainly undergo composition changes with regular exercise, the initial 6 weeks should focus entirely on strength or endurance measurements: doubling your push ups; or completing 40 sit-ups within one minute; or completing a mile run in under 8 minutes. Don’t worry about the body weight or body fat at all just yet.
  5. Update your Corporate Values, Behaviors, and Ethics document to include the statement: Regular Exercise is a fundamental and necessary element of heath and happiness, and improves professional productivity.

Bonus Tip!  Ride your bike to Work this Month!  Talk about leadership!

Pain Good, Agony Bad

Proposed to be among “… the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud…”

Viktor Frankl makes the case the case in Man’s Search for Meaning that a significant part of life’s meaning is your suffering through it.

Indeed, your exact purpose is to shoulder your life’s unique burdens in a way that only you can, says Frankl.

Allegedly, this is why Catholics sacrifice during lent. And why world class cyclists refer, quite literally, to “suffering” during race and training events. I’m quite sure that psychiatry and psychology schools have long studied the bizarre relationship between meaning, suffering, and happiness. And will continue to do so.

But just how does this apply to exercise? What’s the relationship between pain and progress with regards to health and fitness? Well, as we all know, exercise introduces pain in a number of different ways.

Unfortunately, not all exercise pain is created equal, and tricky part is recognizing the difference between good pain and bad pain.

Joint problems, muscle strains and over training fatigue are all bad pains. Suffering, to the degree that you become faint or dizzy during cardio is also bad pain. These are to be avoided as they only deepen injuries and will retard recovery.

Good pain, however, does have it’s role. It is, in fact, needed to push the body to adapt. And despite however wrong he might have been in guiding the state of California to near bankruptcy (which, in his defense has been done by several previous CA governors throughout history), Arnold appeared to be onto something when he coined the phrase “No Pain No Gain” back in the 70s.

Indeed, only after you are physically pushed to your limits does your body adjust to the stress by becoming stronger, leaner, or more fit aerobically.

With weight training, we push clients to exhaustion (and beyond) on a certain (managed) set of exercises to fully recruit muscle tissue.

Muscle fibers, you see, are arranged in muscle fiber groups that are used to complete a physical movement. The problem is, muscle fiber groups behave in a way we call the “All or Nothing” principle: either all of the fibers within a group are working for you, or none of the fibers within the group are working for you.

To make matters worse, additional muscle fiber groups are recruited to assist with the movement only after the initially recruited groups have been exhausted. And that’s why we push to exhaustion on a few sets … suffering through the lactic acid pain that tells us to stop … to simply get to a point where we can incorporate the additional muscle fiber groups.

When done within a managed program, this is the exact stress that is needed to adapt, and is one of the primary reasons why personal trainers exist at all: finding that fine line between good and bad pain.

So, no matter what the verdict is on Frankl, Schwarzenegger was right all along!

Healthy Hydration Hints

Water, one of the basic 6 nutrients, is the medium within which all of our body’s metabolic process occur!

Body temperature regulation, nervous system impulse transmissions (including brain activity), and energy conversion systems all rely on proper body hydration to function effectively!

Further, as the weather heats up, additional fluids are lost during basic daily activities, making proper fluid consumption (hydration) even more critical.

Water is also the body’s primary means of cleansing itself by flushing toxins out the (bottom) door.

Hydration, in short, is a pretty big hammer!  Proper hydration:

  • Improves digestive efficiency;
  • Reduces blood pressure;
  • Improves the appearance of skin, nails, and hair;
  • Increases muscle and joint flexibility;
  • Improves the elasticity of your skin (reducing wrinkles); and
  • Helps keep your breath fresh!

Got a slight headache? Maybe you’re dehydrated.

With all of these things dependent upon proper hydration levels, it’s a wonder that any of us become dehydrated at all!

But we do, and we seem to do so with some regularity. A good rule of thumb for monitoring your hydration levels is the color of your urine. Unless you’ve just taken a loaded multivitamin, you should be generally passing clear fluid when you urinate. The darker it is, the more dehydrated you probably are!

We’ve all heard the advise to drink 8 glasses of water each day. You know, that’s a lot of water! And it actually takes a conscious effort to consume that much water positioned butt down at your desk. The easiest way to provoke  additional fluids intake, of course, is to exercise!

More on that below, but here are a few basic tips for proper daily hydration:

  • Develop the habit of carrying a water bottle with you where ever you go. Sip on it every 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Drink unsweetened green iced tea if all that water is just too much water; avoid sugared drinks
  • Plan to consume at least 8 ounces of water before and with each meal
  • Make extra efforts for additional fluid intake with higher protein diets
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which are technically diuretics with dehydrating effects.

And Exercise more!

A lot of us simply require an exercise induced thirst to get in enough fluids on a regular basis. Not unlike how increasing your heart rate helps to eventually reduce your resting heart rate, profuse sweating increases your thirst to where you will more effectively hydrate!

Complete a few hot cardio intervals, one of our FT HEAT programs, or a few sets of lunge presses, and you’ll have 20 ounces through your body in no time!

While hydration requirements for aerobic activities (cycling, running, nordic skiing) are slightly different from those required for resistance training, the basic requirements are the same, and fit into 3 basic categories:

  • Pre-exercise hydration;
  • Exercise hydration; and
  • Post-exercise hydration.

Pre-exercise hydration should actually begin 2 to 3 hours before your workout with consumption of 500-600 ml (a bottle) of water, followed by an additional 100 to 200 ml of water (or sports drink) 20 minutes prior to your workout.

Consumption during exercise should approximate sweat rate, though given that most people can only absorb about a liter per hour (the rest is just passed through), extremely vigorous, extended exercise will almost always result in some dehydration.  Therefore …

Post exercise hydration is a critical time to make up the difference in fluids lost during exercise …preferably within 90 minutes.   Drink a post exercise recovery drink (with nutrients) first, then just plain water at a rate of a liter an hour for the next 2 hours.

Got any other hydration tips?  Please leave a comment!

Exercise: The Silver Bullet for the Flu Season!

Looking for an easy way to worry less about the Flu season?

Look no further. It’s called regular, moderate intensity exercise!

While no one is completely immune, with the H1N1 virus circulating a few years ago, and discussions around pandemics a nearly annual event now,  it’s a good time to point out that regular exercise improves your body’s ability to fight off disease and infection! 

Even better, you don’t need to train intensely for those benefits.  Because while you do need to work a bit harder to improve strength, and you do need to work a bit longer to improve your endurance, and you do need to work a bit faster to improve your cardiovascular fitness levels, regular moderate exercise is all that’s needed to improve your immune systems. 

Why is that?

Well, a few theories exist.

  • First, the more rapid breathing associated with moderate exercise helps flush the lungs of airborne illnesses.
  • Second, increased sweat and urine production helps rid the body of carcinogens.
  • Third, an elevated heart rate more quickly circulates antibodies and white blood cells to fight off infections.
  • Fourth, increased body temperatures have been found to help prevent the growth of bacteria.
  • Lastly, and as we’ve mentioned for a few weeks in a row now (insulin and caloriesinsulin and sugarinsulin and sleep),hormones are related in no small way. But this time, it isn’t insulin we’re blaming, it’s cortisol.

For while cortisol is required to handle stress and other stressful events, prolonged periods of elevated cortisol levels are quite detrimental to your health, and your immune system.

Moderate, regular exercise, however, helps inhibit the production of cortisol, thereby enabling the immune system to operate efficiently. 

So, what’s moderate? It all boils down your a Long Slow Cardio Event as was described back in February. I’ll need to update that posting for today’s frost less landscape, but that should get you started!

And what is regular? Well, that’s most days of the week (4 or more with the new math). Sorry, there are no short cuts on frequency.

Need a bonus tip for fighting off the pig flu? Don’t forget to get enough rest! For while adequate sleep will help with your job performance, it also improves your immune system!

Five Fantastic Fitness Tips for Tired Summer Training

Fantastic Five Fitness Tips for Tired Summer Training

 Vacations. Guests. Long out of town weekends. Road Trips. And just plain lazy summer days all contribute to reduced summer exercise frequency. Oh, I know, many of you are doing extra cardio outside. But, I also know that a lot of you aren’t!Even in my studios where we rant and rave, and beg and plead with our clients to get attendance up to where it needs to be to make progress, attendance is down. Maybe it really is the economy. If that’s the case now is in fact the BEST time to pick up your exercise volume …to look and feel healthier, increase your productivity, reduce stress, sleep better, and on and on.

Here then, are my Favorite Five Fitness tips for Fixing Flat Summer Programs

1. Get a Grip!

Changing how you grasp a bar can dramatically alter the kinetics of a resistance exercise, and create exciting new interest in upper body pushing and pulling exercises. I also frequently find that people with joint ailments (the rotator cuff in the shoulder in particular) can avoid impingement and discomfort by experimenting with grip adjustments.
Alter the width of where you grasp a bar, the rotation of your wrists (palms up or down), or change the bar entirely. A Traditional grip is palms facing down when your hands are extended on a plane in front of your eyes. Change your routine by continuing to use a traditional bar grip, but vary the distance of where your hands grasp the bar to recruit additional or different muscle fiber groups. Two or three inches narrower or wider are usually sufficient. Try varied grip widths for chest, triceps, and shoulder presses to effectively train muscle groups on range of motion boundaries not normally recruited with a ‘monotonous’ grip position.

Try using a reverse grip for lat pull downs, seated pulley rows, supported T bar rows, and single arm movements of the same. Selecting a different bar or cable attachment can also introduce variety into an otherwise mundane program. Experiment with straight, cambered , EZ curl, V-shaped, and rope attachments for arm exercises. Choose between straight, cambered, wide grip lat, wide grip cambered, and bent lat bars for back & traps.

Use your modified grip (or bar choice) consistently for a minimum of 2 to 4 weeks, then try another one! But don’t switch more frequently than that: the initial adoptions from a varied grip will be neurological; the muscle strength & fiber growth you’re looking for occurs only after primary neurological adoptions are complete, so don’t switch too often!

One Critical piece of advice here: if you are unsure of the proper movement, or the safety of the exercise, DO consult with a fitness expert before experimenting. Modifying grip and bar choice changes joint rotations that can be unsafe for the uneducated.

2. Be Promiscuous

Hey, it’s OK … it’s just a workout! But you’d be surprised and amazed with how much fun, exciting, and refreshing training with a new partner or trainer can be! And effective! Here’s bonus a tip for you: training with a partner or trainer is one of the true key elements to reaching heath and fitness goals you never before thought possible. Knowing that someone is expecting you to show up for a workout – someone who will hold you personally accountable for making it to that fitness appointment dramatically improves the likelihood that you will actually show up! Having someone help you with a few forced reps, and assist with some negative repetitions not only increases the safety of your workout, but it increases intensity as well.

If you’ve been with a partner or trainer for more than 6 months, try making a change for a while. If you like your partner current partner/trainer, try forming a small club of ‘workout buddies” and rotate through the group periodically. Not only will you make new friends, but you’ll grow if only through a handful of favorite tips, tricks, and techniques we’ve all collected over time. More likely, however, is that you’ll also change the tempo, repetition rate, sequence of exercises, and content of your split routines. All of this puts your body at a high state of ‘nervousness’ which encourages neurological adaptations required for increased muscle group recruitment. Especially with today’s hectic schedules, you can never have too many workout buddies, and some of the best workouts I’ve ever had have been ‘reunion’ workouts with former partners from high school and college.

Finally, I strongly recommend AGAINST training with your significant other. Your workout needs to be free from the baggage and agenda from that relationship if you truly want results.

3. Know and Feel your Pain

Herb Brooks was right: “…you must grow through pain.” Realize, first, however, that not all pain is good!

Being able to understand, recognized, and differentiate good pain from bad pain is a key element in making consistent progress towards your fitness goals. The burning sensation felt from fully exhausted muscle groups is due to the accumulation of a waste product known as lactic acid. Excessive lactic acid buildup is also responsible for muscle soreness after your workout. Generally speaking, it is a good pain giving you reassurance that you’ve recruited otherwise inactive muscle groups and have trained them to momentary exhaustion. Even so, training muscle groups to exhaustion with high intensity exercises should be moderated to avoid over training.

Plan to train to train each body part to complete exhaustion (and feel the burn that comes with it) no more than once per week, and less so after age 40. The burning feedback from lactic acid is much different from that which you feel when joints, tendons, and ligaments are strained. Especially as you hit the mid years of your life, not all pain is equal, so learn to differentiate the good from bad. Pursue active rest to reduce lactic acid buildup,but completely rest when you have an injury. If in doubt, check with a trusted personal trainer.

4. Have a Ball!

A medicine ball, that is. They’re inexpensive (less than $20 each), and can introduce new fun into an otherwise tiring routine! Did you know that medicine balls have been used in in physical therapy since 1000 BC! Sizes and shapes vary from 1 Kg to 11KG, but all medicine balls will be soft enough to bounce on a firm surface (like a wall or floor). Indeed, it’s ability to absorb impact is what makes a ball a medicine ball. Most balls with come with brief instruction guides for things to try. A few of my favorites are:

  1. Walking diagonal lunges with a gentle hand to hand shot-put-like overhead toss (glutes deltoids, balance);
  2. Explosive seated overhead throw and catch against a flat wall (lats, abs),
  3. Sit-up and overhead throw to partner (abs, lats);
  4. Explosive squat position basketball chest pass against a wall (gluts, delts, tris); and
  5. Russian Twist – balance on your butt with feet lifted off the floor and rotate ball in a twisting motion (abs, obliques);

And if you think training with a medicine ball is for wusses, try a few single arm supported dumbbell rows: support yourself in a plank-like position atop of the ball with one fully extended arm while grasping a very light dumbbell in the other. Balance on the ball with the extended arm while knocking out a few single arm dumbbell rows. You’ll train Tris, Delts, Pecs, Core, Traps, and Lumbar with just this one exercise.

5. Get Roped!

One of the most effective cable attachments ever invented is the rope attachment. Part of what makes it so effective is that the flexibility of the rope allows the exercise range of motion to follow a more natural joint motion than any fixed bar ever could. Use the rope attachment for:

  1. Split triceps pushdowns from a pull down pulley
  2. Single Arm triceps pushdowns … try grabbing both rope ends, or just one;
  3. Split biceps curls from a seated row pulley
  4. Single Arm biceps curls
  5. Seated Crunches from a pull down machine

Unfortunately, rope attachment ‘evolutions’ have actually reduced it’s effectiveness in some ways. Back in the 70s we simply threaded heavyweight marine mooring through the eyelet of the cable buckle. While crude, it required that you both: 1) establish a firm grip on each end; AND 2) manage balance between the ends of the rope. Today’s rope attachments normally have huge knots on each end and a fixed buckle in the middle. While still effective in providing quality and gentle joint kinetics, the grip and balance benefits of a free, unknotted rope have been forgotten. Not to worry though … just thread a hand towel through the attachment buckle for a similar enough effect!

One thing to note with most ropes, however: unlike it’s metallic cousins, ropes will absorb and hold moisture from your gym brethren, so be sure to wash your hands immediately after your workout to leave the fungus at the gym!

You Only Get So Many Heart Beats Per Life

Health magazine reported a few years ago  that a recent study conducted by the Journal The Lancet shows that… 

“Obesity shaves two to four years off the average lifespan, …

while being very obese can shorten your lifespan by 8 to 10 years…” on par with life expectancy reductions of a heavy smoker.

Wow! Why’s that?You see, we all inherit a finite number of heart beats per life from our parents. We can either use them conservatively, or use them quickly.
And the quickest way to use them is to carry a lot of extra weight, requiring your heart to work hard to support all that extra tissue … effectively using up your quota early!
Here’s some quick math for proof:Suppose your resting heart rate is 70 beats per minute (bpM). At 70 bpM your heart beats (70x60x24x365=) 36,792,000 beats per year (bpY). But suppose instead, we reduce your resting heart rate just two (2) bpM to 68. This, in turn reduces your bpY to (68x60x24x365=) 31,536,000bpY.
That’s a difference of 5,256,000 beats per year! Uh huh: Over 5 MILLION BEATS PER YEAR! 

Now, if you really want to track to the nat’s ass, go ahead and take out the three (3) 40 minute cardio exercise events per week (165x40x3x52=) 1,029,600 bpY it will take to get and keep you fit enough to maintain this bpM condition.

Over a one year period, you’ve still reduced the total number of times your heart beats by (5.36 bpY – 1.03bpY = ) over 4 Million!!! Wow!

At 68 bpM (instead of 70), you’re now banking almost 2 months of heart beats each year … or an additional 4 years of heart beats over the the next 24. And if you started at 72 (which would be low for an obese person), that’s 8 years!

So, while I regularly rant on the need for consistent resistance training to look and feel terrific, a complete fitness program also includes 60 to 120+ minutes ofcardio work each week. 

Because reducing your resting heart rate, my friends, is what it’s all about. A lower resting heart rate reduces blood pressure, and can extend the life of your heart by years … apparently up to 10! 

Want more info about Reducing your resting heart rate and Living Stronger and Longer?  Ask me about my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic Report!

Goals and Goal Setting

Goals and Goal Setting

“Begin with the end in mind.” –  Stephen Covey Habit #2

Long Term Goals

When we speak in terms of goals, we have long term goals and short term goals.

Long term goals are the things that change our lives and are measured in months, years, and, in some cases, decades.

Long term goals define where exercise fits into our lives and why we exercise at all.

Long term goals are what keep the clock ticking and what keeps you motivated when things get awkward, uncomfortable, difficult, and yes, sometimes painful.

Long term goals can be easily identified: lose 50 pounds;  make exercise a permanent and regular part of my life;  and live vibrantly into my 50s, 60s, and Beyond!. 

However, it is the short term goals that help break down the beast into manageable, meaningful and conquerable chunks.


Short Term Goals

Short term goals are typically measured in weeks or months.

They might even  be completely unrelated to long term goals, but are frequently used as an effective way to parse the long term goal into manageable objectives.

Fitness Professionals frequently use 6 week exercise programming cycles to measure and manage short term progress.  

The body adapts to selective and repetitive exercise stress uniquely within 6 week chunks.  Your nervous, cardiovascular, and muscular systems generally become about as efficient as they can become to a particular set of repetitive stresses within 6 weeks.    Once developed, the adaptation rate found with further repetition is significantly slowed, or halted altogether.  

This condition is frequently called a plateau.  Significant additional similar exercise stress fails to promote the same level of adaption found earlier in the cycle.

Reaching plateaus is why trainers frequently assess and reprogram your exercise routine every 6 weeks: in order to promote additional adaptation and fitness improvements, a less familiar stress needs to be introduced.

As a side note, changing your exercise program more frequently than every 6 weeks can actually have counterproductive results.  

As your body builds new and more efficient body movement mechanics (both nervous and musculoskeletal), there is only so much raw material to go around.  If you use highly varied motor movements within a short term training period, you will still adapt, but you do lose out on the formation of highly efficient nervous, circulatory, and muscular systems development.  

Think of it this way: when second grade elementary students are learning to write the letter ‘b’, they write it over and over and over again.  They still get better at writing, in general, if they simply write out the entire alphabet letter by letter, but they don’t get really good at letter ‘b’ unless it is repeatedly written.  All body movements are the same way: the repetitions matter.  Eventually, this develops what kinesiologists refer to as muscle motor movement memory.

Identifying Short Term Goals

Like long term goals, short term goals can be both lifestyle related and performance related.

Short term lifestyle goals would be things like:

  • Eat a Healthy Breakfast and 5 small meals every day this month
  • Exercise 5 times per week for the entire month of July
  • Walk 30 minutes during lunch every weekday this month
  • Use my heart rate monitor every day I exercise

Short term performance related goals are things like:

  • Increasing the total number of push ups you can do by one or two
  • Reducing your resting heart rate by a single beat per minute
  • Losing 6 pounds in 6 weeks

Short term goals frequently won’t make life altering changes to your health and fitness, but they do matter on a couple of levels.

For one, even those small improvements in life and limb require a level of commitment and dedication to your program.   All progress, even a single added push up requires some effort and some diligence.


More importantly, they help us take one small, measurable, positive step towards a long term goal that can sometimes seem oh so far away.

Short term goals can be further broken down into weekly and daily goals which, in many cases, are the most important goals of all.


Some days will be high effort, short duration exercise days and the goal will be to find some discomfort and then find the shower quickly.  Other days will be longer duration, but lower intensity exercise days where the goal will simply be to complete the event in its entirety with low stress.

Establishing daily goals is sometimes the hardest part of all.  Knowing how and when to push (or push harder) versus how and when to ease up is the true art of exercise programming.  Even experts frequently struggle with it.  However, there are some basic, practical, effective guidelines we’ll be showing you later.

For now, simply recognize that you should never, never exercise without having a specific duration and intensity established for the day.   

You may find that a strain changes your workout.  Or you may find that weather shortens your ride.  You find that you only reach your daily goals 80% of the time.   Nonetheless,  you should never saddle up, lace up, or hit the gym without having a specific goal in mind for that daily workout.



The Seasonal Goal

While your body and trainers find 6 week cycles conveniently manageable, you might find it more practical to develop seasonal goals.   Seasonal goals are, as implied, 12 week cycles tied to the season of the year.


What is convenient about seasonal goals is that each seasonal goal has two 6 week training cycles within it, lending itself very well to some highly manageable programming.  

Frequently this becomes as simple as:

  1. Establishing a baseline fitness level for the first 6 weeks and
  2. Reaching a personal best in some specific area for the second 6 weeks

A good example is the summer seasonal goal of completing the local 10K fundraising run with a personal best time.   

Maybe you’ve just spent the Winter doing mostly strength training indoors, and Spring splitting your time with weights and commuting to work on your bike.

So, you start running.  As with all activities, you start slowly and make progress day by day and week to week.  By the 6th week your circulatory system has developed reasonable efficiency related to the very specific activity of running.  Your leg muscles have developed additional strength, and your ankle, knee, and hip joints have loosened up a bit.

At this point, your body is sufficiently prepared to handle more intense exercise specifically associated with running more quickly … like a Seasonal Goal!

Here’s a good example of an annual plan with four seasonal goals:

  • Ride my bike to work 4 out of 5 days this Spring (lifestyle/volume based goal)
  • Reach a personal best in my community’s annual 10K fundraiser event (performance goal) this Summer
  • Strength train 4 days per week and complete as many pushups as my age by Halloween (performance goal)
  • Cross Country ski at least once each week this winter, stretch daily, and train with weights 4 days per week this Winter (volume and lifestyle goals)

What’s your current, short term, seasonal, or long term goal? 

Are You Resolved or Are You Committed?

Have you Resolved to improve your Health and Fitness this year?

Or … Are you truly Committed?

Dictionary.com defines resolution as ” a formal expression of opinion or intention made.”

It also defines commitment as ” a pledge or promise; obligation.”

I hope you agree that there’s a serious difference between “expression of opinion” and an “obligation.”

It’s like the ham and eggs breakfast analogy: the chicken is opinionated, while the pig is committed.

As we begin the New Year, let’s resolve to be committed to our health and fitness rather than opinionated about it.

It’s the commitment, above all else, that counts. Setting specific, concrete goals is of course important (and more on that next, and in the following weeks), but committing to reach those goals is critical.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” – Vince Lombardi

Reaching our fitness goals will not happen casually. There are too many distractions. Too many obstacles. Too many excuses. Indeed, reaching our 2012 Health and Fitness goals requires a genuine, sincere, pull-no-punches commitment.

Here’s one way: Lay it on the line!

One of the best and most natural motivators in life is the spirit of competition! Having a concrete, time bound competitive deadline event to work towards is one of the most effective ways to keep your program on track!

Generally speaking, the more expensive and more highly publicized, the better! If you really, really, really want rock hard six-pack abs and buns of steel, seek out and enter a physique competition. Send in your entry fee right away.

Or, seek out and enter a 10K run,  a mountain bike race, or cross county ski event!

Whatever event you pick isn’t important. What’s important is that you register.

That’s your commitment. Because with your registration fee on the line, you are far more likely to prepare for, and then complete the event. Preferably, find something with an entry fee of greater than $50 (just high enough to bother you if you don’t show). Oh, and do tell as many of your friends and family about the event as possible!

Because nothing will keep you motivated, help you push through those last few burning reps, or pound out that final 200 foot climb like knowing that you’re putting it all on the line in front of your own personal audience 3 weeks from Sunday. It works.

Afraid of crowds? Make it personal.

Find a friend, family member, training partner, or trainer and place a personal bet. Pick a specific, or small collection of fitness elements … resting heart rate, body fat percentage, total push ups in 1 minute … (whatever you like!) … and a testing date 4 weeks from now. Place $50 each into escrow somewhere. Winner takes all on test date. Believe it or not, this works! I’ve seen people work their butts off (quite literally!) for bragging rights and a t-shirt!

Need help setting that goal or making the commitment? I’d love to help you out – just drop me a line!

The important part is that you’ve committed.

Or, you can try again next year, or the year after, or the year after that …