Tag Archives: fitness

Dance Flower! Dance!

Fitbit Alta HR

Now and then, in a quest to keep thing fresh and moving forward, I like to try something new.  To that end, I got a Fitbit Alta HR a few weeks ago.  I thought it might be nice to have a way to track my steps each day.  The Fitbit researchers decided, upon the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control, to start everyone on a 10,000 step per day goal.  I’ve since moved mine up to a 12,000 step a day goal which better suits my needs.  I walk the dogs every morning so that takes care of a lot of the requirement but then I find times during the day to walk to make up the difference.

Besides walking each day I also row using a rowing machine and lift weights.  The tracker allows me to add distance (for the rowing) and time to my overall activity minutes but those activities don’t count toward my step goal.  So in addition to my 12,000 step a day minimum I can also keep track of other activities like lifting, running, playing tennis, jumping rope etc.

I figured I would get some benefit out of having the Fitbit but it turns out it’s provided great motivation for me.  One of the clock faces you can choose from, has a flower on it.  When you’re not very active, for instance if you’re sitting at a desk working on a paper, the flower is short with just one a bud.  If you start moving around, the flower will grow taller, sprout more leaves, bloom and finally dance.  Oh my goodness, the things I’ve done to get that flower to dance!

One day I was waiting for a friend at the hospital and although I had my 12,000 steps for the day, my poor flower was just a sad looking little thing.  I went to a quiet corner and started marching in place (that counts for walking…and if you lift your knees high, is an excellent exercise).  Now, that was an odd thing to be doing, alone in a hallway and sure enough a nurse caught me as she came out of a stairwell next to where I was happily marching.  I stopped and just looked at her.  She said “Oh, you’re trying to get your steps, right?” Then she showed me the Fitbit she was wearing, the strap of which happened to be color coordinated with her scrubs.  We had a good laugh.  She went about her business and I kept on marching until that flower danced!

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I’ve got the Fitbit set so that it will give me friendly reminders to move when I’ve been still too long.  That’s a handy tool, since most of the time, I can get up and do a quick few steps.  If I can’t, it thankfully won’t bug me but the awareness that I’ve been sedentary for a significant period of time is a good little nudge to move around a little bit.

I’d say the Fitbit was an excellent purchase and I don’t even use most of it’s capability.  I don’t care to track my sleep, use the calorie counter or connect with other people for fitness challenges.  This particular model of Fitbit is very slim and unobtrusive and will track your heart rate. 

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Because it’s so slim, I think this model is marketed primarily toward women. I know there are Fitbits with wider bands that will fit a man’s wrist well.

It came with a black strap but if you go on Amazon you can order generic brand straps in a rainbow of colors to fit it.  They’re quite inexpensive.  I got a large assortment for a very reasonable price.   I even got one in leopard print.  Naturally, since I got all the colors, I find myself wearing the black strap every day.

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The straps come in every color you can imagine and there are lots of patterned straps too. They’re easy to switch out.

If you find yourself lacking in motivation and bored with your traditional way of tracking  your workouts, you might want to consider getting a Fitbit.  It just may provide a fun and amusing way to encourage you.

Rise And Grind!

I’ve had times in my life when all my regular workouts took place after 7:00pm.  I’d go to work, come home, eat dinner and then head out to the gym.  I’d usually get back around 9:15pm.  I did that for years because that’s what my schedule allowed.  These days I do most of my workouts in the morning.  Given the two choices, I far prefer exercising in the morning.  That’s because after a good workout, I can start the rest of my day with a feeling of accomplishment.  It automatically sets my mood in the relaxed/happy part of the emotional grid and that’s a wonderful mindset to have when facing the challenges each day brings.  Obviously, getting a workout in, no matter what time is preferable to not doing any type of fitness activity at all but there are advantages to kickstarting the day with exercise.

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The following article by Melih F. Cologlu delves into the topic and posits some sound reasons to try and get those workouts in early in the day if you can.

Not a morning trainer? Too bad for you. Here are 8 reasons why those who work out in the a.m. have a big advantage.

Awhile back, a study came out that said your testosterone levels were higher in the morning—as if you needed a study to tell you that. Afterward, I heard and read a lot of talk about how the morning was therefore the best time to work out.[1]

Yet it’s not that simple, because of this little thing called “life.” The fact of the matter is that for most of us, the time we choose to work out corresponds with the time we have available, which explains why most gyms are typically packed after the work hours.

But perhaps we can give you a compelling reason—in fact, eight great reasons—to wake up a little earlier to hit the gym rather than save it for later in your day. Withhold judgment about how you’re not a morning person until you fully absorb all the advantages of morning training.

1. It’s Easier To Follow High-Volume Training Systems

Trying to do a triset or a giant set is all but impossible in a packed gym. This guy over here wants to work in. That girl over there wants to steal your dumbbells. Others cast an evil eye your way for hogging so much equipment. They would have a point—if the gym was crowded.

But it’s not, because you were ready to rise and grind before everyone else. Yep, it’s much easier to complete these types of training programs when the facility is less crowded. That just happens to be in the morning.

2. Your Hormones Are Working To Your Advantage

As mentioned, in the early morning hours, crucial hormones (i.e., testosterone) that help build muscle mass are elevated in the body. By exercising in the morning, you’re taking advantage of these naturally circulating hormones as they’re peaking, rather than later in the day when they’re lower.

3. It Leaves Times For Other Priorities

I may make a living from the gym, but it’s still not my number one priority. Nothing is more important than family. Clearly there’s a trade-off between the amount of time you spend in the gym and the amount of time you can spend at home. Which is why slicing off a small segment, like you can in the morning, is usually better than in the evening, when you have to fight rush hour, navigate a crowded gym environment, get home to shower, and allot whatever’s left for your family. The math simply works better if you get your workout done in the morning.

4. You’ll Be More Focused When You Reach The Office Or School

A bout of exercise increases your focus on the next activity, because your body is aroused. What follows a morning workout? For most people, it’s the office or school. Hence, one of the advantages of working out in the morning is that you’re more alert during those later hours.

5. You’ll Be Less Likely To Skip Your Workout

It may take a cup of coffee to get your morning going, but once you’re up, there are few distractions on your way to the gym. But later in the day, any number of distractions can sabotage your workout: less motivation, fatigue, the gang is going out for some drinks, a sick child, an overdue report for work or school.

If you’ve already completed your workout, you can simply roll with whatever obstacles come up later in the evening without feeling bad that you missed another day. You’re far more likely to be consistent with your training if you get it done early in the day rather than waiting for later.

6. Your Metabolic Rate Will Receive A Quick Boost

Without a doubt, exercise can boost your metabolic rate. The degree depends on your current fitness level and the kind of activity you choose. All other things being equal, working out in the morning will help to boost your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories for the rest of the day. This phenomenon is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC.

7. You Won’t Have As Many Distractions

Chances are pretty good that you train with a number of friends, which makes socializing pretty easy. Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s easy for a short gabfest to turn a productive workout into one where you barely break a sweat. If you’re serious about getting results and not wasting your time, you’ll want to spend your gym time with minimal distractions.

You can bet that people who get up in the wee hours are more serious about their workouts. From my personal experience, the chances of someone distracting your workout is much less likely in the morning.

8. Your Mood Will Improve

You’re probably familiar with the notion that some workouts release endorphins, feel-good hormones that are increased following exercise of sufficient intensity and duration.[2] But you don’t have to do hours of cardio to feel good about yourself; heck, you’ve just completed your workout for the day.

 

Nothing feels better than having a good workout under your belt, especially if you’re prone to blowing them off at night. Which is why there’s no better way to get your day started. You can boost your mood and sense of accomplishment by just be setting your alarm clock for a little earlier.

Rise And Grind

If you don’t train regularly in the morning, you may find that, at first, your performance suffers during anaerobic exercise (like bodybuilding-type training) as compared to late-afternoon workouts. Nevertheless, you can make larger improvements in exercise performance if you make morning training regular; that is, you do it consistently.3 So if you’re new to morning training, be patient but consistent with your a.m. workouts.

Yes it’s tough to get up in the morning, let alone try to complete a good workout. Soon enough, however, with consistency you’ll see your performance skyrocket and you’ll have a slew of good reasons that justify setting that alarm just a little bit earlier. For those of us who are already there bright and early, the secret is out!

References
  1. Resko, J. A., & Eik-Nes, K. B. (1966). Diurnal testosterone levels in peripheral plasma of human male subjects. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 26(5), 573-576.
  2. Goldfarb, A. H., & Jamurtas, A. Z. (1997). B-Endorphin response to exercise. Sports Medicine, 24(1), 8-16.
  3. Chtourou, H., & Souissi, N. (2012). The effect of training at a specific time of day: a review. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(7), 1984-2005.

The Secret

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This meme tells my story.  There are plenty of days I walk into the gym in my street clothes.  Often, I have things on my mind…I’m trying to solve a life riddle, or figure out the answer to a particular problem.  I’m feeling rather subdued, even serious.

BUT

I change into my workout clothes, get my Ipod fired up and hit the weights.  After a few minutes, my internal transformation begins.  You can’t worry or think too deeply when you’re in the middle of a heavy set.  It’s wonderfully liberating and you can actually feel any burdens you’re carrying getting lighter. 

There’s something called a “runner’s high.”  I don’t run but I do get that same feeling when things are clicking in the gym.  It’s exhilarating and freeing.  When it kicks in, I most definitely feel like Wonder Woman…beautifully strong, capable and happy. 

It’s the transformational secret of the gym that all serious lifters come to know and love!

Ladies Who Lift

That’s me in the crystal ball.  More than 25 years ago, I saw a magazine with natural, female bodybuilders in it and my life changed.  I loved the look of all that beautiful muscle and that’s what drew me to the gym.  I never managed to put on as much muscle as I wanted but I certainly changed my physique for the better and along the way discovered all the wonderful benefits (like stress reduction) that bodybuilding brings into your life.

More than once, I had someone (usually a well meaning relative) tell me not to “get any bigger” that “muscles aren’t feminine” or that I was starting to “look like a man.”  They didn’t appreciate the aesthetic I love so much but save a few moments of thought the first couple of times it happened, the advice had no effect whatsoever on my determination in the gym.

Here’s to all the ladies who, like me, think women with a little muscle on their bones are gorgeous!

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Progress Report (1-30-17)

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I’ve been working out on my Total Gym at home during the month of January.  I’ve found ways to make it challenging and it’s been a fun change for me.  The one and only sticking point I have is that I’m not able to do rows effectively with it.  My back is quite strong and I tried to hold a 45lb plate on my lap to make it more challenging when rowing but it’s awkward and I gave up on that idea.  I have other equipment at  home that I use for rows so it’s not stopping me from giving my back good workouts.

I’ve been able to maintain a reasonable amount of muscle.  I’m not very lean at the moment and that shows too.  My lack of striations has everything to do with my diet and it’s easily remedied.  I simply need to tone down my carb intake, increase my cardio a little and I’ll lean out.  At this very moment, I’m happy and will stick to my current program for February.  When March rolls around I’ll make the appropriate changes in my diet and cardio and that will ease me into summer bikini weather in a nice, smooth way.

My Total Gym workouts have been so enjoyable.  They remind me of how much easier it is to get and stay fit when you truly enjoy your workout time!

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Plan Ahead

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O.K.  Perhaps that meme, although funny,  is a little over the top.  Nevertheless, when you’re interested in keeping your diet on the clean side, a little planning is in order.  If you don’t want to get caught without something quick and healthy to eat during the week, it helps to shop and prepare several meals ahead of time.  I do this for lunches, in particular. because if I’m out and about and get too hungry, I’m much more likely to make bad choices.  I can’t tell you how great an enormous bag of potato chips,  big serving of french fries or a massive piece of chocolate cake seems when I’m starving.

Each weekend I take time out to decide what I want to eat for my lunches (I eat two a day…one at about 10:30 and one about 2:00).  I make sure it’s something nutritious and not too high in calories.  I shop so I have what I need on hand and then I do what I can to get all the food ready to go.  For instance, if I want sliced chicken, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, I’ll grill the chicken breasts on Saturday.  I slice it up, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  That way it’s super easy to make sandwiches in the morning before I head out.  I don’t have to scramble for ideas or ingredients.

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How about a little lunch?

A little bit of thought ahead of time helps you avoid disasters.  You know, just like I do, that if you make a meal of Krispy Kreme doughnuts you might like the taste while you’re eating them but the way you feel afterwards is less than ideal.  It’s so much better to rely on regular, healthy meals and to save the doughnuts for well considered treats now and then.

Although the meme is a little silly, it’s good to remember that having a meal plan in place goes a long way in helping avoid diet disasters.

 

Resolutions for 2017

I’ve learned over the years not to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to making resolutions for the New Year.  I make a couple small promises to myself but I see to it that they are attainable and that I’m really motivated to follow through. 

The first of my two resolutions for 2017 is simply a continuation of one I started decades ago and that’s to keep myself in shape.  Now, that covers a lot of territory.  It means I commit to doing what it takes to stay strong and physically capable.  I have to combine resistance training, cardio and good nutrition to see that I end each year in acceptable condition. 

This January I’m excited to try adding some time on my Total Gym.  I bought the thing on deep discount after watching the infomercial (for the umpteenth time).  Susceptibility to the lure of infomercials would also explain why there’s a Vitamix in my kitchen (I use it all the time), a body blade in my family room (I’m not even going to try and explain that one) and Wen hair care products in my bathroom  (they work great, by the way).

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This is my new fitness friend. I’m looking forward to using it at home.

My second resolution is to make sure I read more widely.  Despite the fact that I was a Literature major in my undergraduate days, I have many books I should have read, that I somehow missed.  I’m going to add two additional books per month to augment my regular reading material.  A couple of days ago I was looking over the Kindle options for some new titles.  I happened upon a free WhisperSync version of Call of the Wild by Jack London.  WhisperSync books include an audio component so that you can read it yourself in the traditional way or you can listen to someone else, a narrator, read it to you.  Call of the Wild is one of those books, I thought I should know, that I just never got around to reading so I figured I could listen to it while on the rowing machine.  Great idea…awful choice of books….I’m not going to be able to add it to my “books-I-have-read category.” 

The first couple of chapters concentrate on terribly cruel treatment of dogs by miserable, mean people.  The last thing that happened, right before I turned the narration off for good was a Husky pack attack on a single, female dog.   Blood, ripped flesh, entrails and death…needless to say, it was not relaxing and I certainly didn’t find it entertaining. 

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THESE are the type of Huskies I want to think about…sweet and adorable…

Just like I learned over the years not to eat things I don’t like the taste of in the quest for a fit, lean body and I also learned not to waste time reading books or watching movies that don’t fulfill the purpose I assigned them before starting them.  I’ve read plenty of unpleasant things in my lifetime but I don’t do it for entertainment.  Yeah, yeah, I know it probably gets better as you go along and culminates in the triumph of human and/or dog spirit but, no thanks.

Next time, I’ll try To Kiss a Rouge or Secrets of a Scandalous Bride.

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I should read this…it definitely looks entertaining and judging from the cover might even include some workout or fitness tips. This muscled up warrior obviously keeps himself in great shape. Hair looks good too…He just might be a Wen customer.

Wishing you a safe and happy New Year’s Eve.  We’ve got a brand new year on tap with wonderful possibilities ahead.  Let us lift a glass to each other and jump into 2017 with anticipation of great things to come!

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Team Sports And Life Lessons

On Tuesday night, my son was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year award at our football league banquet.  Needless to say, he was quite pleased.  It’s always nice to be recognized for your hard work and contribution to the team.

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He started the season with a broken bone in his hand. When he went to the doctor to get it set, he was asked what color cast he wanted. He picked pink. I asked him why and he said “The girls like it.”

I feel very strongly that children benefit from being involved in sports.  They have lots of energy to expend and goodness knows, 13 year old boys have incredible amounts.  Having a physical outlet is important for general fitness reasons but team sports are a positive place to learn and grow in many other ways.   I feel blessed that my boys have had great coaches along the way who have nurtured a sense of fair play, sportsmanship and brotherhood among their players.

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With his Head Coach, receiving the 2016 Defensive MVP.

It’s been an irreplaceable part of their maturation process.  They’ve learned innumerable lessons about working with others, how to handle victory, defeat, frustration and elation.  They learned how to be supportive of teammates when they’re struggling and what it feels like to get sympathetic pats on the helmet when they’ve been the one making the mistakes.

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Sack! 

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Hard day for the Quarterback…

Team sports are a wonderful place for children to learn, play and grow.  Being a member of a team gives them the opportunity to keep themselves physically fit which is vitally important but it also teaches them valuable lessons they can draw from for the rest of their lives.

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with one of the Assistant Coaches after a big win…That’s a happy boy!

New Favorite!

I found a new exercise that I absolutely love to do.  I discovered rear delt cable crossovers when I was doing the Jim Stoppani Shortcut to Mass program.  The first time I did them, I knew it was an exercise that was going to stay on my favorites list.  These crossovers (I’ve also heard them called standing cable reverse flys) are effective and fun!

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This exercise is perfect for helping you develop those lovely muscles in your back!  Give it a try.  I’ll bet you’ll like them as much as I do.

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Excuses Are Easy

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Every single day you can come up with excuses not to exercise.  You don’t even  have to work hard at it.  Maybe you stayed up too late the night before or you don’t have enough time (even though you hopped on the couch to watch your favorite TV show) or you have a hitch in your get-along.  Excuses are easy, plentiful and often plausible but you know in your heart that if you take the easy way out, you’re letting yourself down.  Don’t get in the habit of self-sabotaging. The more often you allow yourself to skip a workout, the easier it is to do it the next time.  Instead of throwing in the towel when you’re having an off day, just go a little lighter in the weight room, run a shorter distance at a slower pace or if that still seems like too much…go for a walk.

Remember, doing a little something is far superior to doing nothing.

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