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Tomorrow is the last day of January, the first month of 2013. Some have managed to stick to their Healthful New Year’s Resolutions while others have, well, to put it nicely, fallen off the wagon.

Here’s the cool thing – just like the change from December 31st to January 1st, tomorrow night at midnight the calendar turns once again. For those who want a “clean” beginning, February 1st offers the same “magic” that January 1st does, giving you a second chance to start again, this time hopefully learning from any mistakes you may have made over the last month.

So if you have fallen, you CAN get up, dust yourself off and try, try again.  If you stumbled and stopped running, going to the gym, eating clean, meditating daily, whatever your healthful resolution was, think about it today and tomorrow; ask yourself where you fell short and on February 1st, wake up and take back what is rightfully yours.

And if you’ve been strong and steady in your resolution, then take tomorrow to pat yourself on the back and then resolve to do it again for another month!

DO IT!

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Don't worry!  You can catch the next one!

Don’t worry! You can catch the next one!

Did you miss the train?

Did you get to the station platform just to see the train pulling out?

***

I’ve run across a few people recently who, despite it only being the third week of the New Year, feel they missed their chance to embrace a New Year’s Resolution; that they missed their opportunity to change their habits from bad to good.

Well, guess what people!  The “change my life for the better” train leaves every day, every hour, every minute, every second!  So if you’ve missed it, it’s not too late to hop on board because the next one is leaving now, and now, and now – and due to a strange quirk of quantum physics and the universal magic of platform 9 3/4, once you hop on the train, you’re on the SAME train as the people who hopped on on January 1st!

So don’t delay – do something…today!  Substitute an apple for the cookies, some carrots and hummus for the potato chips, a walk with the dog for the post-dinner TV, the stair for the elevator – every little bit counts.

All aboard!!!

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I recently saw this on Instagram:

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It was followed by a comment by the poster saying: lol January Joiners.

It really chapped my ass.

Listen, I do get the sentiment.  January Joiners make January difficult and frustrating for regular gym goers.  I know all too well the disappointment of getting to the gym to put some miles in on a treadmill because the weather is just awful, only to find every single one is taken.

But here’s the thing, I also find the idea of every treadmill being occupied to be a beautiful, wonderful thing.  It means that there are people, at least momentarily, wanting to make a change for the better.  The sad truth is that the vast majority of them will disappear within two weeks and the vast majority of those who remain will disappear within another two months.

Shouldn’t we be encouraging people instead of discouraging them?  Shouldn’t we be reaching out to those January Joiners, those unfamiliar faces and letting them know that they are doing a good thing, not just for themselves but for their families and friends?  Studies have shown that fitness and obesity can be contagious.  Should we not be encouraging the former?

One more healthy individual, makes society just a little better, just like one drop of rain helps fill a bucket of water.  It may not seem like a lot, but it DOES make a difference.  Imagine how much less money we as a society would have to spend on healthcare if we were able to eliminate 50% of the self-inflicted obesity related illnesses?  It’s billions of dollars back in our pockets to help drive the economy.

We should be embracing and encouraging the January Joiners, not dissing and insulting them.

If you are a regular gym goer, I hope that you will do your part to reach out and encourage those who have resolved to make a change…a simple thumbs up or a “way to go!’ as someone steps off the treadmill.  Give them a sense of pride, a sense of community, and try to remember what it was like the first time you stepped into a gym.

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It’s that time of year again – New Year’s Eve.  It’s when everyone is coming down the homestretch of the Holiday Season – a time filled with plenty of food and drink, one last party and, for many, a lot of weight gain.  It’s also a time when people start to make resolution proclamations.

“I’m getting in shape this year!”

“I’m losing weight this year!”

“I’m getting into that size “fill in the blank” this year!”

And the masses then join a gym or buy some running shoes or “go on a diet”, all of which lasts a week, maybe three, and then it’s back to the same old same old.  By the time April or May rolls around, shoulders are shrugged and thoughts turn to “maybe next year.”

So what’s the problem?  And what, more importantly is the solution?  The problem is simpler than you might think.  The problem is not that people lack motivation, it’s that they lack education and guidance.

Saying

“I’m getting in shape this year!”

“I’m losing weight this year!”

or even

 “I’m getting into that size “fill in the blank” this year!”

doesn’t give you a well-defined goal, not even the more specific third one, because all of these goals are unspecific on how you want to get there.

The question anyone who is making a fitness New Year’s Resolution should be asking themselves really is, “what is my goal?  what is it that I truly want to achieve in terms of fitness/weight loss?”

“I want to get in shape” can mean so many things – what kind of shape?  at what cost?  The same can be said about “losing weight”.  There are all kinds of ways to lose weight, some are long-lasting healthful methods, some are…well, not.  Both can get one to a goal of losing weight and/or getting “in shape”; one can get you there rapidly, the other can get you there and keep you there indefinitely.

Once you’ve defined what it is you are actually trying to achieve, the next question becomes are you willing to change.  If you are trying to alter your physical make up for the better, undoubtedly, you will need to change some habits, and change can be hard.

That’s where it all falls apart every year for the majority of people.  An unfortunate result of our on-demand society is that we have become more and more a people who demand results immediately.  We then assume that if we don’t get the results we want immediately, that whatever we are trying must not work or must not work for us.

We start to make excuses –

oh, I’m just not shaped like that. 

oh, I’m big-boned. 

oh, I tried that and it just doesn’t work for me.

oh, it was uncomfortable.

Really?

Well, to be honest, for a small percentage of the population, that is true, HOWEVER, the overwhelming majority of people who use these excuses are simply unwilling to put in the time to change and they think, incorrectly, the excuses will make them feel better.  Now, before you jump on me for calling people lazy, please go back and note I wrote unwilling, not lazy.  Change takes sacrifice and sometimes people are unwilling to make certain sacrifices to achieve change – and that’s okay.  BUT, you have to realize that a choice has been made not to change.  Owning this choice instead of making excuses goes a long way toward inner peace and happiness.  If you can’t commit to change, then enjoy where you are and embrace it.  Mental health and inner peace is just as important as physical health/fitness.

Here’s the bottom line – hard work pays off; consistency pays off; a healthful diet pays off.  You put those three things together and your results are guaranteed.  For some, those results begin to appear on the scale and in the mirror within a week; for others, the visible changes don’t appear for a month or two, but something to realize is that the moment you make a change for the better, good things are happening inside you…immediately.

So is this the year?  Where to start?

The first thing I tell people is to start tracking what they are consuming.
You would be amazed just how much you actually consume throughout the day without thinking about it.  The mere action of tracking, truly committing to tracking you intake, will make you think twice about the variety of snacks that may cross your lips.

There are quite a few food tracking apps, but the two I found easiest to use are:

My Fitness Pal:

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/

and Lose It!

http://www.loseit.com/

The thing I like about their apps over others is that they are user-friendly, allow you to enter recipes and create meals, and have access to bar code scanning for easy input.  The apps also allows you to set weight loss goals over a period of time.  The apps though should be used as a guideline, not treated as gospel.  Once a week it’s a good idea to eat whatever the mouth and stomach desire.  One can’t live in a perpetual state of denial (meaning denying yourself “goodies and treats” – a topic for another post) without eventually feeling bitter.  The 90/10 rule works pretty well for most – for every 9 healthful meals, eat & drink something ridiculous!

The second thing I tell people is that they must perform regular physical activity.
This can come in many forms.  I have always found running to be the most affective, particularly for achieving physical fitness while pursuing weight loss, but physical activity can include swimming, biking, taking the stairs instead of taking an elevator, walking, even enjoying the company of your spouse or significant other (I know people get squeamish talking about sex, but it should be noted that a 150 lb person having sex for 15 minutes burns almost 75 calories – that’s nearly 300 calories per hour or the equivalent of a brisk walk or a 10 mph bike ride, but more fun).  The point is, there are many ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily life.

For those short on time, I did a little experiment this Holiday season.  Some of you may have heard of Tabata – it’s a method of exercise where you do a full body exercise for 20 seconds at 100% followed by 10 seconds of rest.  You repeat this cycle 7 more time, completing the exercise in 4 minutes.  It is intense and if you do it right, you pretty much want to throw up at the end of it.  It is effective, but it is not fun.  So doing a little research I came across HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).  It’s actually been around a while, but I was so into my running I had not really checked it out.  The concept is to perform high intensity full body actions for a short interval, followed by a shorter interval of rest – it is similar to Tabata but not quite as intense.  Right before Thanksgiving, I decided to see if this kind of quick hit training could make a difference.  I chose to use the burpee as my full body movement of choice.  If you don’t know what a burpee is, click —>>>HERE<<<—.

I did five sets of 28 burpees with one minute of rest between sets.  Within each set I would do a 7-7-7-7  routine to mix up different kinds of burpee variations.  For those counting, that’s 140 burpees.  I was able to complete the routine in less than 15 minutes.  I did this 3 times a week and I purposely did not run during that stretch except on Thanksgiving (had to do a Turkey Trot – 3.1 miles) and on my birthday (ran 4.3 miles for 43 years).  That’s a total of 7.4 miles from November 22 to December 31 – essentially a non-factor.  So what were the results?  Despite eating my share of holiday food, less than 45 minutes of work a week allowed me to actually drop 4 pounds and lose a small percentage of body fat.  I am looking forward to seeing what happens when I bring running back into my routine tomorrow.

The third thing I tell people is get some proper sleep.
Sleep is when the body resets itself.  It’s when it heals.  A solid 6 – 9 hours of sleep is absolutely necessary for achieving good health.

Finally, I tell people to stick with it.
It’s hard when you don’t see immediate results.  I get that.  What I try to remind people is that change IS happening.  Slow change is more permanent, because your body and your mind are getting into habits that will stick.  Stay the course, believe in the program and you WILL be rewarded.

So is this your year?  Do you have a specific goal?  If you really want to change, make it a priority and stick with it until the end of March.  This is a trick of sorts though, because if you DO stick with a regular routine until the end of March, you won’t stop because the routine will have taken over.

Good luck with your 2013 health and fitness goals!

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There's an app for that...

Every New Year hundreds of thousands of people vow to change their ways, to improve themselves.  These “resolutions” come in all forms, but one of the most common is about weight loss and fitness.  My friend Greg over at Pre-Dawn Runner wrote a post recently about just these sorts of resolutions and why 90% of the time, people are bound to fail at them – whether it is over-ambition, too vague goals, or simply not knowing where to start, a lot of resolutions grind to a halt before they even get started.

One of the suggestions Greg had was tracking calories.  I have had many a friend ask me what they can do to get fit and lose weight, and I almost always reply with “running and calorie tracking”.

You may have heard of and rolled your eyes at the concept of calorie tracking, thinking, “I’m not going to be one of those people who counts calories”.

If you are, I want you to stop for a second and reread what it is I suggest and what it is you say you don’t want to be.

Go ahead…

Go back and read my reply and now read your response.

There is a difference, albeit one based on semantics.  What you call “counting calories” I call “tracking calories”.

I believe there actually is a huge difference between the two.

What’s the difference, you ask?

If you are counting calories, that implies you are keeping an eye on a certain number that you are allowing yourself throughout each day.  Every time you “count” a meal, you are subtracting that number from what you’ve been told your total for the day can be.  Each passing meal, snack, or beverage becomes something that you dread and in the end the joy of eating is taken away.  At that point, you probably give up on counting calories.

Now, if you are tracking calories, you are simply keeping track of what you eat.  As the days go by, you come to realize, based on the data you’ve collected, just how much you are eating.  You may find that some days you eat more, others you don’t, but eventually, you get to a point where simply start to make better choices because you know what’s in the food you are taking in.  If tracking the calories themselves seems too time consuming (though there are apps for that) take one step back and simply keep a food diary.

The concept of tracking calories or keeping a food diary isn’t about worrying and wringing your hands over every meal or snack, but rather to give you a picture of what your habits are – which then allows you to visualize making changes for the better.  As you make those changes, the proof is right there in front of you in both your notebook (or smartphone) in black and white, on the scale and in the mirror.

It’s a lot easier than you think!

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Sweat

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

We are one month into 2011.  How are things going?  Have you stuck to your workout goals and resolutions?  Are you still eating better?

***

Do you feel like you’re not seeing enough of a change for all of the time you have been putting in?

***

Let me ask you this – when you workout, are you sweating? I don’t mean schvitzing or perspiring. I mean really, REALLY sweating.

I don’t go to the gym a whole lot. I either run outside or on the treadmill in my basement. For strength training I do a lot of home-based workouts (push ups, planks, chin ups, TRX). BUT when I do go to the gym, I am often surprised to find that a lot of people finish their workouts with just the slightest hint of sweat on their brow and seem to be under the impression that they have put in a hardcore cardio workout.

I want to ask these people if they actually value their time? Don’t they want to make the most of the perceived effort they’ve invested? I don’t believe I’m being a workout snob. I just think that maybe these people don’t get what a hard workout really is.

Yes, I know that getting to the point where you are soaked is hard. Yes, I know that a hard workout hurts. But as the saying goes, “No Pain, No Gain”.

And it’s not like every workout has to be a hard one. In fact, ideally workouts should oscillate between hard and easy to make sure that the body has an opportunity to mend and get stronger while staying loose.

But if it is fast results that you want, you are going to have to sweat; sweat to the point where your shirt is soaked; soaked to the point where you can wring a cupful of stink out of it.

THAT’S when you know you’ve done your job. Quite honestly, there is very little that is more satisfying than hearing the hard smack of your drenched shirt hitting your bathroom floor after a hard workout.

So, if you are struggling to see results in your resolution workouts, I’ll ask you again – are you sweating?

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Stumble

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

Happy New Year everyone!  With the holiday season now at a close, many have wolfed down that last slice of pie, drunk the last glasse of champagne and moved on into resolution mode.  Yes, January brings the deluge of New Year’s resolutions that people swear they are going to live by for the following year – eating better, exercising more are probably the most common.  Inevitably they falter by the end of the week, the month, the season – at which point they throw in the towel to wait for the next turn of the calendar and start the process yet again.

A word of advice.

Give up.

You heard me.

Give.

Up.

This coming Sunday, forget about your New Year’s Resolution to get in shape, and stuff your face at breakfast or dinner with a huge plate of comfort food.  Make sure you wash it down with 2 or 3 alcoholic and/or sugary drinks.

Go ahead.

Do it.

There is no reason to wait until the end of the month or the Winter, or for Summer to stumble and fall off the wagon.  That’s right, I am telling you to get off that wagon this Sunday and indulge.

***

Wait a minute there, Luau!  Aren’t you a proponent of healthy living? Don’t you advocate regular exercise and eating smart?  Aren’t you the one who says anyone, ANYONE can get fit if they want to?  What the Frak is going on here?

***

Hmm.  I guess I should elaborate a little bit, huh?  Notice above I said “breakfast OR dinner”?  I did not mean to take the whole day, or weekend or week.   I did not mean to give up for good.  That would be silly.

No, what I propose is resolving to stumble in your New Year’s Resolutions.

Nobody is perfect, and because of that we can’t do things perfectly all of the time.  Eventually we are bound to stumble.  This is what happens to so many people who make New Year’s Resolutions every January 1st.  The problem is that once they stumble they feel like that’s it.  The shame of failing kicks in and overwhelms.

“It’s over!”

“I can’t do it!”

I’ve seen it before.  Friends will decide that since they fell off the wagon on Saturday, they might as well carry it on through the entire weekend, the following week or even the rest of the year.

“You know, I ate like crap for breakfast and lunch so I’m just gonna complete the trifecta and eat this whole bucket of mashed potatoes and ice cream.”

A lot of people feel like if they fail the first, or second or third time they try to get healthy, they might as well give up because they can’t stick to it.

***

But what if one “stepped” off the wagon as opposed to “falling” off the wagon?  A planned fall, if you will.  Then maybe it’s not quite as bad.  Then maybe, one would have the will power to step back on to the wagon after a single indulgent meal or a single missed workout as opposed to losing a whole weekend or a week or a month or the rest of the year?

Some people call it the 90/10 plan.  The concept is to eat healthfully and exercise regularly 90% of the time and allow yourself to indulge in some guilty pleasures 10% of the time.  The idea being that if you allow yourself to eat junk food and be a couch potato in small doses, you are more likely to remain disciplined  the rest of the time.

A controlled stumble – think about it. If you are walking down the street and you fall, you are a lot less likely to hurt yourself if you fall in a controlled manner.  It is the same with New Year’s Resolutions.

New Year’s Resolutions are fine and dandy.  They can kick-start an active lifestyle, but don’t panic if you fall.  Even if you fall hard.  There is no reason why you can’t get right back up and dust yourself off.  But if you have found that you have had trouble in years past with sticking with it through the year, try the controlled stumble, maybe once every week or two.

My bet is that you’ll find a lot more success down the road in achieving your resolution goals.  It’s not about luck, it’s about determination and planning.

Have fun this Sunday!  I don’t know about you, but I’m plopping myself in front the TV for some NFL playoffs, beer and a bucket of wings!

GO PATS!

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