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Posts Tagged ‘weight loss’

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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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It was 11°F out that morning.

 

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

It’s 35°F outside and I’m walking the kids into school.  I’m in my usual uniform – t-shirt, cargo shorts and flip-flops. 

We walk by a mom who shakes her head.

“You are ridiculous,” she says laughing.  It’s nothing new.  She’s seen me dressed like this during the Winter since Katie was in kindergarten.  I smile, saying, “I just generate the heat from the inside.”

And then it strikes me.

Maybe I’m on to something.

Maybe I’ve come up with the next trend in fitness/health/weigh loss.

But how to cash in on this ridiculous theory?

***

The theory?  It’s simple (and ridiculous, I know) – by sticking with shorts, t-shirt and flip flops through the colder month, my body is forced to generate heat so my core temperature doesn’t drop.  Generating heat requires burning calories.  Burning extra calories means eventual weight loss.  It’s that simple.

I don’t suggest going out in 20° weather and walking around like me if you haven’t done it before.  Just like anything, you need to build up to it – get your engine used to the idea of burning even while at rest.  I’ve been doing it since college, and it took me a few weeks to build up to shorts and a t-shirt level.  Most people assume that I’m from somewhere waaaaaaay up north when they see me walking around mid-winter like it’s a nice, summer day.  Actually, I grew up in South Florida, which, to me, explains why I’m more comfortable this way.  I grew up in shorts, t-shirt and flip flops (when I wasn’t barefoot).

My freshman year in college (in New England) I experienced my first real winter.  That winter, as my gaggle of buddies moved from one fraternity party to the next, I realized just how much of a pain winter clothing was.  Overcoat, gloves, hat, scarf…all of it had to come off when you got to a party.  Then you struggled your way through a sea of people to get a beer, only to then work your way back to your winter clothes to put them back on and move to the next party to do it all over again.

What. A. Pain.

So I stopped bringing the overcoat.  And then the jacket.  Then the scarf, the hat and the gloves.  Even then, when I would get down into the packed fraternity basements, I would still feel overheated, so I finally went to shorts and flip flops.

I haven’t looked back since.

***

Now, before you start with the “you’ll catch a cold” or “you’re gonna get sick” routine that most of you “layerers” say, understand this – cold temperatures do not make people sick.

Germs, bacteria, viruses – they make people sick.  Cold weather will make people’s noses a little more runny due to heat differential, who then wipe their noses with their hands and then touch the things that you eventually touch.  Those that are already sick end up spreading their germs by not keeping their hands clean.  So don’t keep the layers on just because you’re afraid of getting sick.  Just keep your hands clean.

***

So who wants to try a science experiment with me and strip for the winter?  20 minutes a day.  That’s all you need.  And you don’t have to do it all at once.  Use the 30 seconds it takes to walk from the parking lot to the grocery store; the 10 minutes it takes to walk the dog for his morning poop; the 5 minute walk from your train to your job.  Just 20 minutes of cold exposure a day and see what happens. You might find a revved up engine, renewed energy and maybe even a little weigh loss.  If you think of it, take a picture of yourself out there among the “layered” and post it to the Run Luau Run Facebook page.

Happy stripping!

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Why do you run?

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-To My Non-Running Friends –

This is my New Year’s Resolution (please ignore the fact that I just wrote a post about not waiting until New Years to make resolutions):

I want you to start running*.

Here’s my pitch:

It’s gonna hurt.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it.  Even after running for over a year now, the first 1 – 3 miles can still suck whenever I go out for a run.  The likelihood is that over the first couple of months, you will rarely get past 3 miles, and you shouldn’t.  Most of the time it’s gonna stink.  Most of the time it’s gonna hurt.  You’re gonna ask yourself why?  Why are you running these stinking 2-3 mile runs 3 days a week.  Why did you listen to that stupid Luau and start this stupid thing?  Why are you not sleeping in/going to bed early/lounging on the couch/cuddling with your significant other?  Why Luau Why?

Wrong questions.

Look at the people who have crossed the threshold.  The looks on their faces when they are done with a run should be all the answer and motivation you need.  It feels good.  It makes them happy.  The first 1-3 miles become an entrance fee – an investment in the run, if you will.  If the payoff wasn’t worth it, they wouldn’t be doing it.

That’s it.

That’s my pitch.

Tell yourself whatever you need to get past the first few months; to get to the point where you can run 5-6 miles comfortably 3 or 4 times a week.  That’s when you really start to see the payoff physically.  Tell yourself that you need to get in shape.  Tell yourself that you want to be at your child’s graduation.  Tell yourself that you want to be able to walk your daughter down the aisle when she get married.  Tell yourself that you want to hold your special person’s hand when you are both in your 80’s.  Tell yourself whatever the hell is takes to get yourself to that 6 mile mark.

Once you’re there you won’t have to tell yourself anything.  Your body will tell you.  It will tell you it’s time to run, it’s time to let the horses out.  It won’t be a fight to get your butt off the couch.

BUT…

You’re going to need a plan.  You’re going to need support.  Sometimes the simplest of plans can work.

A simple log.

Keep track of every mile and all of the food you eat.  It’s not nearly as hard as you think.  If you have a smartphone there are plenty of apps that will record both for you.  Otherwise, a small pad and mini-pen will work just fine.  The simple act of keeping a log can steer you towards healthier habits.  That is what worked for me.  I dropped the food log about 2 months in when I realized that my eating habits overall were just fine except for the second full plate of dinner I was having every night.  As soon as I stopped going back for seconds and thirds every night, the pounds melted away.  I have kept a workout log since November 2008.  Two nights ago I proudly logged my 1,329th mile of running for 2009.

Start slowly.  1-3 miles per run, 3 times a week.  Try to follow the 10% percent rule, building your weekly mileage just a little at a time.  Set a goal for yourself for the year.  400 miles.  It may sound like a lot.  That’s because it is.  But if you break it down, it comes down to a little over 33 miles a month – that’s just a touch over a mile a day.  You can find an average of 15 minutes a day.

You will stumble.  You will have days, maybe even weeks where it all falls apart.  It’s inevitable and it’s okay.  But as long as you get back up, you will be fine.  Stay determined, stick with your plan and you will be rewarded.  When you hit the 5-6 miles per run average, you will see the changes in the mirror.

As for support, you can always find it here.  I am more than happy to help.  Even better, you can find it on websites like dailymile or even Twitter where you will find an instant group of friends who will support and cheer you on.  They will help you when you are down, and celebrate when you are up.

My goal this year is to get you to start running.

For my running friends:  My goal is to get you to get 10 of your non-running friends to start running regularly in 2010.  If 40 of you get 10 of your friends to start running and they do the same next year, and so on, we can have this whole nation running by 2016.  Healthcare reform?  We won’t need it!  It starts now.

*If you can’t run, then bike or swim or cardio-kickbox.  Whatever it is that will get you eventually exercising regularly 3-4 hours a week.

Email me here ( runluaurun )  if you would like to leave a non-public comment/question or leave a comment in the comment section:

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Oh no!  Not the dreadmill…

– My friend Mollie when asked last Spring if I should run outside in the rain or on the treadmill

It’s been about a year now that I have been running regularly.  During that time I’ve had an on again off again affair with the treadmill.  The treadmill is what got me into running.

Last November when my wife proclaimed that she had signed up for a half marathon…on the Cape…in the middle of February…I decided that I was not going to let her run it alone.  Up until that point in my adult life I had run in fits and starts – a month here, a few weeks there – but never more than a couple of months at a time.  I was in relatively good shape.  At six feet tall and weighing in at 205, I was doing okay for myself.  I exercised sporadically but ate well.  The idea of 13.1 miles, never mind in the dead of winter, was daunting to say the least, but if my wife was going to do then I was going along for the ride.

So I started running.

I looked at the treadmill we had bought when we first moved into our house but decided to run outside.  A good friend from down the street had told me about a 3 mile loop in our neighborhood so I decided to give that a try.  I reached the halfway point in just under 15 minutes, gasping for air.  The realization that I had to do that all over again was awful.  Once I got home, I very quickly decided that until I got my legs under me, I was sticking to the treadmill where no one could see me.  It didn’t hurt that the weather was starting to turn and the fall television season was kicking into gear.  So I ran – 2 miles here, 3 miles there.  For about two weeks this was my training – 2 or 3 miles, 3 days a week.

Then something happened.  I woke up on a Wednesday morning with a mild headache (too much poker and tequila the night before) and contemplated skipping my run.  I thought of my poor wife running that half marathon* alone and dragged myself down to the treadmill.

3 miles in and I was actually feeling kind of good. 

Huh – maybe I’ll do one more mile.

After which I felt even better.

Let’s see if I can do five.

Wow!  I was feeling great. 

Alright, just one more.

Just as I finished the sixth mile I realized I had 5 minutes to pick up the kids from school.  Who knows how far I would have run that day.  Point is, something clicked.

I was hooked.

I very rapidly – too rapidly – went from 8 – 10 mile weeks to 20 then 30 then 40 mile weeks.  That 10% rule?  Yeah, completely ignored it.  I would eventually pay for my speedy rise in miles months later, but in the meantime I had found something that I loved.  I couldn’t wait to drop off the kids and then go home and pound out 6, 8, 10, 12 miles on the treadmill.  I would put my favorite shows on the TV and just zone out (it actually helped that at the time my wife was into shows like the bachelor and such because I’d end up having to record my favorites and watch them later).  On the DVR my favorite dramas would last about 44 minutes which turned out to be the perfect amount of time for me to log in 6 miles.  Double feature of Chuck and Lost?  Perfect for a 12 mile day.  I loved the combo of the treadmill and the DVR.  It didn’t hurt that in 3 months I lost 25 pounds.

But then Spring returned and the television season ended.  I finally discovered what running outside was all about.

Wow!

Having built up the leg strength and stamina didn’t hurt either.  How peaceful and meditative it was to be able to glide 6 – 10 miles outdoors.  Soon thereafter I discovered the Vibram Five Finger Unshoe (as my wife calls them) and that was it: the treadmill and I were officially broken up and I wasn’t ever going back.  The one place that I have found difficulty running in my Vibrams is on the treadmill.  It just doesn’t work for me.  So that was it – no more treadmill.

I ran all summer outside in my Vibrams.  I became a Vibrams/Born to Run apostle.

But then the swine flu decided to pay a visit to my house last week.  Just in time for Thanksgiving.

Oh, joy.

My wife was down for the count.  Kids were home from school.  I managed to get out of the house for one short run, but I was afraid to leave the house for a much needed longer run.

So I peeked downstairs and looked at our old treadmill.  I checked the DVR and whaddaya know, 2 new episodes of Numb3rs.

What to do, what to do.

I had recently done a short 5 mile barefoot run on the treadmill, but the mechanics of it just didn’t work for me.  I went to my closet, opened the door and stared at my old running shoes.

Ugh.  Really?  Am I going to put those clunkers on?

I did.

I felt somewhat ashamed putting on regular running shoes, but I had no choice.  If I was going to stay well I had to run, and I had to stay close to take care of the sick family.

In 7 days I put in 63 miles.  Yes, on the treadmill, in regular running shoes.   I know….the horror!!! It was a perfect storm of sick family members and early bedtimes for the wife.  If I was going to sit and watch TV while everyone slept, I might as well do it on the treadmill.  63 miles in 7 days and no pain.  I’m pretty sure that running barefoot style has finally fixed my form.

So are the treadmill and I back together?  Heaven’s no! But at least now I know I can fall back on her if the world conspires to keep me off the road…and maybe the regular running shoe isn’t quite as evil as I thought it was.

*We never did run the half marathon on the Cape this year, but with a couple of half’s and a full under my belt, I’m seriously contemplating doing the full.  Stay tuned.

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