Health & Fitness Tips
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PROACTIVE SUMMER – TIPS TO KEEP IT WITH FEWER WORKOUTS
You worked hard for that summer body and now it is time to enjoy your vacation. You’ll be busy at the beach, hiking the woods, backpacking Europe or staying at home relaxing and won’t want to spend all your time at the gym. So how do you stop that summer body from slipping backwards into winter body mode again? Pay attention because here are some simple truths about staying fit that you can actually apply year-round but that you’ll find particularly helpful this swimsuit season.
1) If You’re Already Fit You Can Take a Breather. I’m not saying you can stop working out altogether – but you CAN dial it back a little. You got there. Your waistline is tiny, your muscles are toned and (presumably) you aren’t interested in bulking up like a body builder. So you have earned the right to not train seven days a week and to not spend two hours on your workouts when you do train. Unless you’re an athlete preparing for an event, you can switch to three or four days a week and cut back to an hour a day.
2) Maintain Through Caloric Intake. Many go on a summertime food plan. Meals consist of salads, fresh fruit, lean protein, gallon jugs of water. There is no reason at all to be unhappy with this diet (frankly, year round). It can, though, be difficult to stick to a summertime healthy diet when attending barbecues and cookouts with other summertime foods like potato salad, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, pasta salad, deviled eggs and every single chip and dip in the book (please note that most of these foods involve mayonnaise in some way, OMG no). Then there is the matter of cakes, brownies, cupcakes, pies and ice cream, all of which are served at every picnic, pool party, Fourth of July blow out and birthday bash. Beware of the frosted drinks – they are loaded with sugar. Eat healthy meals before going to the party, pick one or two things to eat at the party (that your host made, not that someone else brought) and make sure your host sees you eating their cooking. And, at home, stay on your personal food plan. It will keep you healthy and your waistline trim.
3) Party With Purpose. It’s no secret that alcohol is filled with empty calories. The ingredients in various drinks you will consume at parties range from grain to sugar , from potato to corn. If you are a health enthusiast you probably wouldn’t eat some of the things from which alcoholic beverages are made; so why put them in your body with the added ingredient of alcohol? Because summertime is for socializing and socializing centers around drinking. So choose which parties and events you really want to go to, nurse those drinks and hydrate. Not only will you avoid a lot of unwanted calories (and waking up bloated, with no abs) you will be able to remember what a great time you had with your friends the night before.
4) Employ Shock Value. When you train year round your body becomes accustomed to the workout. When the workout changes, the climate changes. The body gets a little shock to the system and has to wake up to do this new work, with which it is unfamiliar. So pick a new routine. Instead of spending the summer weight lifting, change to body weight training. Instead of doing the cardio training you do the other eight months of the year, try interval training (By the way, I recommend 25 minutes on the cardio machine of your choice: 5 minute warm up, 90 seconds of moderate speed, 30 seconds of balls to the wall speed – keep this going for 20 minutes and cool down. It’ll keep the adipose tissue off). Instead of training in a gym, run on the beach, mountain bike, play sports, chase your dog, your kids, your husband. Just make a change. Emotionally, it’ll feel like you’re having fun. Physically, it’ll feel like you’re working out.
5) Birds of a Feather. Studies have shown that, by hanging out with other people who share your interest in health and fitness, you are less likely to be exposed to all the fatty foods and drinks that become a risk for you in the summer. The people with whom you are chillin’ will most likely not serve these foods, not order them in restaurants and will inspire you to not indulge in the calories when you are with them. I’m not saying you need to restrict your acquaintances in a superficial way based on their looks; I’m just telling you that this is a technique applied by some that seems to work for them.
6) Catch Some Z’s. It’s summer. Rest. If you are well rested, you are starting ahead of the curve. Don’t party so much that you are losing sleep. Make sure that you are caring for your body in this most important way and you will have less overall work to do, health and fitness wise. After a night, a week, a month of solid sleeping, you and your body can conquer the world.
Now, what are you waiting for? Spring is on the way out and Summer is right around the corner. Go get started on your base tan! Use sunscreen! And don’t fall asleep lying in the sun with your phone on your naked belly. Trust me on that one.
My latest story as Health and Fitness columnist for EDGE Magazine.
Five Rules When PICKING Out a Gym
So you’re finally ready to start working out. Or maybe it’s time to move to a gym that is more suited to your personal style. You’ve logged on and done a search for the gym of your dreams and you’ve looked at the websites. Now it is time to go on a tour of the training facilities available to you. What are you going to look for during this process? What will help you decide where you’re going to spend your hard earned money and hard to find free time?
- Location Location Location. People are more likely to go to the gym if it is easy to get there. Pick a gym that is near your home so that you can go first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Investigate places that are on your way to work so you can stop by in transit to and from the job. If you have to drive a long distance or spend a lot of time on public transportation just to get your training facility, chances are you will miss more workouts during the week. So before you sign on the dotted line, ask yourself: will you go?
- Stock Up. Does the gym you choose have the equipment you will use? Will it meet your needs? Will you use the unique amenities or are you paying for something you won’t use? There are those who need very few amenities, requiring little more than a basement with some free weights and a locker room. Others are more interested in the steam room, the pool, the Jacuzzi, towel service, tanning bed and juice bar (Equinox is well admired for their amenities). Many have stopped weight training in favor of TRX and balance work. Some are more comfortable if there is a circuit that the gym has created for you, one that you can walk in the door, follow the instructions and walk out 40 minutes later (Planet Fitness has such a circuit). Maybe you need a gym that has a lot of equipment so you don’t have wait for a machine, ever (LA Fitness is one of those gyms – lots of machines, little waiting). If you like to do yoga, you may want to make sure that there is, in fact, a quiet space with mats where you can do this; it is pretty uncomfortable having to do yoga in a corner that you stake out next to the squat racks. Check to see if there is a runners’ track or a racquetball room. Maybe the gym has a massage therapist. Ask about every service and every amenity. I’ve even been in gyms that have a DJ.
- Put On a Happy Face. Does the gym fit a demographic you will be comfortable around? There are lifter gyms and there are housewife gyms. There are boutique gyms and there are college gyms. Be certain that when you walk in the door you will not feel out of place, something that might cause you to skip going to the gym. Many of my clients tell me they are reluctant to go to the gym because the people there are intimidating; they are afraid of being judged. I believe that, when people see you at the gym the only thing that they will think about you is that it is great you are there. We’re all there to make ourselves healthier and they will respect that. However, if you don’t feel comfortable enough around the jocks, the kids, the homemakers, the businessmen, whoever it is you are working out alongside, the truth is, you won’t want to go. Now you just wasted all that money on a membership that you aren’t using.
- Cleanliness is Next to Godliness. When you go to check out the gym, go just after a peak hour and see if the place is tidy or if the lunch crowd or evening rush made more mess than the staff can keep up with. There are few things as disheartening as working out in a gym where nobody puts the weights back so that you have to go on an Easter Egg hunt just to do your training. Also unpleasant is walking into a locker room where towels are constantly strung out on the floor, the benches, the countertops and shower curtain rods. And take a good deep breath. If it smells when you are doing your walk through, you can bet the facility is not getting a good scrub down at regular intervals during the day. Some gyms are nice enough to leave sanitary wipe containers throughout the gym so people can wipe down the equipment after using it (not all of them but it has become the norm) – look into that.
- The Devil’s in the Details. Know what you’re signing up for. Know what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line. Ask questions. Read fine print. Make sure that you understand all the loop holes in the contract. Sales people can talk really fast, sometimes faster than we can listen. Don’t let them. Tell them to slow their roll and then ask questions as they come up – don’t save them for later. Take notes. Ask them to explain it again. Don’t let them hit you with extra charges later. Know what day of the month their direct withdrawal is going to hit your bank account. Keep a record of the start and end date of your contract. Before you sign a piece of paper and give them your routing number, know that your bank account will be protected from additional charges and potential late fees when they dip into your account just after you’ve paid the mortgage and electricity bill. Your ability to enjoy the gym where you spend two hours a day, six days a week will be greatly affected if their management style causes you undue stress.
Now you’ve chosen your gym. It’s YOUR gym. It is where you will be spending a lot of time; and you want that time to be happy. So get some headphones for your treadmill time or a workout buddy for your hour of lifting; or go to the gym alone and make new friends.
Go to the gym, be healthier, be happier and have a good time.Details
If you’re finding it difficult to stick to that exercise plan you made at the start of the year, if your interest has waned or the winter weather has got you down, have you considered the difference that having a work out buddy could make to your training? Workout partners are a great tool for a successful gym experience; just look around you the next time you are training and you’ll see that many people work out with a friend or even a group of friends. Maybe it’s time to forgo going solo and invite over some company.
- The Partnership. It’s important to choose the right friend with whom you will be training. Not everyone is good at group training and if you pick a bud who doesn’t take direction well, you may find yourself working out with someone who’s got their back up all the time. Pick a close friend who has a mindset like yours who will find it fun to have some companionship and who will appreciate an extra pair of eyes to keep their form perfect, someone who will know when they will need help with that last rep, a friend who will laugh and talk between sets but stay focused when lifting.
- The Routine. Confer with your new partner regarding the scheduling of your sessions. Find a time that is mutually schedule-able and not a time that is likely to leave one of you continually cancelling. Sandwiching your training in between all the other activities in your day does both of your training a disservice. It is easier to stick to something regimented, so look at working out at the same time every day. If you know that your friend is going to get up at five am and travel to the gym, if you know that your mate will be waiting for you after work you will show up for them as much as for yourself. After a little time passes, you will notice that you don’t have to think about it; the routine becomes second nature and you just get up and go.
- The Training. When first you begin working out with your gym spouse, talk about your mutual goals and where each of you would like your training to go. Find the areas in which you both would like to grow and those in which you both have strengths to share with the other. This will insure that you are both challenged and will learn new things; it also gives each of you a sense of empowerment because you know you have something to teach, to share. Do some research online to find exercises that require two people. You don’t even have to go online for this: look around the room and see what others are doing and try out those moves. Observing something new at the gym, figuring it out and applying it to your workouts will be a bonding experience that, greatly, satisfies you both.
- The Progress. When we train we do have specific goals in mind and when we get there, it’s great to have someone with whom to celebrate. A posting on social media that you reached your goal weight or achieved more mass is less satisfying than a high five with your bestie. When you two begin your training, share everything. Weigh in together and take each other’s measurements. Do this regularly and it will help you both to be accountable to yourself and to each other. It will also give you incentive. You want to look good in front of your chum? You want to grow at a rate similar to your pal? Nothing adds incentive quite like a little healthy competition; except a little healthy encouragement. Charting your progress with your best mate will bring both to your workouts.
- The Push. Different people need different motivation. Discover what will push each of you to do your best work at the gym. You will notice that some workout duos or groups at the gym cheer at each other while others yell at one another. You will see workout partners who train while each is wearing headphones; the company is all they need – the company between sets, that is. There are people who just need a calm voice to say “you can do this” when they are on their last two reps of their fourth set, while others need to see your helpful hands on the bar in order to push that final bench press up. Everyone is different – and on different days, too. Be prepared to change your motivational influence when your friend shows up in a bad mood. They may want to eschew the positive feedback in favor of some gunny sergeant yelling. Or they may want to train in relative silence, as opposed to the usual gossiping. When you are working out with a close friend, they can be whoever they feel like being and know that you aren’t judging them. Frankly, so can you, too. Find the healthiest ways to communicate and motivate and you will both win in the end.
The real reward that comes from training with a buddy is more than having a successful gym life and gaining a great body (both, super important): it’s the time spent together with someone you care about, someone whose presence makes your life better. It’s a win-win training system.Details
My assignment for this month was five surefire Resolutions. My editor told me it was an easy edit; I didn’t know exactly how easy until I saw how MUCH of the article got the ax.
This is the story, as originally written, with a screen grab of the story online.
In only a few days people will begin making their resolutions for 2016. A year ends, a year begins and we examine our lives. We look at what we have done, what we should have done, what we didn’t do, what we don’t seem to be able to do; and we ask ourselves what we can do better. Then we set ourselves lofty and difficult to attain goals, only to fall off the Resolution Wagon in only a matter of weeks. What if we didn’t, though? What if we set ourselves goals that weren’t so impossible that, every day, we felt stress to stay on target? What if we were able to make resolutions and stick to them, simply by not demanding the most of ourselves? Lowering the bar to a more human standard, rather than attempting Herculean feats, may just be the answer to the droning hamster wheel that is the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions.
Resolution Number 1: EAT YOUR HEART OUT. The number one New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight. It should be to live a healthier lifestyle but most people choose the verbiage “to lose weight”. There is a psychology behind changing your body composition. It is about more than “going on a diet” or “going to the gym”. You have to recognize a couple things, psychologically, first. 1) You do not want to lose weight. When you lose something, you usually want to find it…your keys, your hat, your gloves. Lost and found. When you lose weight, you hope to not find it again. Put yourself in the position of control and acknowledge that YOU are getting rid of weight. YOU are taking off inches. You are in the position of power. 2) You do not want to deprive yourself of food. Starvation will serve only one purpose: to make you unhappy and send you on a food binge in a matter of days or weeks. You must eat – only eat properly. Having admitted these two things to yourself, you can embark on a quest to change your eating habits. Eat food. Don’t starve. Only don’t set yourself up to fail by deciding to cut out all sugar, remove all dairy, eat no wheat or cut out carbs. It’s too big a task to start with on January first. Instead, try this: change ONE thing in your dietary intake per month; do it for a year. In January, decide to remove the soda pop from your pantry. In February, switch all the potatoes in your diet for sweet potatoes (or yams – these are complex carbohydrates, rather than simple carbs, which is what white potatoes are). In March, agree to eat no fast food. In April, remove the processed foods from your food plan, foods like chips, snack cakes, box pasta dishes, store bought rice dishes and the like. You can do anything for one month—and at the end of each month, you will notice two things: 1) you are feeling better and 2) you don’t crave those foods anymore. .You can take this plan throughout the entire year and, twelve months later, you will find you are eating healthier than you ever have before.
Resolution Number 2: GIVE IT A REST. We are all underslept and that’s no lie. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all that we need to do. We get up early, we go to bed late and we are exhausted. Have you heard the expression ‘running on empty’? How about “running on fumes’? That’s us, the human race. The thing is: most of us treat our cars better than we treat ourselves. We would never drive our nice automobile long distances without putting fuel in the tank, changing the oil, checking the water. Why do we run our bodies into the ground? We burn the wick at two ends and then we find ourselves sick, distracted, exhausted and unhappy. Own that you must do something for yourself; be a little self-centric and tell yourself and the world that you are unavailable. Nobody needs to know why you are unavailable – only that you are. Then, during that time you are unavailable, you sleep. Go to bed earlier. Sleep in. Take a nap. Every single bit of good health begins with sleep. The most effective way to make use of sleep is by going to bed earlier and sleeping for a greater number of consecutive hours. Perhaps going to bed early makes you feel like a child or maybe it makes you feel old. Really, though, who cares? As long as the sleep itself makes you feel refreshed, what else matters? There is a popular book called You Can Heal Your Life. It’s true that you can. It all begins with sleep. The body is capable of anything, with enough rest.
Resolution Number 3: WALK IT OUT. It may be difficult to find time in the day to get to the gym for an hour of cardio and an hour of weight training. Maybe your work is going to run over and you will miss your yoga or latin dance class. What if a number of surprises pop up in your day and that time you had set aside to go hiking disappears. You might have lost that opportunity to use your body and keep the conditioning going but you don’t have to lose the chance altogether. Use your body, during the day, every time you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If it’s three or five flights up, you will get some really good exercise taking that proposal from your office to your colleague’s. Walk to the corner store instead of driving. You’ve been sitting at the computer all day, you need the activity. Take a walk, get some air in your lungs, some sun on your face and bear some weight, use some muscle, save money on gas. Instead of walking the dog, put on some sneakers and run around the block. Both of you can use the exercise. If you actually use your body to do everyday tasks, those missed workouts won’t hurt so much.
Resolution Number 4: TURN IT OFF. There is a growing trend in this country to being Unplugged. We have become so umbilically attached to our devices that we have lost the ability to function in social settings. We don’t know how to pay attention to our loved ones when they are talking. We don’t notice how little activity our bodies are getting because all we do is sit or stand, looking at our phones, tablets, laptops, PCs and whatever other devices have been invented since I sat down to write this article. Unplugging is about more than not being rude to the people around us: it’s about being good to yourself. The stress put on our hearts and brains from all the information being fed into us is detrimental. The stress being put on our eyes is epic. It is a fact of life that we must look at these screens of varying sizes and take in this information of varying import more hours of the day than not. So why not limit the amount of stress by simply knowing when to take some time off? It doesn’t have to be an hour. Maybe you could leave your phone on your desk just for the duration of meals. Perhaps you could decide to not look at your device for the last half hour before bed or the first half hour that you are awake. What if you powered down for the duration of the play or the movie you are seeing? It will give your eyes, your brain and your stress filled heart a rest, however brief. Hey, it might even strengthen your relationships a little more, too.
Resolution Number 5: CHOOSE YOURSELF. Don’t make a resolution for the wrong reason. Don’t make any resolution for how others might perceive you or judge you. Make your resolutions to make your life better. Make your resolutions in a way that will be easy for you to succeed. Change one small thing at a time: one food change a month, one extra hour of sleep a night, one walk upstairs or around the block a day, one meal without a phone a day – all these small changes will add up to a changed feeling and attitude after awhile; and when you start to feel those changes, you will get greedy for them and it will be easier to take the change to the next level. Know, with each change, that you did this for yourself. We’re not in high school anymore. We don’t need to impress one another. The changes we make to better our lives are us telling ourselves that we are worthy of living happier, healthier lives and longer lives, too. Of course, the longer lives thing is something we do for ourselves and our loved ones. After all, we can’t see to them until we have, first, seen to ourselves. Choose yourself, every day in the New Year. Then check in with me in twelve months and let me know how your feel.Details
It is with great regularity that I hear people say that they hate going to the gym. At first I thought they hated exercising; but then I started asking for more clarification on the statement. Yes, some of those people do hate exercising but not all of them. A lot of people love to exercise – they just don’t want to do it in a gym. For some people a gym membership is too costly; for others the gym atmosphere is intimidating. If you are in the right gym, it can be downright irritating. Or maybe a person just likes the great outdoors. For whatever reason, training outside of the gym is on the rise and there are a lot of options open to everyone!
Train at Home. With all of the different varieties of workout dvds, all you need is a television set and a large living room. You will need some tools to follow each specific workout but the cost of those instruments is small. If you are interested in training in yoga or pilates you will need a yoga matt, a strap, maybe a yoga block. Pilates dvds require a matt and a toning ring. All of this is easily stored and portable (in case you want to go workout in the park). If weightlifting is more your style, you can buy adjustable weights (Bowflex and Powerblock are popular among weightlifters) or, if just starting out, buy light handweights at Modells or Sports Authority. If space is a concern, skip the weights and use resistance bands. A doorjam pullup bar will come in handy, as will a yoga ball. Homeowners who don’t have to deal with the restrictions of apartment life might go a step further by turning their garage, basement or spare room into a home gym. That involves more money but it brings more options: a flatbench, more weights, a machine like a bike or a treadmill – the options open to you are varied and many, depending on your income and your space. Of course, the upside to being an apartment dweller is you don’t need a treadmill: there is a staircase to run up and down and it is really effective.
Train Outdoors. If there is a park or a playground, there is a gym. All you need is an open space and a gym bag with some accessories. When training outdoors, I use park benches to do step-ups, jungle gyms to do pull-ups and I run on the track. I travel with an agility ladder, a jump rope, resistance bands and a medicine ball. You can put together a great interval circuit, using these things to work legs, upper body and do cardio. The resistance bands come in, particularly, handy because you can wrap them around a tree or a jungle gym to do standing presses or you can hook them over a tree branch or jungle gym to do pulldowns. You can do a bicep superset by doing resistance band outside curls and jungle gym bicep pullups. You can do a tricep superset using the park bench for dips and the resistance bands for overhead extensions. The great thing about training out of doors is that you set the tone of your work – it can be anything you want; and you get fresh air in your lungs and sun on your face. It’s like playtime, only as a grown up.
Take a Class. Thanks to Living Social and Groupon, there are tons of thirty or forty dollar classes you can take that won’t necessitate your buying a gym membership. See if you can hook a bootcamp class. It’s fun, you will learn new things and the people there aren’t your usual gym fare. They, like you, went in search of this specific learning experience. They will be there to learn, not to judge. If you can get an outdoor bootcamp, it will be doubly beneficial. Take a yoga class, a pilates class or a boxing class. You will usually get somewhere around 8 or 10 lessons for your thirty bucks and you might make some new friends while in the process of learning something new.
Personal Trainer Dan Tracy is an expert on gymless training. He offered the following advice from his upcoming book: “It’s much easier to procrastinate your workouts if you exercise at home, so it’s crucial to establish a schedule beforehand and stick to it. Turn your phone on airplane mode, turn off your internet; do whatever it takes to force yourself into a routine. If you can, do it in the morning, too. Most people have a lot more willpower earlier in the day.”
Model Patrick Cronen left the gym life five years ago and is more built than ever. He offers “If you’re not venturing out to a gym, your kitchen is always right next door. Grab for water and apples on an empty stomach, space your meals out 3 – 4 hours with an alarm. Keep your meals 70% leafy and you’ll still see great gains. Your rest day is so that your body can recharge, reorganize and regrow stronger. Take a walk, take an Epsom bath but leave the weights for your next lift day.”
As for me: when I began my life in health and fitness, I bought a copy of The United States Marine Corps Workout by Flach and Peck. I was thinking about the drills they do outside and how an outdoorsy guy like me could make the most of my time away from the gym. It set the tone for my gymless training and I cannot recommend the volume, more. The exercises are timeless classics, tried and true and without gimmick. Time in the gym is great but some days you just gotta go outside to play.Details
For awhile now I have been a contributing writer for an internet magazine called EDGE. It is primarily a gay publication focusing on gay issues and interests; but I have always been encouraged, by my editor, to write in a manner that is about seventy percent gay, thirty percent universal – no point in anyone feeling excluded, right? And I totally agree with that philosophy. The magazine can only be read on an Ipad and mine is a story that appears in a scroll window so that the reader must scroll down to read it. I don’t have an Ipad, so I have to download the issue and screengrab my story. Sadly, that means I cannot see the scroll portion of the text.
I have been a bit sad not to be able to read the final edit of my stories. I know that everything gets edited — I just would like to see how. Still, even though I do not get to actually read my stories, I have seen my name alongside them and been satisfied.
When I got the download for the September issue, I noticed that my name is not alongside my story and that the title has been changed to indicate that there are only five tips, rather than the six I submitted, to keeping your swimsuit body during sweater weather. Ah well. That’s life. The opening paragraph is the same, more or less, so I know it’s my story.
So, for anyone interested, here is the original story, as submitted, on how to keep your summer body now that autumn is here.
SUMMER BODY, WINTER CLOTHES
Summer is drawing to its’ close. You can feel it in the air. You’ve had those great three months of showing off your summer body at the beach, at the pool, at the lake. In fact, anywhere you can, you’ve been showing off that hot bod you worked so hard to get so that you could show it off during the summer months. Soon it will be sweater weather and people will be wondering what’s under YOUR sweater. The answer is simple: your summertime swimsuit body. You will know, with confidence, that anytime your sweater comes off, people will still be admiring your swimsuit body. Here’s how to do it:
1) Don’t Wear Sweaters. Just because it is sweater weather doesn’t mean you have to wear one. In fact, continue to wear body hugging clothing that shows off your shape. If you want to wear clothing that is going to be season appropriate, at least wear autumnal warms that will hug your muscles and taught skin and show you off. When there is less of a chance to hide under a sweater, you won’t fall prey to the habit of seasonal eating and weight gain.
2) Change Nothing. Continue to eat the way you eat now. Your summertime food plan has worked wonders for you this year and you are in the best shape of your life. Since it is working for you, why not just keep letting it work for you. Don’t fall into the old habit of allowing yourself pumpkin spiced ice cream, latte, muffins, scones and other food items that only pop up every fall. Don’t snack on the Halloween candies, Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies. Simply stay the course of your true diet and avoid the holiday pounds.
3) Change Everything. Adopt new workouts. It is true that autumn and winter is a time when bodies change. The body, naturally, needs more insulation during cold months. So adapt your workout with the weather. Take advantage of your body’s natural change by hiring a trainer to help you build even more muscle; or by starting with a new sports group. Take up rugby, soccer or football. Join Class Pass and experiment with boxing, dance or yoga. Continue to learn and grow and stretch your body and your mind by learning new things. The shock to the system will cause great gains in your physique – gains you will want to show off.
4) Actually Go Swimming. If you are a member of a gym with a pool, make use of it. It is the greatest all-round exercise your body can get. It will keep you toned, strong and lean. It will also be easier for you, psychologically, to stay in your optimum shape if you have to be seen in public in your swimsuit every day.
5) Adopt a Lifestyle. If you watch the extremely popular show American Ninja Warriors, you know that the athletes who participate are in incredible shape. Many of the die hards talk about how they train 365 days a year. Most Olympic athletes train the same way. They have a plan, a goal and a lifestyle. When you make health and fitness your lifestyle and not just something you kind of, sort of commit to so that you can look good during swimsuit season or for any other specifically timed event, it is easier to fall off of the health and fitness wagon, to land face first in foods that you wouldn’t even consider eating during the summer months, not to mention a lethargy that costs you all that muscle you worked so hard to make. If, however, you prioritize your health and fitness as a lifestyle, it becomes second nature; like breathing, like waking in the morning and going to the bathroom, like holding your spouse’s hand as you fall asleep. You have to, though, make the decision that it is, in fact, your lifestyle.
6) Make it All About You. Moment of truth: when we work hard to look good, it is usually for other people. If those other people like the way we look, they will validate us and the work will have been worth the effort. That is a, repeatedly, proven fact, simply given the way people and the media talk about looking good. If, though, you make your health and fitness about being healthy, living healthily, feeling better, living a great life, you are focusing your energy on yourself; and if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you be sure anyone else will? If you do this for yourself, you will suffer the added benefits of looking great, being admired and learning how to validate yourself. When you awaken each day and choose to live a healthy life of exercise and clean eating, you choose yourself. What could be better than choosing yourself? You cannot care for anyone else unless you are well cared for, first.
As quickly as this summer has gone by, the months of sweaters, scarves, coats and covering up will, so, go; and before you know it you will be training, once more, to look good in your 2016 swimsuit. Why not start that training now and simply show up at the beach with people asking why you never age, just because you look exactly the same as you did last summer.
Recently I was asked what I do with my personal workouts that varies from what my clients do. My answer was actually a bit boring but it was true: everyone has a different workout. Oh, sure, there are a lot of things that will fit into everyone’s training. For example, I think everyone can benefit from good old fashioned pushups and situps (or, at least, core work because situps don’t work with everyone’s back). I think everyone, male and female, young and old, should do squats; and I think everyone should get down with regular cardio work. From that starting point, you can cut your suit to fit your cloth. Build your own workout – and that includes the fuel that you use when you train.
I was taught by a man who is extremely old school when it comes to training: eat clean, workout hard and sleep it off. During my training with Ray Scalvino, there came a day when I asked him about protein shakes to which he replied “why not go all the way and just drink cake batter?” So, for the most part, I have tended toward staying away from protein shakes. That is not to say that I don’t use them from time to time – for example, when I am craving something. Your body tells you when it needs something and sometimes I get cravings for sugar, a substance I prefer to shun. The best way for me to deal with it is a protein shake that incorporates banana, peanut butter and a chocolate protein powder – whichever brand the gym shake bar uses. I like this flavor combination and I do it with water, avoiding dairy always, and it is usually something that I do POST workout, when I need to refuel and replace glycogen in my body. Before my training is a different matter, though.
My favourite workouts happen at five am. I rise at 4:30 and land at the gym at five. I’ve been sleeping and need fuel but I won’t want too much in my stomach when I hit the jump rope. So I tend to have a cup of green tea with a small (pre baked) sweet potato and a cup of eggwhites (pasteurized All Whites is my preferred brand) – yes, I just drink them but people who are against this practice can feel free to scramble theirs. This combination fuels me through my two hour workout (one hour lifting, one hour cardio) and by the time I reach home I can chow down on some oatmeal, which carries me through the morning and into my day. The preparation of the oats is important, though, because of my no dairy no sugar thing. This is where Protein powder really comes in handy. I boil down whole raw oats or Irish steel cut oats in water with some cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla; when it is nearly ready to take off the stove I add a small diced granny smith apple and, once in the bowl, I put in two scoops of protein powder. It’s tasty, packed with nutrition and filling. This is the way my trainer, Ray, taught me and since he is the Rolls Royce of personal trainers, I listened, learned and live by his guidance. The thing you really want to do is research the protein powders (indeed all supplements) you take and make sure that they are as clean and natural as you can get. Don’t put chemicals and fillers in your body. Keep it clean.
As far as the workouts themselves go, I have a structure by which I like to work but it should be said that it is only an outline and that it can change, day to day, depending upon my mood, the time available to me, any injuries I might be nursing and how adventurous I am feeling. The most important thing is just getting there. Consistency is the key to a good health and fitness regimen. As the saying goes: just do it. That’s why I like five am workouts. You wake up, you do it. It’s like breathing. You wake up, you pee, you train. Just do it. It has to be second nature. Some days I wake up and want to be in nature so I make my workout an hour long run outdoors. Other days I wake up and feel stiff so I make my training an hour of yoga. Most days I wake up and want to lift weight. I love lifting. I’m in my fifties and have sustained many injuries in my life, so I don’t lift as heavy as I once did but I think everyone knows that it isn’t about how much you lift – it’s about how you use what you got. Some days I like to get the heaviest weight I can push and do five or six sets of eight reps. Other days I like to go with a lighter weight at four sets of twenty five reps. Authentically: it won’t matter what you do as long as you get to the gym and do something. I have found that, for me, changing the routine keeps my body guessing what the heck is going on and I rarely plateau. I’d like to say that changing it up keeps the training from becoming boring but I love my training and am never bored by it. If someone is the kind of person who does get bored with exercise, then switching it up is definitely what they will want to do, especially with cardio because it can be so repetitive. Any cardio that you do on a machine is going to be repetitive. If that bores you, change it every time. For me, a regular schedule is to lift three alternating days and follow that lifting with an hour of cardio, then fifteen minutes of stretching. On the two day s between them, I do cardio and stretching. Saturday and Sunday are wildcard days but I know that either will be a day of training and the other will be a day of rest. It’s so important. You cannot catch up on the sleep you have lost; once it’s gone, it’s gone.
At the time that I was asked about my training regimen, I was also asked how I feel about music during workouts. I’ve actually written about this in the past so I had an opportunity to ask many people about their training playlists. The most die hard of lifters use no headphones in their training: the music, for them, is the sound of the weights hitting the floor, their regulated breathing and the beating of their hearts. Others with whom I spoke play everything from NPR to club music, rock and roll to showtunes. It is, entirely, a personal thing and all that matters is that the music in your headphones spurs you on. My personal workout tastes lead me to club music with heavy thriving beats, though there are times that I really need an extra push so I use angry movie soundtracks – usually from one of the BOURNE films.
I suppose what I have discovered most about a life in health and fitness is that with consistency comes great reward. If you train five or six days a week, you’re doing better than most of the public. If you eat six meals a day, seven times a week that’s forty two meals – if thirty eight of those meals are clean eating, you’re doing better than most people. If you miss a day at the gym or opt out of clean eating for a meal, don’t get in your head about it: just start again the next day. Yesterday doesn’t matter. Every day that you wake up and get back on track is the good. Each day that you get up and stay on target is a day for which you can be thankful and about which you can feel proud. And the bonus is that you will also be happy.
Now, who doesn’t want to be happy?Details
My editor said he wanted a story on training the back – an area of the body with which I have had a lot of work to do. This is the story and the screen grab from EDGE MAGAZINE, where it appeared.
Everyone likes to train their chest and their arms because those body parts are right up front, where everyone can see them! Body builders and serious gym enthusiasts train everything; but they probably aren’t reading this story right now — they are at the gym training. Those people love to train their back because, even though you can’t see it, everyone else can and who doesn’t want people saying to themselves “look at that back!” while they’re walking away. I’m going to give you a few modifications that my own trainer taught me on making your back workout more effective.
1. Chin-up/Pull-up: Accept and own that you must do these. Many people who are just starting out (or even people who have been doing this for awhile) think it’s too difficult and they skip past it, preferring to do pull downs, where they can set a smaller weight and jerk the bar with all their might, using all their body weight to rock the bar down to their body with an imperfect form that accomplishes nothing. Just tell yourself you have to do it and that you will do it and get up on the horse. If you’re worried about people watching you and judging you because you can’t do a pull-up, get over it. Everyone that trains had to do their first pull-up and they feel your pain. If you are working alone, start out with the assisted pull-up machine; if you don’t know how to use it, ask someone. If you are working with a trainer or a buddy, have them spot you and give you an assist when you lose steam. Don’t quit, ever. Finish your set. You will be surprised at how quickly you get stronger.
2. Chin-up/Pull-up part two: Once you have mastered the chin-up, mix it up. You will need a machine that has different grips – the traditional chin up bar can be found in most gyms but gyms that focus on serious lifting will have a chin up bar that features two extra grips at dead center, right over your head, one wider than the other – you are going for the grip that is exactly at your shoulder-width apart. Start with a wide-grip, traditional, chin-up with full range of motion and perfect form. Do as many as you can. When you can do no more, step into line with the inside grips, step back into a half lunge with one leg, prepare and jump up, grabbing the grips and lifting your whole body up above the bar. Continue to do the chin-ups this way until you have done 25 total. Do this for four sets and watch your lats blow up.
3. Deadlifts: You can do deadlifts with dumbbells or a barbell. My trainer taught me a form that took me a few tries to get right but, once I did, I knew I was working. The most important part of the exercise is the form, not the weight (this is true of every weight lifting exercise but it is especially true when you are working your lower back). With your barbell weighted up and in place, stand with feet hip distance apart, take hold of the bar just outside of your ankles; bring the bar in really close to your shins and get ready to lift. Your ankles are at 90 degrees, your hips push way out back (as though you are about to sit down) so that your shins are perpendicular to the floor, flatten your back and raise your chest (a lot of people are too back-rounded), deadlift up with the bar so close to the shin that it’s like it is riding up your body. Use every muscle: push through the heel, squeeze the glutes, engage the lumbar, keep the chest up and bring the shoulders back, at the top. This is going to really strengthen your lower back and glutes and that will help all your back workouts to stay safe, increasing your growth capabilities. When I do this, I use a 45 lb plate on either side and do 6 sets of 10.
4. Curl Bar One Arm Rows: This is just like doing one arm rows, right and left, with a dumbell but if you do it with a barbell, you have to really focus on balancing that long weight. It just ups your game a little. In case you aren’t familiar with the one arm row: put your left knee and left hand on a weight bench, right foot planted on the floor (I always have a slight bend in my knee) and right hand holding the weight. Flat back! Hips back! Now row that weight! Do four sets of 20, each side; so pick a weight you can handle. You’ll love the way you feel.
5. Face Pulls: This isn’t a power move and it certainly isn’t an ego lift. This is a valuable training move to prevent injury, a move that is respected by serious lifters who know how much an injury can set you back. You will need a rope and a pulley station, where you will attach the rope at chest level. Using an overhand grip, hold both ends of the rope (your knuckles will be facing the walls), stepping back until the arms are outstretched; stagger your feet and bend your knees slightly, for a better support base. Pull the rope center toward your face, separating the two portions of the rope so that the rope comes to the bridge of your nose and your hands are alongside your temples, hands rotated so that the knuckles now face the ceiling. Elbows up! Make like you are squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades, holding for a few seconds. Using your control and the natural resistance, release the weight back to starting position and start again. The arms are all that moves; you don’t need to adjust your head or any part of your body to meet the rope – just move the arms and use those back muscles. Light weight is good – remember, this is a move to strengthen and prevent injury, not one to grow and show. Natch, I like to do four sets; ten to fifteen reps is good – but twenty is better!
On a personal note: I broke my back a few years ago (not the bone – it was a muscle snap that took me from standing while putting my palms flat on the floor to not being able to touch my knees) and the road back to back health was eye opening. I learned: train your back, but with respect. Research the moves, use perfect form, stretch (yoga, baby, yoga!), get massages, see a chiropractor and always observe proper posture – the time at the computer is murder on your back. Your back is where it’s at – and having a broad back is a great thing but having a strong back is the healthy thing. Treat this body part with the utmost respect. Trust me!
Here is my recent story on the EDGE website: it’s a recipe that we make at our house that is quite popular. Healthy, too. It is followed by the link to the published version on the website.
My father tells me that the big problem with health and fitness writers’ recipe tips is that they recommend foods that nobody can afford. He pointed out how expensive quinoa is to the average person, as well as other healthy food options. I realize that a lot of people are operating at income levels that don’t permit expensive foods and I want to tip everyone off to a recipe I make at home that falls into my income range, which falls into that of the average person, and it’s really easy to make. It’s my spin on the traditional frittata recipe. At our house we call it egg pie.
Start with a good non stick skillet (which we should all have, anyway) of 10″ – 12″ and you will need a lid that fits the skillet firmly.
Trader Joe’s sells an affordable olive oil cooking spray and they have a really good price on eggwhites (only eggwhites, no seasoning – check the contents, sometimes the manufacturer flavours them up). For one egg pie you will need up to two 16 0z. cartons, though you may end up not using it all.
Heat your skillet to a medium heat, spray with cooking spray and pour one carton of eggwhites into the skillet, fill it with whatever ingredients you like and enough remaining eggwhite to fill almost to the top and cook it, with the lid on, until it is firm. Then off the flame and leave the entire thing to sit and cool until the pie firms up enough that it pulls away from the sides of the pan. Loosen it with a spatula and slide it onto a plate. Serve it warm or let it cool, cut into squares and put it in the fridge as food that is “grab-able”. I need food that is grab-able because I am often on the run and don’t have time to stop and prepare meals.
These are my favourite egg pies:
1) Spinach (either fresh or already cooked down) onion and garlic (either fresh and diced or powdered, depending on how much time I have and how much effort I want to put out) and crushed red pepper flakes. Be aware that, when cut and stored, this egg pie releases water from the cooked spinach – just check the storage container to see if it needs draining.
2) Turkey, tomato and fresh basil. I buy thin sliced turkey cutlets or tenderloins, cook them in any healthy way possible (read: not fried in a skillet) and cut into small pieces. I use cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced and I just take a scissor to the basil leaves and sprinkle them through. I season this with onion and garlic that I use above but you can season any way you like. There are a lot of good sodium free and light seasonings you can get.
3) Sweet egg pie. This is my favourite and extremely popular. You will need some raw almonds and a vanilla protein powder ( I like Designer Whey French Vanilla). Grind them together (I do two cups of almond to one scoop of protein) into an almond meal and set aside. Dice a granny smith apple (I use a Vidalia Chop Wizard – it speeds the process) and set aside. With your blender (I use a Magic Bullet) mix 3/4 of the carton of eggwhites with 1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract (Almond extract is good too), 1 teaspoon of Cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and a tablespoon of honey). Pour into the heated skillet, put in all of the diced apple, sprinkle with the almond meal and use the remaining eggwhite (and more, if you want a thicker pie) to fill the skillet almost to full but NOT full. Drizzle honey all over the pie and put on the lid; cook til firm, off the heat, let sit, cut and serve warm or cold. In summer months I switch out the apple for any other fruits but you have to be aware of the extreme difference in sugar content of various fruits, which is why I use the green apples most of the time.
These egg pies are almost nothing but protein and really affordable to make so I make them all the time. I have to. My husband and friends gobble them up as fast as I can make them, which is a good thing, since I’m trying to get them all to eat as healthy as I do.Details