Archives for May 2009

Workout Tip #5: Get Motivated!

Motivation…whether it’s to clean our room or mow our lawn, it’s not easy and to be honest, it’s probably not the same for everyone. But, motivation has to be at the root of successful workouts. As I mentioned in a previous post, you can’t even start to exercise if you don’t get to the gym, get off the couch, etc. I know it sounds very mental and working out is supposed to be physical, but inspiration is just as important as perspiration when it comes to losing weight (my apologies to Thomas Edison).

Admittedly, I am to the point now where I am simply motivated as a matter of fact. I don’t say this to brag, but I don’t really think about it; I simply do it. But, it wasn’t always that way. Unless working out has become a life habit, motivation remains an important component. So, here are a few of my suggested motivational tips (note: I’ve not actually used all of these, but figure they’d be good). Today I’m going to discuss more short term tips and next week, I’ll write part two which will detail more long term motivational tips.

Short Term:

Visualize it– Visualize what you want to accomplish at that very moment. If your goal is to go to the gym, then don’t let yourself even consider going home to sit on the couch. Keep focused and see yourself at the gym, on the bike, etc.

Filter out the noise– Life is really busy and it’s easy to think that all the little things pulling at us are more important than working out. Remove the deadlines, the home stress, and everything else from your mind. Exercise (which helps focus anyway) should be a big priority, which means that the little things vying for our daily attentions should not lead us to avoid exercise.

Remind yourself of the immediate benefits– I overheard a guy at the YMCA say how he’s never (except when sick) left the YMCA feeling worse than when he came in. He meant that although it may have been a pain to drag himself in, he always felt better after exercising. I can completely affirm his statement. Remind yourself of the immediate, great feeling that you get when you workout.

More coming next week, so check back!

Branching Out and Seeing Some Great Golf

Sometimes you just have to branch out and do things you would never otherwise consider. An obvious but important lesson.

Over the weekend, thanks to the generosity of people I know, I scored some tickets to the PGA Senior tournament here in the Cleveland area (thanks to those who got me the tickets; they probably don’t read this, though). I had never watched professional golf before and thought it would be a little boring (I love playing golf, but don’t follow it on TV). Yet, it was a total blast! I saw some of the pros I knew from my childhood like Tom Kite and Greg Norman and got within several feet  of them to boot. Since it was the tournament, I couldn’t take photos, but the memories will last a lifetime. David and I even got about 2 feet from eventual winner Michael Allen who, with his caddy, left the green early and had to walk through the crowd (which at that point was pretty much us since he was not a favorite to win at that point).

All in all, it was an awesome day and I’m glad I tried something new.

Let Them Eat Fish

fish oil 2

When about 7 or 8, I discovered fried clams, and was so impressed with the delightful bland mollusk, that I even did a report on it as a 4th grader. While clams didn’t raise my Omega-3 levels significantly, I did become interested in seafood, which probably did ensure that my Omega-3 levels were higher than many kids today. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that I became a seafood freak, which is to say, if seafood is a choice on a menu today, I almost always order it. I began eating more fish in 2004 because I took the GRE that year, and I wanted a brain boost. My scores were much higher than when I took it in 2000. Whether fish oil was responsible is debatable (I also studied like crazy), but I believe I am healthier for it.

I take 2 grams of fish oil a day, which gives me 360 mg of EPA and 240 mg of DHA, both abbreviation for Omega-3 fatty acids in most seafood. I also tend to consume a decent amount of seafood products, which means I am further benefiting from the goodness of Omega-3 fats. Apparently, children in North America aren’t quite as fortunate. In a recent study, only 22 percent of children met the U.S. and Canadian minimum recommend intake of 90 mg of EPA or DHA per day.  90 mg is a pretty low amount to begin with, and most kids studied weren’t even getting this! Considering a deficiency of Omega-3 fats can lead to concentration problems (and a host of other issues), giving our kids more salmon, tuna, and even fish oil softgels might be a good idea. At all the schools I have been to (as a teacher or student), I recall rarely having non-fried fish, and only having fried fish occasionally. And we wonder why Johnny can’t read, Michael can’t concentrate, and Samantha can’t get through the day without pharmaceuticals.

Workout Tip #4: Work Out Without Working Out

Sometimes you don’t have to “work out” to get a work out. In fact, some of the best fitness moments I can remember were times when I got lost in the fun and had a great workout to boot. I remember in high school playing pickup basketball for hours with friends. We played aggressive and rarely stopped for breaks. The sheer fun and competition were excellent and I burned more calories in those 2-3 (sometimes 4) hours than I would have in a gym. And, the experience was much more memorable.

Last week, I watched this principle in action when I went to Cedar Point with my school. I walked around a huge amusement park in hot weather, logging nearly 17.000 steps on my pedometer! I was way too tired to go to the gym afterward or even move really! Yet, I didn’t need to because it was an incredible workout and also incredible fun. I also got paid since I was technically working! Not bad.

So, find those ways to work out without really “working out.” They’ll make you fitter, healthier, and happier.

A Young Man at 31

Yesterday I turned 31. I spent the day at a local amusement park with some of my students, my wife, and because our schools both planned a day to the same amusement park, also Jonathan. All-in-all a pretty cool way to spend a birthday. I am not one to moan about getting old. My life has gotten so much better as I have gotten older. When I was in my early 20s I was a depressed, whiny, college student. Maybe I am exaggerating a bit, but I wouldn’t trade my current life for my teens or early 20s. Now, I feel much more disciplined and stable, spiritually, mentally, and in how I approach my health. I guess that is what a fully developed brain does for a person! I am in a happy marriage. I enjoy where I live, and get to keep up with my friends in person, and with others, on Facebook. So, you see, I have no desire to be 15, 18, 21, or whatever again.

Nonetheless, being 31 brings challenges that I wouldn’t have had to face as a younger man. I believe that I am in the best shape of my life. I don’t want to sound like I am bragging, so I will save you the details, except to say that I exercise more, eat better, and weigh less than I did in high school. When I was younger, I knew I could mess around my health and still be basically healthy. At 31, I can’t do this any more. My knees were beginning to hurt a few years ago. The reason was that I was trying to be active, but carrying too much weight. As I lost weight, my knees finally started feeling a little better. However, to truly improve my knees, I had to take extra steps, namely working out my quads more. I went from leg-curling roughly 50 pounds, to being up to 190 now. Yeah, I think my quads were crying out for development! I use this as example of something that I would have just “gotten over” as a younger man, but that at my age, I have to watch and maybe work a little harder on. I also have to start thinking about preventing cancer, heart disease, and other conditions which are more common among older peopple.

Some of the things I do to help ward off the bad effects of aging (as opposed to good effects, like maturity, which I will gladly keep) include the following:

– exercising intensely regularly

– lifting weights every other day

– keeping my brain sharp by reading, writing, etc

– eating foods high in fiber

– eating foods high in Monounsaturated fats

– eating foods high in Omega 3 fats

– eating foods rich in phytonutrients (e.g. cabbage, broccoli, onions, etc)

– getting fresh air

– getting plenty of Vitamin D

– praying and worshiping regularly

– taking Knotweed supplements, a source of Resveratrol

– taking enzyme supplements

– hanging out with family and friends

– minimizing stress

– enjoying life! Everyday is a new great day. Seriously. I am alive.

Reflections on Being an Old Man

Tomorrow I turn 31. It’s not as eventful as turning 30 when I felt kind of depressed that I’d left behind the 20’s for good. Each birthday is often a mixture of depression and happiness. Happiness because I’m alive and healthy another year, depressing because I’m a year older. Nothing wrong with being older, except that I work in a field of youth (teaching) and our society values youthfulness more than anything. I remember when a student of mine said that caring about voting was something only an old person did, you know, like someone who’s 30. She is Korean, so maybe it was a language barrier. Nah. I do care about voting, I have and love my family, I enjoy the McLaughlin Group, and I think contemporary pop music sucks. But, I’m hardly Grandpa Simpson. I also workout almost daily, can outrun, outlift, and outlast guys and girls half my age. And, most importantly I can usually out-think them, which I’ve discovered helps achieve a whole lot in athletics and fitness. Another student told me I looked 18, which was a nice, but real lie. I think I’m somewhere in the middle: not as old as I fear, but not 18 either. And, my friends, that’s a good thing.

In fact, I think I’m doing pretty damn well. I’m at my fittest, healthiest, and in spite of everyday challenges, my happiest. The 20s were a struggle where some things worked, but a lot did not, sometimes disastrously. In the 30s, I feel in the zone, at least most of the time. So, while I take a lot of anti-aging supplements (resveratrol, anyone?), eat healthily, workout a lot, and have begun applying wrinkle reducing face creams, I’m pretty comfortable with 31. Maybe it’s because I’m fighting the 30’s with everything alternative medicine can offer; or maybe I’m in denial. Either way, I think 31 and beyond will be good years.

Some Great Deals at Healthy America

I haven’t bought supplements from Healthy America for awhile, in part because in the last few years they haven’t run the great sales they ran back in 2006. This has changed this spring, as they have introduced some buy one, get one free deals, as well as giving 10 percent off orders over 60 dollars. Some of the items on sale include Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Acetyl L-Carnitine, Co-Enzyme Q10, Garlic, and Saw Palmetto.

Workout Tip#3: Just Show Up

Heath Road was the point of no return. If, on my way to the YMCA, I could cross the threshold of Health Road, I knew a solid workout was in my future. Heath Road was important because a left turn followed by a quick right turn onto Wilson Mills Rd. led to my old house. So, after a full day as a high school teacher, the choice was difficult: turn onto Heath and end up on the couch or in front of the computer or keep going to the YMCA. Usually, I just went forward, but occasionally the pull of doing nothing was too much.

The point of this post? Sometimes the most important thing you can do regarding your exercise program is just show up. I’ve never gotten to the YMCA and just left. When I was there, I figured I should workout, even if it wasn’t for a terribly long time. I think that is true for most people. Just getting to the gym to work out is half the battle.

In fact, this is why I prefer to work out at the gym and not at home: because my house has a variety of uses, the gym has one. At home, I’m constantly distracted with other choices and temptations. I don’t always “show up” like I do when I go to the YMCA. There, it’s pretty much working out or nothing. At home, it’s working out or eating or the computer or the TV or the dishes or…you get the point.

To be successful at fitness, you may have to identify the “Heath Roads” in your life. What is keeping you from getting to the gym and working out?

Mowing the Yard Is Exercise


I can’t afford to get a riding mower at this point, so I use a hand-mower. In fact, even though mowing my yard is sometimes a huge pain in the you-know-what, I kind of look forward to it. Besides getting a little sun to make some Vitamin D, mowing is a good “off day” exercise for me. In fact, since my yard is fairly big, in an hour and a half, according to Fit Day, I burn 620 calories. I would basically have to run 5.5 miles at my normal speed to burn a similar number of calories!

Workout Tip #2: It Takes Two (or more)

For most people, difficult events in life are easier with the help of others. And, fun and exciting events are often more so when shared with other people. Working out qualifies as difficult for most people, even if it’s not on the level of a life changing event. Sticking with a workout is often more difficult still. And, for many people, working out and sticking with it will become easier with a friend.

For some, this could be having a workout partner. Usually, this works best when the person you exercise with is at a similar level. For example, my brother and I would typically do the same workout at graduate school. We were nearly equal in stamina and helped motivate each other to push harder. People of very unequal abilities may not benefit as much since the experience could be frustrating.

For those who are workout loners, a friend could still be beneficial by keeping you accountable or inspired. A good friend who reminds you (gently) to hit the gym or inspires you through his or her own actions is invaluable. Even if you don’t workout at the same time, you can still support each other.

Having a friend who shares your interest in working out could also open up a whole new set of options. Games like tennis, squash, racketball, basketball, football, etc. cannot be played alone. In the case of the last two, having several people would be a plus. But, at least two people could pass the football or play one on one. One on none isn’t quite the same.

So, call up a friend, a relative, or even your spouse. It may help you become healthier and more fit.